Tag Archives: kayaking

CKS Paddlefest and the Arkansas River basin

 

CKS Paddlefest was our first stop in Colorado and is an AMAZING family friendly festival in Buena Vista, Colorado, just west of Denver. It runs over Memorial Day Weekend and has kayaking, SUPing, mountain biking, running and climbing activities along with live music and great food. It is based out of an area called “South Main” which is a new community that is being developed right beside the Arkansas River.

At the moment there is a HUGE dirt parking lot at the south end of South Main and it filled up with well over 50 RV’s, campers, trucks and tents (photo above is from 4 days prior to the festival). It grew over the course of the week that we were there, and there were very few open spaces come festival weekend. The best part was the friendly sense of community – both kids and dogs ran free and there were no complaints or grumblings by anyone.

 

The Buena Vista Whitewater park runs over the length of 1km and has a number of different holes and waves, with something for everyone. There is a big hole at the top where the US Team trials were held, a nice SUP surf wave that most of the SUP events were based out of, the “competition hole” where the main rodeo was held and then a nice bouncy surf wave that was great fun to play on.

Hunter signed up to compete in freestyle in both K1 and C1 in the cadet class. Unfortunately there were no other cadet C1 paddlers and only 1 junior C1 paddlers so they created a C1 open category, which meant Hunter plus a junior plus 4 very senior men… like world champion senior!

I was really proud of him choosing the compete in the open category and he was inspired by what he saw these paddlers do. Needless to say, he finished 6th but it was a great learning experience.

Hunter made the finals and came 5th overall in the Cadet class for K1 and gained a lot of competition experience. He now has a great sense of what tricks he needs to learn and lots of good tips and tricks for learning them.

Because US Freestyle team trials were a few days after CKS Paddlefest, there were a lot of paddlers in town for the week prior to the festival and the week after. This meant that there was always someone to go and play at the hole with or take a run down the local river runs of the Arkansas River. It was fabulous for the parents that the kids could just grab a buddy and walk down the path to paddle.

We were also able to take advantage of the senior paddlers to learn from. Tad Dennis was very generous and gave Hunter tips and tricks for C1 rolling and Nick Troutman helped us with feedback on Hunter’s loop. The kayak community is so friendly and helpful!

We took advantage of being based in Buena Vista to also explore the southern sections of the Arkansas River like the Milk Run and Brown’s Canyon as well as the Salida Whitewater Park.

Salida is another great mountain town with a busy, active vibe. They have a great town presence right along the river and are the host of the FiBARK festival in mid June.

Our first two weeks in Colorado have been a whirlwind with something happening almost every day. We’ve also experienced every possible weather scenario and worn clothing to represent every season. We’ve barely scratched the surface for local adventures along the Arkansas water shed and look forward to coming back again next year to play some more!

Canadian Junior & Senior National Slalom Team Trials

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

National slalom team trials for juniors, U23 and seniors were held in early May on the Kananaskis course in Alberta. Hunter is a cadet (under 15) so not eligible to make the junior team but we participated as a development experience.

photo by Ric Matkowski

There was a week of training ahead of the race weekend and we were grateful for the fabulous coaching from Brendan Curson of the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence in B.C.. Hunter was able to feel like he was part of a team and Brendan did a great job keeping it fun while focusing on skill progression.

photos by Ric Matkowski

Competition weekend was 2 full days of racing for Hunter. They set one course each day and you had two runs down it. For him that meant 4 runs per day as he competed in both K1 (single kayak) and C1 (single canoe). The course was a very technical course, with lots of offsets and it was geared towards the senior members.

photo by Ric Matkowski

Tim acted as a safety boater both days – not much action when you are talking about kids at the national level… At least he managed to find a sunbeam both days as it was COLD in the river valley the whole weekend.

The most exciting part of the weekend was Hunter’s progression. He went from missing gates and struggling during the first morning of races to having an almost clean run and finishing ahead of a few juniors for his last K1 run. In his words… “it just clicked”!

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

The entire week was well worth the stop for us. He came away excited about training for slalom this summer and has seen what could be possible at nationals in August. Hanging out with amazing paddlers like Olympian David Ford can have that kind of inspiring effect!

