SUPing the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

In Idaho, the perfection of nature is right in your face. You can smell the butterscotch scent of the Ponderosa pines or the smell of rain or the ever present smell of smoke from some fire. The smell is never neutral. My nose is always awakened when I’m in Idaho.

Usually we are in Idaho to run a river so are always outside. To be outside for a week will generally wake up all your senses. There are alway sounds of nature… the wind in the trees, the sound of the running water of the river, the cry of the Osprey protecting it’s nest or hunting. And certainly the visuals are stunning. The water is so clear that you can see all the rounded stones on the bottom even at 6 feet deep, the white granite of the Idaho Batholith resists weathering to create steep canyon walls along the sides of the river, the ponderosa pines have grown thick and tall as they’ve stood in place for two to three hundred years.

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My senses were fully awake on our recent trip to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River which is right about in the center of the state. The Middle Fork has been called the “River of No Return”, I think because the river is a constant gradient with the water moving rapidly with continuous small to large rapids. In other rivers it is possible to go back up the river with the right boats and paddles and upstream eddies. But that is impossible with the Middle Fork. Once you start going down it, you are on a journey and don’t know what will happen. There is no turning around once you start the 100 mile trip.

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That was the case on this trip. I had brought my Stand Up Paddle board and I made the choice to paddle from the beginning even though many in the group were giving me advice to ride on a boat the first two days because the river was so shallow and fast moving and technical. I had to remember that they were all rafters and not SUPers and were looking at the river through their eyes and not someone who knew how to SUP. After all, I had been practicing all summer on the rivers close to my home which were also shallow, fast moving and technical. Technical means that there is always something in the river to pay attention to and paddle to avoid or find a good route. It is never just a relaxing float. On this river a rafter, and a SUPer, had to alway be paying attention and be ready to maneuver. I was pretty nervous since I didn’t know the river but decided to trust myself and my skills. This was my first lesson from this river.. trust myself. And, I could always get on a boat if necessary.

P1000088The first day with smoke in the sky

There were 17 people on our trip, mostly from the town where we live. Included in the group was my husband, daughter and her boyfriend and a bunch of good friends and a few people I met for the first time.  There were 8 rafts, an inflatable kayak, a hardshell kayak and me on a SUP. Pretty much everyone was captaining some kind of boat because that is the fun for many river runners. They like to read the river and row a boat.

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Clear Water

I will admit that this river was very challenging and I fell in more than a few times those first few days. The river was very shallow with constant action and I felt comfortable moving around and balancing through the fast moving water. I fell in when the fins on my board, of which there are 4 and go down about 4 inches into the water, would run into a rock that I didn’t think was there, stop my board and send me flying off into the water. That started to make me nervous enough that I started to kneel more than I normally would. The water was so clear that I could see every rock and it was very difficult at first to visually grasp which rocks were near the surface to grab my fins.

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SUP fins beat up from hitting rocks on the river.

In Colorado the water is filled with sediment (because the rivers flow through rock that is not very hard and erodes easily from wind and runoff) and not as clear so we learn to read the water by the evidence on the surface. Because Idaho rivers are so clear (they flow through very hard and less erodible rock) I had to learn to read the water in a different way because seeing all the rocks in the river as you float over them at 5 miles an hour plays games with your eyes and gives you a bit of vertigo. I got used to it after a day and a half and the water also got deeper as we floated downriver and more side creeks flowed in. The volume of the water in the river was growing.

The Middle Fork is so classic, not only because of it’s beauty and remoteness but also because there are hot springs everywhere. The first 5 days of our 7 day trip we soaked in hot springs.  We could all get really sore from paddling all those miles through rapids and look forward to soaking our tired muscles at some point during the day. It was paradise! If you like this kind of thing…..

