Monday, September 14, 2015

Vetters Corner Table

I wrote this little piece for my english class but thought I might as well put it up on the blog. 

Approaching the door along the damp cobblestone street, you hear muffled laughter. A few older men sit outside smoking cigarettes, lounging in fold out chairs enjoying light conversation. With each step the noise becomes louder and louder until your hand slides into the brass handle fixed to the weathered door. With a light pull of the door the noise that has been slowly building erupts. A blast of warm air is followed by the familiar sounds of the creaking floor and friend’s voices welcoming another familiar face to the table. The usual blonde waitress with rosy cheeks pours a beer, without a word exchanged. A quick peck on the cheek followed by a short but heart felt greeting passes between us as the beer slides into my hands. The first sip makes the transformation complete before I have even sat down. A friend stands and gives a, “Prost!” and soon after glasses are clinking in unorganized rhythm, each one louder than the one before it until beer has erupted out of the glasses covering the table. Another Friday out with the friends. Conversations around the table vary from the latest soccer scores, to school problems, or to more immediate issues like whether or not to drum up a conversation with a girl across the room. With each new beer the answers to the questions become fewer and further in-between until at last nothing is left to be said, no more stones to over turn. As fast as it had begun it has also come to an end with one yell of, “last call!” from the owner in his stained, pinstripe shirt. The corner table, that was once neat and orderly like soldiers marching into battle has now changed into a chaotic mess. Napkins lie where they fell in wet clumps around the table not to be moved. A light film lies on top of what was once a clean smooth surface. After the last glasses are finished and shoulders find their matching jackets and we file back out into the street. Farewells and hand shakes are followed by the familiar sound of steps on wet stones.
-Owen Darrow

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August Update

Since my last update (the one with the kayaking) I have been out and about doing really nothing but in any case here is a little list of the random shit I have been up to.

  1. Got enrolled to Germanna Community college 
  2. Got to check out Fredericksburg (pretty cool old town)
  3. Bowling once or twice (FML)
  4. Bought a ping pong table
  5. Found out ping pong table didn't fit room
  6. Bought ping pong topper for pool table
So as you can probably tell very little has happened but I am excited to get going with the whole school thing so we will see how it goes.

-Ciao Bella!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Seattle to Fredericksburg, VA: A Whitewater Kayaking Learning Trip

Loaded car
I'm just getting settled in Fredericksburg after a great road trip across the country with whitewater kayaking throughout the journey. Here is a short version of the path of travel and the rivers that we got on while head east. This trip was slightly different as my cousin had never been in a whitewater kayak so factoring that in I chose some moderate rivers to get him up to speed with kayaking as much as I could.

We headed out of Seattle from Bainbridge island on our way to the Wenatchee river to spend a solid week on the river to get Colin comfortable in a kayak on whitewater. It seemed like the whole time we had a group of people to get out kayaking with thanks to Meghan and Rosemary as well as a bunch of others that joined from time to time. Camping at Rosemary's house in Leavenworth and drinking beers around the fire was an excellent way to spend the nights. Lapping the Wenatchee play run twice a day improved Colin's kayaking to the point that he wasn't swimming unless we were trying to surf waves. By the end of our stay in Leavenworth he was feeling comfortable on the Wenatchee Play run and even got a few High A laps in without a swim. Very good first week on the river!

Gorg Drive on HW2
After a quick morning Wenatchee lap Colin and I headed east following Hwy 2 through the Wenatchee valley and into eastern Washington wasteland. The contrast in scenery on Hwy 2 was unbelievable from dark green forest of the Cascades to the now dry dessert land. We went through a couple areas that went directly through gorges that at one point had held quite a bit of water but had long since been dry. After meandering through eastern Washington for what seemed like eternety we soon found ourselves in the farmlands with all different shades of green for a far as the eye could see. With time seeming to stand still we slowly closed in on Spokane.

Colin shooting
After arriving in Spokane we found our way to my aunt and uncles house and soon enough, we were eating pizza, drinking beers, and shooting bb guns from the front porch at cans laying in the lawn. I asked my uncle about different routes to get to the St.Joe river in Idaho, as he has fly fished it many times over the years. He mentioned a small road that follow a rail road grade that goes directly into the St.Joe drainage that goes out of the backside of a town called Wallace that would shave a few hours off of our time. Sounded like a good idea so I put that idea in memory bank.

First view of St.Joe
In the morning my uncle made us blueberry pancakes before we headed off to visit my grandma. After about an hour of catching up and letting her know about my next life path, she wished us luck and gave us a few bags of cookies for the road. Taking my uncles advice we took the Wallace exit off of I90, got some gas, and stocked up on camping food. Soon after we slowly started rising up and out of Wallace following Placer RD. About an hour later as we were starting to get confused as to where we were we slowed to a stop with another car with boats on it's rack. They gave us some information about the river which reassured us we were on the right path. Soon after talking with that group we got passed by 3 more cars with kayaks as the road slowly started dropping down to the St. Joe drainage.
Nice Campsite

Because we were ahead of the summer camping traffic we had our choice of any campsite we wanted. We set up our tents, got to cooking a meal, and enjoyed a fire before calling it a night.

