I’m Back – From a Back Injury, that is…

8 03 2014

You may have noticed I have not posted to my blog in months. If you’ve read my blogs, you know I’m a very active individual. My hearts desire is to be outside, breathing the air, being active. Whether hiking, trekking the Himalayas, paddling surf, or skiing the Wasatch, I live for outside activities. Travelling overseas is especially rewarding to me, whether soaking up cultural experiences or adventuring rivers or mountains.

My lifestyle is also my work. I have taken kayaking/paddlesports and wrapped into a way to earn my keep. I’ve been a brand manager for Feelfree Kayaks, a company that imports New Zealand-designed, Bangkok manufactured kayaks into the American market. And I’ve converted countless couch potatoes into outdoor enthusiasts as kayak guide / instructor for Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. I never tire of getting great gear into a customer’s hands and then hearing their stories of their adventures using it. To put it mildly, I am a tireless evangelist for outdoor recreation.

But my passion does involve risk. It can’t be avoided. It can be managed, and minimized, but not entirely eliminated. When it comes to kayak instruction or guiding, lifting boats is part of the work. I carry boats to the dock for renters. I set up lakeside trade show affairs involving dozens of kayak models. When guiding, I sometimes have a trailer of kayaks and have to lift then on/off of the trailer. I’ve done it thousands of times. I’m in my early 50′s.

So, the reason I have not posted to this site in months is a mistake I made loading a kayak onto my car. One day, in August 2013, I was in a rush to get extra boats to a kayak class and purposely grabbed a boat and heaved it onto my car. Not the right way. I have paid dearly for it. I strained the illiolumbar ligament in my back. It connects the 5th vertebrae to the hip. When it’s strained, it “refers” pain down the hip. For months, I had pain when sleeping in my back and hip. I could not get going in the morning without 20 minutes loosening my leg. I could not sit in a movie without writhing in pain.

I have been on workman’s comp since August. I still work, but on “limited duty.” I have cancelled a September trip to Yellowstone National Park, and a trip kayaking down the Mekong River from Vietnam through Laos and into Vietnam. Plus a two week ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming and Park City Utah. It has been depressing. Yet I have never skipped one single physical therapy routine.

If you’ve had back problems, you know my plight! But I am a fighter. I have been with a chiropractor and massage therapist. I have been with a physical therapist. I have been with a osteopathic doctor. And now, Pilates. Thousands of hours of work later, I am much improved. Slow, steady progress. So, I continue my daily two hours of physical therapy work. Yes. Two hours.

I have content for a few things I have done, some hiking trips and ski trips. Stay tuned, they are upcoming! And in just a few weeks I am snorkeling/camping/camping on the barrier reef in Belize!

I’m blogging again because I am proof positive HARD WORK PAYS OFF! I can engage in activities again. There will be new content very soon! You may see some content about working with physical limitations! I will never give up.

See you soon!

Rod





Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon

1 08 2013

IMG_0659Just returned from a kayak camping trip to Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon with my friends Jessie and Laura! These two lakes are located right on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Bend, Oregon. Wow! These are two of the most scenic lakes in the Pacific NW.

Bathed in fantastic clear blue skies and looked upon by 10,450 ft South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor, these crown jewels are worth paddling. Everyone visiting Oregon ought to come and ply these waters.

On the water you’ve got a 200-degree view of glaciated peaks above. The lakes are easy to explore, their waters typically calm and not too deep.

Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake have different personalities. Sparks Lake is dominated by flows of a’a lava flows, so sharp they pierced one of my dry bags. These flows make for isolated channels and difficult boat landings. Yet, we found a beautiful camping site with a jaw-dropping view of South Sister!

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Out on the lake I’m overwhelmed with the views before me. In every direction there is an otherworldly view – each one magnificent all in of itself, yet here there are THREE!

IMG_0640I feel justifiably spoiled.

We have perfect weather, impeccable views, and I have two women with me.

For dinner, we have fresh shrimp and veggie skewers, plus rice. After a laborious preparation involving ginger, garlic etc. the meal perks my taste buds!

