***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…
As Bob and I were running on the Katy Trail this morning (although Bob was a half an hour late because he “sent me an email changing the time to 6:30 instead of 6:00″ that I never received), we talked about how the Katy may be underwater within the next few weeks as the Missouri River rises. We then discussed how we should paddle on the Katy Trail if it does indeed become flooded. Bob even came up with a great name for the event: “Rails to Sails.” Pretty good, huh?
Talking about paddling during the impending flood made me think of the time we had way too much fun paddling a flooded Cedar Creek. In case you missed it, below is the video. Check it out:
The last time we paddled Cedar Creek, we ended up walking a few extra miles since we (Bob) left the keys at the canoe put-in. To read all about it, you can go here (seriously, it’s worth a read). It was an incredibly fun day (even with the mishap regarding the keys), and we really need to get back out there for some more paddling fun. And Robby has promised us that he would join us next time, and NOTHING will stop him.
Until next time, Toot-a-Loo.
***NOTE*** This is a guest post by our friend Susy Stephens from the adventure racing team, The Golden Girls. She graciously agreed to let us post it here for all of you to enjoy. It’s a fantastic story. Thanks, Susy!
Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is an incredible wilderness experience, or so we had been told. Our group of five set-off to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Twins, Sandy and myself, and discover what camping away from people, cell phones, television, internet, running water, air conditioning, furnaces, beds, all of the conveniences we take for granted. The chance to see nature in its most pure state, the call of the loon, soaring bald eagles, clear water lakes, huge fish, and maybe a moose were part of our dreams. The lure of an area restricting large groups of people with no noise pollution from motor boats or people was so intriguing we were determined to overcome some obstacles.
The difficulty of the “portage” was something we greatly respected (feared) and almost took the option of a tow to a much easier to reach area. However, we mustered up all the courage we use to tackle other events not commonly done by people of our age group and gender, such as adventure racing, and told our Seagull Outfitters we wanted to go for it. The two day easier trip became a six day stay in the wilderness, with several options on route choice, credit given to our very wise and able outfitter. We pumped ourselves up, disregarded the first option for a base camp not even in the BWCA, and told ourselves we could go deep into the wilderness. We can do it!
Departure morning we got a first glimpse of all the gear in one place, six Duluth bags(monster frameless back packs), a huge bear barrel, a large food pack, our fishing tackle, and Go-Lite packs to carry our rain gear, cameras, and water bottles all looked like enough to sink a large boat, let alone a two person and three person canoe with five women! Chris, our routing engineer, assured us all would be fine and loaded us up in our canoes and pointed the direction to our first portage. You have to wonder if the outfitters hang around to witness the beginners on their first portage for laughs. We could have had them howling with laughter.
We paddled confidently off in the pointed direction until we hit a dead-end. What??? It didn’t have any “No Outlet” signs, now what. We turned around to ask our buddies if they had seen the portage we must have passed and started to retrace our route, paddling back to where we had come. Realizing that wasn’t going to work we went back to our initial first stop and realized the portage was right in front of us, we just didn’t know what to look for. So off we went on our first portage of 150 rods. Rods??? We just figured it was about the length of a canoe and thought “150 canoe lengths” to give us a good idea of the distance. One of the stronger younger women, Angie, was able to hoist the two person canoe over her head and onto her shoulders and away she went down the trail. Wow! Three of us in our lack of wisdom decided to carry the three person canoe. We ended up fighting each other all the way down the trail and had the most miserable canoe carrying experience I will ever have. After three more trips, we had all of our gear ready for the next lake. Whew! It was really only 50 rods, but seemed like 150.
