Girl Guide: On Being a Woman and a Whitewater Guide

first_imgTara Nathan stops adjusting her spray skirt for a minute to stand up in front of the sea of red rafts. She waves at the boats full of Boy Scouts (most of whom are a good five inches shorter than her) and grins, a flash of white teeth on tan skin, then plunks back down on her green kayak. She pulls at her shorts.“I wore the wrong underwear,” she says under her breath. “You think guys chafe. Ugh.”There aren’t many other women in her position. The whitewater raft guide scene is mostly dominated by tan, muscular dudes with bushy beards and questionable hygiene practices.For the next seven miles of Class III-V whitewater, Nathan will be responsible for the lives of 80 strangers. There’s an epileptic, a diabetic, and a handful of unfit tourists on the trip. It rained the night before, and the water’s high. A raft will almost definitely flip. But she’s not worried at all.Curly blonde hair tucked under her river helmet, Nathan drags her boat down to the river, scoots inside, and paddles out. She floats, waiting.The trip goes smoothly. There are no injuries, and only a few swimmers. Sitting outside of the local pub afterward, she relaxes in the sun with a cold Sierra Nevada.On the river, Nathan’s a Youghiogheny River goddess. She often gets anonymous comment cards from Boy Scouts asking her on dates. She paddles smoothly around the rafts, shouting clear, concise instructions to each group as they float past.“I didn’t know I had a voice until I became a raft guide,” she says with a grin.Nathan’s 22, a recent graduate from Keene State College with a journalism degree. Right now she works for Wilderness Voyageurs, a rafting company on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pa. But she started working as a guide in 2009 for a different company, where her family had gone rafting on their summer vacations. Nathan was just getting out of a bad relationship back home in Connecticut. She wanted physical work that she could throw herself into, body and soul.But her rookie year was rough.“I was at a company where testosterone rules,” she recalls. “They respect the big, strong guys who excel fast and do kinda crazy things. It was like a pissing contest all the time.”Every day she was constantly trying to prove herself—jumping over fires, swimming over the waterfall at midnight—to feel respected. But she wasn’t getting anywhere. They wouldn’t let her take on more responsibility. She was never a trip leader, never encouraged to take on bigger responsibilities. On the river, her coworkers made jabs at her for being a girl.“Hey, why didn’t Hellen Keller know how to drive?” they’d ask her boat. “Because she was blind? No! It’s because she was a woman! Good luck with Tara!” They’d laugh and paddle away.Nathan shakes her head. “I was taking so much shit, getting bogged down so much.”So she switched companies and went to work for Wilderness Voyageurs in 2012.“I think all companies are defined by their senior guides,” she says. “There aren’t a bunch of hot-shot studs running around trying to prove their masculinity. The guys there are really eclectic. Some of them are quiet, but they’re good leaders. One guy plays the mandolin. One of them reenacts Civil War battles. If you do something wrong, they still might come down hard on you, but the criticism is constructive.”In that positive environment, Nathan was allowed to learn and excel. She learned how to kayak, and now she paddles the river almost every day. (Sometimes twice in a day. Sometimes with beer.) Now, in her fourth year on the river, she’s completely immersed in the lifestyle—she lives in a guide house, hangs out with the other guides all day, and drinks with them every night.That isn’t to say that Wilderness Voyageurs is a shining beacon of feminist empowerment. Nathan still takes her share of ribbing and jokes about PMS (which is really a bitch on the river), shock and awe when she shows up in a skirt on her days off. But the banter is good-natured.“It’s really taken a hit on my social skills,” she says with a laugh. “I spend all day shooting the shit with a bunch of guys. If I make the same joke in front of girls, they’re totally appalled.”Nathan’s boyfriend Mark, a bartender and fellow guide, swings by the table with a basket of tortilla chips and another beer.Guiding with her main squeeze on the river gets stressful, she admits. “I really don’t think we should work together. We care too much about each other’s safety. The nature of the job is to care about the customers, not yourself.”Even though she’s comfortable working in a predominately male field, Nathan thinks more women should give it a try.“I was never put in an executive position like this until I started guiding,” she says. “I was never the expert, never the person who could give orders instead of taking them. The fact that I have the confidence to yell and project—that’s important.”Still, there are only a handful of girls who work on the river in Ohiopyle. And right now, Nathan’s the only female at Wilderness Voyageurs who works on the more difficult sections of the river.“The average girl my age doesn’t think she can hang with this crowd,” she says. “But nobody starts as an expert. If more girls were encouraged, they could learn.”last_img read more

WATCH: ‘The Fourth Phase’ | From the Makers of The Art of Flight

first_img“Life begins. Clouds form. A snowstorm atop high peaks falls heavy, melts, flows through tributaries, into rivers. It finds the sea and turns to the air. This process we follow. This cycle we ride.”These words mark the beginning of an endorphin inducing trailer for a new backcountry snowboarding film from the makers of the classic ‘The Art of Flight.’Travis Rice’s ‘The Fourth Phase’ will bring some of snowboarding’s most impressive talents to the big screen.“It has taken everything I have learned over my life to prepare for what the past several years has challenged us with,” Rice told Red Bull. “Immersion into the winter wilderness with a few trusted comrades and a vow to not ride anything we have ever ridden before has made this the most exciting project yet. We have a team of some of the most committed riders, and a production crew that has gone all in. We’re headed back into the field soon, but before we go dark again we wanted to share a taste of what we’ve been working on.”Be on the lookout for this highly touted adventure film sometime in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, let this short but powerful teaser get you amped for the 2015-16 powder season.last_img read more

