January 2015-Harlan Taney Grand Canyon Reflection

Harlan Taney has made a life of adventuring around the globe. He has kayaked exotic rivers from China to Norway, South America to New Zealand. For the last 18 years, Harlan has spent his summers as a Grand Canyon river guide amassing somewhere in the ballpark of 160 trips down the “Big Ditch.” He has joined Erik for adventures from Mexico and Peru to the Salmon River in Idaho. Harlan served as Erik’s primary guide on the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition. When he is not guiding, Harlan runs his own production management company, 4 Corner Film Logistics.

It has been several months now since our Grand Canyon Kayaking Blind Expedition, and everyone from the trip has set off in different directions. I have been steaming ahead on several different productions, and building out some new filming equipment for my business, 4 Corner Films.

Every day since our trip, I have had memories of different parts of our expedition pass through my mind and often stories come up in conversation. It is important, even in our busy daily lives, to allow these memories to smolder in conscious, because it takes us back to that place and time when we were doing something spectacular, and working as a team with a common goal. For me to sit and reminisce on our trip is in and of itself inspiring because it reminds me of all the months and years of obstacles we all overcame, and that was before we even got to put our paddles in the water. Because I was wearing several different hats on this trip, I think I also got to experience highs and lows from each of those facets of the project individually and collectively; from the kayakers point of view, from the film production, as well as from the logistical/support side of the river trip.

As a kayaker, one memory that will stick with me for a long time was 150 miles downstream at a rapid called Upset. This was a pivotal moment for me in kayaking with Erik because this was the first time I really felt Erik fully embrace and accept the mental part of kayaking. Our little mantra I would speak into his ear before the rapids was “ok buddy, let’s be here, clear and calm in this moment.” Every time I would say this above the roar and turmoil of the rapids, I was essentially trying to invite Erik to join me in learning how to completely surrender to all those fears and anxieties above a rapid that can cloud your movements and reactions; and instead, channel that energy into perfect focus, just reacting and feeling the river, becoming a part of what the water is doing, rather than resisting something that is way more powerful than we will ever be. It was in that moment, as we were tumbling down Upset Rapid, that I felt Erik fully embrace the mental game of kayaking and together we were in a sort of synchronized dance with that rapid. This was a truly unique experience for me in my kayaking career, and a memory that I will hold onto for a very long time.

On the last day as we were leaving the beach in our vehicles, we were satisfied with a feeling of accomplishment as we were all safe and successful in our kayaking. We made it through 22 days of filming, and came away with some incredible documentation of the trip and we were all going home to see our families again. There was, however, the realization that it was over. It was years of preparation since I got that first phone call from Erik and it had all culminated together. Looking back like that makes me a little bit sad. We did it and now it is all memories. That life, on the river, kayaking, filming, is not only my career, but it is my passion. I feel fortunate that my work and my passion overlap so much, and that for a brief period, I got to share it with such an incredible team down in the Grand Canyon. I am looking forward to what is ahead, and see what may come from this trip for each of the individuals who were on it.

— Harlan Taney