That first portage really put us in our place, so when we cruised into Ham Lake and saw the first Base Camp Option, it was indeed very tempting. However, it was not in the BWCA, so we would have to go further to really be in the BWCA. On we paddled to the next portage; we were considerably more “experienced” at this point after practicing on the previous two portages. This time we were smart enough to let Angie carry both canoes, while we trudged along with all the Duluth Bags and our varied assortment of gear. The next lake, Cross Bay Lake, contained Base Camp Option 2 and by this time we were really hoping that site would be available. All sites are on a first come basis. Once we spotted it with no tell tale signs of campers we sent Missy on shore to check it out. She scurried up the trail and was back in no time…”This is good!” Oh, yes, we were all pleased to have found home for at least the next two nights. After getting everything hauled into the camp site and put up, it was looking like home for more than two nights. We set about the business of preparing to live on this rocky point. Connie and Missy went out in the canoe to filter water, but were being blown around so much, I decided to stabilize the front end of their canoe from my seemingly stable sloping rock so they could continue to filter water at a deeper spot than from shore. Well, it seemed like a good idea. It was the first night out and I was already in my second and last outfit. Thank goodness all the clothes dried quickly including my newly acquired buff, so I could pretend to be like a Survivor contestant.
We settled into life in the wilderness, fishing, paddling out to see if we could catch sight of a moose, relaxing around camp, and enjoying all the fantastic meals Seagull Outfitters had packed for us. We decided pretty early that this camp was home for the next 5 nights and we would day trip from there. We found portaging to be so much easier without our well supplied kitchen, and tents complete with sleeping bags and Thermarest pads. Comfy camp living does not lend itself to multiple moves into the wilderness. We were content and happy to have the option not to do an entire loop, thanks again to our wise outfitter.
We gained in confidence how to live in the wilderness, knowing that waiting to make smores at dark would bring out the mosquitoes. And so it was, one evening, we had finished up dinner early, had the dishes washed and were ready to dive into the tents before the bugs were out. But we heard an unexpected noise at the portage site. Someone was coming through very late for heading anywhere on the lake. So we all popped up to our rocky vantage point to see what braves souls were still traveling late in the evening. Two canoes moved indirectly toward us, piquing our curiousity even more. One wave from them…a reply wave from us…then a very quiet tired voice…”Would you have some room (at the inn) for a tired family?” Four of us mid-westerners were present at the time, we grew up watching our family and neighbors pitch in when another faced tragedy or hardship. We glanced at each other and said, “Sure, we can put you over on the hill.” As they get closer, we can see it is a family with a teenage son and daughter. The father and mother begin to tell their story of getting delayed by rain, not being able to find a portage, and fatigue. We could hear the deep, deep fatigue in their voices. As they approached our landing the Floridian of our group, Connie, joined us to see what was going on. She took one look at the youngest child and asked if they had eaten. All little Emily could do was shake her head…not even a whisper. Proving caring for those in need, is not exclusive to the mid-westerners, Connie bids our weary travelers to set-up their camp while we fix their supper. By that time the sincere, complete, abundant, and deep gratitude radiating from these folks really almost shined. If you have ever heard the song “Does the Light Still Shine?” sang by Ray Boltz you will know what I am talking about. It is about a person that regularly visits an old-timer in the nursing home, and each time the old man wants to know if the light of the cross on the mission he used to run was still shining. Though the mission had long closed, if you take the time to listen to the song, you will find out how the light still shines.
So we all sprang into action…doing what we do around our camp. Missy who has a daughter the age of Emily, the youngest child found out they did not have water filtered for the evening and morning. Most folks do not carry water on the portages, so they had wisely waited. Missy’s motherly instincts kicked in and away she scooted down our hill and up theirs to gather their jug and water bottles for her and Angie to fill, while Connie started rummaging through our food to find something to warm their souls. Sandy and I assisted while Connie put together a Chicken and Rice meal that made Chris the teen-age son proclaim, “I feel so much better now.” Even Emily managed a smile when we ask for their family photo.
But that is not the end of the story…my sister, Sandy, came to me…”You know how we always say what goes around comes around? Well, I think these folks just received a little kindness they give to others all the time. It was their turn.” That was quite a testament to how this family came across to us.
