Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Two and a half weeks of vacation!  My destination is west...somewhere.  I don't care much for schedules or agendas. This trip is all about finding where the universe takes me.  When you give in to trusting  God and the Universe amazing opportunities happen!  Believe it!   I loaded my car with a bike, playboat , and creek boat. I included my rock wrapping materials for my quiet times.  My first fun stop was Bozeman.  Special to me because I bought my Occoee canoe there.  I asked a local for a good mountain bike trail and was directed to Sypes Canyon.    A beautiful trail!   Then I drove on to Missoula and spent the night in a wayside.  The next day I did Blue Mountain on my bike.  Again the scenery was amazing!  That night the Northern Lights were predicted to be at storm level.  If they were out I wanted to see them in a great spot.

  The Lolo Pass has always been special to me.  Back in 1966 our family was taking a trip back to Wisconsin.  The Lolo at that time was a winding two lane road through the Idaho and Montana wilderness.  I remember as a child how beautiful the Lochsa River was.  I couldn't get enough of watching it from the car.  We stopped to explore and my sister was ahead of me on a path and she came running down in a panic saying there was a bear!!  We left!

   We drove on and just before the top of the pass our new car blew the engine!  I remember being towed to Missoula and having to stay in a old motel for a week while the car receive a new engine.  The only thing I recall from that stay, other than burnt pot pies for dinner every night was the movie we went to see.  Run Appaloosa Run!  That movie literally changed the direction of our entire family.  Upon returning home to Oregon, we purchased an Appaloosa mare and colt.  It was only the beginning of many we would own.  Lolo will always be very special to me.

  My plan upon leaving Missoula was to drive to the wayside at the top of the Lolo Pass and wait and see if the lights were visible.  Another wonderful thing was the Wifi I could access right from my car at the rest area.  Reports were coming in from Wisconsin and I was excitedly waiting.  Usually I seem to scare them off.  Then the street lights came on...dang!  I knew there was one of those gravel roads across the way that went up and into no man's land.  I started driving my car up for a good northern view.  The road became very steep and narrow, read that as scary, so I backed it down to a safer spot and waited.

  Then my mind went to work.  "No one in the world knows you are up here by yourself."  "This IS grizzly territory."  "You do have food in this car including the honey you used in the Off Road bars."    So I waited.  Then all of a sudden pillars appeared huge across the sky.  Then it faded to a soft green that would send pulses racing overhead.  I felt like the luckiest girl in the world up there watching my own personal show!!    I watched until I couldn't stay awake any longer.  I tried to go to sleep but the mind kept sending me a mind movie of me waking up with my face against my window and a grizzly face pressed up on the outside.  I gave it up and went back to the wayside.  On the drive down it was much more steep than I remember. Ooops!  I saw no bears that night.  I haven't seen one yet this trip.  I will admit I am afraid of grizzly bears.  Black bears I'm ok with. I would say I'm normal.

   I now have followed the impulse to make my next destination Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho.  I have it in my mind to see if I can get my groove back on in playboating.  I came in late in the evening and walked out to watch the few boaters left on the river.  To my surprise I heard some one say "Hi Nora!"  Aaron and Jim from Team Papst were there!  So good to see someone I knew from my home area.  Then I saw Clay!  I hadn't seen him since Chile.   I ended up staying with Jim and Aaron in the parking lot and while early the next morning I was sitting on the stairs with Aaron I heard "Hi Nora" again!  Amy E!!  She came up from Boise.  Such a wonderful day today.  Catching up with Amy and just hanging out.  Could it get any better?  Yep!  It did.  I took some advice and paid for a tent site right next to the park at a local motel.  The energy at the Birch Glen motel was so great I was thinking of staying another night.  I was also considering the cost as this needed to be a cheap trip.  The lady who runs the motel came over to chat and I gave her the heads up that I was probably going to stay another night.  She said the next night was on her!   There are few times when in life you know you are exactly where God and the Universe want you to be.  This is one of them.  Although I am doing a solo trip I am not traveling alone by any means.  The sun is setting in a twilight blue sky with salmon pink clouds catching the last rays of the sun.  I'm sitting here writing this blog post and thinking...tomorrow is going to be fine. So grateful for life.

