S1E89 - Blix on Packrafting
This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by Blix, a river guide. They talk about the utility of packrafting, the joys and travails of river travel, the state of waterways in the western United States, and how river guides might have the best names for the worst things.
Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Blix on Packrafting
**Inmn ** 00:16 Hello, and welcome to Live Like The World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm Inmn, and I'm your host for today. Today I'm being joined by my friend Blix, who is a river guide, and we're going to talk about something that I've been really entranced by but know nothing about and I'm a little terrified by. And that is, traveling on rivers with boats and why it might be a good or bad idea during different emergent disasters. But first, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Net of anarchist podcasts and here's a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo doo [Singing the words like an upbeat melody]
**Dissident Island Radio ** 01:08 Listen in to Dissident Island Radio live every first and third Friday of the month at 9pm GMT. Check out www.dissidentireland.org for downloads and more.
**Inmn ** 01:58 And we're back. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Could you introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and what you do in the world? You know, not in an existential sort of way, but what is your connection to packrafting.
**Blix ** 02:19 My name is Blix. I use she/they pronouns. I am a river guide in Dinosaur National Monument on the Green River. I like to do more things than just river stuff. I'm really into cycling, and gaming, and anything that gets me outside, but river stuff recently has been my main hobby and passion at the moment. Yeah, what was the last one? What is my "what?"
**Inmn ** 02:49 What do you...What is your existential purpose in the world [laughing/joking]
**Blix ** 03:02 [Stammers while laughing] I'd like to survive. Yeah. The last one was my connection to packrafting. So initially, I got into river...I mean, I've been doing river stuff since I was a kid. I grew up in northeast Iowa, which is not known for anything river related. Or I mean, there are rivers there, but not in the sense that...not the big water and rapid stuff that you typically hear about with river travel or river hobbies, but I grew up kayaking and canoeing. And then I got a packraft four years ago and I've done a couple pack rafting trips since then. Overnighters. And yeah, I think that was kind of the gateway craft that led me to wanting to be a guide.
**Inmn ** 04:02 Yeah, it's funny. I can tell if you were being sarcastic about Idaho rivers
**Blix ** 04:08 No, Iowa, Iowa.
**Inmn ** 04:10 Ohhh.
**Blix ** 04:11 Yeah, no. Idaho is very well known for rivers. Yeah, no, Iowa is not...You don't think, "Whoa the rivers in Iowa are amazing." But Idaho, definitely.
**Inmn ** 04:25 Yeah, there is--maybe it's not Iowa that I'm thinking of--that it's bordered on each side by rivers. Is that true?
**Blix ** 04:35 There's the Mississippi on the east and then on the west I think there is a river but I can't remember... Maybe the Sioux River.
**Inmn ** 04:45 Yeah or something. Because there's the...I only know this because of going on bike tour and encountering this bike bro who let us sleep at his house. He just saw us on bikes and was like, "Come over, fellow bike tourists." And we're like, "You know, we need showers." And he told us about something called like, Ragbra...
**Blix ** 05:05 Ragbrai. I like Ragbra better. Yeah, yeah. RagBrai is riding from the west side of Iowa to the east, and it changes...the route changes every year. But, I've actually never done it.
**Inmn ** 05:23 It did not really sound fun. Very drunken.
**Blix ** 05:25 No, I think it...Yeah. As someone who does not drink, it sounds like my worst nightmare. So,
**Inmn ** 05:32 Yeah. But anyways, what...So what is packrafting?
**Blix ** 05:38 Yeah, packrafting...So, it's a very specific type of craft where you can deflate it and it's pretty much...the way that I've used it, I've strapped it to the front of my bike. You can shove it in backpacks. It can be made very small, and then when you inflate it, some models of pack rafts, you can take your gear and shove them inside the tubes of the craft so you don't have like a pile of gear on your boat.
**Inmn ** 05:51 Like inside the inflatable part of it?
**Blix ** 06:15 Yes, yep. So I've had friends who've done the Grand Canyon in packrafts--which is nuts and also very impressive to me--but yeah, you can put stuff in the tubes. When you want to get it out, you have to deflate it, obviously. But, you put it all in there, inflate it, you can take it downriver. I know people who've carried a ton of gear, like 50 pounds. I know people who've gone hunting with them. You can obviously, I'm sure you've seen, you can strap your bikes to the front of them as well.
**Inmn ** 06:50 This was actually my first question is if you can strap it to your bike, can you also somehow take your bike down river?
**Blix ** 06:58 Yeah, yeah, it's...I have a lot of opinions about taking bikes--I think it depends on the river and also your bike. The thing with attaching a bike to a water vessel and then floating down a river is it's really exposed to all the elements. And, bikes and water don't...Like, you don't want to submerge your bike in water. There's a lot of issues that can arise from that. So, it's really hard on your bike. And also it makes the packraft hard to maneuver--obviously because you have this big heavy weight in the front--but you can take the front wheel off your bike, put it on top of the frame, and then you can use straps, and they have strap loops, and--trying to think the word of it--they have places where you can take straps and like loop your bike around so it is fully attached to your packraft.
**Inmn ** 07:51 Cool. My first impression from hearing about packrafting is, one, that is exactly what I was hoping it would be. But, I guess some questions within that are that it seems highly versatile or mobile. Which, the the thing about boats that I've always thought is boats are really cool and they're really big and you're kind of tied to a boat, and you're stuck on that body of water where the boat is. But, with this, it seems like you can pretty easily be on the river and then decide to leave the river and take the boat with you?
