Monday, April 29, 2013

More Red Rock Canyon - 2

The canyon is host to a great number of small animals.

These steps laid into the sides of the ravines were a great
help in walking the area.  We're at that point in our lives
where we even find ourselves taking advantage of the
benches appearing occasionally along the trail.

This chimney rock is called Balancing Rock.  Not too long before our visit,
some young kid decided to jump from the canyon rim down onto the top of
Balancing Rock.  Once he landed, it suddenly dawned on him that he had
no place to go from there.  When his companions went to the park office for
help, the staff had to call the fire department to bring in a ladder truck to
get him down.

A long flat section of canyon wall ending in another pool.

This wall is a popular place for rappelling, and numerous
cuts in the rim can be seen from where ropes have been
pulled up and down over the edge.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More Red Rock Canyon

For just a little "get-out-of-the-house" road trip, we enjoyed our visit to Red Rock Canyon.  Here are a few more pictures from the tour.  Be sure to click the pictures to enlarge.

"So if I become part of this limb, I'll be invisible."
The birds love it here.  There was a continual
song of hundreds of birds filling the air.
Right in the center is the trough where water cascades
into the pool when it rains.
Yet another pool.  The trough is partially hidden
just to right of center.  A couple ducks were
enjoying the solitude.
"Finally!  I've been chasing that itch for an hour."

Monday, April 22, 2013

The California Trail

I managed to get some yard work done today, mainly consisting of getting canna lilies dug up and transplanted. With the wind gusting to 30-35 mph, that kind of work was about all the day was fit for. I still had to chase my hat across the yard and up the street when a gust ripped it off my head, and I came in with my hair and skin covered with dirt. It was certainly not a paddling day. It was a similar day when we decided to leave the trailer and canoe at home and drive south to the Red Rock Canyon.

It takes no imagination to see why it's called the Red Rock Canyon.
It's a much steeper descent into the canyon than this picture
would suggest.  Still, we found a number of RV's in the campground
at the bottom of the canyon.
The California Trail, also called the California Road, was actually made up of a number of trails that lead roughly 2,000 miles westward. It would be the basic route later followed by developments such as the Pony Express, the Overland Stage, and the Trans-Continental Railroad. Within this system of trails were the Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Mormon Trail, and others. Before the advent of the stage lines and rail, those wanting to get to the West Coast would travel on their own, either alone or in small groups, until they got across the Missouri River. In places like Independence, MO, they would join a wagon train for the trip through Indian territories and desert regions. Trails moving emigrants, settlers, snake oil salesmen, and Gold Rush prospectors traveled between easily recognizable landmarks or followed riverbeds. The trail that led through Oklahoma began at Fort Smith or Fort Gibson and moved from one military fort or landmark to the next. I’ve already mentioned the Antelope Hills earlier as one landmark that could be seen from many miles. Another landmark and popular stopping place was Red Rock Canyon.

A small stream winds through the canyon.  It produces several
ponds and a fertile population of beavers.
Red Rock Canyon had been popular with Native Americans for perhaps thousands of years. The stable environment in the canyon hosted many species of flora and fauna not found on the prairie above. It provided cooling relief from the baking summers, and protection from the cold and relentless winds of winter.

Moss and ferns cling to the lip of the canyon, but quickly disappear
from the praire floor once you get away from the canyon's influence.
One of the oddities found in the canyon is the horsetail scouring rush. It is a plant that is termed a living fossil, meaning that it dates back over a hundred million years. It resembles bamboo, and in its far distant past would reach 90-feet in height. Now it is generally seen at about 6-feet. It can still be found in moist, temperate areas, such as Mexico, Central America, the Gulf Coast, Florida, and other boggy places that stay warm and moist. Moist and temperate are certainly not how you would describe the praire above the canyon, which suffers from drought and widely swinging temperatures. The scouring term comes from the fact that the plant contains silica, which made the rush great for polishing metal, pots, and drinking mugs by those encamped in the canyon.

Horsetail scouring rush.  Small finches skittered about in
it's protective cover.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Death on the Barrens

Jacket credit: Heron Dance
Death on the Barrens: A True Story of Courage and Tragedy in the Canadian Arctic
By George James Grinnell (1996, reprint 2005, 2006, and 2010, 277pp., North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA)

If you want to get away from it all, there’s nothing to beat a trip to the Canadian Barrens of Nunavut, west of Hudson Bay. The trip that Arthur Moffatt, George Grinnell, and four others made to the Barrens in 1955 would be only the third attempt by paddlers to venture across the area. The other two attempts, in 1771 and 1893, had been with the assistance of Indian guides. This trip would be unsupported and unguided. It would mean three months without human contact, and they had no radio nor anyone to reach if they got in a jam. It would also mean that Art Moffatt would die of hypothermia at the age of 36, and that his body would remain at Baker Lake in Northern Saskatchewan, and the other five would barely get out alive.

