Friday, December 22, 2006

New Deep Fork River Boat Ramp

Deep Fork River Boat Ramp
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Dianne and I recently took the kayaks out to a spot we visit pretty regularly on Hwy 266. Between Dewar and Grayson they replaced an old metal bridge over the Deep Fork River with a modern concrete eyesore. In the process of doing this they cleared the log jams out of the water and created a large level parking area between the old bridge and the new one. Dianne and i like to paddle this bit of flatwater because it offers easy excercise that is free and close to home.

A few weeks ago the Powers-That-Be decided to add a lovely concrete boat ramp. Now, you can put lots of different types of boats into the Deep Fork here and we can paddle it without even getting our feet muddy! On our most recent trip we saw three different groups of boaters taking advantage of the new river access point.

It was a very gusty day when we paddled this river last, but one of the benefits of paddling crooked rivers like this is that they offer quite a bit of windbreak. Anyone else find any good paddling spots recently?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Shiitake Mushroom Farm in Perkins

Lost Creek Mushroom Farm
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
A Fungus Among Us for Christmas

I must admit that the recent bad weather, combined with the seasonal round of colds, has kept our family from enjoying many adventures lately. Since we have started to get a little cabin fever, Dianne and I decided to use our Christmas shopping excursions to see a little more of the diverse wonderland that is Oklahoma.

For the most part, we shop online extensively before venturing out to actually start buying. While I was searching Amazon's massive inventory for gourmet coffee gifts and paddling gear I stumbled across a vendor selling Shiitake mushroom innoculated logs. My Dad gave us a few Shiitake logs one year and we enjoyed having the ample supply of tasty, healthful mushrooms. We pretty much just kicked them out into shady parts of the yard and let the rain water them. This was several years ago back when it used to rain occasionally in the Sooner State. Even being totally ignorant about how to care for them, we raised many pounds of shiitake mushrooms.

I was excited about finding a new source for Shiitake logs, but even more excited by the opportunity to have Amazon manage shipping them for me! Even better, when I researched the seller I learned that these were Made-in-Oklahoma Shiitake Mushroom logs! Once I told Dianne she insisted that we make an Oklahoma Road Trip out to visit the Lost Creek Mushroom Farm in Perkins, Oklahoma.

We met Sondra Williams, one of the owners, at the Lost Creek Mushroom Farm and she was kind enough to walk us through the process of creating the innoculated logs. She also took us through her greenhouse and their Strawbale Construction Barn. It was fascinating to learn how this Oklahoma couple launched their own small business that helps people, is not harmful to the environment, and requires such an amazingly low level of technology.

Both Sondra and her husband Doug have become fountains of interesting shiitake facts and lore. Sondra explained to us that shiitake mushroom sold in most stores are grown in sawdust rather than logs. This makes them cheaper to produce but less healthy and flavorful. Here's something else Lost Creek taught us about the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms:

Shiitake Mushrooms have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Lentinan, an immunostimulant derived from shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, and other conditions with impressive results. Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw shiitake eaten daily for one week lowered serum cholesterol by 12%. --

Like my Dad's Elderberry Wine, this is an agricultural niche product that is well suited for the extra attention that only a small business can offer. Unlike Dad's Elderberry Wine, the Shiitake Mushroom Logs from Lost Creek Farm are Made-in-Oklahoma products that can be sold and shipped nationwide. The Williams family provides the low tech, land and labor while Amazon provides the high tech infrastructure for this 24/7 fungus marketplace.

Visit their website to learn more about the amazing Shiitake Mushroom.

14-15" Shiitake Mushroom Log with Soaking Tray

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

OKC Holiday River Parade Dec 16, 2006

Mrs Robbin
Originally uploaded by halschmidt.
Don't let the winter weather keep you locked up inside your home. The winter season offers its own delights to those who venture outdoors to witness it. The recent snow here in Okmulgee made for some lovely bird watching days and soon it will be time venture into the night and light up the river in OKC.

The 3rd annual Holiday River Parade on the Oklahoma River will light up downtown OKC on Saturday, December 16th, 2006. Over 30 boats, decorated in holiday lights, will parade the river as a spectacular fireworks display adorns the sky. It is an amazing sight to behold and you can't beat the price!

The parade viewing areas will open at 3pm on Saturday, Dec. 16th. Activities will begin at 4pm, and the parade starts around dusk with the fireworks display scheduled for 6:30pm. Admission and parking are both free.

Want to Enter Your Boat in the River Parade?

The deadline to have your boat entered in the parade is noon on Wednesday, December 13th. Entry forms are available from most metro area boat dealers or you can click here to get your Holiday River Parade entry form online.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Long Weekend Provides Great Paddling Weather

Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
At the end of Al's last trip report to the Caddo River, he mentioned paddling the North Canadian River.

This is one of our favorite local rivers for paddling due to the sandy banks, plentiful wildlife and the fact that we rarely see any other boats on the water. Of course, there are always exceptions. We ran into an Air Boat on our last trip paddling the North Canadian River near Checotah, Oklahoma.

I am looking forward to paddling the section that is near OKC, but it sure is a bummer being stuck home during this long weekend of great weather! I hope you get sometime outside in the sun!

Caddo River Trip Report

This Thanksgiving Holiday won't include any paddling for our family due to the unexpected arrival of Cold & Flu season. I started sneezing about 3 days ago and now the whole family is down with the sickness.

Thankfully Al from OKC, one of our loyal blog readers, was kind enough to send in a paddling trip report from nearby Caddo Gap, Arkansas.

Hi Thomas:
Donna and I made a quick run over to Caddo Gap, Arkansas a couple of weeks ago and I thought I'd drop you a line about it in case you hadn't been there yet. It's pretty easy to get to... just an hour and a half straight south of Van Buren. The river was a bit boney at this time of year but still kayakable (a solid class 2 with lots of short shallow rapids).

I had never experienced willow strainers like they have there and it was quite different. We covered about 5 miles or a bit more on the river and probably dealt with about 15 strainers. As we approached each one, we'd have to listen and look carefully to see which way the river diverted (right or left). With a little practice, we got pretty good atreading the water flow after determining that the ONLY way around each strainer was to take the path of least resistance and fastest flow.

Each set of rapids involved a short burst of about 50-75 yards always on asharp curve and mild drop in elevation followed by a stretch of flat water to reorient the kayak and relax for a while. I imagine the rapids would be a bit easier with spring rains as there wouldn't be quite as many large rocks to hang up on. Even so, it was a pretty nice experience and provided us somewhere different to go although not quite as scenic as Lower Mountain Fork.

The one major drawback was a lack of really nice lodging. We rented a pleasant and clean but fairly old cabin right on the river bank and across the road from an outfitter in Caddo Gap (Caddo River Cottage). I will say it was convenient being able to chain the kayak to a tree at the rivers edge and not load and unload it a lot.

The outfitter across the road will portage you upstream ($10) with your kayak or canoe for a short 1 mile float home or will lead you to his pick-up on the river in Henderson (I think that's the right town name) a few miles down river to park your vehicle and bring you back to put in at the cabin (20). We did both over the two days. Overall, it was a pretty good weekend away and the river was a new challenge for building our skills.

