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 18, 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. 
Jan 5 Upper and Lower Mulberry. 
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 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.