Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crazy Times

The last 10 days or so have seen some crazy weather and some crazy water. Getting major thunderstorms every couple days around the metro has pushed the Verm to levels that have not been seen in the 10 years that I've been kayaking. It peaked a couple of days ago at over 1,200 cfs. If you're not familiar, the normal level for this time is less than 60 cfs. And of course, I don't have the helmet cam anymore.

I had the rare pleasure of paddling it last Friday at around 700cfs and found it to be a high-speed ride through some pretty crazy stuff. I had paddled it at a similar level many years ago when I was just a newbie and it had scared the living daylights out of me. This time around, it was fun to just marvel at the speed the water carries you as you try to dodge the nasty spots.

Speaking of nasty spots, there are two to be avoided at that level. Railroad is big and powerful, but can be avoided on river right. I don't think it would hold you that long if you were caught in it, but it would be a wild ride. The trick with Railroad is that Triple is high-speed, large-scale chaos leading right up to it. Things happen so fast that if you get flipped or otherwise find yourself off-line, you may find yourself in the maw of it before you even realize where you are.

The second, nastier feature is the ledge into Fisherman's. At this level and above it's a huge, extremely retentive hole that takes up the entire center section of the river. It can be snuck along the right or left shore, but only right along the shore. As was kindly demonstrated by a certain paddler on Friday, going into it leads to a very long and violent surf that I'm pretty sure is inescapable right side up.

Finally, the river at this level is generally lined with undercut walls. I mean they're literally everywhere. You don't notice them at normal levels because they're above your head, but now they're right at the surface and we saw boats and boaters get pulled under them. Luckily on the shallow ones, but something to be aware of.

I uploaded the only picture that I got that really shows anything useful. It's the railroad pool from the bridge. You'll notice the rock is nearly under and the downstream flow now spans the whole valley. A photo I tried to get but failed was the river flowing right over the ledge on river left after S-bend. You can paddle right off of it now. I also threw up a shot of the gauge just for fun.

This weekend's the Midwest Freestyle Championships, so we'll see how I do after being absent from the course all summer. At least I know it will be fun, even I bomb in the comp. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Diving Weekend

I skipped Wausau again this weekend. As much fun as I have out there, I've felt drawn to other things more strongly this summer, and this weekend was no exception. Instead of the 3+ hour drive out there, I made a much shorter journey with Nick to Stillwater to dive in Square Lake.

Square Lake has a large area designed for divers, with 4 underwater platforms and various other things to discover like the tail section of a plane, a sunken canoe, some fish crates, and other fun things. The platforms even have different things on them, including the "scuba biffy" in case you've really gotta go.

The water was warm and the visibility wasn't too bad. We got to play with lots of panfish and a few largemouth bass, but over half of our time under was spent searching for one of two things. The first was a pair of Fossil sunglasses that was dropped by one of the swimmers above us. He gave us a pretty good idea of where they'd be, and it didn't take us too long to find them.

That's when the second item became lost. Apparently when I came up and took my mask off to tell the guy that I found his glasses, my helmet cam fell off. I had never worn it scuba diving, but figured it might be fun to try out. Since I wasn't wearing a helmet, I had it hooked to a head strap that came with it. We searched for a very long time, but never found it. I'll have to head out there again soon and try again, but for now it's gone. : (
It really sucks to lose, but on a lot of levels I was shocked that I was able to have it for so long without losing or breaking it. It suffered several kayaking rock blows, spent some time snow kiting, went snorkeling and more. If I can't find mine, I'm definitely getting another.

On a happier note, Kim also did some diving this weekend, although not with me. She did her classroom and pool training for her certification and it sounds like she had a great time. She'll do her open water dives later this month, then she'll be fully certified and ready for some diving!