Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Day with Boof or Die on the split Rock River

This is from Andy McMurray's blog. An account of my first run of the split Rock River. Thanks for the kind words! It was a day I won't ever forget!

Nora drops the Split Rock

Six years ago, Nora Whitmore, a older female kayaker from the Midwest began her kayaking career. From then till now, she's become a solid female paddler for the region, competeing in various freestyle competitions, instructing new boaters in the area's local clinics, and has even progressed as a creekboater. Determined to push the limits and in continous improvement of the sport, Nora's enthusiasm to whitewater kayak is second to none, in addition, she's tough.

Photo: Full Face and Romping.
Taken by Chris Baer

With good warm temperatures and medium flows on the Split Rock, the Team Boof or Die crew figured that all was set into place to take Nora down her virgin run of the Split Rock. It would be the biggest and most extensive challenging whitewater she had faced to date.

The result: She styled it.

Photo: Nora sans lift tickets on Ski Jump.
Taken by Chris Baer

Photo: Even the boys were having fun.
Taken by Chris Baer

Photo: She thought long about this one. Riding Shotgun.
Taken by Chris Baer

Photo: Maybe we had too much fun.
Taken by John McConville

A more first hand testimonial of Nora's experience via words and photos can be witnessed on her excellent blog by clicking here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twas Murder on the Bunny Mile Tonight!

Sometimes I just have to say that was incredible Lord! Tonight was one of those nights that started out with no plans but to get some exercise to wear off the office treats. I grabbed my skis and opted for the Cannon Valley Trail. Easy groomed local trail that I usually Rollerblade in the warmer seasons. The first mile is what I call the Bunny Mile. I usually do laps on this when I don't have the time to head way out on the trail. The peculiar thing about this mile is the over abundance of bunnys! Always darting out in front of your blades at the last second. Hence the Bunny Mile. I got a late start and considered just doing the laps but kept going instead. Everything was perfectly groomed with just a dusting of snow from today. I noticed the blood right away. A spot of bunny poo with blood. I thought someone has a problem and skied on. Then another spot and then more. Some with a few strips of fur. Some with more blood and some with less. What was killing the bunny's? They seemed to be killed right on their game path from their dens so there were lots of small tracks. I had saw a young man with a slingshot killing bunny's last summer and wondered if someone was shooting them for food or what. The tracks didn't add up to anything conclusive. There were some dog tracks, lots of people tracks, and I followed a cat for a bit on the trail but none were common with the blood sites. It was starting to get dark and I was about a mile yet away from my truck when I saw a bunny run across the trail ahead of me. A large hawk landed on the trail just after it but the bunny made good his escape. Then I knew. I watched the hawk as I skied up and was surprised when I saw a man come out of the brush and pick up the hawk. Wow! You don't see that everyday. Fascinating! I stopped and talked to the man. His bird was a rescued hawk. Blind in one eye. She personally didn't have any luck with the bunny's tonight and the man speculated it was wild birds that hunted there today. They must have been very well fed. I talked for quite awhile to the man about his bird. We got on the subject of exercise as he mentioned it was the first time out for awhile for him and his hawk due to the Holidays and a family tragedy. Oh no I thought! I just had gotten back from a weekend with my nephew Allan that had just had a heart transplant and I thought could it be possible? I had to ask. My heart went out to him when he told me of his wife's sister in law that just committed suicide and he told me the story. I had to tell him the reason I asked was because of my nephew Allan who had just been transplanted last week. No she wasn't the donor but here the story gets more incredible. He said his first daughter had a heart transplant at 5 weeks old and he had been through the whole life changing event! Time for his daughter to receive a heart was extremely critical and they flew to St Louis to be in a bigger district as our district is very small compared to others. He told me the whole story...all the trials and triumphs. His daughter today is 14 and normal and active in all ways. Very inspiring and uplifting! To top it off he grows natural prairie flowers for seed. We had a long talk about that as I have bags of seeds that I collected this fall for a project in the spring. Sometimes I'm just amazed at how God brings people and/or events into my life. What turned out to be a quick XC ski before making dinner turned out to be a very incredible night! As I sit here writing this I am still amazed at the night! Thank you Lord for Allan's heart and for placing this man's story in my path tonight!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Men, a Passion and Vision.

