Kim talks below about what brought her to CRK, how her career as a mental health therapist has taught her the importance of getting outdoors, and what she is enjoying most so far this season as a guide-in-training.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to the area.    

I studied to become a mental health therapist in the Midwest. I decided to join an Americorp program after graduate school and moved to Oregon in 2015, where I practiced and lived for seven years in Hood River, Oregon. My partner and I met about four years ago and we now live in Bay Center, where I continue to work as a mental health therapist. For about two years of long distance dating from the Gorge, I frequently drove past the CRK Shop sign in Skamokawa and always wanted to check it out, so when I saw there was a free paddle at the open house event in March I decided to go! That is when I learned about the opportunity to be trained as a guide.

Why do you like to kayak?

For myself, I didn’t grow up with a lot of opportunities to recreate in nature. I like kayaking as a recreational sport because it offers a close connection to nature. I bought a kayak about a year ago and my partner surfs and paddleboards. We try to find times when we can walk down to the waterfront near our home to casually paddle together when the tide is right. We particularly enjoy it when the seals follow us around.

I’m also very interested in how people relate to their environment, or the intersection between psychology and the environment, also called ecopsychology. After living in Oregon for some time, I realized there was a strong relationship between the community I lived in and the natural landscape of Hood River, and could clearly see how much the different seasons affected the mental wellbeing of the population. It has been my experience that the relationship one has with the environment can greatly improve psychological wellbeing and in turn lead to care and stewardship of those places.

Why did you decide to train to become a CRK Guide?

When I attended the CRK Open House in March, I found a group of people who are warm, empathetic, inviting and very knowledgeable. I enjoy the culture of learning and openness. And, I felt safe on the water because of the guide’s level of experience and engaged by their storytelling. 

CRK’s owners approach kayaking as building a healthy relationship with the area. The guides know this place so intimately and it’s not just about going to all of the most challenging places. I have found that oftentimes watersports culture is highly competitive and ego-driven and focused on consumption of the experience. As a result, even though I live in places with a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities, I have struggled to find groups where I don’t feel excluded because I either don’t have the resources to buy all the gear or because I am not a pro-athlete. CRK is a really unique group of people in the Pacific Northwest who care deeply about making kayaking an accessible and affordable experience for everyone.

How is guide training going so far?

It has been one of the best learning experiences that I’ve had. Kyleen and Andrew are consistently encouraging and open. Kyleen’s style of coaching is very intentional and she is particularly good at honoring people’s unique learning processes. She consistently shares her stories and is very patient. I completed the Foundations Safety and Rescue Training Class, and did an additional rescue clinic. I also decided to sign-up for rolling class later this season.

I am going out on Road Scholar trips and other tours as an assistant guide to learn all about the area and special places on the river. I’m particularly excited to explore more of the island areas in the Refuge system which are incredibly unique and can only be accessed by boat. It’s an experience that feels really special.

Any words of advice or wisdom for people who are new to kayaking?

I encourage anyone who has ever felt like they had barriers to participating in kayaking to check out CRK. They are different in that they don’t approach kayaking as an intense sport but as a way of connecting with an area. They also know what they are doing and will put you in the right boat with the right paddle and give care and attention to make sure you are safe and comfortable. It’s this supportive environment that allows people, like me, to engage more. 

Any time in nature is valuable, whether you love the adrenaline rush or not. What I find so unique about CRK is they also value a meditative and present experience on the water. After living in the Pacific Northwest for the last 10 years, I can attest that there are much fewer opportunities for the latter which really sets CRK apart.