C-c-c-cold Weather Paddling

Saturday, November 24, 2007

River: Ottawa (Main)
Level: -.75
Temperature: -8 degrees Celcius
Date: 24 Nov 07
Paddlers: Me, Rich, Colin, Bobbie, Laura, Geoff, Alex, Bryson

About a year ago, I made the http://www.riverjunkies.net/ website, and was excited to find out that people wanted to be on the Riverjunkies Team. A year later, all of us had never been on the river together, so a month ago I had (what I thought was) a great idea! I planned an event on Facebook, and invited all of the Riverjunkies Team to have a year-end cold weather paddle on the 24th of November, after I got back from Costa Rica. There was a great response, and I told the team that they could invite other river junkies that they knew to join us. When I planned the event, it was still pretty warm out, and I didn't truly understand what I was getting myself into.

When I got back from Central America, there were 13 people who confirmed they would paddle the Ottawa River on the 24th, and another 12 people who said they might show up.

Bobbie arrived Friday night from Toronto to crash on the couch, and Colin was stopping by in the morning. Quite a few locals said they would come, a few from Kingston and a couple from Ottawa were planning on joining us on the river.

When I woke up Saturday morning and looked out the window, I instantly regretted my one-time brilliant idea. It was -12 degrees, grey and blustery. I made a decision to put on the river at the Lorne, worried that the 30 minutes of likely frozen flatwater would not be a wise idea.

Colin stopped by and him and Bobbie worked on moving his canoe to Bobbie's truck while Rich and I went to see who was at the put in.

I was impressed that eight people showed up for the Riverjunkies Cold Weather Paddle!! Laura came from Ottawa, Geoff and Alex drove up from Kingston, Rich came up from Minden, Colin from Barrie, Bobbie from Toronto, and Bryson and I from the valley. Whitewater junkies from all over the map!!

Yes, an open boater joined us on this adventure!

We went to the Lorne, ran shuttle and put on the river. By the time we put on, the temperature had risen to -8 degrees! The guys in playboats immediately started rolling and flatwater looping. Rich and I decided to paddle creekboats; Rich because of his bum shoulder, and me because I had a horrible chest cold for 2 weeks and really didn't want to make it worse.

Geoff, Alex, Bobbie and Bryson played for a short while at Garb while Colin took pics and Rich, Laura and I went down to Pushbutton. The whole group ran the rest of the river together, enjoying company and the rapids of the Main Channel. The paddle was cold, but not THAT cold. Only my fingertips were frozen and the rest of me was pretty much fine!

Bryson Hard-core surfing Garb!

The only place I thought I might stand a change at flipping was at Coliseum, but it went off for all paddlers without a hitch! We upped the anti to about $60 for Geoff to jump off BFR, but he didn't go for it.

At the end of the day our gear was completely frozen; Laura couldn't get her PFD off, Geoff's noseplugs looked like one of those invisible dog leashes, and Colin's pelican case for his camera was frozen shut!

Laura tries to get her PFD zipper down!

When we put on, everyone was complaining about the temperature, and making comments on how *I* could cancel the event at any time, and asking whose brilliant idea it was to paddle on such a cold day. After the paddle, no one complained, and no one had any regrets. Even Bobbie, Alex and Geoff went back to McKoys to surf Corner Wave and Babyface!!

Snickers and I helping Rich get his PFD off!

All photos by our team photographer, Colin.

Next up: skiing!

Day 9: Makin' Banana Pancakes, pretend like it's the weekend now...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

This morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast of banana pancakes in Quepos before heading to the dock for our sailboat cruise.

Unfortunately, it was raining and grey... but that didn't stop us, no! We went out until we found a family of dolphins playing in the ocean. We chased them around for a while. The seas were fairly choppy and I spent the next 30+ minutes lying on my stomach, napping in the lukewarm rain.

We stopped for some snorkelling on the way back and 'swam with the fishes'. There were hundreds f yellow and blue fish swimming around us. If we dove down a bit by some coral, there were bigger, bluer fish. Someone even saw a Puffer Fish!

While swimming out to the coral, I felt stinging all over my body. Fran suggested it was because I had recently shaved my legs, but then she felt it too! I had little red welts on my arms , side and legs. Jose said it was plankton that did it and we must have swam through a school of them.

