Season Reflections

On September 14th we closed our summer season, throwing our final stones at the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers, leaving behind what no longer serves and pocketing a small stone as a token of something precious to hold onto from our time on the river.

This summer LEAP was able to support 10 groups on the river, meeting 127 participants, 34 partner organization staff, 6 LEAP Board members, 7 guides, and 7 volunteers. As this summer program season has come to an end, it is hard to distinguish who gained the most from our work, as regardless of what role one came to a LEAP program this summer, impacts were significant. As the new Program Director who arrived to facilitate, care for, and grow the program in mid-July – I would arm wrestle anyone for the title of the person who learned the most or person most humbled by the learning and dynamics each program offered.

I continued to learn about the incredible capacity of an individual to focus their efforts, surf their edges, and overcome fears. I witnessed participants floating through Cougar Canyon, awe-struck, their paddle silent across their legs, taking it all in, peaceful. I was honored by the opportunity to coach participants through their tears, shortness of breath, or tight-chestedness as they came face-to-face with a physical and mental challenge on the river, doing the deep work to reorganize their pathway through stress or disregulation and generating a new story about their capacities. I watched the growth of the guide team as they integrated their own learning and experiences on the water with each group. I wrestled with when and who and how hard to push folks and how to maintain each person’s autonomy, respecting their knowledge of themselves. I listened to participants speak aloud their strengths, their big, bright, glorious truths about themselves, and short and long-term goals they set for themselves, along with important practical anchors that will help them be successful on their journey post-river. I quietly enjoyed how each week, consistently, on the third day on the river, having traveled through Snowhole Canyon and paddled through the calmer water of the afternoon, that each group felt at ease having been both in the wilderness and connected as a group for enough days to have their nervous systems settle -- making deeper connections, playfulness, and reflections possible.

Those are just some of the observations living on the surface for me as I reflect on the impacts of the season, and I would love to hear the continued reflections of anyone who joined us on the river. As I continue to transition from life on the river to the pace and stimulation of city life, I have been thinking of and honoring each person who I sat in the circle with this summer. On the final night of each trip, we would talk about the idea of reincorporation, about how to take the impacts of the experience – whether that be friendship, connection, awe, quiet, laughter, community, a new personal narrative, and everything in between – and bring them into the fold of one’s life off the river. Weekly, I would remind each group that the work of reincorporation can feel many different ways, sometimes invigorating and inspired, and other times disappointing and effortful – and more often, some of both. As I move through my own stage of reincorporation, I again deeply honor the energy it takes to make changes or tend to the fragile coals of new discovery when returning to familiar landscapes.

For the time being, the boats are deflated, kitchen cleaned, sleeping bags packed and all of our gear tucked into storage. In my reincorporation phase, I am working to take all the learning from the summer and my years of work with groups in the outdoors to create and roll out new programs in the coming months to expand our program offerings beyond the summer. While LEAP will maintain these summer programs as the foundation of our work, we also look forward to expanding opportunities to foster community, cultivate personal growth, and provide wilderness and nature immersion experiences. We hope you’ll join us – there’s good things to come.


River lingo 4/4

This is the fourth in a series of four posts. Many of these glossary terms are used in the whitewater community, along with some that are specific to LEAP and our sister company, Orange Torpedo Trips (OTT). This week we have more LEAP-specific terms. Let us know if you want more!

Sinus cleanser: A fast, hearty swim that may have gotten water up your nose.

River ready: Geared and suited up to get on the river, often a command to make sure people are in their swimsuits, PFDs, and with sunscreen on.

Paddle raft: The raft that comes with us on programs carrying lunch items, some gear, and participants who want a paddle raft experience.

Mr. Kitty: The catamaran type raft that that runs ahead of us on programs to set up camp and carry gear.

Johnny: The portable toilet we use on programs made of a metal box and a standard toilet seat- very comfy, always has a great view.

Jane: The portable pee tent we occasionally use on programs for the ladies made of a bucket and a standard toilet seat- very convenient for nighttime bathroom runs.

