So How Did You Train For the UFC ?

One of the things that made training for the UFC so difficult was there was no training routine out there to follow.  If you want to train for a marathon, a long distance bike ride, or even a long distance swim, there are multiple books, online resources, and magazine articles for you to use as a guide.  For most of these events you can talk to several people who have done them and they can provide some insight into what they found was the best training routine.  Not so for a mutli-day endurance expedition canoe/kayak race.  It is just not out there because I searched high and low for it.  The fact that these events are multi-day and multi-dimensional makes it that much more difficult in developing a training schedule.  First there is the training to get the body to withstand the demands of the event which includes paddling and walking ( remember, most of these events include a portage and the portage for the UFC is a 40 mile portage).  Then there is the training to ensure the canoe/kayak skills (paddling, rolling, bracing, sailing, wave surfing, navigation, etc.) are as fine tuned as possible.  Ultimately I ended up creating my own training routine that was a combination of concepts from marathon, canoe training, Ironman triathlon training, and ultra marathon training.  I have attached the training log I kept to give some idea as to what training I did.

UFC Workout Log

As you would guess, there are a lot of long distance paddling pieces.  Even though I had a sail with my rig I took the approach that I needed to train like I was going to have to paddle the entire 1200 miles.  I am glad I adopted this philosophy because that is about how it turned out.  I think anyone thinking about the UFC needs to view the sail as just icing on the cake.  Train like you will not have it and then if you are lucky enough to be able to use it, you are that much ahead.  hitting-the-wallIn addition to getting the body used to hours upon hours of paddling, the other important thing to figure out during the long distance paddling pieces is the fueling protocol.  I think this is a highly individual thing and the only way to find out what works for each individual is trial and error.  In running, bonking is bad but at least you can sit down and recover.  In paddling, not so much.  You bonk when you are paddling and you are left with sitting in your craft and hoping the wind is blowing the right way.  If it isn’t, to bad, so sad, suck it up and start paddling or get blown out to sea. My worse case of this happen during one of my training paddles where I bonk during in the hottest part of the day, with no wind at all, and I had about two miles of open water paddling to get to my recovery spot. Those two miles were the hardest two miles I have ever paddled but I finally made it to shore and just crashed under a tree. I am not sure how long I laid there but it was long enough for me to get enough energy to pack my stuff up and get home. Once home I slept for 12 hours.  In addition to doing long distance pieces I found the need to throw in some back to back long paddles to see what works best in speeding the recovery process.  Most training routines have an easy or rest day right after the day of a long training piece.  For these multi-day races the body has to be tested on the recovering overnight for another day of paddling that could equal or even be longer than the previous days paddling.

As with other sports, having a balance of speed work and strength work is important.  I also tried to work in as much weight work as possible.  This came in very handy due to the strong headwinds we faced during the UFC.  Having good endurance was helpful but having the strength to power through the waves was just as important.  This was an area where Rod’s body structure served him well as he was always able to go faster through heavy waves than I was.  I would hate to think where I would have been if I had ignored trying to build up my strength.

The most difficult thing I encountered in training for the UFC wasn’t the workouts themselves — it was the hours of training alone and in the same waters.  Being alone is something a contestant has to get used to since he or she may end up paddling a good portion of the UFC alone.  With that said having someone to train with you for an hour or two sure helps pass the time.  The more fun that can be incorporated into the training Exerciseroutine the better so thinking about different waters to do the long paddles in is well worth the time.  The other aspect that I tried to work into my long paddles was paddling in different conditions.  Bad weather, good weather, head winds, following seas, high temperatures, cold temperatures, upriver, downriver, open bay, open ocean, and surf.  In addition to those conditions it is important to try and do them both during the day and at night.  Waves sound very different at night and some people think the “water boogieman” comes out at night.  A contestant of the UFC has to make friends with the night and feel comfortable paddling in some seas at night.  If they don’t, they will not be able to finish the event.  I have shared my training log not so much as a guide to follow but more of what worked for me.  Since we have been blessed with different athletic abilities I feel an individual has to figure out the schedule that works best for their body.  It has been said that half the challenge of these Watertribe events is getting to the start line.  Training is definitely a big aspect of that challenge.

So You Are Riverslayer aka Rod Price !

I can imagine that folks reading about my UFC experience SCAN0142probably think how smart it was for Rod and I to team up. That teaming up with someone is the way to do a Watertribe events. I don’t know if it was because we were both so smart or if it was something God had a hand in.  I totally agree that Rod made my UFC experience special in so may ways.  On the comment that teaming up with someone is the way to do these Watertribe events?   I would say, “CAUTION:  YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER THE DANGER ZONE.”  The idea of having another person with you is a great concept.  The challenge is ensuring the person or persons you are teaming up with have the right chemistry and skills.  If there is bad team chemistry, or a lack of skills to function as a team, the challenge of the event will multiply tremendously.  This is why I feel God had a hand in Rod and I teaming up.  We didn’t know each other before we started the race.  We had talked on the phone, but I couldn’t have picked him out of crowd if my life depended on it.  Yet, even though we were complete strangers, the chemistry between us was perfect in so many ways and we both possessed the necessary skills to function as a team.  So why was that?

The UFC is one of those events where, somewhere on the race course, a contestant is going to be experiencing a series of emotions that can range from intense pain, fatigue,  various fears, etc.  All these create mental challenges for the contestant to deal with. Usually those mental challenges occur at different times for each contestant.  How someone deals with their own personal mental challenges can have an impact on their paddling partners.  It can be inspirational or it can be irritating.  To me, it is their mental toughness that determines how they deal with those mental challenges. That is also something that is very hard to assess without spending time with someone while they are stressed.

Mental toughness is something I think you are part born with, part developed through time living life, and part training.  I discussed the training I did to increase my mental toughness  in my post dated Nov 23, 2011, Dec 04, 2011, Dec 17,2011, and  Jan 07,2011.  In my post I highlighted four areas I feel you need to have mental toughness.  Rod had mental toughness in all these four areas in a big way.  Were we just lucky or was it divine intervention?  At the start of the UFC I had no plans of teaming up with anyone primarily because the few people I would even consider teaming up with were not doing the UFC. Rod and I didn’t meet each other until checkpoint one where by chance we were both getting ready to launch for that day’s paddle at the same time.  Since we launched at the same time and would be crossing Boca Grande Pass, we decided to do that crossing together.  I think we both figured we would cross together and separate once across.  In my post dated May 17,2012 I describe that day and how we ended up staying together.

