As we all know, life can "get in the way" of true happiness. I invite you to follow my posts as I try to reconnect with nature as often as life allows. Then,
if so inspired, pick up a paddle or pack and join me on an adventure that makes everything else fade away. -

Monday, October 27, 2014

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

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Jenna and Kevin and I headed down to the ranch after work on Friday.  The place was packed but we found a moderately sloppy spot for our tents.  The next morning Kevin and I moved our tent up the hill to a perfect spot as someone was packing up to leave.  This was Kevin's first time climbing outside so he was super stoked!  We headed to the Land Beyond because Jenna is obsessed!!

After an easy warm up and a route with a bit more of a challenge we went to try one of the new routes.  I climbed to what I thought was the top of the route and set my drays.  After they topped it I headed back up to clean.  At that point I realized that one of the two bolts was a bit loose and had been replaced with a glue-in.  Realizing I could not lower on this other bolt as there were no rap rings I rappelled down.  Apparently this was not the top of the route, though we never could see two bolts at the top.  I might have to get back on this one again next year.  We got Kevin on Paul's Redemption so he could lead one and then climbed some new routes on the Kindergarten Boulder.  I got in a quick free solo while they were finishing up.

Saturday night we cooked chili dogs over the fire and had a perfect evening of relaxing!  Bob joined us at our camp fire and we listened to part of the Royals World Series game.

Toys for Tots (5.7) - L | Yo Sista (5.9) - L | KatJac (5.7+) - L | Paul's Redemption (5.7) - L | E-Kat (5.7) - L | Class Clown (5.4) - 1 | Owens Best Buddy (5.8) | Jewell Always Smiles (5.8+) | Emma's Got a Mullet (5.6) - L | Cows in the Mist (5.7)

We didn't get a lot in on Sunday, but I did get to knock off the trad route Narwhal on top rope!  One more off my list :)  We headed out and grabbed some dinner in Springfield on the way home.  Turned out to be a great weekend!!

Pulp Fiction (5.8+) - 2 | The Bulb (5.9) | Narwhal (5.7) - 3 [A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Free soloed and down climbed.
2. Jenna led first two bolts and I finished the lead after that.
3. Top roped off of the Piratas Putas anchors.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kansas River Float

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This day float was a Sierra Club event organized by my friend Tim and led by Friends of the Kaw.  On Saturday, September 20th, 2014 we met just outside of Perry and shuttled people to the put-in in Topeka for a 14 mile float down the KAW (Kansas River).

After a brief safety talk we headed out for a beautiful day on the water despite the threat of oncoming storms.  A bit past the halfway point we stopped for a lunch of hot dogs over a campfire built from driftwood.  This was the hottest fire I've seen in a long time!

The water was a tad low, but generally good.  I got hung up a couple of times but did not have to exit my boat to get moving again.  Rather than bringing my normal boat I had brought my son's new one, the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125.  When I bought him this boat after his successful trip paddling down the Current River the previous month I knew I would be using it as much as him.  While I love my Wilderness Systems Commander 120, I wanted something that I could get a bit more speed out of.  I immediately noticed it was faster than my commander, but also much less stable.  I will have to get used to this fact, but really enjoyed paddling this boat and would highly recommend it!  I am really looking forward to taking it on an extended trip next year!  I hope Colin will let me ;)

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Missouri River Float

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I heard about this day float through the Sierra Club Meetup Group from my friend Bill.  Platte County was celebrating their 175th year, and this float was organized as part of the festivities for Saturday, September 6th, 2014.  By the time we put in there were over 70 boats participating!

I had been wanting to paddle on the Missouri, and of course, Colin wanted to join me!  What better way to take on such a big river than with a large group?  We left the house around 7:00am, taking both vehicles to the take out point in Parkville.  We dropped my car and headed to the put-in in Farley.  After unloading, my wife headed back to Parkville and switched vehicles, thus leaving Colin and I the roof rack.  She then went shopping for the rest of the day :)

It took quite a while to get everyone's boats in the water, but once complete we headed off in the largest group of paddlers I've even been a part of.  It did not last as some sped ahead of the pack and ended up finishing long before the rest of the group.  The idea was that we would all float into Parkville to the waiting crowd by the boat ramp.  We ended up with about half of the group I would say, which was still a huge success!

