Team River Runner Colorado takes on the mighty Arkansas River!

Date: 24 May 14

River: Arkansas Stone Bridge to Salida

Level: 1600 cfs

Paddlers: Me, John, Herman, Rich, James, Hyrum, Chloe, Andrew, Traci, Tom, Mike, Seosaimh

CKS Paddlefest is a great Colorado kick-off to the summer paddling season, held in Buena Vista, CO.  This year it aimed to raise money and awareness for local youth in Chaffee County, Colorado.

Two of Team River Runner’s chapters, Colorado Springs and Denver decided to set up a Forward Operating Base (FOB) halfway between Buena Vista and Salida and take part in the festivities.

 

Livin' on the edge!  Actually we were allowed to camp there. We found the sign in the bush!

Livin’ on the edge! Actually we were allowed to camp there. We found the sign in the bush!

We set up a nice little camp on the side of the river. The weather forecast wasn’t looking great for the weekend, but we still managed to get a camp of 20 people! For the second year in a row, Air Force cadets from USAFA joined us to help as shuttle bunnies.  There’s no better feeling than not having to run shuttle!  It makes the logistics so much simpler and lets us focus on our time on the river.

Our river crew was a crew of 12.  We had a combination of experienced paddlers, paddlers from last year, and brand new river rats. Our rule for this trip was that each participant had to have a minimum of two sessions in the pool to make sure they understood the basics.

When we run the river, we take a variety of boats with us in order to accommodate all of our paddlers. Two paddlers this time around chose the sit-on-top kayaks, which looked so comfortable – like paddling a couch down the river.  I was jealous with my legs jammed into a short playboat!

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Blowing up the sit-on-top.

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First things first. Checking the outfitting. Don’t want to get uncomfortable on the river!

My stubby (but super fun!) little playboat!

My stubby (but super fun!) little playboat!

Our run down the river went great!  The weather was surprisingly nice, and our new paddlers were kicking butt! We discussed hand and paddle signals so we could communicate from afar on the river, and we practiced paddle strokes, ferrying, eddy catching and just plain fun rapid-riding!  Weeee!

One of the floating couches. Nice deal!

One of the floating couches. Nice deal!

Chloe rocks the second floating couch!

Chloe rocks the second floating couch!

Practicing our mad ferrying skillz...

Practicing our mad ferrying skillz…

Overall, the run between Stone Bridge and Salida is a class II run, but further down toward the town, there is a low head dam with a paddler chute along river left. The chute is a three pool drop, but at this level were without major consequence.  We had all the paddlers get out and look at the chute from the shore, and had some of our more experienced paddlers demonstrate the lines for us.

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Scouting the chute from river left.

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Checking out the run from upstream.

We set up communications at the top, middle and bottom of the run along with throw ropes and live bait in case we had to jump in and grab boats, people or gear.

We had a couple of swimmers at the chute, who were able to eddy out quickly and boats were gathered at the bottom.  Everyone had a blast going through the rapids!  Later when we arrived at the Salida play park, however we had a mini-yard sale.  We claim we did it for the benefit of the spectators on shore!  Our river rescue skills allowed us to make sure we didn’t lose any gear, and the cadets were waiting for us in town to load our boats and head back the FOB.

Here’s a little video of our day on the river.  Hopefully we have convinced a few more people to come out with us on the next river trip!

 

 

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Swiftwater Rescue

A few years ago, I wrote a post about my earning my Whitewater Rescue Technician level I certification.  I truly felt that it was worth every penny, and that everyone who paddles should at least have this qualification.  You never know when you might be in a position where you must rescue or assist in rescuing someone on the river.

Six years later I still feel that way, and as a volunteer for Team River Runner, I think it’s even more important to refresh my skills.  I heard that the rescue skills you learn have a 6 month lifespan if you are not given the chance to put them to use (although that’s a good thing) or practice them.

Last weekend, six volunteers from the Colorado Springs Chapter ventured into the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area with a couple of instructors from Fort Carson to certify (or in my case, recertify).

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Instructor Tara shows us a quick and dirty “no-knot” around a tree.

The first day was spent going over basic river safety, reading whitewater, knots, throwing rope, and different systems for lowering rescuers into the water, or using a mechanical advantage to haul things out of the river.

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Me practicing the quick-release on my rescue PFD.

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Sharlene tossing her throwrope

Although I remember some of what I learned on the course I took in 2008, some things came back as they were taught and of course, as I’m getting up there in age, some things I didn’t remember at all!

I’ll be the first to admit that the second day was rather painful! Despite it being the middle of May, the wind roared through the canyon, and the weather progressively got worse as the day went on. We all had dry suits of some type on (mine were semi-dry pants with neoprene gaskets, but I had latex gaskets on my drytop), but as our instructors reminded us, they are called “dry suits” not “warm suits”!  I had fleece on under my top, and neoprene on under my bottoms, and I was still cold!  It was actually warmer *in* the water as opposed to out of it, and the cold wind and rain did not help one bit!

