The essence of the experience in a true, remote wilderness is being able to imagine yourself there thousands of years before humans harmed many of these places beyond repair. You are not in control of your surroundings but you fit in better here than anywhere. Life becomes simple and you are mindful of every action, aware of the pulse of the wildness around you, and an important relationship forms. You value life more and feel at peace as part of a living, interacting global community. Wilderness is a resource for exploration, the human spirit and exceptional experience, but more importantly it is a place for the planet to breathe, regenerate and sustain itself.
To experience wilderness as a whitewater paddler is traveling on a dynamic, vital, renewing life source of the wilderness. Interacting with a force so powerful only adds to the feeling of solitude and demands a dramatic shift of focus that goes from intimate interaction with the water to a “big-picture” view. This makes me feel smaller and more exposed than if I were traveling on land. Beyond that, the ability to travel so much faster and see so much more by boat is an exceptional way to experience the landscape.
After millennia of evolution, wilderness has a solution for most everything—except humans and our logging, mining, poaching and agriculture, not to mention our growing population. Wilderness is a finite resource. Once it’s gone, there is no going back. We can’t create more wilderness or grow it back. As Thoreau said, “In wildness is the salvation of the world.” After you’ve experienced it, there are few more important things than conserving wilderness. I can only hope that we realize our powerful place in this global community and take responsibility to protect what we have left and support life on earth.
Whitewater kayaker Chris Korbulic has notched numerous first descents, including Oregon’s Toketee Falls, a technical multi-drop line, in 2011. He was part of the Congo expedition that claimed the life of Henri Coetzee in 2010.
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