The feeling has left my hands. It’s farther away than the car, farther than the tea and whiskey in my thermos. It’s long gone, and since I can no longer feel them, I have to trust that my fingers are still wrapped around my paddle. Despite my best efforts to stay upright, my kayak tips over and the space behind my eyes lights up when my face hits the water. I’m suddenly aware of the matter inside my skull, the pieces of my head I don’t feel when the temperature is reasonable. It’s fall-turning-to-winter up here, and in a few weeks I’ll go to the equator, to warmer waters that don’t steal the sensation from my fingers, to warmer air that doesn’t burn my lungs when I breathe too deep. And once the heat thaws me, I will pour myself into work, which, for now, is an attempt to prove the inherent value of a free-flowing Amazonian tributary. Up north, the water is heavy with sediment and it scours my ever-numb hands. Swimming black bears have pawed at the bow of my boat. Chinook salmon shimmer as they leap, attaining the impossible, always moving upstream. Down there, on the equator, there are butterflies and ancient languages and feral forest voices I’ll never be able to identify. Why does a far-away river matter so much? Perhaps it’s because we’re taught as kids that the Amazon is our planet’s lungs, and when we see that forest burn, we raise our palms to our own chests; maybe we breathe a little deeper. Maybe it’s because the rainforest is so vastly different from the boreal forest and tundra I grew up on and I can’t bear to see either of them go. The rivers that flow into and through the Amazon Basin quench the burning; they keep the smoke from stagnating so the respirations may persist. Maybe it’s a matter of privilege: I’ve enjoyed the time and resources necessary to experience things opposite my reality, to know rivers far from my home. I can compare and analyze and breathe as deeply as I want. We don’t all claim those luxuries. Or maybe it’s because it is there, as it is here, just water moving downhill, day by day, down to the ultimate sea. And if it matters here, then it matters there, and I desperately want it to affect the parts of my head and my heart that I can’t otherwise feel, and I’m in love with it all, everywhere. – Chandra Brown is an Alaska-born river guide and writer currently based in Missoula, Montana. She is co-organizer of Jondachi Fest, a grass-roots kayak race and community river festival in celebration of the Jondachi River in Ecuador. A. Andis is a conservationist, paddler, and photographer. See more of his work at NunatakDesign.com.
I started shooting whitewater sports in 2010, documenting newly acquainted friends paddling the Payette River. I saw them swim, laugh, and learn all from the shore where I stood. Three years later, I myself started to paddle and engage in learning the art of kayaking. Then it became clear; the people I was paddling with influenced me. I starting learning to get over fears, observe nature, and to embrace moments. Moments, like waves, ebb and flow- high and low. Moments which teach us about each other, our own self, and the world of which we are all a part. I have seen moments of triumph, styling rapids and overcoming mental battles. I have seen moments of defeat, which does not halt the mind or body for long, it’s in a sense motivation. In contrast, I’ve seen bliss, simply being able to enjoy a run for what it is. I have seen perseverance; hiking through bush to paddle a waterfall with no telling if it was good to run. I have seen reverence and reflection: elders passing on patience and knowledge to benefit the foundation of the next river experience. I have observed new friendships being born, a web that continues to grow. I have witnessed the drive within; the want to explore and experience places new and old with the people you trust. I have documented the prideful energy this small paddling community has for being some of the world’s best travelers and athletes. There’s a magic withheld in the cracks and canyons of the world. Bonds form and nature prevails as the be-all end-all drive to live and learn. It’s hard to beat the moments of experiencing a river and the people who come along with it. – John Webster is an Idaho-based adventure photographer and videographer. You can follow his travels and work @johnjwebster and the Webster Media House.
What happens when four like-minded adventurers head into one of the world’s wildest mountain ranges with nothing but their mountain bikes and enough food to survive for 10 days? What doesn’t happen? Terrifying lightning storms. Raging-river crossings. Snow-covered glacial pass traverses. Mind-melting descents. Constant fights with vicious dogs. Tense encounters with over-zealous border-patrol guards. All of the above were just another day following “The Trail to Kazbegi,” a self-supported mountain-bike mission through the highest reaches of the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Our four-man team—adventure filmmaker Joey Schusler, Bike Magazine editor Brice Minnigh, photographer Ross Measures, and mountain man Sam Seward—spent half of June 2015 exploring the crown jewels of the Georgian High Caucasus on a feature assignment for Bike. Along the way, our crew overcame countless obstacles and experienced some of the most spectacular scenery and trails they had ever encountered. They also were treated to the unparalleled hospitality of the Georgian people and the benign indifference of the elements on their quest to reach the magnificent Mount Kazbek. In the process, they cemented lasting friendships and proved, yet again, that life is simply better outdoors. – Joey Schusler is a Colorado-based photographer and filmmaker who splits his time between mountain biking and skiing when not in the editing booth. For an expanded, multimedia experience of this trip, check out the complete Bike Magazine feature and/or the accompanied short film, The Trail To Kazbegi.
The view from 30,000 feet above the Grand Canyon belies simplicity. By the time you’ve sipped your gin & tonic, and punched out a perfunctory work email, your sleek winged aluminum tube has left that distant earth scar behind in a hazy contrail. But to go there and descend into this vast stone-strata-time-machine, carved for millennia, is to deeply connect to geology that is vast, complex, and confounding. The terrain is alive and every footfall a small act of faith, “Will this boulder roll and throw me, will this same hold I just barely pulled on now support my body weight, will the slick unroped edge fold me down into nothingness?” Danny and Doom, my compatriots on this seven day pack-rafting, canyoneering, peak bagging, rock climbing journey are like idle dogs who sleep until they can run amok. As the sun sets, we arrive at the canyon rim and soon we are hustling below, nipping at one another’s heels. A brief pelting rain produces an impossibly huge, iridescent, double rainbow, from Mile 150 to Mt Sinyella. We dub it the “insanebow”, and a very auspicious omen. We scan for faint trails, from man and beast, and it’s often a jumble of boulders- around, under, over, in this place it’s always up and down. We discover the clues for the way forward as they will be, just as crucially, the keys to the way back. “Where did we put the keys?” What drives one to voluntarily suffer, to be #pooronpurpose and board the elective shipwreck, the place of immediate rations and endless toil? Perhaps to rehearse “end times” is to prepare for them, in that if you choose hard now, you will know its knock when it naturally arrives. We go to the Canyon to reveal moments of transcendence, the sinuous narrows like silhouettes of hips and breast, a landscape that unravels me as I travel deeper into its intricacies, and mostly it’s to perform the requisites of life, that one breath, one sip, one bite amongst the rigors of wilderness- one step, one moment, one life, forever. – Timmy O’Neill is a professional rock climber, fun-hog and co-founder of Paradox Sports, a non-profit dedicated to providing inspiration, opportunities and adaptive equipment to the disabled community. You can follow his adventures at @timmyoneill. Steve Fassbinder (A.K.A. “Doom”) is a rabid adventure storyteller and frequent contributor to Seek and Enjoy. For more of his work, check out The Republic of Doom.