Friday, August 31, 2012

New Expedition Link

Janet Moreland
Credit: Janet's blog
If you've been following the blog links, you know that Bob Bellingham (Steady Paddling), the Aussie that came all the way to the U.S. to paddle the full length of the Missouri, just completed his trip in St. Louis.  I've been following his trip the whole way, and even made a list of all his camping locations (for who knows what purposes!).
We paddlers are always excited about finding what lurks around the next bend, and Janet Moreland is hoping to carry that curiosity to the next logical step.  She plans to be the first woman in history to paddle the full length of the Missouri solo.  She has already started a blog for the trip, and I've posted the link to her blog in the right margin.  Just click "Love Our Big Muddy".  If you wish, you can jump aboard and follow Janet through the whole planning process.  We wish her the best.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"No Swim" Warnings

Photo credit: FL Dept. EPA
As of August 27, fifteen Oklahoma lakes have been posted as unsafe for swimming due to high levels of blue-green algae blooms and their toxins. Unfortunately, some of them are the largest lakes with the greatest recreational value. These include: Charlotte, Fort Cobb, Copan, Ellsworth, Eufaula, Keystone, Lawtonka, Tenkiller, Wister, Lake of the Arbuckles, Clear Creek, Fort Gibson, Foss, Texoma, and Waurika Lakes. In addition, Rocky and Hulah are suspect.

Blue-green algae is actually not an algae at all. Algae is harmless and part of the food chain, but what is called blue-green algae is a microscopic organism called cyanobacteria. These produce toxins that are indeed harmful to people, especially children and pets, since they are more likely to ingest some water. High levels can last for months, and the toxins can remain in the water up to three weeks after a bloom is no longer visible. These can produce skin rashes, nausea, runny eyes and nose, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. More severe reactions may include dizziness, fever, headaches, and liver and nervous system damage. If someone comes in contact with the toxins, they should shower and wash their clothes as soon as possible. If camping along such bodies of water, use municipal water supplies, as even boiling will not destroy the toxins.

There are two things that cause cyanobacteria blooms: high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen coupled with warm water. Since identifying and controlling nutrient run-off from surrounding lands is difficult, the first impact on toxin levels will usually occur with falling temperatures and substantial precipitation.

Last Hurrah Before School

An evening on Kaw Lake.  It was too rough on the open lake,
but this small cove was just right for an outing with two small girls.
Before the granddaughters headed back to school, we took them on a four-day camping trip at Lake Kaw. I’ve paddled the upper third of the lake, and have been anxious to get back and finish the rest of the lake‘s 168-mile shoreline, but this was not going to be that occasion. We did take the stripper canoe so we could get the girls on the lake for a bit. The older girl had canoed at camp this summer, and wanted to canoe some more, but it’s too early to tell if it is something she will pursue.
We also took them to the Kaw Nation museum. They mostly enjoyed the bead work on clothing, jewelry, and belts. They are girls, after all. You know a girl’s three greatest commandments---accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. Also of interest were the great tribal drums, dinosaur bones, and the head of a prehistoric crocodile. As dry as it is here now, it’s hard to imagine that Oklahoma was once the ocean bottom. Before leaving, we got them each a Kaw powwow t-shirt.

Not a prop or costume, but the real thing.  After the chief
passed, his wife presented his headdress to the museum.
Click picture to enlarge for reading.  It speaks for itself.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 8

A juvenile Mississippi kite.

I hadn’t been back at the park long last night before sleep beckoned. The first flashes of light filtered through the tent and awoke me at 4 a.m. Then I could hear the thunder. The frequency of the light and sound show had me debating whether or not I should try to break camp and risk waking others, but then I heard a couple others rattling gear. The object was to get gear packed before the storm came through and soaked everything, and within minutes we could see people scurrying about everywhere.

Breakfast was to be catered at the St. Charles train station, but unfortunately we had no access to its interior. As the storm broke, those of us who had our gear safely packed away in the truck, huddled under the overhanging eaves of the train station’s roof. The caterer arrived and started setting up breakfast in the wind and driving rain. I suggested she move the table around the corner in the lee of the building and grabbed one end of the table. She agreed, and breakfast was on the move. That kept the food dry, but finding a sheltered place to eat was another matter. The rain continued on and off for most of the morning, but after being wet all week from sweat, a bit of heavenly fresh water didn’t arouse as much as a second thought.

A mere seven miles east of St. Charles we would pass Charbonier Bluff. At 655-feet, it is 25 feet higher than the top of the Gateway to the West arch in St. Louis. It was considered sacred by Native Americans, and evidence of their villages and burial mounds there date to the Mississippian period, or 800-1400 A.D. It was recorded in Clark’s expedition journal in May, 1804. In 1819, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne landed there to establish a Native American Catholic School, and several buildings were erected by the students of St. Stanislaus Seminary. Ruins of the buildings are still evident today in what is now called the St. Stanislaus Conservation Area.

There are mile markers set all along the river to help with pilotage. The markers took on new significance when we could see them drop to single digits, and then there was the one-mile marker, which measured the distance to the middle of the Mississippi River channel. We could see the treetops whipping back and forth, but when we came into the open water of the confluence, the wind coming up the Mississippi hit us. The river ripples quickly grew into big waves.

Our destination was a bit south of the confluence. It was laid out as a 29 mile paddle, but as we entered the confluence a couple boats turned north and paddled close to the point of land between the two rivers. There were a number of people in our group that had been here before, so I interpreted this as a tactical move to shortcut much of the turbulence in the confluence. We learned later that someone had just make a mistake and turned the wrong way, so in the great tradition of the blind leading the blind, a dozen of us, apparently all thinking this was a smart tactical move, followed in his wake and added a 1.6-mile further slog against the wind and waves for 30.6 miles on the day, and 159.7 miles for the trip.

