Thursday, July 28, 2005

One Week. One Rattlesnake. One River. One God.

***The following events took place between Friday, July 15th and Sunday, July 24th, during the Arlington YD Inflatable Kayak Trip to the Owyhee River in Oregon. Written records may include actual facts but may also have been exaggerated for the purposes of tone, flow, and dramatic impact of this written record. The rattlesnake and the hole in the rock, however, are painfully real.***

The Events of 7/15/05-7/24/05 as recorded in diary-entry style by the most honest and non-exaggerating HeatherMBaker.

DAY ONE: Saturday, July 16, 2005. 6:30 in the AM.

Miles on the Van: Zero
Number of hours Heather has already spent with students
Number of Factory-Installed CD Player in Van: Zero
Number of personal CD Players brought by students or adults: Nine

Loaded up the van with people and piled the Chevy Luv trailer with clothes, sleeping bags, tents, and various other unnecessaries. I have just survived a brief panic attack upon discovering that the van had no CD player and no tape adapter. By the time my panic attack was beginning, nine students were already plugged into headsets and oblivious of my hyperventilation. Am now riding shotgun with scrunched-up frustrated expression on face.

12:15 PM.

Miles on the Van: 275
Number of complaints from passengers about Heather's Driving: 14
Number of complaints from passengers about Heather's music choices: 27
Number of requests for Taco Bell: 22
Number of times Heather drove past Taco Bell towards McDonalds just to torment student population of van: 2

Lunch break. So far so good. I have managed to wrangle personal CD player away from student. He resisted, but fortunately, I have a vast amount of upper body strength due to five months of rafting.

6:15 PM.

Miles on the Van:
Number of hours Heather has been with students: 23 1/4
Number of bars of reception on cell phone: zero
Number of available radio stations: one

Have just entered town of Jordan Valley. We are only 45 minutes from our campsite and from our other three guides--Heidi, Adam, and Greg. Kids are starting to notice that we left civilization about 7 hours ago and are beginning to get disgruntled. They are running around in parking lot of restaurant yelling "Eight Dollars for a HAMBURGER and Three Dollars for GASOLINE!" while consuming only sodium and sugar from "Mrs. Z's convenience store."


Number of nearly sleeping students:

Number of nearly sleeping adults trying to have a meeting:five

Number of sopping wet articles of Heather's clothing hanging on tree branches: Several.
Amount of Ibruprofen injested by Heather to cover all-inclusive headache and cramps:three.

Upon arriving at camp, the kids changed into suits and tossed themselves into the river. The change in climates was too overwhelming--leaving a rainy 60 degrees in Washington this morning to a 90 degree desert Sunset in Oregon this evening. I was wading in the shallow part of the river with my jeans rolled up, but, as is to be expected, ended up immersed in the water fully clothed thanks to a few boys and Bronco.

TWO: Sunday, July 17, 2005. 2:00pm.

Number of River Miles: 5.
Number of students who can paddle their kayak straight: 3 out of 10

We have stopped for lunch. The students are getting frustrated that it's so difficult to maneuver the kayaks straight. Have hit a few small spots of moving water, but thus far, the river is wide and slow.

Being that I am an official whitewater guide this year, I am carrying the following things on my boat:
* Personal Large Dry Bag (appx 30-40 pounds)
* Personal Small Dry Bag (appx 8 pounds)
* Fold-up camping table for food (appx 10 pounds)

* "River Wing", which will get used rarely and wind up left for loss on an Idaho highway(appx 15 pounds)
* 2 Personal Water Bottles
* Kayak Repair Kit in Mesh Bag with assorted 'other things' (appx 8 pounds)
* Brand New Pentax Optio Waterproof 5.0 Megapixel Digital Camera in beautiful Yellow Waterproof/Rockproof Plastic Case (appx 3 pounds)


Number of River Miles: 8
Number of students who succesfully steered their kayaks straight:
Number of students who successfully almost stepped on rattlesnake:
Number of students who successfully participated in murder of rattlesnake:

We are at our first beach. Malisa just went over the hill to use the dreaded "Poop Tube" (our device which is used to pack out any fecal matter from our 15 persons this week.) She came back over the hill yelling, "Rattlesnake! Rattlesnake!" All seven boys simultaneously leaped over the hill, rocks in hand, armed and ready to fight the beast. For the remainder of the week, we will hear all the brave all the boys were and how lucky Malisa was that they were there to save her. I am convinced that any of the seven of them would have shrieked like a girl if they had seen it first.


