River ‘betes: Success!

Guess who’s back? After two amazing weeks away on vacation, Jacob and I returned home on Saturday night and began to get caught up on real life again. And by “caught up” I mean we did what felt like 37 loads of laundry. Packing light wasn’t an option for this trip because of the itinerary: Two weddings, three days in Portland, quick trip to Seattle, back to Oregon for three days on the river, down to San Francisco for time with my family, then finally a random one-night stop in Monterey on the way home. Between formal wear and water sandals, let’s just say I was prepared for anything with the amount of clothing I had to bring on this adventure.

What I’m most excited about though, is how amazing our time out on the river was, and how easy everything was with diabetes along the way – thanks to some careful planning and advice from many of you!

The Snake River is over 1,000 miles long, and is a tributary of the Columbia River. Although it runs through several states, a popular port of entry for river rafters is in Hells Canyon, a deep gorge that runs between Oregon and Idaho, which was the trip we chose to take. We met up with Jacob’s family in a little town called Halfway, Oregon to begin. When I saw how much STUFF was packed for 14 people to float down a river and camp for three days, I was blown away. Coolers, chairs and tents piled high on three different boats – so much so that I wondered where the people went! But somehow, it all fit – people included.

The river company we went with is owned by Jacob’s uncle, who has operated this outfit for 30 years. To say that he’s a river rafting expert is an understatement: he’s actually one of the biggest badasses I’ve ever met. Tough as nails, but as kind as can be, Jacob’s uncle George put us youngins to shame as he loaded up boats, rowed through rapids, and cooked gourmet food for us every night, cracking jokes and telling incredible stories of the river the whole way. It was awe inspiring to watch him work.  Jacob also worked as a river guide every summer for 10 years, so between him and his uncle, I was in good river guiding hands.

Here’s the basic layout of how we handled all things diabetic:

My CGM went in a waterproof camera case, then inside my Tummietote band (see pictures of me looking awesome in my life jacket).  This way, I had easy access to my blood sugar at any moment. This system proved to work wonderfully, even when I was fully doused with water while kayaking on the last day. Plus, the mental peace of having my CGM right there was priceless. I also carried GU pack in the pocket of my shorts at all times to treat a low quickly if needed.

Next, my pump controller went in a small dry bag that we brought with us every time we docked. At night, almost everything came off the boat as we set up camp, but at lunch, it was nice to have a much smaller bag to bring to shore so I could bolus for lunch without having to lug a bigger bag up.

Back up pods, test strips, lancing devices, GU packs, and a back up meter went in my duffel bag with my clothes, which went in the much larger dry bag – this one was only brought up with us when we camped for the night, but I could have gotten to it during the day if needed.

Next, a Lantus pen and Humalog vial went in a plastic baggie, and then in the lunch cooler. It stayed there for the entire trip, and by the last day it was just floating in its baggie in the now-melted ice water, but it stayed cool and protected the whole time. I never needed to access it, but knowing I had a “manual” back up system provided such peace of mind. If I’d dropped my pump controller in the water, or somehow gone through my extra pumps or anything, I knew I had my old-fashioned system available. Also, it was hilarious when one of Jacob’s brothers came across it in the cooler and jokingly asked what would happen if he dressed the salad in insulin. I told him that would be one gross-tasting salad 🙂 

Finally, and maybe most importantly for peace of mind, Jacob’s uncle always travels with a satellite phone in case of emergency. He can have a life flight helicopter there in 60 minutes if something bad ever happened. If all else failed, I knew there was an out. And on our first night camping, a guide from another outfit rowed up to us in the dark around 9pm. One of his guests was very sick and needed to be airlifted out and his outfit didn’t have a satellite phone – he’d gotten lucky by coming down river and finding us, but it showed me just how safe our trip was – because of George’s experience and preparedness.

Being on the river was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Hell’s Canyon contains deep, rich stories of early American life. Being away from cell phones and computers was nothing short of a gift, and brought peace and quiet like nothing I’ve ever experienced. And planning ahead so that diabetes didn’t interfere with any aspect of this incredible experience was priceless. As with all new experiences with diabetes, my time on the river proved to me once again that there’s nothing we can’t do with this disease – you just have to plan ahead. And having a fiance who’s an expert river guide doesn’t hurt either.

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Really glad everything worked out fine! AND you enjoyed your trip!

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