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Mount Bachelor provides a backdrop…

Evening is quiet. I have to disclose Sparks Lake is a tourist hot spot. During the day kayaks, canoes, inflatable rafts, everything is out enjoying the view. But we put out on the lake with our camping gear and found a quiet spot, so once dusk came all became quiet. One bright light in the SW sky we determined was Saturn.

After dawn and a breakfast of oats, nuts and fruit, washed down with Sumatran coffee, we packed up the kayaks on the 2013 Ford Escape and headed 20 minutes down the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway to Hosmer Lake.

Hosmer Lake is characterized by lakelets connected by lillypad clusters, rushes, and channels filled with rainbow and brook trout that would make a fly fisherman blush. It’s a different vibe than Sparks Lake. It’s just as busy though. So, on the channels connecting the lakelets, you have a parade of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, etc., and oar powered fishing boats. Everyone is looking down at the fish! Although the whole time, you are surrounded by the mountains!

IMG_0646 It was another impeccable day, with different scenery as a backdrop.

IMG_0645With mountains above, lillies on the water’s surface, and beautiful trout below, it’s hard to beat Hosmer Lake.

IMG_0652Parts of the lake feature Caribbean Blue waters where your boat’s shadow can be seen underneath!

We follow a channel up one end of the lake in search of a waterfall everyone told us about. The water temperature drops precipitously, an indicator we’ve found the source. The width of paddle-able water narrows to two yards – in some places, two feet. Then we glimpse some beached kayaks.

Here, we haul out and make lunch. Just above, there is a to-die-for waterfall beautiful enough to make Laura cry!

That is enough for me. Such a perfect day. We head back to our camp at Sparks Lake for another fabulous meal. Tomorrow we head home, full of memories.





Transforming my new Kayak: The Thunder Dragon Rises!

29 07 2013

I recently acquired my first fiberglass sea kayak – a used Tiderace “Extreme.” It’s one of the world’s most advanced rough water sea kayaks. Specifically designed for kayaking along the ocean surf zone! It’s LOTS OF FUN, if you know how to use it. I’ve used it in the surf and Holy Cow it catches waves with ease. What a ride!

It was used with a lot of scratches. I wanted to refresh its finish. Plus, I was a bit embarrassed by the huge “EXTREME” label up on the bow. It came with some fraying black deck lines and bungees. So, a project was born. “Project THUNDER DRAGON.” I would take this slightly abused “Extreme” and transform it into a fabulous dancing dragon! She came all red. That’s a great start. A Ferrari red, in fact. What goes with Ferrari red? Answer: YELLOW!

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Start by removing black smudges with acetone…

So, how do you refresh a scratched all-red kayak with frayed black bungees? Remove those offending bungees.

Then use acetone to remove rubbery black smudges from the finish. Then get some Boat Guard. Boat Guard is like Liquid Gold for kayaks. Rub it on, even buff it on using a electric buffer, and it hides scratches, leaves a UPF 50 barrier, and leaves a super nice shine!

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Boat Guard makes everything new.

Keeping the boat in the shade, I worked aboIMG_0620ut 90 minutes on the entire hull.

One thing about working with Boat Guard is that, once you start, the results are so fantastic you cannot stop. This kayak went from dull, scratched-looking to fabulous in an hour and a half.

But I was not done. I removed the “Extreme” label from the bow, and substituted a dancing dragon! I felt that was much more the kayak’s true nature.

I replaced its deck lines with yellow bungee cords and yellow reflective perimeter lines.IMG_0677IMG_0676

Here she is, the end product. She is now known as the Thunder Dragon! And she turns heads everywhere she goes! I love it.

 

 

 

 





John Day River Oregon: A Day Running the River!

9 07 2013

IMG_0587Fraternity brother Tully Alford and I spend some “bro time” every summer camping. This year, for our first camp-out we returned to the John Day River. It’s in dry central north Oregon, an area way below the radar of many outdoor enthusiasts, yet if offers tremendous opportunities for those venturing there! Imagine floating down a canyon-walled river. With every turn, a new world unfolds. Not a house or road to be seen. Eagles and hawks float above, bass swim below. Yet only two and a half hours from Portland!

