FS - Jessica Leitner 24th Blog & John Leitner 11th Blg

Lessons from the River

We've been on vacation for the past two weeks in two different locations here in Oregon. Our first trip was to Sunriver in Central Oregon and there are lots of stories to tell. But this one we wanted to tell together.

Our second to the last day we planned a float down the Deschutes River. If you have ever floated a river before you know that you put in at one end and ride an inner tube down to the pull out spot. We are both very confident on the river having spent time in our canoe and on our kayaks over the years. We did this float with another family, their kids and a girl visiting from Mexico who didn't speak any English.

The put in went as planned in our rented tubes - a beautiful sunny day - almost too hot. The first half hour went amazing. We were in a section of the river we have never been in before and the scenery was lovely. About the 45 min mark of what was supposed to be two hour float one of the kids fell out of his tube and could not get back in. He was not a confident swimmer, but was wearing a life vest and thankfully with some tricky maneuvering we were able to get him back in.

At about the 60 minute mark some dark clouds rolled in. Behind that...thunder and large pelting rain. We had nothing but our bathing suits on and were immediately cold. The rain did not let up and we had to pull over to the side to get out and warm up some before continuing the float. Our teeth were chattering and our we had goosebumps and our feet were starting to turn blue. We ran down the shoreline to scout how far we were but the landscape was unfamiliar and we could not tell where we were on the river.

We had tied our tubes together to keep the non swimmers close but the size of our mass was slowing us down and we had to untie. The kids got separated and all of us were as many as 50 yards apart unable to get back together. We were shouting over the thunder and trying to communicate to the kids what to do. We had no paddles and were at the mercy of the now speedy current.

After the two hour mark and no marina in sight we started to try rowing with our arms and legs. This was unsuccessful and our attitudes were extremely poor. This was no longer fun. We got stuck in an area near some stables and we actually got out of the tubes but instead of following our instinct and walking, we got back in the river thinking we must be close to the marina. We were not.

It took another 45 minutes to coax our rafts to shore near a park where we gave up and pulled out. We were able to get one of the girls out of the water ourselves but Sarah was too far in front and unable to control her tube. We made a run for it along the shore but got stuck in a bog where we ended up with hundreds (no exaggerating) of mosquito bites. John took off in a dead run to the marina and was able to flag down a motor boat which went out to the opening and was able to retrieve Sarah. The rest of our party was still 100 river yards behind us.

It was by far the most scary and terrible experience we have ever had on water.

What did we learn....well we could have done a lot better if we had just applied our Aim High Curriculum to our river trip.

  1. Proper planning prevents poor performance: We did not check the weather report. We did not consult the map and know where we were.

  2. Always have all of your gear with you that you might need: We did not bring the proper equipment such as paddle and dry clothing and water in case of emergency. Even though we had a half dozen dry bags in the car we chose not to carry a cell phone with us during the float and so could not call for help.

  3. Never leave a team member behind: It was a huge mistake to untie our tubes. Even if we had to stay out on the river longer it would have been safer to stay all together considering we had a few people who were not confident swimmers.

  4. Attitude: How fast can you change it? That fast. We were stressed and unhappy. And the kids knew it. And we focused on everything that was going wrong instead of laughing and making a memory and realizing that we were in control of the situation all along.

  5. State Management: Control the way you think and you will control the way you act. We went in to panic mode. When we should have remained calm. We did not trust our instincts about getting out at the stable when we should have. We did not demonstrate good leadership by not attending to our inner voices about safety.

Train both in and out of the dojo. That means in your life, in your school, at your work and on the river. And remember, that even advanced degrees, and people with lots of experience make mistakes. The most important lesson there is: Learn from them.

BSBN John & Jessica

Posted on August 8, 2014 .