The remoteness of those high latitude barrens is also evidenced by the 1927 attempt by the John Hornby expedition to travel north in the Northwest Territory. He and his two partners missed the caribou migration and slowly starved to death. It would take the mounties two years to reach their camp and find the bodies, and evidence of cannibalism.

This story of the Moffatt expedition is familiar in a lot of ways: the tension that develops over the management of the expedition, disagreements over navigation, suspicion and competition over food, resentment, and the unavoidable self-examination brought on by exhaustion and stress. They began to fall behind schedule and short of food. All of that was somewhat manageable until they got overconfident and decided it was unnecessary to scout that one rapids. The rapids turned into a series of falls. All but one canoe capsized, much of their gear and food was lost, and all were too long getting out of the ice-cold water. They got a tent up, climbed inside, stripped off their clothes and dove into sleeping bags. Grinnell tells how he lapsed for some time in and out of consciousness. It was some time before their mental faculties were restored enough to realize that Art was not with them. His frozen body was on the ground outside the tent.

While this trip was over, the loss would not end of Grinnell. In 1984, another group of four paddled along the barren shore of James Bay. A fierce storm swept over them, and the search for them would almost be abandoned before the first trace of their canoes and a few pieces of gear were discovered. All four of them had been lost, and two of them were Grinnell’s two sons.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is It Too Much to Ask?

Yeah!!!!!!  You work all your life, dream about retirement, and all you ask is to get on the water once in awhile.  Then the wind blows 30 mph day after day, after day, after day, punctuated by ice storms, snow, tornado warnings, damaging straight-line winds, hail, freezing rain...........  Give us a freakin' break already! (Forgive me.  I'm just venting.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saint Oakerhater

I should begin by saying that most of the credit for the information for the last two posts comes from the work of Claudia Naugle. She has spent considerable time researching census and genealogical records on area Native Americans. Considering the absence of reliable records from that period of history, this can have been no easy task.

The initial information on David Pendleton Oakerhater came from Ms. Naugle’s writings, but other sites on the internet have also helped outline this man’s fascinating and devoted life.

David Pendleton Oakerhater in 1881.
Buried just a short distance from Chief Roman Nose, it is an amazingly small stone that marks the grave of this man who was so large in life. Born in 1847 as the second of three sons, he was named Noksowist, meaning “Bear Going Straight.” He is believed to be the youngest man to complete the Sun Dance, and was renamed O-kuh-ha-tuh, meaning Sun Dancer. The Sun Dance is one of the Seven Sacred Rites, a religious or spiritual ceremony which non-Native Americans are still prohibited from witnessing.
Raised as a traditional Cheyenne warrior, he participated in his first war party at the age of 14 against the Otoe and Missouri tribes. With tribes being relocated, their buffalo poached, their cattle and horses stolen, and villages raided, he became a member of the tribe’s Bowstring Society, one of five military societies, that took action against United States interests. Oakerhater participated in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls and the Red River War. He may also have been present for the massacres at Sand Creek and Washita. Pursued by the U. S. Army until they ran out of food and supplies, the warriors surrendered at Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1875.

Arrested, but offered no trial, they were shackled together. Lt. Richard Henry Pratt was ordered to take them to St. Augustine, Florida, for imprisonment in Fort Marion, an old Spanish fort. Chief Roman Nose would also be incarcerated there with Oakerhater three years later. Much of the sentiment at the time was that the Indians should be murdered, imprisoned, defeated by force or by whatever means necessary, or even eradicated, so Pratt was certainly going against the grain when he worked to obtain the prisoners bedding, clothing, and schooling by volunteer teachers in carpentry, English reading and writing, and so on. He taught them military discipline, had them stand their own guard duty, and even got inoperable rifles for them to drill with. Pratt appointed Oakerhater as his First Sergeant of the Prisoners, which made him responsible for their hygiene, dress code, work, and morning drills, and also for the conduct of the prisoners when Pratt was absent. Trustees were permitted to obtain jobs outside the fort, attend church services in the town of St. Augustine, and even camp unsupervised on nearby Anastasia Island.

Oakerhater also began studying art, and was a prolific painter of Indian themes. This form of Indian art became known as ledger art, and many paintings have found their way into museums. A number of prisoners also did other crafts that were sold to Florida tourists.

