Let’s start by saying the Southeast United States has water. They have steep technical rapids that can change to flood-stage crashing waves and raft-stopping holes. They have waterfalls. They have boulders and steep gorges. The Southeast has whitewater.
The Southeast does not have volcanoes. Which means, the Southeast does not have lava tubes. The vast majority of rivers in the Southeast are formed by the water’s natural resilience and need to find a bigger body of water to end in. Dams also play a role in the Southeast, as well as flooding rivers that force their way into new paths. But, the majority of rivers are formed after years and years of continual flows.
Flash-forward to this Southeastern’s first morning on the Pacific Northwest’s White Salmon River. As a ride-along, I tried to stay in the back and let our guide, Jeff, explain the trip and go over river safety. After working as a guide for 6-years, this wasn’t new for me. That’s where the “known” ended.
Walking down the put-in trail for the Middle White Salmon River is surreal. When I say it is like a fairy forest wonderland, that isn’t a child-like exaggeration (okay-maybe it is a little). You walk down to sounds of a rushing river flowing below you, that coupled with the giant trees and lush green vegetation along with the general anticipation for the trip to come make it a unique experience. We got our boat down, Jeff got us situated in the raft, and we entered the lava tubes.
I should start with a disclaimer, I am a huge geography and geology nerd (like Star Trek level nerd). Jeff began to point out features that indicate the river we were sitting in was an old lava tube. A LAVA TUBE FOLKS. At this point, I understood the concept, but it hadn’t really sank in. It wasn’t until we arrived at an old cave formed by the lava that are large enough to put a raft in that it hit me. I just stared and said, “There was lava here.”
The moral of this story? Lava. The actual moral of the story? No matter how experienced you are and how many rivers you have been on, they will always have some surprises up their sleeves. Rivers are not meant to be rafted with a closed mind; they are meant to be enjoyed and experienced through an open-mind and child-like wonder. Take a moment to appreciate the lava tubes. Lean into, rather than away from, those big splashes. Enjoy the ambiance with new eyes. Like my main girl Pocahontas once said, “the funny thing about rivers is you never step into the same river twice.”
Mikayla is a part of the Wet Planet Marketing and Office staff, with a special affinity for finding the best office snacks.