By the way, although the air temp was about 70 at the time, the waterwas about 50 so I was glad we brought dry-suits. Even with that, we were a bit chilled by the end of the long run. As a result, I just got Donna a full body front zip wet suit and scuba boots to keep her warm and dry through fall kayaking.

Well, that's it for this report. Might hit the Canadian by Overholser this weekend for some exercise now that we had a little rain. Can't wait til spring or for a really nice weekend. We'd like to go run part of the Buffalo River in Ark. if we can. Looks like a really scenic area. Unfortunately, all the really nice cabins on the Buffalo were full last time so we chose the Caddo instead.

I'm looking into another visit to Puerto Rico for March and there's supposed to be one really scenic river over there. We've already kayaked a luminescent lagoon and bay in Fajardo, PR. and it was a total blast. -- Al

Wow, Puerto Rico...that sounds fantastic Al! I'll be stuck at home until my family manages to get healthy enough to paddle again, but you can bet I'll only have one thing on my mind until then!

Kayaking Girl - Women's Tank Top
Kayaking Girl Tank Top

Got a great Oklahoma area paddling trip report you would like to share? Send me an email or leave a comment on the blog.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Do You Think Paddling is for the Birds?

Road Hawk
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Oklahoma supports a wide assortment of interesting birds associated with the prairies and others associated with the western mountains. Some of the cool predator species found here include: Prairie Falcons, American Kestrels, Mississippi Kites, Swainson's Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, and Golden Eagles.

Since raptors are at the top of the food chain, observing them helps to identify environmental problems before such problems become a crisis. Also, I find them to be pretty darn photogenic. Watching the various birds of prey is one of the things that I really enjoy when paddling the Illinois River.

Seen any cool raptors lately?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rains Raise River Levels in the Southern Ozarks

River levels in much of the area have been rising as a result of recent rains. Good paddling or river level guage readings have been reported on: the Buffalo River, Lower Mountain Fork, The Glover River, the Kiamichi River, the Cossatot, the Ouachita.

The Upper Mountain Fork River and the Mulberry River are both at flood stage as much needed rain finally arrived in the southern Ozark hills.

Local weather forecasts predict temps in the mid-seventies for Wednesday and more rain forecast for this coming weekend. However, with the days ending so quickly now, it is tough for us to get away for a little time on the river during the week.

Here's hoping that the upcoming good weather catches you with your paddle wet and your camera dry!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tenkiller Camping Tip

Tenkiller Lake Shore
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
I got a tip from a blog reader this week that Cherokee Landing offers some of the best camping on Lake Tenkiller. Tenkiller is a rock bottom lake, this makes it quite a bit clearer than many of the other Oklahoma lakes in the area.

Dianne and I are always looking for places to pull the RV to, so I checked our Woodall's Guide (essential RV travel gear) and it says they offer 112 sites with Water & Electric year-around. I hope it won't be too crowded during the off-season. Like most of the Oklahoma Park system, Cherokee Landing, near Park Hill, Oklahoma does not list any WiFi available, so I guess I will have to wait until the weekend to explore this one.

While i am on the subject of camping with luxuries I never imagined before, let me ask you this. Have you ever heard of a water activated heating pad for self-heating camping food? I spotted this new kind of camping food while browsing through their freeze dried foods.

It sounds very cool, it would appear that they use chemical heat to activate a flameless heating element that delivers a piping hot meal in minutes! The got killer reviews from Hurricane Rita first responders. I gotta try this.

Paddle Adventuring With Canoe & Kayak

Paddle Adventuring With Canoe & Kayak

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Monday, October 30, 2006

North Canadian River Paddling

North Canadian River
North Canadian River,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

We headed out looking for vivid displays of Fall color in the rapidly changing foliage in our area.

Saturday, we took a sunset paddling trip onto Okmulgee Lake, the trees are really bursting with color there now. Now that summer is over officially the traffic at the lake has really slowed down.

Sunday, we headed back to the Pierce, Oklahoma area to paddle the North Canadian River. The weather was glorious and the current was faster than our last trip here. The fall color is just starting to show on the sandy, willow-lined banks of this seldom paddled river.

We saw three beavers and several waterfowl very close up and had a close encounter with the ultimate anti-kayak. See my Flickr Photos for more details on the Anti-kayak.

Finding great fall color anywhere? Drop us a comment!

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Red Dirt Paddlers to Visit The Buffalo River

Randy Clemons of Oklahoma's own ACC branch - The Red Dirt Paddlers, emailed me that they may be planning their best canoe and kayaking trip yet.

If you missed their trip down the thrilling Mountain Fork River, don't miss out on their November 3rd - 5th trip down the Buffalo River. Dianne and I have apddled this river either two or three times, but certainly not enough to see it all or tire of this timeless beauty.

The Buffalo River is one of the most scenic rivers in the Ozarks and just a day trip from Oklahoma. For a fascinating book about the history and geology of the Buffalo National River, try Ken Smith's Buffalo River Handbook.

Take your camera if you every visit the Buffalo River, it is well worth the trip.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Deep Fork Bayou - Turtle Haven

Paddling Deep Fork Bayou
Today, I enjoyed about an hour of paddling around on Deep Fork Bayou. You can access this portion of the Deep Fork Wildlife Refuge via a small tank farm road right off Highway 75 South just south of Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

Paddling this tiny body of water is like paddling in a pond, but with more shade than most ponds offer. I saw countless turtles, some cranes and a few fish. The water is muddy, but not as red as the Deep Fork River. From Google Earth, Deep Fork Bayou looks comepletely circular, but you cannot paddling all the way around it at the current water level.

It makes a nice place to do some excercise paddling that is close to town for Okmulgee folks. I'll bet it will be lovely when the Fall colors light up the trees. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Access To Oklahoma's Inland Water Way

Boat Lifter 3
Boat Lifter 3,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
At the confluence of the Arkansas, Verdigris and Grand Rivers is an area historically known as 'The Three Forks' since the 1700s.

Three Forks Harbor is immediately south of the east end of the U.S. Highway 62 bridge in Muskogee, Oklahoma. We stopped by on our way back from paddling in Tahlequah. It offers a marina, boat launch and large mobile boat lifter. This makes it a popular fueling and jump-off spot for northeastern Oklahoma recreational boaters to access the rest of the Mississippi River system and the inland water way.

Three Forks Harbor's marina has two floating docks with 58 covered slips accommodating vessels ranging from day cruisers to bass boats and houseboats. A 110-ton travel lift is available to move larger boats in and out of the water. The marina provides a 24-hour floating ships store and fuel dock with three pumps.

Monday, October 09, 2006

White River Kayak Race - Calico Rock, AR

Calico Rock Arkansas Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its first Kayak Race Oct. 14. Calico Rock is about 254 miles west of Tulsa and lies right on the banks of the famous White River.

At 2 p.m. racers will leave from Lindsey’s Boat Dock on the White River, race downstream, and end at the Calico Rock Bridge. One race will be for individuals and a second for 2-person crews. Each race has a first prize of $250.

Spectators can watch the race from the Calico Rock Access, the River Road or the White River Bridge.

The entry fee is $30 for each kayak. For a race application or more information, call (870) 297-4129 or stop by the Chamber office on Main Street, Calico Rock Arkansas. Deadline for entry applications is Saturday.

