Rafting on Ouachita

20130720-Rockport Rafting-001 If my graduation trip to the Grand Canyon is going to work well, Bryan and I ought to have some idea about how oar rafts work. One pretty afternoon, our friend Debo offered to show us how to row one of their rafts. I sort of understood the way the raft worked but had a hard time getting my arms to work well with my brain in order to make it go where I wanted it to go. I could get it down the river ok, and I could turn it in circles in the middle of the river, but actually catching eddies along the sides of the stream were really more than I could figure out. 20130720-Rockport Rafting-002 Bryan did better than me in the ‘how to make this thing go where I want it to’ department, but his big advantage is that he has about twelve times more upper body strength than I do, so he was able to row longer and harder and actually get the boat to behave better than I was. My primary job for the last two thirds of the trip was taking pictures and jumping up and down on the air-filled raft in order to make people laugh at me. 20130720-Rockport Rafting-003 As is the case on most summer weekend afternoons, when we got to Rockport we found lots of friends in lots of boats. As fun as it is to play at Rockport, it’s just as much fun to watch others work on surfing and tricks at the ledge. People in rental canoes and flotillas of tubers wander down and through the group, too, and on a good day there are extra boats around – rafts and duckies and standup paddleboards to play with. 20130720-Rockport Rafting-004 I’d wanted to take Cowper’s Star raft for another trip down the river, but I should have known better – there were games to play. Tanya Sacomani and I helped paddle the raft into a hole where we were able to park it for awhile, the upstream motion of the wave holding us steady against the downstream motion of the river current. We pulled cans of beer out of our pfds and drank them as the boat pitched and Bryan took pictures. 20130720-Rockport Rafting-007 Usually, a trip to Rockport means an afternoon in the water followed by a long supper with friends at some area Mexican place, and this day wasn’t any different. Sure, we could save time by making the half-hour drive to the ledge, staying for an hour or two, and then driving straight back home. But we never, ever do. It’s funny how these trips have become just as much about the friends as about the boats and the water.

Birthday Boat Recovery

Bryan planned a perfect birthday trip for me. It was completely ridiculous and vaguely useful, and it sounded like a ton of fun. Someone had found a jonboat pinned in a spot halfway through a ten-mile stretch of Cadron Creek, and we were going to go unpin it and get it out. It was far from simple: We’d need to put together a group of people to float down to the boat, then get the boat loose from the current that was pushing it up against a large rock in the middle of the creek. We’d need to take a kit of rope and webbing and pulleys to unpin the boat. We’d need to take a motor with us so that if the thing would float, we could ‘drive’ it a few more miles downstream to a takeout. Continue reading “Birthday Boat Recovery”

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. Continue reading “Lower Big Piney”

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. wpid4302-20130601-Rec-School-IMGP0383.jpg 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. Continue reading “Rec School 2013”

Ice Water School

wpid4060-20130506-Whitewater-School-IMGP0283.jpg 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. Continue reading “Ice Water School”

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. Continue reading “Safety Season”

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. IMG_2402 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. Continue reading “Seven Boats on the Buffalo”

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. wpid3933-20130407-OOO-Demo-Day-2.jpg 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. Continue reading “2013 OOO Demo Day”