JPD on the MST: 3 Revelations from Hiking the Appalachian Trail

first_imgTwo pregnancies, twenty-four months of nursing, one knee surgery, and six months of physical therapy all separate me from my last hike of over a thousand miles.Time has passed, seasons have changed, and somewhere amid the transition, I lost my top gear. Most days I don’t have a desire or need to hike quickly but there’s still a sense of loss when I realize that I’m not as fast as I used to be.My body also takes longer to recover. I used to stare in bewilderment at the hikers who started their day with stretches and groans. Now, when I wake up, my achilles feel like taut elastic and my quads are as stiff as mud on a cold day. I have to do a sigh-filled sun salutation just to make it to the toilet.When I have a couple of hours to catch up on e-mail and write a blog, I can’t help but notice that Google’s banner ads have targeted me as a prime candidate for cellulite treatments and creepy skin solutions. Before my first baby, my hiking legs showcased veins bulging on the back on my protruding calf muscles, but after my second pregnancies, the most visible blood vessels are varicose veins. I’m not sure which is more off-putting, the fact that I have I have ‘mom legs’ or the fact that Google knows about it.My journey across the state on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been humbling. I have had to accept that I am not the same athlete or person that I was six years ago. At the same time, I have had the joy of revisiting the emboldening realizations that I experienced as a twenty-one year old hiking the Appalachian Trail:1. I am not separate or removed from nature; I am part of it. When you feel connected to the forest, the landscape, the wildflowers, the wild animals – you feel beautiful. 2. My reflection is best viewed through interactions with others. If you want to know how other people perceive you, then don’t spend your time looking in mirrors or capturing the perfect selfie. Instead, treat people with kindness. Share a joke… or a snack… or your time. Listen. When you make someone else light up – when you make someone else smile – that makes you feel attractive3. Self-worth should be tied to my potential, not appearance. The simple discipline on putting one foot in front of the other and looking back to appreciate the tens, or hundreds, or thousands of miles behind you make you realize that we are all capable of going farther and doing more than we think we can.As we travel across this state, I am slowly letting go of my vanity and rediscovering my self-worth. Yes, I am slower, I have stretch marks, and my body generally feels more worn. But, I’ve walked more than halfway across North Carolina while sharing the adventure, my love, and daily attention with my family. I’ve managed to hike over 700 miles while overseeing book edits and a hiking company. And, I’m on my way to completing a long trail while nursing a baby – and dealing with monthly periods. It may not be as sexy or fast as other endeavors, but I have discovered something more appealing along the way: I am discovering the beauty that comes with experience and wisdom.last_img read more

Outdoor Updates: Great white sharks identified off of the North Carolina coast

first_imgGreat white sharks identified off of the North Carolina coast The Trump administration is preparing to announce a broad rule change to the Endangered Species Act that could come at any time. The changes were first proposed in July 2018. Overall, they are consistent with the administration’s goal of reducing regulation. The most contentious provision, if included in the final plan, would allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider economic factors when weighing whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. Conservationists argue that the Endangered Species Act specifically disallows decisions to be guided by anything other than science and that the rule will lead to more species extinction. EPA pulls 12 pesticides that harm bees The EPA has announced that they will pull 12 neonicotinoid pesticides from the market. The announcement comes as part of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety, which litigated on behalf of beekeepers and conservationists. The court found that the EPA failed to protect pollinators, beekeepers and endangered species from the dangerous pesticides. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticides chemically related to nicotine that interfere with the nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and eventual death to bees, even in low doses. They are also systemic, making the entire plant toxic once sprayed. Neonicotinoids began to be widely used in the mid-2000’s, just as beekeepers began noticing colony collapse. center_img Two great white sharks have been spotted in the Outer Banks off of the coast of North Carolina. The female, named Jane, was tagged in October 2018 in Nova Scotia, Canada. The male, Brunswick, was tagged in South Carolina earlier this year.  Jane has reportedly been in the area for over a month while Brunswick just arrived this week. A third tagged shark pinged last month in the same waters but there’s no word if he’s still out there. Great white sharks are a migratory species, moving to warmer waters in Florida over the winter and heading back north once the weather heats up. The sharks are about 20 miles off of the coast and pose no threats to beachgoers. Trump administration may soon finalize an overhaul to the Endangered Species Actlast_img read more

Woman hiking in SC falls 60 feet down a waterfall, then waits hours to be rescued

first_imgIt took rescue crews more than two hours and 40 people to build a “multi rope system” to reach the injured hiker. The woman was eventually pulled from the bottom of the falls with “significant injuries,” Oconee County fire chief Charles V. King told Fox Carolina, and airlifted to a hospital in Greenville. While the hike to Blue Hole Falls is considered easy, hikers often leave the trail to get a better view of the waterfall. Hikers are reminded to stay on designated trails and always use caution when hiking. A woman hiking at Blue Hole Falls in Oconee County, South Carolina, plummeted 60 feet down the waterfall and then waited hours for first responders to perform a difficult rescue. last_img