Sunday, October 13, 2013

River Rumble '13 - Day 4

Having to load and unload Buddy from the trailer forced me to check out his bottom. I was pleasantly surprised to see that two things made me feel much relieved. The obvious one is that while there were indeed scrapes, the light yellow Kevlar color, plus the absence of a pigmented gelcoat, made the scrapes much less obvious than we had seen on the larger Wenonah. The second was that the number of scrapes were far fewer. Part of that may be that the lighter boat with a single paddler, even though smaller and with less displacement, perhaps drew less water than the heavier tandem with two paddlers, or it may be from laying back in the pack and having a chance to see those in front of me seek out the better runs. In any event, my anxiety over the damage to Buddy’s hull was to some extent unwarranted, and I was yet again a happy camper.

The put-in at Interstate Park (MN) was very nice, with a gradual,
sandy, sloping beach.
We had a short paddle today, (Tues., the 30th), and only had to go 10 miles to Osceola, WI. It rained a bit during the night, and again in the morning as we had breakfast and prepared to launch. It was just showers, however, and had no effect on our movements or spirits. We put in just below Folsom Island, on the south side of Taylor Falls. Our take-out was at a park on the Minnesota side, just south of the Osceola Rd. (Rt. 243) bridge.  With a two-carry portage, it was 1.2 miles to get Buddy and my gear to the trucks and boat staging area. The 25-pound Hornbeck 14 was certainly putting a smile on my face. I made another trip to help another paddler carry his heavier kayak up the hill, but the super-light Hornbeck certainly proved, and continues to prove, its value when portaging comes into play.

The entrance to the shop that creates Bending Branches and
Aqua-Bound paddles.  They put so much hands-on personal work
into their paddles, I hate the idea of calling it a manufacturing plant.
The bus carried us across the bridge to Osceola, WI. It was such a picturesque town that I think I would have enjoyed greatly with more time. We were taken to a park off Education Avenue. That was just a couple hundred yards from one of Osceola’s schools, I believe the middle school, where hot showers were arranged for us. This was the dining stop of the trip. Between dinner this night, and breakfast the next morning, the town went all out to stuff us with some great eats.


Racks of quality woods waiting to become quality paddles.
One of the activities here was a tour of the Bending Branches plant. Only a small group was able to make the tour, and I was fortunate enough to get included. I considered myself fortunate, because I’m a loyal Bending Branches devotee, and it was a great chance to see where my paddles came from. They run two companion lines of paddles, Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound. As they say, “No matter what floats your boat, we’ve got it covered.” They include paddle designs for premium and special edition paddles, touring, expedition, performance, solo, kids, kayak, stand-up, recreational, and fishing paddles. We actually did two tours of the plant. The first covered all the wood paddles, and the second tour covered the polypropylene and laminated fiberglass paddles. I have both a 54” bent shaft BB Special with the RockGuard edge, and a 280cm. Slice Glass Solo Touring Canoe Paddle. I love them both. I even loved the aroma while walking in among the racks of butternut, red alder, black willow, cherry, basswood, and maple woods that go into their wood paddles. All the paddles are beautiful, but the Sunburst and the “A” Series Special Edition steal the show. The “A” Series is the most hands-on labor-intensive wood paddle made, and is a limited 750 paddle run with each paddle numbered.

An interesting pattern is created by the laminated stock about
to become the double-bent shafts of the special edition
Series "A" paddles.
I had drooled over the graphite Black Pearl for several years while wishing that my wallet was thicker than reality showed. I was now committed to bite the bullet and come away with a Black Pearl in my hands, only to sadly learn that the line had been discontinued. The graphite sheets are only available now from China, and are of inferior quality. Bending Branches had to weigh giving up a corner of the market by discontinuing the line versus staying in the market with a less-than-optimum paddle. They decided their standards demanded they take the high road, which seems to hold true in all of their marketing and customer relations.


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