Along with mental toughness the other thing that is a tough characteristic to pickup visually is the team skills of an individual.  As with mental toughness, I think you can only get an assessment of the person’s team skills by spending some time with them when they are stressed.  Most everyone can put on an act when things are going well.  It is when things are not going so well or the person is in pain that you really see what kind of team player they are.  I am not going to try and cover all the different aspects of being a good team player but I will touch on a few that I feel are important.  The first is respecting the other person for who they are and adapting to accommodate their differences.  As I have indicated in other blogs, Ron was a morning person whereas I was more of a night person. Ron was competing to win the event whereas I was competing to complete it.  The differences were many yet we didn’t let our differences get under each others skin.  The second is having confidence in the other person’s abilities and having the ego to let the other person be the leader when they have a strength in a particular ability.  Ron was the river guy and I followed him when we were on the rivers.  I was the ocean guy and Rod followed me when we were in big water.  We swapped roles on the portage with Rod being the lead first and then me taking the lead in the second half.  Rod picked out camp sites and I was the wake up person.  The third, and I feel the most important, is communication and listening with an open mind.  There were several times that Rod and I would disagree with an approach on how to do something but we were always able to talk it out and come to a decision.  I will never forget one night near Jacksonville where Rod was really tired and he wanted to stop and sleep.  We had been striking out on finding a campsite.  We finally came up on this marsh island.  Rod felt we could pull our canoes up on the grass and sleep in them.  He was beat.  I really didn’t want to sleep in a wet canoe and I was feeling pretty good.  So we talked about it and Rod agreed to paddle on even though he was tired and felt that we would not find a better campsites.  For the next hour we paddled and found this really nice campsite that wasn’t on the chart.  In the morning Rod said, “I’m glad you kept us going because this camp site was a lot better.”  In the Everglades is was just the opposite.  I wanted to stop, let the wind die down and get back started in the morning.  The wind was blowing extremely strong and I was just plain whipped.  Rod wanted us to keep going even though it meant spending more time  into a strong head wind and ultimately paddling in the Everglades at night.  We talked about it and I agreed to keep going.  I was glad he pushed us because it was the right decision to keep going.  I don’t think we would have made it to checkpoint two if we hadn’t pushed on.

So teaming up with someone can be a great thing but I wouldn’t suggest doing it without first spending some quality paddling time with the other individual first.  By quality paddling time I am not talking about an easy day paddle.  I am talking about paddling time where each paddler is expereincing some discomfort.  Rod and I were lucky and things turned out great.  I would not hesitate teaming up with him again.  With that said, I am still very hesitant on teaming up with others I don’t know no matter what their adventure resume says.

Will You Do It Again ?????

That is the question I have been asked the most after completing the UFC. To understand my answer to this question I think you have to understand why I do events like this in the first place.  Lance Armstrong has been quoted as saying that endurance athletes are running away from something.

Not sure I agree but Lance has been around a boat load of endurance athletes. I personally think each endurance athlete has a different reason for doing endurance events. I find that some do these events as races and their drive is to beat the other competitors.  I find others are trying to set a personal record for the event. Then there are those who are doing these events because of the pure adventure of the event. I do know one thing. Glory, fame, and money for finishing an endurance event is not a major driver. The reason why I feel so comfortable saying that is because those three things are rarely associated with an endurance event. The Tour De France, yes, but that is an oddity in the endurance world. I have found that most endurance events are unknown to the general population and the award for completing them is simply a medal or in the case of the UFC several necklaces that all total equal about $30.00.  I think about the most recent accomplishment of Erden Eruc.

Very few people have heard about this accomplishment. Only a handful of people were there to see him finish. It sure wasn’t broadcasted on the evening news but talk about an endurance event. How about the Spartathlon ? Try to find one person who knows about this event and can name one winner of it. 

Then there is the RAAM that is held in the United States each year but find one person who knows about this event and knows that several people have died in this one.

check-list-for-mid-life-crisis-3I will say for those that do finish a serious endurance event they will gain the respect of those who have also finished the event. They know what it takes to finish the event. Hard to place a dollar amount on that but for me that is an honor that is priceless. So I am not running away from something, there is no glory, no fame , respect of your peers, and no money. Hmmmm could the reason that I do these events be that I am having a mid-life crisis. Based on the mid-life check list I have more “no” then ” yes” responses. So no mid-life crisis here. I think at 57 I am too old for a mid-life crisis anyway.  I am pretty comfortable with my age and set my goals according. I don’t expect to be the overall winner of any events and in fact don’t even expect to win my age group. Now I would be lying if I didn’t say it does bring a sense of accomplishment when I pass folks younger than I am. Especially if they are 30 or below. You know how that saying goes “Old Guy’s Rule!!”.  The simple reason why I did the UFC and do other events like it is simply because they are there and I view them as a challenge. A challenge that will push me both physically and mentally.  I guess we all have things which makes us know we are alive. For me confronting a challenge is what makes me feel alive. The bigger the challenge and the higher the chance of failure the more alive I feel. In fact if I don’t have a big challenge in front of me I become a pretty grumpy restless person. A place I don’t want to be. I have generally found people who are grumpy with life and restless make bad personal life decisions. The UFC was a big challenge for me and it got even bigger once I was on the race course due to the weather. I think this was one of the major reasons for my lowest point mentally in the UFC. It happen in Cedar Key where we were just two days from finishing. The end of the UFC was in sight and the challenge of the event was fading. I had to remind myself that Rod and I still have a big challenge in front of us . That of getting across a very large body of water with us a long way from land. So I have found that when asked would I do the UFC again my answer seems to be “Probably Not”. In fact if you look at my athletic and personal accomplishments you will see that I have done very few of them more than once . I usually move on to another event which is different and thus is an unknown to me and more challenging. Now with all that said, and so my wife doesn’t get to excited, if a group of some select WaterTirbers wanted to do the UFC as a group then I would have to reconsider my answer. That would be mutl-day fun trip with some good folks that would be filled with lots of camaraderie and laughs.

Recovery after the UFC – I think it is general knowledge that folks can go through some form of depression after completing a major event such as the UFC. I really didn’t want that to happen so prior to starting the UFC I started to think about other events that I might like to do after the UFC.  My hope was that this would help me recover mentally. I had trainedMCM Startline multiple times for a marathon but had gotten bored during the training and had never done one. Well the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon was scheduled for October 7, 2012 months after the UFC. So I signed up for that event. To keep it interesting I also signed up for the Tampa Bay Frogman swim ( 3.1 mile swim) that was scheduled for January 13, 2013.  In targeting those two events it gave me two challenges to start working towards once I finished the UFC. I think the strategy worked because I didn’t suffer any depression at all after the UFC. I felt good about finishing the UFC and was energized to be training for some different type of events.