To make sure we didn’t run afoul of any commercial shipping, both natural resources and corps of engineers boats turned out to watch and monitor our crossing. The Mississippi was determined to make our crossing memorable and hard-won. With what would have been the most logical time to have a few boats capsize, everyone was on their best game, although a couple did have to be towed in because they simply couldn’t make progress against the wind and waves. Everyone just pretty much headed straight across to reach the east bank, and then paddled south in a bit of a lee and calmer water near the bank. The takeout was undoubtedly the toughest of the trip. There was no ramp, and our boats had to be carried over rocks and gullies to mount the high bank along the shore and reach a Corps of Engineers work area. Everyone pitched in to get the boats up on level ground, and then a shuttle took us back to the Lewis and Clark Visitors’ Center to retrieve our gear from the shuttle truck, and our vehicles. We then drove back to the Corps of Engineers lot to load our boats. There was a flurry of activity to drive to our respective hotels, shower and change, and then drive into Alton, IL, to the Masonic building for a banquet. That would wrap up the trip, and lead us to a night’s sleep in a real bed. For all of us on the river during this time, it had to mark the hottest temperatures and lowest waters for many, many years.

It was hot enough for us, but Jean described what was going on while they had 115-degree temperatures for several days at home. She filled the bird bath two and three times a day, and rigged a misting hose for the birds. Normal enemies, or birds of prey and their dinners, settled under the mister. The hawks, like the Mississippi kite, came in and just flopped on their bellies with their wings outspread, and laid there all day surrounded by small birds and squirrels, all spread eagle in the cooling mist to survive.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 7

A view back up the Missouri.  We were now seeing bars of
sand and gravel rather than mud.
Seeking a spot of shade.
Our seventh day would be a 27.8 mile paddle from Klondike to St. Charles. We expected the ramp there would be busy, as both ourselves and the Missouri 340 would be landing in St. Charles. As it turned out, our landing spots were separated by about a tenth of a mile, so there was no conflict at all.

The St. Charles train station.

As we passed under the I-70 bridge, an interstate that grew from a trail originally laid out by Daniel Boone, we passed the huge Ameristar Casino. Being so large and right on the river bank, I first thought it had to be a power plant, but then saw the hotel and sign. We would be camping at the St. Charles Frontier Park just beyond the Ameristar and Lewis and Clark Boathouse. For the second night, there would be no trains nearby. There was a length of tracks remaining as part of a display by the old railroad station, but this again was part of the Katy Trail, and we would see hikers and bikers stopping and passing through during our stay. As soon as we got our boats ashore and climbed over the levee, the heat drove us all to find patches of shade in which to place our tents.

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Lewis' dog, Seaman.
St. Charles is the county seat of St. Charles County. For anyone with an interest in history, it is a must see. A large portion of the original buildings on Main Street still remain. In 1769, St. Charles was established as the first permanent settlement on the Missouri and originally called Les Petites Cotes, or the Little Hills. It is the third oldest city west of the Mississippi, was the last civilized stop for Lewes and Clark’s Expedition, and later served as the terminus for stagecoach lines, supply trains, and the jump-off point for trailheads for the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. When Missouri became a state in 1821, St. Charles served as the first capital before it was moved to Jefferson City.

Main Street, St. Charles.

We were on our own for dinner, so I walked up to Main Street in search of a restaurant. The choices there run the range from very high-end eateries with fancy names, to bars and pizzerias. I was about to get an awakening as to exactly how seedy I must have looked after a week on the river. I walked into Tuner’s Bar and Grill, I believe it was, and asked the barmaid if they served sandwiches. She gave me a slow, uncertain, “No,” as she gave me a slow look over. She added, “I think the place you’re looking for is up the street and down the alley. They serve $1 burgers, $1 drinks, and $1 fries.” Apparently the Salvation Army or some similar outreach has a soup kitchen in town. I continued on down Main Street to Frankie Tocco’s Pizzeria, where I got a warmer reception, a nicely air-conditioned booth, and a tall pitcher of ice water along with my beer, and a fish sandwich. I’ve never seen a fish sandwich like this. It was two large pieces of fish on a full toasted sub roll, and goood. It would have put to shame any two fish sandwiches I’ve ever had before. St. Charles is another town worth a long visit, as some of these pictures will show.
The sunset filters through a thickening sky for our last river encampment.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 6

Klondike Park, St. Charles Co., Missouri
Today was to give us a break after the long day yesterday, so we just did 17.8 miles from Washington to Klondike, the site of Klondike Park. The 250-acre park was closed to the public during our stay so we could have total access to the facilities. How great is that? The towns along the river have been wonderful in working with the Rumble organizers. In Klondike, one of the St. Charles County executives even came down to help make sandwiches and bag lunches for tomorrow’s paddle. She came just to chip in, and not because there were going to be cameras around. Now that is what being a wonderful public servant is all about. A large crew of St. Charles County workers appeared to drive vans and trucks to shuttle us all from the ramp up to Klondike Park.

It was starting to spit rain as we set up camp, so I slid under the
partial cover of a picnic table.
The Klondike Park was the previous site of a silica quarry. To quote from our Rumble trip guide, the “silica sand was mixed with soda and limestone to create glass products. The top layer was used to make amber glass because of its yellow, clay-stained color, while clear glass was made from the white sand found below 18 feet. Production reached its peak in 1945. The quarry was closed in 1983 and the park opened in 2004.” The park offers scenic views of the river, a beautiful quarry lake, and is also close to the Katy Trail.

Klondike Quarry lake.

We first met the Katy Trail when we camped next to it in Jefferson City. It is part of the wonderful “rails-to-trails” program, and at 237 miles across Missouri, it is the longest such trail in the country. For biking or hiking, it travels through some beautiful countryside between Clinton and Machens, Missouri, with most of its length following the Missouri River.

As we carried our boats up the ramp, we were welcomeed by fresh straw covering the entire area. They were doing construction on the ramp and parking facilities, and the straw was for erosion control on the hillside, but how nice it was to lay our boats for a change on a thick bed of straw.

