Thursday, July 22, 2010

Polish up Those Paddles! Midwest Freestyle Championships are almost here!

Can it be only a few short weeks until the Midwest Freestyle Championships?  Only two more weekend releases to practice your moves? It's coming up fast! 
  The Midwest Freestyle Championships are rapidly becoming a premiere event attracting several Pro Boaters last year.  The moves are more daring and complex and it takes a whole lot to shine in the expert class now.  Last year had a huge showing in all of the men's divisions from novice to expert...the number of men competing keeps growing. I have been watching the men grow as playboaters over the summer and there is some very, very solid competition out there this year.
  I remember a few years back when I first started coming to Wausau the women's division could only be described as scant.  Very few wanted to brave throwing themselves in a hole in front of...well...everyone.  Last year with the combining men and women in the  Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert classes encouraged a lot of first time beginner women to give it a try.  The result was a very large turnout and incredible fun had by all.
  The Women still have a division of their own.  Last year had the most women participating to date.  I expect even more this year!  What is even more fantastic is that the Midwest women really have a tight Sisterhood and encourage each other to do their best.  The resulting synergy is really a reflection of the love and respect we have for each other. The women have come a long way over the last few years with a few competing in the Expert division and everyone really throwing it down.  The Midwest girls are rocking!
  If you seem to be short on "moves" Colin Kemp and John McConville from Jackson Kayak have a Freestyle Clinic on the Thursday and Friday before.  Awesome teachers that have paddled around the world. These classes fill up very fast so be sure to register today.
   Think you're too old to throw down....not so!  The Masters division is for anyone over 40.  And of course if you just want to bomb down a river, racing some other bomb dudes, the Boatercross is for you.  Fun to do and fun to watch the carnage. You never know what to expect here.
  There will be an OC1 and C1 division.  I have a lot of respect and admiration for these men and women.  You'll see some amazing moves here from our local home gown paddlers!
  Free camping as always and the swagg is like none other with top prize being a Jackson kayak of your choice.  Now how awesome is that?
  Here is my post from 2009.
  Here is my post from 2008
Check out the photos and moves from the recent past!  I hope to see everyone there this year!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Northwest...Washington and Oregon!

I cruised into Hood River just after dark wishing I could see more of the Gorge.  I had spotty cell reception on this trip and directions that told me to go a mile exactly from a gas station and I'd find the private drive to Lori's.  No problem...I've had worse directions and still found my way, in the dark.  Lori gathered her gear and we set off to find the boys at our home base camp at Trout Lake.  I had recommended to Lori to take the job at Wet Planet leaving all she knew in Minnesota for the unknown.  As an avid "mother hen" I was anxious to see how she was doing.

She was doing fantastic!   We went to the The Trout Lake Country Inn for breakfast and I walked into my past.  The building is ancient with all the original woodwork.  The front had a small bar area and tables with a comfortable sofa area and TV. The back was the old style dance hall with a classic stage. In the olden days I was told there used to be bath tubs lined up for the locals to come and buy a bath.  The decor was antique everyday items.  My favorite item is the picture of the Duke, John Wayne,  hanging on the wall.  The front porch was just how I remember the porch on our old farm house was.  Memories blew through my mind like the cool evening winds I recalled rocking on that porch. Lori and I schemed our first day together...heehee!
Scott on Husum Falls

  First off was paddling the White Salmon. Lori is truly blessed to have this stream as her home river.  Everything from class II to V.  What a beautiful training ground.   We then went to the Wind River and dropped three of our group off there and then Lori, Chris and I went to do the hike into Falls Creek Falls. Walking in the northwest woods is like walking in a fantasy world. Emerald greens and rustic colors so rich it's hard to believe they're real.  The hike was long and we had almost given up finding the falls when we came out on an overlook and saw the falls down below us.  We cracked our celebratory beers, took some photos and wondered why our path didn't take us to the bottom like the guide book said it would.  Darkness was on it's way and it was a long hike out.  We decided to finish our beers as we walked further on the path to see if it went to the top of the falls.  Sure enough just as I was finishing my beer we arrived at the top of the most magnificent, three tier falls you could imagine.  Standing at the top was breathtaking! The guide book mentioned a root ladder along the side of the falls you could use to climb up.  We started down climbing the root ladder.  With each level the falls revealed more!  Wow!  This is THE BEST part yet!  Down climb some more...No no!  THIS is the best view yet.  The beauty and immensity of the falls is humbling!  I found myself trying to capture the complete aura in one photo but was unable to fit so much into my lens. There are so many hikes they recommend out in the Gorge area...I recommend this be your first. We took lots of photos and then with dark almost upon us, headed back out.  Personally I love trail running downhill.  It was over two miles to the car and we trail ran most of it until it was too dark to see the roots and rocks on the trail.  We ended the day hooking back up with the Wind river group at the bar for dinner. Great start for our Washington/Oregon trip!
Chris and Lori Falls Creek Trail
Falls Creek
Me on the overlook
First Tier of Falls Creek Falls
Second Tier Falls Creek Falls
Third Tier Falls Creek Falls
Awesome hiking crew!