The next morning we got our tents packed back up and headed down to the river to scout a few places and see were the put in and take out were. The section we were doing looked pretty tame but had a few parts that I would call class 3. Soon enough we were gearing up for what turned out to be a very nice day on the water at a campground with river access. Near the start of the run Colin swam off a bump rock but managed to get through the rest of the run without incident including a class 3 gorge. We had a great time on the St. Joe and it was very nice to revisit a river that has been in and out of my childhood through family fly fishing trips.

Heading to the Zoo
After the run I got picked up by a passing truck to run a quick shuttle back up to the car. An hour later I made it back down to the car were we dried out the gear, packed up the car, and decided to head back up and over the pass into Montana. It would be an easy drive on a dirt road road that would put it in St.Regis and 100 miles out of Missoula.

We arrived in Missoula a little ahead of my sisters graduation so we had some time to cruise around and check out Missoula. It turned out to be a great time hanging out. I tried to get a surf session in on Brennan's Wave in downtown Missoula. As it turns out the water was incredibly high so the water was glassy and impossible to catch but it was a good time anyways.

After experiencing how horrible swimming is more times than once Colin was more motivated than ever to get his roll down so we headed to Frenchtown Lake to get a bit of roll practice in. After an hour or so and a few little drills to get the paddle blade cutting across the water instead of digging in Colin got his first roll. A good day for everyone!

Allberton gorge
After a couple days we backtracked to the Clarks Fork and got on a well known run in the area called Alberton Gorge. I had been on this run once before with much lower levels and as it turns out, at the water levels we had all of the features on this run are washed. The swirly water was like something out of Africa but we concluded that a day on the river is far better than a day doing anything else so we WIN! Running shuttle turned out to be the most difficult part of the run because the exit to the put in is only accessible doming from Missoula. So after one hitchhike ride past my exit wondering where I had missed it I had to catch another one back the other way on a hwy entrance that had literally 2 cars every hour. After sitting on the side of an I-90 exit still wearing full drysuit with the sun beating down on me I got picked up by a guy that knew the takeout and took me directly to my car. I was extremely appreciative for the ride!! When I arrived back at the takeout, some two hours later, Colin was asleep and I would have been too. We let the gear dry and cooked up some hot dogs before heading back to Missoula.
Brats after boating

Back in Missoula the family was slowly filing into town for my sisters graduation, each posting up at various hotels around town. My parents had rented out a nice little townhouse and everyone was in and out until the sun went down. We knew it would be a long time until we got out of the rat race that is graduation week so we sat back and drank beer with friends...a LOT beer. The next day we went to graduation and enjoyed all the festivities that go along with it...a late start,a brass band, some flags, some speeches, some people walking across the stage (one of them was Olivia), more speeches, and after that came freedom. After my Olivia's graduation we made our back to the house were we drank long into the night
At least we were having fun!

Needless to say we got back on the road as soon as we could and drove over Lolo pass and on to the Lochsa which turned out to be a far easier jaunt from Missoula than I had previously guessed. Not long after scoping out the river we met two older guys that were getting on the river and they invited us to join them. I let them know what to expect as a new boater was in the group and we set off. Colin had a fluke swim at the start but soon regained some confidence in an eddy getting 2 very solid rolls under the belt. The biggest waves we had come across came up next but he seemed to have no problem going through the waves keeping upright but only time would tell how long it would take until the next swim.
Booty Beers
After a big wave train in unpredictable water one wave caught him a little in the backseat and he toppled over and swam. It was a pretty long swim to the opposite side of the bank as the road and followed by an equally long swim back to the same side as the road. We all decided it was a better decision for him to take out there and save his energy.
Lochsa Camp

That night we camped alongside the two kayakers we were with on the river and exchanged stories and beer. As it turns out one of them had been on the olympic slalom and downriver race team back in the 90s which was kind of cool and the other was a meteorologist which came in handy when an unusually warm breeze came rushing down the valley and he could dumb down the anomaly that had just happened enough for even us to understand.

The next morning we woke up to our new friends cruising out of the campsite to go get on the Upper Lochsa. We talked about what to do and eventually settled on trying to get on a river before we headed out to the Payette but if we couldn't find anything not to worry about and and cruise out. We started searching up the Lower part of the Selway but although the river looked like it would be perfect we thought that the shuttle would be super hard to set because almost no cars were going up the road and I wasn't looking forward to running 10 miles on a dirt road. We settled on the idea that we would cruise to the Payette so that's what we did.