In picking the marathon as my first event to train for it gave my upper body time to recover and I found that I really needed that. My lower body was feeling pretty good but my upper body was hurting. The biggest issue were my hands and arms. The first two weeks after the UFC I had a bad case of the lobster claw. The fingers on both my hands just seemed to curl up and stiffen up. This was uncomfortable but not near as painful as the nerves healing in my hands and wrist. That was very painful and it seemed to be the worse at night when I was trying to sleep. My poor wife who had wished so much for me to get home was now having second thoughts with all the switching my body was doing while I slept. I might have been home but my body was still on the water and paddling away. As with most things in life with each passing day my body healed and I got stronger. I was able to run the marathon and pretty please with my time. After the marathon my upper body had recovered and my lower body was in need of some recovery time. So training for the 2013 Tampa Bay Frogman logoSwim was the perfect event. I completed that event and again was pretty pleased with my time. So 10 months after the UFC I feel that both physically and mentally I could jump back into my trusted Kruger and attempt another UFC.

 I started this post talking about the question I get asked the most. After I answer that question with  ” Probably Not” folks generally followup with a second question. “Ok, well what is next ?” Hmmmmmmm have to check the bucket list.  There is winning a seat on USA Senior Dragon Boat Team that will be competing in the Worlds in 2013, oh there is the North Carolina Challenge, hey what about the Missouri 340, no no no what about the Yukon 1000, and the Tip of the Mitt, but there is also the Swim Around Key West, wait what about biking (not the racing) across America, but what about climbing Mt Rainer, and Mt McKinley and………………………. Hear that scream in the background. That is my wife.

Really, All I want is one good night sleep !!!!!!!

It was so nice and quiet when I got into my tent. I felt relaxed knowing that this was the last night out and that tomorrow we would be finished. I think only seconds passed from the time I got into my sleeping bag before I fell asleep. That sleep didn’t last long. I woke up to this loud duck like noise. It was not only loud but was continuous. How could this be? There was not a single duck anywhere in sight when we setup camp. Now there seemed to be thousands of them and they were all making this weird noise. It was like a mix between a chirp and a quack. The noise was so loud it felt like they were right outside my tent. I felt that if I pulled the tent fly back I would have all these ducks standing there looking at me.images I was hoping they would stop but after several minutes I gave up on that thought.  So I flung open the tent fly to see nothing but the ground. I couldn’t believe it. These noisy ducks weren’t on the island but out in the water. Maybe they were pissed off that Rod and I were on the island and they wanted to be. I could barely make out this dark-colored spot a coupe of yards out in the water that seemed to be the source of the noise. Still determine to silence these noisy things I found a small branch that had some weight to it and slung it out towards the spot. I heard it hit the water and a fraction of a second later the noise level in the area went up big time. It seemed like all heck was breaking loose. Bird, ducks, what ever they were took flight in a big way. They were screeching,quacking and joy joy flying right over the island. All I could think of was ” Take Cover  !! Incoming Bird Poop and lots of it. Don’t look up and don’t open your mouth “. I guess the branch hitting the water scared them enough because the rest of the night was quiet.  I slept right through until the alarm woke me up. No problem getting up this morning because in six hours we would be finishing.

There was no wind when we pushed off. It was still dark and the early in the morning. My hands had the normal two hours of burning pain but it just didn’t seem that difficult to deal with today. As we paddled south we entered waters that I have paddled in quite a bit so the sights were a welcome sign that we were almost finished. It was about two hours out from Ft Desoto that the winds picked up and guess what, they were right in our face. Why would we expect any different from this difficult challenge? We started with the winds in our face and now we must finished with the winds in our face. Luckily we could use the buildings in this area as some winds break. Rod was paddling very strong so I ended up just drafting off him in areas that we could not get into the lee of a building. The sight of the Don Caesar hotel was a biggie. The Don is a big pink hotel on the south side of St Petersburg Beach. This landmark is very close to the last big pass before getting to Ft Desoto. As we paddled around Pass-A-Grille we had a navigation choice to make. Go out into the Gulf Of Mexico through the North Channel Pass and then come back into Ft Desoto through Bounce Pass or, take the South Channel and work our way through the shallows around a place called Sawyer Island. The waters in this area are very shallow but are also very protected. Oh and this route would be shorter. The kicker on this route was would there be enough water depth for us to get through if the tide was going out. Nothing like being hard aground in the middle of a mud flat, within sight of the finish, and with people waiting for us. Sure enough the tide was going out but as we looked across the flats we didn’t see any mud, just water. The question we could not answer was how much. Ahhh heck with it let’s go for it ! As we entered the south channel we got lucky. There was a standup paddle boarder that had just come across from Ft Desoto. He pointed us to where the deepest water was to make it across the shallows. Great we have got this.

As we paddle to the finished beach Rod and I started to talk about whether anyone would be there to greet us. I know in past UFCs some of the finishers finished to just their love ones. Finishing the UFC is different from the Everglades Challenge where all the finishers wait until everyone is finished and then there is an awards ceremony. Just not practical to expect this for the UFC. I knew one person that would be there and that would be Lisa. I also figured that Chief would be there with his trusty video camera to document our finish. Other than that I didn’t know . As we got closer we could make out some bright colors on the  beach. Hmmmmmm what is that? Then we started to see some people, lots of people moving around. Hmmmm Then we saw some of the people waving at us. Heyyyyy those people are here to welcome us. This is a video of us coming in that Salty Frog took.

Even today I find it hard to describe the waves of emotions I started to experience at that moment. Those emotions didn’t stop when we landed out canoes on the beach at Ft Desoto. I was really over whelmed by who was at the beach that day. There was Chief. There were WaterTribes who have never done the UFC but who knew us and had travel long distances to be there. There were WaterTribers who were past finishers of the UFC who had also travel long distances to greet us. There were coworkers from the company that I work for who had taken time off from work to greet us. There were family members who had also taken time off from work. There was my wife, Lisa, who had been there through this entire UFC and who had her own adventure trying to provide support . All those folks greeting us drove home the fact that we were truly home. It made the finish so special and I will always be very grateful to all those folks for making that happen. I am not sure how you thank folks for doing something like that but for sure you can say “Thank You” ” Thank You” “Thank You.” Having experienced that feeling I know that I will always make it a priority to be there on that beach to greet future UFC finishers.

