Archive for June, 2015

Taming the Bear?

We’ve had a number of good rains this year.  In fact three different times, the county has completely graded and graveled Blansit Road, and three times it has flooded and been washed down to bedrock so rugged that even our Durango is hard-pressed to make it through.  But as we all know, lots of rain means lots of floating, and Scott and I agree that we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out of our kayaks this year.  I think I’ve been about seven times and he’s probably gone more than a dozen.  Plus, we’ve loaned them out to friends numerous times, as well.

After a week of much rain, on Saturday June 20, with Bull Creek completely out of its banks and the far pasture completely submerged, I was positive Scott would want to float Bear Creek, and of course, the only correct response to that request would be, “Sure!”  But since I am smart, I decided to do a bit of reconnoitering.  On my way home from taking Andrew to do his quick turn at the Rendezvous, at about 10:30 AM, I drove over to the put-in to check depth.  Now, Scott always insists – sight unseen – that Bear Creek is floatable if Bull Creek is high, but this is one of those areas in which we strongly disagree.  Personally, I only consider Bear Creek floatable when it’s at or over the top of the low water crossing at Reno Springs Road (the place where we put in).  I was therefore pleased to see that it was running about two inches over the slab.  This meant we would go over a lot of the rocky spots without too much trouble, so I could in good conscience agree to go.

We knew we had to pick Andrew up by 4:00, but we ended up doing a number of other things during the day, and so when we finally got to a point of being ready to float, it was 2:00 PM.  While Scott insisted that we could go because, “It’s high!  It’ll only be an hour float!” I was not OK to try to cram all that loading the trailer/leaving a car at Woods/driving to the put-in/unloading the boats/parking the Durango somewhere/floating the Bear/picking up the car/driving back to get the Durango/going back to Woods to load the kayaks/changing into dry clothes, and driving twenty minutes to get Andrew before the guests arrived into those two hours.  So I said, “no.”  But we decided that the three of us would go as soon as we got home.  = )

Now, a thing I did not blog about was Andrew’s Dash for the Splash 5K race out at Table Rock State Park at 7:30 that morning, followed by breakfast at McDonald’s and a five-hour quick-turn clean of a vacation rental home.  He ran the race very well and posted his best time yet, 19.39 minutes.  He finished ninth overall and fifth in his age group (11-19), but he was disgusted because the other teen guys who beat him were members of the Branson high school cross-country team, and, “Mom, those guys run for a living!”

I replied, “And you could beat them, I bet.”

To which he responded, “But that would take EFFORT.”

He admitted that he desperately wants to win (and get an award), but he doesn’t want to do anything different or extra to enhance his chances.  = )   That, of course, is a choice for him to make.

My point is that by the time we picked him up and asked him to go floating with us, he was pretty wiped out.  But he did go and at least initially had a good attitude.

When we got to the put-in at about 4:30, I was slightly concerned.  In the six hours since I had last surveyed the scene, the water at the slab had dropped a full foot.  It still looked high enough. . . at least I thought it did, but it was much rougher and choppier, and more rock obstacles were visible.  Bear Creek is never what one would call relaxing, but this was going to be quite a bit more challenging than it would have been a few hours earlier.  Sigh.

We put in.  It was tough.  Drainingly tough for me.  I am not an expert kayaker by any means, and I was really struggling to find the most water and get through the rapids, which at this level, seemed nearly continuous.  I was praying, “God, help me not get crossways to the current.  Show me the way to go,” and reminding myself loudly, “Eat it, eat it, EAT IT!” each time the waves came over my bow and into my lap.

Suddenly, for no obvious reason, I was sideways near the right bank, and I could see I’d get grounded on some gravel.  Sideways!  Dang it!  How did THAT happen?!?  Sideways and stuck.  Now what?  I’d have to get out and re-position the boat to try to head back out to mid-stream.  That’s where the only chute was through the next rapid, which was only twenty feet ahead.  It didn’t look good at all.  I didn’t know how I could get that far across the creek and get turned to head into that chute in less than twenty feet.  Being not so very spry, I knew I couldn’t get out of my boat while holding my paddle, so, with the front half of the boat grounded, I tossed my paddle onto the gravel, and as I did, the worst possible thing happened.  I evidently wasn’t as grounded as I thought I was, and the current caught the back end and whipped me around and toward the rapid, first sideways and then BACKWARDS – without my paddle!  I was terrified and I felt very, very stupid.  I hadn’t known how on earth I was going to get down this challenging creek WITH my paddle, and it was obvious that there could be no good outcome of trying to do it without.