The Kayak Race is part of the chamber’s Fall Festival which starts with a 5K race at 9 a.m. and continues with food, music, crafts, art show and other activities beginning at noon in Rand Park (Highways 5 and 56).

Our White River Kayaking Outfitters List.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Elephant Rock Nature Park - Illinois River Camping

What a great weekend! Dianne and I had a blast paddling the Illinois River and then enjoyed the night at cool new campground. Rod and Susan Foster invited us to Elephant Rock Nature Park, you can check out the pictures in my Elephant Rock Nature Park Flickr Set. I have passed their sign many times, but I never took the time to drive up the hill and see the place. We have been missing out on a great Illinois River resource for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Elephant Rock is one of the most widely recognized landmarks on the Illinois River. I think I got a pretty good picture of it. It looks like an elephant to me. What do you think?

Anyone who has read our blog for long, knows that Dianne and I love paddling the Illinois River. Spending the night in some of the Illinois River campgrounds has been a goal of ours for sometime now. Usually, we grab a cabin somewhere quietly hidden away from the summer Illinois River party scene. Elephant Rock Nature Park offered us something more exotic...a Yurt deep in the woods!

What's A Yurt

The Mongolian yurt is a round, usually portable, self-supporting structure designed for camping in comfort. Rather than relying on ropes or stakes to hold itself up, the walls, rafters, roof ring, and tensioning bands all work against each other to keep the structure standing. It is handy structure for camping because all of the interior space is useful living space with no space wasted on tent poles or low sides. The basic yurt collapses down into pieces no longer than 8 feet, so you can chuck it into the back of a truck.

The yurts at Elephant Rock have been highly customized to offer all of the comforts of home: refrigerator, stove, A/C, heat, toilet, shower, everything even the kitchen sink... literally. After our invigorating 14 mile paddle down the Illinois River (concluded with a dramatic backwards, toes-in-the-air, fall on my part while attempting to exit the kayak), we were grateful for a comfy night's sleep. Their yurt did not disappoint.

The Nature Park

The owners of Elephant Rock Nature Park do some volunteer wild animal rehab. We met two deer that they had taken in when they were too tiny to take care of themselves. Now the two deer, June and July, roam the yard at their house playing with guests and the family cat. I scratched a wild baby deer between the ears, it was quite an experience!

The park is a 120-acre hardwood and pine forest, right on the river, criss-crossed with well-marked nature trails and tent camping sites. This is over-night river lodging (no RV's) for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts that seems a million miles away from the pavement and parties, but in fact is a short drive to from the Tahlequah Wal-Mart. Best of all, Elephant Rock camp stays open all-year-long so you can enjoy the truly great outdoor seasons in Oklahoma: Spring and Fall.

The Illinois River

The water level was up just enough to make the journey from No Head Hollow to the Highway Bridge with only one portage. The one portage was a few steps on the gravel bar due to a downed tree in an area where the current wasn't very swift. With the water level this high, I'll bet you could make the whole trip from Chewey Bridge to the Highway Bridge in two days easily with little portaging. Better get on this water soon, before it is gone again!

Stop by sometime and meet Rod and Susan Foster at Elephant Rock Nature Park, whether you are looking for tent camping , yurts, canoes, kayaks or shuttling...they offer a uniquely, earth-friendly, family-friendly alternative to the familiar Illinois River camping scene.

Next time I get a free moment, I'll tell you about the side trip we made on the way the Port of Muskogee.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Camping at Gentry Creek on Eufaula

Gentry Creek Sunset
Gentry Creek Sunset,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
My boss is out of town this week, so pardon my lack of posting while I try to fill his shoes. This weekend Dianne and I returned to Eufaula Lake for some RV camping at Gentry Creek campground. We were lucky enough to catch some nice weather and enjoy tour choice of campsites. Gentry Creek closes up for the season at the end of October. These days it is practically empty.

The RV sites at Gentry Creek campground are mostly asphalt and rather narrow but shady and clean. Expect to have some leveling issues on a large RV. Hookups are water and electric only and most sites have a BBQ grill, fire ring and picnic table.

One feature Dianne and I look for in a camping spot is not listed in most guide books. We call it 'distance to Wal-Mart'. Gentry Creek campground boasts a very respectable 12-mile rating on the Distance to Wal-Mart Scale. This came in handy when we realized that the campsite we picked was too far from the water hydrant for our hose to reach. If you go to Gentry Creek during the summer, you may want to bring a hose splitter as well, since some hydrants are shared over mutliple sites.

The lake water was extremely wavy on this section of Eufaula this weekend. We had a fun trying to time our strokes with the waves to make the paddling easier. Large waves on Eufaula Lake can surprise you, so wear a PFD. (I didn't but it was hot OK? ) At sundown we got some pretty cool photographs, as usual you can check a few of them out on Flickr tagged 'Gentry Creek'.

Many fishermen in my family enjoy this part of Eufuala due to the ease of catching shad for bait. I like it for the starry nights and the power line poles that seem to grace the background of all my pictures taken there. They make it easier to keep the horizon level.

A friendly reader was kind enough to email me this week describing a trip he and his wife made down the less traveled portion of the Lower Mountain Fork River. It is a trip Dianne and I never seem to find time to take when we are in the Broken Bow area. It is described as a flatwater float, but he said they managed to find a thrill or two...and much more wildlife! I have to get down there soon, but I think I maybe going to the Illinois River this weekend.

-- Keep Paddling

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Oklahoma Outdoors Enthusiasts on Tick Watch

Check Yourself and Your Kids for Ticks

More and more Oklahomans are suffering the symptoms of a new kind of tick bacteria that is spreading across the country.

The newly discovered bacterium is called the 'Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness' or 'STARI'. Because of the recent period of unusually hot weather, the ticks are not getting killed off during the winter. This means the ticks are around longer and are breeding faster.

Since so little is known about STARI disease, experts say, look for a tick bite that leaves a red, bulls-eye rash.

More Insect Repelling Clothes from Buzz-Off...

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Tulsa Wave Dedication October 3, 2006

Rapids on Arkansas River (2)
Rapids on Arkansas River (2),
originally uploaded by gdsanders.
Randy Clemens, of the Red Dirt Paddlers organization, just advised me that the Tulsa Wave Park will be given over to the city at 3 pm on Tuesday Oct 3. This is as big as it gets for Oklahoma are paddling news!

Expect a big public event with the Mayor and other officals making statements. If you can ditch work to attend, come on out and show your support for this visionary collaboration between PSO and the City of Tulsa. Cheer for the new hottest new whitewater attraction in the Ozarks!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Is That a Billabong in Your Shorts?

The increased availability of cool, comfortable, quick drying, synthetic fabrics has led to dramatic improvements in swimsuit technology. I recently switched from years of buying cheap, cotton Wal-Mart swimsuits with the net inside to modern boardshorts. Let me tell you my fanny could not be more pleased with the change. For me, this is the end of a condition I call 'Swimsuit Waffle-Butt'.

Simply put, sitting on your butt for several hours on perpetually wet bit of nylon net is likely to cut down on your paddling time.