**Blix ** 08:35 Yes, yep. And I think that's why they're so popular. I think they're also more affordable. But, it's a multimodal way to navigate places. And yeah, they've exploded in popularity. And it's kind of funny because packrafts themselves--like there's always been smaller crafts like kayaks and inflatable kayaks--but the packraft is kind of this new concept that's come about where you can pack your gear in the tubes and it packs up super small. Whereas kayaks are this big hard thing of plastic that you have to lug around. You know, same with canoes or even inflatable kayaks. Like, those don't deflate to a point where you'd want to carry them in anything. They're so heavy. So packrafts are kind of this ultralight thing that's come on to the river scene and a lot of parks and monuments--at least the monument I work in, they're not sure what to do with them. They're very particular about...like if you go pack rafting down the river, you have to have a bigger support boat. Like you can't just take your pack raft down the river because it's a single chamber. So, it's just like one...When you inflate it, the whole thing inflates. Whereas, normal rafts...I have another bigger raft. It has four different...or excuse me, mine has two chambers. Giant rafts, like 18 foot rafts, have four chambers and then the floor that inflates. So, the thing with packrafts is if you like pop it or tear it, it's going to be a bad day. And that's, I guess, my only issue with them. But, everything else is great, like how light they are. The trips I've done with packrafts and bikes and anything else, it's really nice to not be lugging around a gigantic raft and all this gear. And, it keeps you from overpacking.
**Inmn ** 10:26 Yeah, how small is, "small?" and how light is, "light?" Like, does this fit in your hiking pack?
**Blix ** 10:34 Yes, yeah, it could fit in a backpack. Like my handlebars on my bike, it fits in between the grips. Like that's how small it is. I think it packs down to like 8-10 pounds. Like it's, it's still a heavy piece of gear but nothing like a huge 2000 pound raft. You know, to me, I'm like, "Wow, this is very light and small." And then as far as like when you're sitting in it, they make different lengths. But, when I'm sitting in my packraft my feet go all the way to the front of it. And I can't think of how...They would probably be like four feet? Three feet? I don't know. I guess I've never measured mine. I just know that I fit in it. I'm not really a dimensions person. I just know that it's light and it's small. So like really specific stuff--I guess I do know how long my big raft is...But, yeah, with packrafts it's just you in the...Like, there's no room really to put other gear. You can shove stuff up by your feet and behind you, but the main idea is you're putting all of it in the tubes.
**Inmn ** 11:40 Yeah, okay. Yeah, I guess hearing that their downfall, I guess, or thing that makes them maybe not a great idea is that they can get punctured. Is that something that's likely to happen. Like, can they get punctured easily? Like, how durable are they?
**Blix ** 12:00 I guess the story that comes up is that I went on the Salt River this past spring. That's a river in northeast Arizona. There's like a--It's not the tubing section that everyone thinks about. It's like--whenever I tell people that, they're like, "What? You went whitewater on..." And I'm like, "No." There's an upper section that's a solid class 4 river--which, I suppose I should explain classes maybe after...If you're curious. But yeah, okay. But, basically, the story is we were portaging around this big rapid because I didn't feel comfortable running it. It was the end of the day. And portaging is just finding a route that we're able to walk and carry all our gear. Which, wasn't easy because we were in a very steep narrow canyon. But yeah. Someone dropped their packraft on a cactus, which, you know, you'd think--they popped bike tubes--but, their packraft had multiple holes that needed to be patched. Whereas my...I think the rafts are made of different materials...Like, my raft compared to a packraft...Because the packraft is so light, I don't think they can use as heavy duty material. I know people--and from my own experience--one of our packrafts has like gotten rubbed from paddling. Like the paddle rubbed the side and the side could get rubbed raw and then start to leak air. And I do know a lot of folks with packrafts that have a lot of patches. But, I also know...like this is where it comes into play that you need to be good at not just knowing how to paddle a raft but how to like read a river and know how to navigate water and know what hazards are, because, especially in a packraft, it's such...Like you don't want to tear it. Like even in my raft, I don't want to have a tear, but if you puncture your packraft in a significant way it's gonna sink or just be in a really bad spot. And you're going to be...because it is a single chamber and all your gear is in it...Like, that's a huge risk.
**Inmn ** 14:11 So you might just lose every...
**Blix ** 14:13 You might lose everything. And, I think you would have to mess up significantly for that to happen. But, just knowing certain hazards that I've encountered on rivers and things I've heard from other people...The material my boat's made of is this hypalon. It's really thick. Like. I've rammed it into rocks and like, it's been fine, but I also know if you hit things a certain way the like...like it's almost like a knife has cut through your boat. And I just think yeah, it would just be really...I would be really nervous and a packraft because of the single chamber aspect where if it pops, the whole thing is deflating. Whereas with my boat, if one of my tubes pops, I still have another tube that will stay inflated and I could maybe keep getting down the river...and not lose all my gear.
**Inmn ** 15:03 Yeah, yeah. And so I guess with inflatable kayaks, are those usually more durable? Or like have more chambers?
**Blix ** 15:13 They have...Each side is a chamber and then the floor is a chamber. The packraft floor is also...Wow, sorry, I usually take my big boat out, so I'm trying...I haven't taken my packraft out in a minute, but, yeah, it's just a big single chamber. But, I know that they're making very sturdy packrafts that can go down class five, like really intense whitewater, that are super durable and capable boats. And I think the technology is getting better because it's becoming so popular.
**Inmn ** 15:16 That makes sense. Yeah, I imagine in most things, there's the really dinky one that for maybe nothing more than casual water.
**Blix ** 16:02 Yep. No. And it definitely depends. Like, even different companies within the packrafting world use different material. And you can tell just by quality, what's going to be more durable than others. But, inflatable kayaks they are...like you can...We call them duckies. I'm not actually sure why we call them duckies. I've never actually thought about that. Inflatable kayak duckies. But they're very--you can't pack anything in them. So it would just all be shoved at the front of this massive pile. So I think--and also duckies, I don't...They just don't navigate the water as well because they’re so long. They just are very awkward to sit on.
