LEWISTON – For Thorin Loeks, adventure is about living in the moment, appreciating the little things and meeting new people.
The 31-year-old from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, traveled through the Lewiston-Claxton Valley in Idaho on an epic cross-country trip. He arrived by canoe on August 17 and left by bike on August 23, en route from Astoria, Oregon, to the Gulf of Mexico.
This isn’t his first human-powered trek. He previously rowed from Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, and biked from Astoria to Portland, Maine.
He started the journey on May 22, paddling along the Columbia River, then turning right at Tri-Cities and following the Snake River. He battled the high spring flow in lower Columbia, hauled around eight dams on two rivers, and, most recently, has been sweating for days with temperatures above 100 degrees. But he leans toward the hardships of the trips and the lessons they bring.
“It felt like it just helped me grow. It made me appreciate the little things more,” he said.
Take ice bottles and thermos – two things that most of us take for granted. But he didn’t lose that slight luxury when he swigged cold water in 105-degree weather and rowed upstream on the Snake River downstream.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, this is really good,'” he said. “Like every time I drink it, I’m so grateful compared to using an old plastic bottle; just going through these different forms of adversity makes me so grateful when I get to a town and meet nice people. I’m sitting in a place that has Air-conditioned place to have a nice conversation, or, you know, like ice — a drink on ice.”
By the time he crossed the valley, Rocks had covered about 450 miles. That’s a good distance, but anyone doing mental arithmetic might guess that he averages only about 5 miles a day. Loeks said he wasn’t in a hurry.
He is taking a break from graduate school, where he is studying to be an urban planner. He sees his travels as research. He can stop in communities along the way for a day or three or more, meeting people and learning about their homes.
“I was actually doing my dissertation while paddling – so researching the community along the way and talking to people about where they like to live and what makes a great community. What makes it people want to Where to live? What other challenges?”
He also uses these sites to earn a small amount of cash. He was a singer-songwriter who would improvise and sell CDs wherever he could. In August, he took the stage at Hogan’s Bar in Clarkston. Gradually, he made enough money to finance the expedition.
“When you’re open to it, it’s incredible how organically things fit together,” he said.
But he couldn’t do it without help, and people have been eager to give it. Take Tom Eyre, for example. Aficionados of the Lewiston and Lewis and Clark expeditions have established themselves as part of a loose network of “river angels” – for those who paddle the Columbia, Snake, Missouri and Mississippi rivers provide help.
Al met Rocks at Clarkston’s Green Belt Boat Ramp, set him up in the valley for part of his stay, and towed his canoe to Fork in Montana, where his trip ended. The water part has been restored.
“The amount of people who helped me, and the generosity and kindness of strangers – citing, not quoting – blew me away. It really restored my faith in being human. Good people are everywhere, no matter their background. “
On Monday, the Loeks decided to wrap up this year’s trip after arriving at the Great Falls, planning to return and paddle to the Gulf of Mexico next summer.
“It’s really hard to put into words what the past four months have meant to me,” he said in a blog post on Monday. “I met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends, and there were so many special moments in different worlds that I was lucky to be able to travel through.”
His journey can be found on thorinloeks.com, which includes links to his various social media pages, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and podcasts.