Day Three: Monday, July 18, 2005. 5:00pm

River Miles: 15
Appx temperature of river: 80 degrees
Appx temperature of the shade on land: 98 degrees.

Our second full day on the river is finished, and we have staked out a new beach, which apparently has an amazing fishing hole. Malisa has just caught 2 huge catfishes, and the boys are aghast and weepy.

Today was Bulls Eye day—Bulls Eye being the biggest, or at least most technical, rapid that we will run this week. (Class IV). Greg and Adam—our kayaking professionals—are very confident in their skills, whereas Heidi and I feel much more like novices, even though we have snazzy new “Whitewater Rescue Technician” patches to wear on our vests. Heidi and I ended up picking the wrong line—we went right, but then tried to cut back left when right looked too tight.. Heidi plowed nose-first into the rock and scooted around it, while I ended up flipping out of my kayak and swimming the rest of the rapid.

The kids were much more successful though—because we all positioned ourselves to direct them down the easier channel on the left. They got to experience the anticipation of the scariness of it all without really being in too much danger.

We have paddled 15 very long miles, and we are very tired.


This river is an amazing thinking spot. I was just perched on a rock along the shore, reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water and thinking about my life and where it is going. I am convinced that God just spoke to me directly and told me that I am a writer. I know this, but I am afraid of it. God may have just told me that I’m being disobedient by not stepping out to fully embrace the gift he’s given me.

Day Four: Tuesday, July 19, 2005. 10:00am.

Number of days since I have showered: three
Current status of hair: immobile.
Current remedy: bandana.

This morning it is Heidi’s turn to share her story with the group. Although our week is very open-ended, we are facilitating a daily Bible “Program” of sorts, to help these students get to know more about who Jesus is. Each day a different leader chooses a story from Jesus’s life and shares the story and his or her personal story with the group.

Heidi’s story is captivating—as she tells about the life of her friend Brent, who died in January, shortly after leading Heidi to Jesus. She is brimming with tears. Greg, who was close friends with Brent too, is already in tears. The kids are silent as Heidi asks them, “What is something that’s happened in your life that seemed unfair?” We will meditate on this question all day.


We have just left the “Weeping Wall Spring,” our favorite and best spring water for the week. It’s like Nature’s shower, and since it’s been three days since my last shower, I am loving it. It also fits with our theme verse for the week, Prov 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”


Temperature of Hot Springs: 130 degrees
Temperature of Air: 110 degrees
# of Filled PVC Poop Tubes: 2
Combination of 110 degree heat and filled poop tube: No comment.

Ryegrass Hot Springs! One of my favorite spots on the whole river. There’s a shelf rock that spans most of the width of the river, and if you position your bootie just right, you can sit right on it as the river keeps flowing past you. Keeping one’s grip is very important, because if you slip on the shelf, you’ll end up smacking into a rock. I have scrapes and bruises on my knees and shins to prove it. Manuel found it entertaining to smack all of the girls with big globs of seaweed, Ryan discovered that he could walk on water, and Heidi and I discovered that if you laid down on the rock in a surf wave, you could take a cool picture that makes it look like you’re drowning.


River Miles: 25
Number of meals that have resembled something that might have been served at an Internment Camp: 5.

I have termed our new beach “Neo-Ghetto Beach.” Last year, we stayed at a beach a few miles further, which we called “Ghetto Beach” because of its scorpions, bad sleeping spots, and other ghetto properties. Our current beach offered no shade until 9:00pm, and it will easily be 100 degrees again by 9:00am, meaning it will be a short night’s sleep.

Earlier this evening we set up the infamous “River Wing,” a lean-to of sorts with a tarp and poles and ropes. After about 45 minutes of it slapping and blowing all across the campsite and nearly blowing away forever, we have dug humongoid holes in the sand and buried the anchor rocks. Ha-HA! We will show that River Wing who is the boss.

Today, someone got the bright idea to cook up some Freshwater Mussels. They tasted like embryos. Negative seven so far for the food.


Day Five: Wednesday, July 20, 2005. 11:00am.

Number of rapids so far today: Zero.
Number or River Miles so far today: ½.
Number of Family Photos taken at Scenic Photo Locale: 47

I am sitting on a rock looking up at Chalk Basin, this amazing dome-topped white rock, in the middle of a very dry, red desert. We have just finished morning devotions, where Adam shared the story of Jesus healing the lepers. He asked us to think today about the leprocy we are carrying within ourselves. I am feeling plagued by my own sin and despair.

I am also watching seven boys run across the desert in search of a cougar or a bat or some form of fauna. It has been three days since their last hunt, and I think they’re getting bloodthirsty again.

