The Rio Chama, the river I don’t care to see again.

2 06 2016

The Desert Monastery

I spent a recent weekend on the Rio Chama, a New Mexican River, a multi-day trip and it killed my sole over a long weekend.  It was memorial weekend 2016 and I was convinced that kayaking a 33 mile stretch of the Rio Chama was going to be a good time. With water flows at or near the 2500 CFS we had high spirits in the days before the trip. But as the launch date began to close in, a communication breakdown began to happen and death spiral ensued.


It was close to noon on Saturday the 28th of May 2016, when our group of 7 put on at El Vado Ranch. Nobody wanted to be there, let alone launch our kayaks, laden with an extra 25 pounds of gear, into the cold swift current. The goal was to kayak between 5 and 12 miles before finding a campsite and relaxing for the evening. We had a backup plan which if it had been executed would have taken us into sunny Colorado for two days of paddling the San Juan…It was just never executed.

Surprises; nobody likes them when you spent a lot of time and energy on a plan and begin to execute that idea, only to have the plan change multiple times. It is those people who can be the willow and go with the flow that make great trip leaders. I am pretty rigid, not as much as the long standing oak, but not as flexible as the willow.

It was seven days before the trip that the original plan was modified and the dates push back by a day; this was an easy adjustment. It made my additional holiday plans get canceled and other members of the team waste a paid day of vacation leave. The frustration began to set in, but people are flexible and began to adjust.

Eight short hours before go time, plans changed again, and one team member backed out. This was the team member that the original launch plan had been adjusted for, in the days leading up to the trip. It was not their fault, and the notification was early in the day, maybe we could adjust and still get on the water that night as originally planned.

Then a second team member contacted the trip leader and advised that they were still in Colorado, and by the time they traveled back to Albuquerque, they would not be able to join the team until early Saturday morning.  Fury began to set in, and the death spiral began to commence, as we realized that we could not get on the water until Saturday.

All members of the trip were notified of the adjustments, and went about preparing their boats and gear. We kept our time line and later met at the rendezvous time in a nearby city. It was there as we met back up and prepared to leave for the nights camp site that I realized our team members minds had gone sour, and me, well, I was right there with them.  We grabbed a 4 pack of Tecate and headed out of town pretending that nothing was bothering us. We all wanted to bag this trip and head to the San Juan.

It was close to 1630 hours when we arrived at Big Eddy, the take out for the run. The parking lot was packed with other vehicles. Some had play boats on the roof while others were attached to trailers loaded down with rafts. We began our search for a camp site, which as expected on a holiday weekend was not fun. All of the good spots were taken, and after an hour and a half we located a marginal camp location, which was more of a parking spot than anything else, prepared to settle in for the night.


“The Beatings will continue until the Moral Improves”

It was at this location that the group moral was obviously low. Everyone began to talk about our back up plan and wanted to leave A.S.A.P. for Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  It was clear this trip was no longer about having fun. This trip was going to be about going through the motions.  I set a dead line of 1000 hours on Saturday, as our default time to kick the backup plan into action.

Once this was set we began to settle into the evening, trying to joke around and laugh about the day. It was clearly obvious that everyone had checked out.


Camp Night 1, “Where is the bottle of Jim Beam?”


As dawn broke the air temperature was close to 37 degrees, and all of the team members were cold and began to questions whether or not they had packed correctly for the trip. We left the camping area and headed to the rendezvous point of Big Eddy to await our last team member. To our surprise he was there, looking like Cosmo Kramer, from Seinfeld.  We began to mill around getting breakfast of cold pizza and cold coffee, it was clear to him that we all had checked out. He began to question why our spirits were low and a group meeting was called.

Team members began to state why they were frustrated, cold, and just genuinely wanting to kayak on another stretch of river, or at least just hit the day run. This all mattered not to him, and he chugged forward with the plan.

It takes a special type of person to ignore all complaints and be unwilling to change. This had become less about running the river for the sake of it, and more about running the river so the commercial permits could be used for the first time in several years. It was about proving to himself that his plan was the righteous plan of action, not the plan of the trip leader. This team member was the sequoia, unable to adjust, or adapt, beyond his own ideas and thoughts.

