- 2011 Arctic Expedition
- Post expedition thoughts
- Post Expedition Travel
- Pre-Expedition Travel
- Yukon River Kayaking Expedition
- January 2014
- December 2013
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- September 2010
- August 2010
- June 2010
- December 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
07 of January 2014
Back home again, warm and dry. I drove from Wheatley, Oklahoma to Rimrock, 1200 plus miles, in one 22 hour drive. Stupid!!! I was tired for a couple of days after that. Never again!
Boy, it seems like the Gods were against this one from the beginning. Ice in places that ice was not supposed to be at this time of the year. There were extremely low water levels and air temperatures not seen in the past 10 year average. These were just a few of the early challenges to be overcome, and they were.
Arriving in Minneapolis I found the upper 400 miles of the river effectively shut down due to ice. On Pepin Lake, just below Minneapolis, ice was reported to be 5 to 10 inch’s thick with 100% coverage over the lake. Making many calls to local marinas I found this to be true in most of the pools all the way to St. Louis. Solution, get to St. Louis and start from there. Still 1100 miles of river!
Arriving in St. Louis I found that above dam and lock 27 the river was quite frozen. Below 27 the river was open, though extremely low. This increased the current to somewhat dangerous levels. The many Weir Dams were exposed and this created serious turbulence and river floor hydraulics. The water temperature was about 35 degrees. This would preclude any recreational swimming! Great conditions to play on a big river! Oh yes, did I mention that the daytime temps were about 40 with night temps ranging about 20. River level temps would be somewhat less than that. This was a heat wave as the temps by Sunday would be about 20 degrees colder.
I had to find a place to launch and to park my truck. Chatting with a local from a kayaking and canoeing club he told me about Hoppies Marina. This is located about 10 miles south of dam 27. After arranging storing my truck at the marina I relaxed at the Pear Tree Inn for the rest of this Christmas Eve. I would launch the next day, Christmas!
Getting back to the river early Christmas morning I began to study the currents and turbulence. I was to find out that this controlled river would be more difficult and dangerous than the Yukon in Alaska. After packing the Minnow I did a noon launch onto the water.
The current was running at about 4 to 5 miles an hour in main channel. At the exit of the Weir Dams the flow increased to as much as 7 and possibly 8 miles per hour. These Weir Dams are designed to increase water flow away from the shores to the interior of the river. I can assure you that they do work. They also seem to consolidate and increase hydraulics and concentrate currents to bothersome levels.
Each Weir I had to setup so that the turbulence was manageable and I did not end up with an early winter’s bath. My survival time in the water was probably less than 5 minutes. Space considerations dictated that I not wear my drysuit. Bad idea but certain risks are accepted. This was one of them. Weirs seemed to be everywhere to, about each one-half to three quarters of a mile. Get finished with one and prepare your line for the next. Each Weir is different and gave a different set of hydraulics, whirlpools and current speeds. They were quite interesting and seldom allowed for much time to relax. This was going to get tiring on an 1100 mile trip.
Looking at my watch I saw the ticker about to hit 3pm. Time to look for a landing spot on the beach. This was not hard as the eastern shore was a fairly flat white sandy beach. Fine beach sand! The beaches looked like Florida, white soft sand, long and wide. Reminded me of Daytona! I just pointed my boat to the shore and I was on a gorgeous flat beach.
I pulled the Minnow up on shore and unloaded her holds. Finding my pad, tent and sleeping bag I began to setup Casa De Mingo for the night. This white fine sandy beach was just about perfect. Great view, the river, and a completely flat and soft surface! It could not get much better. Well, maybe a few more degrees on the thermometer would be nice.
Once the tent was set, pad down and had my bag a fluffing, I started to heat up some water for chocolate and to heat up my dinner. Hot chocolate is sooooo good. Just warms up the bones and the state of mind.
After dinner I took a little hike up on the bank and into the forest. Along the way I examined a long ago dilapidated wharf. I imagined Huck Finn passing by this spot while old paddlewheel boats loaded and unloaded cargo’s bound for near and distant ports. Moving into the forest I noticed many deer tracks along with raccoon and a canine type of footprint. These were likely left by either a fox or coyote but they also could be a Bigfoot trying to act like a coyote or fox. Many Bigfoot do this to get close to humans. For nefarious reasons to!
Walking around was a wonderful way to end the evening. The sun was dipping below the horizon dragging the temperatures with it. While the daytime temp was a pleasant 40 or so it was dropping like a rock on the cold icy river.
Cleaning up camp is an easy chore. Little gear means a small mess. After that I crawl into my sleeping bag and start getting it warm so it will keep me warm. Some people seem to believe that sleeping bags magically produce heat. Wrong answer! A sleeping bag is no different than a thermos bottle. Warm stays warm and cold stays cold as long as it goes in that way. My little cocoon needs to be warmed up and this is what I am doing now, warming that puppy up. Laying there in the increasing darkness I think about how fortunate I am to be alone on this mighty river, safe and warm in my little hotel on the beach. Christmas Day makes me appreciate this even more. Just a cool place to be! But I do miss my family and friends and Sharron and Krissy back in Arizona.
