May 26, 2018
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Slide show a Phair experience

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Brad Viles Special to the News, Special to the BDN

I’ve never been what you might call a joiner. I only belong to one club. They have one meeting a year, and I usually attend but always leave before it’s over. It’s not that I’m antisocial, I just have an aversion to meetings.

It’s the same when I head outdoors. When I feel like I need a rewarding time in the outside, I really prefer to hike solo.

Sometimes, though, having a partner to hike with can be equally enjoyable. I have a list of friends and partners that I ring up for those times when teaming up with someone else is just better. But, coordinating hikes with the others is tricky with conflicting schedules. So, my list is kind of short lately, and it could use expanding.

That’s when I remembered the outdoor organization, the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club. I had been on a couple of their leader-led hikes in the past and knew a few members. Last week, I went to their monthly meeting in Bangor to see if I could get my list to grow a little longer.

The meeting was Tuesday night at 6:30 at Epic Sports. Brad Ryder, the owner, has let the club use a space in the store for the meetings, which on this night included a presentation by Scott Phair from Augusta. There were about 20 people, a mixed group of different ages and gender, in attendance. We all took our seats and watched a slide show about Scott’s trip to Alaska.

This past July, Phair was joined by his daughter and wife and 11 others for a raft trip down the Tatshenshini River. There were eight women and six men in four rafts who paddled the river for more than 150 miles. The slides were great. They showed every aspect of the trip while Scott explained the photos.

The scenery was fantastic and as Scott described it, a little surreal due to the scale. The first day they ran the rafts down the only white-water of the trip. The flow was an incredible 50,000 cubic feet per second. It took them only two hours, the river was so fast. They saw outstanding mountain scenery, including Mount Fairweather, a snow-covered peak at 15,325 feet. They saw glaciers depositing bergs into the river as they made their way.

The stories he told were as descriptive as the slides he showed. They were on the river for 12 days and one of the luxuries you have to give up on a trip like that is what Scott described as personal space. Personal hygiene meant bathing in the river every two days and behaving like what Scott called a Tatshenshini Rainbow Trout.

It involved totally immersing yourself in the river to get wet. Remember this is glacier-fed river water that might be 45 degrees, tops. After you get wet you leap out, soap up, then, leap back in before you realize how cold it is.

He showed one slide of a guy on the trip crawling out on a shelf of ice. He was as red down the side as a large rainbow. It was easy to see the correctness of the name, even if it weren’t for all the leaping. You really had to stay clean, he said, because on a trip for that long a distance and with such close contact with others, it was necessary for the well being of everyone’s spirits as well as the obvious reasons.

Scott should know. The Career and Technical Administrator at a school in Augusta has been leading multi-day whitewater rafting trips for the past 25 years, including Maine’s rafting rivers, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, rivers in West Virginia and other states.

The hardest part of this river, he explained, was finding and staying in the correct channel when the river braided around bars or islands. If you went down the wrong channel it could mean a lot of trouble getting a fully loaded raft back up river, whose flow increased with every mile due to glacial runoff.

They practiced ecologically sound camping practices. They were in grizzly bear country, and though they didn’t see any except on the drive to the put-in, they had to be careful. They took hikes and stayed together, talking loudly and wearing bear bells to avoid surprising a bear on the trail.

It was an entertaining 45-minute show that Scott presented for the club members, who applauded at the end and asked some great questions about that trip and others. Soon, everyone was on their feet and mingling about, signaling for me a time to leave, but not before I had a chance to meet some of the members who I had hiked with before.

Mainers love outdoor adventure. We hike, paddle, walk, ski, snowshoe, climb mountains and generally participate in the outdoor life. It’s no wonder, with all that the Maine outdoors provides as a resource. Miles of trails cross the state, practically from corner to corner. Canoeing, rafting, mountain biking, we’ve really got it all covered.

The Maine Outdoor Adventure Club is a great organization to connect with people in those pursuits and more. It was started in Portland 25 years ago and eight years ago the Bangor chapter started. If you want to learn more about the club and a calendar of upcoming led hikes, they have a great Web site, I saw quite a few people I could add to my list. They might even have me as a new member soon.

Although, I’m not sure I want to join a club that would have me as a member.

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