An Episcopal deaconess, Mary Douglass Burnham, of Paris Hill, NY, developed a program where wealthy patrons would sponsor scholarships for the imprisoned warriors. The prisoners could be released from Fort Marion on the condition that they would accept one of the scholarships, continue their education and training, and serve as church sextons. Oakerhater had become quite proficient in English, and was sponsored by Alice Key Pendleton, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, and wife of Senator Pendleton. Six months later, Oakerhater was baptized, at which time he chose the name David from the Bible, and the middle name of Pendleton in honor of his sponsors. He was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1881.

Encouraged by the success of his former prisoners at Paris Hill and at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, now-Captain Richard Pratt lobbied for funds to create Indian schools for Native American children. Senator Pendleton pushed a bill through Congress that created the first Indian School in an old Army barracks, at Carlisle Barracks, near Harrisburg, PA. Pratt was recruited to serve as the school’s first superintendent. Pratt, in turn, asked Oakerhater to travel to the Dakota and Oklahoma Indian Territories to recruit students for the new school.

Settling in Oklahoma, Oakerhater worked around the Darlington and Wichita Indian Agencies (area now between El Reno and Anadarko, OK), conducting church services on Sunday, and treating the sick of numerous tribes through the week. Oakerhater began working also at the Bridgeport, OK, mission in 1887, and in 1889, moved to the Whirlwind Mission, built on the lands at Fay, OK, that had belonged to Chief Whirlwind, one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge.

David Oakerhater on right.

While the idea of assimilating the Indian into white culture sounded progressive in its day, it is important to not be mislead into seeing much of this as a rosy situation for the Indians. Deprived of the lands and hunting that had been their way of life, Native Americans found it difficult to sustain themselves. With their children now in the new Indian Schools, families would often move and camp around the schools to be near their children. Often short of food and plagued by disease, these were the people that Oakerhater found he must serve so as to meet both their physical and spiritual needs.

The new Oakerhater Episcopal Center, or
Whirlwind Mission, in Watonga.
While Oakerhater officially retired from the Whirlwind Mission in 1918, after serving for thirty years, he nevertheless continued to preach and treat the sick until his death. After serving his people for a half-century, he was laid to rest in the Watonga Indian Cemetery in 1931. In 1985, the Episcopal Church designated David Oakerhater a saint, and the first feast in his name was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. A large stained glass window was dedicated to Oakerhater at St. George Church in Dayton, OH, and another bearing Oakerhater’s glyph is in St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. A new Whirlwind Mission was built in Watonga in 2003. Also called the Oakerhater Episcopal Center, it is the center for Native American Ministries for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Watonga Indian Cemetery

I yearn for time on the water, but we’re not seeing any weather fit for such a pursuit. We’re jumping directly from tornado watches, to ice storms, to 25 mph winds currently gusting to 36 mph. This weather may be something one may be forced to deal with while on a trip, but certainly not suitable for starting one. To be fair, we did have one decent paddling day this past week, actually in the past three weeks. ONE DAY!

The grave of Chief Henry Caruthers Roman Nose.
Chief of the Southern Cheyenne. 
If you haven't seen it, be sure to go back and read the March 16
post on this interesting man's life.
To get out of the house, we decided to take a road trip that turned into two really fascinating experiences. The first was a visit to the Indian Cemetery at Watonga. I wrote a post on March 16, 2013, titled “Lake Watonga.” Most of the post was about Chief Henry C. Roman Nose. In it, I wrote that both he and his wife were buried at the Indian Cemetery at Watonga. What I read at that time was that no headstone remained at the chief’s grave site, which I felt was a huge shame. I tried to explain to Jean where the cemetery is, but she couldn’t visualize the location, so suggested that since we had to go through Watonga anyhow, we should find it and visit. I was pleased to find that contrary to some of the now dated and inaccurate information that had been posted on the web, a fairly new headstone now stands over his grave.

Walking through the cemetery produced some interesting revelations. As you’d expect, we found any number of the fascinating Native American names, like Bear Going Up Hill, Yellow Eyes, Little Cup, Rat Woman, Standing On The Cloud, Bald Eagle, Antelope, Big Medicine, Bear Man, Good Killer, Little Hawk, Rearing Bull, White Buffalo, Touching Ground, and many, many others. There are 214 identified graves there, and I’m sure many more that have remained unidentified, as their graves are now just marked with pieces of pipe driven into the ground.

