Scouts NSW Ambassador, Heather Porter, takes on 9-day white-water rafting adventure
Not many people have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail – trekking solo 4,265km from Mexico to Canada over 5½ months isn’t for the faint-hearted. But Heather Porter is a Rover and Scouts NSW Brand Ambassador. And she’s about to head out on another adventure, this time to the rugged, remote Franklin River in Tasmania.
The Tassie Trip
With time outside so important for wellbeing, Tassie’s untouched, unique scenery makes the state an easy favourite for Heather.
This 9-day adventure will see Heather white-water raft along the Franklin River, amid the wilderness of one of the most unspoiled areas of natural beauty in the world. In fact, the Franklin River is home to no permanent human habitation, ensuring a peaceful and pristine ecosystem with some of the cleanest air in the world. Shaped by glaciers long ago, the Franklin twists and turns through a world heritage backdrop of deep gorges, dramatic mountain peaks and lush rainforests, and is home to native wildlife such as platypus, quolls, white-breasted sea eagles and wallabies.
But unlike her solo PCT adventure, Heather won’t be going alone. Having very limited white-water rafting experience, Heather and some Scouting friends are bringing in the experts at Franklin River Rafting to guide them on their journey. Together they’ll raft up to class 4 rapids and negotiate around intense class 6 rapids. Guided tours make adventure accessible to everyone brave enough to push beyond their comfort zone. Which, Heather reveals, is where the real magic happens.
Recollecting her first and only white-water rafting trip, even the adventurous can experience nerves. Luckily, the rush of adrenaline subsided Heather’s initial terror, and the rush of the river left all worries behind upstream.
“There’s no room for fear, doubt, the future or even wondering what’s for lunch. It’s all about the water, the team, paddling and yipping with joy”
This time round, Heather isn’t just looking forward to the adventure of rafting. For a true adventurer, there’s nothing like trying out a brand-new sleeping bag under a tarp on the riverbank!
Is an adventurous lifestyle built on nature or nurture?
Scouts allows people young and old to develop skills that can be applied across all aspects of life, from Scouts to school and work to weekends. A combination of Scouting and a career in event management means meticulous planning (and last-minute changes!) are second nature to Heather. But the adventurous, outdoors lifestyle does not necessarily come so naturally – even as a Scout. This is a young woman who didn’t complete the physical part of her Queen Scout Badge!
Instead, her calling came at age 22 at Rovers, where Leaders and fellow Rovers not only introduced her to adventure but became the mentors and provided the tools required to support and nurture her new passion. She advocates that you can begin adventure at any point in life – it’s something that must be learned through initiative and perseverance.
“It’s so hard to be a beginner of something”, recalls Heather. “It feels clumsy and awkward and embarrassing but having Leaders and Rovers around actively encouraging beginners and first trips in activities like abseiling, snow campaign, canyoning or mountain biking made a huge difference”.
“I found myself in a welcoming and encouraging environment and was given the opportunity to explore my curiosity around adventure”
From this initial introduction to adventure and learning by doing at Scouting, Heather tested her limits by taking on Adventure Racing (a 24-hour triathlon-like activity of mountain biking, kayaking and trail running) for the Baden-Powell Award. Before long, she found herself hooked on pushing, pursuing and seeking adventure.
Utilising life lessons learnt through Scouts, including self-pace, learning through doing, using initiative and having the benefit of choice, Heather began planning for the most empowering adventure yet, the 5½ month 4,265km trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, where she also began exercising her love of writing through her blog, This Rambling Rover.
Adventure and Sustainability
Heather lives and breathes all elements of the Scouts Law, from believing in herself and doing what is right to being respectful of others and the environment. Facing the importance of sustainability and especially the negative human impact on natural habitats, Heather founded an environmental awareness campaign, Hike It Out, that builds a hiking culture that holds everyone responsible for their own rubbish.
Her advice when spending time outdoors is to pack a rubbish bag to carry your own rubbish and pick up any you find along the way. If you don’t have one, she explains, the unfortunate reality is you may even find one on your way. With pollution and single use plastic so high on many people’s radars, encouraged by passionate people like Heather, we hope to leave the world a better place than we found it.
“Remember, the standard you walk past is the standard you set”
But how can one adhere to the Leave No Trace principals on a 9-day wilderness adventure? Heather and her group will put in a little extra effort and carry all 9 days-worth of rubbish from the trip, and have researched how to protect the water source: they won’t be using soaps and will bury human waste more than 100m away from the river. Any rubbish they do happen to find will go into their backpacks to be disposed of properly at the end of the trip.
Planning your own adventures
You can follow Heather’s adventure on her Facebook page, where she’ll be posting live status updates – and await her blog once she’s back home in Sydney.
In the meantime, inspire your adventurous side with Heather’s PCT adventure blogs. As she explains, a full-time job does not need to kill an adventurous lifestyle. Longer hikes can be split into lots of easier stints over a weekend – storing “micro adventures” up your sleeve can be useful to have something to slot in when you have a free window of time.
“I would hop on a train, walk 10km in an area that I loved, camp overnight and be back home by midday on Sunday”
Don’t wait for an opportunity to fall into your lap. You simply need to be eager to do the work required – planning dates, locations and routes and having the passion to get out and do it. In classic Scouting style, you cannot fail if you try. An adventure doesn’t need a designated end location or number of km walked – and if it does and you don’t reach it, that’s fine too.
Heather will be on her white-water rafting adventure from 4-13th January and has another adventure up her sleeve for May. Scouts NSW wishes her the best of luck!