Next time with more water
 We passed through a few towns along the way and decided to stop and buy some groceries but quickly found out that the place hadn't been restocked in YEARS. There were shelves with nothing on them but a few cans of tomato sauce and some ravioli so we pushed on. Driving across a lot of Idaho we decided that we should take a pit stop at Kelly's Whitewater Park which turned out to be the biggest let down ever. I have seen videos of this place for years and, although not being a play boater I would consider myself someone that can have fun on the water in any situation so my hopes were high rolling into the parking lot and immediately dropped...the place wasn't even open until June 1st. We took a look around and got even more bummed out as each feature looked better than the last. Next time I will plan on spending 3 or 4 days here for sure!

Skinny Dipper Hot Springs 
On we drove to Banks which is just another hour or so down the road from Kelly's Whitewater Park. After pulling into town we checked out the South Fork of the Payette and it looked like a really fun section of whitewater with minimal consequences for a missed stroke or botched line. After checking that out we went down river to see the main Payette and found out it would be perfect for Colin to get some eddie catching training in. After a scout of the main we drove back up along side the SF of the Payette to a hot spring we had seen in the book, loaded up the packs and hiked about a mile up the side of the mountain to a great little hot Springs called Skinny Dipper Hot Springs. We drank beers and chips in the hot springs until the dark clouds looking over head were too much to bare. About 100 yards out from the car the rain came ripping through, we had picked the perfect time to call it good and head out.
Hot Spring at the Campground
Continuing up the road we found a place to camp in campground called Hot Springs campground, named because there is a hot springs pouring out of a small outlet just on the other side of the road from the campground. After unloading the gear, setting up the tents and cooking gear,  cooking some spectacular burgers we put the headlamps on and clumsily made our way down the we rock steps to the springs. To our amazement no one was in them and we were lucky for that as these hot springs are just big enough for 3 or 4 people to enjoy a beer with water at waist height while laying down. After an hour or two we called it a night and made our way back to our tents to prepare ourselves for a full day of boating that would happen the following day.
I woke up to a dog eyeing me from across the road and getting closer and closer as  I slowly started getting the pancake mix to a good blend. At one point he was laying dead center in the middle of road just staring at me but slowly he made his way into the campsite. Once he was close enough I tried to pet him but being an Australian Shepherd he was stand offish and decided to head across the road.

After breakfast we made our way down to the Main Payette and drove it once so we knew where the takeout was before heading back up to the put in and getting on the river. The Main Payette is one of the best rivers to teach someone to kayak or just practice eddy catching on. The first lap we spend around 3 hours catching eddies, surfing, practicing rolls in the flat water and just having a good time on the river. After running a quick shuttle and eating lunch we were soon back on the rive for round two. This run was a little faster than the first but still memorable. It started with Colin getting his first combat roll which was a major breakthrough. After this major break through weather decided to crap out on us and a cold rain came in. We hurried through the rest of the run and I did a quick hitch hike shuttle back up to the car. The warm cars or the beer must have been working to get me in the mood because when I rolled back down to Colin I decided to leave my dry suit on in the off chance that there would be a group lapping the South Fork run.
South Fork of the Payette
After loading the gear we cruised past Banks to find a group of raft guides loading up boats. A quick chat later and we were loading up boats and on the road for what turned out to be a great run with a fun crew. Overall one of the best days of the trip thus far.

In the morning we decided that it would be a good idea to head out of the Payette drainage and get on the road in the direction of Moab, where we were meeting a large group to get on West Water Canyon for a two day overnighter. On the way over we were planning on checking out City of Rocks because I remembered it as being a super beautiful place but what I had not remembered so clearly is that it was WAY out of our way and that it was at around 6'000ft. As it turns out I was correct in remembering that it was beautiful but it was freezing cold at night. I wouldn't have been surprised if it would have snowed that night but it turned out all good and in the morning we backtracked and got heading in the direction of Moab. As we were heading out we stopped at a large rock that the immigrants passing through wrote their names with axel grease from their wagons with their fingers. I thought it was pretty cool!
Cold but yes...very beautiful!
Moab regroup
After too many Disney songs to count and being on the road for what seemed like a very, VERY long time we finally rolled into the town of Moab. With the rest of the crew arriving the following day we took the free time to walk around and check out the town. We ended up sitting at a picnic table at the city pool drying gear, charging up gopros, and cooking up a quick dinner before heading out in the direction of the put in. On our way we decided it would be a good idea to check out the Delicate Arch just as a massive lightning storm rolled in. We took what was suppose to be a 1 mile long trail that ended up really being around 100ft to a small sign and saw the delicate arch WAY in the distance but it didn't quite do it justice.
Luxury camping