The cemetery dates back to the early-to-mid-1800’s, so it’s easy to see a number of examples of the Native American experience from those times. Many graves identified the person as an Indian Scout for the U.S. Army, and included their ranks. Others served in WWI, and those with more current military experience were noted, like John Littlehawk, a young man killed at age 19 in the Korean War. Yet another had served on a hospital ship during World War II. There were those who lived through the forced relocations to the Indian Territories, from the Dakotas and Montana. One showed not only the ‘white’ name he was forced to adopt at his Christian baptism, but his original given name, that of “Hisskovisszi”, meaning Porcupine. He was a teacher, lay minister, and composer of church music, and served as an interpreter for Mennonite Missionaries that worked on the reservations.

Grave of Warpath Arapaho.
Since there were often no records of dates of birth, many just
reflected their time of death and age then.
What seems too bizarre for me to comprehend is how twisted the paths were that some of their lives took. One, Little Beaver, was a victim of the forcible relocations from Montana to the Indian Territories. He then survived the massacre at Washita in which 110 Cheyenne women and children were murdered while the tribe’s warriors were off hunting. Their horses were corralled and butchered, and their village was destroyed. Yet, Little Beaver would become an Indian Scout for the U.S. Army. Also present at Washita was Sioux Woman, who lived to be 103. She was the fourth and final wife of Chief Black Kettle. Black Kettle, two of his wives, and some of his 17 children, were all murdered at Washita.

Just a short distance from Chief Roman Nose’s grave is one for David Pendleton Oakerhater. His life is an extremely interesting biography, and too involved to be incorporated here. I’ll write a separate post on his life that I guarantee you’ll find as fascinating as Roman Nose’s.



Friday, April 12, 2013

Two Days to Go

Janet Moreland takes off in just two days to start her descent of the Missouri River from the very headwaters at Brower's Spring in the Montana mountains.  I've been watching her blog for recent updates, and got a kick out of this last night.  She said, "But, holy smokes, Batman, blog pages/posts take a lot of time and tender loving care, hours in fact."  Yes, they do!  She felt the burden would be too much while on the trip, and such an effort requires a lot of technical gear that must be carried as well.  So, she's decided to keep her followers updated through her Facebook page.  Therefore, I've added her Facebook link in the right margin under "Favorite Blogs", in addition to the blog page.  Let's follow her progress and cheer her on.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sajo & the Beaver People

This is the last of “The Collected Works of Grey Owl”, published in 1999 by Prospero Books, a division of Chapters Publishing, 552 pp. It can, however, be found as a single work from any of the normal outlets, as I listed in Pilgrims of the Wild.

Unlike the other volumes, Sajo and the Beaver People is both a novel, and written for a younger audience, say pre-teen and young teen. It is dedicated “To Children Everywhere and to All Who Love the Silent Places,” so in the latter case, I guess it’s okay to admit that I enjoyed it too.

It is a story of two Ojibway children, Sajo, a young girl of ten, and Shapian, her brother of fourteen years, if I remember their ages correctly. Their mother has died, and they live with their father, Big Feather, in their log cabin deep in the Canadian wilderness. The value of the book is not just as a great story, but a young reader learns through the adventures of the two young Indian children what life was like in the late 1800’s, their first encounters with steam locomotives and steamboats, and what they learned from the wildlife and forests, and so on.

Being without a mother, they are forced to mature at a young age. The story begins as they await their father’s return from a long trip. They are anxious for him to see what they have accomplished in his absence, and they watch down the lake for the first appearance of Big Feather and his canoe. He is rushing to get home in time for Sajo’s birthday. In his travels, he saves two young beaver kittens lost from their lodge. Big Feather decides they will be a great present for Sajo, one for her to pick for herself as her pet, and the other for her brother. The reader learns about the habits of beaver as they grow, and follows them through a string of adventures and misadventures that I would only damage by revealing further. I will end by saying it’s a great book for young readers, and a great glimpse into the past and the lives of Native Americans. For children who grow in the materialistic world of today, it is good for them to see how people lived at a time when all they possessed had to fit in a canoe. The reviews I saw on the book were nearly all four and five stars out of five, so I feel all who have read the book would concur in its recommendation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

World Outside Our Window

Actually, you can't see the world outside our window.  The entire outside of the house, windows, and everything else, is covered with ice.  The area around here has accumulated up to a half inch of solid ice.  We went from 81-degrees yesterday, to 31-degrees this morning.  The power went out about 3 a.m., but crews had it back on by the time we got up.   How the wild birds survive, I have no idea.  When they came onto the patio looking for the feed that had been put out, their tail feathers were solidly caked with ice and being dragged on the ground.  The good news is that we haven't seen the tornadoes that were predicted for here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pilgrims of the Wild

Grey Owl with a beaver kitten, one of his many wilderness friends.
Pilgrims of the Wild, by Grey Owl, may be found from a number of book sources: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GoodReads, AbeBooks,, and others. It was first published in 1935, just three years before Grey Owl’s death, but is a timeless story for anyone who loves nature and paddling.