June 28, 2015
  The last two days have been wonderful in every way.  I left the town of Cascade Idaho early with my intended destination being Tamarack Mountain.  It's a ski resort, downhill mountain biking and zip line wonderland of fun. So the website says.  What I found was a ghost town.  Condos half built and left. No-one around. I asked some people who were setting up an archery competition and they said something about it being bankrupt and opening again after the fourth.  They recommended going to Brundage Mountain.  So onward I went.  They day getting on.  After a trip through the Payette Forrest by accident I found the resort.  I saw they had an event going on.  I walked up to the sign in table and asked how much for a lift ticket.  They were doing an event for the food shelf and admittance was canned goods or a dollar donation!  I was flabbergasted!  I had two bucks cash and donated them both.

   Next up. With my ankle still injured, I can't clip out of my egg beaters very well.  The bike mechanics changed my pedals for free.  I packed my knapsack with what I thought I'd need for the day and went to the lift.  Scott, the lifty, explained how it goes to ride the lift with a bike.  Very simple and easy. This was also my first time riding a mountain lift. Woo! That's high up there.  At the top the view was beyond words.  More mountains and lakes in the valley.  They also had bike patrols that just hang out and talk to people.  They recommended Elk trail for me.  Seven beautiful miles of just about everything.  This trail let you experience all the beauty the mountain had to offer.  The profusion of wildflowers was more than I've ever seen.  Every color and type.  Natures beauty is beyond compare!  But always stop your bike to look. In fact I recommend stopping to look at everything. You will need full concentration for the trail as you never seem to slow down.

  This is my first time doing this kind of downhill riding.  I know I used up a bit of my brakes on my first few runs.  The trail starts on the top of the mountain. Dead trees sculpted by nature into works of art.  Wildflowers everywhere. Rocks and packed dirt with occasional sand.  Then you hit the field of yellow daisy like flowers.  So many personalities of this trail to explain.  I'll try to do my best. Then you come into some trees. A bit of technical downhill through rock and dust. You'll cross a tiny stream several times on your descent.  My favorite stream crossing was the high berm to bridge to uphill mound and then a portion of really fast single track through the pines. The steam flowed over rocks in a special petite waterfall.  You'll also pass through pristine mountain meadows. Then at the very bottom the trail takes a tight hairpin turn in deep dusty dirty and you are back on the lawn of the lodge but the fun isn't over yet.  The lawn spreads down around ponds in a stair step manner just perfect for multiple small jumps.  I got the idea watching a hotshot young man fly down them.  What a great finish.

   Over the two days I was there I did Elk Trail nine times.  I gave Growler trail a try but it didn't overall have the fun factor of Elk.  But there were some really great sections on it.  They have cut a new start to this trail so you aren't following the gravel road down and that new section will be open next year.  I did this trail once.

   I have always been in love with my bike.  It's perfect for me in everyway.  These two days I was able to really let the bike do what it was built to do.  Each run got faster.  The second day I rented some knee and shin guards.  Funny how good protection makes you more confident.  The second day I was flying.  First one on the lifts in the morning and I was able to get six runs in.  Each run going faster.  The fourth run I timed.  33 minutes!  I shared it with Scott and we  timed the fifth run at 30 minutes!   I know I flew on that run!  But it was a long hot day.  I'd taken only one lunch break and only ate a tiny bit of my salad.  I knew there were a couple of mistakes that I'd made which told me the end of my ability was near.  I did my second run leisurely.  Stopping at my favorite views to take a photo or just breathe in the energy of the immense landscape. I came to the bottom and was looking forward to putting in everything on the last lawn jumps.  I wiped out on the hairpin turn just feet from the start of the lawn.  No damage done but since it was powdered deep dirt I was covered in it!.  I righted my bike and hit the jumps.  I dropped down to my car and grabbed a couple of NA beers.  My lifty enjoyed his the day before so I tipped him another.  I was back at the lift just minutes before they shut down.  I decided to take the scenic tour.  I drank my beer as I rode up to the top looking at the place I'd just spent two days and 68 miles getting to know.  I think I had met most of the crew that worked there from the store to the restaurant to the liftys and patrols. I think they only hire the most wonderful people in the world.  They were all great and it was very, very hard to leave.  I could live at a place like that.  It felt like home.

