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Impromptu kayaking trip

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 6:30 a.m.: Come up with idea for an early morning kayaking trip because I can’t sleep even though it’s the weekend.

7 a.m.: Grab 4-liter Sea to Summit dry bag containing compass (in case I get lost), whistle (in case I need help) and Gerber knife (in case of something), and slip out while everyone else is asleep.

7:15 a.m.: Drive off with kayak, paddle, backup paddle (in case I lose the paddle) and life vest lashed to or otherwise stowed in the Jeep.

7:24 a.m.: Reach the shore, ease into the kayak with the plan of circling the Island of No Worries, begin paddling upstream.

7:35 a.m.: Spot a yellow and orange bobber tangled in a mass of tree limbs reaching up from the river. Liberate it with the knife (so that’s why I brought it), spot a fishing lure in the same mass and collect it as well. Continue on.

8:05 a.m.: Reach the upstream tip of the island, begin traveling downstream on the other side.

8:15 a.m.: Round the downstream side of the island and begin back upstream to the port.

8:25 a.m.: Land at a weed-covered boat ramp that I didn’t notice when I started. Load up the kayak.

8:35 a.m.,: Drop by my favorite downtown, non-franchise coffee shop, discover it doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m. on the weekend. Bah.

 

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Weekend rescues at Rocky

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Highline rescue operations in the Roaring River, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

Courtesy National Park Service

June 25, 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Search and Rescue Team members were called to several incidents on the weekend of June 24-25, 2017, including one where an 18-year-old male was rescued via a highline operation across the Roaring River above the Alluvial Fan.

On Saturday afternoon, the 18 year old from Kansas had been rock hopping on this section of the Roaring River when he became stuck on the west side of the river. Park rangers were notified at 2:30 p.m. The young man’s family members were on the east side of the river. Rangers assessed the situation with members of Estes Valley Fire Protection District’s Dive and Swiftwater Rescue Team, and after considering the complexity and length of time the rescue would likely take, it was determined that it would be safest to conduct the rescue on Sunday morning. Rangers provided the man with warm clothes, a sleeping bag and food overnight. A ranger stayed overnight on the other side of the river from the young man…

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Photo: Window visitor

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(c) 2017 J.S.Reinitz


This feathered visitor knocked into the ground floor window at my day job (yeah, I need one of those to pay the bills).
Our office is next to a river, so we get all the excitement — bald eagles fishing in the winter, seasonal flooding, abandoned bull mastiffs trading water, dive teams looking for submerged cringe guns, and the occasional jumper (who ultimately lands in waist-deep water and knee-deep mud).
The hawk above saw something interesting on our features editor’s desk and thumped into the glass. After standing around dazed, he flew off.

Photos: Flood remains

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Road water.

 
The flooding in the inhabited areas around here has subsided, but there are still parts that are underwater.

I eased my car up to the park entrance and tried to comprehend its status. The portable street department barricade seemed to indicate it was closed. But then again, it was half toppled, two of it’s metal legs sprawled on the asphalt, and some of the wood was splintered. 

So I took the chance and followed the road up and over the earthen flood-control berm and descended into the riverside park. At the shelter, I spotted three parked vehicles and few people milling around. It was the weekend, so I was pretty sure they weren’t city workers. If I was entering a restricted area, at least I wasn’t going to be the only one getting in trouble. 

Beyond the shelter, the backwater lake was overflowing, and water covered sections of the walking path.

On down the road I drove until the water began to lap at the pavement, and I pulled over to explore on foot. I didn’t get too far before my shoes found mud. Not your typical soaked earth, this was flood river mud. It had a fine, smooth consistency, smelled like rotting fish and clung to everything it touched. 

Perhaps the barricades weren’t to keep us from danger but were to save us from the muck and the stench.

trail water.

Photos: Sunset ride on Cedar River

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Sunset on the Cedar River. (c)2016 J.S.Reinitz

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c)2016 J.S.Reinitz

You can’t let the heat keep you down, no matter how oppressive.

Ninety-something degrees with ninety-something humidity.

In the end you have to fill up the CamelBak with ice water, abandon the air conditioning and wade out into the thick air. Climb onto the bike and pedal, don’t worry about sweating. You are going to sweat and get winded.

Take the familiar route, up one side of the river and down the other. Ease into the rush of wind as you dart down the trail.

Because, in the end, you might forget the heat and humidity, but you won’t forget the sunset.

Urban kayaking

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Editor’s note: This entry is a little out of season. I finally got around to writing about a fall kayaking trip. Currently, it is 19 degrees Fahrenheit outside with 10 inches of freshly fallen snow.

I couldn’t help exploring the narrow tributary that flowed into the stream I was paddling. It was a shallow arm, and the banks were covered with thick vegetation. Holding the double-bladed kayak paddle horizontal, I could almost touch both sides.
This was definitely something I wanted to investigate.

As I made my way up the gentle, claustrophobic flow, I spooked a raft of ducks, which took flight. Further up, I had to duck under low, overhanging branches while rowing. Sometimes, reaching to the silty bottom and poling was required to move forward.

