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Photo: Cold weather kayaking

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“Spring” 2018

After about 20 minutes of hard paddling, my glasses began to fog up, obscuring the swift water. The kayak’s nose was a red blur in front of me with two smaller red blurs cycling on either side of me, my paddle blades trying to keep up with the current.

The plan had been to put in at the park and head upstream under the railroad bridge and then play around just below the dam in a relaxing fashion before drifting back down to the ramp. But just after launching, I realized how quick the water was moving, and the fight was on.

It was early in the morning, and everyone was at home asleep. It was cold, overcast windy. Ice formations clung to the rail bridge piers. 

It was spring break in the Midwest. Time to get out and enjoy kayaking.
In light snow.
 

There is a certain amount of dread that creeps in when you strain to push against the current and after several minutes, you glance to the side and see the shore and notice that with all your work you are only holding ground — like a big water sports treadmill.

After inching past the rail bridge, I cut to the right bank where I spotted a small cove with calm water. A wave washed into the cockpit, the icy water freezing my hip numb. So much for my plan to stay dry.

I slowly inched across, mindful of the strainer — a large toppled tree with all of its branches intact hanging in the water — immediately downstream. If I collided with the strainer, I would likely be knocked from the boat, forced underwater and held down by the power of the water rushing through the branches.

A flock of geese watched me drift into the cove exhausted. They flapped around and walked over to the bank as I landed on a sandbar.  

Photo: Lunch with the eagles 

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(c)2019 J.S.Reinitz

Bald eagles feasting on fish on an ice shelf in the Cedar River. Crows waiting for the leftover scraps. (c)2019 J.S.Reinitz  .

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(c)2019 J.S.Reinitz

Bodies of missing hikers found in Alaska

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Copper Center, Alaska – National Park Service rangers recovered the bodies of two hikers who were swept away by a glacial river in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park on July 2. According to a Park Service release, identification by NPS law enforcement matches that of two backpackers that were last seen on June 22 when they were dropped off by an air taxi operator at the Sanford Glacier airstrip less than two miles from where the bodies were found.

The backpackers were identified as 62-year old Rochelle Renken and 62-year old Michael Huffman, both from Columbia, Missouri. The couple were experienced backpackers and Renken has been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers. Positive identification is pending from the State Medical Examiner. The deaths appear to be accidental. No foul play is suspected.

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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.

 

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

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