This Biggest Float

The whole concept of hundreds of people submerging themselves into Willamette River, once rumored to be "toxic," sounded a bit like the opening sequence from The Day After Tomorrow—horrifying. As a newcomer to Portland all I’ve heard about Willamette are the dirty details of its dirty history. I’m not suggesting this is a routine conversation. However it’s a conversation that ultimately generates interesting personal accounts of outbreaks of rashes,and or other miscellaneous instances of feeling…“off.”  And so after hearing all of this gossip, I decided there was only one thing left to do…get in the river.

I recruited a lovely member of our group, Kienna, to accompany me on this journey, and we settled on these floating docks off the river. They bore nostalgia for my childhood summers in Maine. We eventually submerged ourselves in the river, after witnessing commercial boats coming to and fro adjacent to our makeshift tanning bed. The water appeared enticing, which made the initial plunge not a terribly difficult feat. However it was the exiting the river that proved to be especially challenging. As the current was constantly changing, it was harder to exert every muscle in my body to free myself from the rivers clutches. After multiple tries, I was able to achieve the beached whale flop back onto our safety dock.

While that was my first encounter, which I did take some creative liberties in embellishing, my second submersion was a different and more joyous affair. This past Saturday marked the 7th annual Big Float—a project put on by the Human Access Project, aka a group of zealous endorsers of the “riverlution.” They promote increased recreational activity in the Willamette. Decades ago, Portland began to find ways to prevent excess sewage and waste from entering the river, and as recently as a few weeks ago the government's website deemed that it is safe to swim in the river.

The festival was like an environmentalist's Coachella. Subaru had an especially big sponsorship and was able to put one of their forester car models on a floating dock, which was hilariously upstaged by the eclectic array of musicians that were circulated throughout the event.
My second time dipping in was significantly more populated, as I played bumper cars with other participants of the float, who had quite the collection of inner tubes masked as other modes of transportation.

–Moira Peterson

Dispatch from a Scavenger Hunt Champion

I haven’t been on a hunt since I was ten. I vividly remember listening to "Another One Bites the Dust" as the cold air dug its claws into me. I dug through the spring snow to find the last treasure. Every handful of snow I dug, I was an inch closer to glory: a plastic oblong sphere. I couldn’t stop looking, no matter how cold I was. I had forgotten that feeling until today. As we were let loose on the western bridge city, I felt a rush of energy flow into my caffeine-lacking, just-awoken body. We were going to win.

I never lost hope, whether Emily was toughing it up the Burnside bridge or Lucy was bandaging her injured toe. Sure, we may not have been the underdogs, as two of the three of us were familiar with the territory, but that didn’t mean we were lacking heart. From our lack of forethought on meal planning to our garb, we gave ourselves roadblocks. But we were eager to overcome.

Halfway through, we had the lead. We couldn’t lose. But sure enough, as we returned our steeds to their stables, a group of four emerged from the heat-distorted horizon. Beat by beat, neck and neck, our two groups battled through the environment. As we realized we would be stuck together for the next few stops, the tension subsided. We could rest. But only for a moment, as out of the corner of my eye, three figures loomed large behind us. How could this be happening. It was them. The last three. It was down to the wire.

The final minutes of the hunt were a blur. I remember responding to Jordan’s “it’s not a competition, bro” with a sharp “life’s a competition.” I remember Emily seeking any water she could find, throat parched, stomach screaming for sustenance. I remember Lucy yelling “go, go, go!” as the final stop came into view.

Against all odds, we prevailed. Sure, Molly and Phil reiterated how this hunt was not a competition, but we knew deep down they were proud we had won. We were unsure as to how our peers would react to finding out they hadn’t conquered the 2017 MISC scavenger hunt, but our sweat-drenched clothes warded off any who dared oppose us. Sometimes people say I take things too seriously. Take this seriously: we were the champions.

–Atlas Finch