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 info@flfral.com. 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
(http://www.adem.state.al.us/newsEven…/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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQBzL7CKHm4 

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!