  Day two started with breakfast at my favorite inn.  An early morning run on the White Salmon.  Then we all went for a group paddle on the Clakamas River in Oregon.  A friendly playboat run just outside of Portland. This river was just pure fun!  We followed with a group hike to Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek.  Some of our group deemed it to be runnable and made plans for the next day to huck it.  We finished the evening with dinner at the Full Sail Brewery.  Awesome stout beer and an awesome day two!
Below Punch Bowl Falls on Eagle Creek
Punch Bowl Falls on Eagle Creek

  Day three, Lori had to go back to work so we did an early morning bomb run of the White Salmon only starting higher up on the run.  Afterward the group scattered to do separate adventures. I wanted some alone time in Hood River just hanging out, getting my bike fixed and taking in the neighborhood.  Some of the others went to huck Punchbowl Falls and Oggie went hiking with his Uncle and Brian waited for his friend, Eric, at the campsite.   On my way back from town I stopped to drop some lunch off with Lori.  She heard there was going to be an ender contest at Top Drop that evening.  Wow!  We need to get one of these started here in the Midwest!  The rules were your boat had to be nine or more feet long.  You get three minutes to see what you can do in the hole and with each move the crowd shouts out a number from  1 to 10.  A score keeper does his or her best to average the score.  Sound like fun?  You bet it was!

Ironic that day four was the Fourth of July!  By this time Brian's friend Eric had joined us and our group did another paddle on the White Salmon.  Lori had to work but begged off early in the afternoon so our core hiking group consisting of Lori, Chris and I could hike Sleeping Beauty.  A small mountain (by comparison) from which on a clear day you can see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helen's.  It was clear when we started but after hiking to the top we were just in some light clouds that obscured the view.  Still we were able to look down at an incredible sight!  We celebrated this hike with an awesome stout!

Back at camp Chris was talking about going with me when I left in the morning so we could do the Lochsa River on the way home.  Chris was fired up to hit this river and I was curious.  I loved the Payette and was having thoughts of going back to it and doing one last big water playboat run on my way home.  Chris assured me that the Lochsa was big water and you can do it in a playboat. We were on the road at 5:30am headed east.  Just because you're headed home doesn't mean the adventure is over.
Kiters in Hood River.  Maybe I should have brought a kite or two.

I really need to apologize for the lack of abundant river photos.  My Optio took a dive off my truck and I hadn't replaced it before the trip.  I used my SLR camera for these shots so if you click on the photo it will enlarge and I truly hope you enjoy them.  I have since replaced my Optio and I promise you I will go back there next year and shoot up the rivers. I have some helmet cam that I will be editing as soon as I find a bit of time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Day I Forgot my PFD!

