“Spend as much time as possible on mountains, in small boats, or otherwise out in the weather; if you never get wet, cold, exhausted or scared, you won’t properly appreciate being dry, warm, rested and safe.” ~ Peter Jay

"I’m an adventuring river rat at heart. Put me on a floating piece of driftwood and I’m happy." ~ Christina Glauner

"There’s folly and foolhardiness on one side and daring and calculation on the other." ~ C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Breaking In A New Boat

Last weekend, while Matt, Cory, and I were hiking and camping in a blizzard, Roger Debates was up in the twin cities getting a new boat from Midwest Mountaineering. He ended up with a CD Storm GT. Well, this past week he decided he needed to break it in on the Missouri River. He found a spot on aerial photos that we could put in at just upstream of Chamberlain and the plan was to take out at the Dude Ranch access downstream of Oacoma, The trip would be about 10 miles. Obviously, Matt and I were up for helping Roger break in the new boat.

Saturday was beautiful. 60+ degrees and light wind. We met in Oacoma and BSed a little while waiting to see if anyone took us up on the invite we left on the SDCKA Facebook page. Roger's boat was still pristine despite having been paddled nearly a mile on an east river lake. We then headed to the Dude Ranch to drop off my pickup.

First, we went upstream from Chamberlain to look for a put in. We easily found the spot Roger had picked out off of Google Maps. But, the water was low, creating a mud flat we would have to cross. Next, we went upstream from Oacoma looking for better access. We found one spot, where we had seen people fishing at on our cruise to Chamberlain. But, it also had a mud flat between us and the river. We scouted it a little and after getting a bit muddy and Roger losing a shoe (I was able to dig it out for him) we decided to just put in at the Cedar Shores boat ramp. Luckily, this was the most adventurous event of the day.

We launched from Cedar Shores and made our way downstream. It was a perfect day to be on the water. We stopped near the railroad bridge to strip off some of our unnecessary layers. As we approached the Dude Ranch, there were numerous geese that would get spooked and fly up, but only land a little ways ahead. This probably happened at least 3 or 4 times.
Best pic of the day.
My truck looks good with TWO storms above it.
Making good use of my bed/truck extender.
We ended up covering 6.5 miles and succeeded in breaking in Roger's boat. He ended up with a few new scratches and plenty of mud on the boat!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blizzard In The Badlands

Cory Diedrich, Matt Story, and I have been planning this past weekend for over a year, so we weren't about to let a little blizzard stop us. We have been talking about exploring the south unit of the Badlands National Park for over a year since we read a New York Times article about it. We emailed the National  Park Service, called adjacent landowners, and studied aerial photos and topographic maps. Information about the area was rare, but we had two possibilities for routes into the Palmer Creek Unit.

On Friday, we met in Vivian, SD where we left my pickup and loaded my gear into Matt's pickup and headed towards the main entrance and visitor center of the Badlands National Park. We camped in the main campground the first night, so we could stop at the visitor center on Saturday morning. We gained a little more information by asking questions in-person and face-to-face. The way we would get in was a dirt road that went east from the White River (South Unit) Visitor Center. We also decided that  with the approaching blizzard, we would go down and check it out and return to Sage Creek before it hit.
The red line is what we drove (8.0 miles) into the Palmer Creek Unit and the yellow line is what we hiked (4.4 miles).
Much of the Badlands South Unit spent time in the 40s and 50s as a aerial gunnery range.

Starting to snow.
Apparently, a high water crossing. We chose to take the low water crossing.
High water crossing again.
High water crossing again.
The blizzard began to hit as we were hiking in the Palmer Creek Unit. Hiking back to the truck was made difficult by sleet/snow stinging our faces. We probably left a little later than we should have. The road back up to Scenic, SD was getting slick. Just past Scenic, we turned onto a gravel road that wasn't near as bad, but visibility was dropping significantly. Not too long later we arrived at the Sage Creek primitive campground and trail head. The campground was getting hit by the wind pretty hard, so we grabbed our packs and headed into the wilderness area. After about 0.2 miles we found lower ground also protected by trees. We setup camp and had some hot food (freeze dried meals) before diving into our sleeping bags.
Campsite on Saturday night.
 During the night, the low temperature was -2 degrees and the low windchill was -8 degrees. We all stayed warm enough, but we spent about 14 hours in our sleeping bags before it was light and warm enough to crawl out. We made the decision on Sunday morning to do a little day hiking to warm up and then return to tear camp down and head for home. We could handle the overnight temps, but the time spent in the sleeping bags was unbearably boring.

