S1E116 – Tav on Waterways

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Tav and Inmn talk about the utility of waterways and the ways that industrialization has changed our relationship to waterways. Inmn learns new terrifying things about river rafting and how river guides really come up with the scariest things to name potential dangers.

Guest Info

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.


Live Like the World is Dying: Tav on Waterways

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today Inmn Neruin, and today we’re going to be revisiting a subject that we’ve talked about before which is paddling on water. And we’re going to talk a lot about rivers and we’re gonna talk about—a little bit about planning trips and just generally the importance of getting to know your local waterways, with some specific contexts on places that are really cold. But first, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo!

**Inmn ** 01:43
And welcome back. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. Could you introduce yourself and tell us just a little bit about what you—what you do in the world and what you’re excited to talk about today?

**Tav ** 01:59
Yeah, I’m Tav and I’m a, I guess broadly a wilderness guide from so-called Canada. Yeah, I’ve worked everywhere from the East Coast to Newfoundland, up to the Yukon. And yeah, I’m mostly a paddling guide, so everything from whitewater rafting, to sea kayaking, to canoeing, but I’ve also been known to guide hiking trips, and yeah, pretty much that’s what I do.

**Inmn ** 02:32
Cool, cool. That’s—I feel like, you know, we’ve had people come on and talk about like, like arctic hiking, or hiking, or paddling, mostly in the desert, and I feel like—maybe this is just me having a very not understanding of all of these things for the most part. But what—I’m curious about, like, what kind of changes, like, in places where it gets super cold and you’re having to be in the water? Which sounds cold. It sounds very cold to me. 

**Tav ** 03:06
Um, yeah, I think the main thing is that it really depends on what—well, first of all, what time of year it is and, like, what exactly you’re doing or planning on doing. So if you’re going to be running rapids, you’re certainly going to get wet. And so we have these things called dry suits, which are, well, it’s kind of exactly what it sounds like. It’s a suit that keeps you dry. They have these rubber gaskets on your wrists and your neck. So it, like, suctions completely to your neck and your wrists and the rest of its waterproof, including the feet. And you usually have, like I have these, call them river boots, and you just put them on over the suit. And then you’re nice and protected. And you can wear warm stuff underneath if it’s super cold out. But personally, I run hot. So generally, I find that like, just a base layer underneath is good enough for me. Because as soon as, like it really traps in all that air, so you stay pretty, you stay pretty warm. Even if you’re in like really freezing water. But in other times of year, like to be honest, in the summer here, it gets pretty hot, like people—people don’t really think of it. It’s not like it’s frozen year round. Obviously the waters running at a certain point and, especially these days, the summers can get up to, you know, like 30 degrees. And yeah.

**Inmn ** 04:40
Cool. I’m gonna pretend I know what the conversion is on that. Wow, that’s hot.

**Tav ** 04:46
Yeah, I mean, it is pretty—it’s probably not hot for you coming from the desert actually. But yeah, I think, I think broadly the biggest thing is always, at least for me, dressing as if you’re gonna fall in the water. Unless it’s really hot out. If it’s really hot out and you fall in, it kind of feels great. But, but if it’s chilly, you always dress like you’re gonna go in the water, and not like you’re just gonna have a nice day on the river. And yeah.

**Inmn ** 05:25
Well, I guess like, I’m curious about, like, what the kind of preparedness like like, what—like, what do you what do you do if you fall in the water? What do you do if you fall in the water and you get wet? Like, what’s—and your dry suit doesn’t keep you dry? These scary questions that I have about being in the wilderness and being cold and wet. 

