This Blog

This blog is dedicated to explorations of spirit, life, adventure, and people. I hope that it encompasses much more than the actions of people, but rather creates a more complete picture of what it means to be an athlete and a person in the outdoor community.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Glimpse

The waters are calm, the cold crisps the breath, snow drains away. 

The sound travels through the mountain air, disturbing the settled water.

A moment alone, looking at the mountains, made flat by the lake, feet dangling.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A view of Christmas

In my family we don't exchange gifts. We don't have a tree. We just have each other, and a few hikes.

Here is the view.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Positive affirmation

In both life and in extreme pursuits, we always have two options when weighing decisions. We can look at what we lose, the possible negative affects of our actions, or we can look at that which we can gain.

On a fundamental level, when we look at the negative aspects of decisions, we box ourselves in. Every action has a negative consequence, or at least a possible negative outcome. If there isn't, it is not really a decision, it is just an action. People trap themselves by only considering the negative aspects of decisions. People will stay with partners because they don't want to hurt them, or they don't want to be lonely. People will stay in jobs because they have financial obligations, don't want to rustle the coop, or can't take a risk on the unknown.

We can't live like that.

Making decisions that involve risk do turn out poorly sometimes, it is not that things will always turn out in the best way, but the risks that we take typically teach us, and define the goals that we are going to be able to achieve. Applying to jobs is risky, applying to schools is risky, asking someone on a date is risky, running a waterfall, hitting a jump, presenting in front of colleagues, entering a race; the list is endless. Our fear of vulnerability cannot be the determining factor in what shapes us, otherwise we will be sheltered and possibly unhappy.

In outdoor recreation, there is a this idea of perceived versus real risk. For example, top rope mountain climbing has a high level of perceived risk and low real risk. I think that many of our non-sports decisions are like this as well. Real risk is extremely low, and almost entirely emotional, and fear based. I think one reason I do, and people do, outdoor sports is because it puts regular life events into perspective. You are not risking your life when you walk in front of a class to teach. You are not going to get caught in a sieve if you apply to a job a little outside of your resume. You are not going to take a whipper off the rock by asking that person you like on a date. These decisions and actions are still hard, and very real and anxiety inducing, but they take their proper place in your mind, as relatively manageable aspects of your life.

Bottom line:
Be courageous, you decide your own path

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Forever Fall

With a recent trip to Palo Alto, and Atherton, two very affluent communities in the Silicon Valley, money has been on my mind. I also went to a bike shop, and while dallying around, found out that it costs about 1000 dollars for each pound you want to shave off of your mountain bike. If you are counting, that is the same as two cups of water, or a relatively normal size shit.  Let's just let that sink in, pun intended.

With the advent of ever more algorithmic and personalized advertising, we have to be ever more vigilant to be conscientious in our consuming. Do you really need that new jacket? Pair of skis? Bike? And you will certainly have to answer these questions with web popups now containing items you actually want.

How can we make our buying decisions in a way that actually address the issues of the environment, happiness, and the vague notion of "need" that we have as a consumer culture? A general rule that I have used is, if you have wanted it for more than six months, it is worth purchasing, but I am finding that doesn't actually moderate desire as I would have hoped. At any time in your life you are always thinking about little improvements that you can make in each arena in your life, so you end up "wanting" the next best thing in every part of your life.

Perhaps we need a more sophisticated or philosophically robust way of evaluating our next purchase. Currently I am undergoing a month of not purchasing anything new(with the exception of school supplies, repairs, and safety equipment). I am hoping that this either just continues on indefinitely(that the buy buy buy mentality dissipates slightly), or that I come to some realization that will give me tools in making these decisions in the future.

I believe that you should be thankful if you don't earn enough money to be careless. Money is a privilege, it is an honor, it is ridiculous the options and lifestyles that we live, and each thing we consider buying should be a reminder of how spectacular our lives are. I am continually blown away by the fact that we drive cars, that we can "recreate", and beyond that, that we feel entitled to these things. What an absurd time and place that we live in, when other countries are being torn apart by ruthless dictators, or natural disasters, or anything that disrupts the safety and general well being of people on a moment to moment basis.

