There are plenty of out-of-the way places in Oregon and fish to catch but accommodations are difficult to secure. Also in much of western Oregon, small-town restaurants are understaffed, supply-chain disruptions are common and many eateries have limited their days and hours of operation.

I have always been drawn to wild places, where the skies are big and the fish have seldom seen a lure or a fly. I’ve also stood over a lot of rapids-filled rivers and assessed the hazards and risks of launching my drift boat or raft, considered them to be acceptable, and floated deep into a roadless wilderness. Often to places where “hazard“ is innate to the experience there is no place for the poorly prepared or the ill-informed.

The golden rule of wilderness river boating “is to do nothing that could cause injury to someone who might try to rescue you.” So along with the thrills and adventure are the responsibility to gather reliable information and develop the other skills to meet the challenges. For hazards you can see but also for the possibility of problems unforeseen, or you could say invisible. 

For whitewater professionals there are whitewater training organizations that certify skills and safety training programs developed by both river “technical” and medical professionals. So I look for advice from certified river technicians – people with extensive training and years of real-life experience. Replacing the “go for it” impulse, with insightful information, a more accurate calculation of the risks and a safer fun trip before being in the position of not having the option to just walk away. Of course I’m often adventuring with my wife and friends and have their health and safety to consider, too, and am always weary of leading them into danger because of a personal miscalculation. 

As I prepare my report the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has emerged in Oregon and has quickly spread, taxing caregivers and filling our hospitals with patients. The speed at which this has happened has been extraordinary. This variant is even more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus we experienced last year. Hospitals in Lane county and all neighboring counties are packed and the intensive care units at some are filled to capacity. We are at one of those moments where being prepared with good, reliable information could save you and your family a lot of grief. I say that from experience.

Last week OHA, as did Lane County, released new social distancing, public gathering limitations, and masking requirements due to the virus’ surge. They also asked that people limit their travels and their face-to-face interactions with their immediate family and close friends. 

I changed my travel plans and instead will be fishing close to home for the next couple of weeks with my wife. We feel prepared; breakthrough cases among vaccinated people are rare. But we would rather avoid becoming an exception so we will be masking up around other people indoors or outside and continue to keep up with health alerts and recommendations.

In the sport of whitewater boating, rapids range from one to six – class one being the easiest to navigate and class six is considered “a substantial hazard to life.” 

Unfortunately some people have not taken the virus seriously and I would describe what is happening in some communities as “floating toward a class six rapid in a leaky boat, with one oar.” Many of our citizens and communities are completely unprepared and uninformed about what it will take to keep from drowning in the viral soup.

Sending people across the county and state to fish didn’t feel like the correct thing to do this week, so I apologize to those of you who were expecting to read something different.

I mentioned my personal COVID-19 experience. My father died of COVID-19 induced “inflammatory lung syndrome” just two days after Christmas. He essentially suffocated to death. An unvaccinated healthcare worker brought the virus into his memory care facility. Seventeen other residents and three attendants also died. It was a terrible death and incredibly difficult for my family to watch from afar. 

My father was a teacher, a good guy, respected in his community, and married to my mother until the day he died (70 years) although she passed five years ago.

I wish the experience on no one and hope everyone avoids what is now almost 100% avoidable. 

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