This adventure brought to you by Desperate for Whitewater in the Yukon…

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Our return to the Yukon has been a fairly abrupt transition. Hunter was out the door within an hour of arriving home to see friends leaving Tim and I a few days to unpack everything and spend a lot of time staring at each other and the “stuff” we were surrounded by. It wasn’t helped by the fact that we were coming off of five weeks of fabulous kayaking and the water wasn’t really running in the Yukon yet!

We spent the month of May practicing in the eddy’s and on the eddy lines of the very cold Yukon river. By early June we were all desperate enough that we organized a one day family trip to get out on some whitewater.

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The O’Donnell River is located just outside of Atlin, B.C., which is a 2.5 hour drive south from Whitehorse. It has a class 3 upper section and a class 2 lower section and is located near the end of a set of unmaintained placer mine roads and fairly remote which makes shuttling more interesting. Overall this adventure took 13 hours (door to door) and broke down as 5 hours of road driving, 3 hours on the water (2 laps of the upper section) and 5 hours of ATV shuttling.

 

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While the road is unmaintained and doable with a 4×4 truck we opted to use 2 ATV’s for the shuttle as this limits the risk of getting the truck stuck and having a very long walk to Atlin to get help…

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Tim jury rigged a very creative rack for one of the ATV’s (because he’s so great at that) and then Hunter and I drove the second ATV.

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As much as Hunter enjoyed the creeking style of the river, I think he enjoyed getting to be the ATV shuttle driver even more…

The put in is right beside an old Placer Mine, which makes for some pretty neat scenery.

DSCN3994 The first few kilometres of the upper section are class II with small riffles you can try to surf. It’s fairly windy and the water is glacier/mountain snow fed so is definitely northern cold.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.48.30 PMAs always, we had fun playing bumper boats on any little surf waves we could find…

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.00.55 AMOnce you hit the canyon section there are a lot of blind corners so we practiced eddy hopping to work our way around and through the features. Tim did a great job as trip leader explaining the nuances of the upcoming sections.

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Overall it’s a beautiful wilderness area and it was a great day out on the water, even with it as long as it was. We managed to catch treats at one of the places in Atlin even though it had closed (the town shuts down at 7pm even on weekends so plan accordingly) and that fuelled us through the drive home.

IMG_4380It’s been a long time since we had a kid falling asleep in the back of the truck after a day out so it must of been quite a day!

 

Summer in the Slocan Valley

IMG_3651The Slocan Valley is a fabulous place to spend some (or all) of the summer. We found ourselves in this area last summer at the end of June and then again at the end of July – close to three weeks in total. With day time high temps above 40c some days it was absolutely crucial to find ways to get out on the water!

IMG_1836All of our adventures were based out of Endless Adventure’s home base in Crescent Valley where I had spent a week kayaking in 2014. The camping is rustic but the location can’t be beat – just across the road from the lower Slocan River, and comes with internet and a wash house.

With all the wacky river levels last year, we found the river quite low when we came through for our late July visit (definitely not the norm so don’t let that scare you off…). Instead of kayaking (which it is also great for – see our post from the kayak festival a the end of June) we opted to spend time out playing on our SUP.  I think we ran the Upper Slocan three different times and it was fun every time – lots of easy current plus a few deep swimming holes to really cool off.

IMG_1829For our last trip down the boys decided to snorkel the river – that was definitely a work out but it was great to see Hunter so excited about something. It was a really fun afternoon – nothing beats being out or in the water!

The other fun place to go SUPing is on the Columbia River near Robson Landing, just outside Castlegar. Endless Adventures runs SUP clinics here on a weekly basis and it has a great mix, from beginner to expert. You can play in the big eddy, paddle upstream in a slight current or be bold and ferry across the river to the other side and then work on ferrying back across while also going upstream.

The reward for all that hard work was exclusive access to loads of riverside blackberry bushes, fresh for the picking at the end of July!

 

Frolicking with friends in Texas

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We are lucky that we have great friends in Texas as Texas is HUGE and takes a good day and a half to drive across, so it’s nice to have some places to stop and play.  Going both east and west we made stops in San Marcos to kayak and Houston to play and regroup.