We have been sold that the next is the best, and we need it to perform at our highest level. But how much does a pound really get you? Does our Fear Of Missing Out(FOMO) prevent us from having gratitude for the fact that we live in a time where we have more access to high adrenaline than ever before, that equipment and knowledge now allow us to run 80 foot waterfalls, drop 30 foot gaps, ski huge lines and cliffs, or bike a hundred miles with little more than a few years experience. Instead of thinking about the next thing, think about how amazing it is that we can do all these things, learn how to repair your gear, make solid investments on good, safe gear, and wear it until you can love it no more. That is real adventure, that is living as an independent, happy spirit. Fly on.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Lost Sierra

There ain't no end to the sand I been trying to cross
The real truth about it is
My life is no better off
If it's got the map, or if it's lost

The real truth about it is
No one gets it right
The real truth about it is
We are all supposed to try
-Jason Molina, Songs: Ohia

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Precipice

The dirt refused as the tire spun. I hear a familiar click as I pull my foot out to catch the fall. The wind chills the sweat on my back as I take a few breaths. Sixty degrees feels warm in November...

The trail keeps sliding out as we climb. We cross dry streams and try to dig the nubs of our tires into a ground that has nothing to give. Our panting and moisture carry us up the hill. The sun and earth willingly take it from us. The chaparral claw at our feet and drag along our skin.
The Caughlin single track lies on the transition of Reno to the Eastern Sierra, a climb that starts on the edge of a suburb and transition to harsh desert. I look back at Reno as we pull away and wonder where all the water comes from to feed this town...

The switchbacks lure us into comfort, into reflection almost. We are in the wild. A hairpin turn later The Nugget's monstrous tower snaps you back. You are not in the desert, you are in suburbia. Amusing, really; we carve a twelve inch wide path and try to find salvation there, civilization ominous and looming. We get away for a moment only to be faced with it once again. We can only have our backs to the world for so long before we have to face it again...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Juxtaposition

The years press on and the imprint lasts. With each new season, new skills, passions, and questions arise. We push our bodies and minds to the brink, and find satisfaction at the end of the day.
The cold air of fall makes the descents invigorate the soul. Ridge after ridge and the ride has vista after vista. The Lost Sierra certainly earns it name this fall. While the Government is shut down we take advantage and poach a section and gain a deeper understanding of why it is called the "crest" trail. Barely wandering away from the tops of mountains, the trail offers miles of somewhat untouched terrain. In 50 total miles of riding we saw two hikers and 5 bikers, on beautiful weekends in october. 

As we get older we continue to find ways to challenge ourselves and grow, though sometimes painfully. The body and mind both give us lessons on how to handle pain and stress. Legs burn as you ride up, but the release from that same pain as you fly through the air is half the joy of the descent. Similar things happen in the mind. We persevere through challenging situations and people, but when we get to the other side, we release and have gratitude to just be free of it. The juxtaposition makes it all that much more sweet. Each time we do this we gain strength, mental and physical, as well as a perspective of joy and gratitude for those moment of solace. But we must keep putting ourselves there, to gain strength, skill, and a deeper sense of joy and a full experience of the human condition. We all share these experiences, and to feel them deeply deepens our connections to those around us. To this I say, go out and suffer with your friends and you will be happier because of it. 

Feel the burn! Enjoy the fall!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Race Day

Get left get left get left, right stroke, lean, lean, move right, catch the corner, lay into the boof, stomp it down, keep it moving keep it moving. get the bow back downstream. pump pump pump. Good line.

Racing is a fight against the current to work with the current. You can always find a line that feels like it is propelling you forward, it is just a matter of how you see it. I have taught many people a little bit about kayaking but a few people have taught me a lot about kayaking.

1. Always stay on the edge of eddies, stay away from wavetrains. Every time a wave crashes over your boat you lose two seconds and you need three strokes to get back to full speed, wasting speed and energy.
2. You only really make up time in your lines. I have never passed someone in flatwater. Practice your lines.
3. Do NOT land flat, land at a 45 and use that transition to speed yourself up. Landing flat takes away most of the speed and does not transition it into forward moment.
4. Strong core. You paddle from your lower abdomen, so make sure you have been doing your crunches.
5. Keep your chin up. This one sounds silly but as you close your chin to your chest you are curling your back, keep an upright back by keeping your head high.