Connie came to me…she had been the main chef of our group and kept track of what our outfitters had planned for us. Having an odd number in our group, we sometimes had extra food, since most was packed for even numbers…not to mention the generous proportions. So Connie looked for that one sack of Chicken And Rice that had been leftover from our previous meal, knowing that would probably feed two of them. “Something happened,” she said. “I knew there was only one sack of Chicken and Rice…but I found TWO. Something happened.” So on our rocky “mount” you tell me…did Connie make a Mistake… or did we have a small Miracle?
Sometimes you are not sure can do something… so you don’t. Not the Shroeders…they never hesitated to tackle the long loop set up by their outfitter…and they did it! “In over their heads?” Not even close. As they paddled off the next morning to complete their trip, I couldn’t help but admire and respect their tremendous accomplishment. They taught us how in giving you really receive so much more. Thanks to the Shroeders for stopping in at our little rocky “mount.”
A couple days later we paddled back to our take-out point. On the way, in the middle of a lake it began to rain. We really didn’t have much of a chance to get our rain gear on. But it was a warm rain, so we kept moving, hoping to avoid a real storm. Seagull Outfitters were fast to meet us, even though we looked like drowned rats and probably smelled worse. The storm blew in with a fierce wind and a heavy down pour, just after we arrived at Seagull. They had warm towels, hot cocoa, hot coffee and amazingly clean showers with warm water. Oh yes…that definitely felt like a miracle! Thanks, Connie, for getting with Seagull Outfitters to make that incredible boundary waters trip of my dreams.
Once again, hello to all of you Virtusites, the best fans a team could ask for (We love you both). As some of you may know, Bob and I had plans of laying waste to all who dared stand against us at the Alpine Shop’s Meramec River Marathon canoe race this Sunday. Well, plans changed. The race was canceled due to high water. Why a canoe race can be canceled due to high water is anyone’s guess, but I digress…
Undaunted by Mama Nature’s attempt to ruin our Sunday, we made plans to do some “local” paddling. Bob, already in St. Louis for the Meramec Marathon, came back to Jefferson City. Since I already had the canoe loaded up onto my Cadillac Escalade (okay, it’s actually a minivan), we made arrangements to hit Cedar Creek.
Bob had previously scouted Cedar Creek in a pack raft (read how that went right here), so he already had a plan in place – sort of. He knew where to put in and where we would take out. All I had to do was show up with the canoe, paddles and PFD’s (not to be confused with PDF’s). He told me, and I quote, “All you’ll really need is a bottle of water and maybe an energy bar.”
So, we headed out on some nice gravel roads. We dropped Bob’s truck off at the take-out, and as he climbed in my van I asked him if he had his keys. He said he had them right in the cup holder of the van. Perfect. We had everything we needed and we were ready to go. All we could hope for now was for the water to be high enough.
We got to the put-in at the end of Englewood Road, and there was no doubt about the water… There was plenty, and it was fast. We met a chain-smoking biker couple sitting on the foot bridge over Cedar Creek. When they realized we were planning on paddling the creek, they both whipped out their cell phones to record us. Well, I normally hate to disappoint anyone, but we did not put on a show for them. There were no mishaps… yet.
Only 100 yards or so down stream, we hit some faster moving water with a few riffles. It had been awhile since I’d paddled in a canoe, and I’ve only used a kayak paddle in a canoe one other time (in fact, I think I was holding the paddle incorrectly). So, I was a little apprehensive at first. Bob was kind of jittery as we hit the faster water too, but there were no major problems.
As soon as we made it through the riffle, we saw a cave up ahead. It’s a Missouri state law (section 1.130) that you have to stop and explore a cave when the opportunity presents itself – look it up. So, we pulled over for some “spelunking.” The cave was terrific – nice and cool, and it was actually fairly deep. We didn’t have any lights (since I “Only needed a bottle of water and an energy bar”), but I think we made it almost all of the way to the back of the cave. Next time I’ll bring a light to explore more thoroughly.