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The highlight of the whole trip was that we were on the river during the eclipse. Unless, as the saying goes “you were living in a cave” you know that there was a full eclipse on August 21, 2017 and we got to see it from the river. We were not in ‘totality’ but were at 98%. I heard stories from many friends who drove north to view the eclipse and viewed it with hundreds of people around them. Granted, we did not have the ‘total’ eclipse but we viewed it on the river with just the people on our trip.  And, after floating down the river putting our glasses on and off to watch the moon moving over the sun we found a hot springs to sit in to watch the grand finale.

unnamed-1.jpgEclipse SUPing        Dave Wolf Photo

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At the height of the eclipse it got very close to dark out and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. Fortunately we were in a the warm water. With a bottle of whiskey.

On the river it didn’t take long to realize that I needed to be in a constant state of alert. The speed of the river never relented and full mindfulness was required in order to stay upright. The focus required to SUP the Middle Fork made me about the most present I have ever been in my life. If I let up for an instant I could hit a rock and be in the river. I earned several bruises that are just now healing up from losing my focus. It was intense and my brain was as tired as my body at the end of each day. That was another good reminder for me, to get what you want sometimes requires very intense focus and effort!

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Another lesson was that sometimes a person doesn’t need to be so damn goal oriented that they forget reason. The group stopped to ‘scout’ Pistol and Velvet Falls rapids and I made the adult and female decision to carry my board around them.  They were essentially waterfalls  and I saw no reason to challenge myself to that level. Of course my goal had been to paddle the whole river but I decided that paddling MOST of the river would be OK.

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I paddled for 6 days (and 85 miles) in one piece and was feeling very good about things. And it was fun! I remember when first SUPing through  rapids how much I had to think about what I was doing. “Flex your ankles, put your paddle in the water, keep your head up,” I would say to myself.  I had a habit of staring right at the rapid in front of me and as I went over it my head would go down, getting my weight forward, making me fall forward off the board or onto my knees. When I finally had enough miles under my belt I start to ‘feel’ the river and my body would just do what was required to balance and move and flow over the water. It is a wonderful feeling. Throughout this trip I would have to remind myself to engage my core and keep my head up but it’s easy to get nervous and forget what you’re doing. It was just so exhilarating to get through a big rapid upright and feel the speed and rhythm, and enjoy the beauty of the blue-green river.

Everyone kept talking about the last day of the trip as we finished up the Middle Fork which would then confluence with the Main Fork of the Salmon. They talked about how fun and challenging it would be. As we started out that day the river seemed to intensify and the rapids were different. The river would narrow down in many cases and funnel through one slot through big rocks, or sweep around a rock and you’d have to make a big move to avoid the next. There were big elevation drops through these funnels that made them feel more like waterfalls and at the bottom of these drops the waves came crashing back at me from both directions (laterals). On most of these I saw what was coming and was able to get to my knees but the ferocity of the water was still flipping me off my boat. No amount of balancing or paddle work on my part was able to keep me upright. Realizing that this might be the course of action through the day, I pulled over and put on my drysuit to seal me in from the cold water. I hadn’t needed it before this day.

unnamed-3Focus    Dave Wolf Photo

Good thing I put it on!!! I swam quite a bit, but with a drysuit on I felt strangely protected and had a good time in spite of it. My goal always is to A) make it through a rapid standing up, or B) if that doesn’t look possible, get to my knees in a mindful and stable way and get through upright in that manner. I’m very goal oriented that way and had to give up on that in many cases on that last day. It was good for me to give in and just say, “Oh well”. Plan C I guess. My drysuit was keeping me dry, my knee and shinguards were keeping my legs safe, my helmet protected my head and my PFD (life jacket) was keeping me afloat. Had to trust my equipment and myself and go with the flow. There are so many life lessons to be learned on the river…..

Paddling or rowing on the river is the big attraction of these trips. But just as important is the camp time. When traveling in this fashion with a whole group of people you become a family for a week. We cook meals together, clean up, set up camp, hike and soak in hot springs together. You get to know these folks quite well, like it or not. You get to know who you can trust or who you need to help, or who always lends a hand. You learn to talk to people from many different backgrounds and always know that you share the love of river life with each other. When you run into one of your river family on the street you always stop to give a hug and have a talk because a special bond has been created.

