By Raina Panarese
This is the moment I have been looking forward to for months. The mountain of gear and food is loaded, the group photos are taken, everyone has found a seat in the 16 foot rafts and we push off the muddy banked boat launch in the remote town of Eagle, Alaska. As the Yukon River begins to gently float us into true wilderness. I breath out a huge sign of relief and breath in the excitement for the adventures that lay ahead. The weeks of prep work for the expedition is done. I will not have to drive, go to the grocery store, answer emails, text, or talk on the phone for at least 10 days. I get to escape in recreation and nature, become good friends with new students and the kicker is I get paid to do this!
As I take my first oar strokes to push out into the middle of the river, I relish in the simple meditative movement I have practiced for hours, weeks and years. I read the subtle ripples and swirls in the water to find the main current, the fast lane.
I can see the other raft teams close by talking quietly, some are overtly excited bubbling with laughter that carries and echoes off the near by cliffs and others are silently taking in where they are. As much as I love to row I ask my new crew, “Who wants to row next and captain this vessel?” They look at me like what, but we just got on the water? So I continue, “We got all the time in the world and there is no better place to learn then right here, right now.”