  I left the mountain with Bend, Oregon programmed in my GPS.  I drove until I could drive no more and slept in Burns, OR.  I made the drive to Bend and decided on a rest easy day.  Plus everything I have is dirty.  Laundromat first where people sit with their beer and wine while their clothes get washed.  Car wash second and now just writing my blog at Starbucks in the air conditioning.  Very hot outside.  I'm going down to the Gear Store to see what kind of deals they have.   I still have over a week of vacation left.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Seriously Dude!

Rapids Riders:    Seriously Dude!  Careful of that shit.  It's more addicting than crack.  I'm warning you right now.  Your life will change so rapidly you won't know what hit you.  You'll immediately have 30 or 40 new friends all with the same addiction in varying degrees.  You'll never be the same.  You'll be a boater.  Kayaker or Canoeist, whitewater will be your new drug.


Newb:    How???  Really!  How does this happen??  Nothing can be that life changing that fast.  I think you're full of it.  What ever "it" is.

Rapids Riders:    Canoe U, you see.  There is nothing like it.  Anywhere. And it's right here in Minnesota!  A non profit (unlike other addictions) organization that just wants to teach you how to run whitewater.  We're cool.  Low key.  A day at the pool first.  Then a weekend out at St Croix State Park in some rustic cabins.  Good food.   Fireplaces.  Learning to J-lean and stuff on beautiful spring rivers.  Wildflowers blooming. Spring breezes.  Eagles...maybe an otter.  Camaraderie that you never want to end.  You leave the first weekend looking back at a whirlwind of fun and learning.  Then you have two weeks to practice before we take you out for another weekend of rivers, campfires, food and really becoming a changeling. From what you are now to whitewater boater.  That's it really.  From there all the rivers in the world open up to you.  Places before denied to land lovers are now rivers of challenge and wonder filled with all your new friends.  It's a bit overwhelming to have that much fun but so far there doesn't seem to be an overdose level.

Newb:    I suppose I have to be young and look like those dudes in the videos.   Hucking 100 foot waterfalls.

Rapids Riders:    Nope!  There are all levels of paddling.  Something for everyone of any age.  We have Grandmas that are paddling!  And we have some people out there hucking those huge falls!

Newb:    Yeah...but there has to be a catch.  Why would all those people do instruction and cooking and organizing all for nothing. This sounds fishy.  What's in it for you??

Rapids Riders:    We do have uses for the money we take in.  We give it back to the rivers in donations.  Wausau Whitewater Park.  The Vermillion River Clean Up.  We have winter pool session every Sunday and we make sure our instructors are up to date with the best knowledge and certifications.  Oh and we have a Christmas Party.  We can't forget to party!

Newb:    OK how much does it cost.  This has got to be crazy expensive.  Those outfitter places ask about a thousand bucks or more for 5 days of instruction.

Rapids Riders:    We charge $270.00.  Here's a link if you want more information.  Canoe U Information

Newb:     DUUUUDE!!  I'm excited!  I'll take this course!  Oh wow!  It's starts May 3rd! 

Rapids Riders:    Yeah!  Get on it.  We have a few spots left. 

Disclaimer:  With life changing events such as these be prepared to buy a boat.  Then another boat and maybe even a third or fifth.  Buy a paddle.  Maybe a break down paddle too.  And maybe one for play.  Drysuits are the bomb. Color coordinate your helmets and PFD's.   Travel will be upper most in your mind.  Trip planning will become an obsession.  You'll learn a whole new language filled with boofs, carping, and many other new words that no one else will understand.  Wet dreams take on a whole new meaning.  You will learn to curse and/or love the weather with a passion.  And you will love every minute of it.

