Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pierre, SD and a rest day in Rapid City, SD

Well blog fans, this is going to be a long blog. I am going to update you on what has been happening the past several days as well as give you some thoughts about the trip.

On 7/8 after dinner with Pat and John at Mad Mary’s, Pat dropped me back off at my campsite at Downstream Oahe. A thunderstorm had started blowing in so I went for a walk along the beach to view some of the thunderheads. A stiff wind was blowing from the southeast and I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I was no longer out on Oahe. As I returned to my tent and started reading my current novel, Islands in the Stream by Hemingway, my mind drifted to the events of the past week.

Seven days prior I had been talking and sharing laughs with the folks up in Bismarck. Oh how far I had come! 240 miles was really only one way of describing what I had experienced. More appropriate ways to describe this section of the trip would be not in terms of distance, but in terms of experience. Seven breathtaking sunsets, days of oppressive heat without chance of shade, horizons that seemingly never came soon enough yet when they arrived were too close, the sounds of coyote pups whelping in the night, monstrous thunderstorms with unrestrainable power; these events were how I came to measure my successes and failures. Falling asleep that night, listening to the storm blow in was bittersweet. I had finished Oahe, but I knew that I wouldn’t see a challenge such as that for some time.

The morning of 7/9 dawned warm and with clear skies. After awaking around 6am I went about organizing my food, cleaning my tent, and organizing my gear. These tasks are all not the most enjoyable aspects of the trip but they are necessary in order to make the resupply effective and orderly. I have come to appreciate the need for a system of organization that allows me to quickly locate items. Every item in its place makes the trip run smooth. With the gear organized I ambled over to the Downstream Oahe Marina restaurant where I crushed the Oahe Omelet. Needless to say it was delicious.

With my hunger satiated I got in the boat and paddled down to Pierre, SD a brief 5 mile paddle down the river. Waiting for me at the ramp were John (who was kind enough to watch my boat for me), Tina (Kelly’s paddling friend) and Kelly Lane. Kelly is a truly remarkable individual who contacted me about meeting up before my trip began. Kelly is a 58 year old gentleman from Rapid City, SD who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s since 1997. More importantly though, Kelly is a paddler who has not let Parkinson’s stop him from what he loves to do. The plan was for me to leave my boat with John while Tina and Kelly drove me to Rapid City, SD for a rest day and some enjoyable “crick boating.”

Kelly Lane getting ready to do what he loves

When Kelly met me on the dock I could tell he was psyched to show me Rapid City and some local cricks. After some delicious Dairy Queen with John, John’s wife and Pat, we left for Rapid City, SD. Tina, Kelly and I talked for awhile on the drive about paddling, Parkinson’s and teaching which is what Tina does and what Kelly used to do. The conversation was great and my lonely days on Oahe quickly dissolved from my immediate memory.

Upon arriving in Rapid City I met Becky (Kelly’s wife). She had prepared a fantastic dinner of brisket, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and asparagus. But before dinner I went and had a television and radio interview with Charles Michael Ray with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Mike was great to talk to; he was an avid paddler and climber as well so we hit it off right away. After the interview I came back to Kelly’s house where I met Joyce, another local paddler. We all sat down and devoured the meal that Becky had prepared. I was more full than I have been since Bismarck (Thank you Becky). Kelly, Becky and I then talked for awhile about various topics; it was so nice to be having conversation again especially with such wonderful folks. My night ended late updating pictures on the blog and answering emails but I was excited because Kelly had planned a day of crick boating for the next day.

L to R – Becky, Kelly, Joe, Tina and Joyce at Sand Creek

Now, many of you (bloggers) might not be familiar with what “crick boating” actually entails. Here is my understanding of the sport as learned from Kelly. Crick boating as defined by Kelly as kayaking “down small steep low flow streams with lots of vegetable matter that requires lots of lateral movement to navigate successfully.” Crick boating is also what Kelly loves the most to do in kayaking and he was really excited to show me one of his local haunts, Sand Creek.

Learning how to fix a molded plastic boat

After getting a lesson on how to repair damaged plastic boat hulls with a welding torch, Kelly, Becky, Joyce, Tina and I loaded up and drove over the Wyoming border to Sand Creek. Sand Creek is a very small little stream that meanders through a lush green valley lined with limestone cliffs located on the eastern side of Wyoming. From the first “seal launch entry” onward, I was hooked.

Joe and Kelly getting ready to seal launch into the creek

We slowly paddled our way down this crystal clear creek navigating small strainers and drops. The scenery was fantastic and the company was even better.

The gang enjoying some crickin on Sand Creek

The highlight of our crick run was the end. About 100 yards before our takeout, Kelly let out a whoop as we had come to the final seven foot drop. The crick narrowed down considerably and on the river right side we each took turns launching the drop and plunging into the pool below. It was truly a blast. Finally, right before the takeout we were graced with a little water slide that seemed to push the boats along without any steering what so ever. The whole trip was one to remember.

Kelly pulling his boat around for another run at the seven foot drop

Kelly doing the drop

Joe doing a stern squirt right before dumping into the creek

Joe doing the drop

The most poignant aspect of the entire day was Kelly. Here is a man who is faced with a disease that prevents him from controlling his own body. He has to work so hard to effectively integrate his thought-action barrier yet he pushes himself and is still able to accomplish so much. He has adapted to the challenges his disease presents and he overcomes them. His resolve to not let Parkinson’s take away his freedom and what he loved to do was very inspiring and I was thankful for the opportunity to go “crickin’” with him.

After saying goodbye to Becky and Joyce we drove back the three hours to Pierre, SD. We are going to be meeting back up with John and Pat. Tomorrow morning Tina, Kelly, John, Pat and I will be paddling down to the De Grae boat ramp where we will part ways. The past 48 hours have been so memorable and I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Well, until next time folks. Jared will be taking back over.


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