Learning to Read the Water

By: Sheila F. Hughes, Esquire, MAP Staff Counsel   

As we approached the next rapid our guide Cameron shouted “Shoot for the three!” to the two kayakers behind him, referencing a specific section of the river that had previously been assigned the number three during the orientation meeting. “Four?” one replied. “Three!” Cameron shouted. “Four?” she replied. “THREE!” he shouted and then turned to me and asked “Why does she keep yelling four to me?” as our boat entered the rapid. I watched Cameron keep a close eye on the kayakers while they tried their best to follow the same line through the rapid. This was one of many communicative moments on the Rogue River during our five-day rafting adventure. This moment happens to stick in my head though, because it seemed so indicative of life—sometimes you may not be fully prepared for life’s next rapid, or you may even be confused by the guidance around you, but if you draw on your resources, knowledge, and willpower—despite a slight miscommunication-- you can learn to read the water and successfully navigate the rapid.

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On August 5th the MAP 2016 Adventure Team embarked on a journey of a lifetime. We traveled across country to Oregon’s beautiful Rogue River Valley to spend five days and four nights on the scenic and wild stretch of the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Foster’s Bar or what we fondly refer to as “MAP the Rogue”. The wild and scenic stretch includes 33 miles of class II and III rapids. Day one includes the notorious Rainie Falls, a class V rapid, while day three (my favorite day) includes the beautiful scenery at Mule Creek and Blossom Bar, both class IV rapids. The wild section is accessible only by trail or by boat. This was the first rafting trip for the majority of our team. We were carefully lead by expert guides Bobby and Cameron of Ouzel Outfitters. We ran the rapids by day and slept on the banks of the river under the shooting stars at night. (This was also a first for our whole team- “cowboy camping” or sleeping with no tents!) Our team consisted of MAP supporters, including myself and MAP Executive Director Dianna Reuter, and veteran Sean Johnson who was sponsored on the trip by the law firm of Ciardi, Ciardi, and Astin. Sean is a below the knee amputee who knows no bounds. He, and other members of our team, ran the rapids in one man kayaks and jumped off rocks into the river with no fear! The team scrambled up rocks and hiked the waterfalls enjoying the beautiful scenery. There was also some “guide surfing” going on, which is when a team member would strategically position themselves in front of a rock facing up river and allow the river to coming rushing over them. By night the team bonded over personal stories and intense card games!  


One of the best parts about traveling with Ouzel guides is their extensive knowledge about the history of the area and the river. This was “gold rush” country. Who knew for years the
Chinese were mining in the Rogue River Valley and leaving the country with unknown quantities of gold for which they never paid a cent to America!?! This was just one of the many interesting historical tidbits we learned. We also learned about the wildlife of the river. We saw salmon, osprey, ouzels, deer, otters, black bear, and even an American bald eagle. One of the most important lessons? How to read the water. By days two, three and four, the rafters were spotting “holes,” “pour-overs,” and “eddies” in the river. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between navigating the river and navigating our everyday life. Rapids, like life, are unpredictable, but with some river guide guidance and a bit of sheer will, the team was successfully able to navigate them. Proceeds from this trip go directly to help the clients of MAP. I couldn’t help but think of them as well as we navigated the rapids. I thought- tumbling through a particularly tough rapid can happen to anyone—much like getting caught up in financial difficulties. I like to think that MAP is a little bit like river guides- helping clients navigate financial crisis successfully. Oh, and our slightly confused kayakers from the story above? They did great! Despite the miscommunication in that moment they both ran the rapid successfully as opposed to “swimming it”. Life keeps moving- you have to paddle hard! To all who supported this trip- THANK YOU! Paddle on!