Pilgrims of the Wild tells the story of Grey Owl’s and Anahareo’s life in the Canadian wilderness. It tells of their lives in the wilderness as it was stripped of its wildlife as reckless and greedy fur trapping wiped out most furred animals, especially the beaver, Canada’s symbol, or mascot. You see how a man who had previously worked as a trapper is awakened to the cruelty of the practice, how he becomes empathetic with the beaver, and evolves into a devoted conservationist and environmentalist. He talks of many encounters with trapped animals, and you can feel his perspective as it changes. The two strongest impressions were finding a beaver hanging in the air from a trap by one leg and near death. When he releases the beaver, instead of it trying to flee in fear, it crawls to him and lays its head on his knee. Then he finds a female with young, also held on the ground by her leg that has been stripped to the bone by the trap. In spite of her obvious pain, she lays still and draws her kittens to her so they can nurse.

The greatest part of this man’s transition begins as Grey Owl saves and adopts a couple beaver kittens that grow up as his companions, not his pets. He begins to study and understand these creatures that show human-like abilities and personalities. In fact, the Ojibway called beaver “little people” or “little indians” because of their human traits. They lived with Grey Owl.  As soon as he gave them access through a wall, they built a beaver lodge that extended twelve feet into the interior of his cabin so he could observe them more closely.

You will find his narrative both heart-warming and humorous. There were good times when the beaver would run to meet Grey Owl or Anahareo as they returned to camp, would come into the cabin and cuddle with them at night like a couple of cats as they slept, would respond to their voices, and try to talk and show a strong sense of understanding. There were also times when Grey Owl would find that they had eaten his broom, several of them, eaten the handle off his axe, even stolen his firewood. The one place Grey Owl could put things to keep them out of the beavers’ reach was on the table, until one day when he returned to find that they had eaten the legs off the table to drop it to their level. They then stole the 400-pages of his book manuscript and took it into their lodge to pad their bedding.

We’ve talked how we can develop a bond with our canoes. The bond has to be even stronger for those whose lives and livelihood both depended on the craft, and here is how Grey Owl spoke of that feeling. “I was now, my period of war service excepted, without a canoe for the first time in twenty-five years, and felt as much a rider who finds himself suddenly afoot in a desert; and the circumstance affected my morale nearly as much. This one, in particular, had been a tried and true companion of many toilsome journeys, and I missed it as though it had been a living thing. …When I touched for the last time the worn spot on the gunnell where the paddle had worked so long, I experienced some of the sensations of a sea-captain who sees a well-beloved vessel sink beneath the waves.”

Monday, April 8, 2013

Historic Southard House

James digging post holes for the backyard fence.
I mentioned helping my son build a fence, so a little background.  He, and Tammy, his wife, are the owners and inn keepers of the Historic Southard House Bed and Breakfast in Enid, OK.  They plan to have the B&B open the first of May, but have found people already anxious to plan a visit.  They even got a call from a woman in Germany the other day who was wanting to book a stay.  So, if you're planning a trip down Historic Route 66, planning to paddle Kaw Lake, or visit the Great Salt Pond Lake, James and Tammy would love to meet you, and will make you feel more than welcome. 
You can see a lot more of Tammy's beautiful creations both on the
Southard House site and Facebook.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Whitewater Clinic - 5

The river water was indeed cold. I was grateful for my full Stolquist drysuit, and the two- piece fleece undergarment I wore. When I went to change into dry clothes, between sweat, rain water that had crept in, and what I picked up from two swims, I poured about a pint of water from each bootie. Even being wet under the drysuit, I never experienced a chill.

Looking downstream from the launch.  You can see the river gauge,
which was at 2.45 feet when this picture was taken.  The record, a
couple years ago, was 21 feet, which took it almost to the deck of
the bridge.
We had about an hour break before the catered spaghetti dinner complete with tossed salad, a couple cheeses, two spaghetti sauces, a choice of breads, and drink. Immediately after dinner, Ed opened the evening meeting, which included the awarding of $ l, 000 in prizes, which built up to two $100, and one $300 gift certificate. “Before we start that, however,” he said, “I have been getting glowing reports, raves, and praises from instructors about one student, so we have a special gift for him. Also, he’s 69 years old, and drove nearly 500 miles (a bit of an exaggeration) to get here. Jim, how about coming up here.” The age thing reared its head again, and certainly any real praise was for my swimming form, since out of ten or so rapids, I had demonstrated it twice. Anyhow, I was surprised to receive a Seychelle Water Filtration bottle, which allows you to drink water directly from any body of water. It is a $30 gift that will produce 100 gallons of pure drinking water after removing a lot more impurities from the water than I can reasonably pronounce. For anyone from the club that may find their way to the blog, I thank you all.