There was a shuttle bus trip to the Sugar Creek Winery for wine tasting and a tour. Dinner and breakfast the next morning were both catered and set up right in the park pavilion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 5B

Walking up Miller Street and turning onto Front Street, we had lunch at Front Street Catering. They were apparently overwhelmed by the crush of people, and we spent much more time getting lunch than anticipated, but it was a nice lunch break.

Mid-afternoon, we made a short rest break on a bar along the south bank of the river. If you felt my hard line about knowing the rules of the road, regardless of the size vessel you pilot, was unreasonable, perhaps this will put the burr under my saddle blanket in a clearer light. The current on the river in most areas was only about 3 mph, but that’s sufficient that it still has to be taken into consideration in any maneuver. As we went downstream, there was a wing dam that crossed part of the river before we reached the sandbar on the right where we were stopping. There were two ways of negotiating the wing dam. One was to stay close enough to mid-river to clear it, and then cut in toward shore in the eddy. However, there was about a 60 foot break between the shore and the dam that I had seen a dozen or so boat negotiate, so since that was the shortest distance to our destination, I chose to follow. I started cutting toward the break, and was lined up perfectly to allow for the current and clear the dam with plenty of room when I saw a blue kayak coming down on me from astern. The rules clearly state, “any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.” The vessel in front retains right of way until the overtaking vessel is free and clear, and the overtaking vessel is not permitted to hinder the operation of the vessel it is passing in any way. The overtaking vessel is required to take “early and substantial action to keep well clear” of the boat it is trying to pass. This is clearly an example of either not knowing proper vessel operation or choosing to ignore the rules regardless of creating a substantial hazard to others on the water. (The rules of the road, known as COLREGS, can be read at:

or printed out at:

The boat was coming up on my right quarter (over my right shoulder). There was enough room for several boats to negotiate the break simultaneously, but there were only the two of us making for the opening. Instead of following me or heading for the middle to right side of the break, he headed directly for the rocks on the left of the opening, cutting me off and allowing me no room to maneuver. I tried to edge to the right, but he refused me room, and the current and rapidly approaching dam would not allow me time to back out and cross his stern. When I ran out of room, I had no choice but to square up with the dam and take it head-on so as to avoid being swept sideways and rolled in the rushing water. He went cleanly through the opening he had denied me, while I struck the rocks three times while going across, tearing off a piece of the Keel-Eazy I had installed shortly before the trip.

The river was measured at 2.3 feet during our stay.  A year ago, all this
area and the riverfront's parking lot was under water.

The town of Washington was first settled by the family and followers of Daniel Boone starting in 1799. It is beautiful and spotlessly clean. Everything is so well maintained it appears every brick and mortar joint must stand daily inspection. The Rennick Riverfront Park is obviously one of the town’s pride and joys, so it was doubly appreciated that we were able to take over the park where camping is normally prohibited. I visited a couple of the restaurants while in town for dinner and breakfast, and both were wonderful. While walking back from breakfast at Cowan’s the next morning, I met a large dog that was taking the town’s mayor for a walk, and she, the mayor, came down to the park later to speak with us all. Washington, like Hermann, was definitely a town I would return to for a visit.

Washington was also where the first Missouri 340 paddlers caught up to us. The Missouri 340 is a 24-hr/day endurance race from Kansas City to St. Charles, or 340 miles. They stop at check-in points for just a few minutes, and Washington was their last stop before St. Charles. Volunteers man each of the check points around the clock to account for the racers, and paddlers have support teams that meet them there as well to replenish drinks and food and tend to any equipment or medical needs. I missed the first boat that came in, but a couple that joined me later for dinner told me about their landing. They had to help the men out of the canoe. When they let them stand on their own, their legs buckled and they collapsed and just sat in the water. They couldn’t open their hands, which had curled to the shape of the paddles. They were allowed only so many minutes before they were told they had to get back in their boat and press on.

The modern carbon fiber outrigger racing canoe.
Credit: images

Much later in the evening, while I sat up waiting for the air to cool a few degrees, an outrigger canoe came in. This was not the heavy outrigger canoe seen on a Hawaiian tourist video. This thing was strictly high tech. It was a 26-feet long tandem canoe or OC-2, and I was told it is carbon fiber and weighs only 34 pounds. I looked at that thing and my first thought was, “Man, my butt would never fit in that.” As their camelbaks (drink bladders) were replaced with new ones filled with milk, I saw that they actually sit more astride than in the canoe. Sitting straddle that thing 24-hrs. a day for 340 miles is way beyond me. I felt a lot better about my lack of sleep after seeing these guys, who had had none to speak of.

Mississippi River Closed

Our discussions on the Missouri River couldn't be more timely, as the Coast Guard today closed an eleven-mile section of the Mississippi River to navigtion between the Missouri River confluence and St. Louis.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 5

This picture is left from Hermann.  That has to be the best in
pest control.  There are at least 50 martin nests on these two
poles, and best of all, a light is included so they don't have to
fly more than ten feet to catch dinner.

Today was to be the longest paddle of the trip. The projected paddle was 30 miles, or 29.7 miles on the GPS. I believe this was also the hottest with a temperature of 105.2 degrees when we landed. For me, it was a sour day from the start. The fan quit on me last night. I sat outside the tent in the dark fiddling with the thing as sweat ran down my sides and dripped off my head onto the insides of my glasses. Nothing worked. I tried new batteries, double-checking their installation and how the power pack was assembled, cleaned and tensioned contacts, nothing. It had worked perfectly, and nothing had changed except the loading and unloading from the truck. Sometimes bags were thrown, but I had it wrapped in my sleeping bag and there was no physical damage evident, just the fact that it didn’t work. In these temperatures, a fan was not a luxury, but a necessity that made sleep possible.

