Think about your favorite childhood memories. Think about what you remember from so long ago. Take a few minutes, take as long as you want and remember. Some memories smolder quietly, but powerfully and with such deeply rooted emotion, that they make up the very fabric of who we are. In these memories wander laughter, adventure, friends and family, fear, magic and wonder. Most of us, in our adult lives, now live in a world where much of this magic and wonder is gone; buried under work and day-to-day life.
I came to floating rivers later in life, but I spent much of my childhood wandering creeks and streams with a fly rod in search of trout, salmon and steelhead. Rivers have always had a power over me. Be they big and rowdy, or slow and gentle, I’m drawn to them. They all tug at my soul, pulling my imagination around the next bend, wondering what might be. We need wonder in our lives. We need magical experiences that make us feel more than think. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, out of our day-to-day repetition to feel alive. River trips do this. Every time. They create memories and stories that never leave you.
Recently, I rafted the Tatshenshini River. This trip begins in the Yukon–yeah, the Yukon–then flows through British Columbia and finishes in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. It seemed as though almost every day, I was setting my tent up next to wolf or bear tracks. This place was more wild than anywhere I had ever experienced. I had never seen a land that was so big and vast. Every day the landscape grew and became more spectacular – just as Mark, our trip leader, said it would. One day we saw wolf pups sprint down a gravel bar, launch into the river right in front of our rafts, swimming, for what they thought was their lives, to get to the other side. We then spent the next 45 minutes stopped, listening to the haunting, beautiful sound of wolves as they howled from the trees, telling their pups it was all going to be okay. And this is all after seeing first, a big black wolf with yellow eyes wander off into the brush at the sight of us, only to be followed seconds later by a massive grizzly bear tearing into the trees, throwing gravel in its wake. I will not forget this experience. Ever. These things do not leave you. It was haunting in the best sense of the word.
And with the river trips I have done, I will remember the people. So many fun, extraordinary people. Guides and guests. Solo travelers and families. Many now that I would call good or even great friends. So many good stories told while floating down the river or sitting around a warm campfire. What is it about this lifestyle that is so addictive? What is it about river trips that magnetically draw you in, making you wish it would not end? Is it waking with the sun? Going to bed under the stars? Is it the people? Maybe it’s just the feeling that when in the canyons, life, experienced with deeply felt simplicity and realness, is there, right in front of you.
Whatever your dream may be, quit waiting until next year. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Do it now. Make your life extraordinary. Make your children’s lives amazing. Create burning memories that never leave.