It was interesting paddling on the Missouri from the moment we entered if at the confluence with the Platte.  There was a huge difference in the current, thus creating a swift eddy line that we had to quickly paddle through.  The river was wide and swift, but calm.  The strangest part was the whirlpools that would show up under your boat from time to time.  All of a sudden you were spinning without explanation!  A little corrective paddling solved this issue and soon it was the norm.

We had a great day being out on the river with great people and I now feel comfortable paddling this river.  It is however important to know what you are doing and to understand the water levels, wing dikes, etc.  I had read about it, but doing it is another thing.  I will not hesitate to paddle on the Missouri again, and I imagine there will be many more trips in my future.  I've already heard talk of a trip to the wild and scenic sections near Yankton, SD (bring it on) and I am planning a trip to the upper Missouri in Montana with Colin.  If only it were already next Spring!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lake Jocomo Paddle

After Colin successfully paddling 10 of the 18 miles on our Current River Trip by himself I figured it was time for him to have his own boat.  In all honesty, I also wanted another boat that would give me some more speed for longer trips.  We loaded up the boats and headed over to Lake Jocomo for some paddling.  This was our first time on this beautiful lake and I am looking forward to going back next year!  I was a little worried about whether or not he would be able to handle a bigger boat, but he had no trouble at all.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Current River Trip

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Two years ago I took some co-workers on a weekend trip to Meramec State Park and we did the short 5 mile day float.  Everyone had a great time and several of them had been asking about doing it again.  Last year was just too busy but this year we were going to make it happen.  Being that I like longer floats and staying on the river I threw out the idea that we do Round Spring to Two Rivers (18.5 miles) on the Current.  We would be camping on the gravel bar for the night.  I really didn't expect many people to take me up on this offer, but in the end we had 16 people!

A couple people left work early on Friday, but the rest of us rolled into Round Spring campground later.  We had a beautiful drive to Eminence with a nice lightning show in the distance.

Saturday morning we broke camp and hauled everything less than 1/4 mile down to the river.  Those of us with cars drove back to Windy's Canoe Rental in Eminence.  I used these guys on our 44 miler last year and I highly recommend them!  After a short wait they hauled us and our rental boats back up to Round Spring where everyone was waiting to launch.

This summer we had sent Colin to day camp for two weeks to break up his summer a bit.  On the second day he had come home saying "Dad!  I paddled my own Kayak today!!."  He wanted to know if he could paddle his own boat on our next trip.  I of course proudly said yes as I had been waiting for this day!  In the end, he would end up paddling over 10 miles of the trip by himself!  Not bad for a six year old ;)

Once everyone was loaded up we headed out for our first day of paddling.  Most everyone got the hang of it but there were a few who were having some trouble.  For this reason I held back and helped with some teaching.  One was paddling with her two kids and was having trouble with strength.  After learning some technique she had everything under control.  One couple had never been canoeing before and they were doing a lot of zig zagging that is common among new paddlers.  It took them a bit longer, but by the end of the day they were doing great.

While I was hanging back I figured my six year old was paddling along side mom.  I later learned that he was in fact leading the group down the river!  While this makes me very proud, the events the following day make me wish he had been under closer scrutiny just in case.

Once everyone got into the rhythm of paddling we had a very relaxing day on the river with stops for snacks and to swim.  While there were others on the river it did not seem nearly as crowded as other sections I have been on.  This could have been due to the commitment of a two day trip, or just luck.  The one exception to this was a group of 36 "scouts."  I put scouts in quotes because they were not BSA.  I am not sure what organization they were other than they referred to themselves as "scouts."  They had passed us early on but we overtook them as they ate lunch.  By the time they passed us again Colin had tired of paddling (5 miles for the day) and I was towing him.  While this worked pretty well, and gave me an extra workout, it did not make for good maneuverability around trees, etc.  At one point I could tell he was going to hit a tree because of the way the current was pushing his tailing if you will.  I called his name to no avail because he had fallen asleep.  As his boat slammed into the tree and he flipped out into less than 24" of water I couldn't help but laugh!  As I paddled past the debris the scout going by informed me that I should not leave my son behind by himself.  I reassured him I was going to pull over and walk back up river, though there really was no need as Colin was obviously more seasoned than this kid.  I mention this because this kid would come back into our life later that day.