You can see how steep the bank is from the river, so the outfitter
copied a ski-lift to get canoes and kayaks up from the river.  The
heavy continuous chain has steel hooks, which you can see if you
click to enlarge the picture.  The bow is suspended from one hook,
the the stern from the other, and the lift takes the load up the hill.
You just meet your canoe at the top, and lift if off.
It rained almost all night, but Sunday cleared early. Much had changed on the river. The level had risen to 3.5 feet, and was reportedly still rising as the rain flowed down out of the mountains. The rapids were stronger, islands and gravel bars we had stopped on yesterday were now being paddled over. By the afternoon, the clouds moved on to finish the day with a bright, clear afternoon. Lisa and Colin convinced Ed that I was not planning on pursuing whitewater paddling, and that I should be moved to a boat more like what I intended to paddle myself, so they put me in a Buffalo tandem, a sixteen-footer that Colin and I paddled together. While I still ran the whole river in a kneeling position, the difference in position was infinitely easier on my old knees than the whitewater boat. I only took one swim this day, but unfortunately took Colin in with me. As I came over the first Class II, the canoe started to rotate in the aerated whitewater, and I tried to pry the stern back around to straighten us out. Instead, I felt the canoe sliding sideways and tripping over the paddle, and in we went. It was a bad place to dump, and we spent quite awhile in the cold water before finding a footing, getting the canoe emptied, and climbing back in. We used a canoe-over-canoe rescue method. I stood precariously teetering on top of a boulder in water above my waist while holding Lisa’s canoe to stabilize it. She and Colin slid our inverted Buffalo across the gunnels of her boat until it was completely clear of the water and empty. It could then be rolled back upright and slid back onto the water. The good news was that the rest of the run went without a hitch. The bad news was that within another a couple hours we would be done, and I’d be bidding farewell to everyone that had made the weekend so challenging and rewarding. By the time we got off the river, the rain-swollen river was already dropping, and was back down to 3.1.

It wasn't until I left Sunday afternoon that the skies brightened
to give us a view of the beautiful mountain scape.
What’s the bottom line? As for learning, I learned quite a bit that will not only apply to whitewater paddling, but will transition to and improve my flat-water paddling as well. Then, Lisa and Colin asked me several times if I was having fun. I felt excited, nervous, apprehensive, tired, sore, and several other things, but while standing and looking down yet another rapid, another unknown challenge, I had trouble getting my mind around the idea of FUN. Standing at the end with a big smile on my face changed the perspective entirely. Looking back over the weekend and what we had done, you know what? I’d had a ball, and I’d recommend such an experience to anyone.

I've spent the last couple days helping my son build a fancy fence around the backyard of their equally fancy bed and breakfast.  Beyond this, we're sitting out a few days of simmering severe thunderstorms and likely tornadoes.  If we can keep the roof on the garage, Buddy and Ibi will wait patiently until we're ready to hit the road again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Whitewater Clinic - 4

The set-up of the solo whitewater open canoe.
Snip of photo from  Full link in text below.
1- Saddle   2- Foot rails and pegs   3- Knee cups
4- Inflatable buoyancy bags (red & yellow), shown deflated
5- Attachment point for cinching leg straps.  You can see where this
attachment D-ring had previously been up on the side of the hull.  An
ankle block could otherwise be where the D-ring is now.
For those that haven’t tried whitewater canoeing yet, it’s a fiendish way of combining torture and having fun. The torture part is getting the body to conform to shapes it is not naturally accustomed to, or at my age, it’s a position my body hasn’t tolerated a lot for the last 55 or so years. You enter the canoe and straddle a foam saddle (#1) in the center of the boat. One leg at a time is extended back behind you on either side of the saddle. The feet go into stirrups (#2), or what they call toe pegs and rails, and are bent backwards so the toes point astern. The ankles are supported by foam ankle blocks (#5), and the knees rest either in knee cups or on foam knee pads (#3). Once in this exaggerated kneeling position, thigh or lap straps (#5) come across to cinch you down into this compressed position. If everything is set up right, you should immediately float free of the boat WHEN (notice I’m not saying IF) you upset. There is then some type of quick release that enables you to escape this arrangement if you don’t naturally come free when you capsize. These arrangements vary depending on how the individual boat was rigged. The objective is to make you and the boat one. There is no slipping or sliding around, and every movement is transmitted directly to the boat, and you instantly feel every undulation of the water’s face and current. It also lowers your center of gravity, getting your weight directly in contact with the bottom of the boat and not much higher, as on a seat, which may be as high as the gunnels. The theory is good, and the position becomes second nature with time, I’m told, but for a beginner getting into this rig for the first time, it is quite unnatural. A couple people told me that paddlers train their bodies to accept this position by taking a new saddle, or even the entire boat, into the living room and straddling it while watching TV. When their legs start to go to sleep, they get up awhile, and return for another spell later, slowly extending the time spent in this paddling position. The flip side of all this preparation is that kids of scouting age hop into the boats and practically fall into position, and think not a thing of it. As with practically everything except financing a home, youth is a big plus.