**Inmn ** 16:46 So, what is involved in planning a river trip, whether that's--I guess specifically in a packraft--but in any kind of river transit with camping situation?
**Blix ** 17:01 Yeah, I think it's very similar to backpacking and bike packing in the gear you would take. You can't bring anything super bulky. You have to think about what you can fit in your tubes. A big thing that I look at when I'm planning a river trip are rapids, if there are any, what classes they are. I look at predicted flows of the river, and at what point is it flood stage, and at what point is it too low for me to run it. And this is, I think, more specific for rivers out in the West that are very susceptible to flooding and flash flooding and drying up. And then, I mean, I'm looking at the weather too. Like, do I need to bring rain jackets or food. I don't know. It's really similar to backpacking is the only way I can think about it, where I'm bringing sleeping bags and normal things that I would bring on a trip like that. I think the only difference is water. Like, you're on it so you can just bring some type of treatment to treat it. And then, figuring out where to camp along the river can be complex and complicated as well if there's like private land or, I think again, this is river dependent, if you're in a canyon there's only certain spots you can stop. So, you have to be aware of like, "I have to go this many miles today. I have to," because there are no other places to stop. And, also paying attention to water temperature and how that'll dictate if I'm wearing normal just active clothes or if I'm wearing a dry suit or a wet suit. And then, if it's a multimodal trip, which is if I'm bringing my bike or if it's just solely a river trip to be a river trip. I think also, I mean, you have to bring poop tubes. Like, you're not really allowed to...
**Inmn ** 17:10 Poop tubes? [Confused]
**Blix ** 19:00 Poop tubes. Like a PVC...You can do it yourself, but you can make one out of PVC pipe. Have one enclosed so you can pack out your poop.
**Inmn ** 19:15 Okay. [Realizing what a poop tube is]
**Blix ** 19:16 Yeah, sorry. You have to poop through a tube. [Joking] No, that's not what's going on. But, with bigger rafts and bigger trips we bring something called a Groover, which is this big, basically, toilet so you're packing all that out. Because, if you're all going to the bathroom on like the same beaches and campgrounds and there's not many of them, it turns into a litter box and it's really gross.
**Inmn ** 19:41 I see. I've heard of this on--and maybe it seems like more...Curious on your perspective. So, I've heard of this on especially popular hiking trails and especially multi-day hiking trails that there are spaces where they've literally just become large toilets. And there's so much human shit around buried. It's a big problem ecologically.
**Blix ** 20:12 No, I think I've read a study where I feel like in a lot of national forest and parks the ground is just...they test soil and it always includes human feces, which is deeply disturbing to me. But, I honestly think--and maybe this is a hot take--I think river folks and people who are on the river are really good at packing out feces. And with...Only because--especially in canyons--and maybe this is different out east--but again, there are only these small little spaces that can be used for camping. So again, if somebody shits everywhere, for some reason, people are going to know. And also the National Monument, at least where I work, keeps track of who's camping--because they assigned campsites to people where they can go--so they would probably know the party that like pooped everywhere. And also, they won't let you on the river unless you have a Groover or a way to pack out your feces. Like, they won't let you. They check your gear list. So, it's a highly regulated and permitted activity. For now. That could change. But even then...I...Yeah, you just have to pack out your poop. And then we all pee in the river. That's just what you do. But yeah, I think typically river folks are better than hiking and yeah...There's emergencies, but we're always carrying Wag Bags too.
**Inmn ** 21:49 Wag Bags?
**Blix ** 21:50 It's basically like a dog bag for your own poop, right? Yeah. Yep.
**Inmn ** 22:00 Wow. The river community is certainly, I feel like, better than a lot of other niche sub groups at naming things.
**Blix ** 22:09 Oh, yeah. I think it...Even like rapids where I'm like, "Really? This is...this is what this rapid is called?" Like...
**Inmn ** 22:19 Like what?
**Blix ** 22:22 I think a lot of them are just intense names. But, like one of them's called Schoolboy or like Fluffy Bunny Rapid or whatever the hell. And, it's like this is...Yeah, I don't know. We have, I feel like, nicknames for a lot of stuff, but...I guess it separates us from the other people? [Said unconvincingly] But, I think guides and river folk also get a bad rap for being adrenaline junkie, like really intense, obnoxious people. So, I won't say that it's a perfect community by any means because it's not, but it's definitely creative.
**Inmn ** 23:03 What are some of the dangers of river travel in general, but I guess, you know, specifically we're talking about packrafting or camping as you raft.
**Blix ** 23:13 Oh, man. Yeah, there's a lot. I'm trying to think of what I talk about in my safety talk of things we need to be aware of as people on rivers. I think, in general, with any outdoor activity there's the risks of cuts and bruises and broken bones and infections and just things that can happen day to day even if you're not on a river. So, like camp dangers. Which, I think a big thing with rivers that I see are like injured feet with people taking their shoes off on beaches and then running around and running into the water and getting a stick up their foot. [Inmn makes a horrified reaction noise] Yeah, or cutting their foot on a rock. But, river specific dangers, my own standard is I never want to be in the water. Like, out of my boat in the water. I don't enjoy swimming whitewater. It's a personal project I've tried to work on this past summer by forcing myself to swim in rapids. But, hazards that I think of for packrafting is the same with any other--like even if I was in a big raft I'd be thinking about the same thing--but, Keeper Holes, which is a funny...So think about a huge boulder or rock in a river and there's water pouring over it. There's certain...We call them holes because it creates this like giant space behind the rock where the water is kind of...it can recirculate. And if you fall in, or not fall, but float or are getting carried downstream into one of these, there is a risk that you will not be able to swim out of it where you're just getting recirculated underwater.