After a quick look at the arch we hurriedly ran back to the car and started our drive up and out of the park and back to Moab to continue our drive to the put it. WE must have taken the long way to the put in because we found ourselves on back roads until around 1 when we rolled into the parking lot, threw our sleeping bags down a ft off the from bumper and fell sound asleep. The next morning we lounged around making breakfast and eventually made our way to the takeout to wait for the rest of the group to run shuttle which turned out to be perfectly planned because mid way through getting lost on the way to takeout Nic pulls up next to me and we follow him to the take out, swap gear and were soon enough standing at the put in with the rest of the crew loading rafts and securing down mass amounts of alcohol...we knew we were on the right trip!
Confidence in the structure

Soon enough we were pushing the rafts off, going through small rapids winding our way through the high canyon walls to our first campsite.  Located on the inside of a sweeping left turn we almost missed it but with the other kayakers lending a hand we eventually pulled all the rafts up onto the sandy shore and started walking the gear a hundred yards to a perfect place for camp. After cooking dinner we sat around the fire, drank beer, and chatted about the upcoming rapids that we would come up to the following day.
No confidence in the structure

The next morning we got up and got some breakfast burritos in us before loading the rafts and getting on the river. After what seemed like not that long we pulled off to the left to scout the largest rapid on our trip, Skull. It is a pretty straight forward move from right to left but the waves were big and there is a pocket on the right called the toilet bowl that is known to keep boats and gear for a long time. Going into skull I felt good but was worried about how Colin would fare so I decided that the 3 more experienced kayakers should go first to clean up anything that could occur with the second group.
First hit is the biggest

After we cleaned our lines we turned around just in time to see Colin flip over and start swimming to shore. Adam and myself go on the boat and soon enough had the boat and paddle over to the side of the river. After emptying the boat we sat down and cracked open some beers, thinking that we had chased the boat well out of the range of any flipped rafts or swimming kayakers would go down stream. As it turns out we were not...five seconds after opening the beers a commercial raft went by upside down with a shocked customer on it with his leg wrapped in a throw rope. We thought we had to get back in rescue mode to get the raft until another group went by in chase.
Phelps on course

Being so far down the river we were out of sight of the upper group that was setting safety for the main rapid so we just hunkered down and ate some snacks. After a while it became apparent that another commercial raft had flipped and gone into the room of doom because above us one Indian lady was getting leap frogged down the river by a kayaker in our group, eventually making it to the spot we had posted up. She seemed shaken up but in good spirits.
Thrill of the Chase

An hour later we had returned the Indian lady to her raft and we continued on our way. After skull there were a few more fun wave trains and some great spots to cliff jump...many a beer were consumed.The last night we ended up camping about 100 yards away from the takeout and as it turned out the night would have more carnage than I have ever seen on any river. Later the next morning Nic and I ran shuttle while the others gathered themselves and their gear, got everything into the rafts and completed the arduous journey 100 meters downstream to the takeout.
Looks closely

After running shuttle we re organized the car and made the 3 hour journey to visit a Lauren, who is doing a travel nursing program in Denver. I'm pretty sure that the shower I had after we arrived will rate as top 5 showers of all time for me. There is something about river water, canyon-land sand, and sleeping outside for 3 days that makes someone extra crusty. We stayed at Lauren's and her roommates house for the week getting out on Clear Creek, just outside of Golden almost everyday with a few people from the West Water trip. We even made a trip to the Coors Factory with Lauren which turned out to be a good time...3 beers at the end of the tour helped.
Money shot

During the week we got to talking about heading up to the Arkansas river, just outside on Buena Vista with a few kayakers from the west water trip and soon enough we were back on the road headed back up I70. An hour and a half later we were on Browns Canyon enjoying one of the most rafted rivers in the US with almost no one on it but us. I had heard about this run but mostly about how bad the crowds are on a mid summers day. Making our way through the canyon walls I could definitely see why it was rafted so much. Floating through canyon walls is always a great place to be. A highlight to this week was getting passed by the tomtom car with full camera set up for street view on top of the car just as we woke up from a night of dirt bagging. Another highlight was getting on a harder section of whitewater above the numbers that I ended up getting holed out pretty hard but it all turned out good.

Colin's break through day happened on the Numbers section of the Arkansas with a flawless run of the whole section. In my opinion we had the perfect water levels on the perfect piece of river for his ability. It was great to see him picking lines and feeling confident on a class 3 stretch of whitewater after a lots of hard work and dedication...kayaking is not always the greatest of times but when you have a break through it can't get any better. So sick

Soon after having a great week on the Arkansas we high tailed it all the way though to VA in two 12 hour days straight through Kansas to Missouri where we crashed in a hotel. We arrived in Fredericksburg at around 1am a day later.