Monday, September 27, 2010

Vermilion River Clean Up 2010!

Oh my I was running late this morning.  I actually forgot my cell phone and had to run back home.  The clean up started at 9am and I was the organizer. I had all the "stuff"!  I made it there at one would know.  Hey, we're all kayakers and on kayak time, right?  But what was this?  9am and a boater pulls in the parking lot?  Followed by more? Paddlers were rolling in on time!  We had a super turn out today despite the drizzly start of the day.  Nearly thirty men and women came to give our local play run some lovin. The Vermilion River is a very beloved urban river south of St Paul in Hastings MN.  Once a year Rapids Riders hold their Vermilion clean up.  The section of river we clean  runs through a narrow, deep canyon with sketchy trails descending down to the river.  Our "run"... from the falls to the old ruins.  Over the years Rapids Riders have removed literally tons of garbage from the river and banks by bringing it up the cliffs.  Not an easy task at all!
  A strategic map of the river was drawn and plans were made.  Some had brought tools for trail maintenance.  Many had brought ropes. Everyone took bags and off they went.  It just amazes me when I see the massive amount of work that gets accomplished each year and the ingenuity of  how the paddlers  accomplish it. The trail was cleaned of all the downed wood and overgrown brush in mere minutes.  Ropes were set up and paddlers worked in unison to gather bikes, scrap iron, tires and miscellaneous items and haul them up the cliffs.   Several spread out and picked up garbage from the park above.  Many beer cans, bottles and articles of clothing and it's always good to know that the park goers are practicing safe sex.  The find of the day was a full can of Budweiser 2009 Sturgis edition beer.  Noticeably the actual amount of garbage being removed each year is less and less!  In the past there has been a huge amount of industrial garbage that has been down in the canyon for years.  From the efforts of paddlers the bulk of this has been removed and the present garbage is the yearly litter.  Yes we are making a big difference!

During lunch, Tom Lewanski gave a talk about Friends of the Mississippi River and all the great projects they do to help the Mississippi river and it's tributary's which the Vermilion is one of.  Not an easy task these days with invasive species invading  many of our rivers and lakes. They also fund projects to restore habitat along the rivers.  Fight urban runoff. This organization are our advocates at the DNR.   A very good cause!
  After lunch was the drawing for door prizes!  Our awesome sponsors really came through this year!.  Midwest Mountaineering has been our sponsor since the beginning of the clean up 11 years ago!  My favorite store!   This year we had two great helmet manufactures donate helmets.  Shred Ready and WRSI.  I personally own a couple of both helmets and love and wear each.  Yes I am a woman and they're kind of like shoes for me.  The right helmet for the right occasion, and of course color is important too. Werner Paddles was a new sponsor this year and I am so glad to have them! I love my Werner paddles!  Are you getting the hint I just went through my gear when I made out the sponsor list?  I did!  New this year are KIND bars.  I love these bars! 3M provided the gift bags of various products again for the fourth year.  Thanks so much to all our sponsors who donated so generously!

Then the fun begins!  This year the Verm was the highest it has ever been during a clean up!  A very strong rain event happened on precisely the right day to bump the river to peak precisely on our clean up day!  Yes we had another spontaneous sponsor from above! With the river running at insane levels for the third time this year the brave paddled the mighty Verm.  The incredible played the mighty Verm at this level! A few beers were cracked in the parking lot and it was the end of  another great clean up!  Thank you to all that came and made this the special day with special friends that it is! Good times!

Click on any photo to enlarge it for detail.

Monday, September 06, 2010

OC1... My First River Run with Montana

For a while now I have been watching my open boating friends and wondering "How do they do it"? All of them awesome paddlers styling their way down rapids with one paddle and an open boat. AND on their knees. Last fall I bought a Dagger Ocoee with the intent to try to learn. I named her Montana after the state I bought her in. I have many reasons for wanting to learn OC1. Extended whitewater trips. A reason to keep my body flexible. A new challenge. And mostly I just admire all the C1 and OC1ers I paddle with.

This summer I must admit the canoe didn't come out much. I took it to Wausau and did a tiny bit of practice at the bottom of the course but nothing much. I did some outfitting the day before on my boat and a quick flatwater paddle to see how it fit...ready or not. Today Alan Faust was going to take me down my first river. I considered myself very lucky to be able to learn from him. He has the ability to inspire you to be the best you can be.

We first worked on basics in the flatwater. My worries about today centered in thinking that my legs wouldn't be able to take the kneeling on an extended basis. My other fear was swimming....funny! I felt like a newbie again. My thoughts drifted to when I took my friend Joi for her first run down to First Wave. I knew exactly how she felt that day.

Entering the first riffles it felt good. I eddied out just fine behind a large rock and then it was on to First Wave...the first rapid on the St Louis. Easy swim if you crash and burn. My river skills and kayaking skills easily crossed over and we styled it down. We did more work on turning and edging as we made our way down to Two Hole. At this level on the St Louis I knew the rocks were going to come into play more the further down the river we went making it more technical. I really am a fan of more water. Things went fine and I had my first feel of maneuvering my boat. The Canyon was next. Now here Alan changed things up. I have run the Louis many times and I usually pick the same lines down. Alan knows this and he had me do things very different. Catch the eddy on the left and then a long ferry back to right, turn and follow him down. All through more rocks. Again it challenged my skill and it did go very well. Same again with Hidden Hole.

We came to Electric Ledge at the same time the rafts were running it. We watched hoping for a little carnage but not to be had. Alan had me portage and he styled it down with his signature move. Then we were at the last long rapid called Little Kahuna or Rescue Rapids. At this level it would be a technical and pick your way down carefully or broach rapid. I figured this to be my most likely swim of the day. Towards the bottom it got tight but I was very happy with how Montana edged and glided around the rocks and down. Smooth! Very smooth!

I learned some very good lessons today. One being your anxieties are for the most part useless. With several stretch breaks my legs did just fine in my canoe. The vision I had of pulling out at First Wave with unbearable cramps didn't happen. Swimming didn't happen also which was good but I know it's coming and I know I swim very well.

Will I give up kayaking to go OC1?  No. I look at it as another aspect of enjoying the river. I am definitely going to keep open boating. It has a graceful feel to it that talks to a part of me.