**Inmn ** 24:59 I see, yeah.
**Blix ** 25:00 Eternally.
**Inmn ** 25:01 Eternally.
**Blix ** 25:02 Yeah. And, I know you said you have fears about rivers. I don't want to freak you out, but...
**Inmn ** 25:11 No, please.
**Blix ** 25:13 Okay.
**Inmn ** 25:14 Yeah, I have an utter fascination with water and water travel and also a, you know, horrifying fear of water, which is weird because I'm a triple water sign, but moderately terrified.
**Blix ** 25:28 I think it's okay to be afraid of rivers, because when things go wrong, they go wrong very quickly. And you also are on a timeline if someone is in the water, if that makes sense. But, another thing that I think about for hazards is something called a Strainer. So that's when...
**Inmn ** 25:29 Y'all are really good at naming things.
**Blix ** 25:29 I know, I know. It's terrifying. So, it's when a tree or log falls into the river. And, the way I describe it in my safety talk is when you use strainers at home and you dump the water through, the water goes through, but the noodles get stuck, right?
**Inmn ** 26:10 Yeah.
**Blix ** 26:10 We are human noodles.
**Inmn ** 26:12 Oh God.
**Blix ** 26:12 So, when there's logs or sticks, they tend to pile up in the river and create this huge entrapment hazard. So, if you get flushed into one of those, it's pretty difficult to get out. Like, you will probably get trapped. Another thing is something called foot entrapment, which happens when rivers are shallower. And this is when you're in the water and you can feel the bottom of the river and you're thinking, "Oh, I'm gonna stand up to stop myself." So, you stand up. There's tons of rocks and sticks under the water. Your foot can get stuck under them and push you underwater because you're still...like the pressure of the water is still coming on to you. Does that makes sense? [Inmn makes an affirmative sound] So, you don't ever want to stop yourself with your feet.
**Inmn ** 27:01 Okay, that would be my first instinct.
**Blix ** 27:04 Yeah, don't do that. Yeah, that's a huge hazard. It's super easy to avoid. For me, that would be the scariest thing that could happen hazard-wise on a river, as my own person. And...because your instinct is "I'm gonna put my feet down to stand up." Yeah, but I've had close calls with foot entrapment. And, if you have even one of them, you will never do it again, just because of how quick the water will push you under. Super scary. Another hazard...[Laughing. Overwhelmed] I'll just keep going?
**Inmn ** 27:41 Please tell me all of the ways that I can perish on the river. Which will definitely mean that I will try packrafting. [Dry and sarcastic]
**Blix ** 27:49 Yeah. I think you should. It's super fun. I think, again, being aware of these hazards and knowing what to do in situations or read the river. Reading rivers is going to empower you. And I think fear is just a lot of what we don't understand or know, right? And on rivers like--I mean, there's also very legitimate fears of like, "This is fucked."--but, rivers, usually if I can see a log in the river, I know to not go near it. If I'm in the water, I know not to stand up and put my feet down to stop myself. But...
**Inmn ** 28:31 No, that makes sense. That is the line that we keep saying on this podcast is preparedness is all about preparing for things that you're afraid of so that you don't have to think about them anymore because you have a plan. And this seems to just be that.
**Blix ** 28:48 Yeah. No, and I'm terrified of all these things, but I should know what to do if that happens. Yeah, there's... I'm trying to think. Other hazards are like Sieves where it's like rock fall and it funnels you through a really tight space and you can get jammed in there. Undercut walls or rocks is when the water erodes away the space underneath it and creates a pocket for you to get sucked under and into. [Inmn makes noises of terror] I'm so sorry.
**Inmn ** 29:24 You all can't see me obviously. But, I assume I have this look of just visceral terror.
**Blix ** 29:31 Yeah, that's all right. That's...Usually when I give a safety talk, everyone's faces turn from excitement to complete terror. Or, sometimes kids start crying and I'm like, "Okay, let's go have fun on the river today!" Those are kind of the big ones that I can think of off the top of my head besides drowning. Drowning is...You know, cold water is a huge one where if you're In the water and it's freezing, your body is gonna start shutting down. I think you have 10 minutes to like figure it out.
**Inmn ** 30:07 Ten minutes!?
**Blix ** 30:07 Yeah. I think sometimes even less time.
**Inmn ** 30:10 In like what temperature water?
**Blix ** 30:14 Um. Oh geez. I feel like 50 degrees, maybe 60? I think it also is body dependent and how well your body is insulated or able to keep warm. Yeah, there's definitely...Like, the start of my season, I'm wearing a dry suit. Which is...Are you? I guess I could explain?
**Inmn ** 30:38 Yeah, a dry suit keeps you dry. Wetsuit keeps you a little bit wet but in a way that is insulative and warm?
**Blix ** 30:45 Yeah, so like wetsuits work by, you get wet, but the water close to your body, that's contained in the wetsuit, warms up to your body temperature. So, it's keeping you--at least that's how I understand it--so, it's keeping you somewhat warm. Dry suit is a suit you wear that has gaskets over your wrists and neck and your feet. You're completely enclosed in this goretex super suit. You look super cool. But nothing...You could wear street clothes underneath and they would stay perfectly dry.
**Inmn ** 31:17 So you can go LARP [Live Action Role Play] in your like "Dune" LARP?
**Blix ** 31:22 Yeah,basically, it's like a...What is it, still suit? But the opposite. It's not keeping moisture in. Just keeping you dry and warm, hopefully. But yeah. Those are like the hazards I can think of off the top of my head.