So here I am, home. Wiser and empowered, with a few new friends and more solid old ones. I’m still filled with the wonder of Idaho and of the Middle Fork River. Did that trip really happen? As my bruises fade and my tiredness goes away I’m not so sure. Good thing there are photos. They bring back all those feelings and senses I was talking about at the beginning. It’s always good for me to hold onto those and bring them back to my every day life. It helps me remember what it feels like to be challenged and to feel completely myself. If I can bring that back to my life it helps me to be a better person.

 

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My New Adventure Sport

In my early 50’s I found the perfect sport for me because it entailed standing up all the time, balancing and reading the flow of a river. Stand Up Paddling (SUP) fit my personality and skill set quite well and was introduced to me by a friend about 10 years ago. I have been steadily practicing and challenging myself on harder and harder water since then.

I had to take a bit of a break from it when my head was injured, but as I got back into paddling I realized that SUPing was actually great for my recovery for a lot of reasons. Balancing is good for your brain, and scanning the river, looking far and then close and back and forth helped to re-enforce my eye therapy.  And, what better therapy is there than being outside?

Stand Up Paddling is just that. You stand on a boat, much like a surfboard, on water and paddle your way around with a long paddle. You can also kneel and paddle, paddle slowly and sit to hang out, do yoga, paddle really hard for a workout, take it on lakes, oceans, rivers and challenge yourself to any level you wish to take it to. And, it’s like walking on water!

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Gunnison River with friends

A ski friend of mine from Aspen was the first person I had heard of who was doing this sport. Soon after that there were stories of people SUPing on the ocean and lakes but my friend was doing it down a river. I drove over to Aspen to take one of the SUP classes he was teaching and spent the first day on a lake learning to feel comfortable standing and balancing on this board and fooling around with paddle strokes for maneuvering. That afternoon we went on the Colorado River and I was hooked. Wasn’t very good at maneuvering yet but could sure float down a river. I just loved moving down a river with the current and having to balance to stay upright. I did well on my first day and became overly confident. The next day I entered a down river race on a different (and borrowed board) and fell in the river about 25 times. Confidence put in check!!

Started shopping for my own board the next week and found a used fiberglass board and paddle, and started paddling on our local reservoir. From there my evolution moved to some easy rivers and even a few ocean excursions. When my family surprised me with a downriver, inflatable board for Christmas about 5 years ago it became easier for me to get in over my head on more than a few occasions.

I had been a river guide in my 20’s and early 30’s. That entailed captaining a boat with 5 paddlers down rivers with rapids. And, the bulk of our family vacations over the last 25 years had been on multi-day river trips all over the West. My husband loves to row a raft and my kids starting learning the skill of rowing a boat at a young age. It soon became apparent that I was going to spend a lot of time sitting on a boat on these trips and that just wasn’t going to work for me as a person used to moving all the time. I started to paddle my own craft, a small inflatable kayak, which was fun. But when I discovered SUPing…..

If you were to look at a river with a discerning eye you would see that in general the water flows downstream. But if you look at the flowing water in more detail you would see that it follows different paths as it comes near the shore, or over rocks causing the water to slow or speed up or swirl or even go back upstream. You will start to see that sometimes there is only one path to take at the beginning of the rapid in order to have a ‘clean’ run without running into rocks or other objects in the river. In the west, there are ‘pool and drop’ rivers meaning there can be a relatively calm stretch of river (pool) and then a rapid which is where the water generally speeds up and is more turbulent, has waves and obstacles (drop). Rapids are usually formed where rocks and debris have flowed into the river via a side creek or rockslide causing an uneven surface at the bottom of the river. More often than not the rocks are sticking up out of the water so you can see quite easily where not to go. And you have to look ahead to plan (in a couple of seconds) where to go in order to set yourself up for the next path around an obstacle. If you are a skier, it is a lot like planning where to go in a mogul field. The turn or move you make on mogul 1 will affect where you are and what you have to do on mogul 3. Sometimes a rock is just under the water by a few inches and you have to look for evidence on the surface of the water to tell if there is a rock right there waiting to grab your boat. Often on the other side of some of these rocks are ‘holes’ with the water re-circulating back.

