I needed to do some training for the Grizzly Man Adventure Race next weekend, and I needed get out. Having an antidote to all the time spent on the computer and in my head has been invaluable this semester: I put together the key pieces of my portfolio presentation up in the Little St. Joe hut back in February, and outlined the final parts of one of my essays in the Trailstar last night.
It has been quite a while since I’ve done any paddling of note, and a very long time indeed since I paddled a proper solo canoe. Back in Boy Scouts the romance of the north woods got into my head, and I’ve been enamoured of single blades ever since. For the Grizzly Man the Blackfoot will be running pretty slack, as it was this weekend. A real whitewater boat will flounder on the extensive flat sections, but absent serious skill force slow portages through willows, slick boulders, and shelf ice. Fortunately, the Trailhead here in town has a We-no-nah Rendezvous for me to use.
It’s a really fun, versatile boat. A bit of rocker and the hint of a keel both front a rear make the boat track fairly well, but still carve through rock gardens. It is not a whitewater boat. It doesn’t pivot quickly at all, and has enough hull speed that catching eddies was tough (at least for someone with my very modest skills). I’ve never been in anything with a combination of decent hull speed and low primary stability. Made to be a river runner certainly, but I also got dumped quickly running a rapid this morning when my on side bounced off a too-late-seen rock and my off-side brace was much slower than the boat.
Thank goodness for dry suits. Boat geekery aside, it was a great trip. Poor fishing, and an insane amount of private property signs warning boaters off nice campsites (in Montana navigable rivers are public domain below the high water mark). Fortunately the centeral stretch I ran is through national forest, and I had a killer, quiet campsite on nice sand.
I started the trip with more than a bit of fear about the new boat, its differences from the kayaks I’ve paddled in whitewater before, and the cold conditions. I scouted the very first rapid, which ended up being the most technical of the trip, as unlike all the other rock garden rapids this narrow winding chute had only one available line. I nailed it, then had a brain fart in a riffle 20 minutes later, got pinned, leaned away from the rock to shove off with a foot, and got dumped into knee deep water butt first. Stupid. The rest of the trip went well, from a technical standpoint. I remembered my old, good habits and ran everything without a hitch, except for the aforementioned swim which had as much to do with bad scouting as it did with slow reflexes.
Bear in mind, these are all dead easy rapids.
I ended the trip sore from fighting a funny tail and crosswind to make the pickup spot on time (I was almost an hour late), and drained from the cold, stress, and effort. I’m exhausted now, and am sure my shoudlers and triceps will be wrecked tomorrow.
In short, a very successful trip.