A little more information on learning to paddle Midwest Whitewater can be found here.

Rapids Riders is a non profit organization run by people who love to teach new people to paddle whitewater.  We do it because we love it!  It's that simple!  Come and join us on the rivers!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Lester River Race!

Almost Always

As ancient as evolution, a shiver of excitement runs through the collective souls of a united tribe of men and women.  Not quite fully aware of the cause but knowing something is triggering the feeling of anticipation of something coming.   Instinct?  The sun, older than time, gracing us with a little more comfort each day?  The scent of the breeze?  It may be dead of winter in Minnesota, but spring is so close we can feel it with our souls.

Limbo Falls

  With the spring melt comes the thunderous power that is unique to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Creeking season arrives fast and furious. The tribe is alive.  Frantic to catch the fleeting world class whitewater before it's gone.  Each year it's a different personality but it all starts in one place. Duluth!  With the Lester River.  It is the beginning.

  Ryan Zimny had a vision a few years ago. The Lester river, in the city of Duluth, is the perfect venue for a class IV/V race.  This was no easy task to achieve.  It isn't dam controlled,  You get water when Mother Nature blesses you and only at the levels she determines.  The tribe, as malleable as the water we follow, adapts.  The race date is a guess.  Racers from all over the Midwest wait with their whole being  tuned to the weather.  Ryan makes the call.

 Race organizer, Ryan Zimny.

   The inaugural race was held in 2013.  The year before was the Great Flood of 2012.  Things had changed on the river.  The pinnacle of the race was to finish after running Almost Always.  A class V,  25 foot narrow waterfall aptly named because it is "almost always" portaged.  A handful of young world class boaters probed the falls to see if the changes were acceptable. It wasn't pretty. A little bloody. But no serious injuries.  Almost Always was taken out of the race and the finish was marked just before the falls.

Chris Baer successfully dropping Almost Always.

  The level was good and as friendly as an extreme whitewater race can be.  Spectators were able to line the banks all along the river due to the road and a wonderful  city trail system that follows the river.  The first race went smooth.  Volunteers and safety working together like a precision machine.  John McConville taking first place!  The Lester River Race was established.

Jackson Kayak's John McConville.  Two time winner of the Lester Race!

  The winter of 2014 was a very good year for snow.  It laid silently in the watersheds of the frozen creeks.  The promise of a spectacular creeking season.  The melt started like a Highlander kicking in the door on a tavern.  It arrived and we went to meet it.  Ryan had made the call and the race was on for the following weekend.  The week of the race the creeks were in a rage.   Mother Nature was a sassy lady demanding only the best from those who would try her creeks. Dealing out serious injuries to some who attempted to ride. Throwing a midweek snow storm at us like a snowball to the face. The Great Lady laid down her challenge!

Midweek scouting for water.

   Saturday race day came!  The water was raging.  This year four ladies considered running the race.  Myself one of them.  The other three were strong beautiful paddlers.  Young women who had never or rarely ran the Lester River before and that is required for the race.  The men, always happy to help the women,  put together a pre race run to introduce the ladies to the river.  All three ladies walked off before the end of the run and two of the men came away with dislocated shoulders. Naked Man Rapid was taking its due.  There was no doubt that this year was going to be epic.  Some soul searching was done by all the paddlers, men and women alike, and the race roster reduced.  Anticipation was high.

Danielle Magnuson dropping Limbo Falls in the pre race run.

  The second Lester River Race was fast! With all the pre race carnage the actual race went off good with just a couple of  DNF's and a few stitches.  Congratulations to Jackson Kayak's John McConville for taking first place again for the second year.  This year the river banks were lined with hundreds of spectators.  The race is firmly established as a rite of the Northwoods Spring.

Oh Shit Rapid just before the finish line.