For anyone wanting to rig a whitewater canoe, there’s a nice 38-page article on a pdf file at

Turner Bend's owner has this gorgeous home overlooking the
river right at the access point.
Once on the water, Colin and Lisa took me through all types of paddling strokes, practicing keeping the body erect while rocking and leaning the boat from the hip or waist, bracing, and feeling the point of secondary or ultimate stability, that fine line between the canoe being right-side up and up-side down.
After covering ferrying and cutting in and out of eddies, we then started down river. We stopped above every rapid to discuss the anatomy of the rapid we were about to descend. They would point out how to read the current, identifying where the safe water was versus how to identify underwater rocks or other obstructions, and how to pick the preferred route to run for the descent. For a couple more complicated rapids, we landed on shore and walked along the rapids to scout and discuss the hazards and water features up close. Then we’d hop back in the boats to put our plan into action.

The ideal way to start this pursuit of knowledge and experience would be with gently moving water, then riffles or what they called busy water, then Class I, and eventually building to Class II. Unfortunately, rivers aren’t built that way, and you pretty much take it as it comes. When we were most of the way downstream, I asked what class water we had run so far to get a better perspective of what the classes looked and felt like. I was surprised to learn that the first rapid we ran, the one where I took my first swim, was a Class II. The one where I took my second swim was also a solid Class II. The usable range for the Mulberry is 1.6 to 4.5 feet. Saturday, we were at 2.45 feet and rising, which they said was perfect for what we needed to do.

The owner's previous home, which is now one of a couple
cabins that may be rented.  That's one beautiful cabin!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Whitewater Clinic - 3

Turner Bend Outfitters
The bend was originally home to Osage Indians, who populated the entire Mulberry
Valley.  Cherokee Indians migrated into the area after the Louisiana Purchase.  The
name for the bend comes from the Turner family, who moved to the site in 1830
from Tennessee.  The first bridge was built across the river in 1900, and in 1911,
the Turners built a store at the south end of the bridge. 
A Parker Pony Truss Bridge
In 1935-36, the first bridge was replaced with the current Mulberry River bridge, and
the Turner store burned down, but was soon replaced.  Paddlers began canoeing the
river in the 1950's. The family-run business has changed hands only once in over a
century.  Brad Wimberley purchased Turner Bend in 1981, built the current store in
1986, began renting canoeing gear, and continued to add the campground and
many other improvements.
Saturday morning I rolled out early to make breakfast, drove the 20 minutes up Rt. 23 to Turner Bend, rented a helmet from the outfitter, climbed into my dry suit, and got ready for the 9 a.m. briefing. I got kind of tickled by what happened next. I came out of the store and joined a group standing around with their morning coffees and chatting. One said, “I understand there’s a guy in one of the classes that’s 69.“ Then the banter---“Really?“ “Yeah.“ “Wow.“ I didn’t think the natural process of aging made me all that unique. In fact, looking around showed that while I might be the oldest person there, there were a few others hot on my tail.

The campground was nicely filled with tents from club members that had set up camp for the weekend in spite of the weather. Ed, as the clinic’s director, gave the briefing, assigned students to their respective classes, and introduced us all to our instructors. Colin Maag, of St. Louis, MO, was my instructor, and Lisa Ruffin, from Tulsa, OK, ran safety boat for us. There were supposed to be four of us in my class, beginner solo open canoe, but three had failed to show. Whether because of it being Easter weekend, or the rainy weather, that left me with a private, one-on-one, instructor. How great is that?!