Antelope playing.

Buffalo roaming.

Our loop on Sunday. About 7.6 miles, including the distance from and to the trail head.
We saw much wildlife during our hike on Sunday. Including, numerous bison, coyotes, deer, and antelope. There was one coyote that, afterwards, we debated whether it was a coyote or wolf. It seemed quite large and dark colored for a coyote and we have heard of some wolves reintroducing themselves into South Dakota. We also saw two large bucks; the second being VERY LARGE by all of our accounts. And, he is safe as long as he stays in the Sage Creek area.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SDCKA President's Cruise and Skunk Creek Cleanup

This past weekend I traveled to the southeast part of the state to participate in a pair of SDCKA events. Saturday was the annual President's cruise and Sunday was a Skunk Creek cleanup. I met up with friends at President Jarett Bies's (that has a nice ring to it) home, northeast of Vermilion. Friends present were Matt Story, Willard Story, Cory Diedrich, Roger Debates, Kati Albers, Mark Henderson, and, obviously, Jarett and his wife, Laura.

 We spent time catching up with each other sitting around a campfire late into the night before heading to bed. We also loaded gear and boats onto Cory's trailer. A few of us camped behind the house and a couple crashed in the spare bedrooms. When we got up in the morning, the temp was around 40 degrees. After some coffee, we headed to Myron Grove (the take-out) to drop off Matt;s truck (with Roger's trailer).

We then proceeded to Gavin's Point Dam. Most of the group for the day would be meeting at Riverside Park in Yankton, but our crew (Matt, Willard, Roger, Kati, and I) wanted a few extra miles. Cory dropped us off and Kati met us at the boat ramp near the entrance to the White Crane campground. There was not room for everyone in Cory's truck. Cory then headed back to Yankton to meet up with Jarett and Mark to shuttle trailers/trucks to Myron Grove.
Preparing to launch from Gavin's Point Dam (Photo courtesy of Roger Debates).
It proved to be a fast 4.7 miles down to Riverside Park. Also, fyi, Roger was paddling Jarett's Current Designs Sirroco. He is in the market for a longer boat than his Carolina and is eyeing a P&H Delphi.
Riverside Park in Yankton  (Photo courtesy of Roger Debates).

45+ paddlers prepare to depart Riverside Park in Yankton.

We made it to Riverside Park before Mark, Jarett, and Cory were back from shuttling. Lisa Yager (NPS) and Tim Cowman (Missouri River Institute) were running the show when we arrived. There were about 40+ boats waiting around, mostly from DJ's rental service.
Matt Story (foreground) and Mark Henderson (background)

L to R: Kati Albers, Cory Diedrich, and Willard Story.
The rest of the cruise was uneventful. Maybe a little long and tiring for those paddling rec boats, but more of a BS session for our crew. It is actually a nice change of pace from the recent cruises I have done with Matt and Roger. I had some nice discussions with all of my friends during the trip.
Up close and personal with Cory Diedrich :-)

Roger Debates.
We ended up covering a total of 21.6 miles during the cruise; 16.9 miles from Yankton to Myron Grove. It was a great cruise for less experienced paddlers to give them an idea what the kayak challenge was like. This was the first section of the race (start to check point 1).
Mark Henderson and his shiny new (to him) boat.

