Sunny Montgomery paddles the Sarapiqui River in Costa Rica. (Photo by Alex Vargas)

For fun, I like to terrify myself on raging, boulder-choked rivers.

Indeed, for me, fear is an enormous part of my passion for whitewater. On the way to every put-in, my nerves start to tingle as I mentally weigh the risks that flow before me: the rocks, the holes, having my skills (or lack thereof) judged by others.

I remember the first time I ran Jared's Knee, a long, technical Class IV rapid on the Tellico River. As I stared down the busy rapid, my hands shook, my throat tightened. When my boat bumped a rock, I promptly launched myself out of my canoe and swam for the nearest eddy.

There, I stood trembling in waist-deep water, telling myself over and over, "This is fun. This is fun."

Risk is essential to adventure. And nature inspires awe and fear — emotions as visceral as our desire for new experiences.

This month we celebrate the extreme.

In our feature "Call of the Wild," we bring you our bucket list of some of the most thrilling and unusual outdoor adventures in all 50 states, from dog sledding in Maryland to ziplining over exotic animals in Ohio to base-jumping the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. The whole world awaits just beyond our comfort zone.

I suspect my fear on the river will never fully dissipate, and I wouldn't want it to. Paddling has taken me to extraordinary places, both mentally and physically. That is why, again and again, I climb back into my boat and I run the rest of that rapid.

some text Sunny Montgomery

- Sunny Montgomery

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