December 31, 2019

Fun Stuff 2019

Jan 1 Mulberry Upper and Lower.  LL Stomper 80.  BCC Feast On The Beach.  Air and water temps mild. Much nicer conditions than last year.   Level on Streambeam was 4.5 but bridge gauge was 3.5 feet.  I have a new resolution for 2019: no more dry hair days!  Rolling practice mandatory!
Folks at BCC Feast On The Beach 2019

Jan 2 Upper and Lower Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80. Trip report I posted that evening:   "Mulberry was a nice float today, raining, streambeam gauge was 3.2, gauge on the old bridge was just under 3, and new painted gauge on the newer bridge was 2.5. 

It was a bit higher than I prefer, as most of the features I goof around in were either not in at all, or munchier than I wanted to mess with.
There was nothing at Glen Clark Memorial, no wave at Training Wheels, Lunchstop was pretty big and dynamic, and 5-0 was a green wave and hard to catch.
There is a tree with branches hanging down on the river right side of the surf wave on the other side of the island from Glen Clark. Andy Lee and Lynn had cut out some of the branches last year, and the ones there now may not be in play at lower levels. At the level today, they made it impossible to get in the only surfing spot.
A blue Perception Blast sit-in rec kayak is river left on the shore below Lunchstop. We had seen it pinned in some trees there a couple days ago at the level of 4.5 on the streambeam gauge. It was mostly submerged in the eddy when we arrived, and Joel pulled it out of the water and drained it. We stashed it where it *might* not get taken downstream again unless there's another flood stage. It has a big hole in the side and a small hole in the hull; it could be repaired."

Jan 3 Ridgewalk above Skyline.  With Dave H., his daughter Shay, and her boyfriend Kristopher.   Mild temps, very productive ridgewalk, several great leads!  Then a visit to Unclaimed Baggage where I miraculously didn't buy anything (too tired to shop).

Jan 5 Upper and Lower Mulberry. LL Stomper 80.Level was just under 4ft. on the old bridge gauge, which I believe was accurate for the conditions observed.  Warm day, mild water temps, 22 people in our group and there was another group meeting a hour later! Unfortunately a car was broken into at the Upper Mulberry putin (CR 10).  My car was at the BCC beach parking and was spared.

<>Jan 6 Cahaba Lovick. LL Stomper 80.   Warm day in low 60's, bright blue skies.  Water temps brisk.  With Vander H., Joseph and Emma W., and Kent M.  Level approx. 875.  Class II, no wood, all drops went without bony spots.  Trip took us approx. 3 hours, perhaps less.  And that was with a lot of lazy flatwater paddling.
Jan 12 Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80.  1.5 on gauges.  Warm, wonderful day soul surfing.  Joel and Janice, Kent, OC1-Kanubi and his friend visiting, Riley in the triple X.
Jan 19 Mulberry.  LL Stomper 80.   Warm day, around 60.  1.5 on gauges.  Tomorrow supposed to be very cold.  With Andy and Lynn, Joel and Janice, Riley, and Bill.
Jan 24 High Museum Atlanta, Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors Exhibit.   With Josh, Li, and Donna.  Photos here.
Jan 27 Archery.  At Hoover tactical, with my new bow,  with James and Shahn. 
James made a string and silencers for me

Feb 2 Stephen's Gap. Several friends celebrating February birthdays together.  I got to visit with Joy C. as well.  Pics here.

Feb 3 Tellico 1.8.  In the LL Stomper 80.  Weather temps mild; water temps cold!  With Steve I. and Wendy A.  Turkey Creek to Pylon.  There is a tree blocking the bridge rapid putin.
Feb 4 Walls of Jericho ridgewalk.  With Dave H.  We found some interesting leads, including a sink with two leads that I checked online later to find they were already reported on the survey.
Feb 15-17 Grotto Getaway.    At Camp Maranatha.  Ridgewalk on Saturday was the least productive I've ever been on.   Not a lead, sink, doline, or IKF.   Well, now we know.
Feb 23 Ridgewalk.  With David H. and Matthew K.   We dug open a blowing lead I found the previous year, but no luck.  Had some fun in briars and brambles afterwards.
Feb 23 Kelly Creek.  In the LL Stomper 80.  One lap with Ming, Lynn, and Barry.  Level 2.5.
March 2-3 Mulberry Fork Canoe and Kayak Races.  I was the Gate Judge coordinator for the second year.   We had a mud waller... level Saturday was in the 3.5 foot range and Sunday 3 foot.
March 9  Greenbriar 1.4.  With The Lost Tribe.  In the LL Stomper 80.   We drove there from a cabin in Tellico Plains, with the belief that 1.5 was the minimum, but it was 1.4 when we got there.  We went anyway.  Great time in one of my favorite runs.  No flips on my part but a few of the canoeists had some swims.  I agree that 1.5 is a minimum.  Pics HERE.
This weekend is Ain't Louie Fest but unlike past years I only got to paddle one day. Tellico is blown out 4 + feet, Whites was 5.5 ft. this morning.
March 23 Tellico 1.8 ft.  In the Jackson Nirvana.  I demoed this 9 ft. creeker and found it much different than any other boat I have ever paddled.  So... I bought it.

March 30 Locust Fork.  2.2 ft.  In the ProjectX 56.  With James H., Peggy R., Vander H. and Ming S.   Low but very pleasant, water temps mild and weather around 70F.  We took out at Swann.
March 31 Tumbling Rock Cave Preserve. 
With Dave H., Matthew K., Jeff H., Tawnya and Lee.  To the Christmas Tree.
April 6 - 7 Locust Fork Canoe and Kayak Races.  I was a spectator.

My beautiful new RivrStyx paddle, and Necky Chronic playboat, photo cred Peggy Robertson

April 13 Mulberry Fork.   Level 1.3.  In the Necky Chronic.  Excellent surfing day.  With Joel and Janice, Peggy, Joseph, Emma, Wendy and Russell.

Peggy Robertson's great shot showing the joy of paddling, as a bunch of us try to surf a wave together

April 14 Locust Fork.  Level 2.7 climbing to 3.06.  In the Necky Chronic.  Warm weather and water, windy.  With Hayward, Rebecca, Carin, others.

April 20 Calvert Prong.  In the Jackson Nirvana M. 
Warm weather, kinda high level (I forgot to make note of USGS Locust level).  With Joel and Janice, Andy and Lynn, Mark E.