Major brands of boardshorts that are currently popular include: Billabong, Quiksilver, Reef, ONeill, and Lost. Most swimsuit manufacturers and many designer brands now produce boardshorts, but you have to be careful. Cheaper boardshorts are often little more than extra long versions of regular swimsuits.

Originally popularized by surfers and wakeboard riders, boardshorts offer many compelling features beyond their extra length.

The Billabong Boardshorts from Swell that I recently purchased, hold their same shape and color when wet or dry. They drip dry ultra-fast and they feel great against the skin as they wick away moisture. The best part was saying goodbye to the nylon net. This is critical when you spend hours on your butt in the boat.

My pair even came with this cool little logo-bearing surfboard wax removal tool (and bottle opener) that you see above. I will probably never use it, however, the surf wax comb was attached to the inside pocket of the shorts via a small elastic lanyard. I have already started using it to hold my keys. That is a feature that is as handy here in Oklahoma paddling a river as it is Hanging Ten in California.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Paddle Eufaula Lake and North Canadian River

Dianne On Eufaula
Dianne On Eufaula,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
This week the family to a very short road trip to the Checotah KOA. We are trying to learn the fine American custom of RV traveling and hoping tomake most of our mistakes close to home. Our first two trips in the RV seemed to bring the rain in so i am glad we kept it local. If bringing rain is a feature of this RV, then were really got a bargain!

The Checotah, Oklahoma KOA is unique in that it offers kayak rentals for paddling Eufaula Lake. They have a nice sized stack of Dagger kayaks and they will shuttle you to and from their private put-in on Eufaula Lake.

Kayaks for Rent on Eufaula

Dagger Kayaks at Checotah KOA

This top notch campground also offers shady RV sites, a nature trail, barnyard zoo, pool and restaurant. We spent one day paddling on the enormous Lake Eufaula and the next day we slipped down the road paddled the sandy banked North Canadian River from a put-in at Dogwood Acres.

Although the North Canadian River is very low now, we still enjoyed some great scenery and wildlife. Sadly, the rainy conditions today left me with few decent photos to share.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Get a Job Working For the Wildlife Dept. Act Fast!

LMF Launch
LMF Launch,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Ah, to spend my days enjoying the sweet embrace of Mother Nature.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a standardized pre-employment examination Friday, Sept. 29, 2006 at the Tom Steed Development Center Auditorium at Rose State College. If you have considered working for the Wildlife Department as a fisheries or wildlife biologist, technician, game warden, or hatchery manager, I would highly encourage you to take the test.

More details on the Woods page at

Wine Festival in Oklahoma Sept. 16, 2006

Bad Weather Rising
Bad Weather Rising,
originally uploaded by SaintSeminole.
2006 Harvest Festival at Nuyaka Creek Winery

Come on out and join the Jones family for our 2006 Oklahoma Wine Festival. Twice a year we gather together we our friends and vineyard supporters to celebrate the bounty of the annual grape harvest. Come taste the wide variety Oklahoma wines Dad has released from the cellar this year.

EVENT: September Harvest Festival
DATE: September 16, 2006 Noon until 7:00 PM
ADMISSION: Buy one $5.00 souvenir wine glass and taste all of the great Oklahoma wines
INFORMATION: Call the Nuyaka Mall at 918-756-8485 or visit us on the web to see our winelist and print the map to Nuyaka Creek Winery.

In addition to enjoying the usual live music, fun food and wine tasting, take some time to have Dad show you the vineyard. He is always happy to answer questions from budding winemakers and grape growers, sometimes he even has some wine grape plants to sell!

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Our First Oklahoma RV

This year, Dianne and I decided that we could improve our camping and kayaking trips by purchasing an RV. We spent the last several months researching different types of RV's and asking questions. I asked all of the RVers I knew and Dianne did the same. We hoped to pick the right type of recreational vehicle for our family. As our adventures, mishaps and road education continue watch this blog for updates.

What We Were Looking For

We both agreed that we wanted a vehicle that was separate from the living quarters. Trucks come and go, but a trailer seemed likely to last much longer than the couple of years we usually keep an automobile. I wanted to aquire less than $30,000 in new debt. We each also had some key features we valued in recreational vehicles. For me it was Air Conditioning and for Dianne it was a bathroom.

Best RV Choices for Our Needs

1. Pop Up Travel Trailer - This was my first instinct as they are cheap and very easy to tow. Jayco is a market leader in pop-up travel trailers or tent trailers as they are sometimes called. I've seen used ones in good condition sell for just a few thousand dollars. Sadly, finding one with a decent bathroom requires moving to the top-of-the-line models in the $15,000 range. Costly, but just barely affordable if I could get a tow vehicle for around the same price.

2. Van - Dianne's Mom had bad experiences driving a van 'back in the day', so vans were ruled out pretty early on.

3. Truckbed Camper - We looked at one of these about a week before buying our travel trailer. The pop-up hybrid camper models are impressive, but we really wanted to save the back of the truck for our kayaks.

4. Bumper-Pull Travel Trailer - Most travel trailer these days are of the Fifth Wheel variety pulled by a gooseneck fitted truck. However, there are still many travel trailers you can pull with a trucks trailer hitch. This leaves the bed open for carrying other cargo.

5. Toy Hauler A.K.A. Sport Utility Trailer - This is what we finally decided to buy, a new type of bumper pulled travel trailer. Toy Haulers are like other travel trailers but they are made to haul motorcycles or other toys in a sort of attached garage. The entire back of the RV is a giant door that lowers to become a ramp. This allows you to keep your toys both locked up and dry.

The one we took home is a 24-foot long Winner's Circle SRV made in 2005. For the same price as a pop-up we had been looking at, we picked up a used toy hauler. It has a full bathroom, central heat & air, 3 beds, oven, stove, microwave and stereo...basically all of the comforts of home. The tax folks even say that I can deduct the loan interest from my annual taxes...sweet!

Once we picked it out, we had to get a suitable tow vehicle to pull it. We traded in Dianne's Mitsubishi Eclipse and got ourselves a 2002 Silverado 4x4 truck.

Our Trip Home Towing Massive Tonnage

Of course, neither my wife nor I have ever driven anything as large the Silverado pickup, much less the truck pulling a 24' travel trailer. We read several articles on trailering and worried for about a week. On the day we went to pick it up, I brought my camera in case we have crashed into anything on the way home. We figured that, as long as we took it slow, our only risk was scraping up against stuff...nothing life threatening.

In fact, we made the trip from Tulsa to Okmulgee without incident. The good folks at Dean's RV in Tulsa had fitted our new Chevy Truck with lots of new load distributing and braking control gizmos that made the drive much safer. Since it was Thursday when we brought it home, we planned a 'dry run' to nearby Dripping Springs Lake to test out the RV and show it to our parents.

Kayak Touring & Camping

Our First 'Dry Run' in the RV

Before the sun even set on Thursday, our son Dylan let it be known that an RV with no TV was a travesty in his not-so-humble opinion. Our first upgrade to the toy hauler was adding an $85 TV/DVD combo from Wal-Mart. Since it was too short notice to arrange a dog sitter, we brought Shally, our Black Russian Terrier, with us. The extra cargo area in a toy hauler leaves plenty of room for the dog to stretch out inside.

