Category Archives: Paddling
My friends, the hour is nearly upon us. In just 3 short weeks, Team Virtus will return to Camp Benson in hopes of defending the Tetherball heavyweight crown. ESPN has yet to return my calls, but I’m sure there will be online coverage.
Oh yeah, and we’re also going to do a 24 hour race called the Thunder Rolls. Last time we tried this race, we did the 12 hour version and it was the hardest race I’ve ever done..by far. The scenery was amazing, but it’s hard to forget the endless thorns, stinging nettle and being blinded from some kind of pollen in my eyes. That race kicked our ass in every way.
Not to mention the longest, most awkward paddling leg of all time…followed by the longest, most horrific upstream pack-rafting leg in adventure racing history.
But, we did get some pretty awesome North Face hoodies, some free Zanfel and a bottle of Boetje’s Mustard. Not to mention drunken dancing at a Rat Baxter concert with some of the local elderly ladies (read the Thunder Rolls Race Report here). I’d say that warrants a return visit, wouldn’t you? The good news is that Luke and Kate are in excellent shape, and I’m only about 40 pounds fatter than I was when we did the 12 hour race. That should balance us out pretty well, right?
Hey, at least we won’t be competing in the same division as Team Bushwacker, (Scott Fredrickson, y’all!!), or Alpine Shop…Oh wait, yeah we are
Look out, Kountry Kettle. We’re coming for you.
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.***
Paddle Leg #1 – 1:13 PM Saturday Afternoon – 5 Hours 43 Minutes Racing
Somehow, through all the mistakes and mishaps, we managed to make it to the TA at CP8. We ditched the bikes and our bike gear, and we readied ourselves for the paddling leg. We all grabbed a bite to eat as we donned our PFD’s and put our paddles together. We only had 3 kayak paddles, and since Kage had little to no experience using one, we decided we’d let her just use a canoe paddle.
After a fairly quick transition (although we could have been faster), we carried the canoes down to the lake. Kage got stuck in a canoe with me, and Bob and Casey filled up another one (Bob: Is this a fat reference?). With storms in the forecast and clouds in the sky, we were a little worried that the water was going to be pretty rough. We were pleasantly surprised when we shoved off and headed out on a silky smooth lake. This was going to be easy.
On this paddling leg, we had to get 3 CP’s (9, 10, & 11) in any order before heading back to the TA. We decided to get CP10 first since it was closest, and then we would either portage the canoes across a peninsula to get CP11 before getting CP9 on an island OR we would paddle around the peninsula to get CP9 followed by CP11 if the portage looked too gnarly.
The paddling was easy and we made good time… until we left the bay. Once we were out of the shelter of the bay, the lake was much rougher. It wasn’t the worst I’ve paddled on, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either.
Bob: The pictures do absolutely no justice to the size of the waves. Coming back to the canoe takeout, Casey and I had several waves crash right over the front and sides of the boat. I was soaked to my ass….balls first.
We stayed close to the coast and found CP10 easily. There was a team here, “For the Run of It” I believe, that was convinced this was CP11. I was 99.99% sure that we were at CP10, but a small seed of doubt had been planted in my brain. With the rocky start to the race and several navigational blunders, I started to second guess myself. We couldn’t afford another mistake.
We decided to paddle on and not portage the canoes since the brush and trees looked pretty thick. I also knew that Kage was dreading portaging a canoe, but I’m sure she would have done just fine. I mean, we all know that she has more upper body strength than Bob does, but then again, that’s not saying much.
Anyway, we decided to paddle to the island to get CP9. On the way to the small island, I kept looking toward the coast. The little seed of doubt about CP10 began to grow. Did we somehow paddle too far and miss CP10? Was that actually CP11 instead? I looked at the map, and I tried to convince myself that there was no possible way that could have happened. There was, however, a bit of doubt remaining in my mind.
The water was getting more choppy and the wind picked up as we made it to the island. It looked like it was raining to our east, but other than a few errant raindrops, we had managed to avoid the inclement weather. We beached the canoes and Bob punched the passport.