I will pretend that I’m not getting nervous that Whistling Bird is today. It’s a rapid that we normally have all the kids portage. Adam and Greg are going to run all of the kayaks through, and I know that they will let me run it if I ask too. I’m feeling horribly incompetent this morning. At least we’re having sausages for lunch.


Number of River Miles: 32
Number of Wrapped Boats: one.
Number of Nearly Drowned River Guides: one
Number of Emotional Breakdowns by Female River Guides: several.

I am staring wide-eyed at Whistling Bird, the rapid that I did not run this afternoon. I was an emotional mess by the time we reached the top, and it was easy to recite a bold “No,” when Adam asked me if I wanted to run it.

Heidi was feeling braver than I, and her first run was great, so she jumped up for another. The thing that makes this rapid so scary is that there’s a big rock on the right, where all the water is pushing you, that should you happen upon it would certainly suck you under it and through a “Rock Sieve,” which in this case is a hole underneath the rock.

From my downstream perspective, all I saw was carnage—an upside down boat, a bobbing head, and some floating gear.

From Heidi’s perspective, she saw the rock, she felt the flip, she felt the water suck her underwater and head first straight through the hole. She popped up on the other side unharmed, her boat wrapped around the rock, filled with hundreds of pounds of water.

We were all in the adreneline rush that comes in the aftermath of river scenarios like this—trying to pry the boat off the rock, trying to catch all the gear that was floating downstream, trying to keep an eye Greg in as he hops around in the rapids like he’s skipping through a kiddie pool…

By the time she realized how serious it had been, it was all over. By the time I realized how serious it had all been, I was ready to find a corner cave to cry in for two days. My friend could have died on a rapid that I had a horrible gut feeling I should not run. What is God telling us today?


Number of girls with cleanly washed hair: five
Number of people who loved Heather and Tyler’s chicken curry dinner: fifteen
Number of rat sightings: seven
Average evening temperature of the Bat Cave: 115 degrees.

I am sprawled on my sleeping bag in the Bat Cave, where we are supposed to be sleeping this evening. It’s incredibly stuffy and hot, and the boys have just spent the last ½ hour chasing rats around the cave, which has given every article of my clothing and gear a fine layer of sandy dust.

For whatever reason, the kids like each other today. They spent most of the afternoon huddled together under a tree getting to know each other. We didn’t play games or do initiatives—they just took it upon themselves to start hanging out and talking. (I will say that the real reason is how attractive smelling all the girls are now that we’ve all washed our hair.)

I have recovered a bit from the emotion of this morning and this afternoon, but it’s only Day Five, and I’m already to retreat into my cave of introversion. Blaaaah.


Day Six: Thursday, July 21, 2005. 6:00pm.

I have never been so hot and so miserable in my entire life. Seriously. Jackson Hole Beach can take a flying leap into a deep earth crevice and never return. The gnats are horrible, and it has to be 120 degrees in the shade. My skin is so dry that I could star in a Jergen’s commercial as the crocodile.

We are about to send all ten kids off to their own personal campsite for “Solo Night.” We pretend the kids will learn and grow a lot by themselves, but really, it’s an excuse for us to go and talk to the kids one-on-one. I will talk to two of the girls, and I am thrilled to sit beside them for an hour or so and find out about their weeks and about what they’re thinking about God.

I hope that God remembers us tonight, and I hope that he takes away these gnats.


My conversations with the girls were incredible, and the gnats have gone away. The week is feeling like the kids are experiencing growth, and I am learning things too. Praise God.


Day Seven: Friday, July 22, 2005. 3:00pm.

Number of nights of camping left in front of me: 2
Number of days since last shower: 7.
Number of Affirmation Cards completed: 3 of 14.

Our last night on the river is here at Greely Bar. It is my favorite of all of the campsites, maybe because the beach is good and maybe because there’s shade, but mostly because of all the feelings of nostalgia I have of good things that happened at this beach last year. This beach feels like a home to me.

Heidi, Adam, and I are camped out in the shade filling out notecards for “Affirmations,” which will happen later tonight. We will take time to encourage everyone in the group individually and give everyone a handwritten note of encouragement.

Number of grains of sand imbedded in hair follicles: 4,327.
Number of river miles yet to go: 5.

It is officially the last night on the river. I am curled up in my sleeping bag staring at a big starry sky, dreaming of a shower and a bed.

Our kids did an amazing job of affirming each other. They really love each other, and the quietest kids tended to share the most, which was awesome to see.


>Day Eight: Saturday, July 23, 2005. 11:30am.

