Learn to Packraft: A Beginner Paddling Course for Queer & Trans Adventurers
A retreat for queer & trans adventurers!
We are committed to supporting our fellow queer and trans adventurers and the greater LGBTQ+ community through these tough times in the United States, specifically younger folks in their 20s and early 30s (late teens will be considered as well).
So how are we doing this? In the best way that we know how: packrafting. We want to show you how to turn the blue lines on maps into trails and acquire some exciting new skills for your outdoor lifestyle. We seek to offer opportunities that, “get you on the edge of your own reality to feel things you’ve never experienced,” as FCG co-founder Steve “Doom” Fassbinder says. And we work hard to enhance your existing paddling skills so you can get out on fun paddling adventures safely.
Our goal with this course is to create a safe space for you to learn new skills and enjoy the outdoors with like-minded queer and trans adventurers 🙂
We are still developing this course, so stay tuned for additional details. But, in short, you will spend three days learning the ins and outs of packrafting, from how to blow up your boat to how to paddle down a river.
We are offering various tiers for this retreat. If you have the means, and you are willing to help subsidize the course, we would greatly appreciate it.
If, however, you do not have the means to pay for this course, we still want you to come! So we are heavily discounting. If you sign up for a discounted spot, you’ll be required to pay a non-refundable $225 upon registration. If $225 is difficult for you financially, we will also be offering some scholarships. And in some cases, we will refund your $225 after the course is over. You’ll be expected to participate in the course to get a refund, however. Please email us for details.
Finally, we are seeking donations to help pay for food, lodging and the mentors/guides who will be helping or instructing. If you wish to donate food or cash, please email us. We welcome your assistance. We are working with the Rainbow Youth Center in Durango, and so we hope to ensure your donations are tax deductible. More info TBA.
This course includes instruction, an open packraft, PFD, paddle, helmet, permits and camping fees. It also includes all your food for the duration of the trip, plus lodging at the Ranch and camping on the river. We do have extra camping gear if you need it, but we recommend you bring or borrow your own.
Lodging and wet suits or drysuits. It will be mid-summer. However, the river will still be cold. So you’ll need to rent a drysuit or wet suit.
Rent drysuits locally at 4CornersRiversports.com. They offer our clientele a 10% discount.
This course is run by all queer instructors & mentors.
Lizzy Scully: Lizzy is co-owner of Four Corners Guides. She has been packrafting seven years, is certified in Swiftwater Rescue and as a Wilderness First Responder. She’s packrafted the Grand Canyon twice, along with a dozen other rivers around the Southwest. And in 2024 she’ll be acquiring her Level 3 Packraft Instructor Certification.
Diane Dandeneau: A lifelong athlete and adventurer, Diane grew up canoeing rivers in Michigan and Canada. Four years ago she wanted to get back to the water and was thrilled to discover packrafting. After a scary incident on her home creek, she realized that it would be wise to approach this as a serious sport. Now with dozens of classes and courses and over 100 days on rivers including the Middle Fork and Main Salmon, she is confidently running Class III+ rivers. With this she is excited to share what she has learned and help others experience packrafting competently and safely. Diane has her Swiftwater Rescue certification and First Aid & CPR certifications.
armida huerta: armida is a first generation USA born in San Francisco, CA of Mexican parents. She lived and worked in Silicon Valley for 20 years and raced road bicycles for five years. Equine therapy brought her to Southwest Colorado 15 years ago and she hasn’t looked back. Thankfully, she was exposed to the outdoors in her youth, camping, swimming and water skiing with family and friends. Upon moving permanently to Mancos, CO, Tami Graham introduced her to a love of river running and getting up high in the mountains to hike, camp and cross country ski. armida went from working office management jobs in California to becoming a Production Specialist for Alpacka Raft for the last nine years. Basically, she helps make packrafts and accessories and enjoys using Alpacka products. Lastly, armida delved into topics of self-help, personal growth and well being in her early 20’s and continues to explore and expand her inner beingness.
Tami Graham: A fifth generation Coloradoan, Tami has spent her entire life adventuring in the mountains, deserts and rivers of Colorado. She moved to Durango in 1984 to attend Fort Lewis College, with a keen eye on the amazing access to all that the Four Corners has to offer. Having climbed most of Colorado 14ers), she turned her passion to river rafting in her 20’s. She began packrafting when armida started working for Alpacka Raft and hasn’t looked back since. Tami is the Executive Director of KSUT Public Radio and has spent her career working with non-profit organizations. She moved to Mancos in 2004, where she is highly involved in numerous community organizations.