This year we decided to float the river – camping and the using a river shuttle service to pick us up and deliver us to our car at the end of the run. The John Day River is famous for long, flat stretches of running river with rapids connecting them. And for beautiful canyons with layered rocks overhead.

IMG_0579We packed up my new 2013 Ford Escape with Jackson Kayaks Rogue 9 and Rogue 10 kayaks. These kayaks are perfect for this trip, because they are good for the whitewater stretches, but also have a rear hatch – good for storing gear and food – and a skeg for the flat sections so they can be paddled straight.

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Tully getting ready at the put in!

As Tully had no experience in whitewater I gave him a tutorial on entering and exiting the main current into eddies. And, I explained that in rapids there are these things called “holes,” though I couldn’t really explain what they do. So you know, a hole is a backwash behind a boulder. If your boat gets stuck in one, it can be difficult to get out. Your boat gets “sucked in” by the hole.

Running the John Day River is characterized by long stretches of flat water separated by rapids. The plan was for me to run the rapid ahead and Tully follow me through. This worked great until the very end of the day.

I was very impressed! Tully made it through everything and found it fun!

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Tully chills out after a rapid…

Tully began the day in a wetsuit but as the temperature rose, he felt heat-distressed and at lunch took it off. The Jackson Rogue 9′s hatch took the wetsuit with lots of spare room. Lunch was sumptuous. We found a shaded peninsula and made sandwiches of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, turkey, lettuce, cheddar cheese and tomato. Plus fresh oranges for dessert.IMG_0588

Back on the water. The river and canyons unfolded one after the other. We heard, but could not see, Bighorn Sheep in the hills above. We saw bald eagles. The occasional Smallmouth bass swam below.

The run was from Spray to Service Creek, about 17 river miles. We were told it would take all day. I never believed it, but it was true. We set off at 10:00 a.m. and took out at 4:00 and we were pretty tired. It was a great day. The John Day River took its prize in the last rapid, the hardest of the day. As we approached, I could only see the horizon line and nothing of the features below. We had agreed we did not want to bother scouting, because none of the other rapids were all that hard. As first paddler I went in. Immediately I noticed three holes and lined up my kayak to pass by each one. However, on the second hole, there turned out to be another right behind it, invisible from above. After scooting by the 2nd hole, I darted across and paddled hard past the surprise hole. Tully was not able to do that, and got stuck in that hole. I did not know this until I had made it completely past the rapid and into the pool beyond. Then I looked back and saw carnage! Tully holding on to his boat, but the paddle, spray skirt, his glasses, etc. were floating by and sinking. He looked pretty shaken up and I towed his boat to the shore and he grabbed on.

We kayaked the last stretch and hauled out. No matter, we had a GREAT day on the John Day River!

The evening meal was grilled salmon, salad and mashed potatoes. IMG_0581

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And lots and lots of beer! Tully caps it off with a rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple.” There’ll be some more campouts coming this summer!

 





Bay of Islands, New Zealand – Russell and Paihaia

27 03 2013
Palm Tree Paihaia

YES!

My hike on Mount Ruapehu, during the quest for Mount Doom a few days ago, with its cold wind and hail, served to spike my desire for warm sandy beaches and days spent doing nothing at all, relaxing under palms, soaking in the warmth and blue seas. So I could hardly wait to arrive at Paihaia in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands! I was also anxious to visit the hamlet of Russell across the bay.

The Bay of Islands sits in a sub tropical latitude and draws lots of visitors. Kayaking, snorkeling, whale watching and sailing are popular activities. It’s got warm tropical breezes. Seaside sun-drenched Paihaia, with warm breezes, boat tours and ample lodging, is a good choice for a base camp for exploring this area.

Our suite at the Dolphin Motel was modern, with a dishwasher, and an eight minute walk from the beach in Paihaia. Paihaia is a small town catering to tourists and a vacation home for Kiwis.