Number of miles driven on unpaved, scary roads: 72.
Number of prayers for personal safety sent to God: 72.
Number of River Guides with would-be-particles-of-glass lodged in eyeball: one.
Size of would-be-particle-of-glass: teeny.
Pain caused by would-be-particle of glass: immense.

River time is over. We’re loaded in the van headed back to Jordan Valley driving on the sketchiest road in the world. It’s very easy to imagine the whole load of us tumbling down the hill and no one even noticing.

Adam is in the front seat clutching his eyeball. During our mid-evening sandstorm last night, a piece of sand wedged its way in and seems intent to stay. The Saline is doing nothing.

The kids are already in their zones, with headsets strapped to their ears. I have found my down pillow and am half asleep on the front seat of the van, dreaming of flush toilets.


Waiting patiently for the three girls to finish up their showers. We have stopped for the evening at Bronco’s cousin-in-law’s, at the halfway point for our trip home. There are S’mores and there are showers. There are ten funny kids, and there is Bronco’s entire family. There is no Heidi, Adam, and Greg, because they are all waiting patiently at the ER and searching frantically for our “River Wing” which has disappeared on an Idaho roadway somewhere.


I have yet to fall asleep even though I am clean and snuggled in my sleeping bag. Heidi, Adam, and Greg have just arrived six hours late, with a sore eyeball and no river wing. The kids are still talking around the campfire. Didn’t they kayak 50 miles this week?


Day Nine. Sunday morning, July 24, 2005. 10:00am.

Number of pancakes in my belly: 2.
Number of times I have praised God for the ability to run my fingers through my hair: 17.
Number of clean people in beautiful t-shirts posing for group photo: 15.
Number of complaints about Heather’s driving thus far: zero.

The trip is over, essentially.

There is still a drive home, and there are still showers to be had and gear to be cleaned, but for most purposes, our Owyhee Trip is over. The kids are asleep in the van, and the CD Player is mine.

How was our week? It was long, it was fun, it was difficult, it was tiring, it was sore, it was bug-filled, it was hot, it was sticky, it was emotionally-draining, it was inspiring, it was empowering, it was exhausting, it was above all—good.

These trips are always so long and hard and great, but what I am filled with most of all is a question of my calling—is this the kind of ministry I am cut out for—is this the kind of ministry I am good at—is this the kind of ministry I want to continue in?

I do not have clear answers to those questions. I do not have concise answers to those questions, but if God has given me anything this week, he’s given me the dichotomy of feeling so emotionally drained that I couldn’t listen while giving me a student that I talked and listened to so well, that she feels like a sister. He has given me four amazing coworkers who are friends and sources of accountability as much as they are partners in ministry. He has given me feelings of immense joy and excitement and immense feelings of despair and loneliness. He has given me the opportunity to have a job which asks me to spend nine days in the Oregon wilderness with ten messy, smelly kids who want to know Him more. Our God is an amazing giver of amazing gifts.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

We have returned.

We just arrived back to Arlington from our amazing 9-days away in Southeast Oregon. Many stories to be shared and pictures to be uploaded.

I will be out of the office until Thursday, and I will write about it then.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Owyhee Bound.

Tomorrow evening at 7pm, I will be picking up three girls for a Sleepover, officially commencing our Owyhee River Inflatable Kayaking Trip, which we leave for on Saturday morning.

We will return mid-afternoon on Sunday, July 24th.

Do not expect to hear from me until many moons from now, and please remember us in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Under Pressure.

I feel like I've been fending off the same stress headache for about three weeks, and I am sick of it. Lots of little life stresses that don't mean a whole lot independent of each other have been pieced together with a few rather significant ones...and then throw in that in the month of July, I will have spent 20 out of 31 days sleeping in beds that are not mine...and it makes me feel like I've had my head in a vice, with the crank turning ever so very slowly.

There are exciting things, there are frustrating things, but in the midst of it all, I wake up and realize that I'm not really talking to God about it. I talk to Suz and Renee. I talk to Mom and Dad. I talk to Heidi. I talk to Sarah. I talk to Adam and Greg. I get up and read short passages in my Bible every morning, and when I talk with my friends, they help me to pray...but I have been exhausted, and that extra 45 minutes in the morning in which I normally communicate with God has gotten wedged out.

Does it often happen that you look at your life and all its petty stresses, in which you are so entrenched, and you look around to ask yourself, "Where is God in all of this?" only to realize that you forgot to call him and invite him over to dinner.