This day went pretty well. Number one, I was warm and dry, relatively speaking. The river taught me many of its secrets, like Weir Dams. I have never experienced these before so it was interesting learning about the hydraulics and heavy currents produced by these structures. Low water also gave me some interesting issues. In mid channel the current ran at about 4 to 5 mph. At the Weirs, up to 8 mph! These currents really kicked the boat around sometimes acting like I did not have a rudder or any control over the direction of travel. Primary stability was disrupted in some of these currents and this did freak me out a bit. Feeling your boat moving from under you in 35 degree water is not something that is near and dear to my heart. Now though, after learning the challenges of the river, I was relaxing in my bag, playing a little electronic poker game, sipping the rest of my hot chocolate with a little Bailey’s, while enjoying a memorable river camp on Christmas with quickly falling freezing temperatures.
Morning came too soon and too cold. My, in the tent thermometer, recorded the temp at a splendid 18 degrees. Brrr! The sun was still an hour to getting onto Casa De Mingo so I decided that kayaking would be delayed until it warmed up a bit. Sliding my head back into my bag I luxuriated in my warm little nylon cocoon. The suns march to the western horizon finally lighted my tent with the promised warmth. It was now 20 outside. Man, time for the speedo and swim fins. Out I crawled! Stretching a bit I poured some water for hot chocolate into a pot. Pumping up the stove I used the lighter to fire the beast up. No fire! Pump more and still no fire! I check fuel level, almost full. It is cold so I sit on the cold ground and put the stove between my legs to warm it a bit. Pump more and light it off again, no luck. Crap I am thinking! Over the next half hour I work with the stove. Just will not light! This is not good as a stove is a vital piece of gear that I absolutely have to have on this and just about any trip. I do notice that when I open the value fuel is being ejected but not as a vapor but in droplets. This is not right. All these liquid fuel stoves vaporize the fuel. Hmmm, a generator issue! I start to pack up my gear to get going. I will play with the stove when it warms up a bit.
I have always disliked stuffing a cold tent into a cold stuff sack. Man, it just turns the hands into little ice cubes even with light gloves. With the frost on the rainfly this job was even more miserable. I guess this is my pet peeve in mountaineering. Fortunately the job gets finished quickly.
With all of my gear ready to be packed into and onto my kayak I go back to the stove issue. It is warmer, 26, so it should fire right up.
Wrong! Doing the same thing again! What the f—- I am thinking. This sucks! I work with the stove for another 40 minutes or so and realize that this brand new Coleman 626 is not going to work again. This is not a happy or needed situation.
Can I safely complete the trip without a stove? No way! Another hour of contemplation and I decide that I have to scrub the effort. Without heat and an ability to have warm food in these conditions I will not be a real happy camper. Without food I have no internal fuel to kayak 50 mile days. Without heat I have no ability to boil water to purify when I run out of my inboard stores. I have no ability to boil water that is in bottles in a solid form. Being this cold most of my 7 gallons of water is frozen. I sit on a sand bluff overlooking the river and try to come up with a new plan. Just one not available when critical gear fails. So, after talking with a few people I decide, reluctantly, to scrub the mission.
As a side note to that decision! The cold that is gripping the plains now would have slammed into me by this time. Without a stove in these conditions my survival would have been in question. Sometimes one must look at all parameters, even the ones that you do not see, and make decisions on a worst condition scenario. I guess that is why I am alive after 35 years in this line of work.
So now what? Well, I guess I will be kayaking back to Hoppies, upriver, against a stiff current. Oh joy! Two days later, after kayaking at a speed of one half a mile an hour I get to a place that I can beach my boat
The first day I regained about 7 miles of the river. Dinner was an MRE in a heater bag with cold chocolate to drink. Casa De Mingo 2 was also a pretty nice camp. Soft sand, flat but with no hot chocolate and Bailey’s! Camp one was nicer! Kayaking upstream was much more physically demanding than downstream. My shoulders are allowing me to know that they are balking at the level of exercise. They hate me!
On the second day I beached my boat for the last time on the Mississippi. There I found a place that my boat and gear would be safe so I could get back to my truck. Wahoo! If my shoulders had a mouth attached to them, after they cussed me out, they would bellow for hours about being finished. The Weir Dams beat me up seriously. I would be joining the Ibuprofen Gang as soon as possible.
Getting back to my truck officially ended my little adventure on the river. Now I could drive back to the Minnow, load her and my gear and head home. I was disappointed at a gear failure but happy to be alive and well. This is the cost of working at the extreme edge of any outdoor endeavor. It is fun and enjoyable when everything works. It sucks big time when things go south
Lessons learned, buy a stove that works. This is the second time that I have experienced a stove failure. Many years ago Barb and I got to experience our Dragon Pass Epic because of a stove failure. Three days back in the Sierra’s eating power bars and gorp. Nice! It did make for a great story though and a trip to Lone Pine for a night in a hot tub at the Dow Hotel.