I did a review on the fan on 21 July. We got the fan from Gander Mountain, and I must add that their customer service was outstanding. When they heard of the problem, they said they had had wonderful reviews on the fan, and stood behind it. They would email a return authorization, Fed Ex would come to the house to pick up the old fan, but without waiting, they would immediately send me a replacement, which I had in hand in a couple days.

As for sleep, I think I dropped off about an hour before we were called out for another day. I wasn’t the only one going without sleep. The Boy Scouts had also spent the night, and they were also up at 4 a.m. to start breakfast. They served a good breakfast, but with no sleep to speak of for several nights, the sleep deprivation was making it hard for me to get myself going.

Once I was on the water, I was paddling as hard as ever, but Ibi acted like she was floating in butterscotch pudding. I just couldn’t get in the rhythm and get her moving. I was running in slow motion as the skinny boats and light boats went flying by. A look astern showed the sweep boat was closing fast.

As I looked ahead I saw a couple nice, picturesque hills and had been smarting a bit about not having any good pictures taken underway. If you look at my photographs, they are almost all ashore or in an eddy along the shore. While the Missouri trip was about 40 miles longer, I came home from the Keys Challenge with 97 pictures, and had only 44 by the time the Rumble was done. A lot of pictures had to just float by while I tried to keep pace. Admittedly, the Keys are more picturesque, but still. I decided I was going to have at least one mid-river picture even though that would put me close to another mile back, so I grabbed the dry bag, and removed and set up the camera. By the time I was done and had packed the camera away, the sweep boat was there. I was riding the back of the pack.

John Colter
Credit: google images

We stopped at New Haven for lunch rather than the usual stop on a sandbar. Once we had all our boats pulled and carried up the ramp, we walked west along the riverfront and crossed the levee at Miller Street. That led us first to a memorial to John Colter, where we were greeted and presented with a John Colter patch, and given directions to our lunch stop.

John Colter was a mountain man, and a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Unable to readily accept the authority of others, he was court martialed after threatening to shoot Sgt. John Ordway during the expedition, but was later reinstated after an apology. He was credited with being the best hunter of the group. With two trappers in tow, he led them to the area now known as Three Forks, Montana, the origin of the Missouri River, and helped build a fort there. He is best known for having discovered the areas now known as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. In 1810, he married a woman named Sallie and settled on a farm near New Haven,MO, where he passed away in 1812.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 4B

One push boat with barges that traveled downstream with us.  Notice in
the foreground one of the hazards of wingdams---the debris that can get
trapped in the wingdams.  I saw one I would have loved to have had a picture
of.  An entire mature tree was balanced perfectly on top of a wingdam.  Such
items can ensnare a paddler that otherwise may make it across the dam.

The state of the Missouri River has become a hot topic of late. As I mentioned earlier, last year the river valley was flooded. Many of the parks where we camped this year were submerged a year ago. Now, as extreme drought grips the Mid-West, the Missouri is seeing some of the lowest water levels ever. These extremes are attracting the attention of those that would like to see the river changed. The Mississippi River Commission is wanting to see a more reliable water flow from the Missouri to improve conditions on their waters, and are courting the Corps of Engineers to explore some changes for the Missouri. One thing that is changing, and that they are using as an excuse to support their cause, is the impact of water extremes on commercial shipping. The Missouri never sees the amount of traffic that the Mississippi does, but with the extreme lows, conditions now have made commercial shipping all that more difficult. We only saw two push boats (tugs) and barges our entire week on the river. One, shown in the picture, went downstream, and another traveled upstream. That was it.

All day, all night, they were coming.....
and going, only about 60 feet away, but they sure dried laundry fast.

Hermann is the center of the Missouri Rhineland. The vineyards were established during the mid-1800’s and produced wonderful wines until Prohibition shut the industry down. Strangely, the industry did not return until the 1960’s, but has grown until the seven area vineyards produce a third of the state’s wine. The town was founded by the Deutsche Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft. Say that three times real fast. To us, that would be the German Settlement Society, based in Philadelphia, in the hope that it would become the heart of German-America. Hermann is also the state’s sausage producing center.

Hermann Riverfront Park
One of the fleet of the town's shuttles.
Hermann, the "Rhineland on the Missouri."

Rivers and railroads travel the same routes, so hearing the frequent rumble of trains is normal. (I wonder if that’s where the name for the River Rumble comes from.) Here, however, up close and personal was taken to a new high as our tents were to be pitched only about 50-60 feet off the tracks. Trains seemed to come by about every 20 minutes, and these were long trains, maybe around 150 or more cars each. The up side of this was that we could hang our wash on the cyclone fence by the tracks, and between the sun and the wind blowing off each passing train, clothes dried in minutes. The down side was that in the wee hours of the morning, five trains came through in about one 30 minute period---four freight trains and an Amtrak. Add to this the fact that it was still close to 100-degrees when it was time to turn in, and that my tent fan would pick this night to mysteriously die, sleep was the one thing the night would refuse me.

The Hofgarten, venue for many events like the
FOUR-WEEK LONG Oktoberfest.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Simply Canoe

Canals of England
Credit: Simply Canoe

Nige and Tracey Ayers have a wonderful blog called "Simply Canoe."  For those of us that don't have the chance to paddle England, you will really enjoy their blog.  Check out the photo gallery, from which the above picture comes, and enjoy the great scenes and wonderful colors. (Click on one picture to open the folder.)  Those in the Mid-West draught area, where everything is dead and brown, will just melt at the lush greens and brilliant colors.  I don't know if it's Nige or Tracey with the computer skills, but the graphics in the blog banner are great.

Missouri River Rumble-Day 4

Today was hot---103 degrees. It started with a dense fog over the river at sunrise. It started to lift about 8 o’clock, but it left a very high humidity with no breeze. We stopped mid-morning for a break on a sand and mud bar. The Missouri means mud, or at least at this extremely low river level. I look forward to a chance to return to the river when it’s higher to see if the shore conditions improve. In spite of the thick, black, sucking mud, our swim team had increased to about 45%. Most of us would only go in to about waist depth, and then crouch until the water rose to our necks, but a few found deeper holes. The object was just to soak in the cooling water.