We had hoped that having an RV would make setting out for a weekend outing go much quicker. However, perhaps because it was our first trip, we were lately leaving the house as usual. Once we arrived, just about at dusk, we were able to get the RV backed into an excellent space and setup pretty quicky. Dripping Springs Lake has excellent new RV sites with electric and water hookups. Our site was easy to back into, wide, level and clean plus it was right by the water.

A Lovely Evening at the Lake

That evening we walked the dog under brilliantly clear and starry skies with lightening flashing on the distant horizon. It was breathtakingly beautiful and made me wish I had not forgotten and left my camera at home. That evening I slept like a baby in our cool and comfy travel trailer.

Sweet Morning Paddling Near Okmulgee

Saturday, I woke up early and had a great paddle on the lake. The beaver and cranes were out in abundance. A light breeze blew across the lake and the morning sun came up all golden and sparkling on the water. As the warm sun chased the morning mist off the water I paddled to a secluded cove and watched the birds fishing in the shallows. I enjoyed the privacy immensely...and not just because I had accidentally set off truck's security alarm shortly before paddling out. Oh well...everyone likes to get up early when camping anyways, right?

Hunger for food and home roasted coffee drove me back to camp after few hours. We love our Cafe' Driveway Blend Coffee and apparently it is good for us.

Also, I wanted to tidy up a bit before our parents started arriving for tours of the new camping accommodations. Cleaning up the RV was pretty fast and easy since we had been doing most of the cooking in the microwave.

The coffee was excellent, but not excellent enough to keep Dianne and me both from falling asleep until my Mom knocked on the door.

Open House Saturday Ends with a Crash!

Mom and Dad sat came in and sat down at the dinette that converts into a bed and I grabbed a seat on the couch that converts into a bed. We had just started talking about what a great RV it was when the couch collapsed on the side I was sitting on. I landed in a heap on the floor as two aluminum pop-rivets 'popped' right out onto the floor.

I looked all through the trailer and I could not find another part that was pop riveted in place. It would appear that someone had done a hasty repair job on the bunk before I purchased it. I'm hoping I can repair it myself.

Dianne's Mom also came to see the new trailer, but the crash and burn of the couch had taken much of the impressiveness out of our Grand Tour.

We decided that after an embarrassing mishap like that, we probably had the worst of the trip behind us. Then, the thunder started.

Our Dry Run turned out to be a bit wet a real windy. A few folks had tornados in their yards, so we couldn't complain about a shaky night in the RV... but our dog was less forgiving. She hasn't been in the RV since!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Free Chance to Win an Old Town Kayak


Interested in missing work, spending a fun day floating the river, and enjoying a free lunch, all while helping our Scenic Rivers?

The OSRC`s final cleanup of the summer is scheduled for Friday, September 8th. This cleanup will help get the river in great condition after a busy summer season. Participants will be given a free t-shirt and have the chance to win great prizes including two Old Town kayaks! There will also be a hearty lunch for participants after the day`s float. To pre-register for the cleanup, call or email Meredith at the OSRC: (918) 456-3251 /

The deadline for pre-registration is Tuesday, September 5th at 5:00 pm.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006, Meredith Lee, Education Outreach Coordinator.

Technorati Tags: Oklahoma Paddling Tahlequah Oklahoma Environment Illinois River

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gourmet Coffee Bean Roasting in Oklahoma

I'm sorry to say I have been neglecting all of my blogs lately to pursue the aquisition of a travel trailer for our family (more on that later). Also, Dianne and I have been having fun with a new hobby - roasting our own coffee beans!

Home Coffee Roasting Supplies Used in our 'Cafe Driveway Gourmet Blend'

1. Old Hot Air Popcorn Popper from the 80's. Didn't think they still made these? They do. If there was ever a piece of eightees technology that needed a complete makeover, it has to be the hot air popcorn popper. Instantly stale popcorn in only minutes! Luckily it makes a great little coffee roaster and the price is SO right.

2. Gourmet Green Coffee Beans - We used Guatemalan Beans and Costa Rican Beans because we love them and we were getting tired of driving all the way to Tulsa to get them!

Did you know that Tulsa, Oklahoma is the headquarters for Java Dave's Coffee? I know we must not be the only Oklahoma home coffee bean roasters.

3. A Wooden Spoon, a couple cereal bowls and something to store the roasted beans in after they cool.

4. Advanced Accessories Optional - Power strip, extension cord, Bean Can.
(more home coffee roasting pictures on our Flickr Photostream)

The Coffee Bean Home Roasting Process

The roasting process is simple but fun. Take the measuring cup that comes with the popcorn popper and grab a scoop (1/3 to 1/2 a cup) of green unroasted coffee beans and dump them in the top of the popper. Throw away the plastic cover that came with the popper, you won't need it and it will get in the way. We replaced our plastic cover with a cleaned out Ranch Style beans can opened at both ends. It creates a little chimney that keeps the beans from flying out of the top of the popper...mostly.

DO NOT ADD OIL. Coffee beans are loaded with oils of their own.

Don't go crazy looking for the On/Off button on an old 80's model popcorn popper - you just pull the plug when finished or invest in a power strip.

Keep stirring your beans often as they heat up, this whole roasting operation won't take but about 5 minutes and they can easily burn if not stirred frequently. I just shake the whole roaster occassionally to get the beans heating evenly.

Listen carefully as you roast your beans. As soon as you turn on the popper the beans will start floating around in the popper and rattling. Within in a minute or three you will here a different kind of 'cracking' sound and the beans will be rather light to medium brown. Coffee Roasters call this the 'First Crack'. You can stop the roasting process now and cool them beans for a light to medium roast.

If you keep stirring, heating and listening to them for a minute or two more you will hear a more pronounced 'crackling'... almost 'sizzleing' sound and the beans will be dark brown or blackish. This is the 'Second crack' or Dark Roast that is very popular among coffee buyers these days. After a good dark roast the beans will look wet as the oils have risen right up to the surface of the bean. I think it looks pretty cool.

Cool your beans as quickly as possible. Like bacon just out of the pan, the beans will continue to roast until they are cooled. If you don't cool your beans quickly enough you may over-roast them accidently. I cool our beans by pouring them from cereal bowl to cereal bowl slowly. This also helps allow the wind to blow away the chaff.

Oh Yeah the Chaff!

Don't roast the beans inside your house. The machine constantly blows out whispy bits of chaff the will make you home a mess if you roast inside. Also, expect to smell like coffee roasting afterwards.

Why Roast Your Own Coffee Beans?

Quality - Old hot air poppers are now pouring out of the garage sales to begin new lives as home coffee roasting machines. After reading about it in several sources, Dianne and I decided to give it a try. The short story: we love it! It simply produces the best tasting cup of coffee you can find anywhere!

Time Together - We find that our son sleeps much better at night if we don't stay up watching TV. In our small house, it is probably the noise that keeps him up. Recognizing this, we Dianne and I try to use the time for grown-up talk in the driveway. Now he sleeps more and we talk more.

Fun - My folks used to use quiet time like this to pick out pecans, shell elderberries or shuck corn, but we don't garden much. Roasting our own coffee beans in the driveway has become our nightly ritual.