There is a two mile stretch of beach meandering in either direction from the town’s centrally located pier – all accessible by walkway. Kayak rental shacks lie along the way. I stopped in and grabbed a boat for two hours for $15.00.

Paihaia kayaking

My quickie kayak tour near Paihaia

Paihaia has its fair share of touristy shops and touristy boats taking people to swim with the dolphins. But don’t get any ideas that it’s some giant Cancun filled with fast food joints. Not here. It still retains a quiet atmosphere and home grown tourist trade. For example, I watched as a dinner boat prepared for the evening. The “Mom” was putting together an obviously labor intensive hand made meal for the two dozen or so guests. Yes, I did see a 1,000ft cruise ship anchored out in the bay. But only a few of its guests came in via its launches.

Elwin, Angelique and I arrived late in the afternoon and had a nice meal by the water. After a stroll by the water, we’d figure out what to do tomorrow. I knew that for me – all I wanted to do was to have no plans whatsoever, and just let my spirit decide and explore, poke around. No time in the car.

So morning arrives, and Elwin and Angelique have decided to get back in the car and drive all the way to the tip of New Zealand – some two hours distant. I could not fathom any more time in the car even if it meant some glorious maiden at journey’s end. All I wanted this day was to walk – to explore the Paihaia area and maybe Russell, across the Bay. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I left the Dolphin Motel about 8:15 a.m. and investigated the opportunities at the Paihaia pier. I saw a passenger ferry docked and inquired of its pilot what was the deal. She told me it’s real simple. The ferry goes back and forth between Paihaia and Russell all day and it’s $12 round trip. It’s about a 20-minute trip across.

Leaving Paihaia

That sounded great! So, I got on the 8:30 ferry and arrived in Russel before 9:00.

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Super cute Russell homes

Wow! Russell is a combination of Nantucket and Bermuda! It has the white washed super clean, neatly manicured gardens like Bermuda but the buildings are wooden like Nantucket. It looks historical because it is. Russell was the first European settlement in New Zealand.

And Bougainvillea flowering everywhere.IMG_0319  As it was still relatively early I was in the mood for breakfast.

One of my dreams all this trip was a quiet meal right on the sea. Russell offers exactly that!

The Russel waterfront is a beach with a walking friendly path right behind, tables, with a hotel or two and some eateries right there.

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IMG_0288After a little walk I settled on a breakfast joint and was treated to a wonderful breakfast! Only one hiccup. The tomato jar, which I thought was ketchup, had bbq sauce in it. So I got up to switch it for ketchup. No less than three steps away and my breakfast was gone! Snatched by aggressive seagulls waiting for anyone leaving their table alone!

I was only casually aware of the seagulls. Yet, they were keenly watching all the tables by the beach – ready to pounce on any unattended food!

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The staff at the cafe took pity on me, and gave me a replacement meal. Thank you!

Taking it slow, I watched as Russel opened its eyes to the day.

I had read in Lonely Planet about various boating activities in the area. You have a choice of snorkeling, dolphin watching, sailing, kayaking, swimming, even paragliding.

As I slowly had my breakfast and sipped coffee, I watched as the operators I read about made their way to the pier, and prepared for a day out. There were some charter sailboats, the dolphin quest boat, etc. Nothing seemed rushed. A fishing charter awaited its guests.

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Then sailboats began motoring out for a day on the bay, and two 100ft+ mega yachts came to anchor. I was super excited for tomorrow because I had arranged for us to sail a 50 foot C&C sloop on the bay! I am a lifelong sailer and I’d seen all the sailing in New Zealand – I wanted to do some of it for myself. Yesterday, on the road, I’d used Lonely Planet to reserve the Phantom, a beautiful red C&C 50.

Here’s their promotional video – pretty much captures it – swimming off the boat, and a yummy lunch, all day, including snorkeling gear for about $90 US. It will be great!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsuOBJqOT-Y





Kayaking New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park

5 03 2013
IMG_0163

Which beach today?