Our fearless leader, Jarett Bies.
Roger and I spent Saturday night at Matt's place; the scout camp next to Newton Hills State Park. On Sunday, Roger and I headed into Sioux Falls to hit up Scheels. I also met up with my sister for coffee. We then met up with Matt, Cory, Steven Dahlmeier, Dave and Mary Fink, Ryan Snuggerud, Jay Heath, and others to cleanup a section of Skunk Creek. We spent about 3 hours pulling trash out between Legacy Park and Dunham Park.
Roger Debates (Photo courtesy of Steven Dahlmeirer).
L to R: Ryan Snuggerud, Cory Diedrich, Patrick Wellner  (Photo courtesy of Steven Dahlmeirer).
Foreground (L to R): Cory Diedrich and Matt Story. (Photo courtesy of Steven Dahlmeirer).

Afterwards, Matt, Ryan, and I hit up Buffalo Wild Wings for a late lunch or early supper before I hit the road back to Pierre.

Overall, it was a great weekend spent with great friends.

Monday, August 6, 2012

West Bend to Chamberlain

I met Roger and Matt at the North Shore campground on Friday, August 3rd, night. It is a primitive campground with no fees, located above the Big Bend Dam. It was getting plenty of use from fisherman with fifth wheel campers because the nice campground below the dam is closed for repairs from last year's flooding.

After some breakfast sandwiches, prepared by Roger, we loaded all three boats on my pickup. We dropped Matt's pickup off at the Good Soldier boat ramp and headed north to West Bend.

We had a stiff tailwind in the 20s mph with gusts into the 30s mph. We did some playing around surfing the waves. Matt even practiced his wet exit and re-entry! As we approached the dam, the waves went from 3' crashing waves to 5' or 6' rollers. We could easily lose sight of each other's boats and, sometimes, each other's heads. We managed to break 10 mph surfing the rollers! Matt hit a max speed of 10.8 mph, I hit 10.5 mph, and Roger hit 9.5 mph. We concluded day 1 with 21.1 miles and have now paddled the length of Lake Sharpe (in three trips).

 We camped at the North Shore campground again on Saturday. I cooked us up some double cheeseburgers for supper. We had a fisherman stop by that was impressed with our day's feat in the wind too.

On Sunday, we again had breakfast sandwiches, courtesy of Roger. We dropped my pickup off at the American Creek marina in Chamberlain. We began day two on the water from the left tailrace of the Big Bend Dam. The wind shifted on us overnight. We faced winds in the teens mph with gusts in the low 20s all day. It was a fairly uneventful paddle. We covered 18.3 miles on day 2.

All still images are courtesy of Matt Story.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Safety Boating for Triathlon and Legacy Park to Downtown Greenway

Yesterday morning I met up with other members of the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association to provide safety boats for the swim portion of the Wall Lake Triathlon. The triathletes were impressive. Nobody dropped from the race and only a handful needed to momentarily hang onto a kayak to catch their breath..

After the race, Willard Story, Cory Dietrich, Kati Albers, Roger Debates, and I went to Legacy Park to unload boats for a trial run of the upcoming Race To The Falls on August 25th. More information about the race should be available on July 2nd. While we shuttled vehicles, John and Jenn Geyer also joined the group.
Skunk Creek was at 4.6+ on the USGS gage and Cory told me that it is good above 4.5. Without rain, it could get pretty dicey by the end of August. The BSR was definitely low in places yesterday, but Cory told me that the city plans on releasing some water from the diversion dam to help with the race. I think the BSR will be alright and I am already thinking of race strategies. For instance, I may start with my Seven 2 paddle on Skunk Creek where the rocks and shallow water could be more prevalent and switch to the wing when I get to the BSR. Now back to yesterday's trip.
John and Jenn exited the river at the 26th St access, near their home. I foresee a new boat in their future, since Jenn struggles to keep up in her current boat. She did great in John's boat at the Niobrara, so who gets the new boat might be a tossup.
We continued on passing paddlers that were part of a group sponsored by a local bar. Some of them might as well have been using inner tubes instead of kayaks for all the paddling they were doing though.
It was a cool sight to pass from a wooded park area into downtown Sioux Falls on the river. I hope the river greenway area downtown gets lots of use, so the city continues to value the BSR, greenway, etc as the great assets that they are.

We ended up covering 11.7 miles. Map below.