**Tav ** 05:50
For sure. Definitely, I mean, so the first thing that’s gonna happen it—and again, it all really depends on where you fall out. And like, because rivers are a very dynamic environment, actually, as one of my coworkers put it to me. He was more on the hiking side of things. And he told me that like paddling really scared him, because if something goes wrong on the river, you’re still moving down the river as this thing is going wrong. So you have to like deal with the problem, but also maybe deal with a hazard that’s like right in front of you. And then it’s always about, like, figuring out what the best course of action is in regards to, like, dealing with the hazard, but also, you know, saving the person, and making sure everybody else who’s still in the boat is safe. But I think broadly, what I tend to tell people if I’m taking them on a trip that’s going to involve whitewater, is: the safest place on the river is in the boat. And if you’re not in the boat, you should be on shore. So if I’m gonna, like, enter a bunch of rapids—and the other thing is actually, before I say that, you need to know, like, how to swim if you’re gonna like be in whitewater. They call it a defensive swimming position. And you kind of sit back like you’re in a lawn chair, and put your feet forward. And that way, if you like smashed into a rock, it’s not your face that smashes into a rock, it’s your feet. And you just kind of, like, you should have a lifejacket on. So that’ll keep you floating. And, and then there’s also, like, an offensive swimming position, which I wouldn’t normally teach somebody, that’s, yeah. Anyways, so yeah, so if I’m about to enter a bunch of rapids, I’ll tend to tell people like, hey, if you do fall out, and for whatever reason you can’t get back to the boat, you need to swim to the left shore or the right shore. Because sometimes it might not be safe to swim a certain direction and people don’t know that and they’re just gonna panic and swim whatever way seems the best. But if you let them know beforehand, like, hey, swim left, if something goes really wrong, I don’t know, then they’ll at least know the safer way to swim. Yeah. And then other than that, like, we have, I guess, a couple tools in our arsenal—and this should be the same with rivers everywhere. We’ll have throw ropes, which are just some buoyant rope. And it’s in a bag, and you throw it at people. And they should hopefully grab on to it and then you can pull them in to safety. And then there’s obviously, again, like, as with all things, it can get more and more complicated depending on what the problem is. Actually, this one place I worked—I wasn’t on this trip, but there was a person who got stuck on a piece of debris in the middle of a rapid which is, like, absolutely horrifying, especially because we’ve run that river—or that section of the river, like, a million times and that’s never happened. So there was well, so—this is kind of insane, but there was a an old mill there, like a lumber mill. Or maybe it was a paper mill. I don’t know, it was some industrial thing. And rather than, like, you know, when it went out of business, disposing of all the waste properly, they just decided, hey, there’s this big river right there. Let’s just throw the whole factory in the river. Why not? So there was all this big machinery and like metal under the water, and a lot of the rapids are actually created by that like big hunks of metal and stuff. But anyways, we had no idea that that, like, was there. And maybe it was just like the water level was perfectly right that day or perfectly wrong that day. But yeah, this person got like caught on their swim shorts, like, right on the piece of metal. And they were stuck in the middle of a rapid. So I cannot imagine what my friends went through trying to rescue that person. It must have been pretty terrifying. But yeah, so in situations like that, it would be like a much more complicated rescue than just like throwing a rope at them and hoping for the best. So yeah.

**Inmn ** 10:23
Wow, that is—you unlocked a new fear for me. I thought that Blix had like gotten all of my fear out of me, you know, in horrible things that can happen in a river, and new fear unlocked. Thanks. 

**Tav ** 10:39

**Inmn ** 10:43
What do you—I guess I’m curious—I guess my guess is, because boats, you just—I didn’t know, boats are super interesting to me because, like you said, it’s like the boat keeps moving down the river. And so it’s like, I want to be like, okay, like, what, like, you know, what do you do if there’s an emergency? What do you do if someone needs to be like, medivaced from an area like that? And I guess I’m expecting the answer is: put him in the boat and keep going. But—which is like a cool one interesting thing about boats, is they keep going? 

**Tav ** 11:20
Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, it really depends. Like everything is situational, right? 

**Inmn ** 11:26
Yeah yeah yeah. 

**Tav ** 11:27
And you really have to assess the situation and figure out what the best course of action is. Like, the best thing to do might be to like pull over and call EMS and hope they can land like a bush plane or a helicopter near you, or get to a place where they can land it. I had this one evac where a lady actually had a stroke on the river. 

**Inmn ** 11:53
Oh no.

**Tav ** 11:53
Yeah, I was pretty terrible. I was the only person there with, like, you know, decent medical training. I’m not like a doctor or anything, but I have my wilderness first responder and all that fun stuff. And yeah, so it was just like me and these other guides, who had, like, some training, but not as much as me. And my coworker—love this guy, he’s amazing—but he said that she had a concussion. And I was like, this is not a concussion. This is a stroke. Yeah. And so, so yeah, so what ended up happening is we had to take one of the boats and—honestly, mad respect to my to my coworker for this—he got her down like a 45 minute section of river and like 15 minutes. We were just lucky because we had a raft there with an oar frame on it. And those, like—an oar frame is just like, you know, like a rowboat—

**Tav ** 12:51
—with like, the two oars and you’re like rowing it. It’s that, but you like, it’s a big metal frame, and you like strap it down to the rafts. So instead of—like, if you have less than the ideal number of people, you can just have one person paddle the boat. So in that case, it was actually my group, where I only had like two people. So I just ended up strapping the warframe on because it’s easier than having them paddle. So anyways, my coworker took that boat and just, like, ripped down the river faster than anybody ever has probably since then. So, so yeah, I mean, in that case, like, it was a serious medical problem, we couldn’t deal with the problem, you know, you need to like, get that person to definitive care as fast as possible. And in that situation, we were close enough to the end, that the best thing to do was to just call EMS, get them to bring an ambulance to the takeout and get her there as fast as possible. But you might not be in a situation where that’s, you know, plausible, you might have to call a bush plane or something like that. Or, even worse, like a bush plane can’t come and you’re stuck for like days with somebody with a serious medical problem. That can happen, unfortunately. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 12:51
Oh okay. 