I am not an extrovert, and yet I'm currently living the life of an extrovert...and that means that God and I seem to lose touch.


On Friday, I will begin ten straight days of around-the-clock Youth Ministry when we begin our Owyhee River Inflatable Kayaking Trip. I am excited about it, because there are three girls coming that I do not know well...and I know that we will be good friends by the trip's end. I am excited that I get to serve alongside some of my favorite people and best friends in the entire world--Bronco, Greg, Adam and Heidi. I am excited to see 50 miles of Whitewater, which will seem brand-new to my river-wisened eyes. I am excited to teach kids about Jesus, and to teach them about the river...and to tell them how much I love them both, and why I serve the Lord in this way.

And I'm still stressed and nervous, with all of my petty life stuff, and I'm stressed about there not being time for me and God, while at the same time, there not being a need to do anything BUT spend time with God before we go.

So I am under pressure, but the mounting pressure is not so much that life has me down--but that when life has me down, it means that maybe my priorities are out of whack. I will quote from my friend Adria today, "Forget what you think you are 'supposed to know' and start talking to Jesus about what he wants you to know."

The Owyhee River in Oregon--where I am headed with eleven kids on Saturday.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Swimming the Rapids.

Tumwater Canyon Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 3rd. 2:13pm.

We were rapidly approaching "Slant Six," the final and biggest rapid on the Wenatchee River. "Big" is a relative term this summer, because nothing is as "big" on the Wenatchee as it should be. A drought this past winter depleted the snowmelt, meaning it's an extremely mild rafting season. In fact--the past few weeks, we've been taking Inflatable Kayaks out with the kids, because they're a lot easier to maneuver in the shallow river.

I, however, was in a hardshell kayak. This is all thanks to my friend Greg, who has been at this for 13 seasons, and insisted that I can do it. Hardshell Kayaks are scary! They're tippy, they have a very low center of gravity, and best of all--when you roll over, you are suspended upside-down under the water until you can right yourself. When you cannot right yourself, basic panic ensues while you're conking your head on the river bottom.

Above "Slant Six" was a short wave train. I rode it well, and was like, "woohoo, that's fun!" Then I remembered that Greg had told me to cut left to miss the big stuff and then back right to miss the super biggy--"Grand Finale." So I started left, but the current was pulling me right--straight towards a big hole of whitewater. "NOO!" I cried. I dug it in, but I couldn't make it, and I entered the rapid sideways, immediately flipping into that suspended upside-down pose...right at the top of the rapid, with a good fifty yards of whitewater through which to navigate.

Instinct kicked in, and I pulled my spray skirt off and grasped around the side of my boat for the surface. I ditched the boat and paddle, though, when I saw the wall of white in front of me and tried to swim away. I ended up swimming towards it and scraping my butt and back across some very angry, exposed rocks, while plummeting right through the heart of the water with just myself and my trusted life vest.

At the bottom, now floating down without boat or paddle, I swam towards one of the kids, who was on her knees in her Inflatable Kayak, safe in slow water, screaming, "I don't have a paddle!" while waving her arms. I yelled back, "I don't have a BOAT!" and grabbed onto the nose of her boat and started paddling towards shore. She kept trying to jump out of her boat, and I don't remember what I said to her, but I'm sure it was rather concise yellings of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, CRAZY WOMAN! STAY IN YOUR BOAT!"

I pulled her safely into shore, and then walked down another hundred feet to where Adam was holding my kayak and paddle, which he had rescued from the water. I got settled back in the boat and took off down the river, glad to have the worst behind me. Greg called out, "Did anyone hit that big rock in Grand Finale?" I said, "I did. With my butt." "What?!" "Yeah, I bailed on the first big hole." He shook his head, grinned, and paddled away saying, "You know better than that."

Ahh...glorious empathy.

On the way home, Greg and Adam decided it would be fun to give me a heart attack by attacking some actual big water in Tumwater Canyon. I stood with the van at the pullout, peering over the guardrail, wondering how it is possible that man can navigate whitewater and not die.

I will learn how this is possible this upcoming weekend, when I am swimming in Tumwater Canyon for "Swiftwater Rescue Training." Is it possible for the Lord to bless you when you're taking crazy adventurous risks but calling it ministry?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005



8 Days in between postings is a personal worst for me. Blame it on lots of things....but know this:

  • Today I sat down with the Youth Pastor at my church and evaluated through how next year's youth ministry can be even better. I'm very excited to be a change agent there!
  • There are three girls and eight boys signed up to go kayaking with us in ten days! I can't wait!
  • Life has been crazy, up and down and all around, but God is faithful.