Hike of Champions

Adriene Levknecht, winner of the Women’s Heat at the Green Race, poses with young paddler/hiker Charlotte Harkness.
Photo by Marcos Harkness

On November 5, some 2,000 spectators watched the annual Green Race, an extreme-kayaking event where the world’s top competitors navigate the famously gnarly “Narrows” portion of Polk County’s Green River. The Green Race has been happening for decades —it’s been called “the greatest show in all of sports” — and this year, NPR’s Morning Edition reported on the event. But the story focused more on the  audience than the athletes — and that’s because, in order to see the race, spectators must descend a two-mile ravine, so vertical in one section it requires ropes.

“Paddling the Narrows is stressful and exciting — hiking in to see the race is equally grueling,” local kayaker Marcos Harkness acknowledges to Bold Life. Harkness has paddled the major rapids of the Green and counts many friends among the competitors. 

This year was special for a different reason, though: “It’s the first time I’ve taken my 6-year-old-daughter Charlotte down to see the Green Race,” says Harkness. “I’ve started her out on her own little kayak in easy rivers, and she watches kayak videos with me. She was excited to see the women compete this year.” 

Charlotte reportedly enjoyed the hike down, “and the hike out,” adds Harkness, “was like an adventure course for her in pouring rain, up waterfalls of chocolate milk. 

“Keeping an eye on my small child navigating this terrain was a bit stressful for me. She had the time of her life, though, fueled by PB&Js and her Halloween candy.”

— Ed.

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