Ibi patiently waits while the Rumble Swim Club cools off.

We were to turn up the Gasconade River for a lunch stop in the town of Gasconade, and a photo op with the mayor of this small 105 household community. Gasconade was the original county seat, but floods forced that county seat first to Bartonville, and then Hermann in 1842, and Hermann would be our day’s destination.

When we turned into the Gasconade, there was a good bit of turbulence at the confluence that claimed one kayaker. The rescue was again quick, but somewhat hampered by the strong current that carried them all down river as they worked. As soon as we turned into the river, the water color turned from muddy brown to a much clearer green.

Ibi on the Gasconade.  Note the trees jammed in the trestle
from earlier higher water.

In the heat, the town landing looked all the more intensely baked in the searing sunlight. As we paddled under the railroad bridge just before the landing, I noticed that the only shade was on the left (paddling upstream, see below) bank opposite the town landing. A half dozen had already pulled over there and were sitting in the shade while those at the landing worked to get their boats up on the rocks along the shore. The temptation was just too much, and I sought relief with a couple others in the shade. (For those not familiar with river navigation, it may interesting to note that the sides of a river are labeled according to the flow of the current. The left bank is on the left side when floating downstream, the right bank is the right. That needs to be remembered when a vessel is going upstream, because then the left side of the river is the right bank, and the right is the left. This becomes important when you talk with a tugboat and the skipper says he wants you to hug the right bank. If you pick the wrong side, you could find yourself being chewed up by his propellers or swamped by his prop thrust. Left bank is the left shore going downstream.)

Camp pitched along the Missouri in Hermann.

After lunch, as boats launched, they again had to stay close until everyone was back on the water. Needless to say, they all seemed to collect in the shade of the railroad trestle until we were all ready to push off for Hermann, which would give us a 21.9 miles total for the day’s paddle.

Friday, August 17, 2012

First Day Back

Just got back from camping with the grandkids for four days.  Today was a busy day getting everything put away, and the camper cleaned and back in storage, but tomorrow I'll continue with the next segment of the Missouri River Rumble.  Thanks for checking back.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 3

A pull-out along the shore for a quick break.

Our second day on the Missouri would take us to Chamois, which they pronounce “Sham-OY”, a paddle of 15.4 miles. My distances will vary from those published in the planning guide. The point A to B distance for this run was 14 miles, but my GPS measured 15.4 for what I actually covered on the water.

Chamois was started with a hotel in 1854, and became a town two years later due to the newly built Missouri Pacific Railroad. Due to the Alpine-like scenery, it was named after Chamonix, France.

As a flat-water lake and coastal paddler, I enjoyed playing the current. If I swept the outside of the curves and tried to find the maximum current, I could run 6 to 7 mph as long as I didn’t get out far enough to catch an eddy. On the inside of the curve in the same area I’d run 3.4 mph, and once when I caught the edge of an eddy I dropped to 2.4. You had to pay attention, however, as you could get in trouble quickly. When running the curves you had to watch for debris close to the bank, and for breaks in the revetment. Revetment is rock or concrete facings on the banks to slow erosion. If a stream or pool existed behind the revetment, which happened frequently, the river would pour through the hole with tremendous force. The game was to avoid the sucking intake on the upstream end of the hole, but then to swing closer to catch the forceful discharge on the downstream end and get a big push.

While looking for a place for lunch, we nearly all ran over a wingdam with 1-2 foot rolling standing waves. One paddler got a bit off perpendicular with the waves and got rolled. A rescue boat was nearby and quickly got him back in his boat.

We had lunch in the Auxvasse River, or Muddy River. There were a few sections of solid bank, but not nearly enough for us all, and that left the rest of us spending way too much time just trying to find a place where we could get out of our boats. I was by this time dealing with a case of fanny fatigue, and desperately wanted a break on solid ground. I found one place that looked promising, pulled parallel to the shore, and stepped out. My leg sank straight to the knee and still wasn’t slowing a bit, so I quickly threw my weight back across Ibi’s cockpit. I was now stuck half in and half out of my boat and doing a split as Ibi tried to slide out from under me. I’m sure it would have made a great picture. Pulling too hard on my leg would just flip me over into the water and mud, so I had to lay across the boat and gradually jig my leg until I could work it to the surface. It was the greasiest, most clinging and black mud I’ve seen, and I brought pounds of it back into the boat with me, which covered everything in the cockpit. Finally, I joined others who had also found it impossible to get out of their boats, and rafted up along one shore near fallen trees where we could catch a couple feet of shade. There we had lunch.

In an eddy awaiting our turn at the ramp.

Chamois had a strictly one-boat ramp, so getting all the boats out was a slow process. As we usually did, we’d find an eddy to pull into and queue-up to wait our turns. I thought I had been drinking enough water. I had gone through a gallon of water and Gatorade mix, and yet as I waited in line, both legs began to cramp inside the boat. I jiggled and twisted, trying to make the cramps go away, and wondered if I’d have to roll out of the boat into the water to make the cramping stop. Then, by the time I got ashore, my left arm started cramping. The evening was hot, airless, and very humid. The first piece of gear I retrieved from the truck was my chair, and I just collapsed in it for awhile before putting up my tent.

We were camping around a public park and baseball field. I joined several others camping on the concrete floor of a group picnic pavilion. Until now, we had been using Rumble showers, but tonight we had actual showers, one each for the men and women, although the Rumble showers were still available. The Rumble shower was a valve and showerhead built on a wooden platform and pole. If actual facilities weren’t available, these would be connected to the nearest water source. It meant the water was 55-60 degrees, but with the heat, we soon adapted and welcomed the cold water. Some would return as many as four times during an evening just to cool off. The challenge was getting a full shower with an audience. Showering while clothed allowed us to bathe and do laundry at the same time. What efficiency!

