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Keith, the course director for several High Adventure Training courses, is having a bad year.  The first OKPIK (Winter camping skills) course happened on a weekend when it hit ten below during the day.  The second OKPIK was in conditions so severe, it took three hours to go the half-mile to the campsite.  So, the Paddlesports Training was sure to break the streak, right?

F*king meow, as the cats say.

We knew the weather was going to be bad, but this was insane.

PSA is a Saturday  of basic canoeing instruction on Folsom Reservoir, and a Sunday of training on the American River. it should be noted that the Reservoir and the river are fed by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevadas,  It has been a very cool and rainy spring, and the water has not warmed up since it left the mountains.

We did the Staff Float on the American RIver Friday afternoon; the water was icy, the flow rate was 7000 cfs, San Juan Rapids, usually a rock beach with several scouting points and two or three good channels, was just a wall of haystacks (water smashing up over submerged rocks).  

Keith decided to put all activities that required the students to swim, as late in the day as possible, so they could get dried off as soon as they could.  Wise choice.

2AM the pitterpatter on the tent roof begins.  6 AM reveille, 8:30 we head for the beach.

The beach.  Usually, even at 8:30, there are kids and parents and frisbees and PWCs all over the joint.  Today, it's cold and grey and a 30MPH wind, and the place is deserted ... except for some poor couple setting up their big wedding party in the middle of a downpour.  Those poor kids.  Later in the day, there's a baptism.  I don't know how many survived their icewater baptisms.

I slide into my new wetsuit, and, though i look like an innertube what swallowed a softball, I haz insulation.  Then I notice that my paddling jacket is waterproof, yes, but has no hood, and my cap is already soaked through.  For a bald man, this is not trivial, you lose head through your head FAST.  Ah, well.

So the boats are set up and the students are in their gear, and I give my famous fifteen-minute Orientation lecture.  "You notice that a canoe is pointed at both ends.  This is a joke by the Native Americans, who figured the white people wouldn't be able to tell the bow from the stern.  This is how you tell..."  It went over OK.   Neill Rucker, from CanoeWest, goes over basic paddle strokes, and we head for the boats.

We're not on the water ten minutes before people start capsizing.  This has LONG DAY written all over it.

ABout 10:30, Ed the Quartermaster and I decide to bring the water heater to the beach and set up a hot cocoa dispensary.  Which means going into town to get hot cocoa.  So, about 11:15, we get back to the class, set up the water heater, and FLAME ON!

Fifteen minutes later the water isn't even tepid.  The burner isn't putting out. The tank from troop stores is almost empty.

Drive back to camp, get the fuel bottle from the camp stove, set it up: it doesn't even ignite.  We used up what little it had making breakfast.

Another trip into town to get full fuel bottles, and the troop quartermaster is going to catch hell for not taking care of the equipment.  Back to the beach at 1PM withe two full bottles, to find the canoes are on the trailers and the trucks are loading: Keith has decided it is too risky to continue, we will go back to camp.  CanoeWest heads for their hotel.  Lunch?  We ate already, thanks.

The students whip out their technologies and check the weather.  Not only is the already dogsh*t weather going to get worse, Sunday will have thunderstorms.  You must NOT go out of the water in thunderstorms, you can get electrocuted that way.  Keith contacts the CanoeWest hotel, and arranges for a conference room for the afternoon.  He calls us together and says, OK, its 2 PM.  I'm cancelling tomorrow's float on the river.  We're going to pack up camp, go to the hotel and do the lectures and presentations we usually do in the evening, and go home. It's 2, now, let's pack up by 3 and we can start the sessions at 3:30.

We are  out of there by 2:30.  Motivation is a great thing.

So we do the land  sessions (I have lectures on reading the river, water rescues, and organizing transport shuttles).  I am  the last to leave at 7:30, and drive home through sunshowers and rainbows.  God's sense of humor needs a kick in the ass.   By 10 PM, I am at home and my feet are warm for the first time in 30 hours.

