Women On Water: River Trips for Women by Women

Women On Water: River Trips for Women by Women

Women on Water

River Trips for Women by Women

The “Women on Water” (WOW) expeditions began in 2018 to provide women with rewarding experiences on multi-day fishing and rafting trips on acclaimed Pacific Northwest rivers.

TFT Board Member and Founder of A to Z Wineworks Deb Hatcher led the initial charge, after recognizing that women leaders rarely have the same exciting, nature-oriented opportunities as men to not only challenge their physical abilities as a group, but also make connections and become involved in environmental causes as a result.

The first trip launched in 2018 on the Middle Fork Salmon River. The expeditions garnered so much interest from attendees and their networks that two trips were hosted in 2019, one down the Rogue and another down the Middle Fork again. Each trip is guided by Helfrich Outfitters of Idaho and Oregon and features women guides, such as CEO Kelsey Helfrich.

Trips are invite-only and reserved for leaders, founders and C-suite execs. Michelle Cardinal, Founder & CEO of Rain the Growth Agency, one of the largest advertising agencies in the state, attended the trip twice. Other women in attendance have included Kim Malek, founder of Salt & Straw, Emma Mcllroy, founder and CEO of WildFang, Vanessa Sturgeon, CEO of TMT Development, and Jamie Danek Founder & CEO of Humm Kombucha.

WOW attendees pay a fee to cover the costs of the trip. Participants also have the opportunity to contribute to the WOW Fund, which provides scholarships for emerging women leaders and supports TFT’s river restoration and conservation efforts. To date, the organization has raised more than $30,000 towards the WOW Fund.


“Far from the pressure and pace of our daily world, WOW offers a rare, wild water journey with fellow women executives and leaders. While experiencing the river’s beauty and power, stress dissolves, relationships develop and conversations enlighten.  In an improbably short time, deeply satisfying connections result, both to one another and the river, discovering ways we might collectively work toward a better future.” – Deb Hatcher, Founder and CEO of A to Z Wineworks


Find this article at: https://www.thefreshwatertrust.org/women-on-water/
Tim Gunderson’s Trek to Everest Basecamp

Tim Gunderson’s Trek to Everest Basecamp

Many of us have bucket list items, but what prompts a person to follow through with those dreams?  When Marilyn and I married in 1995, in our early 30s, we discovered that we both had a dream of trekking in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal.  Her dream was to see the Khumbu Icefall, mine was to see the tallest mountain. We decided that a trek to Everest Base Camp would satisfy both of our dreams.

We spent years reading adventure stories about the Himalayas, watching documentaries, and talking about the possibility of a trek.  In October of 2021 I was reading Sir Edmund Hillary’s autobiography about his expeditions and all the work his foundation did in the region after his 1953 summit of Mt. Everest. I woke up one morning and said to Marilyn, I think it’s time to pull the trigger on our trek. Her response? I’m in.

On December 15 we booked a 15-day trek with Adventure Great Himalaya (AGH) in Kathmandu beginning September 24, 2022. We considered just the two of us going but then thought we might have friends and family that have the same dream.  In the end “The Idaho

Contingent” was 7 people, one being our nephew and professional videographer, Jonathan Conti.  AGH made all of the necessary arrangements. They provided a guide and four porters so we just carried a day pack. Each night we stayed in teahouses, 2 people per room, and all meals were provided along the trail.

We considered a DIY trip, but after 33 years of guiding on rivers I felt more comfortable being guided. Our lead guide, Nanda, has 15 years guiding in the Himalayas and his knowledge and connections with the locals proved to be invaluable. Our 4 porters carried the bulk of our gear carrying 60 pounds each. Despite their loads they walked much faster than we did and each day our bags were waiting for us when we arrived at the teahouse. Porters are often erroneously called “sherpas”, but Sherpas are a people from the Khumbu Valley.  Although the Sherpa people often work as porters, not all porters are Sherpas.

Upon arrival in Kathmandu, we spent three days touring the city and trying to resolve the jet lag after a 29+ hour, 4 airport trip.  On September 24th we helicoptered into Lukla at 9813 feet and began our 38-mile trek.  The goal; Everest Base Camp at 17,598 feet in 8 days. We covered 4-7 miles a day, averaging about 1 mile per hour hiking. That may sound slow but it is necessary to go slow to acclimatize to the altitude. People that hike too quickly often suffer from altitude sickness.

You can imagine that the scenery is stunning. Our first few days hiking in a lush forest were a bit wet as it was the end of monsoon season, but the rivers and waterfalls were absolutely gushing.  As we gained altitude the vegetation thinned and snow-capped peaks soared above the valley floor to over 20,000 feet.  You gain a lot of altitude in the Himalayas.  It seems most every stride you take is up, up, up including thousands of rock steps. On the morning of Day 5 the clouds thinned and we got our first view of Mt. Everest.  It is awe-inspiring to be looking at a mountain knowing that there is no point taller on earth.

We were just ahead of the busy tourist season so the trail was fairly empty but for the yaks, mules, donkeys, and Nepalese carrying loads up to the villages and teahouses higher in the mountains. Everything beyond Lukla is carried up by an animal or human.  It’s astounding what some of the Nepalese carry. We saw one man carrying 3 sheets of 3/4“ plywood on his back.