Bob: Actually, I was just trying to look like Scott Fredrickson. If he had a beard, we’d look exactly alike.
We paddled into the small bay to get CP11, and I was once again worried that I had led our team astray since that other team was so sure that what we thought was CP10 was CP11. I was still 99% sure I knew where we were, but it was a huge relief when we paddled right to the CP and confirmed that we had indeed gotten it right.
At this point, we could have portaged across the peninsula or paddled around it again. I know Bob really wanted to portage, but the rest of us voted to paddle around it. In hindsight, I think it would have been faster to portage, but I guess we’ll never know.
Kate: In retrospect, I feel bad that I argued against portaging. Wimpy move, especially since we didn’t have bikes in the canoes or anything. Next time, tell me to man up.
Casey: I was on the fence and would have been fine with the portage. It didn’t look too far but I think we made the right decision. I have a feeling the portage would have taken us longer.
Bob: I think it would’ve been faster. By the time we would’ve gotten there, the trail would have already been blazed.
Luke: Like I said, we’ll never know.
As we paddled around the peninsula, the waves seemed to have gotten MUCH bigger. It was really rough out there. It was so rough, in fact, that we had to make sure we didn’t get sideways to the waves. We had to hit the waves straight on or risk being tipped. Hitting the waves head-on was a rough ride, though, and Bob said that several times they took on water over the bow of the canoe as they came crashing down over each wave.
Kate: I was definitely nervous during this part of the paddle, especially being as someone had already almost tipped the canoe in calm water.
Bob: I’m so glad Luke lost the bet.
Kate: Still stinging from that upper body strength comment, huh?
Casey: It was pretty rough out there. Bob and I had a hard time not pulling away from the other canoe (we had 2 kayak paddles) with the rough waters. We’d try to coast and wait for them, and we’d get tossed around and had to paddle to keep our bow into the waves. We eventually decided to paddle a little ahead and get into the cove and wait for them there. We kept an eye on them and hoped they’d join us safely in a few minutes.
We eventually made it back to the TA after roughly 2 hours of paddling, but the last half of that paddling leg wasn’t exactly fun. Well, that’s not true. It was actually a lot of fun… now that it’s over. We were definitely glad to be getting off the lake without tipping.
Kate: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of me. Now I’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk.
Luke: Kage, there can’t be a more flattering shot than a woman carrying a canoe in the middle of a 24+ hour adventure race. Right?
Casey: I guess we didn’t get any pictures when it was really rough, we were too busy trying to survive. The pictures we have don’t do it justice. However, according to people who raced LBL last year, it was nowhere near as rough as it was last year. Last year, they cut the paddle short because it was too rough and too many people were dumping their canoes (they were the yellow P.O.S. canoes, however).
We transitioned to the bikes for a short ride (roughly 2 miles) to the big orienteering leg of the race. We were really looking forward to getting to our first food drop, too. As we pulled up to CP13 and the start of the O-course, we were shocked that there were so many bikes still there.
Food Drop #1 / CP 13 – 3:56 PM Saturday Afternoon – 8 Hours 26 Minutes Racing
As we rode down the gravel road to the manned-checkpoint, we could see a team of four getting ready to get back on the bikes. It turned out to be Team Tecnu, one of the best teams in the country. Oh, crap! If it took a team of their caliber that long to finish the O-course, it must be pretty damn tough. We dropped our bikes, swapped our bike shoes for trail shoes, and started to go through our food bag as Tecnu took off on their bikes.
Then another team came out of the woods. It was Wedali. Double crap! Another top team was just now finishing the orienteering section. And then as we were going through our food, switching from biking gear to trekking gear, and just taking way too long at the TA, another team came out of the woods: One of the two Bushwhacker teams. What… the… hell?!?!
Casey: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of Bob and me. Now we’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk!
Luke: Casey, there can’t be a more flattering of two husky dudes with half-beards. Right?