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Hance Rapid

In a river there is the current, which is the water moving in a definite direction through surrounding water that is slower. There are ‘eddies’ which is water moving counter to the current and often causing a small whirlpool. This water can actually move upstream and usually occurs on the sides of the river, or behind big rocks or at the end of a rapid.

So learning to recognize the path through the rapids and rocks, the path of the current in slower water or around curves, and the eddies is call “reading” the water. Then, of course, there is a whole technique on how to execute the moving of your boat once you have “read” the water. It is a very complex brain exercise in and of itself. Then add in excitement and fear, cold water and technique for moving where you want to go….. it is a lifelong pursuit.

Then, if you are on a Stand Up Paddle board add in balance. Your feet are not attached so you are relying on your core strength and the flexing of your knees, and ankles and hips, your paddle in the water and the friction of the rubber under your feet to stay centered enough over your board through turbulent water so that you don’t fall in and so you can maneuver your way through the paths described above.

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Main Salmon River, Idaho

It’s a fantastic challenge!!

So I took it on. And started to paddle more and more rivers, falling in left and right as I learned. Coming up to a rapid, Plan A was always to stand up as much as possible with Plan B being to kneel in a mindful way (on purpose) when I looked and decided that would be the safest way to go through. There is technique to kneeling properly through a rapid too.

I started to acquire more safety gear in order to accomplish more difficult rivers. I got knee and shin guards to protect my legs after getting a few gashes. Upgraded my helmet. The thing that increased my confidence the most was a drysuit. This is a completely waterproof one piece suit that goes over the feet and has tight gaskets at the wrists and neck. If it’s properly zipped up, no water will get inside even if you fall in the river. I made this purchase after doing a couple of rivers that were so cold that it made me very tentative in some places because I was afraid of falling into the cold water. Putting a drysuit on is a comedy to watch.

My great friend and neighbor became my “SUP Sistah” and we have paddled all kinds of rivers together including the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. We both got drysuits at the same time and at first pretty much had to help each other get in and out of them. The gaskets (tight rubber around the wrists and neck) are so tight that to get the suit on and off requires strength, patience and the ability to not panic in a small, dark, enclosed space. You can pull your head through and end up inside the suit with your hands still stuck in the sleeves. We meant to take a video of us the first few times but everyone was laughing so hard we forgot to do it. There are big zippers that enclose the gap you climb through to get in. I learned the hard way that these zippers have to be locked closed in order to keep the water out. And it is not easy to pee with a drysuit on. I had to get one of those Go-Girl pee aids in order to go without taking the suit off and going through that whole heart rate raising experience again. As the trip went on we both got better at the process and the gaskets got a bit broken in so it became easier. And it was still completely worth it.

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Full battle gear

So, I started working up in difficulty and over the last 4 years have paddled the Yampa River and Gates of Ladore in Colorado, the Main Salmon River in Idaho, the Chama River in New Mexico and the Rogue River in Oregon. Also the San Miguel and Uncompaghre River near where I live at high and low water. And, last year, I paddled the Grand Canyon. Twice.

Both trips were with groups of friends who were experienced at river running. This is called a ‘Private trip’. You can also hire a company and go on a ‘Commercial trip’. On a private trip you do all the planning and choosing of campsites and cooking of meals, etc yourselves. On a commercial trip, the guides take care of all that for you.

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Being in the bottom of the  Grand Canyon on a river or hiking trip can be a spiritual experience. For many reasons. Most private raft trips are 18 or so days long where you travel 220 miles down the river from the put-in to the take-out. You travel through the rock layers of the canyon walls that represent 100’s of millions of years of time. There are waterfalls and caves and wildlife and petroglyphs to see. And there are humongous rapids. For many boatmun this trip is the pinnacle of river running. This trip was the biggest challenge of my life.

