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Expedition, Advocacy 

PNW solo sea kayaker Susan Conrad links ocean and river conservation

There she was, dodging grizzlies on the shoreline, sharp green seas marching toward her like angry soldiers, and cold, snotty water bitch-slapping the sides of her kayak.

It was nine years ago when, for 66 days, Susan Conrad endured those conditions for 1,200 miles during her solo kayak tour of the Inside Passage. Weaving through archipelago islands like orange cones in an obstacle course, the coastal route took her from Anacortes, Wash., to her proverbial summit of Juneau, Alaska.

Conrad's book is available through Inside Press or at susanmarieconrad.com. - SUSAN CONRAD

As the final installment of a three-part winter speaker series jointly hosted by Coalition for the Deschutes and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, Conrad will give a presentation about her paddle pilgrimage at McMenamins Old Saint Francis School March 11.

Conrad says, "I'm inspired by Coalition for the Deschutes' outreach and advocacy efforts, and how they've collaborated with multiple local business and entities to bring their mission to fruition. It's so much more powerful and effective having multiple pairs of boots on the ground.

"The word ocean is derived from the Greek word Okeanós which means a river circling the earth. I believe that all the water on our planet, as with all of life, is interconnected. Whether you are advocating for rivers or oceans or entire ecosystems, managing and protecting water is a global issue that starts with local measures. Knowing what we as individuals can do to actively make a difference with water conservation is critical."

Coalition for the Deschutes' Co-founder and Director Gail Snyder says, "Conrad's personal story of the sea and soul parallels the work of Coalition for the Deschutes... As a woman who cares deeply about, and is driven by, love of wild places, wildlife, the world we leave our grandchildren to and the seventh generation after them, Conrad offers hope that we have the power to dig deep, that we can speak our truth and transform our corners of the world."

Conrad says when she sat down to write the book about her journey, titled, "Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage," she discovered that paddling was the easy part. Stringing words together to properly convey the experience was much more daunting. Preferring to sit in a wobbling kayak on the ocean than in a steady office chair made book writing exasperating and impossible at times.

"Not even arduous 40-mile days, fierce head winds, or mountainous swell," deterred her as much as the writing did, she said.

After many years of self-inflicted procrastination, fears and doubts and other roadblocks, Conrad reached the proud day where she, "held the finished product in my hands. I laughed and cried and was almost in disbelief that I had this tangible thing that I could actually turn the pages on and read my own thoughts and feelings. I was a published author!"

As a sneak peek to her presentation, here's what Conrad wants people to know about pursuing holy-grail solo missions, on water or otherwise: "Lean into your goals with curiosity and believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. Explore your interest by asking lots of questions and reading lots of books. Find a mentor and take professional instruction to become the best you can be. Be multidimensional. Incorporate environmental and conservation goals. Raise awareness and above all, have fun!"

Her deepest hope for the presentation is it will kindle everyone's sense of adventure—whether they set foot in a kayak or not. Conrad says 2020 will be the 10-year anniversary of her initial Inside Passage trip. Her natural conclusion is to do it again. Inside Passage, 2.0.

Conrad notes, "It will be interesting to see differences in terms of the routes, how the Inside Passage has changed and how I've changed. I want to do it slower, with more exploratory side trips and I want to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans. Stay tuned!"

A Journey of the Sea and Soul with Susan Conrad
Mon., March 11. Doors 5:30pm; presentation 6:30
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
700 NW Bond St., Bend
Tickets: coalitionforthedeschutes.org
$25

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