Cascades Adventures is a program that makes outdoor activities available to all Oregon State University(OSU)-Cascades/Central Oregon Community College (COCC) students. Their mission, as stated on the OSU-Cascades website, is to “offer outdoor and adventurous challenges in a positive and sharing community.” This includes overnight trips and canoeing, among other things.
Jeffrey Myers, the faculty advisor for Cascades Adventures, is very passionate about the program.
“It helps to build community here. It helps students interact outside of the classroom, to see each other in a different light,” said Meyers.
It’s free. I’m only a freshman, but I imagine that other college students are as ravenous as I am when I hear the word ‘free’ when applied to something. So naturally I wanted to do something I would never normally consider doing. After all, you’ve lost no money if you decide it’s not for you.
I chose something called Canoeing Wednesdays, which is exactly as it sounds. You e-mail one of the coordinators, Carli Godard and Jeffry Meyers, to RSVP. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, Meyers recommends any of the trips and activities marked ‘Beginner’.
Of the program’s varying skill levels, Meyers said, “60-80% (of the programs) are geared towards beginners.” That being said, though, Meyers remarked, “Hopefully our activities are welcoming to any levels.”
I arrived earlier than the 2:00 P.M meeting time and sat down on a bench by the water at Riverside Park (in the Old Mill). When my phone informed me that 2:05 had become 2:06, it occurred to me that I might be in the wrong parking lot. My instincts were correct. I’m not alone though, apparently almost every single person does the same thing. My tip? Look for the truck with the canoes attached.
There were four of us in the beginning- two guides, two newbies- and we paired off. I was in a canoe with Carli. The guides are amicable and courteous, asking questions and responding in kind. As for the physical element, there was much less required of me than I had feared. They go over the safety procedures, and you sign a waiver, as with anything even remotely cautionary. The only Herculean task was having to carry the canoes (with a partner) from the parking lot to where the gravel dipped into the water. As it turns out, this isn’t hard to do when first bringing the canoe to the water- but after an hour or two of canoeing, my muscles were a little less accommodating. Then again, I do not exercise rigorously, so that may have contributed to my exertion.
We canoed upstream first, under a few bridges. This unsettled a few of the resident pigeons, who cooed none too happily at us. Then we reached the rocky part of the river. It was shallower than it is at any other time of year, according to the guides, and my paddle struck rock a few times. Despite my fear that we were going to easily tip over, Carli and I never did more than wobble. I was the person in the front of the canoe, which John (the second guide) said meant I was the motor. The other newbie, Tanner, was also the motor. The guides steered behind us, respectively, which in hindsight was essential to my survival of this trip. I would have steered us into a goose or a bank.
Thankfully, the canoes were sturdier than I had imagined. I am not the most balanced person by any means, and I barely got more than a few droplets on me. We turned around after reaching the rocks, because we couldn’t go any further. It was a lot easier going downstream. When we reached the spot where we had begun, another person, Richard, joined us in a single canoe. He had gone canoeing three times previously, and was allowed to commandeer a single person canoe. With the new addition to our little fleet, we paddled towards the shops and restaurants of the Old Mill.
At the main bridge of the Old Mill- the one with the colorful, interchangeable flags- we actually paddled through the supports of the bridge, which made me look at Carli in a ‘you’re, like, joking, right?’ manner. I actually started to panic a little when we headed directly towards one such support beam, because I was convinced that this canoe trip would kill me at the tender age of eighteen. But no, she wasn’t messing with me, and every canoe went through the gaps between the metal beams a few times. Once again, after going as far in one direction as we reasonably could, we turned around.
Despite going on this adventure on the 4th of November, the conditions were great. Though I expected the wind to be brutal and for my fingers to be brittle by the end of the trip, it was pleasant enough weather for the outing. You get very warm when rowing, because it’s hard work convincing the canoe to go against the current. In comparison, paddling downstream is like coasting on a bicycle after a hill. Overall my experience was a fantastic one. Everyone I met left a lasting impression on me, and though I’m not usually the type to jump right into a brand new experience with people I’ve never met before, I’m glad I did in this case.
Lily Gunter | The Broadside