This summer has been an intense learning experience for me. I expected to learn how to be a rafting guide, and I sure have learned some hard lessons. But more than that, I have learned other awesome hobbies and life experiences. What I am discovering is if you are interested in learning, the opportunities are out there.

YOGA
One thing I have been wanting to get into lately, due to some old roommates, is yoga. I had two friends that lived in a two apartment house with me, both were heavy into yoga, one was even a yoga instructor. Our time together in the apartment was limited, and after they moved I rarely saw them. I had a few times I meant to attend a free class in my home town, but ran out of time when I began this rafting job.

When I got down here I met a lot of people, one of the first people I met turned out to be a yoga instructor also. We hit it off well, and decided to start doing yoga for beginners.  The space on property is limited because of the highway and the river, so we had to be imaginative when deciding where to go with a yoga class of six.

Our rafting buses proved perfect. The buses are normal school buses, only with a large flat service built out of wood on top of the buses, much like a patio. The reason the boats are constructed this way is so that we can load anywhere between three and nine (150-200 lbs) inflatable rafts to the top, and strap them down on the sides and drive on the highway.

This flat surface was great for my friend to face us (the class of four or so) and run through his usual yoga routine. I knew you had to be flexible to successfully complete most of the yoga moves, but I never realized it would kick my butt! My first yoga class was intense. I was sweating and nearly out of breath when the instructor informed us we were ready to move out of streatching and into the routine!

Since then I have been more intentive with streatching before work, and working my core to help relieve the strain on my lower back. Let me tell you what a difference it has made in my life!

JU JITSU

When I was a 14 or 15 my younger sjblings and I were enrolled in a 13 week Kung Fu class. My sister and I excelled. We both had great lower body strength as well as balance. Once that class was over I wanted more, but life got in the way and it got pushed into the background, a longing never to be fulfilled.

As it turned out one of my co-workers (who was raised in the Virgin Islands) had been a long time practing Ju Jitsu martial arts student. He had never done any teaching, but was up to the challange.

A female friend and I took him up on his offer, and meeting him on a tarp laid down on a small patch of grass available, started to run through the basics and simple drills. My friend is only a 5’5″ or 5’7″ 23 year old female, 98 lbs in soaking clothing, but what we learned in the first class made our male co-workers have more respect for her and I both.

WHITTLING

While sitting around the camp fire, or sitting in a circle of friends I find my hands are constantly looking for something to do. Now, I know how to knit, but I’m not about to sit in a circle of friends and knit, instead I want to take up whittling. This is the only one I haven’t really started yet. My co-workers and I are involved in a summer long whittling contest, but I still have yet to sit down and figure out what to make.

HIKING

Living in the Smoky Mountians there are lots of opportunities to hike. I haven’t done as much as I would like (I already live outdoors, I don’t really have to go anywhere to be in nature), but there are a few climbs I plan on doing, including some hiking on the Appalachian Trail (a mere seven minute drive from my summer home).

COOKING

Working a high intensity, very active, often stressful, and always unique job (in several ways, including the changing water levels and thus the rocks that are exposed or hidden, as well as new strangers in your boat every trip), doesn’t leave much time, or energy, to want to cook.  However I made a commitment to myself that I would eat right and exercise often (I’m running a couple times a week to prepare for my 5k in New Hamphsire in September). Because of this commitment I am trying to cut way down on microwave dinners, of any kind, and use of the microwaves at all. Not only does it expose you to harmful radiation, but microwaves also saps the meal of its nutrion and vitamines.

All of this is easier said then done, especially while living in storage barns in the woods, but if you’re creative, you’ll never starve.

One trick I learned in Boy Scouts was the use of tin foil.  We called them tin foil dinners, others know them as hobo dinners, either way all you do is chop up a bunch of vegatables you want to eat (ex. Potatoes, onions, carrots, corn, zuccinni) you add in meat (usually beef, but suasage works too), add all the seasonings you like, and about half an hour later over hot camp fire coals you have a meal!

The summer heat and humidity is on us (only to get worse in August) so campfires are slim, so I started cooking more pastas and salads. People often remark that I have great food all the time (as they eat over there bowl of microwavable Mac ‘n Cheese).

CARPENTRY

The one thing I am most proud about accomplishing so far this summer is reuniting with carpentry.  When I was younger I would always help my grandfather while he worked in his woodshop and around his house doing yard work. When I was younger I didn’t necessarily know any better, but I do remember times I didn’t want to be doing wood work.

Oh how I wish my grandfather was still alive and he could teach me all the things I didn’t realize I was missing out on learning!

My home this summer is, as I said, a storage barn. My room (which is shared with a roommate) is an 8×10 foot room. When my roommate and I first moved in the room was set up in a frustratingly small way.

After training was over and I had a free day, armed with a hammer, a handful of nails, and a hand saw I attacked my room rearranging and rebuilding it to better fit my roommate and me (who was there to help, but I was in charge and really getting into it, and barely used my roommates help).

Never to be one to turn down someone else asking for help, my next free day went to war with my friends storage barns, and built shelves from scratch, sawed the bunk beds to better fit, and added several nooks and crannies for their use.

I now have my name out there as a carpenter, and I hope that my grandfather would be proud.

There are many other hobbies I also enjoy, running, writing, reading, photography, and newly discovered, paddle tricks!  With so much vying for my time it is sometimes hard to focus on any in particular. But I am learning that you make time for the things that are important to you.