Our Houston stop is at Kelly & Phil’s house and it’s a fabulous pit stop. Everyone gets to decompress a bit and stretch their legs in a low key way. Hunter has non stop fun with Phil, making wacky things on the 3-D printer, playing with remote control toys, doing bizarre science experiments and making original music productions on garage band. We always manage to get in a leisurely walk and bike ride to explore. Funny that we’ve now been there three times but yet never really hit the highlights of Houston – it just feels like too much effort and would take us away from the joy of connecting with friends in a low key way.

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Our stop in San Marcos is all about kayaking with our friend Ben, who got a new addition this year! San Marcos is spring fed so the water is in the 70’s year round. It’s a small play section on the river with three waves or drops and makes for a fun afternoon.

We got really lucky on both our visits this year  (November & January) with sunny afternoons, which made for a great pit stop to get back on the water (or in the water) and just play.

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Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

Today = why I love road schooling

IMG_2806Today was a picture perfect example of why I am loving road schooling and the direction our life has headed. Although we are not on the road full time this year, I’ve decided that our approach to learning best fits in the middle zone between “homeschooling” (replicating the school structure but at home) and “unschooling” (limited structure, go with the interests of the child). We are mixing structure for our core numeracy and literacy work and less structure by using 2-3 projects that touch on either key interests or our travels to cover off everything else for the year.

I was up early and enjoyed a peaceful hour of household administration and client work before heading out the door at 8:45 for a meeting. I arrived back at 10:30 to find Tim up and about and a quiet house.

Hunter slept until 11:00 am this morning. It makes me so happy to be able to support and adapt to the fact that he obviously needed that sleep. He stumbled out of bed and got started on his math activities right away – we are using ixl.com math on the iPad and it’s great for both he and I in terms of content, tracking and reporting.

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After a late breakfast/brunch/lunch we headed out the door for an afternoon kayak session while the sun was at it’s warmest. It was a beautiful day and so nice to be able to play when the weather is good. Everyone continues to work on certain kayak skills and it’s a nice mix of training plus fun plus family time.

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We made it back home again by 4:00 and Hunter hunkered right back down and tackled his spelling for the day. With the late start and the extended paddling session we didn’t get to our big project for the day but I’m OK with that. It’s not the end of the world to shift things a day or two here or there to account for life happening.

When I have the confidence to step back and think about the big picture developmental objectives that we fit into each day, I always breathe easy and find myself smiling. IMG_4923

Fun on the Yukon Spinwave

 

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Our local spin wave on the Yukon River is a great park and play spot – both for kayaking and for boogie boarding. It is a small fluffy hole that allows you to front surf, side surf and throw some freestyle moves like loops, cartwheels etc..

It was a rainy dreary day yesterday so we headed out to the spin wave with some friends to play. It was a great mash up of 5 kayakers and 3 boogie boarders, with the tricks getting bigger and bigger as the afternoon went on!

The sun never really came out but we all still had fun…

You can do it MOM!!!

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I always knew that Hunter would pass me as an athlete. I knew that he would turn into a 16 year old boy that eats a horse and goes faster, higher, farther that my comfort zone. What I wasn’t prepared for was when this started to happen at 9!

 

one of the few times I was ahead of Hunter

one of the few times I was ahead of Hunter

It all started with snowboarding, which he learned when he was 8. By 9 he had me beat for speed – his “tuck and go” approach to the hill leaves me in the dust. Now, I believe that I’m still a better snowboarder as I can turn on demand but I’m sure that he will conquer that this winter.

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The confluence of Mountain Biking happened last summer (Hunter turned 10) when Tim built a bunch of wooden features in our yard and Hunter just launched himself into them. Thanks to the great coaches at Boreale Biking, he has learned all of the technical foundational skills and has super natural balance, which it seems that I don’t! He can ride a curb for blocks without falling off. His zero to 60 speed acceleration is really picking up and he can beat me in campground lap races. At the moment I’ve got him hands down for endurance, downhill steeps and jumps.

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I am falling behind in kayaking thanks to the great job that Tim is doing as Hunter’s coach. Last summer Hunter learned to front surf and that gave him so much confidence. Tim’s throw bag technique let him get the feel of the waves and he just whizzed through the learning curve. This summer his goals are back surfing, spins, enders and cartwheels. During our month in Florida last winter, Hunter was in the pool everyday as part of Tim’s “rolling for dollars program”. It started with him having to do 25 rolls and then he was paid $1.00 dollar for every roll after that. This quickly became too easy so Tim taught him to do an offside roll. He got that so quickly that you couldn’t tell which was his onside or offside when he rolled. He topped out at 125 rolls one day! I should acknowledge that I used the pool time to learn my offside roll, but had a totally different experience and never reached mastery! Similar to biking, I am still ahead of Hunter on drops, but we’ll see if that lasts through our paddling trips this winter.