April 27 Mulberry and Locust-to-Swann.  In the yellow Necky Chronic.   Mulberry was 1.18, Locust was 2.9.   Great day, lots of surfing.  Too low for 5-0 but Training Wheels and Lunchstop were sweet. With Joel and Janice; when we got to the Locust we met up with Russell B., Hayward and Rebecca.  

April 28 Mulberry.   In the yellow Necky Chronic.  Level was .88 on the Streambeam gauge.  With Andy and Lynn, Russell B.  Training Wheels and Lunchstop still good, nothing at 5-0 to surf but the little ledge below was surprisingly good.   I keep forgetting to bring a camera.

May 3-5 SERA 2019.  With the Birmingham Grotto.  At the Lazy G Wedding Chapel in Union Grove.  Pics here.

May 11 Paddling 101 class.  At Oak Mtn. Swimming Lake.  9 students.  cloudy but didn't rain on us.  Nice day.

May 12 Locust to Swann... then Calvert Prong.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  Locust was approx. 4 ft, Calvert was up a bit more than preferable for surfing.  On Locust there is a sweet wave that forms river right downstream of Whoop-te-do/Riley's Rapid.  With Joel and Janice, Vander, Peggy.  Awesome day.

May 18 Paint Rock River Float With the Birmingham Grotto.  Level was low, but floatable; in a couple of spots we had to drag boats, and Moe's sit-on-top kayak was cracked so we had to stop periodically and dump the water from inside the hull.  Lovely, long day.   From Estill Fork church putin to County Road 507 crossing.  We went under two bridges, after the second bridge the run was slackwater and a bit of a chore.  Pics here.

May 25 Hiwassee.   With the TVCC.  In the yellow Necky Chronic.  Said Hello to the Hiwassee on it's first official release date of the season.  Sunday I went on a hike from Thunder Rock to the Whitewater center with Kathy K.

May 27 Memorial Day West Blocton Coke Ovens and Cahaba Lilies.   With Susan and Donna.  Pics here.

June 1 Ocoee.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  With members of the Lost Tribe.  Great day.

TVCC paddle school auction and party that night at AU.  I camped near Pat C.'s family.  

June 2 Ocoee.  In the Jackson Nirvana M.  With Mary Mills.  Had two moments of carnage, took out at Go Forth.  A very different experience from the day before, I must admit.

June 9 Mulberry.  In the blue Wave Sport EZG - 50, my latest addition to the $100-$250 slicy boat fleet.   Summer rainstorms brought up the Mulberry and it was 1 foot on the bridge, but at the playspots the level seemed more like 6 inches.  Displacement from all the plants in the river?  With Tim R., Carin B, Hayward W. and Chuck N.  The EZG-50 is a really fun design.

June 17 - 22 NSS Convention.  In Cookeville, Tn.  Photos Here:

June 29 - July 4 Week of Rivers 2019.  At Smoky Mtn. Meadows campground in Bryson City, N.C.  With the Carolina Canoe Club.  Amazingly no rain on the campground!  Photos Here:

Sunday June 30Lower Nolichucky, class II with one -III.  In the Wave Sport EZG-50. My first descent.  Scenic, peaceful paddle.  With Lisa H. as trip leader, Linda D. in her open boat, many others.
Monday July 1Nantahala.  In the Jackson Nirvana.  I thought I would be bored in the big boat, but my hip tendonitis was bugging me from being in the playboat, so I chose the Nirvana.  Good choice - it boofs like crazy!  With Joan S., Tim R. and Chuck N., others.

My big BOOF on the Nanty in the Jackson Nirvana.  Photo credit Chuck Neese

Tuesday July 2:  Tuckaseegee.  In the Wave Sport EZG-50.  Nice day but my hip bugged me again.  Getting old ain't for sissies.  
Team "J" members Judy Joan and Jade
This photo captures how much fun kayaking is!  Spin spot on the Nanty, left of Pyramid Rock.  Photo by Chuck Neese.
Wednesday July 3:  Nantahala.  In the Jackson Antix.  Demoed it, bought it.  lol

I didn't go to the river again until August 3rd and 4th.   My sister Kathy is very ill and I am her primary caregiver.
I did go on a couple of mushroom forays with the Alabama Mushroom Society.  We went a few miles north of B'ham, in Remlap and then another time in Cleveland Al.  Its pretty dry so we didn't find much,  but we had a nice day hike each time.

August 3rd  Hiwassee.  In the Bell Ocoee Canoe.  At Adult Canoe School with The Lost Tribe.  Wonderful day.  

Me on the Hiwassee in the Bell Ocoee.  Photo by Neil Garland Stanton.
August 4th  Ocoee.   In the Jackson Antix M.   With Andy and Lynn, and new friend James.  I took out at GoForth.   What a great day!  I am smitten with The Antix.  If there is  better boat design for the Ocoee, I haven't paddled it.

August 11 Mushroom Foray.  At Buck Island, TVA property on Lake Guntersville. With members of the Alabama Mushroom Society.  We found some oysters and a few other things.  My feet are covered in chigger bites.  Yay me.  

August 17-18 Hiwassee.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With the B'ham Canoe Club, annual Old Timers trip.  We stayed at Reliance Fly n Tackle and had their excellent bbq ribs for dinner.  Great weekend.  Pics here.

August 31-Sept 1 Hiwassee.  Saturday in the Jackson Antix M, Sunday in Emma W.'s Zen S., great weekend, photos here.

Sept- 13-14 Ocoee River Championships.  I did not paddle; I was a gate judge volunteer.

Sept 27-29 GAF.  Friday the lower Nanty with Janice, Joel, many others, in the Jackson Nirvana M.  Great day. Dinner at the Italian place in Bryson City, then back to camp with the B'ham Canoe Club at Turkey Creek Campground.