Yet, we stuck with it! We spent the day on the river, practicing swimming across the rapids and catching eddies, throwing rescue rope and pulling victims in to shore, working together to walk across a river in a pyramid formation, releasing pinned boats and dragging them in to shore, and rescuing stranded boaters sitting on a rock in the middle of the river!

Pulling a swimmer in to safety.

Pulling a swimmer in to safety.

We were given scenarios, and as a team required to come up with solutions and work together to conduct each rescue. All-in-all, we all learned a lot.  Regardless of your paddling ability, swift water rescue skills are essential, especially when you’re leading a river trip that may have paddlers with disabilities, like Team River Runner might.

We were done just in time for some thunder, snow and sleet, but if we can conduct river rescues in that type of weather, then we can do them pretty much anywhere!

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Our newly qualified swift water rescuers!

I am NOT smiling in this picture. It's more of a grimace. Brrr!

I am NOT smiling in this picture. It’s more of a grimace. Brrr!

 

A is for Adrenaline!

Image It’s been a really busy couple of weeks for me!  I went back to Canada and then came back to immediately start working night shifts at my work – 12 hour shifts at that!  I don’t usually work shift work, so I learned a lot about how my body can (or can’t) adjust to that type of body-clock change! I was just playing around on Twitter last week and noticed a lot of people I follow were using the hashtag #atozchallenge.  I got curious. I looked it up. I forgot about it.  Then I noticed an influx of the hashtag this weekend, looked it up again and thought, hey, this sounds interesting!

In a nutshell, the A to Z Challenge is a blogging challenge for the month of April, where bloggers submit an entry each day (except Sundays) and each day corresponds alphabetically with a letter of the alphabet! For example, on April 1st, you write about something that starts with the letter A, April 2nd is B, and so on.  Yes, I know it’s April 6th today! So because I’m 5 days behind, today’s rest day will be catching up with everyone else. The only other glitch is that I’m not an official participant.

It turns out, I can’t participate right now – not officially, as the participants were required to sign up prior to April 1st.  Part of the challenge is to visit other people’s blogs as well and leave comments.  It’s an exercise in discovering new writers, making connections, and encouraging feedback. So I have decided I will do this on my own. I don’t need no stinkin’ linky list!  I will follow those I see using the #atozchallenge hashtag on Twitter instead!  So I am a self-proclaimed and unofficial participant, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun with it!

[By the way, does anyone know how I can wrap my text around the “A” photo I put at the top? Sincerely, WordPress luddite]

The letter for April 1st, is “A”, well obviously!  I am choosing to write about adrenaline. Meriam-Webster defines adrenaline as follows:

adren·a·line noun \ə-ˈdre-nə-lən\ : a substance that is released in the body of a person who is feeling a strong emotion (such as excitement, fear, or anger) and that causes the heart to beat faster and gives the person more energy

I choose to define it as a body’s natural reaction to any situation that seems unnatural. Whether it be getting through a crisis at work, or a perceived physical threat to one’s body, adrenaline is that “fight” instinct that your body develops on its own, without warning, and with no consideration of what your mind is doing!

I have lived with adrenaline most of my life.  It’s what has helped me get through some really tough times.  I know when it has kicked in, because I start to vibrate, get hot flashes and my skin gets really clammy.

In 2005, I paddled the Lower Gauley river.  I had been paddling for only a few months, and I felt confident, yet nervous at the same time.  Long story short, there is a huge rapid at the end of the river called “Pure Screaming Hell”.  The name certainly didn’t inspire confidence, and when I was told there was a huge sieve at the bottom right that I should avoid at all costs, I was pretty much done.  I followed my paddling partner down the first set of waves, nervously dipping my paddle into the accelerating water. He hit a wave and did an ender, while I paddled right into the bottom of his boat. I flipped, my helmet smashed off the rocks in the bottom of the river, and that’s pretty much all I remember.

The story I got after I came to in a hospital about an hour and a half away, was unbelievable.  Although I don’t remember anything after seeing my bow slam into the bottom of the other boat, I apparently rolled myself back up, and paddled through the rapid toward the sound of my friends yelling from an eddy on the left. I don’t know how I did it, but I made it to the eddy, and immediately slumped over, unconscious.  My friends escorted me in my kayak down to the take-out, where a helicopter picked me up and transported me to Charleston, WV.

You hear stories about folks who are able to lift cars off trapped people, or others who all of a sudden can carry people twice their weight out of burning buildings. What I went through that day on the Gauley River, even though I don’t remember any of it, was most certainly the most intense moment of adrenaline rush that I have probably ever felt!

What was your scariest/intense moment where adrenaline kicked in and got you through something dicey?