Savings - Drinking the best coffee EVER costs us about $5 per pound, now that we buy the green beans 25lbs at a time. There is no telling how much gas we save. The coffee is still not as cheap as Folgers, but much cheaper than any boutique coffee bean retailer.

Blending Your Own Home Roasted Gourmet Coffee

We like to blend about 2/3 medium roast with 1/3 dark roasted beans for our 'Driveway Blend'. We rarely blend the different coffee bean varieties together, but one blend we like is 1/3 dark roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Beans and 2/3 light roasted Costa Rican Beans.

We store our coffee beans for two days in disposable Ziplock Containers and then we grind them up, let 'em rest overnight and rave over the results the next morning.

There are loads of places to buy your Green Coffee Beans for home roasting and the rest of the stuff needed is usually free. I hope you give home roasting a try, it is a great way to save a little money on gourmet coffee and have some fun learning about the coffees of the world. It is also a nice way to spend the evening with your family that will give you something to look forward to in the morning!

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Massive Wildfire in Arbuckle Mountains

Oklahoma Travelers Beware

Hundreds of people who were going to be in the Turner Falls area this weekend will have to go somewhere else, officials said.

A massive wildfire in southern Oklahoma produced clouds of thick smoke Thursday, forcing authorities to close 15-mile sections of Interstate 35 and a parallel highway, U.S. 77, near the Arbuckle Mountains.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Win an ATV or a Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License

Log on to to register for the Wildlife Expo - and a chance to win great prizes!

One lucky person will win a John Deere ATV and another will win a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license, by simply registering for the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.

When you register at you will be entered in an exclusive drawing for a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license and a John Deere ATV from P&K Equipment. Thanks to generous sponsors, more than 50 annual and lifetime hunting, fishing or combination licenses, as well as other great prizes, will be given away at the event.

Registration is quick and easy - so take just a few minutes to complete your information. After all, the odds of taking home an ATV are much better than winning the Power Ball, and it's free. - Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to host this huge event. The Expo is designed to promote and perpetuate the appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.

The free Expo is designed as an entertaining and educational event for both avid outdoor enthusiasts and those new to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Every visitor will be sure to find something that interests them, from live butterflies, to mountain bike riding, to dog training, to sampling wild game. Don't miss the kayak demos the Oklahoma Outdoor Network will be putting on!

The free Wildlife Expo will take place Aug. 25-27 on the expansive grounds of the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

For complete details on Expo giveaways, including rules and eligibility, log on to

Technorati Tags: Oklahoma OKC Outdoors Oklahoma Fishing Oklahoma Hunting

Red Dirt Paddlers Heading to Broken Bow

Mountain Fork Trip Planned By Red Dirt Paddlers This Friday

Friday August 11, 2006
5:00 pm - 12:00 am

Join the OKC chapter of the Arkansas Canoe Club on a paddle down the Lower Mountain Fork River in SE Oklahoma. The water is great for both beginners and pros alike and is nice and cold in the summer. Please get in touch with Randy if you want more information.

Randy Clemens

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Scenic Ozark Rivers Becoming Unfit for Swimming

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has been very busy in the last few years. I just read a very interesting article in the Joplin Globe reguarding water stewardship in the Ozarks. Warning: It isn't very happy news.

Is it safe to swim?

By Andy Ostmeyer

While neither Missouri nor McDonald County officials test one of the most popular recreational streams in the state, neighbors to the west watch it carefully.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has found that Elk River, where the agency tests it for bacteria, has levels so high that people who get in the water are increasing their odds of getting sick. That state’s recommendation is that what it calls 'primary body contact-recreation' — swimming, for example — 'is not supported' in Elk River.

The Elk River analyses are part of Oklahoma’s efforts to find out what is flowing into the Grand Lake watershed.

A survey of other Oklahoma records found:

At every monitoring site along the rivers and streams that feed what Oklahoma officials call the Neosho Grand Lake sub-basin — and there are 15 of them — recreation such as swimming is “not supported” because of bacterial contamination.

That includes not only Elk River near Tiff City, but also Spring River at Quapaw, Okla.; the Neosho River at Commerce, Okla.; and Honey Creek near Grove, Okla., on the north and east sides of the lake. The mean for enterococci bacteria in Honey Creek is 362.7 colonies per 100 milliliters of water, 10 times the federal standard of 33 colonies per 100 milliliters for enterococci. The mean of 19 samples taken in Elk River over the past six years is 50.6 colonies of enterococci. Continued - Full article here.

If you have paddled any of these rivers in the past and then paddled them again recently, you can see the damage for yourself. The impact on the rivers is invisible... if you have no history to compare it to. For folks like me that grew up paddling around in these rivers it is so obvious that it is heartbreaking. I gotta take my kid paddling more often!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

White River Water Carnival Aug. 4-5

Arkansas's oldest annual water event will take place in Batesville Aug. 4-5 at Riverside Park. The 63rd Annual White River Water Carnival will includes numerous features such as arts and crafts, foods, entertainment, sporting events, a car show, bike show, and a Grand Parade.

For more information, phone (870) 793-2378 or e-mail

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Two Days in a Hochatown Cabin

Dianne in the Rock Garden
Dianne in the Rock Garden,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

This week I took off a couple days to enjoy one more road trip with Dylan and Dianne before the start of the school year. With the current low water conditions, we decided to head back to the Mountain Fork River. For the first time, my mother-in-law was joining us on the trip, so we decided to spend a little more money and rent a cabin in Hochatown.

Normally, when we paddle the Mt Fork River, we just grab a motel room but on this trip we also wanted to visit Beavers Bend Resort. Last Resort Cabins managed to find an available cabin for us right off of the road to Beavers Bend that had enough beds for Dylan, my mother-in-law and ourselves.

Our Cabin - Lucky Star Cabin

We stayed in the Lucky Star Cabin, just inside the Southern Hillls addition off Hwy 259A. It is a lovely cabin newly built and opened this July. The western-styled log cabin has a jacuzzi, large comfortable beds plus a fully equipped and supplied kitchen. A heat pump keeps the cabin comfy and if you can't find enough fun outside there is a big screen satelight televison with more channels than we could ever watch! We rented it at the last minute from Last Resort Cabins in Broken Bow. They were very easy to work with and we would definately consider renting from them again!

Paddling The Lower Mountain Fork River

As always, we had a great time paddling the lower Mt Fork River. Since it was mid-week, we saw almost no on else on the river despite getting a late start. Why did we get a late start? I have decided that cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it is the enemy of morning paddling. It seems that anytime we stay someplace with cable tv and showers, we don't make it onto the water until well after 9am.

If we camp out on the riverbank, we can put our boats on the water closer to 7am in the morning. Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT a morning person. However, the early morning light on the water is absolutely magical from about 7am to 9am, especially on a scenic river like this one. Although I have had little in the way of photography training, I have become absolutely obsessed with taking pictures of the Oklahoma I love and sharing them with the world.

