Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last Dance?

  November 20th.  27 degrees. Vermilion River at a pleasant play level and still open. Today was my first day off work in two weeks.  Oh Lord did I want to play!
  Friday after work I met up with Jim at the river and we played for a couple of hours in balmy 40 degree weather.  Life was good.  This morning I spent  mountain biking up on Memorial Bluff...I love this new pastime!  My friend Shirley and her husky, Beo, joined me up on the bluff. The day was sunny but cold with a bite to the wind.  It didn't matter as I generated quite a bit of heat on the trails. While walking together a Bald Eagle came soaring above the fields...hunting.  Shirley pulled out her camera to get a photo and just like she called to it, it came and circled right above us. This was special. We're very lucky to have a bluff with some of the best mountain biking trails and an off leash dog park up there to boot. Very special morning!
  A quick stop at home to switch out the bike for a boat...but not my playboat this time.  I have been meaning to take my Villain  to the Verm and play it and decided that since this may be my last paddle of the year it was time.  I've done this with my old creek boat and find it  helps you to bond with your boat more personally so when you get stuck in those nasty holes you have some play foundation established with your creek boat. Believe me it's money in the bank to do this.
  I met Tony at the parking lot at 1pm today.  He's a first year boater with a super dooper helping of natural ability and enthusiasm. A joy to paddle with!  My gear was still frozen from yesterdays paddle and I used the truck heater to thaw it out.  At the put in my skirt had refrozen and Tony had to help me get it on my boat.      Once in the water all was good.  We paddled down to Railroad Hole.  Tony played it. I declined and said I'd wait till Donut.  It was too cold to roll in my opinion but Tony played it well.  With a roll or two....brrrrrr!
  Then it was on to my favorite play spot in the least my world.  Donut Hole!  I kept putting my Villain repeatedly in the hole...first starting out slowly...even a little bit shyly to just get the feel of how he played.  As I got used to the feel I went further. Gliding in softly and controlling the edges.   Anyone can slam their boat into a hole and react to what happens but that's not how I like to play.  Tony and I spent two solid hours playing.  I can say the Villain worked every bit as fun as my Superstar.  I could spin, side surf, front and back surf in him. Towards the end I noticed my face was starting to freeze up a bit and I was having some trouble talking.  My gloves didn't want to work today like they should and my hands were getting very cold.  Neither of us wanted to leave...just the thought that this may be my seasons end for me kept me on the river longer than I should have been.  Finally we had to "rip the bandaid" and just leave.  The Verm has always been an old friend to me.  Many wonderful memories of my friends on this river and so many more good times to come. I felt very nostalgic as I paddled to the take out.
  Back at the truck I saw the water on my drysuit and pfd was freezing up fast.  My fingers were not working very well so I thought the best bet was to have Tony unzip my drysuit for me and then just wear everything home in my truck and let it thaw.  Just getting my frozen pfd off was a chore for my frozen fingers. In the truck I found it difficult to punch the numbers on my cell phone to get my messages. Whoa...just how cold did I let myself get?   With a quick stop at Culvers to get dinner I headed home. A trail of wet gear led to the bathroom where I soaked in a very hot shower for a very long time. Will this be the last paddle of 2010 for me? It's been an awesome year for sure. With only ten days left until my, gasp, 54th birthday...I always hope I'll get a birthday paddle in. Some years I am able to get one...some years not.
  I didn't have a camera with me on the river today but here is some from yesterday that Jim took.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mountain Biking!

  For several years now my friends have been telling me I needed to give mountain biking a try.  They have said I'd love it!  I have looked at all the injuries and thought yeah right...maybe kayaking is safer.   Well finally my curiosity got the better of me.   And they were right!  It's a blast!  I have found that single track is my far.  It has all the thrills of whitewater.  The lines, the mental game, the challenge, the fun!  So much correlates between the two sports.  There are different levels and when starting out even little looks "big".  As your skills come and you become comfortable, your perspective adjusts it's self accordingly. Today was my fourth time on Memorial Hill in Red Wing.  The trails up there are amazing.  The red trails would make a rock pee it's panties...damn!  But the gnarly boy and girls hit em up!  One jump I am told is forty feet down!  Relate it to waterfalling in kayaking.  It's all good!
   My bike is considered old school but that's OK.  I tried a newer version today at the take out and found there really wasn't that much difference.  Except in price.   My bike is a very good fit for me and works like it should.   I love it!  I did rent a hardtail up north a couple of weeks ago and I have come to the decision that full suspension is the way to go!  Here is  a little video from today.   Remember I'm new and this is just a fun easy part of the trails up there.

Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 in Review...Wow!

Wow is all I can say about the year 2010 and it still has exactly two more months to go.  Spring in Minnesota started out with a fizzle.  The rivers ran for less than a week before the water was gone. My planned week of spring creeking on the North Shore was replaced by Plan B.  The Southeast.  This was my first trip to the Southeast and it was amazing!  After my first years of kayaking the same local rivers over and over I was able to get on new rivers.  The crew that I was with were very experienced and I was able to learn so much more about leading down new rivers.  My season started with a euphoric adrenalin was good!

Fizzle went another tradition of spending Memorial Day at Sturgeon Falls.  Again lack of water forced us to Plan B again.  This time it was Colorado!  The water went insane the day after we arrived.  The gauge shooting straight up!  It was another super trip with great paddling and great friends!

The Triple Crown was completed by my trip to The Northwest!  Oregon, Washington and Idaho!  Words cannot describe how I feel about the rivers and friends I visited along the way. I spent time on some of the most amazing rivers...The Payette, White Salmon, Lochsa...I fell in love with Northwest whitewater.

Truly I feel very blessed by each of these trips and the friends along the way.  Still another blessing is to be able to teach new kayakers though Canoe U each spring. This was my fourth year being involved with the classes and my second as an instructor.  It's always a thrill to see former students going after it!  Showing up at the rivers and throwing it down at the playpark. Their progression is amazing! Love it!!

So many things this year!  This was also my fourth year organizing the Vermilion River Clean Up.  The Vermilion being my home river is important to me and it's very gratifying to see the many boaters that come and put in the hard work it takes to clean a river.  Rapids Riders over the years that they have done this have removed literally tons of garbage from the river it's self and the surrounding park.  The river outdid herself this year by being the highest it's ever been for the clean up! WhooHoo!

Two new boats followed me home this year.  My Jackson Superstar and Villain!  I named them Sunshine and McMurray respectively.  I love my boats!  I made the change from offset to zero offset on my paddles. A good move for me.

I touched a bit on the darkside starting to learn how to OC1. I have so much respect for open boaters that throw themselves down the same whitewater next to me.  It isn't easy but I am enjoying learning a different craft.

I attended the Kettle River Festival and ran the race with good results. Always a good time! I enjoyed the hell out of  Paddlemainia and I competed at the Midwest Freestyle Championships and didn't do too bad for a 53 year old lady.  Most importantly was I was having fun with friends!

I had a super year of personal growth. Both on and off the river.  Looking back on my year I know it surpassed all my expectations.  Although I am not goal orientated I did make a guideline list of things I wanted to achieve this year... I did pretty well on my list. I am reluctant to declare any goals for next year but I know I would like to do one really good overnighter on an awesome river. Do more trips and get a bit better with my canoe.   With such a great year like 2010 has been, I can only hope 2011 is just as good!

Return to the Baptism River

My first creek experience was on the Baptism River on the infamous North Shore of Minnesota.  An amazingly beautiful creek with tough portages and fun whitewater.  First time down I was a still new boater with a so so roll and I followed three extremely talented boaters scouting.  I did OK until the very last drop when I flipped and took a couple of hard hits to the face. Ouch.

 Flash forward 3 1/2 years to this weekend.  Much more experienced now with an incredible year of new rivers behind me I returned to my first creek. 

The crew today was solid!  Andy, Bryan, Dan, Dave and I had an early start on a cloudy morning. The level was 12.7 which was much higher than I had run it before.   I approached this day with a bit of a philosophical view.  The mental game is so important in whitewater kayaking and I was doing "checks" to see if my past experience on this river had an influence on my confidence this run.  I won't lie and say no.  Before putting on I had a bit of the jitters but they soon faded after the first rapid.  Most of us had a great day.  One of us had an off day resulting in the demise of his boat.  Not an uncommon occurrence on the North Shore rivers.  Two were retired this weekend on the shore.  Other than bumps and bruises no serious injuries.

We paddled down to Ilgen Falls where our friend Joi and her husband Dwight waited for us.  Joi is a very talented artist and wanted to photograph Bryan and I, as the only kayakers in the group, running Ilgen Falls for our first time.  We looked and both came to the conclusion that it was on the high side and with only the two of us it would be a bit foolish to attempt.  We hung out for awhile and took photos. Joi and Dwight ran our shuttle for us and we enjoyed a bit to drink in the parking lot.  It was a good day.

Looking back on my perception of what was big to me three years ago and what I consider big today  it's interesting how your view changes. But I guess by looking at the photos one thing never changes and that's my smile...I love rivers and always will!