That is enough. The most important is to know the lines, but knowing the lines means that you are avoiding any hits and laying down boofs.

See you at the tobin race... if my shoulder has healed.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Truckee is a nice place to visit, but I live here.

Truckee is an interesting place, people don't just end up in truckee, everyone is here for a reason, and it has to be a good one to deal with the winters. This leads to the development of an interesting community:

You know you are in truckee when...

-someone thinks you are dressed up because you have buttons on your shirt

-you have to decide between world class mountain biking or kayaking.

-you see a legend on the same ride or run you are on. "Did you see that, that was (insert pseudo-famous athlete here)!"

-swimming in the lake is something you do in between other events. "Hey you want to stop for a swim on the way back from the store?"

-Someone is wearing a big truck hat

-A kid shreds way harder than you do

-You meet someone and have paddled/biked/skied with their exboyfriend/exgirlfriend/brother-in-law/sister-inlaw/coworker and have 10 friends in common already.

-You ride by yourself because everyone else is already doing something hardcore

-you think 85 is "hot"

-people don't have meals anymore, just barbeques

-you don't see anyone all winter long

-you meet a cool girl and she has a boyfriend.

Love Truckee!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Passion is magical.

Find it.
Feel it.
Foster it.

It manifests itself in many forms. It is so easy on the river.

I saw it a few different ways this weekend. First, I take my cousin down the river for the first time. My cousin has been a sea kayaking guide in the Monterey Bay for a few years, so he is primed and ready for a great day of class III.

He is beat down in the Chili Bar hole, styles troublemaker, gets rejected from eddies, catches eddies, runs into every rock and hole we can find, and hits first combat roll, celebrates success and suffers failure; all the things you expect in your first day in a kayak.

He smiles his way down the river, through it all. Just eats it up.


That evening, the river rose in to an atypical 2,000 cfs and I rouse my energy for a session at barking dog, a fun play wave. To my surprise there are only 3 people there. Finally a young man floats down bareback at 8:30, as dusk was settling in. It happened to be one of my old students.

"Barebacking it huh Drew?"

"I heard the river was still up so I threw on my stuff as quickly as possible to get down here" he says to me as he smiles and paddles back into the wave for the final surf of the night, well past the sunset.


It is what we are driven by, it is what we seek, it is what we know. It can happen on your first day, or your 1000th day, it doesn't matter, but it is what we live for.

Friday, July 5, 2013


To wait in anticipation is the practice of impatience.

What are we waiting for? What are we looking for?
To search is to fulfill an unmet need. But during that search we can't feel empty, or the journey is sacrificed for the goal. How do we progress while not setting happiness on the other side of our goals, while not grasping at that which we are waiting for?

As humans, we need progress, we need change and challenge to feel satisfaction. But, we also need to be happy with the challenges that we are presented with. We must be satisfied with our current state of affairs.

Two mantras address this

"I am satisfied with the challenges I have in my life"
This kind of thought should be followed by thinking about the ways in which you have the opportunity to change, whether it be strengthening current relationships, becoming more centered, focusing on your health, whatever it is, we always have opportunities to improve.

"I am happy with what I have now, and open to the possibilites that the future holds"
The focus of this mantra is to have gratitude for what is in your life, rather than focus on that which isn't in your life. We can always be open to the possibilities in the future, and we should never give up on that, what is more important than those possibilites is what your are doing in this moment to manifest those possibilities. Are you treating people well? Are you enjoying your life? Are you putting heartfelt effort into that which you love, whether is be an activity, a person, a place, or a community?

Generally mantras are useful in eliminating what is called "poverty mind", which is related to the hungry ghost realm in buddhist cosmology. It is the sense that what we have is not enough, that we are waiting for something more, always wanting more than what is here now. It effectively puts happiness over the next hill and always leaves you wanting what you don't have. We do have enough. We always have enough. These mantras and the thoughts surrounding them remind us of this truth.