**Inmn ** 14:18
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like—and I think this is a topic for another time—but I really want to—folks listening out there. This is my plug to our audience. I would really love to talk to someone at some point about like, like we have this idea in, like, wilderness first aid, response, etc. I have like an expired wilderness EMT. I haven’t done that work in a very long time and my brain has totally fallen out of it. But like, interested in this conversation of like, long term care in, like, when definitive care is very far away, you know, like, how to troubleshoot situations where it’s like, yeah, definitive care is days away. Definitive care is a week away. And I’m like really interested in talking to someone about that. So if that feels like you, Tav, or ambient listener, then send us a message.

**Tav ** 15:31
Yeah, I can’t say that’s exactly my area of expertise. I can offer like, an anecdote from a friend of mine, who—

**Inmn ** 15:41
Oh yeah. Love anecdotes.

**Tav ** 15:43
—it’s pretty, it’s pretty grim. I’m not gonna lie. This guy is friend of mine, he’s much older than me. He’s been doing this river guide stuff for his whole life. And he’s had lik three people die in his arms. 

**Inmn ** 16:00
Oh my god. 

**Tav ** 16:01
Yeah. But like that’s, unfortunately, the reality of the situation where, if you’re that far away, and someone’s not getting there, and there’s a serious problem, and you can’t deal with it, that’s what happens. Right? That’s the unfortunate fact of existence. And it’s pretty horrifying to realize. Also from a somewhat selfish perspective, like, if I continue along this career path that could very well be me telling another young person and a few years like, oh, yeah, this one horrible thing happened to me. And yeah, like, I’ve definitely seen my fair share of, like, pretty intense situations that could have gone pretty badly. Thankfully, I haven’t had anybody die on any of the excursions I’ve been on. But be I’ve had some pretty close calls there. So yeah. It is it is something to always consider, like, when you’re heading off on a trip that’s going to be far away from a hospital or civilization, I guess. That, yeah, like you are far away, and you need to have a certain level of confidence in yourself to deal with the situations that you might need to deal with. But also, in that, like, for me, it comes with a certain level of, like, risk acceptance. And like, everybody has a different level of risk tolerance. You might not be the person who’s going to go, like, on a month long trip through the wilderness. That might not be okay with you. And that’s fine, it’s not for everybody. You know, in my case, the way I tend to look at it is, like, if there’s a problem I can’t deal with—pretending I’m alone in this scenario—like, if there’s a problem I can’t deal with myself, and it’s so serious that I’m gonna die, like, in a few minutes, then like, I just accept that, like, that’s what’s gonna happen. Like, if I can’t deal with the problem, and I can’t call for help with the problem and it’s that bad anyways, then I’m alread—can I swear on this? Is this a no swearing show?

**Inmn ** 18:31
Oh, yeah, you can, yeah.

**Tav ** 18:32
I can swear? Okay, I was gonna say, I’m already in a lot of shit if that’s—if that’s happening. So for me, my risk tolerance, I mean, it might be higher than others. But I don’t know—it’s just like, something you have to accept when it comes to taking risks. I mean, you can be prepared and informed and know everything and still an accident can happen. And then you just have to accept that, yeah, accidents happen, and it might be a really big, bad accident. So, so yeah.

**Inmn ** 19:06
Yeah. Yeah, that’ very true. I feel like—I feel like there’s a lot of aspects of our societies that have kind of—have had our, like, brains adapt to this idea that, like, that there is always a solution to something. And I feel like this was like a big thing with, like, with COVID, like, for a lot of people, was the expectation that there was a solution to something, and a lot of people, like, getting to the ER and being like, oh, there actually isn’t a solution right now—or there isn’t like a one 100%, like guarantee that this problem can be fixed. And yeah, I don’t know. It’s—I think that’s the thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about, is how our societies have kind of expected there to always be a guaranteed solution to something that there might not be a solution to. And I think that’s like—I think that’s getting more extreme as things in the world change more. There’s—when we are used to certainty, there is now more uncertainty. That is an articulate thought, I’m gonna stand by it.

