Lower Big Piney

Once upon a time, a bunch of friends wanted to go paddling. They scoured the land for a river that was not too dull for the skilled paddlers in the group and not too difficult for the rank newcomers. They found themselves beset by many obstacles. Many of the potential paddlers did not have the gear for the journey, and those who had gear to loan lacked space for it in or on their trusty Subaru steed. One of their number fell by the wayside, while others joined the expedition at the last-minute. Despite the challenges the group faced, through careful planning and preparation, they managed to get to their destination - the Lower Piney - unscathed.

Our group convened at a handy McDonald's in Conway. All together we had our family, Mitch and Rachel, Chris, and Cole in two vehicles when we left lunch. Yes, lunch. A late float is often a better float. -- more --


Rec School 2013

Last year, our trip to the ACC's School of Recreational Kayaking was our first real instruction in boating. Mandy was out of town, so she missed it, but Bryan and I spent the weekend in our first kayaks, the LiquidLogic XPs, and we learned a lot. This year, we approached the school in a much different way. We've all become much better paddlers in the last year, but there's still a tremendous amount to learn. Bryan pitched in as a 'safety boater' for one of the basic kayak classes; I borrowed a whitewater canoe and enrolled in the canoe class.

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Mandy's back kept us from making a decision about what she'd do for the weekend. At the last minute, she got the blessing of her new orthopedic doctor. He had some concerns about the body position required by a kayak - her hamstrings are very tight, which puts her lower back in a strained position - so he suggested a little time in a canoe. On very short notice, she borrowed a Spanish Fly from our friend Cole. She had a great weekend getting to know a new boat. -- more --


Crash and Burn

When Mandy was nine, she broke her right femur. Badly. We knew it had healed slightly longer than the other one. About a year ago, her lower back started to bother her. Her legs were still almost a centimeter different in length, so we added a lift to her shoes, and she felt a lot better.

Earlier this spring, Mandy's back started to bother her again. At first we thought that she might need to be more consistent about wearing the lifted shoe, but when that didn't solve the problem we took her in to the orthopedic doctor for another checkup. We got bad news: her damaged leg has continued to grow. Now the difference is between two and three centimeters. That's quite a bit. -- more --


Ice Water School

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We've been looking forward to Whitewater School since we started paddling with the Arkansas Canoe Club. As the class got closer and closer, we got more and more excited. Camping! In May! On the Mulberry River! With friends! It sounded like a great weekend. We like to paddle, and we like to learn stuff, and that was just going to make it better.

But then it was the week before class, and we couldn't help but notice that the forecast predicted lows in the thirties for the weekend. And rain. Camping and paddling started sounding somewhat less appealing. -- more --


Pink Granite

It's nearly the end of the semester. It's that part of the spring that finds me sitting in one class, worrying about what I'm not getting done in another. I've been looking forward to spending a whole weekend at home, doing labs for structural geology. So of course, on Thursday night, when Bryan suggests that we pack up and leave on Friday for the Wichita Mountains in western Oklahoma, I think that sounds fine.

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I do love the Wichitas, and he knows it. It's been several years since we've been there and he also knows that I'm a sucker for a good road trip. By the time I walk out of my Thursday-night class, our plans are made: we'll stay up late packing, pick up Kathy after work on Friday, and meet Mitch and his kids along the way. -- more --


Safety Season

Our first year in the Arkansas Canoe Club has been a good one. We've been impressed with their emphasis on teaching and on safety. They organize two big 'schools' every year - the whitewater school and the recreational paddling school (which we attended last year). Less highly publicized are tons of training opportunities for the people who teach at those events, and for others in the club. There are workshops and certification for kayak teachers, and canoe instructors. There are rescue classes at different levels.

This culture of knowledge and safety is something we've really benefited from. Our family wouldn't have had the good start we did without those educational opportunities. We've felt pretty safe pushing ourselves a little bit, knowing that the people around us are well trained will be able to fish us out of the water if we need help. We think it's very, very cool to be part of something that feels so committed to keeping people safe.