Carl: A pump used for inflating IKs, named for the brand Carlson.

River lingo 3/4

This is the third in a series of four posts. Many of these glossary terms are used in the whitewater community, along with some that are specific to LEAP and our sister company, Orange Torpedo Trips (OTT). This week we have some verbs for you!

Boof: To launch over a rock/pourover/etc. such that the boat lands flat and the front of the IK doesn’t go underwater. A fun maneuver if done correctly.

Bleed: To let air out of a seat or boat.

Ferry: To cross the river (often with gear or people in tow or in your boat) such that you don’t end much further downriver than you started.

Surf: To position your IK facing upstream so that you remain in place on the crest of a wave.

High-siding: When the side of a boat tips upward against a rock, should be avoided so that the raft or IK doesn’t tip.

Swimmer: Someone who has fallen out of their boat, often yelled so that guides know to go get that person.

Dumping: When you fall out of your boat!

Yard sale: When everything (human included) falls out of their boat, equipment is strewn about the river, resembles an actual yard sale.


I have been awestruck by the past four weeks of guiding folks down the river. Each night as I lay in my boat, I look up at the Big Dipper (the only constellation I know) and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude — gratitude for the people who have opened their lives to me each week, gratitude for the river and what it teaches each of us, gratitude for the incredible team I have the privilege of working with, gratitude for the wilderness and the people who protect and cherish it, gratitude for the entire experience. This river has been a happy place for me for several years, but I’ve previously only had four days a year to learn from it. Now I have the beautiful privilege of sharing this place with others, particularly others who seldom encounter the raw wilderness.

Each group we’ve paddled with has presented unique challenges, lessons, and gifts. These past two weeks I was lucky to connect with some incredible young people who re-learned what it means to be a kid — to play, to laugh, to live without cares. I can’t explain what it is, but the river unlocks an innocence in people. The river teaches us humility as we enter each rapid, unsure of exactly how we will come out the other side but trusting that we will (in or out of our boat). So too life is unpredictable in its rapids, but we can trust that we will come out the other side one way or another.

On my final night on the river, I listened to teens who have faced challenges I can’t pretend to know declare their worth to the group. “I am strong.” “I am brave.” “I’m a fighter.” “I am a scholar.” “I am confident.” “I am beautiful.” I can’t always be sure of how these kids are feeling as they take a swim or enter a rapid, but hearing the participants affirm themselves brought tears to my eyes. I am so incredibly grateful for the vulnerability of every participant I met this summer. Thank you for allowing me glimpses of your lives in this beautiful sanctuary of transformation. I can only hope to encounter some of you again, but know that you have touched my life as I know the river has touched yours.


2017 LEAP Guide

River lingo 2/4

This is the second in a series of four posts. Many of these glossary terms are used in the whitewater community, along with some that are specific to LEAP and our sister company, Orange Torpedo Trips (OTT). This week we have some river feature and equipment terms!

Confluence: Where two rivers meet. The Salmon ends at its confluence with the Snake river.

Eddy: An area that flows counter to a main current or is flat, generally what follows a larger obstacle in the water, what we catch when we don’t want to continue downstream.

Hole: A spot after/below a rock where the water recirculates, often dangerous and should be avoided.

Riffle: A small “rapid” usually caused by shallow water with some rocks underneath creating small waves, generally what we call something under class II.

Pourover: When water flows over a rock and drops immediately after that rock, creating a hole or a fun rapid.

Standing wave: A wave formed when swift water slams into slow water- the crest remains in place while the water under it continues forward.

Feathered: Refers to a paddle with perpendicular ends, rather than facing each other.

Guide clip: The leash attached to a guide’s boat to be used for towing another IK behind them (after you fall out).

‘Biner: Short for caribiner, the clips used to attach things like a water bottle to a D-ring on a boat.

D-ring: A D shaped ring often on the side of a raft, easy for attaching straps or a carabiner.