Have you ever tried to describe the taste of orange to someone? That is exactly what going through River School was like, not to mention living in The Yard
During my time in Haines I became a Wilderness First Responder, earned my Swift Water Rescue certification, and learned how to read and navigate a river. Everyday, rain of shine (spoiler alert it only rains in Haines) you rowed.
The Yard; a paradise perfectly fit for Peter Pan and the lost boys. Equipped with rows of dilapidated, gutted out busses, broken down vans, small shacks covered with tarps, and a small city of tents. At center front you have The Warehouse, which houses one of two bathrooms, and one small shower for all 30 of us.
There is no manual, class, or job that could prepare you for that.
Therefore I present to you the most obscure life hacks and lessons I learned during River School and living in The Yard.
1. You will never be dry.
This is a fact of life while living in the yard. No more, no less. You will wake up damp and you will fall asleep damp. You might try to fool yourself by decorating the inside of your car or the inside of your tent with all your socks hanging about, but alas they will never dry.
2. Save your bagel bags.
Although we wear these rad river boots that can quite frankly make any average human feel like a total badass from the show Deadliest Catch, you will occasionally get a Booter. When that glacially fed river water finds its way from the outside of your boots, to the inside.
How do you over come such a defeating feeling? You pull out your extra pair of dry (slightly damp) socks and the old empty bagel bag that you saved or fished out of the trash and slip both on, a foot condom if you will. Now take your new Everything Bagel Foot, shove it in your boot and get back to rowing!
3. If you wear sunglasses, no one can see you cry.
If you remember from my earlier post, I like to think of myself as “navy seal tough”. Does this mean that I don’t cry? No this just means that I hide it and continue the activity while crying. High side a boat? Bash every knuckle open on the cobble rock beach from holding onto a rope to save a run away raft? Almost knock an instructor out from running into a log? Go ahead and cry; you’ve got your sunglasses on. Cry all you want, just don’t get blood on the oars.
4. The bicycle kick to put your pants on.
I will say that this one I learned myself and I feel as though I have a formal obligation to spread my new found wisdom. If you are in fact in a position where you cannot stand but still need to put your pants on just do the following.
Get your pants up to you’re your ankles, then while laying on your back start to bicycle kick your legs, they will magically start to rise to the crease where your butt cheeks meet your legs. Then with a simple lift of the hips, your pants are on! You are now ready to conquer the day!
5. Fire brings people together.
A fire will not only leave you with 20 more new holes in your puffy, but feeling more connected to the people around you than ever before. Take away the wifi, tv, and constant droning noises that fill our lives and we’re left with a special opportunity. The sun starts to set and the dirt bags crawl out of their broken down buses and tents, drawn to the orange glow of embers crackling. No matter our differences we all seem to find ourselves sharing the same spot and the same moment. This inescapable trait that is woven into our bones can connect more people from different backgrounds than anything else.
Looking back, now that I’m moved into a house in Skagway, living with 15 other people, I can say without a doubt my time in Haines will not go forgotten. The grueling days on the river, the slower pace of a small Alaskan fishing town, and the lessons that came with it all are wrapped up in a nice bagel bag with a six-pack of PBR. It might rain a lot in Haines, but I promise you there was a lot of growth.