A very nice dinner was done for us by the Women of the Lions Club, and the next morning the Ladies of the Knights of Columbus were up at 3 a.m. preparing breakfast. It was wonderful how the towns turned out to welcome us and make our visit interesting. Here, for example, the town challenged us to a softball game: the town’s Chamois Cardinals against the River Rumblers. Both teams were mixed, half men and half women, but a few of the town’s men were real beefeaters that would knock the ball either out of the field and into the woods, or onto the adjoining field where one ball bounced off a van. When the score reached 16 to 2 in favor of the Cardinals, they started the game over. The second score ended much the same way. As Rex put it, we were only trying to make them over-confident so we can really bowl them over next year.

Another rest break and a view down the Missouri.

Several of the lady paddlers organized a cheer leading section. Between some costume changes and original song compositions, if the game slowed down, the cheer leaders were just as entertaining.

We had a French teenager visiting the U.S. and joining the Rumble. Collin had never played an American baseball game before, but was taken on the field and given a three-minute crash course on baseball rules and sent off to left field. He received MVP and a “golden glove” award at our closing banquet. For his first baseball game ever, he made a base hit and four outs on the opposing team with balls caught in the outfield.

Okay, to be continued after a couple days off to paddle with the grandkids before they head back to school.
Cheers, jim

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 2

I had gotten no sleep, but we were all awakened at 5:30. A staff member would walk through the camp with a battery-powered CD player announcing the new day. The music selection was actually enjoyable in spite of the hour. My favorite was the morning they chose Indian flute music. That was the signal to break camp, get our gear to the truck, and be ready for breakfast, usually by 6 a.m. Breakfast and dinner were catered most days, and packed lunches could be ordered the night before to be delivered in the morning along with orders for bagged ice. The first shuttle to the boat ramp would leave at 6:30.

Getting boats to and from the water could be a good test of endurance most days. When we arrived at the boats, they were a good 150 yd. carry to the water’s edge. Of course you had to pair off with someone, so helping carry his or her boat down made that 600 yds round-trip, and then carrying the gear for the boat down added up to 900 yds. Before you were done, you would also generally help move two or three more boats just to get everyone to the shore. This, of course, is after the earlier 900 yds making three trips to the truck with gear. All together, you would have carried heavy gear a bit over a mile before the sun climbed above the trees, to be followed by a relaxing 16.5 mile paddle on this first day. Dang! But, don’t let a little morning exercise put you off. They say what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger. LOL!

How do you know this is the start?
Ibi is clean.

Once everyone was set to go, Rex Klein, the Rumble Chairman, would call a paddlers’ meeting to outline the day’s paddle and have the landing chairperson for the day’s destination give a report on what to expect when we arrived there. Then we’d hear Rex’s call that would become second nature by week’s end, “Okay, load’em up!” Once everyone was on the water, an airhorn would signal the start. The estimates I heard during the week were that our group included about 125 people in 95 boats. That was an impressive sight as we flailed the water and headed down river. Our first destination was at Bonnots Mill, a 2-mile paddle off the Missouri and up the Osage River, or 16.5 miles for the day.

If the group got too spread out after a few miles, Rex would stop to give the rear of the fleet a chance to catch up. It was a rest and watering break---for the leaders. Unfortunately, as soon as the sweep boat began to close, they would take off again, meaning the back of the fleet never got a break. Fortunately, once in the morning, at lunch, and usually in mid-afternoon, Rex would find a sandbar for a snack break. Everyone pulled ashore, got a chance to get out and stretch their legs, and grab a drink and granola bar. With the intense heat, several people slogged back through the mud to get in the river to cool off. There were only a few in this Rumble swim club the first day, but with the triple digit heat, the numbers increased rapidly over the course of the week.

A small portion of the fleet stretching across the river
and ready to go.

We landed and staged our boats at the Bonnots Mill access ramp, and were then shuttled 6/10 mile to a private home where we were permitted to pitch camp in the owner’s back yard. The railroad tracks went through his front yard, the train traffic was frequent and close, but his grass was green and plush. It was really a very nice setting. Oh, did I mention that the trains were frequent and close? But man, I sure would love one of those train whistles for my truck.

We had people sleeping with our boats again for security. I volunteered to go down to the ramp and relieve them while they ate dinner at the St. Louis Parish School in Bonnots Mill. By the time I got there, most of the food items were gone, but there was still plenty to eat, and best of all, the meal had been dropped from $11 to $5. There’s always a silver lining. The catering throughout the week was done by civic groups as fund raising activities, whether it was the Boy Scouts doing breakfast, or the Community Betterment Assoc., kids raising money for playground equipment, or a church ladies’ club. They got to support their communities, and we got to avoid cooking and cleaning up.

The Jefferson City capitol building from the Missouri River.

Bonnots Mill was originally a French settlement called Dauphine, and still has the Dauphine Hotel, where tradesmen would stay after arriving by river steamboat. The town was later renamed for the owner of a local mill, Felix Bonnot. The town, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is called a French island in a sea of Germans. It remains as one of two small towns in Missouri able to preserve its French heritage.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 1A

The entryway to the Lewis and Clark Observation Tower

The steadily declining population of Hartford, IL, was only 1,423 a year ago, yet they decided three years ago to take on a $5.5 million debt for the construction of the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower. Those of us with our bags and boats loaded before eleven a.m., had to chance to take a shuttle to the tower, which is just a short distance north of the Visitor’s Center. It is made up of twin towers, one called the Lewis tower, and the other obviously called the Clark tower. One can climb the steps in the Lewis tower, or ride the elevator in the Clark tower to stop at any of the three observation decks located at 50 feet, 100 feet, and 150 feet above the ground. Needless to say, our group went all the way to the top.

A view up the twin towers and the three observation decks.