**Inmn ** 31:39 And then there's the obvious ones, like anything related to camping or being outdoors?
**Blix ** 31:43 Yeah. And, you know, you probably want to wear a helmet when you're rafting because of impacts with rocks or...You know, like, there's a lot of things that can go wrong once you're in the water, depending on what kind of rapid you're in or anything like that.
**Inmn ** 32:03 Yeah. And there's a thing called swiftwater rescue?
**Blix ** 32:11 Yep, um, I am swiftwater rescue certified. And I think if anyone is doing any type of river activity that you should definitely take the class. I don't know. It's expensive, but the knowledge you gained from it, I think, just keeps not only yourself safe as you can be on the river but everybody else around you. And it teaches you things like wading correctly, you know, throw bag techniques, if you wrap a boat, or how to unpin a raft that's wrapped around a rock potentially, techniques for helping people who are like in a foot entrapment situation, which isn't great, swimming out to people, how to swim in whitewater, or try to swim in Whitewater, how to, if you can't get away from a strainer, what to do if you are coming upon logs and sticks in the water. I will say my swiftwater class kind of terrified me because it just made me hyper aware of everything that could go wrong and then what I would possibly have to do to help somebody. But yeah, super intense class physically and mentally. And, yeah, it taught me a lot. But I do feel like I would be able to help in a rescue situation instead of just being some random person who's like just panicking and being like, "I don't know what to do!" So, that feels good. But I would probably still panic to a certain degree.
**Inmn ** 33:52 That makes sense, because the principle of any kind of first aid or rescue is, "Don't become another patient."
**Blix ** 34:02 Right?
**Inmn ** 34:03 And so, if you're not trained to rescue someone from one of those situations, it might be just more dangerous to try to rescue them.
**Blix ** 34:13 Yeah. And it's frustrating. It makes me think, like, I take a lot of families down the river and there's, you know, small kids. And, parents always make the comment, "Well, if my kid goes in, I'm gonna jump in after them," which is, you know, then me as a guide, I have to figure out in that scenario, possibly, "Am I saving the parent or the kid?"
**Inmn ** 34:14 Yeah.
**Blix ** 34:14 If I can. Obviously, I want to try to save both but...and I always tell parents, "Hey, if you're not trained in swiftwater rescue, I would not recommend jumping out of my raft to help your kid. You're more help to me in this raft than you are in the water trying to help your child."
**Inmn ** 35:02 Yeah. Do you ever just tell them bluntly, "If you do that, then I will be in a situation where I have to choose between which one of you to save."
**Blix ** 35:11 Yeah, no. Yeah, I do tell them that if they're being very serious about it and I also try to remind folks that untrained first responders have a very high mortality rate. Which, it's like, you know, I don't understand because I don't have children, but I've seen people I care about swimming in rapids and of course I want to help them but jumping into whitewater is never a good solution. But yeah, I do tell them, "You're gonna make me have a really hard decision to save you or your child, possibly." So. Yeah, it just makes it more complicated.
**Inmn ** 36:02 To switch gears a little bit, you know, away from all the grim horror...
**Blix ** 36:07 Yeah.
**Inmn ** 36:08 ...And into some more but differently contextualized grim horror. So, one of the big reasons I wanted to have someone on to talk about packrafting is that we have a lot of...I think knowing different ways to travel is incredibly important and, you know, coupled with my fear of water but also my fascination with water and boat travel, is when I saw "Fellowship of the Ring" when I was ten all I could think about was boat travel, boat travel, boat travel.
**Blix ** 36:49 As one does when they watch that movie, more so than anything else in that movie. [Laughing]
**Inmn ** 36:53 Yeah, they really...They really made a fun choice...or Tolkein when writing that and they're like, "And then they got on boats," and it's like holy crap. Incredible. How do I get a boat?
**Blix ** 37:05 How do I get a boat that looks that cool?
**Inmn ** 37:09 How do I get a boat that looks that cool? And, you know, I feel like the boats that they have in that book are, they're made by elves, and so they're kind of packraftish in that they're abnormally light.
**Blix ** 37:24 Yes.
**Inmn ** 37:25 And so they like do--I'm going to use a fun word that I just learned, I think--portage.
**Blix ** 37:30 Yes.
**Inmn ** 37:31 They get the points where they're like, "Yeah, that's a waterfall. I guess we're gonna pick up the boat and carry it around."
**Blix ** 37:37 Yeah. And it's a super light elf boat, so it weighs nothing. I'm sure that one person could carry it, knowing the elves.
**Inmn ** 37:43 Yeah. But, the part that was really interesting to me, too, is the reasons why they took to the river and why I'm interested in learning about packrafting, which is, you know, the big reason that they did that was to sneak past the orcs ,which...or the enemy who had all the roads watched, they had the woods patrolled, and they were suddenly in the situation where they were like, "Well, we got to get there somehow." And so, they took to the river. And so, the thing that I...The piece that I want to bring into the context now is from a situation of preparedness, whether that's preparing for road closures due to the malicious setting of checkpoints or the road is destroyed due to some other kind of disaster...You know, these disasters could be that a right-wing militia has taken over your state, and you're trying to leave that state right, to a more environmentally related disaster has destroyed some kind of key infrastructure, and you are looking for an alternative means to get somewhere. And yeah, I'm curious...I'm wondering if you have ever thought about this and if you have any opinions if...would packrafting help you? Could packrafting be a useful thing in your preparedness kit?
