Paddle Forward!

By Cynthia Wallace
Photographs By Vince Heptig

For the adventurous Duryea family of Spokane, Wash., whitewater rafting is more than an exciting pastime. It has given each member of the family self-confidence for taking on life's other challenges.

Mitch and Cindy Duryea say they don't know what it would be like to raise their three children without the shared experience of whitewater rafting. It's been a part of their family life from the beginning.

The Duryea rafting tradition began in the summer of 1991, when Mitch and Cindy took their first guided raft trip down the Deschutes River in central Oregon. "I was nervous about the big water," Cindy remembered, "but the guide explained to us how we would go down the rapids, and we did. Afterward, it was a great feeling of 'Hey, I did it!'"

Excitement and fun are magnets which draw the Duryeas, an Inland Northwest Council Scouting family, to the banks of many a river for whitewater rafting. Here, prior to a rafting trip which included the challenging Class III and IV rapids of the Upper Klamath River in southern Oregon, are, from left, dad Mitch, mom Cindy (seated), Tim, Richard, and Shauna.

Since then, Cindy and Mitch have enjoyed seeing their children Shauna, 21, Richard, 17, and Tim, 16, experience the same whitewater-inspired self-assurance and independence.

"The first rafting trips for all of us were very adrenaline-pumping," Mitch says. "And now each of us has done enough of these to gain the confidenceŠto take on things we'd never even thought of, such as, 'Gosh, maybe I can go to Ecuador or to Montana for a summer.'"

A leader of Spokane's Troop 218, Mitch also serves as a merit badge counselor for Whitewater, Canoeing, and other aquatic badges.

An appetite for 'bigger water'

Shauna is clearly the most devoted rafter of the family. Currently a math and theater major at Southern Oregon University, she first caught the rafting bug when her dad took her on trips down the Middle and South forks of the American River while she was in junior high school. Her rafting résumé now includes the California Salmon, Lower Salmon, Upper and Lower Klamath, and Rogue rivers.

"I've always had an appetite for a little bit bigger water, a different trip, a different river," says Shauna. "It's fun, really. There's a sense of adventure in going out to the middle of nowhere and conquering a river. I think it builds confidence."

Shauna took the family sport into new waters when she trained at college to qualify as a whitewater raft guide. For seven weeks during the summer of 2006, she put her skills to use by guiding dozens of Scouts and Venturers down the Class III and Class IV waters of Idaho's Lower Salmon River. (Whitewater is categorized by ride and navigability, with Class I offering the smoothest and easiest rapids, and Class VI, the roughest and most difficult.)

In addition to serving as a raft guide with the Inland Northwest Council's North Idaho High Adventure Base that operates out of Camp Easton (visit www.northwestscouts.org for more information on the base), Shauna is an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 218.

Shauna's brothers, Richard and Tim, a junior and sophomore, respectively, at Spokane's Mead High School, got their introduction to whitewater rafting on Washington State's Wenatchee River. They have also rafted some of the bigger waters of Oregon's Upper Klamath.

Family members (left to right) Mitch, Tim, Shauna, and Richard pull together to navigate around a boulder in the Class III rapids of the Upper Klamath River. Erik Sol, at the oars, acted as river guide during the expedition.

Richard, who is also a black belt in Taekwondo and a roller coaster aficionado, recalls his best rafting experience as the time he took a position in the raft's bow and faced the Wenatchee River's whitewater head-on. The tall, serious teenager becomes animated telling the story of this wild ride. His excitement, he says, was mostly caused by the possibility of being tossed into the river. (He wasn't.)

Younger brother, Tim, a Life Scout and Eagle Scout candidate in Troop 218, says whitewater rafting has definitely changed him. "I'm getting over my fear of the unknown. I'm more confident now in what I can do," he says.

His mother will vouch for this. Cindy says her younger son's acquired self-confidence and leadership skills were evident when, as an assistant river guide at the K-M Scout Ranch in Montana, he helped Boy Scouts safely canoe down the Missouri River during the last two summers.

Sharing adventures

Although the Duryeas share an enthusiasm for whitewater rafting, it can't always be a "family together" activity for them. It is just not practical for them all to go on the same organized trips, Mitch explains. "If we're lucky enough to be on the same river run, we may not be in the same raft."

But all of their separate experiences eventually make it home to their household in Spokane. "We all get to share stories," Shauna says. "We compare notes on things like 'Our raft ran into a rock today; did yours?'" Richard adds: "We compare river to river."

So, it was somewhat rare when, last August, Mitch and the three children got together for a day trip on the same guided raft. It was a challenging journey, with some Class IV rapids, down Oregon's Upper Klamath River. In fact, the whitewater was the biggest Richard and Tim had ever rafted. (Although present on this family excursion, Cindy opted out of the day trip because some of the rapids were more demanding than she cared to ride.)

However, it wasn't the big water that colored the experience, according to the family; it was being together. "It was a bonding thing," Richard explains. "We've all come closer in a way. I really can't describe how, but we all trust each other a little more."

That trust went further than anyone expected on the river when the professional guide moved aside and Shauna took the oars to guide the raft for the last mile or so of the trip. With her new position came the responsibility to call out paddling commands to her crew of family members.

Shauna's dad and brothers good-naturedly accepted her authority as guide and readily obeyed her command to "Paddle forward!"

The Duryeas may not all raft together on every river trek, but it is clear that, for this Scouting family, moving forward together—on the river or elsewhere—is a direction they're always likely to take.

New York-based writer Cynthia Wallace enjoys kayaking whitewater.

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