The Dubois River is now called the Woods River. With the constant migration of the rivers, it is estimated that the site of Camp River Dubois is now in the middle of the Mississippi in the Big Bend. In the meanwhile, Woods River has migrated 2 miles north of its 1803 location, and the confluence of the Missouri has migrated 4 miles further south. The natural features now, therefore, seem more spread out than they would have been during Lewis and Clark’s stay.

The confluence of the Missouri River (entering center) and
Mississippi River (foreground) as seen from the towers.

We all pulled out for the shuttle to Jefferson City. In the early 1800‘s, Daniel Boone would blaze the Boone’s Lick Trail, which would become I-70, and his son, Daniel Morgan Boone, would lay out the capitol city near the geographic center of the state in 1821. Jefferson City has a distinction of being created specifically to serve as state’s capital.

Ibi being strapped down to the trailer provided by the builders
of Wenonah canoes and Current Designs kayaks.

We would camp at the North Jefferson City Recreation Area, which was at the intersection of the final approach to the local airport and two primary highways through the capitol. I was surprised when we arrived to see neither water nor our boats, but they had been staged at the Noren Access Ramp about a mile away, and staff were camping near them for security. We only had a couple planes come in, but by evening I was convinced that one out of every five residents of Jefferson City owned a large motorcycle with loud pipes. The noise was constant. It was as if motorcycles were staged at either end of town. As soon as one made the run by the camping area, the next would be dispatched in the opposite direction. Later a motorcycle rode into the overflow parking area near our tents and fired off a gunshot. I heard the bullet strike some unknown object, and then the cycle roared back out. I could not believe I hadn’t brought earplugs. That was a lesson I should have learned on the Keys Challenge. By morning I would have gladly paid $5 for those little penny foam plugs.

Home Sweet Home.  The North Face Rock 22 tent with the Jefferson City
capitol dome visible between the tent and the telephone pole. 
Click any picture to enlarge.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 1

I was going to do a post on ‘the typical day’, but you’ll see that develop as we go along. I drove up to Alton, IL, taking twelve hours, and arrived at the Super 8 Motel in Alton in the late afternoon. This was one of three motels that the River Rumble staff had blocks of rooms reserved in. The first sign of the coming week to welcome me was a parking lot peppered with vehicles carrying kayaks and canoes. Saturday was going to be a full day with an early start, so no time was wasted after checking in. I went to the Burger King a couple doors down from the motel, grabbed a bite to eat, then took a shower, made a call home, and hit the sack.

The only deadline Saturday required that we be at the Lewis and Clark Visitors’ Center, have our duffels loaded on the truck, and our boats on the trailer in time for a punctual noon departure, or we’d look silly standing in the empty parking lot all alone. There was enough to get done before that noon departure that I was up at six. To make a quick turn-around, I hadn’t taken much in the motel, so with a quick breakfast, I threw my knapsack in the back of the truck, and headed down Rt. 3 for the Lewis and Clark Center about eight miles away.

Recreated Camp River Dubois

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had made their way to the confluence of the Missouri River and Mississippi River for the start of their three-year expedition. They were planning to camp near the confluence on the west side of the Mississippi during the winter of 1803-04 to complete their preparations for a spring start up the Missouri. The Spanish Commandant at St. Louis, however, had not received formal notification from his government of the Louisiana Purchase, and would not permit the expedition to cross the Mississippi. So in mid-December, 1803, Camp River Dubois was established on the east side of the Mississippi near the mouth of the Woods River, north of the Missouri

This was really a military expedition, but the Corps of Discovery of 25 men was comprised of only 14 soldiers. The rest were made up mostly of a hunter-interpreter, Kentucky woodsmen, and a couple French watermen. These were strong individualists that didn’t understand or readily accept discipline, military or otherwise. While Lewis was in St. Louis gathering supplies, supporters, and information from traders and trappers that had been on the river, Clark tried to teach military discipline, marksmanship, and mold all the individuals into a cohesive unit. During the winter, several had to be reprimanded and one court-martialed for refusing to perform sentry duty, disobeying orders from their officers, fighting, and making off for neighboring whiskey shops.

By spring, additional recruits had been added to swell the unit to 45 members. Three boats were readied with provisions, ammunition, and supplied for the trip to the Pacific and back, and on May 14, 1804, the expedition made a late start at four in the afternoon to cross the Mississippi and accomplish a start up the Missouri.

The separate cabin was built outside the stockade for Mrs. Cane, who was hired to do the laundry and sewing for the corps during their winter encampment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Missouri River Overview-2

The Mississippi Big Bend, just north of the confluence of the Missouri.

Everything is a compromise. Anyone that has spent any time around the water and boats will tell you the same thing. There is no such thing as a win-win. As great as the Great River Rumble and the Florida Keys Challenges, and other such events are for all the reasons mentioned yesterday, there has to be some payback. No matter how much effort the organizers put into insuring safety, there is always the liability waiver that has to be signed, which is just a way of saying you have to assume some responsibility for yourself; you have to be self-sufficient. So what are the unexpected things that you should expect?

1. You have to expect a wide range of weather conditions. The organizers can give some broad guidance on what you might expect, but hey, the weather is the weather. In this case we were expecting a strong heat dome and high temperatures. We had a couple 100-103 days, and one afternoon when we landed, the temperature was 105.2. That’s still better than the 115 I would have had to endure if I had remained at home. Being 69 years of age, I know our bodies’ abilities to cope with excessive heat diminishes as we age. I’ve never done well in high temperatures, so I was concerned about the combination of high exertion and high temperatures, but we all managed with some thought. We were cautioned that we would be sweating large amounts, and that we should have plenty of water, salt or electrolyte additives, at least a gallon of water, wicking clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hat that could be frequently soaked. I went through 6 qts of water on couple days, or a bit better than a quart an hour. Many paddlers carried large water guns to soak each other, and when we took rest breaks, a lot of people sat or laid in the river to cool their core temperature. In the end, we managed to get through, and I even came home more confident about paddling in such conditions. Now, instead of sitting home because it’s too hot, I know I can safely get on the water and manage the conditions.