**Blix ** 39:18 Yeah, I've definitely thought about this. I think it...Well, it depends. I think in Arizona, we don't have a ton of rivers that we could--and they all for the most part are like...you know, there is an endpoint. And they are going literally...Like, once you're on the river, you are stuck going that way. I do think because of...Getting to the entry point--I'm just thinking of the Salt river because it's the river that we have here. Also, you could do the Grand Canyon, but that's really intense...
**Inmn ** 39:59 And like maybe our context out here in the west in Arizona is like...It's not specifically what I'm thinking of.
**Blix ** 40:06 Yeah, just in general.
**Inmn ** 40:07 Where, there's obviously other places with much more dense and spread out waterways.
**Blix ** 40:13 Yeah. I think it would be a very quick and efficient way to travel if you had a specific place you're going to along that route because you're not encumbered by like...Like, if people are backpacking or biking, you can't just start cutting...Like, backpacking you could cut right into a forest. But, if I was on a bike, I couldn't just turn my bike off the road and just start riding through a forest. Like, that would be super slow. I'd probably be walking my bike a lot. Whereas with river travel, you can go--I think it's, again, river dependent on the speed of the water and a lot of that stuff...But, I don't imagine that people would be patrolling waterways the way they would do with roads. The only thing I think about is if you're on a river anywhere, you'd have to think about when I need to exit before I get to go past a town or go under a bridge, because I think bridges would be huge points where people would post up at, or entry points into a certain area. So, you'd have to think about when I would need to get off to avoid those places. And then how would I get back onto the river? Can I get back onto it? Is there an access point? I'd be thinking about, you know, are their dams on the way? But yeah, honestly, if I could find a way to get onto the Salt River, I would try to post up in there for a while. Especially during the initial fallout. Because I think, if I can anticipate that and get to the river, I could stay in there with enough food in my packraft to be there for maybe two or three weeks because I have unlimited water for the most part, if the Salt's flowing, but it's a very steep narrow canyon that people can't access very well. But, I do wonder if other people would have the same idea with like, "There's water there. And it's hard to get to."
**Inmn ** 40:14 Yeah, like, that's the interesting thing about it is it provides these weird little--not like short cuts--but these fairly easy routes through a lot of places that could otherwise be hard to access, but you're also then stuck on it. So yeah, it seems like a double-edge sword.
**Blix ** 42:16 It is. And I think, especially with really remote rivers, like even the rivers that I guide on, there's pretty much one way to get in, and then you're in a canyon for a really long time, and there's one way to get out. And like there's a few evacuation points here and there that we've used--they're not great to hike out of--but, I would worry that those sites would also be...Like, would people think to have guards there or set up there to catch people coming down the river? You know? Like, possibly. You know, who knows? I also just...I don't think like...Like, when I think right-wing militia, I feel like they all have jet boats. So, they're not going to be thinking about these little streams and stuff that you can take a packraft on.
**Inmn ** 43:37 Yeah, and there's so many weird small water arrays. You know, not here in Arizona, but...
**Blix ** 43:41 Right. Well, I'm just thinking like Minnesota, there's tons of creeks and rivers and lakes and there's islands in the lakes that are...Like, think places you can get to that you could like...If it's only accessible via water, you could have stashes there that other people couldn't get to.
**Inmn ** 44:02 Yeah. So, a weird dream that I had as a 20 year old oogle.
**Blix ** 44:10 Yes. Perfect. [Laughing]
**Inmn ** 44:15 Was to set up funny little like--I didn't realize that I was thinking about this like being a prepper--I was like, "I want to set up all these like little caches. Like, I want to build these weird sheds with bikes and little like inflatable rafts and food stores underneath them. And so you could just, you know, ride trains or whatever and just end up at the weird little safe house, bunker ,like whatever, cache. I got weirdly obsessed with it. I wish that I had been cool enough to have actually done it, but I absolutely did not. Only fantasized about it.
**Blix ** 44:54 No, I think...I do think it's a great option. I don't think it's the end-all thing that you should completely stick to. I think it should be like a multimodal thing. I think, honestly, backpacking and packrafting is like the best combination. Because, I think about with just backpacking, like what if there is a river you need to cross? Or, a body of water that you have to cross and you don't want to swim with a huge backpack? I don't know. I just...And I don't think people...Like, they're gonna be traveling by road, bikes, cars, like I don't think packrafts are well known enough, currently, that people would be looking for crafts in water, especially in smaller waterways.
**Inmn ** 44:54 Yeah, yeah. And I feel like that is exactly what the Fellowship of the Ring thought.
**Blix ** 45:50 Yes. Yes. I also think...One thing is like, what if the orcs just went to the river edge? They could just pick them off. Like they're moving fast, but I also think you could shoot arrows at them?
**Inmn ** 46:09 So, they did at some point. They only traveled at night to make it harder for them to shoot at them.
**Blix ** 46:14 Yeah, Right. Right. No, it's okay.
**Inmn ** 46:17 But, you know, we do have this dissimilar...We're not on an equal playing field with like bows and arrows in the dark vs the kind of technology that people have access to now with guns and things like that. That would be my first thing is like, if I was going down a major waterway in a canyon, like I would probably not choose this as a way to escape a militia. Like, you're on a canyon wall with a long range gun...
**Blix ** 46:47 Yeah, for sure.
**Inmn ** 46:48 ...And I'm a tiny slow moving object out in the open...
**Blix ** 46:51 Right. No, It's something that I also think about where it would be so easy to just put yourself in a really bad spot if you chose the wrong waterway to go on. Like, I would never be like, "I would use a packraft to travel the Mississippi in those types of times," because I think people would just be near them. I do think though, like, hard to access canyons are still...Like, if you needed to just lay low for a while, would be the place to go. Because, I think the amount of effort it would take to post up on a canyon edge in some of those places is astronomical. Like, no one, I feel like, is going to go--unless you're someone who was really important for people to get to or--like, no one's going to put in that effort, especially in the desert with water being so scarce and like...Yeah.