Saturday Upper Nanty in the Jackson Nirvana M.  With Hayward W. Not so great day, I swam Troll Hole then was in a pin in Mank.  Switched to the Antix for the lower and promptly flipped in the curler at Patton's and swam again.  I had a newbie flanking me on my right side, in a perfect position to feed me into the curler, and I watched a canoe flip in front of me prior to my own adventure.  I add those details so I remember it years later; I own the swim, I should have rolled.  Decided my mind wasn't in the game so I took out at Surfer's.
Sunday went to roll practice with Mary Mills at the Ocoee take-out, she said I had no flex in my back whatsoever.  Decided not to paddle.  My back had been out for a couple of weeks but I had taken Aleve and said F-it.  Stupid move.  I did stretches on hardwood floors when I got home and my back was immediately improved.  I started a 20 push up and 1 minute plank challenge on Oct 1 and made it a thread on a whitewater ladies fb forum so I have accountability partners.

October 5 Hiwassee.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With new boaters Fergus T. and Stacy W., along with Peggy R., Deborah W, others.  Back still tweaky but seemed better.

October 6 Ocoee roll practice.   In the WS EZG-50 at the takeout.  Not feeling it.

October 12 Coosa.  In the Jackson Antix M.  With Heyward W., Tim R., others.  My back hurt the entire time.  Wtf.  It usually doesn't hurt when I'm seated in the boat.  A few hip snaps confirmed for me that this was just going to be one of those days.  Was nice to visit with Lonnie and Karen at COC.
October 23  Ridgewalk at Rickwood Caverns state park.  With the Birmingham Grotto.  A few good leads, unfortunately my back didn't fare well with a day pack.
Nov 3 Ridgewalk at Rickwood Caverns state park.  With the Birmingham Grotto.  No qualifiers but wow so many leads... my back is better too, finally!
Nov 3 Mulberry.  In the Jackson Antix M.  Level 8 inches.  Local water is back!  With Joel and Janice, Peggy, Michael C., Russell B., 13 of us total.  We surfed until we were all worn out.  Let no one tell you that the Mulberry is no fun below a foot.  We had a blast!

Peggy Robertson took this great photo of me with Emma and Riley on Lunchstop wave.  

Nov 10 Mushroom Foray.  With the Alabama Mushroom Society.  At Swann Bridge.  No blueits or oysters this year, but we did find lion's mane, purple corts, and tons of honey mushrooms.

Nov 16 Ridgewalk near Rickwood.  With Dave H.  Found a qualifier; Dave found a nice vertical lead.

Nov 17 Graves Cave.  With James H., Kevin aka Shiny, Matthew K.   Nice trip back to the dig, then thru the water passage.  

Nov 29 Locust Fork.  In the Jackson Antix M.  Level 2.35, low.  To Swann.  Then I met Dave Howell and mapped my qualifier from Nov 16.  I've dubbed it Loki's Lair, my newest addition to the ACS.
Dave checking his notes during the survey of Loki's Lair

Nov 30 Mulberry Fork.   In the Jackson Antix M.  Level 1.35 IIRC. With Joel and Janice, Peggy, Fergus, others.  Great surfing day.  The Mulberry Fork is a gem.

December 8 Tumbling Rock Cave.  With members of the B'ham Grotto, some paddlers who had visited before, and a couple of newbies:  Peggy R. and D. Habanero.  Photos HERE.

December 15 Ridgewalk.  With Dave H., Matthew K., Shiny and others.  Hytop area. Nothing found on this walk except a known cave.  

December 21 Ridgewalk.  With Dave H.  In the vicinity of Loki's lair, we checked on Dave's vertical climb-down lead (it didn't go) and I have a new lead with a nuisance drop entrance that we were unable to enter without rope.

December 26 Locust Fork.  Level 4 ft, air temps in mid-60's, water temps mild.  In the Jackson Antix M. With Fergus T., Joel and Janice, Peggy, Scott C, Mark E., Michael C., David and his son, and Vander H.  Took out at Swann. 
Bad tree in Bullard Shoals. Went to visit my sister Kathy and she hugged me so hard and told me she loved me over and over.

December 27 Hike of Line Creek.  Hiking and scouting class III/IV Line Creek in Attalla.  Photos here.  Description of Line Creek here:

December 28 Locust Fork. Level 3.5 ft, air temps mid-60's, grey skies, water temps mild. In the Antix M.  With Joel and Janice, Peggy, Hayward, Rebecca, others.  Took out at Swann.

December 29 Mulberry Fork.  Level 2 ft, air temps upper 60's grey skies, water temps mild. In the Antix M. With Joel and Janice, Riley, Chad D. and his son, Ryan S.

December 31 Locust Fork.  Level 3.5 ft, air temps lower 60's with wind, blue skies, water temps cold.  In the Stomper 80.  With Joel and Janice, Riley, Bo, others.  Took out at Swann. Bad tree still in Bullard Shoals.

November 23, 2019

Excellent info about the Iliad

I've been smitten with the Iliad for awhile now... here is a great interview about the Iliad:

November 4, 2019

Cool panorama photo of us on the Mulberry Nov 4 2019

Thank you to Michael Chanslor for this cool panorama photo of us paddling on the Mulberry Nov 4th!

October 8, 2019

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux

Please read this informative, insightful column about ADEM, Tyson, & our Locust Fork River that appeared in The Blount Countian last week.