   Three is the charm!  2015 is here.  The race is on every paddlers mind. The third Lester River Race!  Who will race this year?  Who will win?  The Midwest is a rapidly growing community of boaters with a history unique unto itself.  There is a consensual awareness that this race, the Lester River Race, is going to be a huge part in our destiny.  An epic novel with a different chapter written each year by all of us and edited by Mother Nature.  Will you be racing?  Can you adapt to brutally freezing water with occasional ice chunks?  Can you run the intro rapid and Limbo Falls? Are you brave enough to face Naked Man?  Mini Octopus? Oh God?  Oh Shit?  The conditions are far more brutal than other extreme whitewater races. This is the North Shore and it's not for everyone.  Is it for you?

 More information for the Lester River Race can be found here.

 The Lester River Race Facebook page is here.




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wisps of Thoughts....

Day dreaming about emerald forests with unicorns and fairies. Gossamer lines of bubbling white and the muddled brown rhyme of an endless trace. Summer.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Years!

 It's January first, 2015,  An odd year but odd things are special.  Time to make resolutions...NO!    Not this year.  Maybe never again.  Resolutions may be good for some people.  Goal setting and achieving set goals, but why limit yourself?  Research shows that people in general underrate what they can accomplish. So most of us have no idea of exactly what we can accomplish.

  The last two years I haven't written in my blog.  Writing for me, was a passion.  It was an amazing last two years but also very rough. Shoulder injury.  A diabetes diagnosis by a Dr. who did nothing to treat me. I felt as low as can be.  Like being stuck in a whirlpool and pulled down while trying to swim to the top.  I would have to remind myself that with any serious injury or illness depression is a given.  Keep swimming to the top!  My mantra through life has always been.  If something happens to thwart your plans it's because God has something better for you if you just stop and look for what it is.  When you're down from injury and sickness it's a hard labor to find something that can kindle your passions again.  The longest living people have always stated the thing that kept them alive was having a purpose in life.  A passion.  I felt like most of my passions were dying a rapid death.  My shoulder held me back physically and the untreated diabetes depleted me of energy where it was hard for me to even carry my boat let alone have energy to paddle.  Darkness.  Passion is a light.

  I LOVE kayaking!  I LOVE canoeing!  I LOVE mountain biking!  I LOVE writing!  I LOVE teaching!  I love all the things I do.  But under the shadow of darkness it was very hard to celebrate in that love.  Still this last year I did some things that I always wanted to do, and they touched my passions like the predawn light. Like an old love remembered.  A whisper of the day to come.  This last year  I took a Swiftwater Instructor class.  For the second year in a row, I attended the Copper Harbor Ladies Mountain Bike Clinic,  I trained for my first Wolfman Triathalon  and finished!  Even though I fell at the end due to my leg seizing up with a cramp just a couple of hundred yards from the finish. I still finished.   But most importantly I was able to spend a week biking and hiking in Moab with my son!  Dawn is cracking.

   Passion is life. Weakness does not feed confidence. Life without confidence is darkness.

  2015!  Welcome!  There was no stopping your are here and I for one celebrate!  This last year was a work in progress. I found a great Dr. and she gave me the drugs I needed to control my diabetes.  Hello energy my old friend!  My weakened body has been regaining it's strength.  My "bad" shoulder is better than my "good" shoulder.  With health and strength retuning so is my confidence.  With my confidence coming back I can reach out and take my passions by the  hand and embrace them easily.  Finally released from the labor of just barely holding on to them. Horrified that this was old age and my ability was gone with the dust of passing time.  There are many special people in my life that probably don't even know how much they have helped me. For that I am very, very grateful.

  I won't set goals or resolutions or anything that constricts my cerebral awareness of  life.  My spirit is an enduring being. Energy that cannot be destroyed. Only contained by the limits we impose in our busy world of mores.   How many times does one hear "you can't"?  Even in your own mind!!!  We are the ones that tell ourselves this!  Release the Sprite!  The Pixie,  Release the Enchanter of your life   It's a curious being with passions. It is the undiluted essence of you!   Word!   My spirit craves to follow the flow of the river and trail. To create and teach.  To love.  To share.  This is where 2015 will take me, with passion, with confidence, with friends and family.  Step by step. Warmed by the light.  Endless!