So, after some more time on the river we arrived at Bee Bluff.  This was about 11.5 miles into our trip...very close to the 12 miles I wanted to accomplish knowing the second day needed to be shorter to allow for the drive home.  As I pulled into the shore to wait for the others I heard a faint cry of "help."  Looking down river I say the same kid trapped in a strainer with his Kayak sideways.  I took off running down the beach and motioned for the others in my group who had arrived to do the same. The kid was hanging onto a log with one hand while he tip toed on his right foot.  His left foot was at waist lever trapped in some line on his sideways Kayak.  As I entered the swift chest deep water he informed me he would not be able to hold on much longer.  Thankfully the water was not too swift for me to help.  I was able to get his foot free and help him to shallower water where my friends could help him out.  He was so shaken he could hardly stand.  The thing that irks me about this is that the other "scouts" and even a few I took to be leaders seemed to have hesitated and were watching.  They came in and got the Kayak, but it seemed to me they could have helped him much sooner than I.  Little did we know that this would be a premonition for our next day.

So, after the excitement, we all cooked dinner and relaxed.  One by one people turned in and I was the last to leave the campfire and go to bed.  I think everyone had a good day.

We awoke Sunday and packed up camp.  This time, I was out front with Colin paddling near me.  We had seven miles to go and I expected it to be a nice easy day.  At about two miles into the day I saw some whitewater ahead.  Now for anyone who has paddled this river, it is a very odd occurrence to see something like this.  Years ago, Colin and I had been defeated by the Big Sugar Creek after a record flooding event and a river full of debris.  We had spent a lot of time and energy roping the boat through debris and avoiding obstacles rather than being adventurous and running it.  He was after all only 3, and I was rightfully being cautious.  Fast forward three years and this looked like fun.  As I headed into it I told him he could either run it our walk his boat through knowing full well he would likely end up taking a swim.  I had not seen the strainer when I gave him this choice.  For my co-worker and her husband who had never canoed, I told them they should walk it through.

As I rounded the bend I saw that the main force of the water was propelling me straight toward a strainer (root ball).  A small portion of the current was being pushed around to the right of the tree in an S curve.  I used the current to my advantage and paddled through, immediately pulling to the shore, knowing that one or more of our group were going to have difficulty with this.  No sooner was I out of my boat walking up the shore to warn people than my co-worker and her husband came through...backwards.  They hit the root ball sideways and were stuck, their boat bouncing in the swift water.  Not five seconds later I watched as my son, the love of my life, rounded the bend and slammed into the side of their boat.  He instantly capsized and my heart sank as I saw him enter the water, under his boat, in front of the strainer.  Though it all happened so fast it seemed like a lifetime. His lightweight sit-on-top rental moved to the side and his head re-emerged from under the water.  It can be hard to get his attention sometimes, let alone as he is screaming and starting to cry out of fear. I yelled his name as loud as I could three times in rapid succession.  Our eyes met and I yelled for him to "Swim!  As hard as you can towards me!!"  I am grateful that since he was a baby he has loved the water.  I am grateful that he is one of the biggest and strongest kids in his class.  For in that moment, my son was able to swim free of the water pulling him into danger and into the swift S current that whisked him to safety.  About the same time my co-worker with the two kids came through, doing a great job of keeping her boat under control.  She saw Colin and reached for his hand...he protested because he had started swimming for his hat!  We all had a quick laugh, but knowing he was safe I turned my attention back to my co-worker and her husband.

As I looked to them, I noticed they were trying to push themselves off.  I tried to warn them to sit tight, but it was too late.  The boat rocked once and then twice.  Taking on water and capsizing them in an instant.  He was in the back of the boat, which was now facing down river.  It was clear of the strainer by 3-4 ft and when he was sucked under it kicked him out the other side.  She was not so lucky.  She got sucked under and re-surfaced with the water at the level of her chin.  I have never seen the fear of death in someone's eyes like I did at that moment.  She was holding onto the boat and I told her to not let go and ran for my rope.  It was not possible to enter the water to help her.  I had gone in to my chest during Colin's struggle and knew that about 3ft from the boat was as far as anyone could go without being swept away.  As I ran for my rope she did the best thing she could have done.  She pulled herself hand over hand along the gunwale until she was to the back of the boat.  Another co-worker of mine told her to let go and he caught her as she re-emerged from under the boat.