Clearly, this orienteering leg was a big, fat female dog, if you know what I mean. As we ate some food, restocked our packs, and got ready for the O-course, I studied the map. It was pretty clear that we were not going to clear the course. So the question then became how many CP’s we should try to get before the 9:00 PM (?) cutoff. Should we use all of that time to get as many CP’s as we can? Or should we just grab a couple of the close ones in the daylight and come back to the bikes and hope we can use that time to get more CP’s later in the race?
Since the top teams obviously had some issues with the orienteering course, I figured we just might have some issues as well – especially once it got dark. So I wanted to get 3 or 4 CP’s, skip the rest, and make our way back to the bikes before dark and hope that saving a couple of hours would help us later in the race. Casey disagreed. He’s the kind of guy that never wants to concede anything until absolutely necessary, and he always wants to push the envelope, for better or worse. So we planned on getting a couple of CP’s and then we would reevaluate.
Bob: You forgot to mention that he does it all with a million-dollar smile, dazzling facial hair and an endless supply of mind-bending flatus.
Casey: I think you should use all the time you have to get as many CP’s as possible, especially if you don’t know what is coming later in the race. I don’t like to ASS -U-ME anything. You know you have these CP’s to get and can’t assume there will be more later (undisclosed at this time). I would hate to leave early, saving time for later, only to find out that there were no more CP’s and finish with time to spare and CP’s left un-punched. Hell, I want to get all the CP’s every race.
Luke: Every team needs a guy like you, Casey. You always push us to do more than we think we can, and that’s a very good thing. Sometimes, however, it’s better to skip CP’s early to get more later. It’s a tough decision sometimes, though, because (like you said), you just don’t know what the rest of the race has in store for you.
As we were finishing up our (way too long) transition, the other Team Bushwhacker came out of the woods, our friends Scott and Frederick. We asked how it was out there, and they said it was pretty rough. That’s not what we wanted to hear. We said good-bye and good luck, and then headed into the woods. A few minutes later, we crossed paths with Team Alpine Shop, another top contender, as they were just finishing the orienteering leg.
Man, it was going to be a rough O-course.
To Be Continued…
Get excited, everybody. The CAC is only a few short days away! What’s the CAC, you ask? Well, if you don’t know what the CAC is, then you really need to get out more. You can get caught up here, here, and here. All caught up? Great. Let’s continue.
Bob and I have been working really hard on the CAC. Day in and day out, we’ve been slaving over this CAC. Why? Well, to bring you the best non-racing experience ever, of course!
Scouting for and planning the course for this year’s adventure non-race has been a ton of fun. Setting the course up, however, has been a struggle. It took us just a wee bit longer than we thought it would. Bob and I were in the woods for seven days straight just placing all the CP’s in the correct locations. We battled heat, rain, cold, hunger, thirst, wild animals, and each other over the last week. Don’t believe me? Well look at this:
Now do you believe me? After all the hard work and several near-death experiences, we only have a few control markers left to hang, and we’ll take care of those in the next day or two. And in case you missed it on our facebook page, the control markers will look like this:
After we were finally done, Bob and I finally got to reward ourselves with a long-awaited packrafting trip down storm-swollen Cedar Creek. It was the perfect ending to a long, hard CAC preparation expedition.
What else could possibly make the CAC better? How ’bout a potluck? Rumor has it that Todd from the Hoosier Daddies is going to bring some brats, Kage is bringing some cookies, and we’ll be providing some baked potatoes and toppings. If you wanna bring a dish too, that’d be fantastic, but definitely not mandatory.
Anyway, I hope you’ve been training hard. This just might be the best adventure non-race of all time, and I’m not exaggerating at all. It’s going to be amazing.