This afternoon, Chad, Bill, Linda, Marzella and I took our kayaks out to the beach to give ocean kayak surfing a try. We learned to give each wave a boof stroke to get over and farther out. When a good wave was starting, we'd paddle hard toward shore to try and catch it, just like on a surfboard. Once on it, it was important to rudder and carve back and forth. The waves formed more into hole like features closer to shore and I was able to spin and cartwheel my way in. I even accidentally Donkey Flipped in the foam pile!

It was just important to avoid flipping as a face full of sand was not ideal...

Marzella and I practiced our wave wheels and Marz got one that was textbook perfect (if there was a textbook on how to wave wheel)!

Day 8: Rio Savegre and Waterfalls

Friday, November 9, 2007

The bottom section of the Rio Savegre was an awesome class III wavetrain. We stopped to surf at the hardest eddy to attain, and then stopped at a beautiful waterfall. I walked directly under the falls and it was like the ultimate shoulder massage! Marzella, Bill and I could stand behind the falls and barely see the other side!

Fran and Kapu were waiting at the takeout to drive us to the Pacific coast. We arrived just in time to catch the breathtaking sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach. We went to a nice place with live music for dinner, and enjoyed watching the locals who could really SALSA!!

It made me remember a bar in Ottawa called Caliente, that gave free salsa lessons on Thursday nights. I am a genuine foot-stomper; not a good dance partner at all!

Day 7: Division, Savegre and Rafiki Lodge

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This morning we awoke to hear that the Rio Division might be too high to run with all the rain we'd been having. We spent the morning waiting while Jose called around trying to get river levels. A family that lived close to the confluence of the Division and Savegre described the Rio Division as 'nasty'.

We decided to go ahead and take a look at the river with three possible options: 1) we all run the Division into the Savegre, 2) a few of us run the Division and meet up with the rest further downstream where the gradient tapered off, or 3) we all skip the Upper part of the Division.

The bus took us part of the way where we switched over to two 4x4 trucks. The roads went from decent Costa Rica quality to dirt roads, winding higher and higher into the mountains and rain. Every runoff was pumping down the sides of the mountains into the Division. As we descended into the valley, we could see the brown turbulent waters rushing westward.

We took a look at the upper put-in. At lower levels, the Division is a rock dodging creeky run that any of us could have handled. At this level, the river was riddled with rocks and holes, and nary an eddy in sight! I'm not sure I could compare it to any other river I'd been on. A swim here would mean a swim all the way into the Savegre.

We hopped back into the trucks and made our way to the lower put-in. The river was still quite pushy and some of us were definitely feeling challenged! We had a few stops to regroup or rescue swimmers. I was a little hesitant at first... After Jose, Bill and I waited downstream for the rest of the group, I managed to get disoriented, drop into a hole, roll up in another hole and then again! Joey was wondering what had happened to me and why I wasn't paddling like I usually did.

I sorted myself out though and ran the rest of the river like a champ. It involved continually scanning ahead, looking for drops, holes and any eddies - not just following the person ahead.

Our lunch stop was incredibly unique. We had lunch in the kitchen of a local family who lived on the edge of the river! There was no large village nearby and apparently this family cooked and provided tent pads for kayakers and hikers.

After lunch, we continued on down to the Division and Savegre confluence. Jose pointed it out to me, the two rivers met like a 'Y'. The water from the Division in the rainy mountains was a rich chocolate brown, and the Savegre was crystal clear. once on the Savegre, the river was two different colours. River left was brown and river right was blue! It was rather surreal...

The Rio Savegre was a big continuous wave train river with huge Phil-sized holes to avoid. The waves were a good 6-10 feet tall, and usually a valley separated me from Jose, who was ahead. Sometimes I couldn't see anyone in front of me.

The highlight of the day was one rapid with a large hole at the bottom. Jose went first and then signalled to Joey and Chad (who were eddied out river right) that we had to run far left to avoid the hole. I led Linda down and Joey ferried over to show us where to go. At the bottom we saw a HUGE munchy hole. I looked at Jose and said, "That little thing? Pffftttt I'm going to surf it!"

Just as Jose said, "I'd like to see that," Brian came down centre and dropped right into it! He got worked. We watched helplessly as he was thrown around like a rag-doll. At one point we were hopeful as we say him hanging out in a side-surf and then, WHAM! windowshaded again!

