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.



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