Waking of the Canoes

Image

Spring has arrived and tomorrow we will be re-introducing the Blue Heron canoe to the water. Many Tribes around the PNW are doing the same.

Some Tribes believe that after canoe pulling season, canoes are to be put away to rest for the winter; others say, a canoe never sleeps. Either way, come spring there is a Waking of the Canoe ceremony.  We gather together with our canoes and ask the Creator to bless the vessel and give us safe travels and a good journey.

As I stated before, the waters can be dangerous and adequate preparation involves not just the physical component, but the spiritual as well. One cannot underestimate the power and might of the sea. Our Ancestors knew that very well.

Will you please support my campaign?

http://www.gofundme.com/7mo7qw

Advertisements

My Journey to Bella Bella, B.C.

Dear friends,

I’ve been presented with the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Tribal Canoe Journey to Bella Bella. A once in a lifetime opportunity, this journey will cover 550+ miles crossing the waters of the Pacific to the Heiltsuk Nation in the Central Coast region of British Columbia, Canada.

More than 50 Tribes from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Oregon will be participating in this grand event — all culminating in a week long Potlach where we will share our songs, dances, and build new and lasting friendships.

Being on the water has always been an important part of my life — ultimate peace. Last year, after traveling down the Columbia river on the Chinook Canoe Journey, I realized that I’d been neglecting the very thing that gives me deep fulfillment far too long.

I’ve come to understand that a canoe is not simply an object of transport, rather it is a vessel for healing, empowerment, self-determination, youth and community development. For the youth in particular, canoe journey is a metaphor for our journey through life — providing them with the skills needed to live life to their fullest potential away from alcohol and drugs.

So here’s where I need your help:

Our journey will begin on June 22, departing from the Lummi Nation in WA.

This will not be an easy journey. Paddling for 8-13 hours a day is exhausting and painful both physically and mentally. We rely on the lead puller and skipper to guide us through, but every single person in the canoe plays a crucial role. There are dangers both at sea and on land. The cold temperatures, water, and strong winds are a perfect conditions for hypothermia. In addition, we will paddle through and camp in the Great Bear Rainforest — the largest coastal temperate rainforest on Earth and  home to grizzly bears.

Participating in Tribal Canoe Journey will keep me focused on the things I’m most passionate about: working with youth, cross-cultural dialogue, music, adventure, and storytelling.

All money raised will go towards:
1. Waterproof cameras: video and still, batteries, SD cards
2. Waterproof clothing and gear
3. Video software

4. Fees related to journey: ferries, support boats (gasoline),
food, ground crew, travel insurance

Simply put, none of this is possible without your support. I’m reaching out to friends, family, and community. Any donation, big or small is GREATLY appreciated and I will certainly pay it forward ten-fold. If you can help, please click the link below!

Al-Mughamara!
-Carla

http://www.gofundme.com/7mo7qw

 

Conquering That Which Took Me Down.

me1.jpg

As many of you know, 2012 was off to a bad start after embarking on a solo hike in northern Washington that landed me in the emergency room with a broken ankle.

In case you missed it, here’s the story: To Hike Alone.

A Pacific Northwest Trail and the area where “The Cascades Touch The Sea”, Blanchard Mountain, is a 7 mile hike to gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands and Samish Bay. With a 2000 ft. elevation gain and plenty of switchbacks, it’s a considerable climb to the top. It’s also a training point for those wanting to summit Mt. Rainier.

704223_4695462983198_676054466_o 741082_4695467703316_1937306217_o

Determined to conquer this bastard of a mountain and overcome the fear of falling again, I decided to return exactly one year after my accident.

I’ve hiked much tougher terrain in my years, but I wasn’t hiking Blanchard Mountain just for the sake of hiking. Like last year, I was looking to challenge myself both physically and emotionally. Taking a little more precaution this time, I set out to find some hiking support. Initially it was a team of four women, but in the end, it was just me and my great friend, Sarah.

So in 28 degree weather packed with snow in various places, we hiked to the top in just under 4 hours. While the trail is pretty clear and easy at first, it changes quickly and before you know it, you’re climbing over tree stumps and crawling over slippery rocks and boulders. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared, but I did it anyway. While there are other trails that finger off of Blanchard Mountain waiting for me to explore, at this time in my life, having one successful hike was monumental.

Last year’s adventure was a bust, but not this year. I conquered that which took me down.

