Monday, June 28, 2010

2nd Annual Mississippi River Paddle

1 big river, 5 Americans, 2 Irish visitors, a car accident, and an extremely ornery tugboat operator; those was the makings of the 2nd annual voyage through the locks on the Mississippi. Among the awesome group of boaters was Kim, who I'm convinced is becoming hooked on kayaking! Well, at least hooked on kayaking once a year on flatwater, but it's a start!
From Mississippi 2010

We put in at Boom Island on the North side of Minneapolis around 11am, but not before we had a small fender-bender while running the shuttle.
From Mississippi 2010

We had a couple first-time kayakers and even more first-time on the river kayakers. Within a couple minutes of leaving the island, though, everyone was gliding along past the downtown skyline like old pros.

We made it straight into the first two locks without even having to wait - it was reeeallly nice after having some delays last year. We even had a nice chat with the lock operator at the second one, who told us all about the lock and the new hydro plant they're installing next to it. Meanwhile there were Egrets fishing from the pools of water that form on the lock gate as the water drops.
From Mississippi 2010

From there it was several miles of scenic flatwater as we passed below the 35W bridge and past the U of M's Minneapolis campus. We stopped for a snack at about the halfway point, but were back on our way pretty quickly. We had awesome weather (86 degrees and partly cloudy) and we didn't want to waste it!
From Mississippi 2010

About a half mile before the Ford dam and lock, we noticed there was a barge some distance behind us. We were about 1/2 way between the lock and the barge. Judging by the distance to the lock and the distance from the barge, we knew that we could make it without interfering with his travels, so we just picked up our pace a bit and made it to the lock well ahead of him. The lock was closed and filling when we arrived, so we and the barge all had to wait for it to open. When it did, the barge entered and we waited for the next cycle. That didn't stop the barge driver, however, from yelling various curses at us for being in his way. This is still somewhat of a mystery to me, as he had to change neither course nor speed for us and we did not delay him at all. But, he did manage to make himself look rather ridiculous as he threw his little tantrum from the top of his decending boat.
From Mississippi 2010

All obnoxious boat captains aside, we finished our voyage just downstream from the dam at Hidden Falls Park in about 4 hours. The Irish folks, unfortunately, finished the day with not only the experience of a day on the river, but a good dose of sunburn to remember it by. Everyone else came through unscathed, and I definitely think that this year counts as another great success. Here's to next year!
From Mississippi 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

Continuum Weekend!

From Continuum

We had an awesome and groundbreaking group for the Canoe U Continuum this year! They flew through all the skills we could teach them with time to spare. So, with the extra time, we decided to run them down sections that (to my knowledge at least) no Canoe U class has done before.
From Continuum

We spent both days practicing on the Lower Louey, using our normal stomping grounds above and below the 210 bridge to work on some skills. For the first time, though, we had students running over Tablesaw to start their runs off. Everyone did great, and even a boater that slid off kept his cool and dug his way out of the eddy jail on river left.
From Continuum

More significantly, though, was what we did downstream. Normally we do some work at Big Glassy and take out after that. With this group, however, we were able to actually run both First and Second Sister! First sister was particularly difficult at the low levels we had, but the students were charging it! Most people were taking the left line down and going for a boof over the hole. There were a couple flips but to my happy amazement those students just picked up their boats, took a second shot, and conquered it! It was great to see that level of enthusiasm and drive.
From Continuum

We walked Octopus and made our way to the bone yard where the students got a trial-by fire on choosing lines, technical maneuvering, and dealing with rock pins.
From Continuum

Finally, we scouted Swinging Bridge though the students decided to save that for another day. Something to look forward to! After a long weekend in which we pushed them hard, it was good to see that they weren't afraid to exercise judgment and make the call to save that one for later.
From Continuum

In all, it was a great weekend with awesome students. I've come to love Canoe U because the students have such awesome stoke that you can't help but catch it. It's a great shot of enthusiasm as your coming down off the spring boating high.

To all of the students - GREAT JOB! You guys are becoming really solid boaters and I hope to see you guys on the river this summer. And if you ever need someone to join you on a run, just let me know! Also, to see all of my pics from the weekend, click on the "My Web Albums" link on the right of this page open the Continuum one.

To Bob and Jeremiah - It's always awesome working with you guys. As the new kid on the block, I feel like I'm learning as much as the students. You've got me looking forward to next year!
From Continuum

Friday, June 04, 2010

Colorado Trip

I know this is is a bit belated, but WOW what a trip! It was one of those weekends when you never knew what to expect, and there was a surprise around every corner. Water levels went from low to screaming high, we stumbled upon a paddling festival with tons of big names, ran into lots of friends from the midwest, and had tons of crazy moments on the water.