**Tav ** 20:42
Yeah. No, I mean, definitely. Like, I could see that in society at large, actually, now that you mentioned it. But like, yeah, I mean, with regards to wilderness travel, I think anybody who does this sort of thing, like you have an understanding of the risk involved, and like what—you know, there’s things that you can deal with there and there’s things you can’t deal with. And, yeah, like, but I mean, okay, you know, I also don’t want to scare people. It’s not—like, yes, you have to kind of look within yourself and accept that something bad might happen. But at the same time, I’ve done, like, I don’t even want to know how many 1000s of hours of paddling in my life. And I, yeah, I’ve had, like, some problems. But I think a lot of those kind of stem from the fact that it’s my job. And I’m taking people out there who aren’t necessarily prepared for what they’re going to—like, they go online and they’re like, oh, I want to go on a guided paddling trip. And they Google, whatever, paddling in the Yukon. And then they find this company and they book a trip and they go. And that’s all the preparation and thought that they put into it. Where—and that’s exactly what they’re paying for, I guess, if you look at it from like a service perspective. They’re paying for somebody else to do all of that thought. And what I’m, what I do, like, independently—like if somebody listening wanted to go out paddling, if you just, like, talk to somebody who knows what they’re doing locally—like join your local paddling club, a lot of places have those, or like find a group online—and like, learn from people or learn from the Internet. We have a lovely resource of, like, all of the information anyone could ever want. So, yeah, it doesn’t have to be dangerous. I think most of the danger, and most of the dangerous situations I’ve been in, happen simply because it’s my job to take unprepared people out into the wilderness. And, like, that kind of sucks. I—that’s why I’m not actually working as a guide this summer. One of the reasons is because I’m pretty tired of dealing with unprepared people in the wilderness because it’s stressful. It’s really stressful. And yeah, so I mean, I guess the the main point is, like, it doesn’t have to be dangerous as long as you’re prepared. And I think that’s a pretty great theme, considering this show.

**Inmn ** 23:43
Yeah, yeah. And it’s—I don’t know, like, I totally understand the outlook of someone who’s like, yes, I want to pay someone else to be prepared for me. And it’s like, you know, reality is very different from, like, adventure tourism. But like, it’s funny because it’s a thing that is like a little antithetical to preparedness in general. And I’m divorcing adventure tourism and preparedness, like, because they’re different things. 

**Tav ** 24:21

**Inmn ** 24:21
But, yeah, it’s like, that is the thing that we’re always trying to talk about on this show is, like, if in our own lives, like, if we are all more prepared than it—then like your prepper friend has to, like, do less when stuff goes wrong because everyone’s a little bit prepared. 

**Tav ** 24:41
Yeah, for sure. 

**Inmn ** 24:44
I kind of want to switch tacks a little bit though and talk about this other thing. So I’m curious—I guess in, like, in the Yukon specifically, like, there’s places where I live that I’m, like, okay, yes, that is a less accessible place via like roads and things like that. But I’m curious kind of like what the Yukon and, like, that whole area is like in terms of, like, history of transportation and stuff like that. Because, like, waterways have played kind of like a pretty large part in that from what you’ve told me before this—and now I sound like it’s something I already knew. 

**Tav ** 25:27
Yeah, for sure. To be honest, it’s not just the Yukon. Throughout this country we call Canada, if you actually look at all of Canadian history, like, Canada’s like three companies in a trench coat. Always has been. And it was founded on fur trading. Right. And how that was done is basically, like, white people came over, and then they met the ndigenous people. And they were like, wow, these people move pretty far and they have some neat boats. And then they kind of co-opted those boats. And of course, Indigenous people and Metis people took part in the fur trade as well. A very large part, to be honest, in making sure a lot of white people didn’t just die in the wilderness. Yeah, but like throughout this entire nation’s history, every single place is really connected by water. Like that’s just how people got around. Everywhere from, like, the far north, the Inuit had kayaks and—actually dogsleds. ou know, when the sea froze in the winter, they had greater mobility, because—I mean, and they’re still moving over water, it’s just frozen water, which is kind of like land. But it, yeah, so every single place in this entire so-called country is connected by water in some capacity. And I think that really forms the way that I look at places now. Because yes, we use roads to get around now. But very likely, there is another way to get anywhere you want to get. Because all of these settlements are built on rivers, on lakes, on the ocean, and the way people got there is probably on a boat, and not on a car because we didn’t have cars 400 years ago. So yeah, I guess I just, I think it’s really important to recognize that and recognize that it’s still very very possible to go extremely long distances. And, you know, reach inaccessible, quote/unquote places with relative ease, to be honest. So actually, something that’s pretty insane to me—it’s mind boggling, to be quite honest: the longest river system in the country is the Mackenzie River. And it’s technically, like, if you go by names, it’s a bunch of different rivers that are connected. But it’s really, like, from source to sea—I don’t actually remember how many kilometers it is. But you can go from Alberta, like, around Jasper, if anybody knows where that is, all the way to the Arctic Ocean on a single river. And you can do that in like a single summer, too. And throughout that whole river, there’s a bunch of towns. And a lot of them are not accessible by road, but they are very easily accessible by the river. So if you really think about it, like, in my mind, they’re not inaccessible places. They seem inaccessible because of our modern transportation infrastructure, which, you know, makes anything that doesn’t have a road seem like it’s impossible to get to and you have to spend thousands of dollars and fly or whatever. But really, all it takes is, like, one person in a canoe and you can just go anywhere you want. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 29:31
Yeah, that stuff is super interesting. It’s like the—I don’t know, it’s like, I get on some level that, you know, cars are convenient. I love being able to drive somewhere. But it’s like, I don’t know, obviously cars are also terrible and we need different—we need something different before the planet dies. But It’s like also this thing that, like, it’s like car—I imagine that like switching over a transportation system to be, like, based on moving around on the river versus based on, like, driving around on some roads that demolish a bunch of shit. It also, like, divorces us from nature and like any connection that we have to, like, the natural landscape that we are using. And, like, used to be on the river and now it’s put the remains of petrified trees in your thing and blast around on concrete or whatever. I don’t know. It’s just funny.