 

Hunter moved into the more advanced Kayak Club program this summer, which is full of teenagers. With him being 10, we weren’t sure how this was going to go so we watched the first 2 sessions rather than head off paddling ourselves. I had a major ah-ha at the 2nd session when the group was sitting in the eddy at the local spinwave and the teenagers shouted out “Hunter, show us how it’s done!”. Hunter had never gone in the spinwave before and I knew he had some anxiety about the feature. What I saw was him peel out of the eddy and into the wave without a moment’s hesitation. He side surfed, back surfed, flipped and swam but came up with a massive grin on his face. 2 weeks later and he is really comfortable in the wave, has been window shaded 3 times and just keeps going back for more.

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My ah-ha was that if I didn’t do anything different in my kayaking, he was going to be light years ahead of me very quickly- UGH…

As I sit and write this I am coming off of a weekend long women’s Downhill Mountain Biking camp with Lorraine Blancher. Thanks to CMBC, our local mtn bike club, we were able to bring Lorraine up to the Yukon and run a camp for 12 women that were looking to take their skills to the next level. I was excited but anxious going into, yet knew that I needed to do it to keep pushing my comfort levels and skill progression. It was fabulous, amazing, challenging, uncomfortable and overall exhausting AND I learned a lot, improved my skills and moved myself back out front of Hunter until next summer (I think).

 

I am also heading off to Nelson, BC on Thursday to spend a week kayaking with the great folks from Endless Adventures. In addition to strengthening my creeking skills, I am going to learn to playboat. This is exciting and scary as I spend so much of my time avoiding the need to roll, and playboating is about controlling the chaos of the water feature and immersing yourself in the foam. Very much in line with Lorraine’s mountain bike teaching – be a pilot not a passenger on your bike, I will be working on being the pilot of my kayak as well!

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One of the best things about Hunter is his humanistic nature. He is my biggest cheerleader and supporter, which is lovely and frustrating at the same time. He is the one to say “you can do it mom” when I’m debating some new feature on my bike or in my boat. He’s also the one to say “Great job!” when I have a good surf or a big jump. He’s also very generous with sharing of tips and tricks for how to do something… really? I’m getting instruction from my ten year old??? How can you get annoyed with the kid that you are working so hard to keep ahead of when he is so supportive??

I am happy that as a family we are very active and outdoor adventure oriented yet there are some days that I am exhausted by the constant pushing of my comfort zones, both at the physical and emotional level. We have a running joke called “get better” and I often contemplate the fact that better is an endless state of improvement, and I’m always there yet never there! I wonder if there is a maximum threshold that my system can take??? At the same time, I am so grateful to be living a full life. At 43, I am not ready nor willing to be left behind. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and live vicariously through anyone else.  I’m sure that there are more epic crashes and fabulous bruises in my future but I’ll take them if it means more shared memories and family time together.

Father’s Day on the Wheaton River

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After sitting around in a funk and watching the water on the gauge at the Wheaton level not move much above 15, we decided to head out for a father’s day run. Hunter was also feeling quite anxious about his first solo run down the Wheaton so we wanted to get that out of the way before it turned into a much bigger deal.

wheaton valleyThe Wheaton is in a beautiful valley about an hour south of Whitehorse. The river winds through the mountains and the scenery is breath taking, even on a cloudy and rainy day… It is also in the middle of no-where, which means that you need to be self sufficient for shuttles if you are going on your own. We took our handy ATV as our shuttle vehicle and it worked great – we can just fit the three of us plus three boats, paddles etc. on it!

wheaton valleyWith the levels as low as they were, the paddle was fairly uneventful. Lots of time spent practicing eddying out in small spaces, managing sweepers and catching TINY surf waves. Great to get this under Hunter’s belt and we are ever hopeful that the water may come up higher, but we sure aren’t holding our breath for it!