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. Continue reading “2013 OOO Demo Day”

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. Continue reading “Winter on the Water”

OHT: Section 4 (Part 1)

Britt’s backpack has been around since the mid-eighties. Someday I want to sit down and write out a memoir for that pack. It may have gone on more good trips than I’ll see in my lifetime. A replacement internal-frame pack in Britt’s size has been found and ordered, so this was the old pack’s last trip. It wasn’t dangerous or exciting, as some of its earlier trips were. But it had one last long weekend in the woods with good friends and clear skies and a bright moon, and I hope that was enough.

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We began our walk at Lick Branch, where we’d left off hiking a couple of months ago. The trail was level for a bit before beginning a long, slow, all-afternoon climb. Our camping spot was perfect, on a flat spot just above a tumbling bluffline of big sandstone blocks, and a barred owl called through the woods as we set up. We never saw the owl, but he sounded close enough to touch. Worn out, I went to bed right after supper. Continue reading “OHT: Section 4 (Part 1)”

Monkey In a Boat

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Our young friend Monkey has been nosing around the edges of our kayaking hobby for a few months. She and her family went with us one warm day last summer on a Remmel-to-Rockport trip. I think they all enjoyed it, but I think Monkey enjoyed it a little extra. Since then she and Mandy have talked about boats several times. She spent a few days with us over the holiday break, and it worked out that I could take her on a group trip to Bayou Deview on the Saturday before school started again. Continue reading “Monkey In a Boat”

Snow Days

Mandy’s out of town, leaving Bryan and I with quiet days home together on holiday break. On Christmas afternoon, it began to rain, and slowly the rain started freezing on the roof and on the bushes and on the trees. And on the street. And then it was ice. And little pine-tree branches fell on our house. And then it was snow. It snowed for hours, and when we woke up the next morning, we had more snow than I can remember seeing since I moved to central Arkansas.

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Like a little child, I put on my boots and my rain pants and I went outside. But like the grownup my father taught me to be, I shoveled our sidewalk and then our driveway, throwing the white stuff off into the yard, making strips of piles of snow alongside the pavement. I love snow. I love looking at snow, and playing in snow. I even love shoveling snow. I love every single thing there is to love about snow. Continue reading “Snow Days”

Arkansas Footdown Championships

2012 12 14 Vinny Footdown 1

What, we’ve found yet another ridiculous bike-related thing to do? Ummm. Yep.

Avoiding ‘foot down’ is a highly valued skill in bike polo; if you can’t balance on your two wheels and your mallet, and your foot touches the pavement, you’re penalized. I suppose it’s also good to be able to balance without touching down in things like cyclocross and mountain biking, too, since putting a foot on the ground would mean a loss of forward speed and rhythm. Even road bike people like to be able to ride very slowly so that they don’t have to unclip from their pedals. And it goes without saying that people who ride tall bikes and unicycles should avoid the need to put their feet on the pavement. Learning to improve balance, in all kinds of cycling, is important. Continue reading “Arkansas Footdown Championships”

The Leonids

Bryan and I decided that, since the Orionids meteor shower last month had been such a disappointment, we’d try to watch the Leonids this month. Mandy’s schedule precluded a camping trip, but he and I got up at three in the morning to drive out to the overlook on Highway 5.

We overshot and ended up in Crows instead. When we turned around to look for the overlook again, we found that it had been removed. (Do they ever do that? Apparently.) The other close-by spots had too much light. We ended up lying on the concrete in front of Salem Fire Station Number 4. We’d forgotten pillows. There was way more traffic on the road than we’d expected, and I kept thinking someone would pull into the fire station and hit me, lying there on the driveway in my sleeping bag.

But the meteors were beautiful, as they always are, big streaks of fire across the sky that light up the air they pass through and make it glow. I love meteor showers. Sometimes we forget, I think, that we’re just tiny people in a big, big universe. When we watch for meteors, we come to understand again that we’re just crashing through space along with all the other rocks. It’s humbling and amazing at the same time.

Also: cold. I don’t think I woke up fully until sometime during my second cup of coffee, halfway through breakfast at Waffle House.

Still Water

We spent the summer learning about whitewater kayaking, but the drought in Arkansas has continued into the autumn and we’ve branched out a bit into doing things in calmer water. In the very first chapter of The Wind In The Willows, Water Rat told Mole “believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING–absolute nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” We’re finding that we really like messing around in boats, too, whether in challenging whitewater or quieter streams.

In September, part of the Caddo River was high enough to float, so we joined a group of friends to do a little section of that waterway. The river was calm and easy, but we were ill-prepared for the trip because we’d assumed that the group would float the short section straight through. While they ate fried chicken and big thick sandwiches for lunch, we played in the water. Next time we’ll understand that they mean to spend the whole day paddling, and we’ll pack a big complicated lunch as well! Continue reading “Still Water”

Sylamore Trail

After a disappointingly short and rainy backpack trip on Buckeye Mountain, our young friend Monkey was eager to try another, more pleasant backpacking trip. We wiggled our schedule around a bit and worked in a weekend trip to the Sylamore Trail, one of my most favorite autumn hikes in Arkansas.

The stretch of the Sylamore between Barkshed and Gunner Pool is about five miles of really neat hiking. For the most part, the trail runs along the bluff well above the creek. In the spring and fall it’s a nice hike, but when the leaves are down there are some really great views through the bare trees down to the pools and ripples of Sylamore Creek. Some of the trail runs under overhanging limestone bluffs and through big weathered breakdown chunks. Continue reading “Sylamore Trail”

‘Cross Dresser

Cyclocross is a kind of bicycle racing popular in Europe and in the more interesting parts of the US. Arkansas cyclocross is just getting started – last year’s fall/winter series was sort of ragtag, I’ve heard, but there’s more momentum and organization behind this year’s races. Racers do several laps around a closed course, on a mix of surfaces – usually some pavement, some gravel, and some grass or dirt or mud. There are obstacles to ride or jump over, like tree limbs and boards, ditches, and sometimes even stairs to run down while carrying a bike. The course is taped off in such a way that there are often sharp turns to navigate as well. Racers ride as hard as they can to do as many laps as possible in a certain period of time – 40 or 50 minutes seems to be the usual length of a cyclocross race.

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Mandy was a little bit interested in cyclocross last year, but we never actually got around to watching a race. This summer, when her bike was wrecked, the replacement we bought was a cyclocross bike. We thought it was a good choice because it was set up more or less as a road bike, but the frame and fork were broad enough to accommodate wider tires when we wanted to ride on gravel roads or smooth trails. Having a cyclocross bike, though, made her think that maybe she wanted to race cyclocross this season. Continue reading “‘Cross Dresser”