**Tav ** 30:43
Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, I definitely—cars are—I wish I could just live out of a canoe. But that, I can’t do that. I mean, I live in my car right now. So I get their convenience. But I do think that as, like, as things progress and the climate gets worse and worse, and I mean, even now, this is probably going to mean absolutely nothing to you—Oh, you know what, actually, I was in Alaska, like, the other day. And it’s actually a bit cheaper than here. But the gasoline that I purchased was $5.50 American per gallon, which I think is $1.67, or .68 per liter. What I normally—like in the Yukon, it’s like 1$.80 to $1.90 per liter right now, which, it’s getting pretty unaffordable to go large, long distances in a in a car. And I think that like as this progresses, like—they’re not getting—these prices are not getting cheaper, inflation is continuing, and it’s quickly going to become really hard, I think, for your average person to go anywhere in a vehicle when it’s costing them, like, over $100 to fill a single tank. And that’s, I think, where we have to return to what we did historically, which is travel on rivers. And I mean, it’s not even just returning to, like, historical transport, I guess. Like we can still use road infrastructure, a lot of people bike everywhere. And you can go pretty long distance—like actually, it’s super common in the Yukon to see people biking the entire Klondike highway, or the entire Dempster highway, like all the way to the Arctic Ocean, which is pretty awesome.

**Inmn ** 31:27

**Tav ** 32:03
Yeah, yeah, I see them all the time, actually. Yeah, so—but anyways, the point being like, as we’re getting, like, priced out of these things that we once took for granted, we’re gonna have to understand that, like, people think about collapse and preparedness from really local perspective. And I think that’s great. Really, I think getting more local is awesome. But I think what people also forget about is the fact that, like, we still are really an interconnected species. And we always have been, even before modern globalization. Like people really were traveling very far to go trade or whatever, on rivers or on the sea. And I think it’s important to recognize that we probably should still be doing that because it does strengthen everybody’s community. Like, just, I don’t know, checking in on the community next door, or, you know, a few kilometers down the river is important too and, you know, sharing, I guess. Like, I guess there’s inter-community preparedness and then intra-community preparedness. And I like to think that, like, using the environment and more specifically the waterways to like stay connected, even when we can’t drive everywhere, is is pretty important.

**Inmn ** 34:15
Yeah, I don’t know. We live in a—we live in a strange world now. Um, I, you know, I didn’t know this for a while and finding it out kind of blew my mind in a funny little way. But um, as far as like the eastern half of the United States is, like, someone told me that it is technically an island because you can circumnavigate the, like, eastern half of the United States and a boat. And this has, like, always kind of blown my mind. Like I’m not going to remember what the actual waterways all are, but it’s like you can go from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi—whichever one of those lakes connects to the Mississippi—and like take the Mississippi down and then, like, get out into the Gulf and like sail around Florida, and like sail up the Atlantic, and then, like, through—it might be through a series of rivers and it might require using a canal, but you can like, get right back into the Great Lakes system. Like the Hudson Bay, or something. And—

**Tav ** 34:50
—probably the same. I mean, if I was gonna do that I’d do the St. Lawrence River.

**Inmn ** 35:47
But cool. Yeah. I don’t actually know what these waterways are.

**Tav ** 35:52
Yeah, for sure. I spend, like, way too much time of my life, like, I’m looking at a map and being like, okay, where does this river lead, and I’m, like, follow the river, like, all the way to its source. And then I go, like, all the way to the sea. And I’m like, okay, that’s how far I can get there. But what if I portaged to this lake, and then I take that lake to this river. And like, anyways, I have, like, a whole folder have these like map files of just, like, random paddling routes that I’ve planned out. And I probably won’t get to do all of them. But, yeah, I just, I am kind of a nerd in that I just like to go figure out, like, how I can get around places. Yeah. It’s really crazy. Like, once you start—once you realize, like, your mind is opened up to the fact that, like, you can travel, basically anywhere on a boat, all you have to do is look at the blue lines on a map and trace them and figure out how you get from point A to point B using them. And I think it’s also actually important to note that, like—so in a context of—yeah, like, in a context of a world where we’re not able to use our highways and stuff. Like that, following a river or a creek, even if you don’t have a boat, is a great way to make sure you know where you’re going. Because, yeah, like, I mean, it’s like a really obvious landmark. And you can just follow it the whole way. Especially in places where rivers are super seasonal, like, part of the year, it might literally just be like a bit of gravel, and you can just walk on it all the way to where you’re going. Yeah, so I think that’s also important to mention, that they’re not—it’s not just boats, it’s just that they’re very convenient ways to traverse a landscape, especially one that’s, like, heavily forested. There might not be like a lot of other clearings nearby, so yeah.