“L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
By Roger Thorne © 2019
by permission of The Blount Countian
“What’s essential is invisible to the eye,” is the English translation from the famed French children’s book. It is also said to have been one of Fred Rogers favorite quotations. Yes, I mean that Fred Rogers, the one from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
It is usually at my own peril when I differ with Mr. Rogers, but I don’t do so entirely in this case. I only slightly disagree. Not all that is essential is invisible if you consider beauty to be essential. I do.
The Locust Fork River is both beautiful and essential. It is hard to view any part of the river and not be amazed by its natural splendor. It is also the main artery for so much life. Flora and fauna both depend on its clean water. The diversity of fish, amphibians, insects, birds, microorganisms, and mammals sustained by the river is staggering. The same is true of the plants and trees growing along its banks. Each is a piece in a large ecosystem and each piece is necessary for the survival of all.
There are invisible things, stuff not everyone sees, that flow because of the Locust Fork. One is money from tourism, eco-tourism specifically. It benefits the whole county. People travel here to kayak, canoe, fish, birdwatch, or just to enjoy the cool waters on a hot day. They spend dollars at local businesses and some of those dollars translate into taxes collected by local governments. The county commission recognized that when it built the King’s Bend Scenic Overlook in Cleveland.
Of course, many Blount Countians enjoy the river in the same way. Some fish or hunt along its banks. Others may just go sit and listen to the peaceful sounds of nature to relax. The laugher of kids and grandkids splashing in the water is priceless and creates joyful memories that endure for a lifetime. Another memory held by more than a few in this county is being baptized in the Locust Fork.
All this and much more is only possible because of a viable and living river. This ecosystem, a delicate dance of nature, can be threatened. It can be harmed, devastatingly so, if we are not good stewards. Members of the Friends of the Locust Fork River organization know that. They volunteer their time to preserve the river’s viability. But you do not have to be a member of FLFR to be a friend to the river. As its friend, there is something you can do now that is concrete and will help protect it.
Tyson Foods, Inc. applied for a permit some time ago for the Blountsville processing plant to change its treated waste water discharge point from Graves Creek to directly into the Locust Fork, about a mile and a half upstream from the scenic overlook. In June a company official told FLFR and commission chairman Chris Green the company was abandoning that plan. Tyson sent a letter to that effect. The application also seeks to increase the amount of discharge, but Tyson’s letter made no mention of giving up on that. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has continued with the application process. That process will soon come to a head at a public hearing that has yet to be scheduled.
Tyson’s last stated position is not to discharge directly into the river, however, if the application permit is approved as is, at some point in the future, the company could change direction again. It could also increase its discharge rate.
That possibility should be concerning to anyone who considers themselves a friend to the river. FLFR members are asking people to come to the public hearing to show support, calling folks to Rally for the River. They are asking for personal letters outlining why you might think the proposal is bad for the river and the community. It can be technical, but not necessarily. You can also state how you and the county benefit from the river. If you have photographs of the river, the plants and wildlife that flourish there, or just you enjoying good times there, send those as well to Maria Brindle at They all will be compiled and submitted at the hearing.
Mr. Rogers might agree, at least in this instance, that some essentials can be both seen and unseen.
Tyson’s application can be viewed on ADEM’s website at
(…/notices/…/6npdes2.html). Public comments can still be made through this site until the day of the hearing.

October 4, 2019

October 1, 2019

Some advice for new paddlers

...This is what I had to learn myself, and what I tell new paddlers now; if they listen to me then they'll find plenty of people to boat with:
Don't try to come off as an expert.  Especially because you're not one and it is quite obvious to more experienced paddlers.  Be a student; a lifelong learner.  Respect other people's experiences. That old codger that can't do class 3 anymore might have pioneered some of the hardest runs in the Southeast. I actually have someone who comes to mind when I write that.  Listen to their stories; learn all you can.  Some people are walking history books in regards to paddle sports - which is still a young sport especially in the US.  Impress others by the style and grace of your paddling, not your words.  Again - run things with style and grace, make the hard lines look easy, and you're doing the thing - you've got the magic.  That magic - it is the best feeling in the world!

Don't get caught up in the progression ladder - it's a trap.  Hey, I get it.  I'm a "Look at me" person, hell I am a rock musician. Here's why I'm saying it is a trap. The progression ladder, doing harder and harder runs for bragging rights, is a trap because it has no end.  There is no tip-top.  There will always be a harder run than the one you just did.  There is no king/queen of the mountain, unless you're thinking of elite, pro boaters, who happen to be some of the most humble people you'll meet.  They don't brag and they don't have to.  Remember - style and grace. Mere mortals seeking bragging rights will find a rung on the progression ladder that they cannot climb - and may well lose their lives trying to climb it anyway.  It's not a way to gain respect. Gain respect by styling the runs you do.  If you belong on a run, there will be no question, it will be obvious.  One of the best compliments anyone can give you is, "You are a much better boater than you claim to be".  And besides, do you really need to risk your life to impress your office mates?  Your office mates think we are ridiculous anyway.  Boaters in gear look ridiculous not cool, especially in our spray skirts.  No really, we do.
Help other new boaters as you gain experience, and realize that what brings people to the river can be really complex, heavy stuff.  I really do think that, I've witnessed it.  People come to the river, maybe without realizing that what they are seeking can be found there, because they didn't know they were looking for it.  Things like confronting chaos and fear in other parts of their lives, manifested as whitewater.  Maybe they have dragons to slay.  

Try to be a nice person to everyone, now I am sure some people who know me are going to laugh at me saying that, because I can be a curmudgeon.  I'm a combination of a stage performer and an introvert and it gets hard for me to be friendly sometimes.  But try. If I can try, you can try.
Get your crew and run stuff, support each other, have great adventures, and know that they are precious people in a limited time span in your life.  I say that because your crew will change; people leave the sport for many reasons, and you may well lose a friend to the river; I've had friends who have died on the river. 
There are people I miss paddling with very much, but their lives changed, their interests changed or they moved away, they had kids, they got married, divorced, whatever.  So cherish your time with them.  It's always shorter than you think it will be.

That's all for now and I hope this helps someone, somewhere... 


Jackson Nirvana review July 2019

Some thoughts on the Jackson Nirvana M. I've only paddled it a few times thus far. It's a very fast, very stable boat in the primaries. I still haven't tested its secondary stability. It has surprised me a couple of times. Once by flipping me in Entrance on the Ocoee for the first time in my life, second by getting me stuck in a pourover hole below Broken Nose river left, also a first for me in that spot. But - for various reasons, I was not paddling well that day and I don't - can't - blame the boat. I think the Nirvana is less forgiving of a slack paddling style than my Stomper, but part of that may be familiarity. The wide flat stern area is designed (I think) to propel the boat forward when landing on a boof. This is a creek race boat design after all. Well, the stern can load up whether you want it to or not. This requires adaptation because I think it is inherent to the design. 
That being said, I believe a key to doing well in this boat is to keep good posture and a cinched up backband. With so much rocker, it's easy to slouch and end up with the bow very raised. While that's a comfy position it can make for unpredictable moments. I do have the seat all the way forwards, and haven't tried any other seat positions. On bigger waves like Double Trouble and Tablesaw, the Nirvana feels like it is at home. This is kind of surprising for a boat designed to run creeks. When I've taken other creek boats down the New and lower Gauley for instance, the boats turn so easily that sometimes it can be a bit to handle in bigger wave trains or lots of crosscurrents. I suspect the Nirvana has an advantage, because it tracks well. How did they do that and put so much rocker on the boat as well? Magic I suppose!   It also rolls really easily. 
I took it down the Nantahala to give my hip tendonitis a break from the slicey boats, and debated whether it was going to be boring or not, and it actually was a lot of fun. The Nirvana makes catching eddies very gracefully an easy thing to do if that makes sense. With all of that rocker the boat boofs really easily too, evidenced by the boof in the photo below. At the Nanty Falls I caught some eddies and took the wildwater/racers line and it was so simple, again because the boat is fast and has so much primary stability.  (It was a fun day, but for class II and III I am going to grab the Antix every time.  The Antix is so much easier to transport, and is a better surfer, and has that playful stern too.) But on a creek, I can't really say how it will do yet. I have only taken it down the middle Tellico which was fine, but not on anything steeper or creekier. The last creek I ran was Greenbriar in my Stomper, and I am not sure anything could suit me better on such a run. But I look forward to finding out.
My stats: 5'6", 165 lbs, 32 inseam.  Previous creekboats:  Prijon Embudo, Riot Magnum 72, Liquid Logic Stomper 80.  My level of paddling tops out at easy class IV creeks such as South Sauty, Greenbriar, Lower Big Creek et al. and classic IV big water such as Lower Gauley, New, Ottawa Middle Channel.  20 years paddling.