After killing 20 minutes or so at the cave, we were ready to once again embark on our journey. We hit a few more fast sections of rapids with no problems, and we were getting much more comfortable in the canoe as a team. The next couple of miles was peaceful and relaxing (other than the stupid horseflies) as we were treated to some beautiful scenery. If you look closely below, you’ll see a wake of vultures (yes, a group of vultures is called a wake… kind of like a pride of lions, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, a troop of baboons, a school of fish, a pod of dolphins, or a clutch of Virtusites… okay, I made that last one up) trying to cool off with their wings spread on top of a gorgeous, cliff-side house:
Here you can see what used to be a bridge. I’m not sure what road used to run across here, but it clearly no longer exists:
We came around the bend, and the glare was blinding with the sun directly in front of us. Bob’s huge melon and hat blocked a good portion of the glare from my eyes, so I could pretty much see where to take us. I knew that Bob was ready to have some fun, so I slowly guided us directly toward some of the rougher water. I kept waiting for him to yell out a change of direction, but he simply couldn’t see where we were going.
We were merely a few feet away from a slew of holes and hydraulics before Bob yelled out, “Hole!! Hole!! Big fucking hole!” The bow of the canoe raised up and over the first wave and then came crashing down into the next one with a loud Thwack! Bob got douched with water as a wave crested over the front of the canoe. “Another one!! Another one!! Big Fucking Hole!!” The same thing happened, and Bob was once again baptized as the water nearly filled the canoe. We hit a few more smaller holes and took on a bit more water before paddling out of the last stretch of the rapids.
We had taken on a lot of water, but it was a blast! We were both laughing about it, but then we realized that we had another rough patch of water ahead. So we got ready to make our way through the next run of rapids. Now, paddling a canoe full of water is kind of like steering a kiddie car at the carvial – You can steer all you want, but the ride is gonna take you where it wants you to go. When you add the weight of our fat asses to the additional water in the canoe, it was almost impossible to control the boat as we were sitting so low in the water. We did as good as we could, but we took on some more water as we made our way through the rapids. We soon wound up getting tipping a little as all of the water shifted to one side. We both leaned the other way, and we saved it… almost. Just as I thought we were about to pull out of it, another wave hit us and our canoe completely submerged.
So, we didn’t actually tip the canoe. We just sunk it. Literally. For the next 10 to 20 yards, we actually stayed in the submerged canoe as we made our way down the creek. It must have looked hilarious to see the two of us “paddling” down the river with only our upper torsos showing. We finally gave it up and hopped out of the boat. Our Gatorade bottles were floating away from us, so Bob went after them as I took the canoe to the bank. I definitely got the easier job since Bob had to hike back upstream for awhile after retrieving the two bottles.
It was at this point that I killed my Gatorade and began to wonder if we were going to be finished before dark. Bob and I joked that we should have brought a headlamp, you know… Just in case. We unswamped the canoe, and we were soon on our way again. After the previous mile of rougher water, we were much more relaxed in the canoe which was a good thing… especially since this is what was ahead of us:
I’m not sure if that is called a hole, a hydraulic, a standing wave or a haystack, but I’m positive that you can call it pure fun. Photos never do justice to the stuff we see out there, and this thing was a lot scarier than it looks in the picture. We actually heard it before we saw it. We rounded the corner as it came into view, and at first we were going to go to the side of it. Then Bob, with his newfound confidence said, “What the hell? There’s only one of them, so let’s do it.” Who could argue with that logic?
So, we headed straight for it. It was awesome! As we hit the haystack (yeah, that’s what I’m going to call it – a haystack)… Anyway, as we hit it the haystack, the bow of the canoe rose, and it looked like Bob was a good two feet above me. Then, as we crested the wave, I was looking down on Bob from above. I thought we were going to sink the boat as a huge wave hit Bob in the chest and filled the boat. We managed to get over it and through the rest of the rapids without trouble (other than quite a bit of water in the canoe). It was fantastic! We learned our lesson from the last time, though, and we decided to pull over and empty the boat again before moving on.
We hiked back up the creek to get the photo above, hoping to capture how cool this thing was. Then we realized that a photo wasn’t going to cut it, so we took a video of the creek to show the haystack. Here it is:
As you can see, we didn’t think the video of the creek was good enough, so I thought I’d swim it to give you a better idea of the swiftness and power of the water. After seeing that I didn’t die and hearing that I didn’t hit any rocks or anything at all, Bob decided to give it a go, too. It was a lot of fun.