CPR Feet 2

This spring, we had a chance to take a CPR/AED course from UAMS, without charge to us - the classes were sponsored by the canoe club. Now all three of us are certified CPR people. We have cards and everything. And we feel a lot more confident about actually providing help to someone in distress, instead of just standing nearby and looking concerned.

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Seven Boats on the Buffalo

We thought that Monkey ought to be able to paddle her new boat the day after she bought it, and we thought that her dad might like to go with her. The Buffalo River wouldn't challenge the girls much and it certainly wasn't the 'funnest' place for a new playboat, but it was a place where Mitch and Jarion and Kathy could paddle comfortably. And who doesn't love a trip to the Buffalo? No matter who you are or what you're paddling, the Buffalo is beautiful.

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We met at eight and loaded up Jarion's trailer with all seven of the boats. We headed off, disorganized and inefficient as usual, with stops to buy groceries and gas and to pee and to run shuttle. We managed to get on the water at the crack of 2pm. -- more --


2013 OOO Demo Day

The local paddling store, Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters in Hot Springs, has a 'Demo Day' every year. It was at this event last spring that we had a chance to meet the staff of the store and some local paddlers who had come out to help. It was at Demo Day last year when Bryan and Mandy picked out their LiquidLogic XP kayaks, and where Hayduke and I first tried, and settled on, 'his' Native Ultimate. Just a year later, we still have those first three boats in our garage, along with three more used boats we've bought since then, and four we've borrowed from other people. We've made some great friends of paddlers since then. We kind of felt like this year's Demo Day was a sort of anniversary for us.

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This year's event was bigger and better than last year's, I think. Hayduke kicked it off by cheerfully knocking me down and dragging me down a slick rock and into the cold lake. He does love water, but that was a little ridiculous, and I told him so, and he didn't care about my opinion at all. -- more --


MWA Kayak Slalom 2013

Every spring, the Missouri Whitewater Association hosts a slalom event on the St. Francis River in Missouri. In kayak (or canoe) slalom, boaters race downriver through 'gates', which are really sets of two poles hung from wires strung above the water. Green striped gates should be paddled through heading downstream. Red striped gates have to be passed heading upstream. Racers are timed from start to finish. Missing a gate entirely incurs a 50-second penalty; each pole touched adds a 5-second penalty.

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I don't remember how Mandy heard about the MWA Whitewater Championships, but she wanted to try it. We'd never been to the St. Francis before. Bryan and I, always suckers for a good road trip, were agreeable. -- more --


Winter on the Water

It’s been cold, but thanks to drysuits and neoprene and excellent long johns, we’ve been paddling anyway. Late in January, we were invited to join a small group to paddle on the quiet water of Bayou DeView, from Hickson Lake to Apple Lake. It was a gray day and my mood matched the weather, but it was still good to be outside. We ate lunch on Whiskey Island, and Debo ‘adopted’ a too-thin, sad little snake, packing it carefully in a dry box for the trip back to the truck. (Note: A month later, the little snake’s eating goldfish like they’re going out of style. He’s fat and healthy now and he’ll go back home to Whiskey Island sometime in the spring.)

Blog Swamp Painting

The more we thought about creek paddling, the more Bryan and I thought we should get Crash a helmet with more face protection. She's never had the least little problem with wearing helmets, and agreed that she'd appreciate headgear that might help her keep all her teeth and jawbones in the same place. We asked around and did a little research, and just when we'd decided on a ShredReady, and Bryan found one on sale. The new helmet arrived on our doorstep right beside a nice big rainstorm that brought the creeks up. But Mandy’s grades weren’t great, and we wouldn't let her skip school. She was stuck at home, wearing her new helmet in the kitchen, watching videos, while her friends paddled Richland Creek. -- more --


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