My Boof on the Nantahala in the Jackson Nirvana.  
At 8' 11.5" and 86 gallons, the Medium Nirvana is a big beastie
Jackson Kayak Nirvana promo: 

Some reviewers are saying the max paddler weight for the Medium Nirvana is around 190 lbs.  Some feel that the planing hull will mean the boat's hull lifespan will be lessened vs. a traditional displacement hull creeker.  Some are also questioning the secondary stability and suitability for beginners. Do a youtube search for Nirvana reviews and you'll see several different opinions.  YMMV.

Update Oct 2019:  The Nirvana and me are just not gelling. 

The Nirvana is really long, with a very wide flat stern. In big waves etc. it is so stable it feels like you could just close your eyes and let it do its thing. Huge primary stability. And when you start driving it hard, it flies -very fast and fun feeling, like carving skis down a fresh hill. Also it boofs really easily, it has tons of rocker. I have seen many beginners in Nirvanas and I understand why. The stability is amazing.

But I am shopping for a creeker, and the creeks around here are bony with small eddies. I tend to not to want to go very fast on creeks. I am going to keep creeking in my Liquid Logic Stomper 80 until the Jackson Zen3 comes out, and then I'll take a hard look at the Zen3.
There's nothing wrong with my Stomper, I bought it new in 2013 and I may keep on with it. I just thought something different would be fun; also the one thing I would change about the Stomper is I would add some stern volume. It definitely doesn't track as well as the Nirvana, and it is slower, but I find these things can be assets on a little creek.
The Nirvana is also really light despite being a big honking boat, and I am now spoiled by the light Jackson hulls. The Stomper is heavy as @#$%, but I think it is about the same weight as a Newmad, and definitely lighter than the Recon. I really liked the Recon but couldn't get past the weight.
I haven't been a fan of Jackson in the past because I didn't like the string outfitting, it seemed cheap to me. I also demoed a 2010 Fun and a Fun Runner and found them both to be meh. But I got an Antix this summer and it has become my favorite boat. I think the newer Jackson designs are really unique, and if the Zen3 has any of the Antix magic in it then it is going to be sweet.
Also I made my peace with the Jackson outfitting, and see the benefits; it is adjustable on the fly and it is light. The big thing is the thigh hooks/pockets fit my legs; that's the gotcha for me with the Pyranha outfitting.
It seems like the Machno is a brilliant design and I hope some of the other companies are inspired by it. 
I am going to demo a M Newmad next.  I did not like the Mamba even after an extended 'demo' of it on the Rogue at high water, so we shall see.  

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday!

September 26, 2019

Zen of whitewater, current life, book recommendation, cats.

A new paddler asked me what made me so smitten about paddling whitewater in a kayak.
I tried to explain as best I could.
I said that there is a moment when you are in a rapid at the top of your skill level, yet not surpassing it, when time slows down, and you are able to put your paddle and boat exactly where you want it to be, and this moment is sheer bliss.  After experiencing it, you will seek it out again and again, and once back in it, there is nothing but joy.

At its core, padding is about joy.  I wish more people could experience it.

Whitewater has an image problem.  Online it looks like a thrillseeker sport with no sense of preserving one's life.  I've been party to it, because I love watching videos of people dropping big waterfalls and really hard, dangerous rapids.
I was fortunate to learn to whitewater kayak before youtube, when any access to a video of someone doing a river full of rapids meant buying a VHS tape.  This means that I didn't have any idea that people were seeking out the sport for any reason but curiosity about what was around the river bend. 
Whitewater paddling is a family sport; a way of life; a small tribe of feral kids who grew up and work 40 hours a week then get their butts back to the river every chance they can. It's people in their 70's and people who are 7 years old.

Whitewater paddling has been a great benefit to my life, not the least because it has taught me how to relax and not panic in unfamiliar, scary situations, and assess the task at hand.  Often the task at hand has been underwater, in turbulent and rocky water.  With friends.  We all discover that a lot of what seems scariest is not really dangerous, but to find that truth out, requires facing what we fear.  And the true hazards- we help each other avoid those.  It's the ultimate solo sport that is also a team effort.
I've celebrated someone's first combat roll, I've felt exuberant at making a pirouette ender at a class II pourover, I've laughed so hard at a friend's goofy swim and then been the subject of the next carnage.  Right now there are a couple of teenagers in our paddling circle who are stepping up and becoming awesome paddlers.  It's so cool to witness and to help.

For those who asked, my sister Kathy is still in hospice from Stage IV cancer and early onset Frontal Temporal Dementia.  She is being taken care of 24/7, in her home with her pets, and is free from any anxiety or stress.   We tell each other that we love each other over and over when we are together.   We sing Beatles songs together.

I'm reading a book on my phone that I bought from Google Play for $6.50, called "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig.  I got it on a whim after seeing a quote from it, and it has some really good bits.  For anyone who suffers from depression, he describes it very well, though I must say his anxiety was on a level that I can't imagine enduring, and he didn't try talk therapy or meds.  I understand being afraid to grab the rope that is tossed your way - what if it doesn't help and you're left hopeless?  But it's not the right decision; grab the damn rope. 