The group that went out was Caleb, Jade, Nora, and myself. Only Nora had ever paddled the Arkansas before, and that was at a much lower level. We had planned on paddling on our own, scouting what we needed to, but mostly just running-and-gunning the endless rapids. We also had some help from a couple former midwesterners who now live in CO with local beta that was priceless. To our surprise, however, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by even more friends including Jeremiah, Tina, Missy, Tommy G, and more.

We had a got a huge surprise from Mother Nature on our way out, as the spring thaw finally hit the Rockies. Apparently they had been getting snow until right before we came out, then that week the temps really climbed. The day we arrived the high was in the 90's and the low in the 70's, and that was at 8,000' (Buena Vista)! The temps stayed up and the mountains let loose. The Arkansas level was about 1100cfs when we left Minnesota. It was 2800 when we arrived in CO, and 3400 by Sunday.

The huge levels threw our plans pretty much out the Window. We traded the numbers and a possible Royal Gorge run in for the Fractions and Brown's Canyon. At those levels, we wound up with nearly endless wave trains (some as high as 10') with a few boulders and holes to dodge for good measure. It gave us plenty of fun without having to be too cautious or spend much time scouting.

The highlight was Brown's Canyon with Jeremiah acting as our guide. Big water, huge boat chase, and tons of fun. It's all detailed in an earlier post, so you can check out the details there.

We did the Fractions twice - once the first day and once on Monday. The Monday run was our quick Goodbye run before beginning the long drive. We did over 7 miles in the high flows (including one thorough shore scout) in just over an hour. It was a blast.

Here's a couple videos to check out: Mine is the first one and it's about 7 minutes long. Unfortunately Movie Maker and I had another battle over sound editing and I lost, so the soundtrack is a bit screwed up. The next two are parts 1 and 2 of Caleb's video. Each is about 10 minutes long, but they're much better edited than mine. Check 'em out!


Caleb's (Part 1)

Caleb's (Part 2)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Colorado Trip - Brown's Canyon

I'm still working on editing stuff, but here's the first video. It's from our Sunday paddle down Brown's Canyon with the Adreson's. It was huge at about 3200cfs and rediculously fun. It was probably the highlight of our trip with lots of gigantic features. Jeremiah, Missy, and Tina were awesome for bringing us along.

The huge water wasn't the only story that day, though. In the middle of the run we had a boater take a swim. The boater made it to shore quickly and without incident, but the boat headed downstream into one of the most challenging sections of the river.

After thinking "wow, that looks big down there - do I really want to dive into it blind?" I decided that yeah, I definitely did and peeled out of the eddy in pursuit.
I was immediately faced with a wave train that was large enough to allow multiple paddle strokes on the face of each wave. I'm thinking the first wave was close to 10'. The huge waves made for good scouting, though, and I was able to spot the empty boat ahead. I caught up and was able to flip the boat, but found there were no good eddys around. So, we kept floating downstream at an amazingly swift pace.

About now is when Jeremiah caught up with me (he was in his playboat). We struggle to get the boat, which was submarine-ing despite its floatbags, into the small eddys that we came upon. All the while, we tried to take turns watching downstream and calling pourovers and other hazards as we approached. As we worked our way down Widowmaker and the Steps, this teamwork saved our butts because it was impossible to wrangle the huge flooded boat and read the river at the same time. I swear the boat was intentionally fighting us, getting caught in every eddyline, bouncing the wrong way off every rock, and diving deep at every opportunity. I think the two of us got it at least partially into 3 eddys, but it refused to stay long enough to secure it.

Soon Jade and Caleb joined the effort and we started making real progress. All of us were now working together in what became the finest example of teamwork I can think of. We had people watching and calling the river ahead while others took turns using their momentum to coax the flooded boat where it needs to go. It still did its best to resist, and it required about 5 hand-of-god flips to keep it upright. We pushed, pulled, bulldozed, and towed it towards eddys. On one, we got it in and Jeremiah jumped out of his boat to secure it while we tried to hold it in. The boat subbed under the pushers once again, and headed back into the current like it was radio-controlled. Seriously - the Army could use that kind of evasive maneuvering equipment.

Jeremiah, now out of his boat, was running along the rocky bank trying to keep up and hopefully grab it the next time we got to shore. The remaining three of us kept at it and eventually Caleb was able to give it a final Herculean shove into an eddy where we pinned it down and got it out.

The total chase encompassed around 1.5 miles of continuous whitewater. We navigated huge waves, nasty holes, eddylines that would suck down a creek boat, and plenty of big rocks. I think it's the most physically exhausted I've been on a river. Unknown to us, however, the eddy we finally got it into was about 200 yards from the first calm stretch of river all day... That's luck for you. I got the first portion of the rescue on helmet cam, but then the battery died so I didn't include it in this video. Watch for scenes from it when I get the Blooper reel together, though.

For now, enjoy the video, and I'll post more as I finish them!

From Colorado May '10