736466_4695466103276_2002554897_o

As I stated earlier, I was seeking a physical and emotional challenge. Physically, I was testing my stamina and strength. Emotionally, I was eliminating past negativity, hurts, and mistakes.

Nothing makes me happier or brings me greater peace than being in the outdoors — It’s God’s Country. I know 2013 is THE year of new beginnings filled with love, positivity, renewal, and awesome adventures!

AL-MUGHAMARA!

~ Carlita

703625_4700982801190_218933771_o






Adventures in Long Beach, Washington

1B1720698
24716181213
1415321114
5102526

Celebrating Grandpa Olsen’s 91 birthday, honoring my mother’s passing, and enjoying time somewhere far away. We visited Ilwaco, WA and Cape Disappointment – A Lewis and Clark Historical State Park and bicycled through the woods and along the Pacific Ocean. Life is good.

To Hike Alone

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese Proverb

One of my favorite things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the scenery. The mountains, the skies, the Puget Sound, all these things and more provide the perfect backdrop to my life. As a traveler and adventurer, I always stay busy hiking or kayaking around the area. 

Just the other day, I decided to reunite with nature and go for a jaunt on Blanchard Mountain in northern Washington. According to my hiking guidebook, the giant boulders, bat caves and fabulous views on Oyster Dome are well worth the steep 6.5 mile hike. Just what I needed to test my endurance.

After a 1.5 hour drive, I parked my car and started my route on the Pacific Northwest Trail just off State Route 11 (Chuckanut Drive). There were a few people along the trail, but for the most part, it was a pleasant and quiet hike. Even though it wasn’t snowing, the 1,900 foot elevation gain certainly made it cold as I neared the top. After a few hours, I decided to take a break near an ice-age interpretive sign by the Talus Trail junction. I climbed on top a boulder to take some photos and greeted a young couple doing the same – their names, Christina and Anthony.

As they went on their way, I sat by myself enjoying the view. I didn’t stay too long as I was losing light and it was getting colder. It was about 10 minutes later when I started my way down off the boulder that I took one step to the left and SNAP! I fell in a split position with my right foot bent 90 degrees at the ankle. The snap was loud and it hurt like hell. I started to yell for help. Fortunately, Christina and Anthony hadn’t gotten too far away and responded. When they arrived, they climbed back on the boulder and managed to get me down, but that was as far as I would go. Walking myself out of there was out of the question.

This was the last thing I needed.

Stranded on a mountain, unable to move. A person’s worst nightmare.

There were a million things running through my mind.

It was rather fortuitous that Christina was carrying a GPS device. She later told me that she was conducting a project for her university class on satellite tracking. Divine intervention, huh? We both tried using our phones to call 911, but with spotty coverage and our batteries draining it was becoming increasingly difficult, so in one short exchange, Christina managed to give the GPS coordinates to a 911 responder.

Anthony, worried about how badly I was shaking, started back down the trail to get some blankets from his car. Christina stayed with me watching over the phones and keeping my mind off the pain with light conversation. It was well over an hour before the first crew made it to us. They bandaged my ankle and started to build a fire. The second crew brought a litter (rescue basket) strapped me inside, and placed my ankle in a vacuum splint. The third crew, which consisted of 15 volunteer firefighters and EMT’s were the people who did the actual grunt work.

  

Let me tell ya’ these guys worked fast!

By this point I was going into shock, and that together with the onset of hypothermia was not a good combination. They placed heat packs underneath my armpits and wrapped me in a waterproof down sleeping bag. After surveying the terrain and calculating how much rope they needed to belay me down the first part of the trail, we started our descent off the mountain. There was a “brake team” in the back and “survey team” in the front, along with the team that carried me on the sides. They took turns, changed positions, rested, and swapped between rope and wheel–all this with headlamps and night-vision goggles.

It was quite the task force and a comical bunch too! Cracking jokes and making fun of the situation at my expense was the best way to keep my mind off the situation, I’m sure. 🙂 When they found out I was alone and managing rather calmly despite the excruciating pain, they called me a “badass!” – A compliment in my book! 😀

Six hours later, around 8 p.m. after the team warded off a bear somewhere in there, I reunited with the first crew again and shuttled in an ambulance to Skagit Valley Hospital. A series of X-rays confirmed that I did indeed break my ankle. An oblique break in the fibula, to be exact. I’ll be out for the next six weeks with a follow up in two weeks to determine if I’ll need surgery.