At this point it was getting kind of late. I tried to call my wife (my phone stayed nice and dry in my aloksak bag), but I had no service. Since we had not yet reached the bridge at highway Y, we were beginning to realize that maybe we really should have brought a light. That would have taken forethought and planning, though – two things in which Bob and I are lacking.
We hopped back in the canoe and took off again with smiles on our faces. Not too far down the creek, we ran into an obstacle that even we, Team Virtus, decided not to paddle. A tree was laying across the entire width of the creek, and the water was really moving.
We were tempted to try it, but we thought better of it. We pulled over, and Bob carefully scouted it out. We had made a good decision. The two of us carefully walked the canoe up to the tree. I climbed over and through the tree to the other side before Bob passed the canoe through to me. Then we got cocky. I climbed into the canoe as Bob held onto it. We were now facing backwards as Bob tried to climb in. He made it, but we shot straight back into another branch which turned us sideways. The power of the water did the rest, and we tipped.
We unswamped again and headed back out. It wasn’t too much longer before we reached the bridge at Hwy Y, so we knew we were going to make it before dark. A couple more miles of slightly slower water lead us to our take-out at Burnett School Rd, and we still had an hour of daylight left.
It was a terrific paddle, and we had a lot of fun. I still had no cell phone service, but we could drive back to civilization where I could then call my wife to let her know I was still alive. That is… if Bob actually had his keys. Um… Yeah… His keys were still in my van which was only 15 miles away or so. Now do you get why the word “Keys” is in quotation marks in the title of this blog post? See what I did there?
After paddling a little over 11 miles in 90 degree heat and ridiculous humidity with only one Gatorade, you know, because that’s “all I’d need”, we now had to embark on a trek.
Perfect. Just Perfect.
As we started walking, my phone quit working. Seriously. I’m not kidding. It just stopped working and wouldn’t do anything. I thought we were going to have to walk the whole way back to the van. It was not looking good. I took my phone apart several times with no luck. After the 5th or 6th time, it miraculously started working again. I still had no signal though, so we kept walking towards Hwy Y as the sun was starting to set.
After 45 minutes of walking, my phone alerted me of three voice mails… One from my brother (sorry I didn’t call you back, Casey) and the other two from my wife. The first one from my beautiful, understanding wife was just to see if I was going to be home for dinner. Uh… Nope. The second one was to see if I was still alive. Yup… for now. I called her to fill her in on what was going on. She called us idiots (although I’m not sure why I got lumped into that category – well, maybe it’s because I’ve done stuff like this MANY times before). Bob then called his girlfriend to sweet-talk her into coming to get us. It didn’t take any sweet-talking, though. In fact, it was almost as if Cara expected this call. We hiked all the way to Hwy Y as it got dark while getting feasted on by horseflies, and thankfully, we only had to wait a few minutes for Cara.
Looking back, I think Bob left his keys in my van on purpose. It turned into a perfect training session for adventure racing. We were tired, wet, out of food and water, and we had to hike on a gravel road with no end in sight, not knowing when we were going to be done. Thanks for that Bob. Thanks a lot. In all seriousness, though, a big THANKS goes out to Cara for picking us up. And another big THANKS goes out to my wife, Becca, for putting up with this Dynamic Duo time after time. Baby, you’re the greatest.
It was a truly great day. We had a lot of fun, and we got better in the canoe fo’ sho’. I can’t wait to do it again… But next time I’ll hold on to the keys. For anyone that knows me personally, you know it’s pretty bad when I’m the responsible one.
And eventually… Just maybe… there could be a Team Virtus Non-Race in the works. And when that happens, your ass had better be there. That’s why we’re doing all this you know, to give you an awesome non-race. Not for our own entertainment.
Here at Team Virtus HQ, we’re counting down the moments until this year’s “The Thunder Rolls” Adventure Race. I can’t speak for the other guys, but every time I even think about this race I get more excited than Boy George at a shoe sale. This thing is going to be life-changing.