2. One problem with mid-summer events is trying to sleep in a tent in high heat and humidity. We were encouraged to bring a battery-powered fan, and most did. I posted about the new O2 Cool fan I purchased, and it was fantastic---for the first two days before it failed. While it didn’t help me on the rest of the trip, Gander Mountain seems to be standing a hundred percent behind the fan and are already sending me a replacement and a FedEx return authorization.

3. When dealing with large crowds of people, you will encounter all types of personalities. The great thing about paddlers is that they are ALMOST always supportive and friendly. They lend a hand wherever possible. Most are patient, even deferential, in waiting their turn at the ramp or standing in line for the shuttle. So, don’t get angry and carried away when you find the rare few that are hard chargers who believe that God created heaven and earth just for their benefit. It’s better to yield than allow them to damage your boat. It’s just a fact that people’s personalities don’t change when they get on the water. If they are aggressive drivers on the interstate, they will also be aggressive paddlers on the river.

4. You can safely assume that most people on the water don’t know the rules of the road. Yes, I know paddlers are an independent lot, some even independent to the point of anarchy, but there are rules in everything, whether baseball, football, or paddling. And they are there for a reason. Rules are the natural consequence of injury and death. I was in a meeting situation with one paddler, and I told him to go ahead, and that he had the right of way. He responded, “Oh, I don’t mess with those rules.” As a retired commercial mariner, I will state flatly that if you don’t know the rules of the road, you have no business on the water. I don’t care if your vessel if 2500 tons or 25 pounds, the rules are there for everyone’s mutual safety. If you don’t know the rules or choose to ignore them, you are a hazard to everyone else on the water---period.

5. Be prepared to embrace, or at least endure, the circumstances you meet. Conditions may not be what were on the trip’s promotional brochure. We experienced two of those situations. One, the river was at an all time low. At least according to one man, who had lived his entire life on the river, and who said he could not remember it being so low. The USGS gauge put the river at 2.3 feet. That’s an absurd change from last year when the trip had to be cancelled due to flooding. The low water levels put us in the river bottom, or in places like to Auxvasse River where the bottom appeared to have no bottom. We encountered frequent shoe and leg sucking-mud. No matter how much we tried to flush our feet clean when getting in the boats, most boats had enough nutrient-rich muck in their bottoms to sprout vegetables. The second situation occurred in the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The organizers had done a trial run of the trip and found the meeting of the rivers to be as smooth as glass. We even looked at the confluence of the rivers from the top of the Lewis and Clark observation tower---smooth as glass. Instead, the Mississippi seemed to say to us, “Your trip on my waters is a short one, so here, I’ll make it memorable.” More on that later.

So, anyhow, nothing here should discourage you from joining such a trip. If you are thrown a curve, it just makes the stories about the trip more interesting,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Missouri River Overview

Home from the banks of the Missouri.

Ibi’s back home. The trip to the Great River Rumble on the Missouri River took her 576.8 miles by road to the event, 159.7 miles by water from Jefferson City to the confluence with the Mississippi at Hartford, IL, and 1188.6 round trip including everything door-to-door.

I am now something I hadn’t been in a week---DRY! Between cooling in the river, sweating a gallon a day, literally, Rumble showers (I’ll explain.), and more sweating, I was wet continually. That sounds uncomfortable, and it was, so the question should obviously arise as to whether I’d recommend such an event. Absolutely! If you’ve never done such an organized paddling event, there are a lot of reasons for signing on. To be balanced, there are a few negatives, and I’ll go over those, but let’s concentrate first on why you should join the next Great River Rumble, or such a similar event. Before starting, a thank you to Jean for updating the blog for you while I was on the river.

1. If you enjoy sharing a great experience with people who share your passion for paddling, you will find yourself surrounded by dedicated and enthusiastic folks. The events take a tremendous amount of planning and organization, and the work is done entirely by volunteers. Even the group’s chairman is unpaid. They dedicate their evenings, weekends, and vacations for much of a year to put on each function just so they can join in as an equal with everyone else.

2. You will share the water with people of all skill levels. Some are experts in their field, and will share what they’ve learned with evening tutoring sessions, and if you’ve expressed an interest and desire to learn, will paddle alongside frequently during the day to refine your stroke.

3. If you feel uncertain of your skills, but would like to sharpen your abilities while staying safe, there is no better setting. You are never out of sight of others that are able to come to your aid. People come with all skill levels, and if you roll, you certainly won’t be either the first or last. There was only one day during the week without a capsize, and as many as one to three on the other days. There is a pace boat, a sweep boat to make sure no one falls behind or gets separated from the group, and three rescue/assist powerboats. If you capsize, everyone around you blows their whistle to attract the attention of the rescue boat. They will pull you from the water first, round up your floating gear, pump your boat dry, and then either tow the boat astern while you ride in the powerboat for awhile, or help you get right back in your boat. While one paddler did slip on a ramp and injure her wrist, there was not a single boat-related injury that I heard of.

4. There are skills related to technique, and there are also skills needed for different types of water. I would love to paddle the full lengths of both the Missouri and Mississippi, but have never paddled on either. This was a great opportunity to get firsthand experience in a safe and controlled setting. If you need to learn about wing dams and their hazards, boils, whirlpools, eddies, ferrying, hazards of operating around fixed objects like buoys, bridge piers, or moored barges, picking the side of a river that provides the most favorable current or best landing locations, or what to expect when meeting large commercial traffic, you can experience all of these without betting your life on what you don’t know. With a better understanding of what is happening on the river, you can return to the river on your own with greater confidence.

5. One of the best reasons for such outings is the chance to meet new people and make friendships that may last your lifetime.

Tomorrow, I’ll go over some of the negative aspects you should be aware of. Sorry, but there is nothing shocking here, no exposes, but some realities of such events you should know to join in with your eyes open.