As I secured my canoe on the trailer and packed my gear into the truck it felt a little odd. My life for the past 28 days had been in this canoe and now it was coming to an end. It wasn’t a sad feeling just a little odd. Rod was packing his canoe on a friend’s vehicle and getting ready to leave. This was odd also. How do you say good-by to someone I hadIMG_0218 spent so much time with and had been through so much? I think for both of us we found it easier to just make it short. ” It has been great.”” Thanks for sharing this experience with me.””Travel safe going home “. After a quick shower I sat down at a bench that over looked the beach we had finished on and had some lunch. Lisa had brought some fried chicken, I love fired chicken, fresh fruit, and a cold coke. It was done. We had completed the UFC even with all the difficult weather. It was time for all of us that had been involved in this great adventure to relax, reflect and to heal.

Note : This is not my last blog entry. I have three more blog entries I am going to post on this great adventure: (1) Why I do these things and life after the UFC (2) Rod and (3) What worked and what didn’t work.

Now What?!?

Here I am again being awakened by a loud noise.   Some mechanical contraption that seems to be bent on running us over.  At least this time I wasn’t waking up thinking I was on the flight deck of some aircraft carrier.  As soon as I was awake, I knew what it was.  We had camped on this little island right next to the channel.  These were commercial fishingimages boats heading out to fish.  They seem to be flying through the channel and man did they have some loud diesel engines.  Hmmmm, I wonder how the canoes are fairing.  We pulled them up quite a distance and had tied them off to some large branches, but the prudent thing would be to check on them.  My options: (1) Crawl out of a nice warm sleeping bag, then crawl out of the tent, find some shoes and then walk over the rocks, tree branches, and sea grass hoping I don’t get my feet wet or sink into some mud or, (2) just roll over and go back to sleep and hope everything is ok.  Option 2 seemed like the preferred one but then I am stuck with thoughts of the canoes banging against the rocks until there was a hole in the hull and then filling up with water.  Wouldn’t that be a bummer to be two days from the finish and we both cannot finish because I didn’t want to get up and get my feet wet.  So off I photowent to inspect the canoes and lucky I did.  It was low tide when we had come in and the tide had come in to float the canoes and the wakes of the commercial fishing boats had them banging into each other.  That was better than banging against a bunch of rocks, but still not good.  So I quickly rearranged the canoe and jumped back into my tent for some sleep.  Throughout the rest of the early morning hours I would be briefly awakened by another commercial boat heading out but it didn’t take me long to fall back to sleep.

I found that waking up this morning was different from previous mornings on the UFC.  This morning, instead of waking up with the thought of what was facing us, I had the thought that if today was a good day as far as speed, I could be sleeping in my bed verses on some small island by a channel.  I knew that was a long shot because we had a lot of miles still to cover, but it was a possibility.  The other thought that was crossing my mind was all the big challenges had been tackled.  No Boca Grand Pass, no Florida Bay, no Biscayne Bay, no 40 Mile Portage, no Big Shoals rapids, no Upper St. Mary’s and no big water crossing South of Cedar Key.  I was getting into my home waters and by this afternoon we would be in the protected waters of the inter coastal.  So packing up this morning really wasn’t that bad.  What was bad was the pain in both of my wrists as I started to paddle away.  I was having problems with my wrist before we entered the St. Mary’s River and the pain was pretty manageable in the rivers.  In fact, it had decreased quite a bit.  I was not so lucky in the Gulf of Mexico.  I guess it was because this type of paddling was putting more pressure on my hands.  The first two hours of paddling were real bad.  Luckily, after about two hours, my hands just seemed to go numb.

The waters in this area are very shallow and for a long ways out.  For a big boat this is a problem but for us it made for some beautiful paddling.  We had no wind, flat calm seas, and the water was so clear we could see the bottom.  We could see fish, sponges, and fans.  Sure was more interesting versus paddling towards a landmark way off in the distance, which is what we had been doing.  Interestingly, our last major landmark was the Crystal River Nuclear power plant and now we are finding that our next vfiles9097major landmark is  the power plant at Tarpon Springs.  Tarpon Springs was a great site to get to since I had paddled here multiple times and it was just another sign that we were getting closer to home.  I also knew that there was a park called Fred Howard Park just south of the channel into Tarpon Springs.  I knew that they had done some remodeling of the park but in the past there were bathroom facilities and a place that sold hamburgers.  As we approached the island something hit me that wasn’t that apparent to me before but became apparent the closer we got.  People, and I mean lots of people were there.  From the time Rod and I had left the Daytona Beach area we really were not around a lot of people.  Small groups of 3 or 4 people but no where near the number of people were we seeing on the beach at Howard Park.  As soon as we landed folks were asking us questions.  It was great talking to them but I sure didn’t want to spend all day there.  The finish line was so close and maybe, just maybe, we could put in a really long day and finish tonight.  As I walked to the bathroom it felt really strange having so many people around me and wouldn’t you know it, the bathroom was packed with people waiting in line for the heads.  Unfortunately for both of us, the food prep facilities had been closed down, but there was a vendor that had cold Cokes and SNICKERS bars!!! Ahhhhh, may not be high-tech and probably not as good for you but for my body a Snickers bar is right up there.

I am not sure Rod and I were having the same feelings as we paddled further south.  For me, I felt like I was slowly being returned back to my normal life.  Each mile we paddled I saw more and more sights that I have seen multiple times both through my childhood and the times I have paddled in these waters.  People, boats, bridges, and the big hotels running along the beach.  It was getting close to evening and the Coke was just not enough to fuel Rod and I started to see him go into restaurant hunting mode.  There he goes paddling a zig zag pattern stopping people and asking them about any places close to the water where we could get food.  Oh gee, on the east coast I didn’t really care.  No one knew me so looking and smelling like some homeless person on the water was no big deal.  Here on the west coast and close to Tampa, different story.  Sure enough I get the wave to follow him.  He is paddling in the direction of this big yacht club and the closer I get the more I see these folks in coats and a parking attendant running around in white shorts and white shoes.  Oh no no no no, we are not going to stop there.  Rod kept right on paddling right past the club to the end of the marina where we stopped at aslider-2 place called “Olde Bay Cafe and Dunedan Fish Market.”  Thankfully, it had an outdoor section where we grabbed a table.  I looked around and didn’t see anyone familiar or who knew me.  Well, that didn’t last long with Mr. Social Butterfly.  Needless to say, we had a great meal there and left with a whole group of supporters.  I felt like some kind of movie star when we were leaving.  People were waving, toasting us and wishing us well from the restaurant’s railing.  Pretty amazing.

