Friday, August 11, 2017

Grand Junction River Clean Up 2017

I was sitting atop a pile old tires, rebar, and other detritus perched on the bow of a bright red raft in the middle of the Colorado River. At the oars was the BLM River Ranger, with whom I'd been floating the river for the last 4 hours.

Spread out around us like ants seeking crumbs, each with an orange plastic bag aboard, were 15 other rafts, kayaks, and paddleboards. Those who came to help ranged from young to wise and greenhorns with rented boats to crusty river rats.

While we floated, smaller crafts sped ahead to walk the river's gravel bars and banks in search of another man's trash to fill their orange bag. When something too large to be transported by those on shore was found, we were hailed to pick it up. Hence the source of an ever growing heap beneath my behind.

Special Deliveries Abound!

The reason behind this flotilla was the annual Grand Junction River Clean Up. Taking place on August 5 this year, three groups of volunteers would be collecting trash on three sections of river in the Grand Valley and I'd gotten word that the organizers were looking for a photographer to document the day. I called and offered to help.

 Showing up to the put-in with camera in hand, I found baskets of fresh baked goodies and smiling faces. Fairly cool and overcast with a very slight breeze, the weather was perfect for a river work day.

The section of river I floated was touted as the clean section, being that it began outside of town and ended as the city proper began. Even still, there was no small amount of trash to be found. 100s of beer and soda cans, fishing line, an entire Wal-Mart type inflatable raft, tarps, tents, tires, plastic bits upon plastic bits, and boards full of nails all filled bags and boats.

Drink em, crush em, toss em?

 Of all this, it is the tires the I found most deplorable. Some amount of cans, bottles, wood float off as a legitimate accident, but tires are intentionally discarded. The BLM ranger I was with said he once saw a person pull up to the launch ramp and proceeded to unload and carry seven tires to the water before being stopped by the ranger!

Our group alone carried out a dozen tires of various sizes. Between the three groups, over 20 tires were carried off the river to be disposed of properly. There were many more that were inaccessible due to hazards in the water or swift currents.

There is a similar story on rivers all over the world. But change starts small and locally. My hope is that events such as this become more common place with greater participation.

Hopefully the photos, words, and stories of those who came out help raise awareness for the health of our rivers and promote a more responsible means of trash disposal.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Roadtrip with a Hitch

Some may remember seeing a certain photo this past fall.

Yep, that's the one.

Fast forward a number of months and handful of seasons and we found ourselves loading the car with cases of libations, yard games, bikes, and other items for our road trip wedding.

The destination? Tulsa, OK then on to Eureka Springs, AR.

Months of planning was about to come to fruition and thus far everything had seemed too easy. What were we forgetting? Oh yes! Tables and chairs for 50 people. With 14 days to go, that was a close one.

We'd run or bike or paddle or spelunk to discover what the Ozarks had to offer. 

Mostly, we'd spend time with friends and newly adopted families.

Our wedding day was nothing less than perfect. Keri and I both agreed that we wouldn't have changed a single thing, except to have some how slowed the day down. The love and joy spread around that day passed too quickly, but we are grateful to have shared it with all those surrounding us.

Of greatest importance is that I get to share that love and joy each and every day with my best friend, my partner in all things, and now my wife. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Micro-venture: Packrafting the Lake Fork

Successful peer-pressuring is a bit of an art, particularly after the teenage years have passed and/or liquid liberations are not involved. To even have a chance of success, your target must be chosen carefully, deliberately. You need the right person for the right activity at the right time with the right application of pressure.

So when both Keri and I were wanting a little weekend escape and a night under the stars, I formulated a plan while she snoozed off a night shift. The only hitch was the need for a third person. Calls were made and text messages sent. No luck, so I chose Travis to pester. Why him?

Right person: Travis is single and can leave at a moments notice. Plus, I'd talked to him a day earlier and he admitted to lacking weekend plans.

Right activity: Boating, bikes, skiing, camping, climbing, etc...He enjoys them all and my plan involved more than one of the above mentioned activities. Bonus points.

Right time: It was Saturday morning and Travis is off Saturday-Monday. And, as previously noted, he didn't have current weekend plans. He also hadn't been out to play and was suffering from O.D.D. (Outdoor Deficit Disorder)

When ordinary suddenly become less than
Right pressure: Now for the most crucial and delicate part, the pressuring. This is where you've really go to know the person you're trying to convince; some respond to aggressive belittling and name calling, while others need gentle coaxing and time to mull it over. Travis needs a touch of both. Not enough pressure and he won't bite. Too much and he'll be annoyed, pissed off, and put off. And he needs time, don't expect the answer right away.

I send him a text or two and wait. No reply. I call him more than once. Now he's curious so he answers.

I go right for the sale, "Wanna go camp tonight and run a river tomorrow? I'll drive the shuttle and take photos."

"I have a brunch meeting/interview tomorrow, I can't."

A pause.

"What river?"

I tell him about one of my favorite runs, the beautiful intimate canyon, and quiet camping.

"I can't go, but sounds cool."

"Well that's lame, doesn't she know it's a weekend and you have fun things to do? I think you're having a family emergency," is my not completely mocked annoyed reply.

He holds fast and we get off the phone.

Twenty minutes later he calls back, "I can go."

Works like a charm.

Things about to get a little thorny 
That face says it all
Fast-forward a few hours and we're finally on the road to a quick blast of fresh air, cold and boiling water, and no cell service. A micro-venture to run the Lake Fork of the Gunnison in packrafts.

One of my personal favorite rivers, it taught me how to scout a rapid for the safest line, push aside my fear, and commit to paddling into known dangers with no clue of how the boat would react. Now I was getting to share it with Keri, my soon to be wife, and Travis, brother from another mother. Despite having a broken wrist and not being able to paddle, I think I was more excited than either of them.

We set camp up in shadows cast by canyon walls, and with beer in hand, took a short jaunt to look at the run. I briefly wondered if they'd sleep more soundly knowing how the river would challenge them or leaving it to their respective imaginations. Pondering that question too long would be a waste, however. Travis forgot a sleeping bag so he'd sleep poorly regardless and Keri excels at sleeping anywhere, anytime. As for me, I'd sleep as well as one does when enlivened by thoughts of tomorrow.

I dropped Keri and Travis off at the put-in and drove 5 miles along the river, parking beside Last Chance rapid, returning to the put-in via a one-handed bike ride (broken wrist=shuttle driver, photographer, and eddy identifier).

"If you see me on the bank not making a scene, I'm shooting photos. If I'm making a scene, pull over and scout."


With that, they launched into the first rapid immediately and I was thrilled. Race ahead, pull camera, shoot, make a scene, repeat.

I offered advice and watched on at the larger named rapids, knowing well the battle Keri and Travis were playing in their mind's. By day's end there'd be a few swims and saves and a well earned beer. There would also be heaps of learning, though neither of them would realize it till days later. I too could enjoy an earned beer and a had a forth-coming lesson of my own.

Although truly feeling a part of their experience and my genuine excitement to share this river with them, there existed some degree of jealously. I had a longing to be in the water with them and have more than my reminiscing to bond over, but as Travis pointed out, had I been in the water, I would have missed a great many of the photos I brought home. Lesson learned.

Possibilites, not impossibilities.

Learning what happens when the line is missed