Gear failures are always a possibility. In many cases redundant systems are carried to help with this issue. On this particular trip I did not have the space or weight loads to allow a second stove. Most of my redundancy was eliminated when I had to carry all the water that I was to use. Water took up over a quarter of my weight loads and about the same in space aboard the Minnow. Winter is a tough time to kayak. Each system becomes more critical and loads are higher due to the cold. It makes the survival and success rates much lower.
I have been asked ‘how I feel towards this’. Fine! Whenever you push difficult outdoor projects there are always issues that arise that cannot be solved. Some of these can be planned for while others just appear. Some can be defeated and others defeat the best of plans. How many expeditions go to peaks and never get to the summit? Many! I have successfully been to many summits and difficult shorelines that I had planned to attain. I have also missed on some summits that just would not allow me to complete. Luck of the draw! The main objective is to live. So decisions have to be right, all of the time.
One thing that I am bit ‘miffed’ about is a new stove failing. I am a believer that if it is mechanical it will break sooner or later. I prefer later. I just bought the stove as I like the Peak 1 derivative stoves. They are hogs, produce lots of heat and are dependable. Well not mine I guess! I will be doing some testing on this beast this week. It will go into the freezer to see why it is doing this. Coleman will get a polite letter from me to see if they want to look into this problem. Is it design or a manufacturing problem or just one crappy stove that I got? Hope to find out so I can gain some confidence in the system.
23 of December 2013
Mom Nature can sure cause havoc when she wants to. It is sometimes tough to adjust to these tantrums but it can be done.
On Christmas Eve I will launch from St. Louis bypassing 400 miles of frozen river. While this 1100 mile paddle may have been shorten from the original 1600, it will provide lots of exercise, beauty, camping opportunities and photography moments.
The changes made were extensive and have allowed me to carry more chocolate, Bailey’s and butterscotch disks. The water is lots warmer too, a blazing 35 degrees. This will preclude me from snorkeling and swimming. Air temps will also be warmer, Christmas Eve, about 25 degrees. Working on my tan up here! Lovely conditions! Good news, the farther south I get the heat will return. So as many of you could assume, I am REALLY looking forward to NOLA.
A problem is water. The sources are very limited even though I am sitting on a river. My next water supply is about 400 miles away in Memphis Tenn. My 7 gallons have to go a long way. South of Memphis water gets a bit easier. Problem up here is that nothing is open. Not many campers out there! Wonder why?
In the winter the water levels are quite low. This makes some great island camping but quite serious river conditions as the weir dams are close to the surface. These dams cause very large turbulence areas and whirlpools. Some of these are large enough to cause a kayak to be sucked off course and into them.
Cold water is great for a soda and ice tea but sucks if you are on paddle. Water temp is about 34 or 35 degrees. I am not wearing my drysuit so if I go in I have about 5 minutes to effectively rescue myself. Not likely. I seldom do any unintended swimming so I will just continue that trend. The cold water also increases my hypothermia chances. Just have to be aware of this issue and take counter measures to reverse any lower body temps. Best way is preventive though, so I will work at this all the time.
Otherwise, I am just happy to be doing this trip. That at my old age I still have the capability to even think that this is a possibility. LOL
I hope that some of you can help with my sponsored groups. All of our animal friends will thank you. Our companion friends give us love and friendship. I know my little Krissy is such an addition to my little family. So please help if you can.
This expedition is also in need of funds to help defray some of its costs. Please remember that you will receive some really cool pictures and a DVD for helping.
Thanks all. Have a Beary Merry Christmas and a wonderfully productive new year. Stay safe and enjoy the holidays.
18 of December 2013
Relaxing in Tucumcari. NM. this evening. Did a repacking and resorting of gear, again. Looks pretty good to get all of the into and on top of the Minnow. This cold makes me carry way to much clothing but Sunday night temp is supposed to drop to about 9 below. Kayaking the following day will be brutal. High of 4. OMG bikini temps on the river.
Heading to north of KC tomorrow. I want to be in striking distance on Minneapolis by noon on Friday. Have to get my boat registration, setup truck storage and a hotel for the night. Saturday I want to be on the river heading for the warm waters of the gulf. Back to work, I have a thermorest that needs a patch. Have to find the hole first though. Have an enjoyable evening.
16 of December 2013
I received my last shipment today so now I can get all those last minute details finished. I will be leaving Rimrock on Wed and be on the water on Sat the 21st.
Now I am getting a bit more excited about the trip. Excited in a good way. One never knows how the planning and logistics works until these are behind you.
Weather is not great but not bad either. Good would be Honolulu temps and Minneapolis will not see these until June again. The highs will be low double digit with the lows heading to that 0 mark or close. Cool temps for sure. Love this for sure.
Part of this trip is the pure outright challenge to survive. That environment I thrive in and think that this is great fun.
I will write tomorrow for a final entry from Rimrock. After that I will be on the road heading to Minneapolis.
Enjoy your evening.
08 of August 2011
Just relaxing here and doing some Most of my symptoms are gone now with occasional cramps, muscle pains, confusion and occasional dizziness. All are minor so that pleases me. I will leave Montana on wednesday, early and hope to be home my thrusday evening. Lots of driving again.
When I get back I will write more as to what happened and how it affected the expedition. I have been writing as much as I can about it. Should be of some interest.