Monday, May 6, 2013


In this fast world, take a moment to take in what is around you.
The lost coast is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, river canyons, and endless sunsets. 
Both of these photos were taken by a student of mine, Austin Pena. Enjoy.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Rick's Right hand man, Saylor Flett, checking out the falls. 
"If your bored you're boring"

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast"

"You wouldn't worry so much about what people think of you if you knew how rarely they did"

The Feather River Outdoor Recreation Leadership Program(ORL) has been at the epicenter of outdoor leadership training in Northern California for at least a decade now. Students of the program have travelled the world, including Russia and Chile, and are generally amazing skiers, kayakers, leaders, workers, and people.

The program is run out of Feather River College, a community college in the vibrant and somewhat hard to leave town of Quincy, which is 90 minutes north of Tahoe. In the winter the valley is surrounded by snow capped peaks that offer quality backcountry skiing.  The spring gives locals some of the best and most convenient whitewater in the state and the summer and fall have the opportunities of rock climbing, river releases, and beautiful hiking and swimming. The town of Quincy is lucky to have such a great school to support local skills and stewardship of the backcountry.

The philosophy of the program seems to be summed up in "Get 'em out there", and though the implementation is more complex than that, it has worked. People come out of this program with hard earned skills, and a much deeper sense of who they are and where they want to go than when they arrived.

There are a few adages I heard in my time there that have stuck in my mind:

"Tell me I will forget, show me and I will remember, let me do it and I will learn"

"Whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot, whether the weather is sunny or whether the weather is not, we’ll whether the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not"

People in ORL gain experience through days in the field, a lot of days in the field. During a year there are at least 100 days of class that are oriented towards skill building, and those are scheduled days. If you do any recreating yourself, you will hardly have time to unpack one trip for the next. People experience enough to see the mistakes they make and are able to adjust to the wild by correcting those mistakes. They also have conversations with a variety of experienced leaders during these outings, and not just the full time faculty. The program has a culture surrounding it that Rick Stock, the Program Coordinator refers to as "The Legacy".

Past students, people who have gone on to guide in West Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Chile, Canada, as well as many other places often make a special pilgrimage back to their old stomping grouns to be guest instructors on trips. This gives students the opportunity to hear differing opinions on how to manage risk, what techniques are most useful, and generally reminds them that the program they are doing really leads to powerful and life-changing outcomes. People have a few major opportunities for this learning: The winter trip, the river trip, and the land trip.

The winter trip is a five day winter camping trip that, depending on the year, seems to either be dumped on, or struggling for snow. I remember the first snow cave I built, soaked with sweat, and thinking "How the hell am I going to stay warm now?". It certainly is a struggle to manage all the little things when you are out there: Cold feet, cold hands, hunger, food, exertion, attempting tele turns, pooping, cantankerous stoves, cheese that freezes, oh man... the cheese always freezes.

Students are not afforded the luxury of lethargy. Once the snow trip is over, it is onto the river. Rick, the program leader, does not believe in keeping boats pumped, so for all those raft guides grown indolent due to a top off pump, get off your butt. Every day those boats go out they are pumped by hand, a chore of love. When I went there, I reveled in it, I went rafting almost thirty times in the month of March during my time there, pumping and deflating the raft each time. I only grew lazy after becoming a raft guide. To top it all off(pun intentional) the raft guide school typically is spent in the snow, and if you haven't rafted while it snows then I can't really call you a rafter. This guide school builds character as well as skill.

ORL does not spare anyone the experience of real adventure. People are put face to face with problems, and they are expected to solve them and take care of themselves. If you walk away from his program with passion then you are on your way to a lifetime of recreation, if you don't then I would posit that perhaps the outdoors really is not where you should be anyway, because everything you experience there is just the beginning. Soon you will be hiking out of gorges, dealing with broken skis and poles 10 miles into a ski, and trying to manage injuries and helicopter landings if you continue on the path. It is not due to chance that success in his program leads to success in the profession.

Rick demonstrating one of the qualities of a leader, a loud voice.

You have to admire a program that lets you face the world, that allows you to safely fail, to reach deep within yourself to make the changes you must in order to survive, and beyond that, thrive. We all need that in our lives, a dose of reality, with all its nuance, pain, and joy. I have never had as much fun as when I was in the program, never felt so passionate, and have been profoundly impacted by the experience that I had there as a student.

