Canoe voyager plies the Columbia
June 2, 2022
Thorin Loeks is on a canoe journey from Astoria to the Gulf of Mexico, with a bit of cycling in between.
A singer/songwriter, social worker, and grad student, Loeks grew up in the Yukon Territory, where his father owned an adventure canoe guiding company for 20 years.
"I grew up paddling and being out appreciating nature," Loeks said.
He's going to be doing a lot of that for the next few months. An amiable and approachable fellow, Loeks makes friends easily. In Cathlamet, new friends kept him out of the inclement weather for a few days and gave him an opportunity to share his musical gifts at the River Mile 38 Brewery.
His plans are to paddle the Columbia River to where it meets the Snake River, continuing on to Lewiston, Idaho. He then plans to bicycle across Idaho from Lewiston to Grangeville to Elk City and across the Magruder Corridor Trail to Darby, Montana. He will continue on to Sula and then to the headwaters of the Big Hole River, where a contact has agreed to bring his canoe.
Loeks will paddle the Big Hole River to the Jefferson River and then the Jefferson River to the Missouri River, following it all the way to St. Louis where it joins the Mississippi, on down to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
This isn't Loeks first foray into adventure. Ten years earlier, he bicycled from Astoria to Portland, Maine.
"I loved going through small towns and connecting with good people," Loeks said. "The amount of amazing experiences and kindness I encountered along the way was really heartwarming for me. It really renewed my faith in humanity."
"I think these journeys allow me to tap into my creativity, he added. "I love to sing. I busked the whole time, playing music."
He's also paddled the Mississippi River from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, and ridden a bicycle from the Arctic Circle to San Francisco doing a grassroots album tour.
"I think that combination of music, community, adventure, and challenging myself to learn what I'm capable of, is a powerful experience for me," Loeks said. "I've always had that drive to explore new places, get the lay of the land."
With three studio albums already done, Loeks is hoping to write the next one on this adventure.
He's also doing research for his thesis and journaling a lot, hoping to gain a sense of the spirit of communities.
"My grad research is going to be all about what is it that brings people together to do the things they love to do," Loeks said. "What creates that feeling of community and belonging that draws people into different places and how can that be fostered?"
Music isn't his only creative outlet. He also has a podcast where he talks to interesting people about self actualization, pursuing their dreams, and what it is that they love about their communities.
"I'm able to connect and share amazing insights and perspectives with people that might not know anything about places like Cathlamet. For some people it's a dot on the map, but when you come here, it's its own world. The people that live here all have their own amazing perspectives and stories and being able to share some of those is really rewarding for me," he said.
"I'm a patient and persistent person," Loeks said. "My home is where my heart is, and so wherever I go, I know I can meet great people, and everybody is special in different ways. That's the wonderful part about it, you get to connect with interesting and special people in unique ways and doing that through music and good conversation and beautiful communities like Cathlamet, it's a joy."
Loeks continued upriver when the rain turned to sunshine, but with all the new friends and the music and magic of Cathlamet, perhaps he will return one day to perform all the new songs he wrote on an adventure he undertook the year he turned 31.