I grabbed onto some nearby brush to try to keep from crashing in the rapid.  My arms were okay and I felt I could hold on for a while.  Scott was ahead of me (but I didn’t yet know if he knew I was in trouble), and Andrew was behind me.  Totally panicked – and I know that’s not smart, but that’s how I was – I screamed at Andrew at the top of my lungs, “GET MY PADDLE!!!!!!” and he made for it.  But just then, I felt the boat about to tip under me.  If I kept holding on to the branch, the kayak would tip sideways, fill with water, and rush sideways through the rapid.  Then what would happen to me?  In a split second I decided (perhaps wrongly) to stay in the boat and let go of the branch, hoping I wouldn’t tip.  But I was just about hysterical.  Wide-eyed, backwards, and trying totally unsuccessfully to turn the boat around by grabbing at rocks, I could see over my shoulder that I was going to slam through that rapid sideways, and the realization that I’d definitely tip, possibly be injured, and probably lose the boat terrified me.

But Scott had seen my predicament and was out of his boat, wading toward me and mine.  My only chance would be if he could somehow grab my boat and hold it until. . . until what?!?  Till Andrew got my paddle?  But even if he could pick it up, how could he get it to me?  Oh, what a mess!  And Scott did it!  He grabbed my boat and somehow held it afloat and somehow got me through that rapid and into some calm water.  Oh, My Hero!  And Andrew came through with my paddle.  Thank you, Andrew!  And I sat in my kayak, pulled up on some gravel, trying to remember how to breathe and wishing my heart rate would slow.

I sat there for quite a while.

I was embarrassed.

I had been stupid to toss my paddle.

There was no way off this silly creek except down it, and we weren’t even to the ever-loving Bear Creek Road bridge yet!

I hated Bear Creek intensely.

We set off again.  My arms were shaking, no matter what I did.  I kept praying and asking God to please have mercy on me and somehow get me (and preferably my boat and paddle) safely to the take-out at Woods’.

One of my biggest frustrations in floating is that my kayak floats faster than Scott’s.  Maybe it’s the different hull design.  Maybe it’s that his is sit-on-top and mine is sit-in.  We weigh about the same, so I don’t think it’s that mine is more massive. . . although mine is longer. . . hmmm. . .  In any case, his floats faster, even without paddling at all.  And here’s why that matters.  See, Scott is really good at reading water – figuring out where most of it is going in a rapid – and then guiding his boat accordingly.  And Scott craves adventure above all else.  This means that he approaches and goes through a rapid 1) slowly, to prove that he can do it with just his great, moment-by-moment steering ability, and 2) in the most difficult and challenging way, to have the most fun.  I, on the other hand, have only one way of approaching a rapid, based on 25 years spent in the front of a canoe and hearing from the back of the canoe, “In order to steer, we have to be going faster than the current, so going into a rapid you have to paddle HARD!”  My technique is to look at a rapid, try to figure out where the most water is going through, then paddle like a madman to get going really fast, so I can hopefully steer myself toward and through that place of greatest water.  Unlike my husband, my aim is NOT to take the shallowest, rockiest, twistiest, most-difficult-to-navigate route with the most overhanging limbs and challengingly-positioned boulders.

So ideally, I like him to go first and tell me which way he thinks I should go.  He does that, but he does it leisurely, paddling not at all, and sliding through the rapid with only a few deft strokes to steer himself.  Meanwhile, I have to stay upstream of him, back-paddling fervently while waiting for him to S-L-O-W-L-Y ease through the rapid, so that I will have the distance I need to get up enough speed to steer myself through it with grunts, prayers, and much less panache.

For some reason, on Bear that day, I was having two significant on-going problems.  I wasn’t reading the water well (translation:  I often couldn’t figure out the best way through a rapid), and even when I did decide where I wanted to go, I couldn’t seem to make my boat go there. Very frustrating.  And doggone it, my arms were still shaking and just wouldn’t quit.

As we approached the relatively calm stretch above the mint green house, just before the infamous low water crossing at “Chevy Avenue,” the thought came to me that I wasn’t having fun (at all), I was having to pray and use my faith every few feet, I was exhausted, and my silly arms wouldn’t stop shaking.  It occurred to me that maybe the smartest – although VERY un-Roberts-like thing to do would be to stop.  I mean, after all, the last time I had a bad feeling about floating this creek but went ahead and did it, things didn’t turn out so well.  As I mulled this over and drifted on down, I noticed a new feature.  Since our last run down Bear, an official-looking  sign had been hung on a cable stretched across the creek.  It said, “Bridge Ahead.  Proceed At Your Own Risk.”  Hmmm. . . It would be a huge let-down to Scott, but I could just pull my boat out to portage around this upcoming slab with its culverts, and tell him I was done.  He and Andrew could float on down to Woods and come back and get me when they came back for the trailer.