A major part of being ready for an event like this is being comfortable using the required gear. As if biking, hiking, paddling, rock climbing, rappeling, orienteering and rock climbing weren’t complicated enough, The Thunder Rolls promoters have presented us with a new challenge: The Pack raft.
Packrafts are inflatable “boats” designed to be used on-the-fly. They’re kept in your pack or strapped to your bike until a section of impassable water is reached. At that time, the boat is inflated and paddled to the other side. Once across, the boat is deflated and re-packed. It’s a great concept, as virtually noone wants to drag a kayak through the woods “just in case”.
Luke took the liberty of being the first to purchase a packraft. He bought the Sevylor Trail Boat, seen below.
The Trail Boat is fairly inexpensive, but many of the product reviews portray it as being inadequate in terms of toughness. Product testing is a big deal when most of your team is comprised of men over 200 pounds, so preparations were made and I was dispatched to evalaute the sea-worthiness of our new toy.
I couldn’t wait. I had been hearing tall tales of a fabled access point to a “certain” piece of swift water in Boone county. The spot was less than 20 minutes from my house, and when I hear stories like that I tend to think they’re bullsh*t.
When I finally found it I couldn’t believe my eyes:
Nice view of the water too.
I loaded up my gear and started hiking. Since I was alone and had no way to stage a vehicle, I decided to hike upstream a few miles and then float back. I found a deer trail and followed it through the woods. It was a good hike with minimal thorns, and after a while I found this:
I think this is supposed to be called a “natural arch” since you can see all the way through it. The thing that impressed me the most was that I found no graffiti or garbage. Maybe it’s because the arch was positioned at the very top of a vertical cliff?
Awesome stuff, and I found a few more rock formations similar to the first one. I saw a few eagles along the way and had a great time. Despite all this, I couldn’t wait any longer to get on the water, so I climbed down off the ridge and made my way toward the water.
That’s when the real learning began. The closer I got to the water, the thicker the vegetation got and the looser the ground became. It wasn’t exactly dangerous, but it was definitely a pain in the ass. I guess when the water recedes, the soil is rich and promotes rapid growth of thorns and scrub-brush.
- PFD -check
- Golite pack -check
- Wallet and camera in the drybag -check
- Helmet -check
- Fresh cheekload of Redman -check
- Sense of adventure -CHECK!!
Next thing ya know I’m in the water and cruising downstram. I was using a single blade collapsible canoe paddle–don’t ever do that. Almost immediately I stowed the paddle and piloted the boat with my hands. What a great time! The water was moving fast, the scenery was awesome and it was all over before it started. It only made sense to do it again, right?
The second hike upriver, I went along the other side of the bank. I will never do that again. I went through some Stinging Nettles or something, and my legs hurt so bad I couldn’t believe it. Lesson learned, tromping through the brush wearing shorts is a fool’s game.
Hiking along, I came to one of the fingers that feeds into the creek. It was about 30 feet across with no sign of being crossable on foot.
Hmm, Good thing I’ve got a pack raft.
I put it in the water and made it across with no problems. After slashing my way through what seemed like an eternity of thorns and nettles, I decided this little hike needed to be overwith. The stinging in my legs was too much to ignore, so I made a bee-line for the water to float back…. That’s when I stumbled across this:
WHAT THE (insert profanity here)?!?!?
I’ve been tromping through razor wire for an hour right next to a manicured trail?? Man, I-was-pissed….but glad to find a trail. I followed it until it ended and then bushwacked to the water. I made my way into another of the creek’s fingers and followed it to the actual creek. Along the way it got a bit…..brushy.
After that it was all smooth sailing. A great day in the woods and on the water, no “real” injuries and a very positive experience. I hadn’t truly tested the “Trail Boat” yet, but preliminary testing had shown this vessel to at least be entertaining. My second trip in the boat will be detailed later, and as a precursor to that experience I’ll just go ahead and say we are currently exploring other options for the Team Virtus packraft of choice.