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Water Water Everywhere

By Janna Carlson | Brevard, NC

Living in a temperate rainforest comes with the good, the bad, and the sloppy. Grab some rain boots, a good book, or settle in for good times inside and out. Snuggling up at home, in your pajamas, with your family and pets is certainly one of the most enjoyable things that come with rainy weather. After the rain is a perfect time to get out there and make a splash! Water has always called to me, whether dancing in a warm, summer afternoon rain shower or boating down a cold, pushy creek. The opportunity to be in or near water is something to always take advantage of. Water will take you where it wants to go. Remember to stay on the ready, but also remember to be okay with just going where it leads. Similarly, life can feel the same as the river, and we fight where it goes rather than following its lead with strength, skills, and trust.

A splash of icy water, the warm sun shining down, and the sound of water and wind live in my fondest memories. On my sixteenth birthday, my brother took six excited girls rafting on the Ocoee River for the first time. That is where it all began for me! My brother takes all the credit for my continued passion for whitewater. His favorite story is one where we were rafting down the Olympic section of the Upper Ocoee River. He loves to show off, and we had a rowdy group of gentlemen who wanted the adventure lines. As we got to the largest hydraulics on the river called Godzilla and Humongous my dear brother hit this rapid full on and everyone went forward hard as the raft made contact with the standing wall of water. Two gentlemen fell out and grabbed the rope on the side of the raft, and I went face first toward the water. My brother’s hand grabbed my PFD (life jacket) and pulled me back to my seat. My smile was from ear to ear. Whitewater continues to be a love of mine with a healthy dose of humility and fear thanks to the lessons that I have learned from the river.

Time moved forward and a sunny high school graduation was achieved. That summer I started my first real-world job as a raft guide on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. In the following years, I had the opportunity to take kayaking and canoeing as classes at both Young Harris College and Brevard College. All the while, I guided each summer between and then moved around the country to guide after a rainy graduation from Brevard College. These travels were amazing and I learned so much from the people I met and the rivers that I ran.

Being a female in this male-dominated field was a challenge, but I was very lucky to have strong females to work with and to learn from along the way. The water challenged me both physically and mentally. The women and men around me help shape who I wanted to be and helped me to become the person I am today. I saw examples of the strength and confidence that I wanted to use as I navigated through life. I was able to use both the good and bad experiences to find my own voice and talents both on and off of the water.

With this confidence, I continued my travels around the country: climbing, kayaking, hiking, teaching natural studies, and driving busloads of adventurers. I hope to continue learning from my adventures and misadventures. My supporters and my critics are also a place to find lessons. My most important teachers were my family, who are both my supporter and critics. They always told me the truth no matter how hard it might have been to hear, but they have always had my back and helped guide me to being a better person. I would have never had the courage to take the chances that lead me to Mountain Sun without their love and guidance. Life can feel as scary as an unknown river, but with trust in my family and community, I am following where life leads, with courage and awareness.

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