Kudos to:
Keith, for recognizing when to pull the plug.  
The students, for good spirits all through a weekend that was not what we advertised
The instructors.
Canoe West
Hilton Garden Inn, Folsom CA, for letting a bunch of tired, wet, dirty, smelly men take over their conference room on no notice.
A lot of surprised spouses and families, who got us back a day early.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
good leadership is how people react when things DON'T go as planned... sounds like a good bunch all around. And just cause they didn't learn canoeing doesn't mean they didn't learn some valuable lessons.
Jun. 6th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
Kathy here. Sorry about your miserable weekend. But as Ocean's Edge said, the scouts learned a valuable lesson about discretion being the better part of valor.

And they got a good story to tell their grandkids.

"There was this time when they tried to teach us how to canoe on a flooded river in the rain..."

Jun. 6th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
When you're in a hole, the important thing to know is when to stop digging.

Yeah, Keith's kicking himself, I'm sure, but it was the right decision.
Jun. 6th, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
Things don't always look the way we want them to. Renegotiation is a valuable skill - and yes, the scouts got some important real-life takeaways.
Jun. 6th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
Camping is about making do in an area not molded to human liking. Bad weather serves as a bonus challenge.

I assume you meant "lose heat through your head."
Jun. 6th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Yes. And if your feet are cold, put on a (dry) hat.
Jun. 6th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
I had one dry hat. Just one. And it was a mile away at camp, and I needed it for sleeping. What I needed was to bring a waterproof hat, in the first place!
Jun. 6th, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
I have SO been in that situation. One of my least favorite campouts was a snowcaving trip, where the roof had sagged and the condensation was all dripping... right on my sleeping bag. I woke up soaking wet in a natural freezer.
Jun. 6th, 2011 02:36 am (UTC)
Reminds me of a trip to canoe lake Yellowstone. One crew went from Grant Village and canoed east (with the prevailing wind), while my crew went around the lake from there and set out from Steamboat point, to sail west. We'd pass in the middle and trade vehicles to pull out.

Well, by time we got around to Steamboat Point, the wind had picked up for the day and we tried to set out in an unusually strong wind. Canoeing against a cold wind in 40* water with waves that broke far enough off shore, and were tall enough that they were swamping our boats, we got 100 yards in the first hour. The adult leadership hollered from both ends of the line at the same time, to head back to shore before we ran out of beach.

We went to a campground on land for the night and decided to skip the West Arm campsite, and go directly to the site in the Southwest Arm from Steamboat point the next day. The ranger at the campsite told us that there was a small craft warning, and that the only reason to set out in such weather was if we were suicidal. He also told us that there usually was a small craft warning on the main body of the lake every day from noon until about three o'clock. This changed our daily plans; if we were not to the day's campsite by lunchtime, we had a three hour nap in the sun while we waited for the wind to settle.

Despite that first day, and the fact that I got sick and threw up over the side of the boat around sunset on the first day, about half an hour before we got to our campsite, it was still my favorite adventure while in Scouts.
Jun. 6th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah; and then there was the Spring Break that my brother and my dad went to Buckskin Gulch, but never made it within a hundred miles of the canyon because of the blizard...

Talk about surprised families at an early return!

(My trip to Pariah Canyon also met with a snowstorm, but thankfully it was on the way back. Instead of camping on the return trip in the San Luis Vally or South Park as planned, we slept on the floor of the Alamosa DOT office, thanks to one of the parents being a higher up in CDOT using his connections.)

Edited at 2011-06-06 02:41 am (UTC)
Jun. 6th, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
Part of our training is, as part of the pre-trip planning, to read up on the site and talk to local guides to find out about things like that. Thanks!
Jun. 6th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Our local guides (Park Rangers) spent all of our training telling us about how cold the water is on the surface of the lake, what to do about setting up tents in the burn zones (dead trees begin falling ~ten years after the fire) and how to deal with the various, large, unfriendly park wildlife.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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