We base our learn basic packrafting skills instructional courses on confidence and skill progression. The course reviews the basics. And then we push you a little harder as the days progress, tailoring the experience to your own personal abilities.
This is a list of some of the things you will learn:
- ✓Swimming and general water confidence
- ✓Self-rescue & buddy assistance
- ✓Dealing with currents
- ✓Aggressive & defensive swimming position
- ✓Decision making
- ✓Hazards & river dynamics
- ✓Basic paddle strokes
- ✓Using eddies
- ✓Swift water entry
- ✓River commands
- ✓Spacing on the river
- ✓Equipment (use and care)
- ✓Field repair-tips & tricks
- ✓How to pack light for backcountry packraft adventures
What This Retreat Is:
This is a retreat for people who are familiar with and comfortable in outdoor spaces doing outdoor activities. We are offering a three-day adventure on rivers and trails and at our basecamp. This course will include swimming, paddling a packraft and hiking. This is a beginner course, so the terrain will not be dangerous or difficult. And you do not need any boating experience. However, you do need a general level of fitness (you can easily hike or bike 5 miles, for example). As well, because it is a course, you are expected to participate as a student.
Husband & wife duo Lizzy Scully and Steve Fassbinder are hosting this retreat. Partners Tami Graham and Armida Huerta are running the retreat, while Diane Dandeneau is assisting Steve with the instruction on course.
This retreat does not cover transportation. Participants must be able to get to our remote, rugged basecamp 30 minutes south of Mancos, Colorado. We encourage carpooling.
We will provide you with a list of camping gear/clothing that you need. If you don’t have everything you need, we will help outfit you.
We will provide all meals—healthy and with as much locally-sourced produce as possible. We cannot provide for vegans or celiacs, but we will provide primarily vegetarian and gluten free foods.
We provide rustic glamping tents with comfortable beds.
Showers are available, though we ask people to minimize their water use in general since we have to haul water. This means taking short showers, no laundry, and not leaving the faucet running at any time.
We ask that people participate in prepping meals at times, helping clean dishes after meals, and cleaning out their glamping tents and removing the bedding when they leave.
There are bugs and wild animals. Sometimes bugs get into the glamping tents. People must be Ok with this, as we cannot prevent it.
There are three cats and one dog that live at the house. We are not going to board them for this retreat. So people must be OK with animals. However, participants are not allowed to bring their dogs or animals to the retreat.
It is best if people who attend are comfortable in wild spaces, on uneven terrain, and being 100% unplugged from the internet. We do not offer public wifi under any circumstances. We can reach the outside world in case of emergencies.
We do not offer a shuttle service, so participants will have to assist in driving/shuttling to and from the places where we are packrafting.
People will likely find pottery and other ancient artifacts on the property. We will ask all participants to sign a waiver promising to leave whatever they find in place where they found them. This is very important to us.
What This Retreat Is Not
This is not the place or retreat for people to have their first experience in the outdoors. We are not teaching people how to be in the outdoors or how to get started with outdoor activities. This could cause some major trauma and fear to arise. People need to have hiked, camped and/or do something active on a regular basis-bike, run, paddle, etc.
Facilitators are all queer, except for one, but we are not experts at running mental-health or wellness retreats for queer and trans folks. We are not 100% certain how to create a safe container for all the different kinds of queer and trans folks that exist. Thus, people who attend must understand that we have good intentions, that we are doing our best, but that the organizers may not get always get everything right. If you have high expectations of this being an ideal experience, we recommend you not join.
We are not therapists, nor do we have the funds to pay for therapists to attend or to get the training. This is not the time/place for people to try to process their trauma. If things come up, we will do our best to support and provide a safe container for people. But please do not come to this retreat expecting processing circles or therapy.
The day of this basic beginner course will take place on up to Class II+ rapids on the Animas River. We spend a lot of time spent in the Animas City Kayak Play Park. Days 2 and 3 we will be on the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers, paddling from Naturita to the “Hanging Flume” section on the Dolores.
Length of Play Park: 1.25 miles
Length of Daily Adventures: 5 to 8 miles
Difficulty: Class II III at 500-2000 CFS
Class III to IV 2,000 CFS and up.
High Water Flows: May-July
Flow: below 500cfs is low; 1,000-2,000cfs ideal for this course. Water Flow please see water levels
Length of Adventure: 22
Difficulty: Class II+
High Water Flows: April-July
Flow: below 400cfs is low; 400-2,000cfs ideal for this course. Water Flow please see water levels (does not include the Hanging Flume section, but the river levels are the same as reported via the link).