I am known far and wide as "THE" person who has extra of everything stashed in my truck.  If you forgot it, Nora's got it.  I always carry two PFD's in my truck. My rescue PFD and my play PFD. Not this day though.  I had just gotten back from the Northwest and unloaded my truck.  With my brand new PFD just arrived I took my older ones out and hung them on their hooks. I didn't get around to putting my new PFD in the truck before I went to my home river...The Vermilion.  I was bummed when I discovered this fact in the parking lot.  Since it would be an hour round trip home to get it and I spend more time in Donut Hole than on my living room couch I decided to paddle without it. All things considered including that I am a very strong swimmer and it's a small pool drop park and play river with lots of paddlers there, I wasn't too worried.
  The river was up from the summer rains.  We had a fairly large group gathered to play.  The Verm is a place to just go and hang out with friends and have fun.  Some of my best paddling memories are from this river.   We made it down to my favorite hole...Donut!  It was stomping and so much fun.  I chased one paddler down to the pool below when she swam.  It's a large safe pool for the most part and a favorite swimming hole for the local kids.  The only current is a jet on river right that pushes along a slightly undercut cliff wall.  In the summer the young people that hang out also like to butt slide down through Donut hole so it's not unusual for us to wait for them to go through.  Two young men were taking turns in the hole with us.  All was good.  Then one of the young men decided to try to talk his girlfriend into sliding down.  I could see she was very reluctant.  He then decided to try to persuade her by making out with her above the drop so all of us could watch.  "Come on baby...I'll be there to save you." We could see it all coming down.  I was next in the hole and it was to be my last ride and then I was headed out.  The pool below was filling up with the boaters that had washed or swam too far down and it was time to go.  Well she was finally convinced so I let them slide hand in hand through the hole and then I jumped in for my last surf.  As I turned to head down to the pool I saw only her in the fast water along the undercut with her boyfriend nowhere to be seen.  I had a suspicion something was very wrong and sped down to her.  When I caught up to her she had sank completely underwater and I could see she had no idea how to swim.  I was horrified to see she was actually drowning. I looked to grab something on her to pull her up but there was nothing to grab. I was just about to jump out of my boat when she hit the wall and grabbed on.  She pried her head above water as I pulled up next to her. She didn't realize at first I was there but pressed her head into the rock.  She was terrified, sobbing and hysterical.  I talked to her to calm her down and explained that I was going to give her the back of my kayak to hold on to and I would take her across the current.  Bobzilla had caught wind of what was going down and was there if I needed him.
  She was a sweetheart and listened to my commands.  Not being a swimmer she was hard to ferry across the current since she didn't know how to float.  I saw her boyfriend just watching in waist deep water on the sand bar.   I yelled at him to come and help her.  No response.  Again I told him to come and help her. Very little response.  He took a few slow steps. It was pretty obvious he really didn't give a %&*$.  Wow!  When I did get her onto the sand bar and she was standing I asked her if she even knew how to swim.  She said "no".  Now here the story pauses on my blog...One of my rules for my blog is to post nothing negative. When I learned her boyfriend had encouraged her to go down through rapids, without a PFD, when she didn't know how to swim a few, ah shall we say, negative things came out of my mouth.  It wasn't pretty.
  Ok back to the story.  The sand bar is only in the middle of the river and there is a small deep area next to the shore she needed to get out on. I told her I wasn't leaving the pool until she was safe on shore and towed her to shore.
  Observations in hindsight.  A friend just sent me this link today about drowning.  The parallels are amazing.  She was bobbing with her feet hanging down and her hair was just floating in the water around her head. There was a total of about  fifteen paddlers and young people hanging out down there and thankfully I saw what was happening. No one else noticed.  A drowning person can easily panic and pull down their would be rescuer.  I was very aware of this as I helped her out.  Being without my PFD put me at a disadvantage.  But then, in the past,  I have rescued a few others in serious drowning situations while just swimming without a PFD.  The best thing is to have training.  Not only in swift water rescue but also in CPR and lifeguard.  I am also trained in First Responder.  Thankfully it all came together and it was a good feeling to know it turned out right in the end.  Bobzilla remarked that "somebody" owed me some beer.  I laughed and said "somebody" probably wasn't old enough to buy me some beer.  I truly hope she dumped that boyfriend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Northwest ...Payette River

Minnesota girl headed out west!  YeeHaw...oh...wait...I lived in Oregon a long time ago.  This was my first trip back to the state I grew up in since I left in "69".  My first stop was to see Andy and John in Idaho. They were both working for Cascade Raft and Kayak as instructors and raft guides.  I don't think I've seen a better operation yet.  It is owned by the Long class kayakers and incredible teachers.  The knowledge they pass on to their employees is priceless!  John and Andy both encouraged me to attend a rolling clinic put on by Cascade to see  first hand their teaching technique.  I was amazed at how easily Chad Long put a new student in the proper position to roll within seconds.  I will definately be putting this knowledge to work back home.

  I was camped out with John and Andy on an island on the Payette River neatly tucked in between two class V rapids.   As music has the ability to penetrate your physical body and affect your soul the sound of the river flowing a few feet from my tent saturated me with it's song.  It became an essential element for me that I was reluctant to leave.  The Payette was my intro to big water...yes it was big in Colorado a few weeks ago but I have never seen whitewater such as this.  From class V rapids that stretch non-stop for miles, to super fun huge class III.  I could spend a lot of time just enjoying the area...and I will be back.


Kelly's Whitewater Park

  I took the time to go up to the new Kelly's Whitewater Park to check it out.  After looking at HUGE water on the Payette for days it struck me as small.  Well it's not.  My whitewater perspective had been pleasantly skewed.  The features are excellently created from easy to challenging.   The park it's self has brand new landscaping and a beautiful clubhouse.  Plenty of comfortable viewing for spectators and a backdrop of snow capped mountains...I just love Idaho!
   Special note.  The guys from the Midwest and I decided to do an easy paddle on what is called the Swirly Canyon section...class II-III.  The guide book says there's just some squirrely eddy lines in the canyon.  What it didn't say is that it takes about 500 whirlpools and squeezes them down into a half mile stretch with sheer walls.  If you know me you know I really dislike whirlpools.  There wasn't a single straight line anywhere to be found.  People were flipping (not me) and it was quite a time getting through.  I was taken spun backwards and slammed into a wall at one point.  By far the most unique stretch of whitewater I've seen yet. But everything for a reason...once through the canyon your fear of whirlpools is gone.
                        Hot Springs at the Swirly Canyon Take out

  The rest of the crew moved on to Washington in the morning and I took Emily up on her invite for one more run on the Main Payette before I left.  I took my playboat this time and it was addicting!
I was very reluctant to leave Idaho, but Washington and Oregon were calling and I needed to see my friend Lori to see how she was fairing.  That evening I crossed over the Oregon State line for the first time in 41 years. I wondered if I would make it back to my home town of Coos Bay this trip.