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Skunk River Paddlers

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Bob and Eight Ames Paddlers
The 2nd Annual Ice Breaker Paddle March 30, 2002:
Des Moines River Highway 175 to North Frazer Ramp.

It wasn't too hot, and it wasn't too cold as several of us met at my house to car pool to the put in. We were able to cut down on the cars because of Dave's handy boat trailer which can carry six boats and a good bit of gear. Whitney shared news of her tenure position and I mentioned to everyone Flo's letter too. Yes, this is about as close as I will ever come to having my ship come in: Flo has tenure. We put the letter on the refrigerator; both of us proud: me for my years of quiet support and encouragement and Flo for hanging tough.

But, only Dave and Rick read their email and brought breakfast for me. Dave brought a piece of homemade bread, still warm, smothered in butter. Rick, on the other hand, brought some frozen waffles and a beer. At any rate, I managed to keep body and soul together and I made it to the put in on these rations.

Bob was there to meet us when we pulled up to the old stone foundation just north of Highway 175. After hellos, introductions, and the organizing of gear, the drivers were off again, moving the cars around for the shuttle back. Rick, Carolyn, Peggy and I stayed behind and made ourselves useful picking up litter, fussing with gear, and telling stories.

Elizabeth and Catherine joined us before we set off for the day's adventure. But, first, history was made as Bob took pictures of the Skunk River Paddlers signing documents, making us the first group to adopt one of Story County's parks.

Our armada had lots of different boats. Elizabeth and Catherine were paddling a Penobscot canoe; Whitney and Carolyn had white water kayaks; and the rest of us had sea kayaks. Though well provisioned, some standard gear was forgotten since the last paddle of last year; and duct tape was inadvertently left behind.

Whitney and I both joined the ranks of the former Navy SEAL that paddled with us a few years ago on the Des Moines in a white water kayak. Even so, I was most impressed with Elizabeth in the tandem canoe with her mom. Elizabeth is an Outward Bound Instructor and looked as fit as a slight young woman could be. Her paddling technique was video perfect: sitting up erect, leaning forward slightly as she planted the blade to begin her stroke, blade vertical in the water suggesting she was pivoting at the waist and using the stronger lower back muscles; she unwound her pivot and sat up as she moved the boat to the blade.

The river was pretty good too. The only roads crossing the river were at either end of the trip. We covered our approximately 11 miles in about four hours including a lunch and a few other stops. It wasn't so much because we were paddling hard or that there was a strong current. The Des Moines River was running about 800 cfs, well below it average 3000 cfs which is normal for this time of year. It was the magic of the tail wind which sped us on our way.

Bald Eagles, red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vultures, Belted Kingfishers and assorted ducks, as well as a lone mink were just a few of the river's gifts to us. There were more gifts, but our chief scribe, Peggy, misplaced her notes and I misplaced my email where she made up numbers. These were probably as reliable as the fast counting of all of the unseen birds by Dave, the duck guy.

An unexpected reward of another kind awaited us at the take out as we quenched our thirst, compliments of Carolyn. Our trip wrap-up on this adventure ended at Yesterday's in Stratford. It seems like a poor name for a restaurant, where, if I understand it correctly, you can only get today's special tomorrow when it was yesterday's. A name like that doesn't bode well, but the food has always been good.

And remember to look for the Ice Breaker Paddle at the end of March next year: the Brr Ride of paddling.

GV



photo by Peggy Murdoch

Carolyn - photo by Peggy Murdoch
Greg plays 'Navy SEAL' while Whitney reclines in luxury - photo by Peggy Murdoch