And finally, it is clear that having a pocket computer that accesses the sum of humanity's knowledge only leads to looking at pictures of cats, videos of cats, audio of cats purring and discussions of cats' finer qualities.   In summation, cats have taken over the world.

Here is a song about looking at pictures of cats:

September 21, 2019

The Clean Water Act

The current administration is rolling back crucial protections for streams and wetlands across the country in a direct assault on the Clean Water Act. This incredibly beautiful film tells the story of the rivers, streams, and wetlands of Alabama to illustrate the dangers of the proposed regulation. By doing so, it shows the economic benefits, ecological health, and cultural way of life that hang in the balance. For more information, and to take action now, please visit
Waters of the U.S. from Southern Exposure on Vimeo.

September 6, 2019

September 2, 2019

August 29, 2019

Great river quote

...from a great river book:

“There is an inherent, humbling cruelty to learning how to run white water. In most other so-called "adrenaline" sports—skiing, surfing and rock climbing come to mind—one attains mastery, or the illusion of it, only after long apprenticeship, after enduring falls and tumbles, the fatigue of training previously unused muscles, the discipline of developing a new and initially awkward set of skills.
Running white water is fundamentally different. With a little luck one is immediately able to travel long distances, often at great speeds, with only a rudimentary command of the sport's essential skills and about as much physical stamina as it takes to ride a bicycle downhill. At the beginning, at least, white-water adrenaline comes cheap.
It's the river doing the work, of course, but like a teenager with a hot car, one forgets what the true power source is. Arrogance reigns. The river seems all smoke and mirrors, lots of bark (you hear it chortling away beneath you, crunching boulders), but not much bite. You think: Let's get on with it! Let's run this damn river!
And then maybe the raft hits a drop in the river— say, a short, hidden waterfall. Or maybe a wave reaches up and flicks the boat on its side as easily as a horse swatting flies with its tail. Maybe you're thrown suddenly into the center of the raft, and the floor bounces back and punts you overboard. Maybe you just fall right off the side of the raft so fast you don't realize what's happening.
It doesn't matter. The results are the same.
The world goes dark. The river— the word hardly does justice to the churning mess enveloping you— the river tumbles you like so much laundry. It punches the air from your lungs. You're helpless. Swimming is a joke. You know for a fact that you are drowning. For the first time you understand the strength of the insouciant monster that has swallowed you.
Maybe you travel a hundred feet before you surface (the current is moving that fast). And another hundred feet—just short of a truly fearsome plunge, one that will surely kill you— before you see the rescue lines. You're hauled to shore wearing a sheepish grin and a look in your eye that is equal parts confusion, respect, and raw fear.
That is River Lesson Number One. Everyone suffers it. And every time you get the least bit cocky, every time you think you have finally figured out what the river is all about, you suffer it all over again.”
― Joe Kane, Running the Amazon

Nantahala rock/mud slides

As many of you know, the Nantahala river suffered rock and mud slides in 4 places this past Saturday.  This is a drone video of the area near Ferebee park.

The Log 2: Another Year

 ...this pretty much sums up what makes me happy:

August 22, 2019

Seasons, a gift of paddlesports

The different seasons and their message of the passage of time can be melancholy for us mortals, unless we consider them in the light of paddling whitewater in the glorious Southeastern United States.

Fall beckons us even now in the heat of August.  The place we practice rolling on the Cahaba is newly covered in leaves.  The air seems less humid.  And already I can feel the Nantahala in autumn; the Hiwassee in fall colors, the Ocoee in October crispness.  Campfires, wet gear hung to dry (it never does), cold beers and tall tales of the river adventures of the past, and of the day; plans to make new river stories the next day.   Football scores.  Guitars by the fire.  Fleece.  Cold air, warm sleeping bag. Warm socks.  Clear sky; meteor showers, milky way.

Winter, drysuit weather; December in Alabama the local water is coming up; the air is cool,  but the water is still somewhat warm.  We can even have 70F degree weather days in January; but we wear our drysuits for safety.  The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork of the Warrior River are the familiar backyard runs.  At higher water there are challenging spots in each.   The Alabama creeks arise -  Little River Canyon, crown jewel of Alabama;  South Sauty and Town creeks, Kelly creek; Calvert Prong; many others.  They range from class II-III to class V.  The trees are bare; sometimes icicles cover the rock walls.  In February it can be in the 30F range and the water is brilliant; it feels like little knife cuts as it splashes.  Everything, everything! is intense; the muted grey colors are even intense.  We slide off of wet rocks; we bash and tear down rock stairs on the creeks, and then again, run deep waves and troughs on high water Locust.  

Spring, fecund, soaked, saturated, greys turning to green and everything is running; sometimes too high, we call it high-water skunked; then again, rarely run options are available.  Water is still chilly; but getting warmer.  We can get away with wearing drytops and shorts, and maybe step up and run things we might feel a bit intimidated to do; but it's local water, the best water.  The riverbanks are crazy with things growing but they're not yet choked with blackberry thorns and rhodo.  We roll and roll and roll.  We celebrate having all the water, every day it makes us yearn for it as we go to work instead.  We surf ourselves silly.   Life is amazing.  

Summer, my favorite season, though the local water is gone; the heat is upon us and we have to drive to the dam release runs for whitewater.  But they are excellent destinations; and there is nothing better to me than the full sun, and the river.  Ocoee in shorts and a splash top.  Hiwassee with bald eagles, wave surfing, and kids learning to boat. Playboats.  Sunblock, Deet and sandals.  Summer is also the season for the annual Week of Rivers event near the Nantahala.   Smoky mountain love.  My heart's home.

August 21, 2019

Nighttime bugs

Tonight, the katydids are calling.  The cicadas were earlier in the evening.  
I love to hear these calls.   I love summer here in the South.

August 20, 2019

I love this song, too...

Good advice about end of life preparation

As my sister is in hospice care I can attest with experience that this article is spot on.