Some would say I hold on to things a little too long when I get upset. I would agree with that, it can take me several days of working through the situation to figure it all out and let go of the frustration. It has been 3 days since our return from the river, and I am still frustrated. It is not so much that I; the trip leader had a bad plan, as much as it is the lack of my leadership that gets me hot. Had I known more about how our permits work, I could have launched on Friday like the original plan. This was the only part of the process that I did not have any information leading up to the launch date.

In the future, I will take care of every detail, and if people are late, or cannot make the rendezvous time, they need not come. I of all people hate to waste time, and other peoples time. My time is valuable and so I believe theirs is too.


MJ Running Argon Rapids in the XP10




After all was said and done we spent, two nights and three days on the trip, a trip that should have only taken two days. When we arrived at Big Eddy on Monday, after spending only 45 minutes on the water that day because we “had to camp” for a second night, I left. I left without saying good bye, I left frustrated, angry, and asking myself would I do this trip again. Deep down inside I think I will, but it will be on my own terms, with raft support, good food and way more beer.

There is not really a need to place blame on anyone person, because I could have chosen to accept the new plan and adapt. Instead I opted for resentment. So to the mighty Rio Chama, you were a fun river, but I am done with you for this season.






Positive Phototropism, Growing towards the Light

26 05 2016

Positive Phototropism: In a nutshell means this, if you put a plant in the closet, but leave the door open, the plant will grow towards the light.

In life we must bend towards that same light, doing the things that we enjoy. If we allow ourselves to get stuck in the same rut doing the same things, we will get bored and become stale.

I recently listened to a podcast on Ted Radio Hour, (TED) in this podcast it spoke about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  The list is rather basic, Food, Water, Shelter, are pretty much the bottom of the pyramid. As you get closer to the top you will find “Self actualization”.

A short google of the term yields the following definition from Wiki Self-Actualization: “The term was later used by Abraham Maslow in his article, A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow explicitly defines selfactualization to be “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.”

But what does this all mean?


If all your basic needs are met, you can grow, as a person. Find your Light, no matter what it is, mine just happens to be Kayaking currently.


Turning a page. Frenchy explores a new chapter.

23 01 2016

Much like reading a good book, turning the page brings excitement and a new experience. In the great game of life, when someone turns a page or as I am calling it, “begins a new chapter” it can often times be overwhelming and anxiety filled.

Since relocating to the American Southwest, I have left behind a career that was rewarding to say the least. In searching for something new I have found that what is presented as a great place to work, is really just another corporate run retail business in the outdoor industry. A place where the staff has more formal education than the management, and usually far more experience in the outdoors.  Yet people flock to the retail store to purchase all the latest and greatest in outdoor gear. But for the truly experienced outdoor folks it is really just a bummer to walk in and be met by a sales associate that yearns to be outside. But alas this is a story for another day.

So how do you turn your real outdoor experience into a full time job? Passion. Sharing your passion with other is a great way to start, because after all they might know someone, who knows someone. Working for free and providing services to someone, that when it is all done, they can relay your hard work and determination to others and recommend you for a job or position that has not yet been created or is currently open that needs to be filled.

It was mid fall, and a friend rolled into town. He and his staff were westward bound to lead a kayak/raft trip down the Grand Canyon. I was quick to invite not only my friend, but his whole crew to my house to stay for the night versus camping at a local KOA. It was only then while we talked over shared beers that I realized to be truly satisfied, you have to do what you are passionate about. Yes, we have all heard this line before. But for some it resonates later rather than sooner.

So I am gearing up for a new chapter, one that involves more hard work, but with luck, will be far more enjoyable than continuing to push the corporate machine.

Adventure awaits around the next corner, pack your bags. “Get Change”

Stay Tuned-Frenchy10296166_497434793691995_3624873178453105249_o



Boater X 2012

3 05 2012

Last spring some time during Wednesday Night Paddle Session an idea was hatched, brought back to life after several great paddle sessions on the local water scene in and around Cleveland Ohio.  How do we share this experience, this river, and all this fun with others? We toyed with the idea of a play date in the Keel Haulers Manifesto, but the stigma surrounding the “dirty” Cuyahoga was ingrained in the old timer’s brains like salmon smelling their home river. So alas we could never collect any more than the young guns. After a great conversation with Michael Duvall on the just as dirty Rocky River I was encouraged to carry out my plan come the spring 2012.

