First River Rafting Trips | An OTT Guide Series | Fukari | The Rogue and Chetco Rivers

Guides’ First Rivers Series

River guides are notorious storytellers. And whether they be true or tall, the stories we tell about the river are a part and reflection of our own story. They are a part of who we are and who we will be (deep water, brother…). So, in this spirit of storytelling and in homage to rivers everywhere, we’ve asked our guides to recall a notable “first” paddling experience, broadly defined, and to tell the story of that experience. 

For this, our first installment, OTT guide Priscilla Macy (A.K.A., Fukari) writes about first river/paddling experiences through a global and a local lens, ultimately grounding her narrative in her experience running the remotely accessed and magnificent Chetco River in southwest Oregon.

A young Fukari with her younger brothers (and fellow OTT guides).

First Experiences and the River

By Priscilla Macy

To discuss a “first-time” experience on the river from the perspective of a guide is almost to discuss a “first-time” relationship—beginning with an initial attraction, then followed by challenge and maintained through what many might well call an obsession.  To the outsider, this metaphorical relationship may seem degenerate, and at times even abusive. But to us, it holds the allure of the “one that got away.”
I have great difficulty in recalling a boating experience that has not had an influence on me, at least in some capacity. Nor is any given boating experience ever the same, regardless of one’s expertise or the difficulty of the trip and even within the same stretch of whitewater.  For me, that is the appeal, the beauty, and the source of my attraction to whitewater. 
Like many guides in the Rogue Valley, my first paddling experience was on the Rogue River.
Aerial View – The Wild & Scenic Rogue River

The Rogue is a beautiful study of contrasting character and confluent narratives—starting at its turbulent headwaters at Boundary Springs, where it is seems un-navigable, moving through forested landscapes until it reaches established cities, and running wild yet again upon reaching the Wild and Scenic corridor within the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest.  The Rogue will always be “home” to me, my first, and it is this river that precipitated my epiphany: that I will never be capable of pursuing a lifestyle that precludes paddling.

Though the Rogue is the first river I paddled, and will always maintain a special distinction for that fact, I have had the great fortune in the past few years of my paddling career to paddle creeks and rivers that one can only hope to, but few do, experience in their lives. Of these, one paddling experience stands out for its influence on my pursuits as a boater.
Last spring, several of us guides set out to run the Chetco.  This mission (because it can only be so called) involved chasing water levels, navigating 10 miles of “trail” through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and losing a bit of ourselves in the mountains.
Priscilla’s Description: “The point of Fukari’s breaking and Highside’s descent into madness.”

 

The travails of this expedition were offset, though, by the unmatched reward of crystal clear waters, seemingly innumerable clean drops and an unprecedented wilderness experience. With trips like these, the struggle to get to the water only serves to heighten one’s desire for, and the payoff of, the actual paddling experience itself—and it is in choosing to do this Chetco mission that my curiosity to pursue remotely accessed rivers, and to experience over-and-again such intrinsic rewards as that accompanies, was awoken.
Fukari Paddling the Chetco’s Impossibly Clear Waters.

 

There is reward to be found in every experience on the water, to be sure.  For me, each time I leave the river, it leaves me leaves me with a sense of humility, admiration and yearning.  Though the Rogue will always be in my heart as my first paddling experience, my “home”, I can’t help but to feel as that if every time I visit the water, a part of me has found its way home.
The Brave and the Beautiful Fukari