And that’s what I did.

I told them both that I was fine, that I didn’t have a bad attitude, but that I was wiped out and I didn’t think I could go on safely.  I said I could find a place in the shade to sit with my boat, and they didn’t have to hurry; that I’d be fine, and I’d be sitting there when they got back.  After all, I had my water bottle, and beyond that, really, what more does one need?  As expected, Scott didn’t like it and tried to talk me into continuing, but I held my ground.  I pulled my boat out, as did Andrew.  Scott then paddled back upstream a bit to go over the bridge.  No, he hadn’t looked at it, but he was going to go over it.  At the lowest point, near the far side, there was about six inches of very fast water flowing over the bridge.

Andrew was on the upstream side dealing with his kayak, and I was standing in the historic location on the downstream side.  Watching.  Praying.

I called to Andrew to come over by me (which he did), lest Scott got into trouble.  Being obese and not in good shape and not athletic to begin with, I know that I am really no help at all in most of these kinds of situations.  If Scott flipped, although I didn’t really want Andrew to wade out into that extremely fast current, he could at least go in a bit further downstream to help Scott to try to retrieve his boat or paddle if necessary.

Scott nailed his approach, and went over the three-foot (!!!) drop sight unseen.  He was OK, but when the nose of his kayak tried to come back up, he tipped and fell off the kayak.  To his credit, he did hold onto his paddle.  = )  This was a rather heart-stopping moment for me.  He stumbled around a bit, grabbed his kayak, stumbled some more, and managed to climb back on.  His water bottle was floating ahead of him, but I’m sure he managed to snag that.  He’s partial to that water bottle.  I urged Andrew to get going as fast as possible, and I sat down on a log, in clear view of the downstream end of the culverts, to wait for about an hour for my knights in shining armor to return.

Which they did, and all was well.  They had had no further incidents.  Praise God.

The next day, Scott and I floated Bull Creek and had a delightful time.  It was quite high, but not up out of its banks.  Most of the time I followed him through the rapids, with him calling over his shoulder things like, “You should go left; I’m going right; see you on the other side!”  I almost tipped a couple times, but managed to stay afloat, keeping a very firm grip on my paddle at all times.

Fellow lovers of the standard Bull Creek float will be quite pleased to know that that nasty tree down across the creek just below Gaar’s is no longer there!  (Flooding does have its benefits.)  However, in other not-so-good-news, in addition to the dreaded pussy willow (fuzzy white “worms”), there is evidently also a patch of poison ivy somewhere around the right-hand-end of the Shady Rapids bridge.  So although the ankle and foot itching has been intense, let it be known that I – for I believe at least the third time this season – successfully negotiated the Gulf of Doom (yee hah!) by doing exactly what Scott recommended:  “Stay a little to the right of center.”  He, however,  did not follow his own advice, went left, and tipped gloriously.  He subsequently claimed that he actually intended to go left but just didn’t go far enough left.  Well.

During that float, we met a couple floating in kayaks who had two boys (seven and twelve?) in a canoe.  The mom was in a Pelican just like our beat-up one.  Scott commented that he had one just like it that would be good for one of their boys and he could make them a deal; they later came by the house and bought our old Pelican and paddle for $70.





Some many blog-worthy events; so little time!

I am once again behind in blogging, so I will try to remember all the things I wanted to write about as they happened.  This is a little more challenging than it was a few years ago.  I’m not sure why that is, but I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with increased age (a.k.a. wisdom), increased hormonal levels (or are they really decreasing?), increased scheduling (Tuesday the 23rd was the ONLY blank day on our June wall calendar!), or increased stress (I’m trying to relax through the first three; really I am).

It seems that the main topics to recall and document for my loyal readership involve kayaking, basketball, softball, and driving.  Posted on those matters will follow soon, I hope, but right now, it’s 8:45 PM and Scott and I are sitting on our porch swing in the 75-degree weather, watching the clouds drift along and become pink-orange as the sun sets.  Cars are going by, and the horse in the pasture across the road is grazing and swishing its tail.  The yard is slightly grown up but not terribly so, dahlias, marigolds, batchelor’s buttons, hostas, an four o’clocks are in bloom, and dueling hummingbirds are zinging back and forth between the two feeders.  Andrew’s already in bed asleep, compliments of our late night last night and his work day tomorrow.  The Cardinals game was blacked out here (boo, hiss), so we came out here to sit and veg.  Lightning bugs are appearing, and I just heard a whippoorwill call.  The gray cloud following the pink-ish blue ones is now bringing in a steady gentle rain from the west.  That, added to the deluge earlier today, means I won’t have to water in the morning, which translates to about 20 minutes more sleep!  I am living a life of luxury.