For those of you who know the Grand Canyon, my friend and I paddled 190 miles of the 220. That means we rolled up our boats just above Hance Rapid and put them back in the water below the Gems. The rapid rating system in the Grand Canyon is on a 1-10 scale of difficulty. We did one or two that were rated a 6 but mostly a level 5 was our limit and in the stretch of river I just mentioned the rapids were rated 8-10. We certainly didn’t go through Lava, or Crystal or Horn or Hance or House Rock or Dubendorff or Upset. We were on a trip with a number of rafts so we would tie our SUPs on the back of a raft, hop on and ride through these big rapids after we looked at them and decided, “uh-uh”. Those rapids were exciting enough to go through on just a raft.

IMG_0295Going through Lava Rapid with SUP attached to the back of the raft. 

The thing with this river is that even the ‘mellow’ water was a challenge on one of these boards. The water was swirly and strong and at first I got knocked off more at the end of a rapid then during. Even the ‘small’ rapids down here were a challenge as they were bigger than anything we had experienced before on all those other rivers. For example, our local river when we paddled it at high water was rated at 1100 cfs (cubic feet per second, of water that passes a certain point). The Colorado River when we were there was running at 12,000 – 18,000 cfs. Big. And fast. I have read that Lava Rapid runs through at 40 mph.

We both challenged ourselves to stand up as long as possible but both got very good at recognizing when it was time to get on our knees in order to stay upright. Some of the waves were bigger than my board was long and I could get fully flipped over with the front going back over my head. One time the wind was so strong I got blown off and couldn’t get back on. When I finally did get on, I paddled laying down so that my body was not such a sail for the wind to blow. We got better and better, and mostly stayed on our boards.

There are not many photos of us SUPing through whitewater because the other boatmen on the trip were so focused on their own runs through the rapids and didn’t have the time to take out cameras. The splashes can be so big that everything gets drenched and no one wanted to take the risk of getting their cameras wet anyway.

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SUP Sistahs

That was in the Fall, right before I turn 60. Then in the Spring I went back to do it again. This time my husband and daughter started the trip without me, carrying my board and gear on the first part of the river in their rafts. I hiked in from the South Rim to meet them at the halfway point and paddled about 100 miles to the end.

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South Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon

These trips were spectacular experiences as was the process of gaining enough skill to even attempt them. This sport is profound for me in that it takes many skills I have learned in my life and perfectly melded them into something new and different. Because of my experience on rivers, my ability to balance, my knowledge of Biomechanics and posture (from years of ski training), my fitness and knowing how to approach challenge emotionally I was able to do this. I was also reminded once again about this lesson in life that something may seem unattainable but with patience and small steps and challenging yourself a bit you can get to where you want to go. Even as we age.

Van Life

I see that traveling around in a van and blogging about the experience is very popular these days. It’s a great life for a little while. I’ve had some experience with van adventure but before social media so have a few photos from the family archives to share.

My daughter is an original van kid. She woke up in a van to go to pre-school, and on the first day of kindergarten and first grade. We cooked her breakfast on the camp stove, made her lunch, put the pop-up down and drove her to school. Dare I admit that my son, my second kid, was conceived in this same van. My daughter now owns this van and I’m sure she thinks of it as the home she grew up in….

The Vanagon I’m speaking of was our first  (1985 vintage) and was purchased in 1992 just after the birth of our first child. We thought it would be an awesome family vehicle for camping and traveling. And it was.

We were living in a small mountain town outside of Boulder, CO at the time when my husband took a job with the Nature Conservancy in SW Colorado (on the other side of the state). The job was half year and half time and was a foot in the door with an awesome organization. (for info on the Nature Conservancy: nature.org)  We couldn’t really afford to rent a house on that kind of pay when we already owned a home in Nederland. We went back and forth for a few years seasonally (as we both had jobs where our house was), and pieced together some creative living situations during the summer, the most steady being the van.

We thought we would live this life for one year and then go back to settle in to raise our family. As those things go we kept going back and forth for a few years unable to give up either situation. Finally, my husband’s job became more full-time near Telluride and I found a great job and we started to gain some great friends. And, in our opinion, there is no more beautiful place than SW Colorado. We’d had another kid by then and started looking for a place to call home. We looked and looked and finally found a small piece of property and started to make plans to build a house.

