Friday, September 30, 2011
That's it. It's final. The last day of release on the Lower St Louis. There is no quality whitewater left in Minnesota at this time. Believe it or not, life doesn't end. It doesn't even have to slow down. Just keep charging forward taking the opportunities as they come. Search yourself and search out what you want. It's out there. Information is probably a click away.
Right now for me it's time to take a breather. I have a couple of ailments that just won't go away so a trip to the Dr. was in line this week. First off, my hand. Dr. looks at it and says you need to see the hand surgeon. "Would you like a mammogram with that" I say "What?" She says you're due for one so I say ok, why not.
Next I whine about my heel. I had stepped down on a sharp rock in soft booties and it's hurt now for five weeks. Dr says Plantar Fasciitis. Ibuprofen and ice. The nurse asks if I'd like a flu shot with that...am I at McDonalds???
Hand surgeon today looks at my finger and says I have trigger finger. He sticks me with some cortisone and says to give it three weeks. If there's no improvement then there's surgery that can be done. So all in all with an incredible amount of water that I paddled starting in late winter to just this last weekend two booboos at the end of the summer isn't bad. It's actually a good thing to let your body take a sabbatical from paddling. Letting your muscles rest and heal will only make them stronger.
But what the devil are you going to do in the meantime? You can only watch so much kayak porn before you go blind crazy. Plus how will you see those paddling friends. The ones you've shared your soul with on the rivers. Well now it's time to do all those other sports people have been saying are fun but you've ignored for so long because you couldn't see past your paddle. For me it starts with mountain biking.
For years some of my boating friends have been telling me to try it out. You'll love it! It is a lot like paddling. On the other hand I have seen many of them seriously injured from that sport and shied away. Until last fall. I caved and thought I'd just buy a cheap bike and give it a try. I found an old 1998 Specialized FSR for $200. Good enough for trying out the sport. Yes, it is just like boating...addictive. Fast pace mind and body...hit your line or hit a tree. Addictive! The adrenalin rush you were missing away from the rivers you can easily find on a single track trail. Plus the beauty of nature surrounds you and you're able to go where few others can. It's the perfect compliment to a paddling lifestyle. When it's dry and sunny the bike trails are fast! When it's wet and rainy you keep off the bike trails and head to the rivers. Yin and Yang..perfect balance.
Go rock climbing! Learn your knots. Work with ropes and beeners. All this not only gets you out with your paddling friends but it builds strength and stability. It teaches you how to work with ropes which is something you will need on creeks and rescues. Another mind and body sport in a beautiful natural environment.
What else has been on your list of things that catch your fancy? Personally I was actually caught in a hall in the YMCA after a weight workout. A friend I hadn't seen in awhile grabbed my arm and pulled me into a yoga class. In past years I've taken a few classes when I had time. Yoga builds strength and flexibility and for kayaking strength and flexibility are very important. Next class is Tuesday...I should be there. Really, I should!
OK what else besides surfing weather reports for weather that isn't there. Or hanging on Facebook and forums hoping someone has some secret whitewater location that will magically appear. For me it's a time to dream. Maybe South America this winter. What to do with my next seven days off. Where I could travel. How to make it happen. What new boats I want. Is that new gear? It's also a time to repair what you have. I look at my fleet and they have taken some abuse this season. Time to learn how to weld plastic. Fix my Thermarest. Get my gear washed and ready to go at the drop of a drop. Fall rains have always came. I can't remember never getting a good fall bump on the rivers. This lull is just that and should be used and enjoyed. The leaves are starting to turn. Even a flat water paddle down the Cannon or Kinnikinic river is a beautiful way to enjoy a day. It's also an easy enough float that all your non whitewater friends and family can enjoy.
They call this Indian Summer. Temperate days, chill nights. Colors an artist can only envie. Play hard at cross sporting. Try something new. Clean the house, knock off some projects. Winterize now because shortly...before you know it...it'll rain. And the rivers will run. And life will feel normal again.
Monday, September 26, 2011
How much love can a little river generate? Some places are special and have a place in our hearts. The Vermillion River in Hasting MN is one of those special places. An urban playboat run tucked into a canyon surrounded by what could be a spectacular park but has deteriorated into a brush overgrown urban natural area with bike paths through it. Along with the grown up brush, the fringe people make this area their element. Kids with nothing to do but trouble. Drug addicts and drunks. Homeless and the lost all find their way to the Verm. Nothing is ever so simple and with all the beauty and pleasure the river gives us boaters we accept it with the bad and coexist. Love is always complicated that way. Unconditional.
45 people showed up today to show that unconditional love for this little river. Determined to step into the wilds of this lawless area and cheerfully clean up the debris. A very daunting endeavor! Paddlers arrived early this year and set out in groups and alone. "We'll take the far side." "We'll head down to RR pool" "I'm headed to the falls" Impromptu plans at the pavilion resulting in full coverage of the park. Some people went into the river. Some took the trails. Some in the park above. For three hours paddlers from around Minnesota worked very hard to remove all kinds of junk.
The informal contest is who can find the most bikes! We usually get 20 to 30 bikes out of the river each year!! We were close to that number this year. Oddly enough a whole bike rack with bikes still attached was found in the river and pulled up the cliff by volunteers and removed!! Sadly, one full suspension mountain bike was found. Older model and not salvageable.
The other informal contest is who can find the most unusual item. This year there were several items but I think the heavy weight punching bag took the crown here.
Whiskey is the drink of choice in the back bushes. The amount of bottles found is staggering! Another shocking discovery was a pile of over 200 used hypodermic needles. This is so tragic in many ways.
The pile of debris removed grows big! The volunteers all return to the pavilion for a pizza lunch provided by Friends of the Mississippi . Trevor Russell, from MFR, gave a very interesting talk on the water quality of the Vermillion River. It is the only urban trophy trout stream in America! Amazing! He went on to explain the coming project in place to restore clean water to the Mississippi and it's watershed. Friends of the Mississippi are an incredible organization that keeps projects going year round to improve the wetlands of the water shed. This has a direct result in improving not only the river habitat but also our quality of paddling. Several years ago there was massive building of pre-planned neighborhoods in the suburbs up stream. The most dangerous threat to a natural trout stream is the urban runoff. Rain that is shed from streets directly to the river not only carries pollution but is warmed by blacktop raising the river temp to uninhabitable for trout. Water that is not slowed also causes major erosion to the river banks. FMR has many projects to plant rain gardens and natural habitat to slow run off which cools the river and naturally filters pollutants. And of course slower runoff means the river holds water levels longer. The housing projects have all incorporated rain gardens in their design to protect the Vermillion. Thank you FRM!
Then we had the swag drawing! It was so exciting! This year Jackson Kayak donated a Star playboat to give away! Brian Guimond won the boat! Brian already having a Jackson playboat turned around and immediately sold it to James Iliff, who was stoked to be able to get it! Midwest Mountaineering as always was a great supporter! WRSI for the second year donated a beautiful helmet for our swag table! Seals Sprayskirts joined us this year donating a great mesh gear bag! Immersion Research was new this year on the swag table donating several great items to wear and Werner sent us a goodie package also. 3M has been with us for about 5 years donating gift bags of products. KIND Healthy Snacks provided the fuel with a huge box of delicious bars. Gluten free and heathy...not to mention tasty!! Thank you to all our sponsors! You Rock!
For a few hours given up on a Saturday morning by 45 determined hard working paddlers the Vermillion River is a better place to be. Thanks to all who came and worked hard! Let the fall rains begin! Photos by Bryan Zlimen, Trevor Russell and Nora Whitmore. More photos from the day can be found here.