I like the “Niagara Falls trajectory”: To live as well as possible for as long as possible, followed by a rapid final decline.  It even has a pun in it.
I have a few thoughts to add from my experiences. There are going to be lots of surprises.  "Surprises" means, by their very nature, you can't prepare for them; but maybe I will be able to spare you a few dear reader.  
The system of password protected websites that we have now, is a nightmare for someone with cognitive issues, and for their loved ones who must untangle the mess.  Make a list of current passwords, or use a password manager like KeePassX, and put that information in a secure place where someone trusted can access it in need.
If you want certain things for your funeral etc., tell people.  Write it down.  Put it in your will, or with your will.  Even better, go ahead and pay for what you want now.  There are ways to do this, even with payment plans and 'themes' for your life celebration like Fiesta, Irish Wake, etc.  I'm not making this up.

Hospice is great - it can allow someone to pass away at home with their family, pets, familiar surroundings and peaceful setting.  No beeping monitors, no hospital room.   A nurse will come twice a week; a bathing nurse several times a week; they provide things like wheelchairs, oxygen, chucks and diapers; medicines are free.  But hospice does not include someone to stay with you or your loved one.  If you are the primary caregiver of someone, and you have a full-time job, you will need to find help.   If you can get volunteers, great.  There are services; they are expensive (sitting is expensive no matter what).  I found that word of mouth was a better way to hire sitters.  I have been fortunate in this way to find outstanding, wonderful people for care.  You'll need to gather a bunch of people, available for times when a sitter might be sick or have to take the day or night off.  And know that you, yourself will always be the backup sitter. 

Hospice will send someone to stay with a patient for a couple of hours if needed.  But that person cannot assist the patient to the bathroom, or dispense medicine, or really do anything but be there.

Oncology teams are heroic, amazing people.  But they can be so focused on trying to treat the disease that they may not focus on quality of life vs. longevity.  So you must do that.  Be your own advocate, or be the advocate for the person you are primary caregiver for.  Tell the people who may end up being your advocate what your wishes are, now while you can be clear about it.  Make a living will.

Get rid of stuff, now.  Seriously.  Do not burden your family with a bunch of stuff they have no idea what to do with.   If you have things you wish to pass on to others, put that in your will.  If you just want to make sure your nice pottery collection doesn't end up in an estate sale with $2 price tags on it, label things with information about what you paid for it, who the artist who made it is, and when you bought it. 

I was sitting on the bank of the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho last year, with my toes in the water in that glorious, cell phone and internet free wilderness, and I realized that I want to make the rest of my life resemble that moment as much as I can, while I can.  So while I may joke about living in a van down by the river, that is really where I hope to one day be.  My stuff, as little of it as I can manage to own, stashed in a cabin, and my boat on a river, many rivers, somewhere, every day I can do it.
Scene from the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho

What is your life dream?  Your retirement dream?

There's more, and I may end up archiving this post after a while, it's hard to write about.  But then again it may help someone, I don't know.

August 15, 2019

Moldy Mary and Coley's Toxins

I was reading about "Moldy Mary", a woman named Mary Hunt who had a job finding rotting fruit in groceries to test for new antibiotics. In 1943 she found a melon with a mold that produced a variety of penicillin that allowed it to be easily mass-produced.  I wondered to myself if anyone is doing this kind of research today?
I was also reading about Coley's toxins. Around 1900 he came up with a method of using heat-killed bacteria to induce an immune response in cancer patients, many of which had complete remission. For real!
His approach fell out of favor for reasons I find disingenuous.  Read this link to see the story:

It makes me wonder what other treatments are out there in the ordinary world, that we are overlooking.

August 9, 2019

Antix review from Alex Barham.

I'm telling you, the Antix is an awesome design!

August 8, 2019


Have I mentioned Ana-Maniac recently?  Or ever on this blog?

She's a very shy cat and we share a home.  Her mom is the same mom that gave birth to my cat L...  He is a year older than Ana.  I trapped him in a nearby wooded area after noticing him as a kitten.  I also tried to catch his tortie mother,  with the pedestrian but apt name "Momma Kitty" as I called her, but she was trap wary.  I caught a possum one night, which I let go of course.  It was an adventure.
L... was an older kitten when I finally trapped and eventually tamed him.  He was fixed as a feral and has a docked ear.  I view this as a badge of honor... a mark of a feral kitten who came to be part of my household.  He loves me unabashedly and is an incredible pet.  He doesn't trust any other human though.  My older cat C.. views him with disdain, as she should since she is far fancier than he is.  L... is a wonderful goofball.  He always sits by me on the keyboard bench with me when I practice, and I have dedicated a simple version of Maple Leaf Rag to him as his theme song.  Here's the original version:

I didn't give up on catching Momma Kitty.  But she was smart, and I had to be patient.  The following summer came around and she had more kittens.  Trapping 
Momma required a plan.  I set food near the trap for a few days, then just inside the entrance, then fully inside.  It took weeks.  She was wary.  Finally I had success. I was able to trap her and one of her babies, a dilute tortie kitten. Two traps set in case you were wondering.   I had Momma Kitty fixed and released her where she was found.  No more kittens from her, I knew of three of her litters and that was after I discovered her.  Sadly after a month or two from being fixed, she disappeared.  I hope the best for her.  I think of her often. 
The kitten I had trapped that night, I had fixed as well, as a feral with a docked ear.  I was going to let her go as I had her Momma a couple days previous. But it was torrentially raining and I couldn't make myself do it.   She was an older kitten, again, and I tried to tame her.  I named her "Anna" after the Beatles' cover of the Arthur Alexander song.  Valerie and Dave helped me with her and rechristened her "Ana-Maniac".  I loved, and love this. 
Ana was not easily tamed, and I let her into 'gen-pop' from the room I had her in, a couple weeks earlier than I should. She had been kept in a large wire dog pen in a spare bedroom for a few weeks... the cage was  loan from Valerie and Dave... for which I am eternally grateful.   I had used the same wire pen with L..., but whereas he had a "Helen Keller at the water fountain" moment when he realized I was his friend and not a predator, Ana never had this epiphany.  Eventually I let her have free roam of the house, and she and L... are fast friends forever, whilst C... ignores them both and is visibly relieved to be left alone without aggravation.

Friends, what I did is get L... a kitten.  A buddy.  A best friend.  A BFF.  Ana-Maniac hides if I stand up and walk around. Sometimes she graces us with sitting on the couch with the rest of us.  But she is always, always, wary of me.
I tell her out loud that she is here at home, and that her life is valuable; that she reminds me that her life and all life is valuable, and that if I have the honor of keeping her safe, warm, out of the rain, and the hot, and the cold, well I am thankful.
She looks at me as if I'm the Crazy Cat Lady. I point out that the threshold of CCL status is 4 cats and I only have 3. I don't think I've convinced her. 