Knowing everyone was save we turned our attention to freeing their canoe.  It took 6 of us and about 10-15 minutes but we eventually got the boat free.  With all the gear but one water bottle recovered we set off to paddle the last uneventful 5 miles.  We packed up the cars and all headed home with good stories to tell!

I was reminded on this trip that we must have a deep respect for nature.  Though we need not fear it we mush be smart about it.  I had to have the conversation with my son that he could have actually died in that situation and that he handled himself very well.  He asked me what would I have done if he had been sucked under and I truthfully told him I would have gone in after him no matter the cost. Together we decided that we will continue to scout before running questionable sections of river.  I am so very proud of him that he did not let his fear deter him from continuing to paddle.  I know we will have many more adventures together!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grand River Trip

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This year's Sierra Club trip was a joint trip between both Kansas City and St. Louis.  We had 13 people spend Memorial Day weekend on the Grand River.  Everyone headed up Friday night, but I was unable to get away early and being that it was only two hours away I left Saturday morning.  It is a good thing I had everything loaded the night before though because it was pouring!  As I drove through the driving rain toward Chillicothe I was really hoping it would quit.  Luckily by the time I got to the boat ramp it had stopped and we would have great weather the rest of the weekend!

I pulled in around 9:00 and was to meet everyone at 9:30.  As I was checking out the boat ramp everyone showed up from the nearby campground just a few minutes later...great timing!  I knew Terry, Mike, and Darla from the previous years trip, and I had emailed Bill before, but everyone else was a new face.  We quickly unloaded the gear and then those of us with cars shuttled down to Bosworth where we would end our trip over 35 miles later (this estimate was low).  Upon our return we launched and put in about 12 miles before stopping to camp.

This river was completely different from any I had been on before!  Being a plains river, there is virtually no rock.  Just sand and mud!  The river had a beauty of it's own, but I still prefer the rocky streams of the Ozarks.

As everyone got their camp set up we snacked on the items people brought for "grumpy hour" as Terry likes to call it.  Once set up we all cooked dinner and then spent a wonderful evening sitting around the campfire talking.

Sunday we packed up camp and hit the river for a big day!  By the time we stopped we would paddle 22 miles!  Of course we took some stops for rest, and one for lunch, but there was a lot of paddling.  I was pleased with how relatively easy it was for me.  The only time I fell behind was when I needed a moment by myself to pout.  I had clipped my GPS to my life jacket quickly in order to paddle around some debris.  A short while late my paddle leash had caught and threw my GPS into the river!  The water was way too deep and mud to even think about going after it :(  The map above is a re-creation based on the notes I took.

By the time we stopped to camp everyone was worn out.  We got setup and ate dinner, but went without a fire as no one was going to stay up long enough to make it worth it.  We did have enough daylight to sit around and talk for a while though, which was nice.

As I was turning in for the night I remembered that REI was having their big sale that weekend and they had the top of the line Garmin GPS on sale for half I ordered it from my tent ;)

When we woke up on Monday a couple of the guys discovered Mountain Lion tracks near one of the tents.  That was pretty cool to see!

We only had to paddle around 5 miles, so before we knew it we were back to our cars and loaded up. Though it was a longer trip it still felt too short!  I am looking forward to the trip next year wherever it may be :)

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

I headed down on Friday and met up with Chris and his friend Jessica.  They were on the East Side on the Roman Wall and were working on Commodus to no avail.  We headed North to climb a couple of routes I hadn't done.  Chris and I both had trouble finishing on slopers so Jessica finished for us.  We headed back to camp and had a great evening sitting around the campfire!