Pat had been a carpenter when he was in his 20’s and had the skills to build a house, and be the contractor when necessary. He had built our first house outside of Boulder and knew we wanted to build a second in SW Colorado. We quickly realized that it would be difficult for us to pay rent and finance a new house at the same time. So we lived in the van. The garage was built first so that became our kitchen/living room and the van, our bedroom. We set up our camping cook stove next to a couch and TV in the unfinished garage. It’s how we built equity.

Our kids were 2 and 6 at the time and they loved the living situation. I remember during this time my husband and I went out on a date and found some unsuspecting high school student to be our babysitter. After that evening, she was always busy when we called her to baby sit again. We figured that it may have been a little stressful for her to put our kids to bed in the van and then sit in the unfinished garage, wrapped in a sleeping bag for warmth, in order to watch TV until we came home. At least there was a TV!!

IMG_3604.jpgThe van, and the garage.

When the kids were a little older, we would load up this van with all our rafting gear and head off to various rivers for multi-day river trips. The van was so stuffed with equipment that when we arrived at a campsite we’d have to take everything out in order to cook dinner and fit us in for sleeping. We’d have to take the oars off the roof in order to pop up the top to access the upstairs bed where the kids slept. It was quite a process and we have such great family memories of these trips.

IMG_0434Idaho River Trip

We’ve put plenty of new engines in these vans over the years. One time I was driving down Boulder Canyon outside of Boulder, CO when the engine made a loud grinding noise and just stopped working. Fortunately it was all downhill for the last 5 miles or so, and the transmission still worked so I put the van in neutral (stick shift) and coasted to a parking lot at the Justice Center. I was perhaps 6 months pregnant at the time and this was before cell phones so I had to go inside to find a phone to call my husband and get a tow.

We got a second van (a 1987 vanagon) in about 2012 and it’s had it’s share of issues.

The red van engine blew up once when our son was driving it to school on a very cold morning. We figured that it hadn’t been warmed up long enough before starting up.

This new engine went down the tubes out in the middle of nowhere outside of Gunnison, CO by Blue Mesa Reservoir on our way to a wedding in Boulder County. This engine malfunction was due to a quick oil change place not putting the plug to the oil pan back on correctly after changing the oil. We were driving merrily along and all of a sudden the oil light went on and about 2 seconds later the engine stopped working.

So, lessons learned? Warm up your VW engine on cold days, and bring the vehicle to a reputable oil changing place or do it yourself.

IMG_0676Broken van being towed

We still own both vans, though are considering upgrading to a more modern Eurovan. There really is nothing quite like driving around with your bedroom and kitchen, pulling over most anywhere and nesting. Going on a trip in the van these days makes me feel young and adventurous again with just the basics of life on the road with me.  (Maybe because it drives pretty slow up mountain passes and the AC doesn’t work, just like the old days.) It’s fun to be driving down the road and other van drivers will give you a wave or a peace sign as you pass each other. It’s very cool camaraderie with people you don’t even know……strangers sharing a similar experience.

 

Title IX

IMG_0109My heart rate was up to about 160 beats per minute, my hands were sweating and I was breathing heavily. It was not because of any kind of physical exertion. It was from purely emotional exertion, and fear. I was about to go to the lunchroom at my new high school. There were 1500 kids in the school and I didn’t know one person, other than my brother. Being an introvert, the thought of having to go through with this struck terror into my heart. I thought about just leaving the school but being a conformist (at that time) that was not an option. I made a move out of desperation and begged a girl in my last class if I could go to lunch with her, and she agreed. Disaster averted!

The next day was when Title 9 came to my rescue.

My Dad was an engineer for General Mills and we moved every 2-4 years for projects he was involved in and for career advancement. That was how it was with corporations in those days. We had just left a great kid scene in Minnesota with programs rich in music, academics and sports and a whole lot of good friends. My brothers and I told our parents that they were ruining our lives by making us move to Massachusetts. We all had a bad attitude about the school we were entering right from the beginning and it really was a bad time for us to be moving. I was entering 10th grade, my brother was going into 9th and youngest brother into 7th grade. That was a rough time to be uprooted. And the school was huge. My new graduation class was 365. What the heck?