This past September I found myself with the opportunity to cross yet another item off of my ever-growing bucket list. I had the opportunity to paddle part of the Colorado River. You see, paddling the Colorado has been something that I had always dreamed of doing. The stretch of river that I have often dreamed of paddling is the epic stretch of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon. Such a trip would afford me the chance to experience some serious world-class white water and take in the beauty of the Grand Canyon from the floor looking up to the rim. I have never seen the Grand Canyon from this view-point. I wish this was the story of that paddle but it isn’t. I’ll have to paddle that stretch another time. However, I was not disappointed. My trip took me through the beautiful Black Canyon on the Colorado River. This is the stretch of river that flows from Lake Mead, created by the Hoover Dam, south towards Lake Mojave which was created by the Davis Dam. We would put in literally at the base of the Hoover Dam on the Nevada side of the river and paddle down river to our take out at Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river. As we paddled, Arizona would be river left and Nevada river right for the length of the paddle.
This stretch of the river is slow-moving but still pretty big water. It reminded me of stretches of the Missouri River or Mississippi River that I paddled only moving a little slower, with less under current, and the scenery was a little bit different. Here is one of my favorite photos from the trip…
The water flowing between these two dams maintains a frigid year round temperature in the lower to mid 50° F. This is due to the depth of Lake Mead and the fact that the water the dams releases is released from the bottom of the lake into the river. I would be making this trip with my beautiful wife, Lauren and one of my best friends Manny Garcia and his wife Shauna. My wife has limited canoe and kayak experience but I am pretty sure my friend and his wife had never been in a canoe or a kayak. We decided it was best to join a guided trip down the river with Evolution Expeditions. They would be providing the boats, the paddles, life jackets, lunch, snacks, beverages, guides, and the local knowledge of the river.
The guides picked us up outside our hotel at 5:30 in the morning. From there we had a 45 minute drive through Vegas to the Hacienda Hotel near the Hoover Dam to meet up with the other guide and the rest of our party. We met everybody else on the tour and it seemed like a good group. We all piled into one of the vans and headed to the Hoover Dam to our put in. We talked with the knowledgeable guides and each other and soon had built a sense of camaraderie and knew the day would be a great one.
On the way to the river we saw a big horned sheep on a mountain side up from the road. This was the first time I saw one in the wild and was excited but unable to get a picture due to the speed of travel on a bumpy road we were on. I was assured by the guides that we’d see plenty of them along the river as they regularly came down to water on the Colorado River since we are surrounded by desert. They told us we might get see bald eagles, peregrine falcons, big horn sheep, maybe a rattle snake, and much other wildlife since they rely on the Colorado River for water in this arid region.
We carried the boats down a ramp and over some rocks and into the river. We got a quick how to paddle and what not to do lecture and then we launched our crafts into the Colorado. We took a few minutes to paddle around and familiarize ourselves with the Prion Kayaks. Manny and Shauna were in a tandem as were Lauren and I. Everybody else had opted for solo kayaks. As we paddle around, the guides informed us that our marriages would be tested today since we chose to paddle in tandem or “divorce boats” as they are known in the business. We laughed and made a vow to get along at all costs. We posed for a couple of “dam photos” and soon were headed down river.
Shortly after heading downriver we saw a precariously thin plank walkway that clung to the cliff faces. It was only two planks wide with a little cable hand rail. It was very sketchy, even when it was first built. The planks were constructed in the early 1900′s when a future dam employee walked the planks, crossed the river in a hand basket suspended from a cable, and then walk more planks to check the flow rate and height of the river several times every day to help determine the location of the Hoover Dam. Check out these pictures…
Here are a couple of pictures that I found online but didn’t actually take myself. The first one shows a longer stretch of the walkway and the second one shows the actual gondola that the dude used to cross the river.
We continued down river a bit when we were directed to beach the boats on the right side of the river. We had arrived at our first stop of the trip, the Sauna Cave. This is a man-made cave that was drilled out back when the Hoover Dam was being built. They hit a natural hot spring and the cave is now full of hot water and has a temperature of around 130°F. We stripped down to our bathing suits and got ready to climb up to the cave. As we disrobed I made the joke about going in the cave naked. The people we were with seemed all for it and ready to participate. I quickly backtracked and announced I was keeping my suit on.