We enjoyed excellent weather and water conditions on the river. Our new kayak spray skirts worked well again in keeping either of us from sinking our boats. After dropping our boats off at the put-in, I headed up to WW Canoe & Kayak for a shuttle ride. Here's how it works if you have your own boats. You drop off your kayaks at the put-in, then drive back to the outfitter. From there you follow the shuttle driver to the take-out of Hwy 70 and drop off your vehicle under the bridge. Then you load up in the shuttle driver's vehicle and he takes you back to the put-in. After paddling the river at your own pace, you find your vehicle waiting for you at the take-out. This service usually costs you anywhere from $5 to $15.

The Shuttle Driver

One of the perks of this method is that while riding back to the put-in, you get to visit with the shuttle driver. In my experience, shuttle drivers are all very interesting people to talk to. This one was certainly no exception. After talking for awhile abut how photography had become my latest favorite type of 'hunting'. He whipped out a photo he had taken of the deer he killed this season. I wish I had a copy to show you as it had a very interesting (if slightly gruesome) story with it.

The Deadly Aggression of Bucks

Bucks establish dominance among their peers by way of intense head-butting contests that grow more frequent as the mating season progresses. Sadly, in is not that unusual for the two dueling bucks to lock their horns together during these contests. Many times hunters will walk up on two bucks that have died of thirst, trapped on the ground due to being 'hooked up' like this.

My shuttle driver had the rare experience of seeing one of these unlucky bucks that was luckier than most. It was dragging the head of the buck it got hooked up with through the woods when he shot it! His picture showed a 10-point buck with the head of a nine-point buck hooked to it's antlers. That is one way to get yourself a 19-point buck.

Oklahoma offers hunters some of the best deer hunting action in the nation. For more info on hutning options in the woods of Oklahoma, stop by Currently, you can read about the special Elk Hunt lottery Oklahoma conducts each year.

Beavers Bend Resort Park

The last day we were in Hochatown we decided to visit Beavers Bend Resort Park. It is a small family park offering bumper boat rides, canoes, kayaks, snow cones, paddle boats and swimming in a small portion of the river just below the lake dam, but above the dam we put-in for paddling the lower Mt. Fork River. Since the water is faily still here and not as technical as below the re-regulation dam, we put Dylan and my mother-in-law in our boats for some flatwater kayaking. It was the first time my mother-in-law Juliene had ever been in a kayak. Thankfully, our Heritage Featherlite Angler Kayak is as 'safe as houses', so she could confidently paddle without the sort of scary tippiness of other kayaks.

Dylan only paddled briefly. If there is a chance to swim, he would much rather swim than paddle. While watching Dylan enjoy the swimming hole, Dianne, her Mom and myself all had fun taking pictures of kids leaping wildly into the water. If you swim there with kids, try to park yourself well away from the snow cone stand and trash cans. We were a little too close to a trash can whose sugary snow cone leftovers attracted quite a few bees. One of them stung Dylan on the hand, instantly making itself his main memory of this trip.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Oklahoma Kayaking at Dripping Springs Lake

Beer Yoga at Dripping Springs Lake
Beer Yoga at Dripping Springs Lake,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Dianne and I are still planning and preparing at top speed for our Broken Bow trip this week. However, the weather change this weekend was too wonderful to pass up without a little bit of paddling.

To take the edge off of the week, we went paddling at Okmulgee's Dripping Springs Lake this Saturday. Since it is just a few miles down the road from our home, we planned a sunset paddling session. The evening worked out great and we really enjoyed it.

Dripping Springs is Okmulgee's 'New Lake'. As you can see from the picture, the lake is full of old partially submerged rotting trees. The pictures also shows the somewhat choppy waters we had on Saturday evening. Paddling through this leafless forest is pretty fun, but the best scenery is near the shoreline until sunset when everything turns golden and beautiful.

We saw a beaver and several cranes, but not much other wildlife. Our arrival was at about 4pm and spent an hour or so just checking out the camping area. It looks like and excellent spot to camp offering clean functional shower rooms and bathrooms. Visit the full sized image on my Flickr page to learn about Dianne's Beer Yoga demonstation in the picture.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Broken Bow Lake Trip Planned

Dianne Tours the Rock Garden
Dianne Tours the Rock Garden,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
No paddling trip to report on from this weekend as I was stuck inside dealing with a technical problem for my day job. Normally, I don't have to work on the weekend but when things are is my schedule.

I am hoping to resolve these issues this week as my wife has an extended family vacation planned. The vacation will only be for two day, but the extended family will be there. My Mom and Dad, plus Dylan and Dianne have comitted to making the trip so far and I think my Mother-in-law may attend as well.

Since this is the last chance to get away before the school year begins, Dianne reserved a cabin for us near Broken Bow Lake. It is just ten minutes or so away from our favorite Oklahoma paddling river, The Lower Mountain Fork. We hope to paddle the river and lake both. It should be a great trip!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bald Eagles Grace the Oklahoma Skies

Oklahoma Eagle Population Growth
Eagles Returning To Oklahoma

This graph indicates what an outstanding success the Sutton Center's Bald Eagle reintroduction program has been in Oklahoma. The recovery goal for Oklahoma was 10 eagle nests, a number that has actually been quintupled in just over a decade! -- The Sutton Center for Bald Eagle Restoration

The Sutton Avian Research Center is dedicated to finding cooperative conservation solutions for birds and the natural world through science and education. The Center carries out many projects for research, conservation and education about birds. Here's one way that you can help:

Wild Brew 2006 set for August 12
This annual beer and food tasting event in Tulsa will benefit the Sutton Center again this year. Last year over 1000 people attended.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dylan and Dad Canoe The Kings River

Dylan and Dad Canoe Kings River
Dylan and Dad Canoe Kings River,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Occasionally, we park the kayaks and go canoeing. The Kings River near Eureka Springs, Arkansas is an excellent Oklahoma road trip for those who love to canoe. Clear water and lovely scenery abound on this well outfitted and easy to paddle river.

Mostly, I have to enjoy this activity with my son Dylan, as Dianne prefers to paddle solo. She rented a kayak for this trip. Considering the fact that I flipped the canoe over about three seconds from the launch on our first canoe trip, it is little wonder that she is reluctant to share my boat. Don't even ASK about our experience in a tandem kayak.

I've traveled about a bit in my time
And of troubles I've seen a few
But found it better in every clime
To paddle my own canoe.

My wants are few. I care not at all
If my debts are paid when due.
I drive away strife in the ocean of life
While I paddle my own canoe.

I love our kayaks, but I think I might like to own a canoe as well. For me, kayaks and canoes are kind of like trucks and cars. A kayak is quick, nimble and very responsive, however they are less than ideal for carrying either cargo or passengers. My favorite thing about a kayak is the ease of paddling upstream. The ability to paddle upstream, if the water isn't too shallow means we can paddle without arranging shuttles.

Although kayaking tends to draw a younger demographic, it is still a lifelong sport that anyone can get into. It's a sport anyone can enjoy, because it's not about strength, it's about technique.

A canoe is primarily driven by the paddler sitting in the back of the boat. The paddler sitting in the bow (front) of the boat is then free to take pictures, make sandwiches, fish or whatever. Also, canoes tend to be longer than kayaks and they ride a little higher in the water. Finally, I think that canoes are a bit easier to get into and out of without an 'incident'.

"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing". - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Best Father's Day Ever

Lightening the Canoe
Lightening the Canoe,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
This Father's Day we took two trips down the lower Mt Fork River. We had a great time and met some great people.