**Inmn ** 46:52 Yeah, Always fun to think about these, you know...Like, "fun." ["Fun," said in a dry sarcastic and questioning way] These terror fantasies that we might be encountered with in the next decade or...currently of far-right violence and having to figure out creative ways to escape it. But, also always want to think about more environmentally related disasters. Like I think...It's like there's things that I...I get really scared here in the desert. Like, one of the big things that I am scared of is getting physically trapped here if there's like gas and energy crisis.
**Blix ** 48:33 Oh, right. Yes. Yeah.
**Inmn ** 48:34 Figuring out alternative ways to leave--which like, packrafting is not the solution to do that--but thinking about in other places, like, you know, if we're not expecting...like, if our main threat model isn't far-right violence, could packrafting or river travel in general--and maybe we're graduating to the larger raft at this point--could river travel be a helpful thing during other kinds of disasters?
**Blix ** 49:06 I think, well, I think of forest fires, like escaping to a body of water or a canyon is a great way to try to mitigate being trapped in a forest that's literally on fire. Because a lot...hopefully nothing's going to catch on fire in the water. That'd be wild.
**Inmn ** 49:06 Stranger things have happened.
**Blix ** 49:06 Yeah, I know. So yeah, I think as a means to escape forest fires is great. I think the one thing I think about, especially here in the West, is where our water is going to go. And as someone who guides on a tributary to the Grand Canyon, and the Grand Canyon obviously feeding into Lake Powell and Glenn Canyon and all that stuff, people are constantly talking about water and water rights. And, you know, my fear is that we're...People are going to start hoarding. And by people, I mean, companies and government, they're going to hoard water in these giant reservoirs. And, they're not going to release any to fill up canyons and river beds because it's just going to be such a critical resource. And my thought is that when it gets to that point, they are going to shut off the reservoirs from releasing water and they are just going to keep all of it.
**Inmn ** 49:44 Oh no.
**Blix ** 50:18 And, I don't know that river travel will be feasible in the West, except if it's on an undammed river, which there's only...I think the Yampa River, which is a river I guide on, is the last undammed tributary to the Grand Canyon. It is like one of the last wild rivers, which is super susceptible to floods. So, that's another disaster. Whereas with climate change, we're getting these more extreme...Like, they had almost record breaking snowfall in Colorado in the area that feeds into this river. So, the river was flowing at this...It was fine at like 22,000 CFS, which is cubic feet per second. And the way I describe this to people, it's like if I threw a rope from one riverbank to the other, and every second 22,000 basketball sized amounts of water is flowing by.
**Inmn ** 51:35 Wow.
**Blix ** 51:35 Or you could say baby-sized. 22,000 babies are floating by every second. So, it's a ton of water, which being on a river that has that...And so it can be up to, you know, I think the highest flow the Yampa has ever been is like 30,000, which is...I can't even fathom how scary that river would be. But, it can go all the way down to no flow at all. So like, if you can't...if people take out river gauges there's no way of knowing what the flows are going to be for rivers. You would have to show up there with your watercraft and be like, "Well, I hope there's water for me to escape," which I think river travel in the east or a place where there's more water is a better solution than river travel out here in the West. But, as far as natural disasters go and things that could happen, like, if you're trying to escape somewhere due to that, I think we're in a pretty not great place here. Like, the only river I can think of would be going down the Grand. Which is really big water. It ends in...you know, like...You know, like, it's so dependent on...and especially like what if they blow up dams? What if they blow up the reservoirs? Which, what if you're camped along that canyon and someone upstream blows up the reservoir? This is again, all things I've thought about, where it's like, you're gonna get washed away.
**Inmn ** 53:11 Yeah, very true. They did just do that in Ukraine. Russia blew up the largest reservoir in Europe.
**Blix ** 53:20 Oh, wait. Yes. Yeah, I did see that. Yep. So that's something...I mean, it's something I think about where I think people would blow that up, especially if people downstream needed water.
**Inmn ** 53:34 Yeah. Yeah.
**Blix ** 53:38 Sorry this is...[Both making sounds about how grim this all is] But...I know...But, I also think the river lends itself to...You know, like, there's fish. You can eat fish, you can...There's lots of food and really fertile soil that can grow along rivers. So, if you had to post up and figure it out, like, I would want to be close to a body of water.
**Inmn ** 54:03 Thank you for bringing it back to hope and why this could be helpful.
**Blix ** 54:05 Yeah, right. And I think a thing with river stuff as well, and why I love it so much, is it's not an activity that you necessarily want to do alone. In fact, I would like recommend that no one do any river activity alone. But like, you want to be with a community of people on the water, like setting up safety, and sending someone downstream to check that there's no river hazards, and then like having people come through, and you're working as a team constantly. And, you can have people...Like, if someone is injured, someone else could take more gear and like it's...You can carry more things in a pack raft than you could on your back because like--I mean, eventually I think you'd have to carry them on your back--but the water is going to help you with that weight. Or, you can even pull another empty packraft behind you with more gear. Yeah, I think I would very much want to be close to a body or water or a river of some kind.
**Inmn ** 54:07 Cool. Um, I think I...One of my last questions is--I'm expecting the answer to be grim again [Blix makes a disappointing groan]--but I'm curious as someone who like works on waterways in the West, how are they? What are they like with climate change?