Turns out my parents knew what they were doing when they chose this community to move to. Especially for me. It was 1972. Title 9 had just passed and my new high school fully embraced girls’ sports. I didn’t even know about Title 9. It just turned out that there was a place for me in this huge school because I was a good athlete.

For those of you who don’t know what Title 9 is or are unaware of it’s impact on women in the United States, here’s the deal:

Before this law was passed in 1972 equality between women and men was virtually non-existent. This was the case in education as it was very difficult for a woman to get into a university let alone be a teacher in one. There were very few female engineers or lawyers or doctors or university professors. The women who did manage to get through a school and land one of these jobs faced tremendous discrimination and often sexual harassment and ridicule. And imagine if you were a woman of color in this environment??? And this environment was certainly present in women’s athletics. “Women were warned that physical activity was not only unfeminine but proof of lesbianism. Female athletes were depicted as physically unattractive and women were told that competitive sports would hurt reproductive organs as well as a women’s chance of marriage.” (https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/seventies/essays/impact-title-ix).

So by the early 1970’s a few legislators had had enough and started crafting the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Representatives Patsy Mink from Hawaii and Edith Green from Oregon wrote it and Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana introduced the bill.

The upshot… Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. And here’s how it reads:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Most people think Title IX only applies to sports, but athletics is only one of ten key areas addressed by the law. These areas include: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and technology.

These are many things that we take for granted in 2017.  I know that young women do,  and even I am complacent about my life in America because I was a beneficiary of Title IX right as it became law.

Back to my story:

… having the lunch situation taken care of (because my new friend took me to lunch every day after that) I was still having to go into classrooms every day, not knowing anyone. I would go in, find a seat and endure the stares from the other kids in the classrooms.

In those days we had ‘Gym’ (now PE) every other day. We all had to change into uniforms and in this case the shorts were red and was accompanied by a sleeveless white top. I just quietly went in and sat alone watching and feeling it out. Turns out this Gym class was doing the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Do you remember that? I guess that back in the 1950’s President Eisenhower was appalled at how out of shape Americans were becoming. As I read about it, he was really worried that kids were not going to be fit enough if needed for military service. Also as I read it turns out that most people hated this test because everyone could see who was struggling and who was achieving. It was terrible for many kid’s self-esteem. In my case, however, it was great.

My Dad had always coached my brothers and I in athletics and I had always run, played baseball and football, skied, hiked and generally spent all my time outside doing something active. (He lived Title 9 even before it was invented. I was never discriminated against in my family) I had never heard of this Fitness test but started peeling off the 50 situps, the pullups, the jumps, and even the mile. I was immediately recruited by the gym teacher for the field hockey team, even though I’d never heard of field hockey.

I had 20 new friends that afternoon at practice and that began my transition into the high school life of my new school. It turned out that this school had all kinds of athletic options for young women. Because of Title 9, there was field hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, a ski team, track and field, and softball that I can remember. Of course the boys program was huge. I played a sport every season and created great friends, gained attention from others in the school, and felt a part of something. It gave me more confidence in the classroom and in other extra curricular activities. It gave me the confidence and skill to attend an Outward Bound course one summer between my Junior and Senior year which changed the course of my life again.. another story. And to go on to graduate from college and become a geologist. Being in sports at that time of my life gave me a sense of myself and my body and what I was capable of. I realized that I could push hard and achieve more than I thought I could.

My generation of women has now raised strong, self-sufficient and independent young women. I know my daughter believes she can achieve anything she can put her mind to. Before 1972, unless you had parents that believed the same, society certainly didn’t. We owe a debt of gratitude to all the women who came before us who didn’t have the opportunities we have today in the United States. They helped the country reach the tipping point where this kind of law was instituted so that women can reach their potential. And thank you Patsy Mink, Edith Green and Birch Bayh for all your efforts on our behalf!