This is when the fun started. We watched in horror as Brian's boat flw vertical into the air, and landed right-side-up in the backwash, just hanging out there. Brian resurfaced about 20-feet downstream right next to Joey who was frantically searching for paddle and/or paddler. We couldn't believe our eyes!

I turned to Jose and said, "Uh, I changed my mind," and we all broke into hysterical laughter.

A few more mishaps and some major big water and we landed at the most incredible place in the world: Rafiki Lodge. A rustic resort on the edge of mountainous jungle, powered by a stream that ran through the property. Our roms were large tents on platforms overlooking fields, ponds and jungle valleys. The stream that powered the resort flowed into a pool below via arguably one of the fastest waterslides in the world. Wheeee!

We were wined and dined by the staff and rested our heads in a 5-star tent city after the most action-packed and challenging day of the trip!

Day 6: Day off

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My shoulder feels better this morning, but still not 100%. I am making a difficult decision to take the day off the river. Today the group is paddling the Rio General, which is supposed to be the biggest water river in Costa Rica. We had a wonderful breakfast at the resort and commenced our 3-hour drive to the next river. Along the way was a spot where we crossed the mountain range and if we looked to the right, we could see the Carribbean Sea. Not even 5 minutes further down the road, we could look left and see the Pacific. Incredible, and very rare that there is a place where you can do that.

Day 5: Rio Pacuare Pt II

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Injuries suck. The second day on the Pacuare started off with an amazing breakfast compliments of Jose, Luis and Rey, preceeded by a hike up the steep hills o the rainforest canton. We loaded up our raft and were on our way again.

There was a rapid called Upper and Lower Wukka (sp?), which we found out AFTER means "Indian Cemetery". The lower part was very tricky and three people walked. he line from shore looked pretty simple to me; follow the tongue just to the right of a hole and then around the second munchy hole by running to the left of it next to a rock wall. Once I was up in the eddy alone, it wasn't so easy to see the line! The ferry over was difficult and I had to stop and recatch the eddy to try a second time. I hit the first hole and stern-squirted my way into the second. I rolled up t the bottom of the rapid and literally did the whole thing upside down. How embarrassing.

There was another rapid that we didn't scout, but followed a wave train down, climbed the biggest wave and did a boof stroke off the crest to fly over some rock. My boof was a little too far right and I landing into a seam, pulling off an outstanding mystery move. Me and my boat were completely submerged for at least 5 seconds. While I was down there, I got a rock hit right in the back by my shoulder blades. The muscles stiffened from that point up into my shoulders and into my arm. Every paddle stroke was painful. I kept going though, trying to float most of the rapids and forcing myself to avoid the playspots.

At one spot as we all waited in the eddy as Chad, Joey and Jose surfed, I was feeling pretty sick to my stomach and my shoulder was hurting more. I made the painful decision to ask Rey if I could ride the rest of the way in a raft. This was the most difficult part about running the river as I love boating so much and am absolutely TERRIFIED of rafts.

While Kapu, Fran and the bus were waiting for us at the take-out, construction crews dug up the take-out road. After we got off the river and headed back to the road, we realized that we were completely blocked in by a pile of rock and rubble! After speaking to the construction guys, it was amazing to watch how quickly the bulldozer was able to clear a path for us!

On the way to our hotel for the night, we realized that the bus wouldn't fit under the bridge tressles. We ended up paying a coffee farmer who drove by to take our kayaks to the resort.

Never a dull moment!

Day 4: Rio Pacuare

Monday, November 5, 2007

I am in heaven! I am laying on my bed in our room overlooking the jungle and Pacuare River. Outside my room is a steep creek that has cut a 10 foot wide path in the rock down to the river. Marzella is out on our porch in a hammock listening to the rain. On the other side of the river we can barely see the outline of howler monkeys high up in the jungle, jumping limb to limb in the treetops.

The Pacuare River is my favourite so far: clean water, fast rapids and steep jungles! We are doing a 2-day raft supported trip with a stop-over at this Costarican sanctuary.

No mishaps today. We ran rapids, saw toucans, orioles with yellow tails, snakes, and waterfalls. We ate a delicious lunch at the side o the river courtesy of our two rafters Reynaldo and Luis. My shoulders, back and arms are aching, but it's the good kind of ache that says "Jenny, you just had a wonderfully productive day and are going to sleep like a baby tonight!"