As I previously indicated, seeing lots of people was not something we had experienced over the last couple of weeks.  I guess it is normal though that with lots of people come some jerks.  Well, we encountered our first jerk as we paddled under the bridge to Clearwater Beach.  About the same time that we were coming under the bridge the pirate boat out of Clearwater Beach Marina was coming out of the channel leading to the marina and entering the channel we were in.  A big Sea Ray was also entering the channel.  I guess the captain of the Sea Ray thought it would be funny to throw up a big wake for both us and the pirateIMG_1345-vi boat.  So he changes speeds sufficiently to throw this huge wake up causing life to be a little uncomfortable for us but not near as uncomfortable for the poor captain of the pirate boat.  He immediately started to try to maneuver his vessel in a manner to minimize the impact of the huge wake on the partiers on his vessel.  As the Sea Ray sped off laughing and yelling, the captain of the pirate ship was doing all he could with his engines wide open to keep his vessel from being thrown out of the channel and into the shallows.  I really didn’t think he was going to make it but slowly he crept out of the shallows and got back into the channel.

It was starting to get dark and we still had at least 6 hours of paddling in front of us.  I didn’t want to keep pushing it and be finishing in the early morning hours.  We were not racing anyone at this point so why do that?  There was an island that looked like a good camp site coming up and we could get a good night sleep and finish tomorrow.  It didn’t take Rod and I aP3290063 whole lot of conversation to come to the conclusion which option we would choose.  The island had one tree on it which came in handy for Rod.  He could tie the top of his tent to it and finally get a night’s sleep with his tent supported.  Hey, what better way to spend your last night out on the UFC.  Lucky for me I hadn’t lost my tent poles and even though a couple of the pole couplings were split, they still worked.  Last night out. Tomorrow night we both will be sleeping in our own beds.P3290066

Winds South/Southwest 10-15 MPH…… REALLY?!?!?!

Funny how we take so much for granted.  Take it away for a while and you have a whole different viewpoint of the value of that simple thing. Things like a hot shower, air conditioning, a bed with clean sheets, and just being able to relax at a table.  These were the things I was really enjoying at this checkpoint. The hotel Lisa had gotten was right across the beach from the canoes so unloading and loading them was much easier. My wife doesn’t have a college degree. Her father died when she was fairly young which meant she had to go to work early and her family really did not have the resources to put her and her brother through college.  Although she doesn’t have a college degree she does have a PhD in common sense.  She saw the chaos my well thought out strategy with my resupply bins was causing and took it upon herself to get the bins organized in a way to make the resupply go easier.  Well she hit it out of the park.  The way she had organized the bins made this resupply go so much faster and really limited the chaos.  I really wished I had solicited her input on this subject before I started the UFC.  Would have made the three other resupply stages a whole lot easier.  So the night was turning into a good night and it got even better as I listened to the weather.  Winds were to be out of the north 10-15 MPH.  Great, we will be able to use our sails and get across the last big stressful body of water.  The 15 miles from Cedar Key to the islands marking the channel tophoto the Cross Florida Barge Canal concerned me because of how far we would be from land (4-6 miles) and for how long.  The water depth is not that great (9-10 feet) but you have no options other than ride it out if a storm catches you in this body of water.  We would have pretty good speed and reduce the amount of time we would be exposed. Ahh, the ground work for a good night’s sleep.

I think in every endurance event a participant has a low period where they just have had enough of the event.  I think that feeling had been building in me but it came to a peak when the alarm went off.  Here I was just couple of days from finishing the UFC and I felt like I just wanted to pack my stuff up and have Lisa drive us home.  What did I need to prove?  I was having a real mental battle and it didn’t get any easier when I listened to the weather report.  I felt like it was a sick joke the NOAA weather guys were playing on me. Winds out of the South/South West at 10-15 Mph.  REALLY?!?!?  Right in our face just like the majority of this whole stinking event.  Oh, and right in our face 5-6 miles off shore which means we will be fighting waves and making a slow speed.  This also meant we could be our there all day just tryinggrinch303 to make it back to land.  Oh, and now envision the worst — we get tired and cannot paddle any more and get blown out to into the Gulf of Mexico.  I went outside to see what I could feel and sure enough the winds were out of the south.  “The heck with this event! I am done with it!” was all I could think.  I went in and got some breakfast and just stewed.

After stewing for a while it came time to wake Rod.  I went over and talked to him and expressed my concerns about the wind.  Earlier in the UFC, Rod and I had a conversation about the pros and cons of the strategy of sitting on the beach waiting for the weather to get better versus the strategy of just launching and dealing with the weather.  We both had agreed that we thought the best strategy was to launch and deal with the weather.  That is, unless it was extremely bad.  Now I was having big-time second thoughts.  What would it hurt for us sitting it out today and waiting until tomorrow to see if the weather gets better?  We have a day or two buffer to meet the deadline of completing the UFC.  Today, I still don’t know if it was my mental battle that I was dealing with or the concern of the weather that had me wantingIMG_0625 to sit on the beach so badly but Rod wasn’t anywhere in that state of mind.  Rod listened to the weather report and went outside to feel the wind and felt we should launch. That was not what I wanted to hear.  We agreed to go ahead and pack the canoes and before launching reassess the weather.  What a mental battle it was to get into my wet paddling clothes, pack the dreamcatcher, on a sandy beach to boot, and know that I would be leaving Lisa again.  This is a picture of us that morning.  I was putting on a smile so that Lisa didn’t really know what was going on inside of me.  This was the lowest point mentally for me of the whole UFC.  I didn’t like the St. Mary’s but I was more angry and pissed off versus wanting to quit.  I didn’t like fighting the wind through the Everglades but it was more a managing pain versus wanting to quit.  I wanted to quit here and yet I was so close to the finish.  But I had made an agreement with Rod that if the winds did not increase we would launch.  I also felt an obligation to not leave him and have him doing the crossing alone.  The thought of not meeting my obligation and letting him down would be far worse than the thought of quitting.  So I kissed Lisa good-bye and pushed my canoe into the water.  I am so thankful she had a smile on her face and was waving us on versus crying when we launched.

As we paddled around Cedar Key and got out of the lee of Cedar Key, we started to feel the wind and the waves.  Yep, we had some but we were making time.  If it just wouldn’t get any worse this would be doable.  An then — SEA FOG!  Not a real dense sea fog but enough to make it seems like we were paddling in an abyss.  I don’t know if the sea fog was a good thing or a bad thing.  It masked the fact that we were so far from land and mentally made me focus on the GPS and the navigation.  After about two hours of paddling, a wonderful thing happened.  The wind and the waves died down.  There were two times in the UFC that I think Rod started to question whether my navigation was on target and both of those events occurred on this day.  We had been paddling for several hours and the fog had lifted so we should have started to see the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant.  Rod kept asking me what direction we should see the cooling220px-Crystal_river_NPP_afar_cropped towers and started to make a few comments that he still couldn’t see anything.  He even got to the point of asking me if I thought we were on the right course. Thankfully, off in the distance through the clouds, the cooling towers appeared.  They were a long way off but it was great to see them and was a big mental boost for both of us.  It would take several hours of paddling to get to the islands that were on the side of the channel into the power plant, but it was a lot easier paddling with that visual goal.

