Friday, November 20

Whitewater Kayaking for Dummies...

Every summer around Labor Day for the past several years we have shared an adventure with our friends, the Norvolds. Usually camping, but we have tried a few other things too.  These are some of our most fond memories as a family.  Since our kids have all become teenagers and are starting to fly the coop we wanted to do something really fun and memorable this year.  We decided on a trip to Duluth, MN and Brule, WI for whitewater kayaking on the Brule River.  A few of us had tried the kayaking last summer in Idaho and discovered it was a blast.  Since I have tried it twice now I am an expert and thought I would share a few helpful hints in case you might want to try this most exhilarating activity!
  • First of all, make sure you know where the outfitter is so you don't drive past it and waste precious time.  You don't want to get on the river too late in the day or you could end up paddling in the dark and miss your landing and end up in Lake Superior!  (not good)  Fortunately, this didn't happen to us but it was a four-hour trip and the sun was going down behind the trees and it was getting quite chilly at the end.
  • ALWAYS wear life jackets and helmets (duh)!
  • On your way to the drop off point, Do NOT listen to the shuttle bus driver as he goes on and on about all the twists and turns in the river and describes each ledge (I call them waterfalls) in detail, the landmarks, what side to be on, what to avoid, and which way to hit each of the rapids.  AS IF you are going to remember a single word of it!  Disregard his comment about how people either love this trip or say it is the worst they have ever done and how many people quit after the first set of rapids.  WHY would he tell us this???  The knot in our stomach is big enough.
  • Make sure you ask your shuttle bus driver to take a photo of your group before you embark on the waves, you never know.....
  • Do NOT let your oldest son, fearless (clueless) as he is, take off ahead of the group.  He acts pretty cocky but will swallow that around the very first bend when he gets caught in a tangle of trees in the middle of the river and is hanging on for dear life.  Sorry, but we couldn't help but chuckle.   He finally had to get out of the kayak, drag it to shore and empty it.  He still managed to get in front and was the first off the river at the end.
  • Try to enjoy the scenery along the way instead of always wondering "Is this the big one?  Is there where I die?  Is this where people quit?"  Actually, you really do need to focus on what is ahead at ALL times and the two most important things to remember are to steer clear of rocks (yeah, right, AS IF you can even see most of them) because rocks are what tip you over and the other is to always hit the rapid straight on, facing forward (!), which is much easier said than done when you feel like you don't have much control of the situation!
  • Wear shoes that tie or strap on because if you don't you will likely lose one.  The muddy banks are like quick sand and suck them in very quickly along with your feet and ankles! 
  • Make sure you bring along lots of water and high energy snacks in a waterproof container because you will become ravishingly hungry and thirsty within the first ten minutes and completely out of energy the last hour. We will be smarter next time!  Did I say next time?
  • Do NOT scream (it may startle the other paddlers and make them think you are dying) when you feel something crawl across your legs. After all, with the skirt tight around your waist and snug on the kayak there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!  :-{
  • DO hoot and holler when you realize you have made it through the first ledge (2-3 foot drop) and are still upright!  BTW, I believe I was the only one in our group to stay upright the whole time and didn't even get my hair wet!  I was praying hard.  If I had tipped and gone under my story would probably be a little different.
  • NEVER let go of your paddle, you don't want to be up a creek without a paddle!
  • Do NOT panic when you see your daughter's kayak get stuck on a log and then turned and sucked completely under the log as she stands by helplessly and you can't get back to her because of the current.  Instead of crying (AS IF you can help it) and thinking "this is it-- we're done for, we'll have to somehow get off the river and start walking", start praying fervently as you cling to your own tree.  The kayak will eventually dislodge and start floating down the river!  And then once you have the kayak corraled (uff dah) and your daughter on the bank just wait patiently until your knight in shining white helmet comes to rescue his damsels in distress.  He will single-handedly get the submerged kayak out of the water (NOT easy) and emptied and you will all be on your way once again!  Bill performed several of these rescues that day- he is my hero!!
  • RESIST the urge to pee in your kayak, even though you can hardly stand it, and the warmth would feel nice in the 2-3 inches of cold water you are sitting in.  Wait until you can find a spot to get up to shore and empty both.  I resisted in case you are wondering.  Leanne might have been emptying her bladder in this photo and Landon his kayak.  That's me facing the camera and Brian facing shore.
  • Celebrate wildly when you finally see the bridge that marks the landing where you get off!  Oh and VERY important, have a set of dry clothes in your vehicle to put on- warm clothes never felt SO good.  Here's some shots of us getting off the water at the end- it was so shallow there we had to drag the kayaks.
  • Make sure there is a good restaurant near by where you can stuff yourselves and recount all the thrilling and terrifying moments of the trip. 
  • Have a full-body massage scheduled for when you return because every muscle in your body will be sore (my toes were even sore!)
  • Brag to all your friends about how you shot class III rapids and survived to tell about it!
Unfortunately, we didn't get any action shots of us going over the ledges because you can't take your camera out when you have both hands white-knuckled on the paddle.  So, I hope I haven't discouraged you from the idea of trying it yourself if you haven't before, it really is fun.  The place we went is called Brule River Canoe Rental, just 20 miles or so east of Duluth and they offer many different trips from leisurely tours to the one we did.  So put it on your bucket list! 

Now....on to sky diving!!


Rachelle said...

You crazy girl! I love the photos and your sense of humor. And, yes, you have absolutely without a doubt, discouraged me from trying a trip like this. Hee hee, you know better. I was discouraged from this sort of thing long before reading your blog. How fun~ thanks for sharing! See~ aren't blogs FUN?? I love yours.

Connie said...

LOL! This post was very well written...and hilarious! You are ever so much braver than your big Sis will ever be.