Love is a wonderful word. It's birth in a soul starts with that first a spark from flint. Hot and fast. A quickening in your center and a drawing that cannot be denied. Love has no boundaries and no rules as to what it chooses. Tony Vavricka and Greg Martin experienced this the first time they climbed ice. A passion for ice was born that could not be denied. From the early days of mismatched tools and borrow and swap gear they nurtured this love to what it is today. December 11th - 13th marked the fifth annual Sandstone Icefest organized by Tony and Greg. Definitely a mile stone establishing it as the premiere ice event here. Two years ago I stumbled upon a post on a board about the icefest and on a whim signed up for the intro to ice climbing class. I felt that same spark and haven't looked back. The icefest has clinics for the brand spanking new climber to advanced. This year I brought my whitewater paddling friend, Lori, with to introduce her to ice. Her experience climbing consisted of one trip to Vertical Endeavors the week before. The clinics provided all the gear and the instruction was top notch. Having gone through all the emotions two years before it was special to watch Lori experience the same. The first incredible awe of seeing the beautiful ice wall and thinking "I am going to climb that?" To the moment you see the spark ignite. This not only happened for Lori but was repeated many times over as I watched the excellent instructors teach the clinics. The excitement was addicting. This years featured climber was Dawn Glanc. Winner of the 2009 Ouray Icefest. I was very fortunate to be able to take two of her clinics. I started with the intermediate clinic on Friday and was amazed. Just the smallest of details make the biggest advancement in climbing. Saturday I was in the advanced clinic. For me this was my intro to dry tooling. So many techniques were shown. Again being precise was more. Dawn is truly an amazing woman and great instructor!
The clinics are not the only thing going on. Routes were set and climbers could climb all day. Gear reps were there to loan out the best of!! In the evening, music, dinner, the best fireworks you'll ever see and a slide show by Dawn taking us on her journey from the spark to the amazing climb she did to win the Ouray! There was a mountain of swag given out and the party went on through the night. Sunday featured the chili cook off and more climbing. The city of Sandstone is the epitome of Minnesota nice. The local businesses welcomed us with open arms and great food (and beer). The local residents came down to watch the fun. There are miles of XC ski trails in Banning State park...not to mention a few other (forbidden) ice climbs in the park. Another aspect of the Festival is the winter camping. Many forms of tents and shelters were assembled and I must say it did spark some curiosity in me. There was even a tee pee. Some were heated and some were not.
Vision...if you can dream it... Next year will be a whole different animal. Born from the hard work of Tony and Greg and the pasion over the years from all climbers the city of Sandstone is installing piping along the entire quarry cliff creating an awesome ice climbing park! Mark your calenders for next's going to be huge!! What?! You can't wait that long?! Then mark your calenders for the first annual Ice Pit Gear Demo and Climbing weekend in Green Bay Wisconsin. January, 16-17, 2010. More fun and we also get to hang out at an indoor waterpark at night! More information and amazing photos can be found at

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Picture the North Shore

After leaving the St. Louis River I continued north to Tofte Minnesota where I met up with Joi. Our plans for a girls weekend were many. Kayaking, hiking and photography. We started with breakfast and made an itinerary...I have no idea why I even attempt to make an itinerary as I have never kept to one...but it gave us something to do while eating breakfast. We decided to try to photograph the wild wolf pack and then hike the Kadunce. We headed to the wolves den. I have seen Joi's photos of them from this summer so I was anxious to see them. Unfortunately they were not a home. Lots of tracks and scat but no wolves. Stops that morning included the Cross River and Sugarloaf Cove for a little photography. Then I thought I'd like to see the falls on the Caribou River. The Caribou was the first waterfall that I had ice climbed, or I should say ice bouldered because I wasn't using a rope. I was interested in seeing how deep the pool was at the bottom. The hike is stunning! I had never been to the top of the falls and found it to be well worth it. Joi and I were taking tons of pictures along the way. We had nothing but time. I used several different settings to see what was working and why. At the top we followed the river for a short time. I started to get a bit of a hincky feeling at the top and then Joi said she had heard something moving in the bushes up ahead. It could have been anything but we didn't see what ever it was. devious mind was at work. I was thinking how freaky it would be if when we got back and went through our photos we saw a cougar in the background tracking us. Maybe even two. It would make for a great story. Now I know that the only thing in the woods that frightens Joi is cougars so I didn't bring this up until we were back down closer to the falls. Needless to say I totally creeped her out. The rest of the weekend while hiking I was doing the "here kitty, kitty, kitty," thing. That evening we had a nice paddle on Lake Superior and then demoed more kayaks in the pool. Sunday we were up before the sun and did some sunrise photos and then headed to the Split Rock. Joi had never hiked it before and wanted to see it. We spent another day photographing one of the most beautiful rivers on the North Shore. Time for me to start heading south. I made stops at Gooseberry Falls, The Knife River, and Stoney. By that time the sun had set on a great weekend spent with great friends. Just before I left I confessed to Joi that there really were two courgars in the woods...her eyes got wide with fright and she said "No!' I smiled and said "Yes there" Enlarge the photographs by clicking on may just see something else or maybe not.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Black Friday...Beautiful Day.

Finally I had a weekend off. Three days of no work and the weather for the end of November was incredible! I stopped at Midwest to pick up a few boats for Joi to try out and headed north. I actually had butterflies in my stomach I was so excited to be back on the road again! It has been a long time (for me). The sun was shining and my first destination was the St. Louis River. Actually it was the only destination in Minnesota with any water running to speak of. This late in the season I was curious to see what the mystery last drop looked like. The reservoir is drained each winter and with the dropping of the level one last drop opens up. I met up with my friend Jack at the Outpost and we ran the shuttle. We both had opted for creek boats today as the water was mucho cold and we were just into running the river. How blessed were we to have a warm (for Minnesota) sunny day with just a fun level to paddle. We took our time and just enjoyed the paddled chatting, laughing and just hanging out. We finally made it down to the Mystery Drop at the end. I wanted a good look at it as the one and only other time I ran it it sucked my playboat back in and I had to surf it out. We pulled out and looked at it from the right and then crossed over and looked at it from the left. We both took the small boof on the left and then we ferried out to look and see what the middle looked like. I am told this ledge becomes a very sticky hole at certain levels. Very interesting to see. The sun was on it's way down as we crossed the reservoir. Thin ice lay in patches around the edges and I had my fun ice breaking through. Was this my last paddle for 2009? I can't say for sure but if it was Jack and I had a stellar day on Black Friday!