**Blix ** 55:26 Oh, yeah. River or the canyons or the water itself?
**Inmn ** 55:33 Everything. Yeah, water and canyons in the West. Yeah, I'm terrified to hear the answer.
**Blix ** 55:42 So, I think I notice...Like, when they had to fill up Glen Canyon, I think it was last year, they did a big dam release from the Flaming Gorge dam, which is up river where I guide. So, I'm kind of hyper aware of when shit is bad downstream because they have to do these big releases. But I know this year was a really good year for rivers, especially the ones I guide on, because of the large snowfall that they got in Colorado. Like, we had really high nice water forever. The rivers were all really healthy. But, I think I've...Two years ago I took a group of politicians from Utah down the river. They were like Congress people. Because my company did it. I wasn't like, "I want to take these people..." No, I would never be like, "I want to take these people down the river." But< the point of it was to show these--they were all men--to show these men that the rivers were worth saving, and not like damming up, not drilling for oil and everything in this area. And the moment we got back in the vans to shuttle back, they started talking about canyons they had seen to dam up along the route we had gone on.
**Inmn ** 57:04 Oh my god.
**Blix ** 57:07 But, I think it's because all the water that I guide on is already owned by somebody downstream.
**Inmn ** 57:18 Okay, like, “owned by” because it gets used?
**Blix ** 57:21 Yes. Like, the Green River gives water to 33 million people. But, it's bizarre to think about water as being something that's owned?
**Inmn ** 57:40 I thought it was like that one thing that wasn't for a while.
**Blix ** 57:43 Same. No, it's coming to light that it has been. Yeah. But, we mention that to a lot of people we take down the river that all this water belongs to somebody else. Like, this is not ours. This is not like our collective water.
**Inmn ** 58:00 Yeah. It's not here for our collective survival.
**Blix ** 58:03 Yeah, no, it's for somebody downstream. Which, I mean, they need water too. But I think it's...honestly the rivers I guide on--and maybe this is again is a hot take--but I am not hopeful that they will flow within the next 10 years. I think as water rights and like water wars become more prevalent, I think states are going to start withholding. Like, I think Flaming Gorge is mostly in Wyoming and they could decide to just not--I think it would have a chain reaction if they decided to not leave water let water out. Because all the farms downstream would die. Blah, blah, blah. People would be without that. But um, yeah. But, I'm also, with climate change, it was odd. Like, the first year I worked there, there was no water, there was hardly any water coming down the river. It was super low. Our boats were getting stuck. And I just became hyper aware of how fucked stuff was for some reason. But then this year was so good for water that I was like, "Oh, maybe it won't be so bad." But then I keep...You know, like I think it really...Who's to say? If they dam up more rivers, which I think they might start, then I think that's going to change the game a lot for river travel and it's going to be really dependent on how much water we have access to.
**Inmn ** 58:03 Yeah, yeah. Which, that's one of the big key problems is not necessarily there being lack of water, but rather that water is being mismanaged or hoarded.
**Blix ** 59:46 Yeah, I think it's a combination of all of that. And where I guide it's desert, but then the valley after the canyon is all alfalfa fields, which is a really water intensive crop. So then and I...Like, they flood their fields. And it's just like this disconnect of this is not like an infinite resource. And, it's interesting to me that that is this...Yeah, there's a whole lot to unpack with water rights and water usage. And, I think that could even trickle to out East. You know, because who's to say that they won't suffer droughts and experience creeks and rivers drying up? But...I know that is kind of a grim answer. But...
**Inmn ** 59:47 The name of the show is Live Like the World is Dying.
**Blix ** 1:00:46 True.
**Inmn ** 1:00:47 Okay. Well, that's about all the time that we have for today. Is there? Is there anything else? Is there anything that I didn't ask you that I should have asked you or that you would really love to bring into the conversation? Or have any last words of hope for the river? Or just like why...Is packrafting fun? Is it just fun?
**Blix ** 1:01:13 It is fun. Yeah, I really want to encourage anyone who's curious about going on rivers or river travel, I love it. Because, I think I mentioned, it's such a community oriented activity versus backpacking and bike packing and other stuff I do that's very, "You're the individual out there fending for yourself," for river stuff I really love because you're always working as a team. You're always trying to keep everybody safe. You learn a lot about yourself. Learning to read rivers, I think, is like a superhero skill. Like, I feel like a tracker. Like, I feel like Aragorn, like, "Oh, I can read this like little miniscule thing that maybe other people missed. And I know..." Like, it's a really cool thing to look at a river and being able to tell what is causing certain waves or currents. Understanding that, I think is...Even if you're just someone who has to cross a river every now then, whether you're backpacking or bikepacking, like being able to figure out the safest place to cross is an important skill to have. But, river river travel and rafting and all that is super fun. Yeah, I would love to have more friends who do river stuff. So yeah.
**Inmn ** 1:01:22 Cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on. And good luck on the river.
**Blix ** 1:02:38 Thank you so much.
**Inmn ** 1:02:43 Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed the show then go packrafting with your bike and then please tell me about it or invite me along to live out my "Lord of the Rings" fantasies. Or, you can just tell people about the show. You can support this podcast by telling people about it. You can support the show by talking about it on social media, by rating, and reviewing, and doing whatever the nameless algorithm calls for. And, you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Our Patreon helps pay for things like transcriptions or our lovely audio editor, Bursts, as well as going to support our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness is the publisher of this podcast and a few other podcasts, including my other show Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. I'm trying to see how many times I can say the name of the project at one time. But, that is a monthly podcast of anarchists literature. And then there's the Anarcho Geek Power Hour, which is a good podcast for people who love movies and hate cops. And, we would like to shout out some of our patrons in particular. Thank you so much. Perceval, Buck, Jacob, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Janice & Odell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thank you so much. We could seriously not do any of this without y'all. And I hope that everyone is doing as well as they can with everything that's going on and we will talk to you soon.
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