**Inmn ** 38:01
Yeah. Um, have you—so this like folder of, like, wacky routes—I’m gonna call them wacky routes—have you gotten to—could you tell us about a creative, like, trip that you took via waterways. Or, like, what’s like the longest that you’ve traveled in like—I don’t have words for the things that I’m asking you…

**Tav ** 38:28
Yeah. Honestly, like, the longest trip I’ve ever done is unfortunately with my job, and that would be about a 10 day trip on the Yukon River. But—and that’s just, it’s mostly like a time thing. Like I said, you know, I—it’s—we live in this cold place, and the water’s only running for, like, a certain amount of time. And unfortunately, I’ve made it my livelihood to, like, spend my entire summer taking other people on trips. So in terms of my, like, crazy, wacky trips, I haven’t gotten to do, like, any of the big ones that I want to actually do. Because, you know, they take, like, a month or more. And I just don’t have a month because I need to make money. 

**Inmn ** 39:17

**Tav ** 39:18
But I’m hoping that will change this summer. I’m planning on a very long trip at the end of August, and it should be awesome. 

**Inmn ** 39:28

**Tav ** 39:29
But yeah, so. So yeah, I guess in that respect, I haven’t done any of those like ones that I concoct that are kind of wild. But I do like to just go and explore, like, little waterways and figure out, I don’t know—I just like find a river and I’ll go upstream. Or, actually a few days ago I did—I went just downstream and I I literally walked back to my car at the end, it was just a day thing. And that kind of sucks, being alone, because you’re like, oh, cool, I did this river. And now I’m gonna just like walk back to my car and drive and pick up my boat. But yeah, I wish I had more cool stories of me on my own doing things that I want to do, but capitalism exists and all my fun river stories are with tourists that I’m taking. So.

**Inmn ** 40:31
Yeah, that makes sense. What is this trip that you’re planning gonna be like?

**Tav ** 40:40
Yeah, so actually I have a couple different options in that regard, and it is kind of gonna depend on, like, what’s on fire and what’s not on fire. So, but my main route that I want to take is, basically, it’ll be I think 1000–1500 kilometers. And, yeah, and it’ll be from this place called Eagle Plains, which is, like, in the Arctic—it’s like right kind of on, slightly below the Arctic Circle, on the Dempster highway. And I’ll start on the Eagle River, and then go through a series of other rivers. I’ll reach Old Crow, which is the furthest north settlement in the Yukon. And then I’ll take the Porcupine all the way across Alaska—I’ll cross into Alaska. And that’ll take me down to the Yukon River. I’ll hit up a couple towns on the Yukon River in Alaska, and then I’ll get off at the last point where there’s road access. That the trip that I’d like to do if the fires allow me.

**Inmn ** 41:58
Yeah, yeah. Um, what—are there—I guess like, when planning—when planning a trip that is not, like, a super pre established, I guess, route or something, are there any things that that are important to consider or important to, like, prepare for?

**Tav ** 42:19
Yeah, for sure. The first thing is, I wouldn’t recommend doing a non pre established route unless you kind of know what you’re doing. But the second thing is that, like, basically, my strategy is: I figured out the route. I map it out. And then I scour the internet for information on any of these rivers. So in this case, all of the rivers—it’s actually very likely somebody has done this route before. Like, I’m definitely not the only person to think of it. At the very least, some Indigenous people did it, 100%, before I did.