Day 3: Rio Reventazon

Sunday, November 4, 2007

This morning was photo-op extrordinaire. The resort came alive with the sun and I spent the whole morning taking photos of butterflies, spiders, poison dart tree frogs and Costarican flora. It's really neat coming into the resorts after sunset because you don't find out where you are of what it really looks like until the next day.

Today we ran the Rio Reventazon near Turrialba. The river was an awesome class II big water boogie with one rapid called Bamboo (with an upper and lower section) that we needed to scout.

Bill looks for his next line

Lower Bamboo had a couple of spots to avoid; an undercut rock on the right, a hole centre, a big rock left and a second munchy hole below the first. There was a far left sneak line and the centre line just to the right of the holes but avoiding the rock.

Linda bombs through Upper Bamboo

Chad and Marzella pick their lines

I took a look at the centre line and no problems visualizing my line so I committed to it. I don't have that fear of big water holes that others do. My line was ace and for good measure I turned upstream and tried to drop into the second hole. I caught it and immediately flip-flushed.

Happy Birthday Jose!

On the bus ride back we polished off a bottle of Crown Royal to celebrate Jose's 28th birthday. Jose's keen eye also noticed a 3-toed sloth on the powerline along the road, so we had to stop and save it (naturally). Unfortunately a soon as we poked it with a paddle, it started moving away from us. Come back sloth! Come back!

Day 2: Pozo Azul "Blue Pool"

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Breakfast Costarican style!

Today, after a wonderful breakfast and and exploring the resort, we headed off for our first big challenge of the trip. We were going to huck a 30+/- foot waterfall! This was a clean run that Joey freewheeled off of last year:

This was something that I told myself I was going to do, no matter what. I had run an 18 footer on Big Sandy Creek in West Virginia, and was ready to raise the bar a bit.

The drive from La Fortuna to the waterfall was about 2 hours, so we stopped for lunch at a rainforest species reserve where I was able to get photos of many flowers and plants.

The hike into the waterfall was muddy and steep due to a lot of rain the past couple of days. We weren't sure what it would be like, but Joey and Chad were pretty sure we'd see more water than last year. We just hoped it wasn't TOO much water.

Say hello to my little friend! from the put-in

Once we got there, there was a steep path straight down to the lip of the falls. I took a look at the drop and didn't think it looked too bad; really not much higher than Wonder Falls (on Big Sandy Creek), but I still began to get that feeling in my gut and my need to 'nervous pee' grew and grew!

Andrew and Bill navigate the steep path

Joey passes down a boat, using a throwrope as a guide-line

I watched some of the others run it. Splat. Splat. No major issues. Splat. Imploded skirt. Splat. Helmet came off. The odds of an event-free run weren't looking too good. Instead of hmmming and hawwing over who would go next, I just picked up my boat and made my way to the put-in eddy. Cam pointed the landmarks to me and I took some deep breaths. This was it.

I peeled out of the eddy, passed the rock on the left, looked ahead to my reactionay and green tongue, leaned forward and started driving my paddle strokes. My line was perfect. I ws soaring through the air and down, but freaked a bit and forgot to tuck my paddle to the side. Last minute I raised it out of the way so it wouldn't hit my face. I didn't even feel the landing, the water was so aerated, but I wasn't holding onto my paddle hard enough. It ripped out of my hands. Damn! I tried a handroll. Almost up. This time I HAD to get it. I twisted my hips, reached for the sky and rolled it! Whew! That could have become embarassing! I looked for my paddle, got it and waited for the next paddler.

Splat. Splat. Splat. Broken paddle. Brutal. Splat. Splat. Another imploded skirt. What a gong show! But everyone had huge smiles on their faces.

The way out was fun rocky, boogie water. We took out just as the Costarican sun disappeared behind the mountains.

Tonight we stayed at a unique little resort called La Quinta del Sarapiqui. Covered breezeways led to tiny cottages with private porches. Fran, Marzella and I relaxed on our rocking chairs nad hammock for a while before dinner. Before we ate, Marzella and I explored the jungle trails at night and then enjoyed delicious chicken, salad, beans and fruit.

What a day!