Once above tree line at 14,000 feet, the air is noticeably thinner and altitude sickness is a concern as statistics show that 50% of trekkers will feel some effects of altitude sickness.  Marilyn did great but I experienced a bit of lightheadedness and loss of appetite for about 4 days. Porridge and Snickers bars were the only things that sounded good to me. It makes for a great weight loss system as I lost about 15 pounds!  Luckily, Snickers and other western snacks are available at virtually every teahouse and shop along the trail.  Want a pizza at 16,000 feet? You can have it and it’s pretty good!  The next several days were a trudge through the rocky moraine of the Khumbu Glacier including passing through a memorial site when people pay homage to those that have lost their lives in the Himalaya. Eventually our entire group arrived at Everest Base Camp, which we found out is not a given. Many people fall short of the goal due to altitude and fitness.  From base camp we could see the tents of an expedition on the mountain and stood before the Khumbu Icefall, a very dangerous area of shifting ice blocks, many stories tall, that every Everest climber must pass through.

When you turn your back on Everest Base Camp you begin a 4 day hike out to Lukla, there to catch a hair-raising flight out of one of the most dangerous airstrips in the world. As mentioned, our nephew Jonathan is a professional videographer from Boise and put together this 28-minute video entitled Sagarmatha, the Nepalese name for Everest.

For Marilyn and I, this trip was the culmination of a dream that spanned 25 years.  Our advice to anyone who has a bucket list item, if the time is right for you, pull the trigger.  If it’s not the right time, make a commitment to finding the right time and do it. We think you won’t regret it.



Helpful Hints – Planning River Trips with Kids

Helpful Hints – Planning River Trips with Kids

We recommend kids be ages 5 and over.  This depends on the individual child and the time of year.  Our office staff are happy to talk to you about your kids as you are booking to make sure it is the right trip for them.  June trips are better for kids 12 and up.  July and August trips are known for being great for all ages.

Kids on Rivers

Kids on Rivers

Why is a River Trip the Best Thing you Could Do for Your Family and Your Kids?

For starters there just is not a better family vacation out there!  We may be biased but hear us out.

Picture yourself on a summer vacation. A vacation in a beautiful setting, with your family and friends, where you don’t have to make decisions. Imagine a vacation where there is no arguing over activities, restaurants, or transportation.  A vacation where you can be together as a family but not have to spend every waking moment together.  What’s better?  On this trip, there is no phone service or WiFi and everyone is having too much fun to even miss it. Almost sounds too good to be true?  Well, that’s what our trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon are all about. 

From a parents perspective you may be thinking how great it would be not to have to enforce “screen time hours” or deal with the constant need for technology our kids seem to have. However, have you thought about the last time YOU spent a week with your family without your phone? Being fully present in the moment is a gift both you and your kids deserve.  

It is truly a pleasure to see families disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with each other over the course of six days on the water.  You see a noticeable shift in individual guests of all ages but also in their relationships and bonds.  To see everyone rafting, fishing, swimming, hiking and playing games throughout the day and then coming together as a group in the evening to talk, laugh and share their stories from the day is super special.  The differences by the end of the trip are really hard to explain.  You just have to experience it for yourself. 

I want you to think back on your last big family vacation.  Think of how much planning, decision making and pleasing that was happening on a daily basis.  Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing but sometimes all of this coordinating and decision making interferes with mom and dad’s ability to enjoy the trip too.  On the river there is little, “what are we going to do today?” or “how will we all get there?”  No worrying about “where are we going to eat that the adults and kids will enjoy?” Etc. etc.  Instead you get to go with the flow (literally) and you can let us take care of the details. Your choices are more along the line of: should I fish or go in the inflatable kayak? Do I go on the hike to the waterfall or sit in the shade and enjoy some alone time? This lack of choices is one of the many things that makes this vacation special. 

The Middle Fork of the Salmon is a crown jewel of rivers and considered the “river that has something for everyone”.  Hot springs, great fishing, fun hiking, swimming, inflatable kayaks, rafting, historical sites, horseback riding…. the list goes on.  On a Helfrich Outfitters trip, you get to experience all of this while also having awesome food, fun guides, hot showers, nice boats and comfortable accommodations. 

“When I first started guiding, I was skeptical of how kids react to how kids would react to being on a wilderness river trip.  I thought “what are these kids going to do without their phones and iPads? Have these kids ever been without this technology?”  I was pleasantly surprised when they talked about snap chat and video games for the first hour on the boat and then never brought it up again. These kids who had a phone in their hand since they could hold it still went down to the river and threw rocks at our first stop, they pulled their cots out of their tents so they could sleep under the stars, they jumped off of rocks into the water. Their main concerns on the water were: when can we attack the other boat and have a water fight? And, asking me if every single cliff they saw was a rock you could jump off of.  I was blown away at how easily they figured out how to make the most of their river trip. After this trip I thought for sure these kids were special, there is no way every kid could just transition into a river trip rock star. I was wrong, I don’t know what it is about kids but they all know how to throw rocks in the river. Even the twin 14 year old girls who were supposed to be in Hawaii and their dad tricked them into a river trip (that actually happened) had an amazing trip and cried as we hugged goodbye because they didn’t want to go back to Los Angeles. I promise I was not expecting that ending after their first day and the fits I got to witness! To be clear, I recommend bringing your kids, I don’t recommend tricking them onto the trip. Maybe it’s something intrinsic inside of them, something that is in all of us still, but kids were built for river trips.” 

– Sadie King, Helfrich Outfitters Guide and Manager


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