It’s hard to get around on crutches and as usual, you never realize just how much you take your body for granted until you can’t use it properly. As for me, not being able to walk has certainly made a difference in my daily functions and I’m not even gonna’ get started on the crazy side effects of Vicodin! I’m on my own most days, but thankful for the friends and strangers who’ve sacrificed their time helping me out — just proof of the people worth keeping in your life.

When I think back on it all, I laugh at how I manage to find myself in such predicaments. This experience hasn’t discouraged me from hiking solo again…I mean, this is what I do! I gotta’ live life! Although this does mean I won’t be wearing my Manolo Blahniks for a while.

Bummer.

   

Tall Ships Trading – Columbia River, Washington/Oregon

DSCN4623DSCN4483DSCN4617DSCN4603DSCN4601DSCN4591 DSCN4585DSCN4582DSCN4570DSCN4564DSCN4555DSCN4539 DSCN4528DSCN4526DSCN4523DSCN4510DSCN4505DSCN4497 DSCN4490DSCN4481DSCN4476DSCN4468DSCN4462DSCN4453

One of my favorite outdoor activities is kayaking or canoeing. It’s absolutely peaceful being on the water. The serenity is hypnotic and just leaves me in awe of how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I had an opportunity a few years ago to partake of a tradition that re-enacts the trades between the Chinook Nation and Europeans. I hope you’ll take a look at these photos and read my blog about it. Just another reason I love living here. 🙂

Clinging for Life – PT. 1

Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself tethered to a kayak clinging for life on a Class III rapid. But just three years ago, this was indeed the case. 

It was my third weekend in my rafting guide training on the Wenatchee River. Just as I conquered getting my crew through the infamous “snow-blind” rapid, I found myself falling off the raft in what seemed to be a slow motion replay.

It’s important to note that even the most seasoned rafters get knocked off the boat every now and then, but here are a few lessons to be learned…

Lesson 1: To get through a rapid without flipping the boat you have to plow head-on while paddling.

As much as fear wants you believe that it’s an illogical move, you have to point the raft straight into the wave and just go for it! My angle was spot on and my crew was paddling hard. As I screamed “FOORWAARD!!” a 6 foot wave came straight at us and while we made it through initially, in a split second the wave dropped and rose popping the back of the raft and ejecting me backwards into the river. My paddle was lost and I was being swept away in the opposite direction of the boat.

Lesson 2: If you fall off the boat grab onto the chicken line.

A rapid moves at the speed of light and so does the person caught in one. My crew managed to redirect the boat and throw the safety line. I missed. I started to swim hard but the freshly melted mountain snow made the water painfully cold.

Becky, one of my trainers, had been following us in her kayak and immediately paddled towards me.

Fighting the current wears you out very quickly and my hands were frozen stiff. Bending one finger was more painful than being in the frigid cold water.  At this point, I was really starting to get scared as the only thought running through my mind was that I was going to drown. Becky’s military instincts kicked in as she screamed at me to grab onto the kayak.

This was it. I had ONE chance.

I’m not sure if I was afraid of dying or afraid of Becky, but I managed to grab the front strap of the kayak.  I held on with my head to the side of the kayak, facing towards Becky. As she paddled forward fighting every wave, the currents kept pulling us further apart from the raft. I couldn’t see what was behind me and even though the rest of my body was underneath the kayak, my life jacket kept my head above water.

Becky tried to reassure me that everything would be alright. In fact, with the roaring rapids, she actually yelled at me “DON’T LET GO! HOLD ON DAMMIT! DON’T YOU DARE LET GO!” I began to wonder if she really believed it was going to be alright or if she was just saying that on the brink of my demise.

Before I knew it, the crew grabbed my shoulder straps, counted 1-2-3, dunked me back in the water, and pulled me back into the raft. Keep in mind, the crew is trying to save my life while battling the rapids and attempting to keep the boat from flipping again. That would have been worse.

Lesson 3: Hypothermia is still possible. To prevent this, keep moving.

I was numb, discombobulated, relieved and shaken, but there was no time to waste. I grabbed the paddle and joined the crew as we moved into calm waters. Once we made it to shore, I tearfully thanked everybody still in disbelief of what had happened.

It made me very aware of what could really happen to my clients in the future. How would they react? How would I react? Would I be able to think fast and save a person?

I continued my training, but the story doesn’t end here. Stay tuned for Part 2.

~ Carla