Fare Thee Well, Northern Lights

An icon moves on.

As I hastily tossed my boat onto the Suby, I caught a glimpse of the backband in disarray. The accessory cord that had faithfully secured my lower half in the craft had finally given way. I snagged cash and dashed across the street, thankful that I had such quick access to an outdoor store that could salvage my last-minute, late-season river quest. Six feet of 3.5mm cord and I’d be on my merry way… or so I thought. My go-to outdoor store, Northern Lights, was no more. By the time I got down 19th to the box store and got them to locate a new spool of accessory cord from the backroom, my hopes for a river sesh were quashed.

I knew from conversations with NLTC founder Mike Garcia that this time was a-comin’… he had plans to focus on the watersports end of his endeavors—the Northern Lights “Barn” on Huffine and a relatively new effort called Rivers, Lakes & Oceans, based in Pucón, Chile. Still, like Barrel Mountaineering before it, I had hoped that the time would never come. Alas, pressure from e-tailers with massive brick-and-mortar storefronts is no passing fad, leaving the days of dropping in to pick up crucial backcountry gear on a moment’s notice—while simultaneously exchanging anecdotes, route info, and current conditions with serious mountain athletes—one post-hole closer to “back in the day” rumination.

For watersports enthusiasts, there is a bright spot. The Barn on Huffine is still going strong. From rafts, canoes, and paddleboards, to cutting-edge whitewater kayaks, apparel, and safety equipment for those pushing the limits of the navigable, the iconic “Barn” offers plenty of everything, and can order in anything, for those looking to get wet in style.

Fare thee well, Northern Lights, you will be missed. Perhaps it is now time to recognize the value of having high-quality, specialized gear (and gearheads) available on the way to the river or mountains… consider skipping the lure of minor savings on the interwebs and throw your support to the remaining local specialty shops.