**Tav ** 43:01

**Tav ** 43:02
Yeah. But yeah, it’s a pretty obvious one, as far as routes go. It’s just a bunch of rivers, and they all kind of feed into each other. There’s no, like, crazy portages I hope—there shouldn’t be any crazy portages or anything like that. I have heard one of the rivers runs pretty low sometimes, so I might have to, like, drag my boat along. But um, yeah, so. So yeah, and that—like I met people who’ve done the route up to Old Crow before. So I know that—I’ve heard about that portion from a couple of people that I know. And, yeah, other than that, I look online. And, like, you just have to kind of incessantly Google until something comes up about the river you want. And like, it’s probably going to be some like, weird, obscure blog from 2006 where someone’s like, I paddled this river with my friends and it was cool. And like, it might not even have, like, all the information that you need. But, like, to me, a lot of the time I’m like, okay, cool, if someone did it, that means it’s probably fine, right. And that’s kind of my strategy. Like, you’re not gonna get all of the information you want. But you can get a lot of information just by, like, scouring the internet. And actually, go to your local bookstore. If you’re going to like plan a river trip near you, go to a bookstore—or not your local bookstore if it’s not near you. Go to the bookstore there and look for maps, because they probably have maps of local places. And if they don’t have maps, you should ask them where to get maps, because they probably know where to get maps. I know in Canada, though, you can go on natural resources, Natural Resources Canada, and they should have like topographic maps of the entire country if you need, like, that kind of math. But you can also just, like, go on Google. But, um, but yeah, I guess mostly it comes down to getting information from wherever you can get your information from, whether that’s people who’ve done it, the internet, or your local bookstore. And the second thing is, if you’re doing a route you’re unfamiliar with, especially if you’re alone, you have to be cautious, and you have to know what to look for. And you have to be able to react really quickly to situations. Actually, literally a couple of days ago I was paddling this river in Alaska and the water’s really low because of the time of year. And I was coming around a bend and there was a sweeper right across the river. And what happened is the river really, really narrowed, like, in this section. And it just, like, it went right for the sweeper—a sweeper is a tree that’s like right across the water. So if you think about it, like, a broom, it’ll be like right over up the surface. And then there’s all these like branches on the way. And I think there was like a log and there’s like other stuff underneath the sweeper. It was not a fun thing to be like hurtling towards really quickly. And yeah, so I was alone. And I, like, swung my boat around and, like, jumped out—because like, it was really low water so that it was shallow, which made it much easier to just, like, jump out of my boat as fast as possible and, like, drag it on shore. But like, it’s stuff like that, where you’re not necessarily expecting it and then you’re like, oh shit, like, I need to deal with this right now. Get out of the way. And I actually lost my paddle it went down—I got it. It’s fine. That’s why you always have a spare paddle. That’s the moral of the story. Have two paddles. 

**Inmn ** 47:09
I feel like the moral of the story is: river guides continue to come up with horrifying names for dangers in the river. I thought I had heard the worst but "sweeper" is—sorry this is uh, this is a call back to Blix telling me about, like, just the—I forget what they’re—I feel like one of them was called a "blender," and I—

**Tav ** 47:35
Blender? I dunno about a blender. Maybe American river guides have different names for stuff. I don’t know. I don’t know. To me, the most horrifying feature on a river is an undercut. And it’s unfortunately something that comes up a lot in places where the rivers freeze. So what will happen is like the banks will be covered in ice. And if you’re—and if you’re paddling at that time of year, there’ll be undercuts along the whole riverbank, like the whole way down the river. And an undercut is basically just where the current goes like underneath a ledge right? At the worst case, it can be, like, a recirculating current under there. So like you get sucked under in like basically an underwater cave. And then it just, like, like, circles you around underneath and like an underwater cave and you just, like, sit there and die. 

**Inmn ** 48:30
[Quietly] God.

**Tav ** 48:30
Yeah, so that’s what an undercut is. And then like the ice undercuts and kind of terrifying, something to be aware of if you’re going to be paddling a river during spring or fall. Yeah, those are—to me, that’s the most terrifying thing. Because like a lot of other stuff, there’s like a way to kind of get around it or, like, you know, figure it out. But if you get sucked into an undercut you’re kind of boned. Like you’re pretty—there’s not a lot you can do.

**Inmn ** 49:03

**Tav ** 49:04
Especially if you’re alone. There’s other people—I’ve heard of someone who got sucked into an undercard on the Ottawa River actually. And, like, there’s this—I don’t remember the name of the rapid, but there’s this one part that’s like this crazy undercut. And someone got sucked in there. And they got a rope on them somehow. And they had a truck, like a pickup truck. And they were pulling them out of the current with a pickup truck and the rope snapped. And, like, the pickup truck couldn’t even go against the current. Like they were just stuck under—that person didn’t live. But yeah, like it can be pretty—those are—yeah, again, that’s like the most extreme horrifying thing I think to me, but…

**Inmn ** 49:50
Stay away from—I know we’re just—we’re talking about our rivers are cool, but everyone’s stay away from rivers. Golly. That’s not my actual advice.