I was quite impressed by the group. Even though it was a club event, I don't think anyone felt they were an outsider. Everyone was amazingly friendly and outgoing, and I was greeted and introduced around. It helps, no doubt, that they’ve been doing this for a long time. The Ozark Mountain Paddlers club is 30 years old, and Ed has been clinic director for the last thirteen of those years. They went out of their way to make sure each student left with the knowledge and experience that was important and relevant to their paddling application.

The Mohawk Probe 12 Solo Open Whitewater Canoe
Credit: eggs canoe club
They had arranged for me to use a Mohawk Probe 12 open whitewater canoe. Once Colin had it loaded on his van, we got a couple shuttle drivers and drove upstream to Redding. With the canoes and gear carried down to the launch, we stood in the rain and went through the instruction, or safety briefing, on topics like PFD fitting, hypothermia, what was expected of me if I found myself upside-down under the water, river features and classifications, several aspects surrounding rescue, avoiding foot traps under water, positioning myself relative to the boat while swimming to avoid getting pinned between it and a rock, and much more. Then they proceeded to fit me into the canoe.  Now that is another whole subject.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Whitewater Clinic - 2

The banner marked the club's campground location, and the
whitewater playboat that is being raffled.
I just finishing getting all my paddling gear washed, dried, folded, and repacked, so I guess that marks the conclusion of another canoeing trip. It was a 722.2 mile round-trip to the clinic, held over three days by the Ozark Mountain Paddlers at Turner Bend, Arkansas, on the Mulberry River. I had had one previous bit of instruction on moving water paddling in Pennsylvania, but it lasted only about three hours. While it gave me an introduction into what I was in for, I really count this as my first real training in whitewater paddling. Actually, I now think of this more as a swimming clinic, which I know immediately brings a knowing smile to all those experienced in this form of masochism. I hope experienced paddlers will bear with me as I explain some of the points involved, as there are a number of people who visit the blog that haven’t had the chance yet to enjoy this experience. And, it will give the experienced paddlers a chance to correct me if I don’t get everything quite right, and I hope they will.

First, an explanation of what got me into this kind of training is in order. Most know I’m a flat-water or quiet-water paddler, and that’s what I enjoy most. However, on many bodies of water, every flat-water section of a river, or pool, as they call it, is followed by some type of rapid or drop as the river progresses from mountains to sea.  So two obvious things present themselves. One, if I’m wanting to run a river, unless I’m very selective in the waters I paddle, it’s inevitable that I’m going to face rapids or other forms of fast moving water somewhere along the line. Being too nervous about fast-moving water would deny me access to a lot of beautiful rivers. Two, being a firm believer in doing things safely, I believe it pays to learn from those who already have the experience on how to finish a river without being drowned or injured, or having damaged one’s boat, or lost much of one’s camping gear and provisions. While many have told me that running rapids is addictive, I haven’t reached that point yet, and consider this training more under the heading of acquiring a survival skill.

A view down the Mulberry River, yet another looming rapids,
and the scenic Ozark Mountains in the background.
Trying to do anything with or on water is hard in Western Oklahoma. I had tried for a year to find a provider of whitewater training that wasn’t over a thousand miles away, and without success. A couple river trips were coming up that I was interested in, so I decided to shotgun the internet to find some training. I emailed every ACA (American Canoeing Assoc.) instructor in Oklahoma and got not a single response. So I decided to shotgun every paddling club on a state-by-state basis, starting with Arkansas. Within just a few hours, I received a phone call from Ed McClung, of Ozark Mountain Paddlers. He said, “This will be short notice, but I believe we have just what you’re looking for. We are running a whitewater training clinic on the Mulberry River, but it’s next weekend. Are you interested?” When I said ‘definitely’, even though the registration deadline for the classes had passed, he got me registered and assured me I could pay for the course upon arrival. He also arranged for a boat for me to use. I was set to go.

When I awoke Friday morning (Mar. 29), the fog was too thick to see across the yard. That was not a promising way to start a long trip, but I hoped it would lift later in the morning. I started out at 45 mph, sometimes less. By the time I reached Watonga (32 miles away), the fog started lifting and disappeared in another 20 minutes. It was a 6 ½ hour trip to Ozark, AR, and it rained much of the way from Oklahoma City on. I had reserved a room in the Ozark Motel on the chance that Jean might like to go along. As soon as I had checked in and got my stuff in the room, I headed for Turner Bend to scope things out, meet Ed McClung, and get checked in and pay for the course. I walked about at Turner Bend for awhile and shot a few pictures. While I got a few shots to share, the weather was going to be too gray and wet for most photography over the weekend.