The Adventurers: RUSH!


Adam Goshon on Rio Tamasopo, Mexico.  Photo by Leigh Knudson

Adam Goshon on Rio Tamasopo, Mexico. Photo by Leigh Knudson

Adam Goshorn shares his wildwood wisdom when he’s not fighting rapids.

Written by Andrew Holderfield

 

Goshorn sits. The thin shell of his kayak holds his legs snugly together as he paddles with a cool control, one hand over the other. Inches above the waterline, and a mile below the Earth’s surface, he traces the path of the powerful Colorado River. The sheer cliffs of the Grand Canyon tower over him, carved by millions of years of rushing water, water he now hopes to tame. It’s been two weeks since Goshorn entered the canyon, two weeks and 200 miles of paddling through surging, uninterrupted river. His grip tightens around his oars.

“The Grand Canyon was pretty easy actually,” he says, laughing. “Most of it was Class 4 rapids, which isn’t that choppy—eight-foot waves, maybe.” His voice never loses its pervasive sense of calm as he recounts his 17-day trip though the white water of the titanic stone valley. “It was a life-changing experience and a lot of hard work. But I’ve paddled through rougher water than that here in Alabama.”

His tone is that of a true outdoorsman. Unpretentious and calm, he is a man who has climbed ice walls and paddled off of waterfalls, not for a cheap thrill, but because he truly enjoys the splendor of nature. Goshorn doesn’t do it for the adrenaline but for the love of a good river. And for more than 10 years now, he has been passing his passion and knowledge of the outdoors on to kids and adults alike.

Goshorn began canoeing with his father while growing up in Virginia. Soon the kayak began to feel like home. By his senior year of high school, he was going on long paddling trips to the rapids of the Ocoee and working on tackling waterfalls.

After graduation, Goshorn began seeking a degree in English from Radford University with plans of becoming a teacher. The stresses of schooling drove him deeper into hiking, climbing, and paddling. “One day, I heard that the school was trying to develop a program in recreation, parks, and tourism,” Goshorn remembers. “So I switched majors and graduated with a degree that let me teach things like geology, which is basically what I do now. I love it. It’s so much easier to teach someone about a rock if they’re holding it or hiking around it.” Goshorn instructs at Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor learning facility located atop Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Ala.

“Nature’s Classroom is my pride and joy,” Goshorn says. “Schools from all over the Southeast bring their students to our facility for up to five days. We take students on hikes and teach them how to identify plants and basic camping skills, things like that. The teachers help us develop the curriculum beforehand, and we work very closely to teach both kids and adults alike.”

Alongside their usual lesson plans, Nature’s Classroom also encourages students to break from their electronic devices. “We, as instructors, stay plugged in, but we urge the kids to take a break from their screens for a few days. Once they realize what kind of fun they can have in nature, it usually isn’t a problem,” Goshorn adds. “I’m really lucky because I get to do what I love for a living. I get to share what I know with other people, and that’s amazing.”

Alabama’s waterways have been a great home to Goshorn for more than a decade. He moved to Mentone from his home in Bedford, Va., shortly before going to work for Nature’s Classroom. Living so close to great local spots like the Coosa River and Terrapin Creek heavily factored into his decision.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we have world-class rafting, hiking, and kayaking here in Alabama. People come in from all over the world to paddle at places like Little River Canyon. We live in a really beautiful part of the country and if you’re into going outside, there’s almost no better place to live,” Goshorn says. “If you live close to the dams, we have great year-round rivers in this state, but there’s going to be some really great paddling after the weather starts warming up.”

Goshorn recommends that anyone interested in kayaking, canoeing, climbing, or any other outdoor activity should remember to begin with the basics. He insists that he is, in fact, not crazy for going out and paddling off of 35-foot waterfalls, but that the keys are to start small, be ready to learn, and build yourself up. As with most outdoor sports, it’s easy to get hurt if you’re not careful.

Newly wed, fresh off of a yearly winter trip kayaking and photographing Mexico, and emboldened by the oncoming spring, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for Goshorn. “I’m excited for the new year. Though I’m just going to keep teaching and doing what I love to do. That’s all anyone could ever want,” he says.

From the daunting, shadowy depths of the Grand Canyon to the easy, instructional hikes of Nature’s Classroom, Goshorn has found a way to conquer life and live his dreams in the great outdoors. Find out more about Nature’s Classroom at NaturesClassroom.com and follow Goshorn’s adventures on his blog, GranolaPaddler.blogspot.com.

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