The rest of  the day was pretty nice paddling.  We were only a couple of miles off the coast line, the winds were light and even shifting to the west.  We were making good speed and in fact the winds shifted enough that we were able to use our small front sails.  Now we had a new problem confronting us.  This part of the coast of Florida has very shallow water out for a long distance from the shore.  In addition to this, the shoreline is very marshy so trying to find a campsite is a real challenge.  The best strategy is to find a channel and take that channel in to dry land.  We decided to target Hernando Beach since the channel was well marked.  The concern was navigating through all the shallow water, rocks and oyster beds that are in this area.  It was dark and late by the time we got to the approach of Hernando Beach.  I was most concerned with getting around the waters around Beacon Rocks and finding a series of channel markers that marks the way through a very shallow section of these waters.  Fortunately, the first channel marker to this channel is marked with a white light.  As we approached Beacon Rocks, Rod asked, “Bill, do you think you can get us through here?”  Hmmmm, loosing confidence…….. “Sure, if the chart is right.”  “Bill, is there a better way where the water may not be as shallow and not have rocks?” “Nope, this whole place is shallow, has rocks and oysters beds.”  As we cleared Beacon Rocks I saw in the distance a white light that lined up perfectly with the course to the entrance of Hernando Beach.  “Rod, see that light?  That is the entrance so just paddle to it.”  Things were going great but as we paddled closer to the light a strange thing started to happen.  Another white light that looked rectangle appeared.  Then another white light appeared.  Now we have three white lights all in the same area.  Hmmmm, this is weird. The course is right but the chart doesn’t show three white lights and I am not sure what that rectangle light is.  I don’t know who scared who, but before we knew it we were paddling right up to a thirty foot boat with two fisherman in it.  They were anchored right off the entrance to the channel.  Kind of funny now, them straining their eyes wondering what these two little white lights close to the water approaching them are and us straining our eyes to see what all these white lights are.  I can only imagine what they told their friends when out of the dark they heard, “Hey is that light for the entrance channel marker for Hernando Beach?”  This was the second time in the UFC I had asked a fisherman to confirm a navigation question. “Um, yeah that is it.”  “Great! Thanks!”  I do have to confess I was probably just as relieved as Rod to find that channel.

Our original plan was to take this channel all the way into Hernando Beach but on the way we passed a little piece of land called Coon island.  To me, it was a break water for the channel that had sand poured on it but it did have a sand cap about 6 feet wide.  That was enough for us to pitch our tents so we decided to call it a day.  We were going to spend the night on Coon Island and hope the tide didn’t come in too strong.

Last Day On The River

After two or three times of waking up at a certain time my body usually starts to wake itself up before the alarm goes off.  That didn’t happen during the UFC — not once.  Every morning it took the alarm going off to get me up and even then it took some discipline to not just turn it off and go back to sleep.  My body was screaming it was tired and wanted a break.  As I laid in the tent in nice dry fleece and a warm sleeping bag, I couldn’t help but think about how far we had come and that this adventure could be over in three or four days and I was ready for it.  We still had the big challenge of getting across that large body of water just south of Cedar Key and the challenge of navigating into Cedar Key.  Hopefully the winds would be with us and get us there before dark.  I finally got the fortitude to get up, stop thinking about things, and start the process of getting ready for another day of paddling.  Doctoring the hands up had become pretty routine but oh man getting into those wet, cold and STINKY paddling clothes would never be routine.

Rod gave his normal “I’m awake” when I called over to him ……….. Oh to be a morning person.  Since his feet were doing better he was getting even more cheery in the morning.  In reality, his cheeriness in the morning really made it better.  Some of the stuff he would say I would just have to laugh versus being grumpy.  Each morning as I would pack I would make sure that I would have the maps packed in the cockpit that we ould need that day. As we were packing this morning I couldn’t believe what I discovered.  I had made the same error on this stage that I had made on stage 3.  I had not packed the map from the mouth of the Suwannee River to Cedar Key.  That map was sitting safe and sound in a resupply storage bin Lisa was bringing to Cedar Key.  Great!!!  I was hoping Rod had this chart like he did at Ft. Clinch but he didn’t.  Oh, but I have a fancy new Garmin GPS with charts loaded on it.  Oh no I don’t!  I had given my nice new fancy Garmin GPS units to Lisa at Ft. Clinch to see if she could get a friend to clean the battery compartment and contacts because of all the rust that had taken place in it.  I just had my older Garmin GPS unit that had some charts in it but they were the inland river charts.  The only saving grace was that it did have the route to Cedar Key loaded into it.  Now I was really grumpy no matter what Rod said.  I was upset that I had made the same stupid mistake.  Being upset wasn’t going to change anything so I needed to get over it and get over it quickly.  So we pushed off and started down the river.  Hey, the bright side was that until we get to the mouth of the Suwannee it would be hard for us to get lost and go the wrong direction.

The rest of the morning was pretty nice paddling.  The sun had come up the temperature was nice and we were getting into some civilization.  It was that time of day and if we were lucky we could stop and get some breakfast.  Low and behold I think we hit the last bit of civilization before the mouth of the Suwannee and we found a place right on the river  called “River Rats Boat Rental.”  Interesting name, the bathroom was an outhouse but they did make a mean breakfast sandwich.  They also had cold orange juice and they didn’t care that we stunk.  What really shocked me was they had no charts for the mouth of the Suwannee.  Hmmm, boat rentals with no charts for folks when they rent a boat?

With our fuel tanks topped off we pushed off heading for the mouth of the river.  The goal for us was to find the East Pass versus going out the main channel for the Suwannee.  This would save us about 4 miles which in paddle terms was about an hour of paddling.  As we got closer to where we thought the East Pass was, we saw an older man anchored and fishing.  Talk about ironic — here you have two guys who have paddled and navigated almost completely around the state and we are paddling up to this guy asking for navigation directions.  This will not be the last time we pull up to some fisherman double checking some navigation information.  In any event, we were correct that the entrance to the  East Pass was at the next bend in the river. I guess this pass is used by a lot of boaters because as we got closer to the entrance we saw a couple of flats boats turning into the entrance.

