Rebecca Raynord and Gary Thompson: NOLS - Running Out of Water to Paddle and a Runaway Canoe

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By Shawn Stratton. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

This week on the show we have our first NOLS co-instructor interview. Shawn speaks with Rebecca Raynord and Gary Thompson who worked two epic canoeing courses together, one in Utah and one in Yukon.Rebecca started whitewater kayaking with a program at our high school on the Potomac River near Washington DC. She began teaching kayaking during the summer in college. After graduating from college with no firm plans, Rebecca decided to take a NOLS semester as a student in search of wilderness skills and leadership. She then continued teaching kayaking in the DC area for two years until returning to NOLS for her River Instructors Course in 2001.

Rebecca worked for NOLS in the field and a program supervisor full time until August 2012, finishing with 231 weeks in the field. She mainly worked whitewater courses and some sea kayaking in Baja. Now Rebecca works as an emergency medicine doctor in an ER in Virginia.

Gary grew up in South Carolina and has worked in outdoor education since 1998 including about 9 years instructing for NOLS. Currently living in McCall Idaho, he works as an instructor at the University of Idaho's McCall Outdoor Science School. A career highlight for Gary was going back to Brevard College to lead the Voice of the River's expedition across Argentine Patagonia. In 2014 Gary began a leadership consulting business, Redfish|Bluefish, INC that continues to expand his leadership experience and knowledge.. Most of his field experience comes as a boating instructor, river guide, and trip leader in Idaho, Utah, Peru, and Argentina

In this episode:

  • (03:07) Gary starts by telling us the story behind the low water in the Yampa River. It was his first NOLS course as an Instructor. They were leading a five-day canoe section of a month-long NOLS Paddling course. When they reached the river, they found the water significantly lower than expected, and there was just enough water that could be best described as a “foot deep” and “two canoes wide.” From leaving all the extra accessories behind and packing light, they had it bad when they looked downstream and only found boulders blocking their way – making them walking and dragging the canoes. The story gets funnier when they share the experiences of their students and what was their reaction towards it. But in the end, their optimism carried them off the edge.

  • (27:18) Rebecca talks about the early season Naval Academy course in Yukon mighty Hess river, where they had a group of midshipmen coming up ready for adventure and challenge. They explain how the course has a very challenging start. Long before they get to the Hess, they have to drag their canoes up a creek, hop on a tributary, go through the beaver pond, again hop on a tributary, then down make their way down into the river.

  • (32:13) Rebecca tells us that after reaching the Hess, they wanted the group to learn their Whitewater skills. While practicing upstream ferries, and got a student boat flipped, and the fast-moving water took it away. While Rebecca and her partner were chasing after the floating canoe, they ended up paddling far away from the group before they got the runaway boat to shore on an island at the end of a whitewater section. It quickly becomes very apparent that they were a long way from the group with four people’s worth of stuff. Gary intrigued us more when he shares his part of the story where he is left to lead the rest of the group and find their missing mates with the canoe.

  • (42:30) Moving forward, Gary and Rebecca share how survival skills and quick decision-making helps them overcome most of the hardships they faced on the Yukon trip. They explain how they have learned the wide range of lessons and outdoor skill-building and how the strength to move forwards comes from within – all it takes to survive and thrive in the world is a little know-how and ingenuity.

24 episodes