-Chris Wing, H20 Dreams-

The plotting and scheming between Dave Hill, Doug Lyons, Ron Shasteen, and I began to take hold. We decided to hold the race on the Gorge Section based on historic water levels, with a fall back plan of the Sheraton Section in the event of low water.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012, winter had essentially skipped Ohio, along with the early season rains.  Water levels plummeted, the Sheraton was coming in and we were two months ahead of our typical schedule on the loss of paddling water. This was supposed to be an epic spring with Cuyahoga Falls celebrating their Centennial Anniversary with plans to remove the Sheraton and LeFever dams. We anticipated maybe one run at best this season until the demolition of the dams was completed in late July.

It looked like the Fat Cats had stalled a good dam removal project so we used that to our advantage and moved the race to the Sheraton Section.

-Brandon Conrad-

So on Saturday the 28th of April, the 1st Boater X was held on the Cuyahoga River, Sheraton Section.  The event attracted paddlers as far away as the Charlotte White Water Center to Erie, Pa.

Once the course was set up and the racers were briefed on the lines, we set off down the flat water section at the put in to the Sheraton Dam. With 15 boaters strong we hucked the dam and hung out in the starting eddy for the race to begin. Once there we were met up by about 5 other boaters that were already on the course running laps after setting safety.

The race course for the first 5 heats led from the starting eddy down 25 yards of “flat” water into a river right ferry. Once back into the flow racers had to boof a small hole and then it was off to the first 8’ drop; Rookie Drop. Once in the pool below racers paddled downstream a short distance and eddied on river left behind the rock pile and sprinted into the finishing eddy touching the wall in the caldron eddy.

The final race that both long and short boaters qualified for during the previous heats took them past the rock pile eddy for a 20 yard sprint downstream to the final drop at Staircase, a 12 footer or so. Once racers landed in the eddy pool they had a few choices on the lines through the Jumble into the finishing eddy on river left touching shore to earn their final place ranking.

At the sound of a safety whistle the first heat was off and running, and the rest fell into place shortly thereafter. Spectators lined the shored on River Right, and the hotel restaurant. Five heats strong, led into the finial for a long boat and small boat grand finally.

Racers winning titles at the 1st Ohio Boater X Race were:

Long Boat Division

Nathan Craig- who brought sexy back in an old school Lazer from WaveSport

Short Boat Division

Doug Lyons-with a Jackson

Tommy Highberg- with a Riot

Prizes were rather grass roots. The race winners received a few bottles of home brew and nose plugs (don’t worry Doug yours is coming). This event could not have been pulled off without the help of several people. I would like to list a few of them that made it possible, if you’re not on the list I have not forgotten you and I want to say THANK YOU a few more times.

bDave Hill, Andy Heidenreich, Ron Shasteen, Doug Lyons, Tommy Highberg, Michael Duvall for all the help in the pre-planning and a super big thanks to Pat Emmonds, and Pat Guzowski for helping with safety, Really that was huge! Karen Hawley who has probably heard “Boater X” 200,235,000 times in the last week alone, thanks babe.  Dennis Dukeman thanks for the youtube video. The God Father at the Keel Haulers, and Rob Hammond, for without your correspondence I would have been way more confused, and maybe turned into a C-1 boater….Thanks to the Sheraton Hotel, and The Fire House Bar and Grill, for being able to dominate your bar with our after party!

So next season where will you be, catching a beatdown in Big Nasty 3 hours from home, or running the Boater X 20 minutes from home? Hope to see you there!

Thanks Chris and Sam for bringing attention to our river, for the pictures, and bringing some extra class to the race. Good Luck on your project.

Pilot Collective Media-Sam Fulbright, Team Blisstick

H20 Dreams-Chris Wing, Team Wavesport

-Corey Spoores-

-Pat Emmonds-