One trip was on Saturday, we launched at around 9am and still managed to see dozens of other paddlers playing on the river. The second trip was on Sunday morning, as usual we saw fewer paddlers on Sunday. The Lower Mountain Fork River is lovely first thing in the morning. Since the source of the current is the hydroelectic generating dam on Broken Bow Lake, the water flows consistently cold and clear all year long.

Normally, we prefer the Sunday paddling since the relative seclusion aids in spotting wildlife and stuff. However, the Mt. Fork River is different. On this river, watching the other people paddle through the obstacles is at least half the fun! Paddling the Illinois is a fun outdoor activity, but paddling the LMF River is a watersport. That means 'dress to get wet'! Last summer, I provided lots of entertainment for the paddlers, as I sunk my boat time and time again.

Whether you choose a canoe or a kayak to paddle, you will encounter 3 main obstacles on this river. I don't know their official names but we call them: The Rock Garden, The Skinny Bit and The Falls. The fact that there are three main obstacles is a cool coincidence because I have three main ways of sinking my boat. Caution: these are not actual paddling terms, do NOT use them around experienced, knowledgeable paddlers...or you risk sounding as foolish as me.

Tumping the Kayak - This is a slow motion boat sinking that I tend to execute in shallow swift water. It begins when I misread the currents and get my kayak turned sideways and then bump into a big ol' obvious rock in the middle of the river. As the current pushes against one side of my boat, it lowers that side nearer to the surface of the water. Then as I look on in horror, the boat fills with water and dumps me unceremoniously into the river for a refreshing swim.

Tipping the Kayak - This method of wrecking is most often initiated by bumping into a rock or log, usually just under the surface of the water. I say 'initiated' because the cause of the wreck is my over-reaction (read: panic) and wobbling around in the boat resulting in an upside-down kayak and another refreshing swim.

Flipping the Kayak - Speed seems to be the key factor for flipping my kayak. Usually, it occurs either during or after crossing the falls. As the boat goes zipping down the falls, I raise my paddle high into the air. Alright, I made it! Then my boat zips over a slightly submerged rock at the bottom of the falls. The bottom of my boat hits the rock on either the left side or the right side and before I can even shout out a curse guessed it...another refreshing swim!

This Father's Day trip was much more successful and thankfully much less 'refreshing' than last summer's LMF paddling trips. Using my own kayak instead of an outfitters much tippier Old Town Otter kayak made me much less nervous and kept me from tipping the boat over when something startles me. My new NRS recreational kayak spray skirt kept the kayak from filling with water everytime I got a little bit sideways and I was lucky enough not to flip the kayak on this trip.

Dianne also managed to make this trip down the river without sinking her kayak. The spray skirt we bought from eBay for her Heritage Angler definately saved her from taking a refreshing swim. She was paddling through The Skinny Bit and she tipped over so far that her shoulder hit the water. Thankfully, the spray skirt kept most of the water out of her boat and a quick snap of the hips set the boat upright again.

The only thing sweeter than paddling this paddling it twice.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Will OSRC Make the Illinois River Go Dry?

According to KOTV, there is a move to prohibit alcohol on all on state-controlled areas of the Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma.

The river is well known throughout Oklahoma as popular summertime spot for tens of thousands of people who swim, fish and float on rafts and canoes. Many of these Saturday paddlers consider their beers to be the most precious cargo in their boats!

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will consider whether to create the alcohol ban on the areas of the river they control because of 'a series of problems' that occured during the Memorial Day weekend.

The measure would not affect canoe operators' right to sell alcohol or allow consumption on their property.

Banning Alcohol On The Illinois River - KOTV - 6/21/2006 12:13 PM

This should get the college kids involved in the local political process, eh?

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Best Paddling Fun in Oklahoma - LMF River

Oh, that Water is Cold!
Oh, that Water is Cold!,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Although the float trip is less than five miles in length, Broken Bow's Lower Mountain Fork River offers the best paddling trip in the state. Learn how to paddle on the Illinois River...learn why on the Mountain Fork River. Here are the Top Ten things that have led me to conclude that the LMF River is the best paddling river in Oklahoma.

1. It is well supplied with outfitters, shuttle providers, cabins and camping sites.

2. The Lower Mountain Fork River is very near both Texas and Arkansas making its scenery unique an unlike other areas in Oklahoma.

3. The Lower Mountain Fork River's water level is consistently right for good paddling - throughout the summer when everything else is bone dry.

4. The waterfalls are just big enough to be fun paddling, but small enough to let the wife and kids give it a try.

5. No portages.

6. Fly fishing for trout is good.

7. The water is clear enough to see the fish swimming below you.

8. Local hotels are cheap and many have free broadband available. My day job is 90% remote access and my wife's gig is even more internet-dependent, so this is important to both of us.

9. Broken Bow, though small, does have both a Wal-Mart and a McDonald's just a few minutes drive from the river. So we pack light.

10. The Lower Mountain Fork River gets its cold water and good current from a hydroelectric generating dam. Since hotter days increase the electricity needs in the area, paddlers and residents both end up with the 'current' they need.

Paddling the Lower Mountain Fork River is a gas! The water stays very cold all year around. If you don’t relish the idea of having your family see your “Oh-Face” then I advise you to pick up a spray skirt for your kayak. I used one this weekend for the first time and I can tell you that it prevented me from taking a swim on several occasions!

Spray Skirts for Kayaks
Kayak Spray Skirts

Friday, June 16, 2006

Weekend Escape to Broken Bow

There is rain in the forecast for this weekend and work is finally giving me a little slack time. That means we are bound for Broken Bow, Oklahoma and our favorite paddling spot - the Lower Mountain Fork River.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Oklahoma Riverfest 2006 June 17th - 18th

Celebrate Father's Day weekend June 17-18 at Oklahoma Riverfest in Oklahoma City. The two-day event features a barbecue cook-off, brew pub competition, Oklahoma wineries competition and made-in-Oklahoma foods, plus the Rose Rock Regatta and Dragon Boat Challenge, all set to the beat of a 'smooth jazz' festival.

This year, the Oklahoma Riverfest pays tribute to one of Oklahoma’s newest and exciting industries, Oklahoma wineries. For more info on the wine tasting portion of this event, stop by our other local blog: Oklahoma Wine News.

The Oklahoma Riverfest 2006 June 17th - 18th

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Oklahoma River - Fun for All

OKC's Own - Oklahoma River

A 7-mile stretch of the North Canadian River has been transformed into a series of river lakes bordered by landscaped areas, trails and recreational facilities and known as The Oklahoma River.

The Oklahoma River is ideal for man-powered boats such as rowing sculls, kayaks and canoes. Motorized boats are welcome, but are strictly prohibited from operating at speeds that will create a wake. All boats must have both a City permit and State registration.

The Oklahoma River Trails also contains 13 miles of multiuse, asphalt trails, which are located on the north and south banks of the river. The trails are level with little change in grade. The river's trail system is free of motorized vehicle crossings. Walkers, runners, rollerbladers, skateboarder and cyclists are welcome to use the trails.

On the OKC City government website you can find a summary of rules governing the trails and even download a detailed map of the Oklahoma River Trails (PDF).