July 27, 2019

So there was this monolith, this giant wave of confusion and discourdant  sounds, that would follow me as I ran up the beach, only this race would last my entire life.  And chasing as every despair and failure I could conjure, all I could do was run, silly red queen running faster than the truth.

July 25, 2019

Information on raft and paddlecat materials by Ben Robinson

My friend Ben Robinson shared his families' findings on raft and paddlecat construction and materials:   "We researched for rafts and here’s the quick and dirty I learned. Keep in mind that all the common rafts and cats are over-built as they are designed for commercial use. The four main inflatable boat materials are PVC, Urethane, Hypalon, and Neoprene, the first two being plastics and the second two being rubber based. Only the Shredder cats use Neoprene to my knowledge and I don’t know much about it. The other three materials are all applied to a center layer of strong woven nylon or similar fabric. Hypalon is a trade name for a rubber-based coating and it is grippy, rolls up very small, and is the easiest to glue on accessories or patches to in case of emergency. Being rubber based, all the seams are glued, not welded. Over time the glue can break down but it takes many years for this to happen. Like 20+ years. It is expensive as far as materials go. It’s probably the material to choose if you pack it up often due to its foldability. It also makes for a soft ride. PVC is stiffer, can have welded seams instead of glued seams, but it doesn’t pack as tightly. It’s super tough and slips over rocks easier than rubber and it can offer a “sportier” ride due to its rigidity. Pump it up tight and you’ve got a flipping machine! PVC is less expensive than rubber but the labor to weld the seams washes out any savings. The only drawback I could tell was that over time PVC can develop tiny pin holes, or so I read. Again I am talking many years down the road, and that’s what pumps are for. Finally, urethane is also very stiff, is very slippery (I have learned this is both good and bad), but rolls up about like a refrigerator does. Urethane is a different type of plastic than PVC, I think it’s maybe a composite rubber plastic blend or something. It can also be welded so the delamination of seams in the future is a non-issue. It supposedly holds air the best and it can be easily glued just like rubber so long as you don’t ever apply 303 Protectant. It is the most expensive material so it is not used very often. At the end of the day they each have their advantages so I would say choose the boat design and company/warranty over the materials used as they are all good. Also check out which ones are made in the USA because sending one to Mexico or China for a major repair would suck. "

July 7, 2019

Jackson Antix Review

I demoed the Jackson Antix on the Nantahala July 3rd. I was interested in a boat I could have on the roof racks, suitable for whatever whitewater came up to paddle. Yes I have a lot of boats right now, but they are all pretty specific to either a creek or a playboat day. I had no "river runner". The Nirvana, which I am learning to like more, (and more about that boat coming soon in another review) is a 9 ft., highly rockered, fast creek boat and not something I would enjoy on the class II Mulberry Fork here in Alabama. It's also a big boat for me to load on the roof racks. I know some of you will roll your eyes about that comment but for shorter people like me the amount of PITA loading a boat will influence my choice. The slicy boats I have are fun but I wouldn't feel comfortable in them on a creek run.  I needed that river runner I could depend on for any day.  I put on the Nantahala in the medium Antix, with Joan S and Amanda F.  and immediately it just felt like the right size boat for me. It is surprisingly light. I was able to muscle it around, and the stern allows for slicing into eddies and fast ferries. I didn't stern squirt it yet. 

The seat was all the way forwards, so the seat pan was on the edge of uncomfortable. I was hesitant to change this at first as I didnt want to get backendered. But I decided to move it one notch back and it was fine. I may try one more notch back next. The stern never grabbed, but I was also being mindful of my posture. I'm sure putting the seat all the way back would make stern squirts easier. *stern squirt = standing your boat on the stern end on purpose.  *backender = standing your boat on the stern end by mistake...
I didn't boof it as it wasn't my boat (yet), but I will be boofing it a bunch in the future. I did catch some dynamic eddies including the left eddy at Patton's Run, and Root Canal. I also did some rock spins and hole spins and surfing.
I also caught eddies at Nantahala Falls; Billboard, tried for Rock Block, some river right eddies and then ran the Wildwater/Racer's line.  What a fun run!
I've griped about Jackson Kayak outfitting before.  Well I have changed my mind about it.  While I am still annoyed at times with the loose feel of the bulkhead, it is countered by the ease of being able to release the bulkhead tension to relax my legs, then tighten the tension back to run rapids.  I also thought the molded in thigh hooks would be less effective than they actually are; though they are not adjustable, they are comfortable for me as is.  The backband is effective and doesn't ride down.   Wave Sport remains my favorite outfitting but on the other hand the more elaborate outfitting WS and Dagger have means more weight overall.  I like Liquid Logic Bad-Ass outfitting as well, except for the backband sliding down.  My least favorite outfitting remains Pyranha, specifically the angle of the thigh hooks, but some people prefer them so a lot of this is simply body shape and leg position preference.

It rolls super easy; the boat being so light helps with rolling as well. I was worried that the Antix would feel wide like the Dagger Axiom does (to me), but it does not!  Again the medium Antix feels like it was made for someone my size, which is 5'6", 165 lbs, 32 inseam. 
I have only paddled the Antix once, and only on the familiar and friendly Nantahala, but so far I do not have a single negative comment about the boat. It may very well be my favorite design ever. Time will tell. I didn't really expect to like it THAT much, but for today at least I am smitten... my one regret is that I waited this long to try it!   This design came out in winter of 2016.  

Now, like I said earlier I don't have any negatives to report about the design but it is a lightweight hull, 36 lbs.  Let's see how it holds up to my tender mercies on rockier runs like Greenbriar. The light hull is something new for me; I've been driving tanks.
My first boat 20 years ago was a Dagger RPM; while they look similar superficially the Antix is quite different. The Antix is not as narrow, it has a higher leg position, and the hull is not as round - it is a full-on planing hull.

Here's a commercial Jackson Kayak made about the Antix:
I had to laugh when I saw this video, because a lot of what they are talking about relates exactly to someone like me.  "If you're not 100% comfortable on a run in a playboat, but bored on the run in a creekboat" - yep this is what I was looking for and I believe it will fit that niche perfectly.