One of the things that I had enjoyed about paddling in the rivers was the ability to duck the wind.  It seemed the whole time that we were paddling in the intercostal and the Gulf Of Mexico, the wind was in our face and it was hard paddling.  Well, as we approached the Gulf of Mexico, it became apparent that we were going to have to deal with very similar  conditions.  Oh why did out last days have to be hard?  I guess that is why it is called a challenge but at this point I was tired of it.  The wind could have really been demoralizing but I knew that Lisa would be waiting in Cedar Key with a great meal and a hotel room with a hot shower.  It was dig deep and dig hard paddle time. Everyone I have talked to about Cedar Key talked about all the oyster beds that surround Cedar Key and the navigation challenges those beds create for you.  Well we didn’t have charts, I did have a GPS with the route on it, but best of all we had boaters who were coming and going from Cedar Key.  We figured if a boat Capitan would run their boat at full throttle over a body of water then we for sure can cross that body of water.  Those boats really helped us cut some time off of having to go out and hit the main channel coming into Cedar Key.  As we got closer Rod and I both were getting pretty excited.  We rounded a point and saw in the distance the beach that we would land on.  Rod kept looking but didn’t see anyone on the beach.  Was it the right beach?  Yes it is the right beach.  Then Rod said, “Hey, maybe no one came to see us in.”  At all the other checkpoints there was a group of folks we could see waving us in.  The beach was too far away to really tell if anyone was there but my response to Rod was, “I don’t know about anyone else, but Lisa will be there.  I know her and I can guarantee that she will be there.”  As we got closer to the beach sure enough, Lisa was on the beach waving us in and then another watertriber, “Tyro” Mr. Joe Mullen, appeared to check us in.  It was good to reach Cedar Key and see some friendly faces.  Lisa had come through again and had fresh food, fruit, and a hotel room for us.  Ahhhhh, the comforts of home.


The past two days and mornings on the Suwannee had been pretty nice.  This morning, not so much.  The alarm went off at 4:30 and my muscles were stiff, it was dark outside and the river was starting to mist.  I carefully got out of my tent so that I would not lose my balance and fall into the river.  I don’t know if it was because I was sleeping on an aluminum dock versus a nice sand bar or it was the difficulty of packing the boat off a steep bank which meant I had to get into the river to pack the boat.  Maybe it was the fact that I had to put on my cold wet paddling clothes.  The mist off the river wasn’t that bad but the clothes didn’t dry one bit during the night.  Maybe it was just an accumulation of things but for the first time the thought hit me… “I am getting tired of this.”  I was finding myself longing for the day when I would be waking up in a nice warm bed, in warm dry clothes, knowing a nice cup of hot tea waited for me in the kitchen.  Ahhhhhh, the comforts of home.  Enough of that, it was time to get underway.

Rod’s feet were doing pretty well which was a relief.  No infection and they were healing. As daylight came about, we saw that we were approaching a park called Ivey Memorial Park.  At this park I found this sign which was a moral boost because it showed that we were close enough to the Gulf of Mexico for them to list the distance to it.  Yes, it is 70 miles, but the fact that the Gulf Of Mexico is showing up on signs means progress.  In addition to this sign there were some nice outhouses and oh, did I mention some convenience stores?  Who knows, maybe a breakfast sandwich would be possible.  I have never thought of those package sandwiches at the convenience store food as being very good and, in fact, I figured they were a sure path to a very upset stomach.  Well, at this stage if the trip I had a whole different prospective on them and that was they looked delicious.  I even went for the tuna and egg salad ones.  Were they out of date?  Couldn’t tell you because I didn’t look.  Oh, and they had coffee, payday candy bars, Snickers, and orange juice.  We were eating good.  The stop and the fresh food were what I need to get out of my grumpy mood and enjoy the rest of the day paddling on the river.  This part of the river we were paddling was very pretty and the time did pass fairly quickly.  We were making good speed over ground thanks to the current.

As evening was approaching we were also approaching a town called Fanning Springs. This is the sign that is on the bridge at Fanning Springs.  Both of us were low on water so we decided to stop at a local park that was near the bridge.  We were in luck as the bathrooms were open and not only provided a water source but provided another missed luxury.  A toilet!  With our water containers filled and our personal needs taken care of, the only thing that would make life better would be a nice dinner.  Was it worth the risk of a short walk to see if there was a restaurant?  Rod said his feet were up to it and after several days of dehydrated meals a fresh cooked meal would be good.  Well luck was with us and we found a local restaurant right on the main road.  At first I thought it was closed because no one was in the place.  Not only was it open but there was a salad bar with fresh fruit.  The waitress was great.  In fact, everyone we met in small towns was fantastic.  This waitress even let us use her cell phone to call home.  I have often wondered what people said about us after we left the restaurants we visited. Both of us looked like a homeless person and we ate like we hadn’t eaten in weeks but they were always nice to us.  Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there.

After our meal it was back into the canoes with the goal of going three more hours.  The banks of the river were changing again.  Now they were going from steep banks to flat areas that were marshy and had a lot of tree roots.  Not a great places to try to pitch a tent. The aluminum dock was rough but tree roots would be another whole level of roughness.  I was afraid it was going to be another tough night finding a camp site.  As we rounded a bend we saw some small sailboats anchored on the side of the river and a fire going on the bank.  I wonder how much bank is over there.  Well luck was with us big time today as we were able to find a spot about a quarter of a mile away from the other boats.  Even though the start of the day was kind of bummer it was finishing off pretty  nice.  The camp site was a nice one and the sleep was going to be a good one.  Little did I know how much I would need that sleep for the upcoming day.

Hey! I know that guy!!!

As I woke up I was reminded again that I could really get used to this river paddling.  The  camp site was so nice which results in some deep sleep.  It was also nice to wake up to no blowing wind, crashing waves, flying teeth and worry about the tides.  Today was starting off to be a good one and guess what, Rod’s feet were healing and doing much better.  If only the rest of the UFC could be like the past couple of days.  We packed our boats fairly quickly and pushed off — WITH the current — another pleasant aspect of this stage of the UFC.  Up to this point in the UFC we had only had one bad encounter with wildlife and that was really my fault.  It was the incident with the alligator in the Everglades.  I wasn’t expecting a problem on the Suwannee River, but I didn’t know about the jumping sturgeon.  A sturgeon is a fish that looks like something from the dinosaur age.  There have been so many folks hurt from collisions with these fish that there are signs warning boaters about them.  No one we came across knew why they jump but they do jump.  We would be peacefully paddling along, the river would be calm, and then all of a sudden this massive fish would come shooting out of the water.  I don’t know how deep they are in the river but they must be pretty deep to have the power to jump as high as they do.  That was all we needed, to have one of these things jump out of the water and land on one of us.  We must have seen no less than 30 jumps from these massive fish.  Thankfully the sturgeon decided not to use us as hurdles.  Other than the jumping sturgeon, the paddle down river was very pleasant.  As we approached a turn in the river we could hear folks and figured it was a local boat ramp.  As we came around the bend I noticed a Sea Wind canoe.  Since Sea Winds are built by Kruger Canoes in Michigan there are not a lot of them around in this neck of the woods.  As we got closer I realized I knew the owner.  It was a fellow WaterTriber who goes by the tribe name “Jarhead.”  He had come up from Tampa and put his canoe in to cheer us on.  It was great to see him and catchup on things.  Interesting how an interaction with a friend can lift your spirits because Jarhead’s visit was definitely a moral boost.  This ia a video he took of us.