Today we kayak Abel Tasman National Park! This park is arguably labeled New Zealand’s best kayaking destination. While I tend to disagree, it is undoubtedly a dream come true for sea kayakers. And we’ve been looking forward to this the whole trip!

Pre trip briefing for the paddlers

Pre trip briefing for the paddlers

We have been watching the weather closely, and right on schedule (for this vacation) another Antarctic storm is due sometime today. When we get to Marahau Sea Kayaks kayak outfitters in Marahau, the staff is fretting because the storm is due about mid day, when all their novice kayak renters are going to be out in the park. They are two steps away from cancelling everyone. But they decide to let people go out, hoping the storm is late.

Because I am a kayak instructor/guide, they let me rent a single kayak and let us go out by ourselves. I go over the safety issues and equipment with Elwin and Angelique. Plus explanation of the parts of the kayak, adjusting the seats and footrests. Then on to a tutorial on paddles and how to hold the paddle.

While we are getting ready, the local instructors are prepping groups to go out. They are going through the same procedures as we. It’s interesting to see how they do things in another country. Actually it’s incredibly similar to home!

We trailer the boats to the put in.

We trailer the boats to the put in.

Once we launch, I give Elwin and Angelique, who are paddling a tandem kayak, a quick course on efficient paddling, how to go forward, stop, turn, and go backward. And of course the capsize drill.

Then it’s time to head off! Because of the potential storm, I plan to head north up the coast, and check out the two offshore islands first before the storm closes in. They are Adele Island and Fisherman Island.

Let me just say it. It’s NYCE! Niiiiiice! Really nice. Those sapphire blue waters, limestone formations, warm air and rhythmic ocean swells, plus the salt air are just wonderful. Yesterday I spied a perfect lunch spot on a beach on Adele Island, which had several kayaks on it. We’re heading there.

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Heading across to the beach for lunch

But when we get there, the beach is missing. That’s because the tide has covered what I saw hiking yesterday.

So instead of lunching here, we head across to the mainland to another, very small, golden sandy beach for lunch.

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Angelique unpacks lunch!

It’s about noon, and the storm hasn’t arrived yet. We lunch and relax and soak it all in.

We really enjoy the beach. Still, I have to note that there are some motorboats in the area, a few jet skis, and some larger boats carrying up to 40 tourists which ply these waters. So it’s not the untouched, ultimately quiet spot I wish it were. It’s a magnet because of its beauty. The other thing is we are here in New Zealand’s high holiday season. So, Kiwis are on vacation all over the country. The schools are closed and people take off for a good part of January every year! So like us, they are on holiday, too.

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We head back to Marahau because I spot wind waves in the distance, an indication the storm may be on its way.

About 45 minutes into our return, it doesn’t look quite so bad, so we decide to head back out to the islands for a closer look. Then we’ll turn back toward Marahau.

We kayak right to the point at Fisherman’s Island and then head straight for Marahau. This takes us across the bay. One choice would be to head along the shore. But that would take longer.

Thirty minutes into our journey a squall approaches over the mountains behind Marahau.

Paddling across with the storm coming over the mountains

Paddling across with the storm coming over the mountains, easy before the squall hits.

I can see it’s raining in the mountains, and expect it to make its way to us. But right now it’s fine where we are. We paddle on. Twenty minutes later, I can see gusts visible as black spots on the water heading our way. As they, and wind waves hit us, I have us head directly into the wind, because Elwin and Angelique don’t have experience with sideways waves. Angelique really likes paddling aggressively! At that point, this direction would take us ultimately to a point protected from the wind, and we could snake along the shore protected from the wind – which was coming from the mountains behind.

Mother Nature was kind to us today. Just as it came, the squall dissipated and moved on. We didn’t even get a drop of rain. With that, we redirected back across the bay to Marahau. Everyone today managed to get in a good day of paddling today, but gray storm clouds were making their way across the mountains.

All I can say is we go our paddling day at Abel Tasman National Park! We had fun and Mother Nature held off for us this time!








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