The price tag is no deterrent either. With NOLS courses going for approximately $25,000 for an equivalent course, the price tag of less than $1000 for in-state tuition is a no brainer. This program will continue to produce stellar athletes, stewards of the wilderness, scholars, and inspire people to take this life and make it meaningful. My hat is off to the Feather River Outdoor Leadership program for their influence on the whitewater community, as well as the larger outdoor community. Check them out if you ever want to be invigorated. They have had student as young as teenagers and as old as people in their sixties(my parents). It is never too late to learn.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


What a special moment it is when you get to be in a mixed-generation group. When you find people ahead of you in life that you respect, that you want to emulate, and with people who are pushing their limits and finding new skills in their lives.

On this special trip we had a variety of ages and experience, and, without really knowing the definite ages our youngest member was18 and had one person from each of the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties run the middle feather together. There were stories of getting locked out of hotel rooms naked, the politics of the high school dating scene, first ascent in Chile in long boats, toddlers first steps, marriage, and of course the sight of man butt. How could you possibly go through a river trip without the sighting of man butt? Impossible.

Thinking again of the cycle within all sports, of learning, teaching, and exploring, we must treasure the opportunities that we have to be with those who have experienced much more than us, as well as less. Both perspectives challenge us and push us to think in new and innovative ways, but also forces us to comprehend why we are where we are. We are pushed and pulled to deepen our thinking with regard to our place in time, our decisions, and our current strategies. 

Mixed group activities humble all of us and allows us to develop compassion for others. We remember the challenges we once had, and we see the possibilities for our future lives in those who are living our dreams. We can literally ask someone who embodies our future selves "What is it like to have kids?", "How do you deal with death? What can we learn from what the river has to teach us?", "How do you think about paddling easy or hard rivers with a partner or family?" or "How do you scout and make decisions about rapids safely?". The best thing is that they have answers, answers rooted in years of reflection and experience.

There is something more subtle here as well. It is hard to meet people in the outdoor lifestyle that have continued to do it for decades. Finding these people provides some sense of relief, some sense that this life is sustainable, that it is worthy of adulthood and can be part of a healthy, well rounded person. Often, at least in the media, there is this sense that kayakers and outdoor people are these extremists that are devout athletes only to the sport they love. Meeting kayakers who have a family, and real jobs soothes my soul, it allows me to believe, at least briefly, that we are normal, run of the mill people. This is comforting sometimes, because it is just refreshing to feel like part of a community that fills the human lifespan. What we do is real, and can be enjoyed for a long time, at a high level, and that is something to celebrate. 

Thank you Jay, Andy, Phil, Kevin, Drew, Kurt, and Eddy for a wonderful trip. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We do it for the adventure

To really enjoy kayaking hard whitewater you have to have a taste for Plan B, because you get there a lot:

water levels,
boats breaking,
broken paddles
shoulder injuries,
near death experiences,
freak outs,

There are many reasons why we hike out and damn it, hike-outs are fun. Anytime shit hits the fan we have a fantastic opportunity to use those hard earned problem solving skills to manage the situation.

Do we break the group up? How fast do we get out of here? How do we split up gear? How does this change our risk management plan? How hurt/broken are they(the gear or people)?

At this point I have had issues on a lot of different trips: Fordyce, MF feather, Middle Cherry, Payettes, MF salmon, Mill creek, SB feather, SB feather, SB feather, in fact every time I run the SB something happens. So get ready, because not only is a mishap 100% possible it is 100% going to happen so get ready for it!

Have a throw bag with you(waist bag) and all your rescue gear on your PFD,
Keeps snacks on your person,
Wear SHOES(that stay your feet(TEVA do not count))!!
Drink more water than you think you should
Have a waist belt of webbing and carabiners(this is incredibly handy for carrying gear and portaging)
Expect problems
go with someone who knows the run
get fit!

And smile when it is time to hike out because memories are hard to make and you are in one.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The web

The web. We accumulate little and big experiences and they are all part of what makes us unique. As time goes on we continue to collect the experiences.

