Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sign of the times...

Earlier this spring MN DOT had placed a big sign on the bike trail at the Vermillion River just a few feet from the bike bridge.  It was held down with some sand bags.  I shook my head as I knew it would soon be thrown in the river by the local kids. It lasted on the trail for longer than I thought but then I saw it half way down the cliff hanging on some trees.  I thought, "At least it's not in the river."  It stayed there quite a long time until one day when I entered Triple Drop I saw it right in the middle of the river. Emergency eddy out!  I pulled it out and stuffed it up against the cliff and a large rock where hopefully no more kids would see it.  I called the Hastings Park office and reported it.  Barry said he'd have the park crew go and pull it out.  They couldn't find it.  I offered to paddle down to it and tie a rope on it but things never came together and it didn't happen.  Then I found the sign stood up right next to the river...the kids had found it again!  So I stuffed it back in it's hiding place and hoped it would last until the clean up.  I had horrible visions of that sign getting lodged in RR Hole causing serious injury to any paddler who would flip there.  Yes I am a Mom so I worry!   Powershading into that sign could take your head off!
The rope throw
   Everything happens for a reason.  I had a flat tire this Friday after paddling the Kettle River.  Great friends helped me get the tire fixed but I was on edge all weekend since my spare was ruined and the garage man said it wouldn't last long.  I planned to pick up a set of tires before heading back home on Monday morning but I was only able to get one for my spare.  I stopped in Hastings and made an appointment for 10am the  next morning.  Then I made a quick stop at the Hastings Park office to sign the papers for the Rapids Riders Vermillion River Clean Up.  Kristen wasn't there so I said I'd stop back in the morning after I got my tires changed out.
Pinned down by water

On it's way up!

   The tires were on in no time at all and I headed to the Park office to sign those papers. I saw Barry while I was there and asked about getting the sign out of the river.  I told him I had time to kill and could do it right then.  He got the maintenance supervisor and he told me he'd meet me there at noon. They looked to be a couple of muscular men so I thought they would be able to handle hauling it up the 89 feet to the bridge.
  I paddled down and pulled the sign from it's hiding place.  The boys threw down a rope and I tied many, many knots making sure the sign would not come loose on it's journey to the top.  I told the boys to pull and they did.  But the sign just flopped into the river and was pinned by the water.  Ah well...  I waded in and tried to pull it out.  It wouldn't budge!  While feeling around for purchase I found a 1 inch hole at the top of the sign.  I ran the loose end of the rope through and then using my weight on the rope slowly pulled the sign up and free.  I yelled at the men to pull again while I held the rope end to keep it from swinging into the middle of the river. They were able to suspend it half way up when I saw they had tied it off.  They had to call in 2 more men to help with the job.
  My part being done I hopped into my kayak and surfed Triple and then hit up Donut Hole.  It was low but fun! I walked up, changed and went to thank the men for getting it out.  I found out they had only gotten it as far as the bridge and couldn't get the legs past the bridge.  They had a forked branch they were trying to push the rope with.  I moved the branch down low under the chain link fence and stood on the branch to hold the sign away from the bridge.  The sign came up and we rocked it over the fence and onto the bridge.  High fives and smiles all around!!
   The effort put in to bring this sign up was a lot.  It required gear, knowledge, team work, and 5 people to remove one sign.  It took us an hour in all to get it out.  This is just one piece of garbage in our favorite play river...just one.  Rapids Riders has been cleaning this river for over 10 years now.  In those years we have literally removed tons of garbage from the Vermillion River and hauled it up the cliffs by hand.  Bikes, appliances, scrap iron, light posts, and even one motorcycle. The effort is tremendous but rewarding to be able to show a little love for this river.  This years Clean Up is Sept. 24th at 9am.  Meet at the falls pavilion.  This year we have many sponsors that have donated door prizes.  Jackson Kayak,  Midwest Mountaineering, Immersion Research, WRSI, Shred Ready, Seals Sprayskirts, KIND Bars, Werner Paddles, Friends of the Mississippi, Adopt a River, 3M and more coming!  Always a good time!
Everything happens for a reason...I'm glad I got the flat tire on Friday!  Without that (bad) event the sign would still be in the river!
This is one BIG sign!


Joi said...

you rock Lady !!

Nora Whitmore said...

Joi it's just rewarding and fun to be able to instigate things like this. I hadn't planned on paddling that day since it was so low but my boat was still in my truck so it worked out!