**Tav ** 50:02
I think it—no—they’re definitely—like that’s the thing, right? They’re definitely a force of nature. I always like to tell people: you will never win a fight against a river. But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of going on the river always, like, yeah, I feel like I’ve been talking about a lot of negative bad things that can happen. And I don’t want to freak people out. Rivers are really nice and cool, and they help you get places, and it can be really fun. It’s not all whitewater. Like, the Yukon River is a giant—like it’s a highway. It’s like, huge, flat river. It goes like 10 kilometers an hour or something crazy. Like, you can paddle it super fast. And there’s, like, basically no hazards. Like, there’s like some log jams and like stuff like that, but they’re very easily avoided. And it’s, yeah, as far as, like, as far as rivers go, if you want to go a long distance and not have to worry about any of that scary, complicated stuff, the Yukon river is fantastic. Actually, every year there’s a race called the Yukon River Quest, where people paddle from Whitehorse to Dawson City, it’s like 730 kilometers, and yeah, people are doing that in like, three days. Well, less than three days actually. Like they’re times because you have to like stop-there’s a mandatory rest point where you have to sleep for a certain number of hours, and they don’t count that towards the final time, but basically the the race lasts like three days. That’s like paddling nonstop. But to be honest, if you think about the fact that you don’t have a motor, and you’re not in a car or anything like that, and you’re traveling 730 kilometers in three days, that’s crazy. And there’s like no hazards. It’s so crazy.

**Inmn ** 50:18
That’s really cool. 

**Tav ** 50:32
Yeah, you can go really fast and get places on certain rivers.

**Tav ** 51:21
Cool. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay, that sounds fun now. Now that sounds fun. 

**Tav ** 52:09

**Inmn ** 52:12
Um, we’re kind of coming up to the end of our time. Is there anything else you want to say about waterways, or paddling, or any questions that I didn’t ask you that you’re like, golly, why didn’t Inman asked me about this. 

**Tav ** 52:29
Yeah, um, I guess mainly just—I think I didn’t get to talk about oceans as much as I would have liked to. But, like, I think the main thing I would hope people can take away from this is that it’s really important to learn about the water near you, if that’s the ocean, if that’s a river, if that’s a lake. You know, learn about whatever boa, the Indigenous people in your area use to travel on that water, because it’s probably really well suited for it, to be honest. And yeah, just learn about your local waterway, learn about the ecosystem. I didn’t get to talk about that as much too, but—because I’m really into traveling rivers—but they’re also sources of food and just, like, life for everyone, you know. So learn about what animals live there, learn about how to help your river, and—or the ocean. And just learn about your local water and have some kind of relationship with it, whether that’s, like, paddling or, like, picking blueberries on the riverbank. I think it’s just important that everybody is aware of water and the life that it brings us and how it connects all of us. Yeah. I think that’s that’s it. 

**Inmn ** 54:00
Cool. That seems like a great—that is a better place to end on than the blender—the sweeper—whatever that terrifying name was. Is there anything that you want to shout out, whether it’s places people can find you on the internet where you would like to be found, or projects, or just anything you want to plug or shout out? 

**Tav ** 54:25
Um, yeah, like, I guess I have a tiny YouTube channel that like doesn’t have really much—it’s mostly just my music, if anybody cares at all. It’s, um, I’m birchbark online. You can find me there. That’s whatever. But I think the main thing I want to plug is: go have a nice day by the water and be nice to yourself.

**Inmn ** 55:00
Cool. That’s a great thing. I’m going to go find water. I think there’s water here right now. 

**Tav ** 55:08

**Inmn ** 55:08
I will try. Cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show.

**Tav ** 55:14
 Yeah, for sure. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

**Inmn ** 55:21
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then go learn more about your local waterways. And also come up with a new and terrifying name for a river obstacle so that I might live in fear of water forever. But also, if you liked the show, you can support it. And you can support it by telling people about the show, or doing stuff that involves an algorithm. I don’t actually really know anything about any of that. But there is stuff that one can do. Also, if you would like to support the show, you can support it financially. And you can support it financially by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And you can sign up for different tiers. There’s a super basic tier where you just get discounts. I mean, not just you, you get discounts and you get access to digital content. And there’s another tier where you can get a zine that we send you every month, and it’s a really cool zine. Sometimes it’s a short story, sometimes it’s poetry, sometimes it’s an essay about something. And they’re all really cool. And you can listen to those features in audio form on our other podcast, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, and you can listen to interviews with the author, it’s really cool. And in all of the ways that you support our publisher financially, it goes towards paying our audio engineer, and paying our transcriptionist, and maybe one day paying the hosts and the guests of the show. And, yeah, that’s all that. We would like to give some special shout outs to some of our patrons who support us at the acknowledgement level. And just to plug how cool the acknowledgement level is: If you give us $20 a month, which goes towards us doing really cool things, then you can get us to shout out, acknowledge, or thank an organization, yourself, someone that you love, or a fictional and theoretical concept on all of our shows—except for things like, you know, if you ask us to think the Empire, we’re not going to thank the Empire. So don’t try. But we would like to give some special things to these folks: Thank you, Amber, Ephemeral, Appalachian Liberation Library, Portland’s Hedron Hackerspace, Boldfield, E, Patolli Erik, Buck, Julia, CatGut, Marm Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, Ben Ben, Anonymous funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Micaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thank you so much for making this show and so many other projects possible. Thanks so much for listening, and we hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s happening in the world. And we’ll see you next time.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co