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Logan StoryCorps: Family bonds over river experiences

Matthew Wappet stands half a head taller than Lianne Wappet with his arm around her shoulder. They are both laughing and wearing hoodies.
Matthew and Lianne Wappet at their StoryCorps conversation event.

Matthew and Lianne Wappett look back at a particularly wild experience on the San Juan river and how it affected their relationships with each other and their future family.

KIRSTEN SWANSON: It's time again for Utah StoryCorps, everyday people sharing their stories at the StoryCorps recording booth in Logan.

MATTHEW WAPPETT: Hi, I'm Matthew Wappett.

LIANNE WAPPETT: And my name is Lianne Wappett. One of the things that attracted me to you was that you're from the wilds of Alaska. And you had plenty of camping gear. And so I looked you up and made a brave phone call, saying ...

MATTHEW: ... I think you took my tent. And part of the deal, you'd have to go on a date with me.

LIANNE: That's right! And, yeah, we eventually got married. So we'll fast forward to the next big adventure.

MATTHEW: It was very hot, I remember it being like a hundred degrees.

LIANNE: So number one, desert river; number two, canoe.

MATTHEW: The water was actually flowing a lot bigger and faster than we anticipated. And so when we got there and loaded it in the water, and had all our gear in, we had, what, like three inches above waterline?

LIANNE: Yeah. And I remember launching and thinking, this is so exciting. We are in for a big adventure.

MATTHEW: And we were!

LIANNE: And we were.

MATTHEW: It was beautiful. I remember going down the river. So you got the muddy water. You got the big red rock walls that we were going around. And all of a sudden we come up on the first rapid.


MATTHEW: And we — I don't even think we stopped to scout it. I think we just went straight in.

LIANNE: I think we went straight.

MATTHEW: But the minute we hit that first wave. Our boat was full of water.

LIANNE: I laugh now, but holy moly. I remember that wave just coming right over my head.

MATTHEW: Yes. So all of a sudden after the first wave the boat's full of water, the boat' s underwater.

LIANNE: I'm out of the boat.

MATTHEW: You float out of the boat. I floated out of the boat. Gear started floating out of the boat. And we're going through this rapid still. So we're swimming through the rapid and the canoe, because it's underwater, is going faster. Yeah. I was trying to stay with the boat. You swam to shore and got out.

LIANNE: Yeah. And I remember running.

MATTHEW: So I had a hold of the boat with the rope. But it was dragging me and I couldn't keep a hold of it. And I let go.

LIANNE: And so I ran.

MATTHEW: Over cactuses. And I mean —

LIANNE: That's right.

MATTHEW: This is not smooth. I mean, this is like red rock cliffs, cactuses. And then you just like, jumped off. And I mean, this was not — this was like 20 feet above the water it was like a cliff that you jumped off. I was like, wow.

LIANNE: And at that moment, I was able to grab that stern line and pivot myself in between some rocks. And hold on to that for dear life.


LIANNE: Until you were able to come.

MATTHEW: Until I swam over. And we were able to pull the canoe out. So what did we learn through this?

LIANNE: That we both love adventure.

MATTHEW: And we could survive.

LIANNE: And that we could survive. And it taught me that I could trust you, that you could trust me, that you were resourceful.

MATTHEW: Taught me that you were tough. You were fast and you were tough.

LIANNE: And that we could still laugh and have fun, even when we're sopping wet. So we're lucky. We're lucky to live on this beautiful planet that has wild places where we can go and have adventures.

MATTHEW: And I mean, I think it's created — we've created a bond, I think, for our family. Every summer we spend time on the rivers now with our kids.

LEANNE: All of our children now have stories on rivers.

MATTHEW: One of my favorite memories is when we sit around the dinner table. Inevitably river stories come up. That's what's bonded the family and once one person tells a river story then the next person, then the next person and we just repeat. It's kind of become this family mythology.

LIANNE: Well, I love you and your adventurous spirit.

MATTHEW: Well, I love you too.

MARY HEERS: And this is Utah StoryCorps.

KIRSTEN SWANSON: Thanks for coming along.

MARY HEERS: See you next Friday. Same time —


KIRSTEN SWANSON: Support for Logan StoryCorps comes from Cache County and from USU Credit Union, a division of Goldenwest.

Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.
Kirsten grew up listening to Utah Public Radio in Smithfield, Utah and now resides in Logan. She has three children and is currently producing Utah StoryCorps and working as the Saturday morning host on UPR. Kirsten graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree History in 2000 and dual minors in Horticulture and German. She enjoys doing voice work, reading, writing, drawing, teaching children, and dancing. Major credits include StoryCorps, Utah Works, One Small Step, and the APTRA award-winning documentary Ride the Rails.
Check out our past StoryCorps episodes.