After a few minutes of thought, it hit me…the rest of our group was made up of free loving hippies; seriously cool hippies from Alaska. Not the fake hippies you see nowadays but grownup hippies from back in the day. I couldn’t believe I didn’t pick up on it earlier. They were laid back and really cool, down to earth people. Luckily for all, everybody kept their clothes on. We left our lights off and climbed through the hot water to the cave mouth. You could see steam flowing from the cave and feel its hot, moist breath on your skin. We walked single file through the cave, our sense of touch our only guide. The cave bent a bit to the left and soon we were in total darkness. Wet, Hot, Darkness…With a bunch of cool, free-loving hippies. We sat ourselves along the back of the cave and enjoyed the experience.
Soon the rest of our group started to “ouhmmm” all together and chant like a bunch of Tibetan monks. At first it was cool and I even joined in for a bit. But they kept on and on and on with the chanting. I could feel their chants reverberating throughout my entire body. The chants seemed to grow louder the longer it went on. It was cumulative and growing in intensity….Louder, Louder, Louder. My insides were vibrating and I was tingling all over. I get that they were enjoying it and possibly they felt something spiritual by doing this but after 5 or 10 minutes of chanting I was ready to experience the cave in silence. The silence never came and finally it was time to head back to the river. After our sweaty visit to the cave we jumped into the frigid river to cool off. It felt so good and we enjoyed our quick swim before loading back into the kayaks and continuing down river.
Our next stop was going to be at the natural hot springs. Being very excited about the trip, I did extensive research on what we would be seeing and doing on the river that day. During my research, I found that you had to be careful at these specific hot springs because of a rare type of hot water amoeba that lived in the waters. I found this warning:
Warning – Naegleria fowleria, an amoeba common to thermal pools, may be present and could enter through the nose causing a rare infection and death. Do not dive into pools, splash water, or submerge your head.
I was surprised the guides hadn’t mentioned this fact earlier in the trip. There had been a couple of deaths caused by this amoeba already in 2011 (not in Las Vegas but down south in hot, stagnant ponds). As we prepared to hike up the canyon to the hot springs I asked them about the amoeba thing. They played it off and said it was very rare and not likely to happen. But we probably should not dive or submerge our heads in the water. I then asked about the warm waterfall I was just sitting under.
And found out that this was the runoff from the hot springs and it probably wasn’t a good idea to get the water in or around your nose or ears. Seriously? I was just sitting under the falls and letting it cascade down my head and shoulders. Well, too late now. The damage had already been done. (For the next 3 or 4 weeks I constantly blew my nose and thought I was going to die from amoeba infection, but the fact that you’re reading this proves I did, in fact, survive. Whew!) We hiked up the canyon and waded and sat in numerous hot springs. This was my first time in a hot spring in nature and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The guide told us how the Native Americans used to come here for the healing abilities of the springs and how they were sacred to them hundreds of years ago. I haven’t researched their claims, but the hot springs were surrounded by desert. I am sure the Indians came to the river for water, but to sit in the hot springs when it was 100°F or higher? Maybe? I enjoyed their story and decided not to ruin it by possibly disproving it with some research. To me, it is probable that people once came here for the healing properties of these magical hot springs. Did it heal all of my aliments? No, I am afraid not. But it did feel pretty damn good to sit in the hot springs and relax. If you haven’t enjoyed a natural hot spring, do yourself a favor and visit one.
We hiked back to the river and headed down stream in our “yaks”. We paddled leisurely and enjoyed the spectacular weather and the breath-taking views. Our next stop was at the cliff jump. We had some granola bars for a snack and climbed along a cliff face and out on a ledge. We took turns jumping off of a 30 foot cliff into 50° F water. I’ve cliff-jumped plenty but never into the Colorado RIver. It was a great time. The ice-cold water literally took your breath away on the first jump. It was every bit as cold, if not colder than, the Mississippi in early April.