Going, going, gone

As you know, I check the level of the creek every morning by studying my water rock.  This is an important daily task, as I feel an obligation to always be ready to give Scott an answer for why I will or will not float on a given day.  (I refuse to float when my water rock indicates a “scoot and drag” day.)

Imagine my consternation when, a few mornings ago, I looked down at the water rock and could not find it!  It seems that it was WASHED AWAY in the torrential rain last weekend.  That’s an impressive statement; my water rock probably weighed some 150 pounds.

Not only was my beloved water rock carried away to parts unknown, the creek road was mightily torn up.  It’s down to bedrock in many places and only barely drivable in the Durango, and that very slowly.  We walked down there tonight and saw all kinds of debris (or DER-briss, as my dad humorously pronounced it when we were kids) washed up.  The gravel bars have been relocated, you can see where the water was probably three feet over the low water bridge, and the entire contour of the creek bed has been altered in many places.

Truly amazing the power of moving water. . .

But now we need to find a new way to easily determine daily floatability. Scott and I talked about this and about the pressure I feel to have accurate information for him each and every day.  Get this!  He decided that since he walks on the creek road each morning when he prays, he would take over that task, noting the depth at the dip behind Bill and LaShell’s, instead of at the highway bridge, as has been my custom.  He is even considering inserting an unused tomato stake – or perhaps just a rush pole – in an inconspicuous location so he can readily note how high the water is or isn’t.

This is a truly wonderful turn of events for me, and the fact that he volunteered makes it even better.  As of today, I no longer carry the responsibility for analyzing and reporting the creek depth, and I am already LOVING my new sense of freedom!

Proving September’s claim to fame

Today I wrote my June birthday and anniversary cards.  True confession:  I do my cards a month at a time.  It’s important to me to acknowledge my friends’ and family’s special days, but it just doesn’t work well for me to write each card the day before it needs to be mailed.  Instead, once a month – usually on or about the 25th, but you can see that I am quite late this time – I pull out all my supplies and write a bunch of cards at once.

Andrew was doing a lot of schoolwork in the dining room today, so I hauled my stuff (shoebox of cards and envelopes rubber-banded together by style/gender/age types, 10 colored gel pens, calendar, computer for addresses, two types of return address labels, two types of stamps, small post-it notes, black pen) down there and fell to with a vigor.

Now, I think my family thinks I’m overzealous about this, but sending cards is something that I really enjoy doing.  It’s one of those beavish/ministerial activities that is both energizing for me and encouraging to others, so given that, what’s to lose but a little time?  Or, in the case of today, a lot of time, but since I had to be in the dining room anyway, I thought I made excellent use of my being there for so long.

All the pertinent birthdays and anniversaries are written in red on my calendar.  That would be the Monster Grid print calendar that hangs on the office wall above my desk.  First, I pick out the best possible card for the person and write something special and encouraging on it with a gel pen that color-coordinates well with the card. Then I address the envelope in matching ink and set both aside for a minute to dry while I do the next one.  Then the first one gets stuffed into its envelope, and this process is repeated till all the cards for the whole month are done.  Next I apply return address labels.  I like birthday cake ones for birthdays and heart ones for anniversaries.  = )  Stamps go on next, “Celebrate” stamps for birthdays and heart or “Love” stamps for anniversaries.

At this point I go through and seal the envelopes for the cards going to people I won’t see in person before their special day.  The others I leave open, so that if something notable happens in that person’s life before the card is mailed, I can add to the note on the card.  I mean, I don’t want it to seem like the card was insensitively written several weeks in advance, now do I?

Next comes my ultra-fun beavish task.  I pick up a card, look at the name on it, find that person’s date on the calendar, figure out which day it needs to be mailed in order to arrive on the day of or the day before, and apply a sticky note to the envelope with that day and date, for example THURS 6/18.  I then stack all the cards in dated order, and stand them up in a little basket on my desk.  Before I leave my desk for the day, I pick up all the cards that will go out the next day, pull out and re-read the unsealed ones (so that if the person says something to me at church about the card they got, I will at least remember that it had a dog riding a motorcycle on it – or whatever), seal them all, and put them in out-going mail so I will remember to put them in the mailbox first thing the next morning.

I must say that completing a month’s worth of cards is very satisfying, and the project today was even more so because of the sheer volume of cards.  There were 22!!!  And only seven of them were anniversaries!!  That means that just in our own family’s circle of friends, there were 15 birthdays in June!  And that means that September is obviously the sexiest month of the year.  = )

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