For many of us kayaking is a way of life, an art form, a passion, it represents determination, empowerment, and the very best of everything we are. With unseasonably low flows in Washington this summer I set out to Idaho and Colorado to chase my passion for white water and new experiences, to explore what I’m capable of and what makes me most happy. 

I was ancy to get away from the familiar and explore the unfamiliar, and to paddle some white water! With a great deal of inspiration from my friend John Fuqua, I convinced my professors to let me take my finals a week early, I left my job, packed my boats, and began my 6 week road trip. I didn’t have all the details figured out, but I was excited and curious about what was in store, I had no idea of what to expect. 

I began with the Ashnola river in BC, then headed to Leavenworth, WA to paddle Tumwater Canyon and the entire Middle section of Icicle creek for my first time, and for a proper send off with my friends before I headed on this big adventure! 

I made my way with my friend Chris Lubenow to the North Fork Championships at the NF Payette river in Banks, ID. After racing the Lower 5 and cheering on my friends racing Jake’s Ladder, I spent the next 8 days in the ‘Wilderness of No Return’ paddling the Main and South Fork Salmon rivers with some friends from WA. 

Following a glorious week and a half in the Idaho wilderness, I drove through Idaho and the hot Utah desert to Durango, CO. With stout flows and chocolatey creeks too rowdy for my liking, I headed north through the mountains to Crested Butte. I arrived and was stoked to see the Pyranha van and meet Adam Goshorn and his buddies from the southeast. They welcomed me into their crew immediately and we spent the next two weeks paddling the best rivers and creeks Colorado had to offer! 

Next, I travelled to Golden to explore the Front Range and met Nic Yourd. For the next two weeks it poured rain, we paddled almost everyday! From Oh Be Joyful, Clear Creek of the Ark, a high water Arkansas, Castle Creek, Slaughterhouse, Clear Creek, Bailey Canyon, to the Cache la Poudre, I was able to paddle many of the Colorado classics and there are many I want to come back for!

I then hiked and drove my way through the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, and paddled the Shoshone and the Honeymoon section of the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. I made my way over Teton pass to Mesa Falls, ID where I fired up my first 40 ft waterfall! Then onto Missoula, MT where I met my girlfriends Cheyenne Rogers and Erin Clancey to play in the Alberton Gorge. 

Afterwards, I drove home to Leavenworth where I worked 2 jobs 7 nights a week, trained at the crossfit gym 4 days a week, and paddled an extremely low, technical Tumwater Canyon almost every day. I was also able to get a few friends stoked on the low water too and we created new challenges for ourselves taking new lines and I learned to throw freestyle moves in my playboat! 

I was also able to take a few days to paddle the Ashlu in Squamish, B.C. and the Chelan Gorge in Chelan, WA. The Ashlu is my favorite creek in the world and the most challenging piece of whitewater I’ve ever paddled. It was good to get back on it at a healthy flow with some of my favorite guys as a more comfortable and skilled paddler than I was previously. 

I had just recovered from a ruptured ear drum on the NF Payette when I arrived at Chelan, which had me doubting myself, and I had to dig deep to remind myself I had the skill and confidence to successfully paddle the Gorge. I was also the only female paddler with a group of about 40 guys, that’s a first! I think the guys would agree, successfully managing such a large group through a Class V gorged canyon safely couldn’t have been better, it’s a positive energy like nothing I’ve ever felt before, what a sick day! 

It’s hard to believe Leavenworth has been a part of my life for the past 5 years. It’s where I grew up, where I developed a real passion for white water and the alpine, where I learned how to be the very best me. It’s where I met my best friends and family. It’s a special place full of wild energy from our gifted community of outdoor enthusiasts, artists, musicians, and individuals who choose to live and recreate here in this awesome community. I love how I can summit mountains, run through the enchantments, paddle world class whitewater, and mountain bike some of the best trails in eastern Washington all in a day. I was able to visit many incredible cities, towns, and communities throughout my travels, but it feels good to finally be home in Leavenworth. I truly love this intrinsic place, it keeps me grounded; it’s home.

I didn't always know who I was going to paddle with, where I was going to stay, or what was going to happen over the 6 weeks I was on the road, but that vulnerability and unpredictability was one of the most memorable and life changing aspects of why this trip was so special for me. Being vulnerable nourishes personal growth, feeds creativity, and inspires innovation. It can be so easy to stay in your comfort zone, but it takes a lot of faith to trust things will work out to motivate. I worked through all of this gaining a great deal of confidence in my ability to know what’s best for me, make sound decisions, and exercise good judgment. I’ve been inspired by so many people throughout the past 4 months whether it was a conversation or meal we shared, a river we paddled together, a home (or trailer) I was welcomed in too, or First Descents for allowing me to safety kayak for them! 

We do what it takes to live our dreams, to fulfill our purpose, and pursue our passions. I love what I do, I’m incredibly driven to achieve my dreams and inspired, it’s what lights me up! It doesn’t matter what river I’m on, who I’m with, or how difficult it is; I love it! It’s where I’ve met my best friends and continue to have the best of adventures directing me towards the very best of everything life has to offer. Go after what creates meaning in your life and trust yourself, you’d be surprised at the places it will take you; I sure was. #shegoes

-AL

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