Day #17: Tuesday, September 23-Erik’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday Erik! -from the Weihenmayer Family and the Touch the Top Team! 

Our latest text update received last night, “200 mile camp. Things were mellow today past Lava. Will be similar for a while. A couple of rapids tomorrow but not super huge. The Diamond Down has 10  miles of whitewater before totally flat for 2 days.” We know Erik will be enjoying the rapids today on his birthday. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here’s a note written by Ellen, Erik’s wife, in honor of Erik’s birthday and see below for a note from Erik’s father, Ed, and Erik’s children, Arjun and Emma:

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.- Leonardo DaVinci

Erik celebrates his birthday on the river today – September 23rd. What a fun way to mark such an important day. Weeks ago, during the “gearing-up” stage, the kids and I snuck some birthday presents into the truck that hauled all their gear. We’ve been on rivers during birthdays and they usually involve wearing yard sale dress-up costumes while joining in on some kind of crazy river challenge like sliding off an upside down raft, bouncing off the edge and into the water with poodle skirts flying. I’m happy for Erik and anticipate great fun today.

I’ve been asked by many how the kids and I are doing. How tough it must be – single mom and all. What a shame, to be left at home taking care of everything while Erik is away for so long. What sacrifices we wives make for our guys. I can tell you I’m not having a pity party. Through the years that Erik has taken up this new passion, we’ve had the opportunity to join him on five glorious trips. Our first ever river trip, The Green River’s Gates of Lodore, ended with a huge celebration of sparklers and slapping Paco Pads at the very remote Echo Park on the Fourth of July. Our next river trip on the San Juan found us loving the warm, bending and winding water that allowed us to ditch the kayaks and rafts and simply swim for miles behind the boats. Such pleasures to share with family. We then geared up for some adventure on a crazy part of the Colorado called Desolation Canyon, aptly named by Powell who lost more than just a paddle through this section. He almost lost his life. We learned river terms such as “spin-to-win (when stuck on a rock), hangover (half in, half out of a boat), cartwheeling, lawn chair positions (while swimming) and Use The BUCKET (screamed at a guide whose raft was stuck on a rock – she threw the bucket in the water. What was meant instead was to tie the bucket to the raft, throw it overboard, and let the water flow through it. This moves the raft enough to get it off the rock. Two more trips sealed our love for rivers: The Apurimac River in Peru, where we toasted our bread on the sun-warmed kayaks after it all fell in the water, and this past summer, the River of No Return on the Salmon. We’ve watched our children grow up on these rivers. Emma sailed over my head in one river-flip, sealing her desire to never duckie with me again. Arjun got air in one rapid, hands and legs reached sky. I shot through a class IV rapid with Becky Hall where we lost our duckie , thought we were swimming, and looked down to see the duckie rise up from the river depths and position itself perfectly under our bodies for the rest of the rapid. Shooting stars at night, moon rising on ancient walls, hoot owls laughing. All of these experiences are because Erik wanted to learn how to kayak. I think he picked his passion rather well, and we know there will be more family adventures ahead.

Let’s raise a toast to Erik on his birthday. We’re so proud of his progress. As our friend, Anton, says, “He’s living the life!” #NoBarriers #Birthday#KayakingBlind #GetOutThere No Barriers USA Nature Valley

And a note from Erik’s farther, Ed and Erik’s children, Emma and Arjun:

From Ed:
“Really proud of you. What a way to remember how you spent your 46th birthday. You have a cheering section here in NJ/PA celebrating each day of success. Dad”

From Emma:
“My dad has overcome challenges a “regular” person wouldn’t have even thought of accomplishing, and I thank him for that. I thank him for not being a guy working in an office from 7am-7pm. I thank him for being an explorer, a traveler, a pioneer, a daredevil and a hero. I thank him for pushing me to overcome my greatest fears, whether it be riding down the big slide at the swimming pool when I was five years old or rappelling down that huge waterfall in Quebec (even though I split open my foot). I have my dad to thank for most things in life, and I wish him a wonderful birthday!
Love, Emma”

From Arjun:
“Taking up kayaking has helped me in so many ways. It has helped my uncomfortableness of the water. The kayak seems safer. It has helped me get used to bobbing up and down. I like the waves splashing against me. It has helped me get stronger in my triceps. Most of all, it’s fun. I like watching people surf and go down the river fast. Happy Birthday, Dad! Love, Arjun “

Erik and Ellie on the Grand Canyon during November 2013

Erik and Ellie on the Grand Canyon during November 2013