As you can tell from the video, the day was beautiful and it stayed this way for the rest of the day.  As with most rivers, the Suwannee changes as you go further down stream.  In the upper sections it was windy, low river banks with lots of nice sand bars to camp on.  In the mid sections the river becomes wide and the river banks become steep which limited the number of camp sites.  As night approached we were in our search for a good camp site.  The luck we had on the two previous days in finding a site seemed to have left us.  As the day light was leaving we found an aluminum dock that was a landing for a local park. The park was closed and we would be gone before it open so aluminum dock it was. Gee, an aluminum dock on the river that was just wide enough for our tents.  Nothing like going from sleeping on a nice sand bar to an aluminum dock that of course had the surface roughed up so no one slipped on it.  Oh, and as far as being quiet, not possible on aluminum.  The biggest thing I was worried about was waking up in the middle of the night and not remembering to be careful how far I step from the tent opening or that I would lose my balance.  Either situation would have resulted in a quick dip in the river.  Talk about a wake up call.  As I was sitting in my tent I could not stop thinking about the fact that in two more days we would be at the last checkpoint and I would see Lisa.  Those nightly phone calls, even thought they were short, help in taking the edge off of not seeing her.  Since my cellphone had died on the east coast  I had not talked to her since Fargo and I was finding myself missing her greatly. Hopefully the next two days would be easy ones.  But then that would NOT be characteristic of the 2012 UFC.

Big Shoals Here We Come!!!

Instead of waking up thinking I was asleep on an aircraft carrier, I woke up thinking how pleasant and peaceful it was to be in the woods camping by the Suwannee river.  The campsite was extremely nice.  Firm sand, no roots pushing into my back, no bugs, no wet fog, and an air temperature that wasn’t too cool, but cool enough to make it very comfortable inside the sleeping bag.  As I crawled out of my tent I had to smile.  No wind in the face, the current was flowing in the direction we were going and it was so quiet.  That was until Rod woke up or should I say until Rod tried to get out of his tent.  OUCH!!! Moan!!!  OUCH!!!  Moan!!!  Oh no, I am falling!!!  Bam.  Even though Rod was able to be off his feet for part of the previous day his feet were still pretty messed up.  Rod, being the problem solver that he is, got his paddle and started using it as a crutch.  It worked pretty well for him.  I am glad that Rod has the sense of humor he does because he sounded and looked like an 80-year-old man when he tried to walk and I would start laughing.  Thankfully, he would laugh too.  He was being a real trooper and I knew with each day his feet would get better if he could keep them from getting infected.  As we pushed off I started to think about the fact that we would be facing Big and Little Shoals rapids today.  In planning for the UFC, there was so much concern about the water levels being low that I figured I was going to have to drag my boat over the rocks at Big Shoals.  I really had not thought that much about running the rapids.  Now with so much water in the river that was the big question of the day.  But that decision was several hours away and why ruin the early morning calm and beauty worrying about that.  The river was so peaceful and the scenery was so beautiful.  I started to realize why Rod likes river paddling so much.  You don’t have to worry that much about navigation, if the weather gets messy you just head to the river bank, no waves, and lots to look at.  I could get used to this.  So for several hours we just enjoyed the river.  About an hour out from Big Shoals Rod started to talk about running Big Shoals.  For Rod, he had done it before and felt very confident he could.  For me, not so much.  I knew I could control my boat down the face of a large wave, but rapids?  Hmmmm I didn’t know.  I mean what makes rapids is big rocks underwater which means more than controlling your boat down a wave.  All I could think about was  flipping, losing gear, busting my rudder or getting a hole in my boat or even worse, hitting my head on a rock. We had come this far, why risk having an event that would knock us out of the race.  There was a portage path around the rapids that was about a quarter of a mile in length.  To me that was the path to go.  Rod, on the other hand, was so confident in running the rapids and this would save a couple of hours of time and keep him off his feet.  Up to this point we had alway came to a pretty quick decision on a course of action.  Not this time.  In fact, we were still in disagreement up to about a quarter of a mile from the take out for the portage.  Here we came across a group of kayakers that of course Rod had to talk to.  You know, Mr. social butterfly.  Well, in that discussion we learned about a guy who had gotten hurt the day before trying to run them.  The individual sharing this information ended the conversation with a strong word of caution and a warning that we better have helmets if we are going to run the rapids. That was all I needed to hear. We might have hard heads but neither of us have helmets.  “Rod, if you want to run them, go ahead.  I  am doing the portage and I will catch up with you later.  Decision made for me.” Reluctantly Rod decided not to run the rapids and deal with the pain and uncomfort of the portage.  In looking back on this, I still think we made the right decision, but the portage was tough.  What made it tough was the steep bank we had to drag our boats up, and then down, then dragging our boats over this trail with tree roots, in the middle of a thunderstorm, through a bunch of tall pine tress, and then having to make multiple trips to move our gear that had to be unpacked and repacked into the boats.

I never thought of this section of the river as dangerous but I guess that was a mis-perception for me.  I say this because as Rod and I were moving our gear from the take out point of the portage, a couple in a canoe pulled up.  They were also going to do the portage.  At one point, Rod says to me, “Hey, did you notice the pistol that guy has around his waist?”  Well on my way back I passed them at the halfway point of the portage and sure enough the guy had a .45 cal automatic pistol in a holster around his waist.  Hmmm, don’t think we will be hanging around here any longer than necessary. Lightening, .45 cal pistols, rapids with big rocks……. what an adventure. We completed the portage and were off to face little shoals.  Thankfully these were not that bad and I just followed the line Rod set through them.  The rest of the day was pretty non eventful and very enjoyable.  We ended up camping on another sand bank.  It had the same characteristics of the campsite we were at the night before.  As I went to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but think that river paddling is pretty nice.  That is, if you don’t have any rapids to deal with.