Oakie Dokie (5.8) - 1 | Megatron (5.9)

Saturday morning Katie, Jenna, Ryan, and Adler showed up.  I spent the day climbing with them and we put up a couple of classics (I didn't climb everything they did in the interest of time).  I tackled a couple of 5.9's that were on my list and they were glad to have me lead them.  I think they were an easier lead than a couple of the 5.8's would be...ha!  Towards the end of the day I got my chance to practice multi pitch belaying by belaying Ryan up from he top.  Lots of fun!  We finished out the day climbing with Hunter and his friends.  He led Yo Momma for us, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Greatest Show on Earth (5.8) | Mefloquine Dreams (5.9) - L, 2 | Smooth Criminal (5.9) - 3 | Lamb Chops (5.9) - 4 | Leonid (5.9+) | Local Hebrew (5.9-) | Girth Hitch (5.7+) | Emma's Got a Mullet (5.6) - 5 | Yo Momma (5.10b)

Sunday, Bob joined us!  We headed to the East side and did a couple of easy routes.  After that, Bob led First Time Up on gear and we all top roped it.  I got it clean this time!  We were going to get Orange Crush in, but there was a huge line.  We finally ended up just heading out.

Fesic (5.6) | Arizona Bay (5.8) | Fireworks in February (5.8) | First time Up (5.8+) - 6

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Lead to the  last bolt and then got freaked out by the sloper finish.  Top topped it clean.
2. Lead with takes and top topped clean after climbing smooth criminal.
3. Lead with takes.
4. Top roped to transition.
5. Belayed Ryan up from the top and then we each rapped.  My first belay from an anchor!
6. Top topped afte Bob lead on gear!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

I headed down Friday night and got to the ranch after dark.  Saturday morning Jenna, Katie, Rachel, and Emily showed up early.  We headed to the East Side this time.  I started us off on a new 5.8+ that had a sketchy top out.  I tried my hand at Sybarite again but was unable to get through the crux.  That one is becoming my nemesis!  I took everyone down to my favorite, Gracie's Eight and most agreed it was a great route!  We finished the day with a couple of easy routes and then headed back to camp.  After everyone had eaten, Jenna, Katie, and I headed up to climb at night along with an old friend of Jenna's who had joined us for the day.  I've climbed at night before, but never during a full moon.  We were actually able to turn off our headlamps for the climb as the moon was so bright.  I look forward to doing that again!!

Exploration Space (5.8+) - L, 1 | Sybarite (5.9+) - 2 | Gracie's Eight (5.8+) | Montazuma's Toe (5.8) - 3 | Rubber Chicken (5.6) | Paul's Redemption (5.7) - 4

The weather was not looking good on Sunday when we woke up.  We packed up camp and tried to get in some climbing.  Unfortunately after one route we had to bail and got caught in the rain on the way down to the cars.

Eighteen Inches (5.7) - L

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Lead with takes and then top roped clean.
2. Failed to get through crux on lead.  Tried to top rope it but was too pumped.
3. Lead to last bolt and then bailed because I got freaked out by the traverse and the implications of a fall on my lightweight belayer.
4. Climbed at night without headlamp because of the full moon!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

First climbing trip of 2014!  We drove down to the cabin Friday night and got there after dark.  Though we could not climb, Andy, Andreas, Greg, Drew and I had a fun evening playing "Let it Ride."

Saturday morning we headed up to the Land Beyond.  Nathaniel & Rachel had come down with their friend Emily, and Katie and Jenna had driven down as well.  I split my time climbing with them as well as the guys.  After a couple of warmups I climbed my first outdoor 5.10c!  After that, the girls and I went to check out one of the new routes on the back side of the Kindergarten Boulder.  I successfully led it with a few takes and then climbed it clean.  Art the time we did not know it's grade, but later found out it was a 5.10a.  I was also able to finally climb Private Property clean!

Toys for Tots (5.7) - L | Lampe Land (5.8) | Dog Crap Broken Fingers (5.10c) | Romen's Empire (5.10a) - L, 1 | Private Property (5.10a) | Lion Tamer (5.9-) - L

On Sunday, Andy and Andreas headed off to climb some harder stuff.  The rest of us focused on some easier routes that the girls would enjoy...being it was their first time outside.

African Herbman (5.8) - L | Paul's Redemption (5.7) | Stiff Neked Fools (5.8+) | Webster's Part (5.8+) - L

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Lead with takes and then top roped clean.