But when does the web break? When does it become too much? How do we decide where to draw a line?

Today, I saw a friend pinned under a log and thought "This is it". A death last weekend and a near-miss today and it makes the questions of why and when even more pressing and real. The why is easy to answer, but the when is a matter of chance and preparation.

Why do we kayak?
When will we die?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Spring and a light rain accumulates. The snow fades as rivers become anxious. Each drop comes from somewhere.

Shoulder seasons are an emotional time as we let one things go and embrace another. We reflect on our winter and smile at the sun as it graces us for longer and longer. The temperatures rise and the ground is moist.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Today there was a death on the river. Jay Lynn and I put on Upper Indian creek and a team of kayakers were putting on right behind us. They asked if they could use our shuttle and we said yes, but continued downstream before them as we were in a hurry to meet other boaters down canyon. Later, we were told that a member of that group had been lost after swimming into a sieve.

Let us take moment to recognize how fragile this life is,
that we cannot take it for granted,
That, though death is immanent,
it should merely show us that we must live each day fully.

Let us think of what blessings we have in our lives and be thankful for them.

My thoughts go out to those kayakers today who lost a friend, and whomever else treasured him.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't you hate it when...

Don't you hate it when you are deep in the wilderness, rattled by hours of whitewater, resting on the shore and you look up and see your buddy roll up and he says in a pissed off tone "Hey, why didn't you return my call yesterday? I left you a message!" then stares you down like you just sold his little sister into an underground sex trade network?
Jared on the Entrance Rapid to the MF Feather
Jared on Chunky Monkey, a favorite flavor of the Quincy crew

Daniel Brasuell calming down after an emotional conflict over a phone call

Eddy Mutch in control
Diane Gaydos paddling hard in a rapid called "Just Paddle"

Me too. 

Even in the wilderness you have to call your friends back.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Jeff Contemplates his future. Is his gear good enough?

What is on steep and cheap?
What is he wearing?
Oh, he looks good.
Damn, that is a sick jacket
Those guys are shredders.
Is that next year’s jacket?
How do you like those skis?
Are those the new Volkls?
I am getting next year’s demo skis from the rep.
Oh, I bought these off the rep for 70% off retail.
I pro-dealed these.
I got this for free.
Why is he wearing that?

Status. Power. Perception. What is at stake here? Companies and people alike want all of our skill levels to be identifiable by the gear we wear. This is where sponsorship comes from. It is the thought “Good people wear it, so to be good, you have to wear it”. We accept it, we even begin to exert pressure on our friends to update their skis, boots, poles, PFDs, boats, paddles, dry tops, wetsuits, and forever more. Perhaps we do this to increase our own status, so that we are hanging with the cool kids. We are incited to materialistic competition ubiquitously and it spares no one.

Jeff sporting gear that is all "5 years or older". Lame.

What is the cost? We alienate the beginners, people without endless capital to spend on technical equipment. Look at the impossible price of the stuff that the prosumers (let’s be honest, if you are a pro kayaker or skier you are just professionally consuming gear) wear: Top of the line jacket $700, Pants $400, Bindings $300, skis $900, boots $700. That is $3000 for one outfit to wear what “good” skiers wear. You could crush it on $300 total if you shopped around. You would not be wearing what the “best” wear but you would be comfy. The unfortunate product is a ski class system that creates a false sense of superiority due to financial investment rather than passion, skill, leadership, or experience.

This is stupid; this topic is hardly worth mentioning. There are real problems out there. Women’s wages are statistically significantly less than men, pregnant women and mothers are discriminated against, students are being put through failure factories rather than school while young people’s success is being determined by a lottery. (Watch Waiting for Superman). Immigrants are being deported while creating the backbone to our communities and culture. What the fuck?

Yet this consumer addiction still bothers, still exists in all of us. Beat it back! Un-buy into it. Take a moment to strip away this cultural lens, the corporate propagandizing and look at the person, the passion, the movement, the intention. You will see far more looking for these things than you ever will with a tag. Be weary of those in the garments of prosumers for they may just be seeking to look the part, reap the glory of the cloth, cull the status of the outdoor scene and play the game for their own glorification.