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 word...you 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 river...is 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. http://www.oklahomaroadtrips.com/Broken-Bow-mt-fork.htm

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).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Kings River Life-is-Good Landmark

Things got pretty busy on my day job these last few weeks. My Boss took a well-deserved vacation that has left me struggling to fill his shoes and Dianne has been upgrading our home network. This has left both of us tragically landlocked for the last couple weeks. I am hoping we can get out on some water again on Father's Day weekend, but until then we will have to get by on pictures and memories.

The photo with this posting is a recent one from our great trip down the Kings River near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Anyone familiar with the popular line of Life is Good - Paddling T-Shirts should be able to recognize Jake, the smiling face that adorns the rocks just up river from Riverside Resort and Canoes on Hwy 62.

I just had to snap a picture of it because it totally caught us by surprise. Paddling up to meet Jake was like unexpectedly meeting up with an old friend on the water. Dianne and I buy paddling t-shirts as souvenirs from just about every place we can. Many of them aren't real original, but I love them all because wearing them takes me back to the river.

We had a river map with us that listed the 'Life is Good' landmark, but that was mostly for use in the event of an emergency. We ignored the map completely until we were back in Oklahoma. Next time I'm in the area I think I may ask around about that painting. I am curious as to whether it is advertisement or graffiti. Did the outfitter down the river commission it? How long has it been there?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kayak and Canoe Shuttling Vehicles

God Bless the Shuttles
God Bless the Shuttles,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.
When traveling to the river every vehicle we pass is evaluated as a potential shuttle vehicle. Keep an eye on my Flickr photostream and you will see growing evidence of my fondness for every flavor of shuttle vehicle. After a lifetime of choosing cars based on their safety, fuel mileage and dependability our values have changed. Now we shop for roof racks, bed length, window tint and towing power. Ah, the sweet symptoms of success...my family is truly blessed.

Once you have purchased yourself a kayak or two, you start to spend a lot of time pondering what I call Shuttle Math and Logistics. Here's an example:

We have two 9.5 foot kayaks to carry over 200 miles to the put-in, next we paddle 8 miles to the take-out and we need to go 5 miles by road to get back to the put in. The 2 local outfitters say they don't shuttle private boats due to insurance reasons so we need to drop off a moped at the take-out on our way to the put-in. Once we reach the take-out, I will ride the moped back to the put-in and get our shuttle vehicle then drive to the take-out and pick you and the boats up. That should work...wait. Where can we store the modped in route? our trailer barely holds the two boats.

Ok, lets begin again. We have two 9.5 foot boats to carry over 200 miles...

As you can see from the bad analogy above, Shuttle Math and Logistics can quickly turn into something like one of those cruel word problems where you have to move a fox, a pig and a bag of corn across the river in a single canoe.

I think that the desperate desire to simplify our Shuttle Math problems is what leads to our constant shuttle vehicle shopping. We are just sure that there is one perfect vehicle out there that can simplify of Shuttle Math and Logistics questions, but I am beginning to suspect that it is hopeless. Every new option just complicates the issues more. Long-bed truck or Suburban, buy a used third vehicle or trade-in one we currently own, If we are considering a third vehicle, why not just get an RV, blah-blah-blah...the debate may never end.

If your paddling family has successfully dealt with this crisis, I would love to hear your advice on the matter.