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Well since the weather is mirroring the World’s highly fluctuating state, I decided to embrace it rather than question it! And strangely enough, even though I am back in theoretical snow paradise here in Switzerland in the winter, I have really been missing my paddling! I think it is also symptomatic of missing my paddling community too!

This year every opportunity to paddle has felt like a huge gift, and touching the water and being in my kayak definitely helps me feel connected to the paddling world even if we are not all together or have the freedom to be together now! With temperatures approaching 50F, I decided to take a break from skiing and head to the Saanen – my favorite local run. There is always trepidation returning to the river after, in this case during, the winter as its been hard to scout what debris may have arrived to block the gorges or change rapids, and there are places you cannot scout and get out, so being solo paddling the run, I tend to be a lot more careful.

I have been really curious to see what the gorges looked like because they get virtually no sun in winter and thus winter may be disappearing all around the river but within the gorges it is its own micro climate. Not being able to scout from above was a little concerning, but I decided to go for it planning to get out well above anything I could not scout from my boat and that might involve portaging.

The frosty inner river environment is something I have really enjoyed experiencing this winter on all the rivers I have gotten to paddle, and its new too because I have not paddled in really cold weather in probably close to 20 years as in the coldest months I am usually in Uganda. With the cold(er) weather, very cold water, and solo paddling, I have to look at things more carefully and count on certain things being a lot more challenging – like getting to and from the river, as well as in and out of the usual put-ins and take-outs!

And then there is the big question of why do it with these extra risks? Why not sit on the couch and eat more delicious Swiss chocolate and fantasize about paddling? One thing I have definitely realized getting older in the sport is that I have to keep doing these small, daily challenges to reinforce the belief that I can do it and its ok to do it. I recently heard a story about a woman paddler who is older than me but has been paddling all her life. She has really good skills, but had stepped away from paddling for a while. Now, she has decided that she is too afraid of getting hurt to paddle whitewater any more. I was surprised given her very solid skill set, but I can easily see how that can happen. Given the situation with Covid and less ability to paddle with friends and the paddling posse, for me this is the moment to dig deeper to stay connected to the paddling world I love so much. Thank goodness I am lucky enough that I have access to an excellent solution nearby. Just being in the water was like the perfect tonic for the mind and body and I am reminded that yes, I can actually do this, its ok, and in fact, its great fun.

In the end, my desire to connect paid off with a beautiful run down. Everything looked new, like a first view with snow and ice covering a lot of the inner river corridor. I felt the peaceful, quiet inner world of the Saanen and its gorges – it was a true treat and reward for pushing myself just a little out of the comfort zone and away from the couch and chocolate!