After having a great time on the cliffs we headed to our next stop and one I was looking forward to all day… lunch. As we paddled to our lunch spot we kept our eyes open for a Big Horn Sheep. They are often sighted along this area as they come down to the river to get water. Due to recent rain and the high availability of water, there were no sheep in this area. I guess I wasn’t going to see a sheep along the river…and then, up ahead in the distance we saw something. Our luck improved, we saw a big horn sheep…
We saw a whole wake of vultures in this horaltic pose. As we neared the beach with the dead sheep, we looked at the hillside and saw 7 or 8 vultures in this pose. It is believed the pose is to dry their wings, heat their bodies, or bake off bacteria. Scientists are still studying the reasons for this pose. I have some thoughts on it…It was in the 90′s so I think the vultures were warm, they had to be dry (we were in the desert), so I guess maybe they decided to bake off bacteria as we got close to the beach where they were feeding. My theory is maybe, just maybe they use this pose to look larger than they are in an attempt to scare off predators or other scavengers (or in this case the big ugly creatures in the kayaks). Whatever the reason it was really neat to see. One started the pose and then they all copied the pose as it spread across the hillside like dominoes being knocked over. I have never seen more than 1 vulture in this pose at a time. It was really cool.
After lunch, we paddled down the river. I think some of our group was ready to get off the river. We had a long stretch of very slow-moving water to paddle before reaching our takeout. We broke this long stretch of paddling up by having water fights with water tubes and our paddles. I literally almost sank Manny and Shauna’s kayak by scooping water with the blade of my paddle and throwing it into their boat. Their inexperience in a kayak and using a kayak paddle was my savior. I had a definite unfair advantage as I threw gallons upon gallons of icy water into their boat. Eventually, Manny called a truce and the Lamb kayak was declared the winner. He then spent the next 10 minutes sucking water out of his boat with his water tube. It was a good time and made this stretch go a little faster for those ready to call it a day (I could have paddled all day and into the night, I was truly enjoying the experience).
Soon we came to a spot that one of the guides pointed out to us. It was the exact spot a famous picture was taken back in 1871 way before either dam was built. He pointed out the top of what once was a large rock in the picture. I remembered seeing the picture online, it was a cool picture, but I figured it would all be underwater now. With the guide’s guidance we tried to capture a photo from the same angle of that old photo. I think we did a pretty good job from memory, check them out…
As we continued down river we saw many interesting caves. This one looks like a monster’s mouth or some creature’s jaw with teeth…
Our last stop happened to be inside a cool cave named, “Emerald Cave”. It got its name because with the right lighting conditions the water is a fabulous, deep, emerald-green color.
The sunlight wasn’t hitting just right for the perfect emerald conditions during our visit. We had a few moments of green and then the sunlight went away and refused to cooperate. I still thought it was really cool looking. We packed all of the tours’ kayaks into the cave (I feared we were in for more “ouhmmming”, but thankfully they refrained) and sat there for a couple of minutes. As we were talking Shauna dropped her fancy designer sunglasses into the emerald abyss. Luckily our guides were prepared. One of them pulled his goggles on and jumped out of his boat and into the cold water. It was crystal clear and we could see all the way to the bottom. After a few dives and some directions from the surface, our guide broke the surface with a huge grin on his face…
Here is one more picture of Emerald Cave as we left…
We continued downriver and enjoyed the scenes. We saw double-crested cormorants, a pair of peregrine falcons, and blue herons. As we neared Willow Beach, we passed Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery. They raise and stock trout in the rivers and lakes in the region. They also raise razorback suckers and bony tail chubs and restock thousands of these fish each summer into their native waters, the Colorado River. We continued down river and spotted our takeout in the distance. We really dug in and sprinted to our takeout. It was a yet another competition that the Lamb boat would win.
We had finished our trip and had a great time on the river. An experience that we will never forget. We had a great time with great guides. They were experienced, knowledgeable, and had great personalities. If you are ever in the area, even just for a short visit you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t make time for this trip. If you are in Las Vegas for business or pleasure take a break from town and head to the river. You will not regret it, and you’ll create memories that will live forever.
Here are a few more pictures that I couldn’t fit into the report. Check them out.