Vacation planning for families with diverse ideas of the perfect leisure-time activities can be challenging. The excitement-hounds want white-knuckle adventure while others envision relaxation and tranquility. ECHO, a whitewater rafting company based in Hood River, offers a nice blend of harmony between these two ideals.
One of its most popular events, happening July 15, includes four days of river rafting combined with yoga along the banks of the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River.
"That was started by a guide who's worked for us since the '80s," explains Zach Collier, ECHO's general manager. "He's guided climbing and skiing trips all over the world, and as he was getting older he started doing yoga to stay in shape and it really helped him. He suggested doing a guided yoga trip on the Rogue River and that's how it got started."
Experienced river guide and certified yoga instructor Dennis Eagan thinks the beauty of these two experiences is the perfect balance for a four-day retreat.
Eagan, who brings more than 13 years' experience in yoga, studied with well-known yoga expert Rodney Yee and taught in the Bay Area for seven years. Each morning and evening, he uses the calming effects of the Rogue River as nature's outdoor studio to lead rafting guests in chanting, meditation and stretching exercises. He feels these sessions are just the right beginning and end for a day spent rafting on the picturesque Rogue.
ECHO started in 1971, when two high school friends, Dick Linford and Joe Daley, spent their summers guiding thrill seekers through the churning waterways of California.
"Our clients were people whose idea of fun was being cold, wet and scared," remembers Joe Daley.
Realizing there was a demand for their services, they turned an enjoyable pastime into a thriving river-rafting business. ECHO specializes in trips on two of the most spectacular rivers in the Northwest; the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho and the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.
"Most of the trips we offer are four-day camping trips, but we also offer some that are three days," Collier says. "We provide tents, sleeping bags and all the food. We give people a list of things to bring, but we basically tell them to bring a couple changes of clothes, swimming trunks and a toothbrush, and we provide the rest. The guides cook all the food and do all the dishes and take care of everything else. And the guides are really good cooks — the meals are delicious. We also offer vegetarian meals and food for special diets.
"The biggest thing about the trips that we offer is that it's about family. There are so many stories about it being scary or dangerous, stories about flips or cold water. But a trip down the Rogue in the summertime, it's not like that. It's a very family-friendly kind of trip."