Eventually, the surrounding brush cleared, and I reached the source — a large concrete storm drain set in a flood control dike. 

Such is the fare of ubran kayaking.

The short trip had started on the Cedar River by the boathouse. I darted upstream, keenly aware of the dam downriver, and cut across the to the creek, which bisected the grounds of mile-long tractor plant. It meandered under a major road and then a busy highway with the roar of traffic spilling over from the bridges above. The cement bridge supports and undercarriage were decorated with the latest spray paint had to offer. Occasionally, I’d pass a partially submerged cement monolith of unknown origin or shredded lawn furniture on the banks next to a collection of drained beer cans, signs of someone’s secluded fishing spot in the middle of the city.

With my free time running out, I landed under another bridge and found what that I thought was hard-packed dirt was actually soft mud that started to envelop my sandals. Freeing myself from the muck, I turned back and started heading back to the boathouse.

Paddle-up ruins

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Six years ago, floods of Mesopotamian proportions washed away the small settlement on the Island of No Worries. Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of sandbags weren’t enough to protect the community from the swollen Midwest river, and when the water subsided, the homes, which numbered about a dozen, were bought out by the government and leveled or burned to the ground by vandals.

Since then, the island was turned into a park. The city mows what used to be the lawns, although most of the land is wild forest. There is no parking, and motorized vehicles are verboten, which means visitors have to walk across a bridge. So, the island remains largely unnoticed.

Another way to get there is by boat, and during one late summer day off, I launched my new Pelican kayak on its maiden voyage, putting in at a nearby ramp and circumnavigating the island, first heading upstream on the island’s east side. The river was calm and very shallow in spots. I followed a pair of ducks until they became annoyed by me and took flight. At one section, I spotted a golf ball and reached down to pluck it from the sandy bottom.

Rounding the island’s northern tip, I glided across some choppy swirls and then floated down the west side with the swift current. Passing under a bridge, I came across traces of the island’s former inhabitants. Concrete steps and walkways led from what used to be shore-side homes to what used to be private docks. Near where the last house on the block once stood were the remains of a loose-stone outdoor oven. Finding a natural landing in an inlet, I headed ashore to explore.

Sunset on the river trail (flood)

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Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

As the June 22 entry alluded to, our favorite bike path is now under water. What a difference a week makes.

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Sunset on the river trail (pre-flood)

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Fisherman on the Cedar River during sunset. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Fisherman on the Cedar River during sunset. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

I took these photos last week during a bike ride as the sun began to set. With the thunderstorms, heavy rains and flooding since then, the bike path is now under water.

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014  J.S. Reinitz

Sunset on the Cedar River. (c) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Photos: Mill on the river

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Mill on the Wapsipinicon River. (C) J.S. Reinitz

Last night, we drove through the obligatory Midwest spring break snow storm, which means we only have a few more weeks of freezing weather before it starts to warm up.

So, as we prepare for spring’s belated arrival, here are a few more winter scenes. These were taken around a former mill on the Wapsipinicon River. Here, the ice on the dam was starting to thaw, and the water was beginning to flow.

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Drainage pipes form frozen waterfalls on a bridge over the Wapsipinicon River. (C) J.S. Reinitz.

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Drainage pipes form frozen waterfalls on a bridge over the Wapsipinicon River. (C) J.S. Reinitz.

Photo: Ducks in sub-zero

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Although we still have another month or two winter, temps around here are supposed to be inching out of the negative numbers (Fahrenheit, for our international readers). With that, we will leave you with this shot of ducks bathing in a freezing river.

On Getting Lost

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The essential compass.

On a recent out-of-town trip, I decided to get lost. Well, maybe not lost. I wanted to scout around, take a route back home that I’ve never used before, see something new.

I’ve been to the city numerous times for work, but I’ve always visited the same half a dozen places, and that was about it. So last week, I decided to head off and work my way back on a path I’ve never venutred.

The inevitable happened. I veered off course and at some point ended up getting lost.

And it was great.

Tooling around the city as downtown turned to residental neighborhoods turned to edge-of-town forests, I resisted the urge to pull up a map on my smart phone. If I had remembered the ball compass in the glovebox, I would have ignored it. And forget about pulling over to ask for directions, sometimes it’s better to figure things out on your own.

Ever since exploring the woods and towns around my home growing up, I’ve loved filling in the blank spaces on my mental maps. And the best way to do that is dive in and let your intuition and your sense of direction take over. That’s how you find new things. Like Goblin’s Gulch, a small private road on the outskirts of town I discovered during my drive. It’s not on any map (I’m still kicking myself for not stopping to photograph the sign).

When I was ready, I used a few basic navigation techniques to keep from going too far out. Like a big river in the woods, the interstate I usually take runs north and south, and I was somewhere to the east of it. So when I wanted to get back on track, I just headed west. Which way was west? I looked at the sun’s position, checked my watch and took into consideration that the sun passes to the south in the fall.

In no time, I found an onramp and was headed back home.

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