Friday, August 16, 2019

OVER THE BOW: HOT SPRINGS CREEK FALLS


Water is the most perfect traveller because when it travels it becomes the path itself! ---  Mehmet Murat ildan

I've always loved the sound the sight and sound of rushing water. The raw power of churning and boiling water through a constricted channel, pouring downward and beating away at anything in its path. Its foamy spray of fresh and rejuvenating cool mist and of course, its thunderous crescendo of rumbling and reverberation. As naturalist John Craighead maintained that the sound of distance rapids is a "primeval summons to primordial values." While Sigurd Olson suggests that running rapids will touch the wildness in your soul.

Yes, from the babble of the brook to the earthshaking crashing of whitewater the sight and sound fast-moving water has always called for me. Even back in the Midwest, where the sight of a quick-moving water gradient was a bit of novelty to me outside of Minnesota's North Shore. To see anything that even resembled a waterfall, I had to visit a dam site or wait for a thunderstorm to pour water through a culvert.

Photos by Deborah Ann Klenzman
So walking the Grover Hot Springs State Park Waterfall Trail with my wife Debbie, I was brimming with that same excitement with every step along the way. Located near Markleeville, California in the eastern Sierra, Hot Spring Falls is just one the highlights for the park known for its vista views of towering peaks, scenic meadow and a mineral pool fed by six hot springs.

It's roughly mile and a half hike to the falls over a trail that outside of few places where we had to do some minor rock climbing is not that difficult and good for hikers of all skills levels. The Burnside Lake Trail starts near the campground across portions of a newly created boardwalk with resting and viewing platforms through the sensitive meadow area. In other sections, the trail is reinforced with pack soil over crushed rock. We followed it all the way out of the park on to U.S. Forest Service land leading along Hot Springs Creek where the trail branched off to the falls.

Before long we heard the rumble of the first set of falls. Climbing over the rocks and boulders we climbed down from the trail to the first set of falls along the way to enjoy the spray of the cold icy waters after our hike on a hot summer day by kicking off our shoes and dipping our toes in the pools below the chilly shower.

The stream cascaded down through a series of rocky outcrops, giving the effect of it's many waterfalls rather than just one, We continued to follow the creek up to the next fall and tranquil pool before finding another, which proved to be by far the most awe-inspiring view of cascade of the the trail. It certainly made the hike's scratches and sore feet all seem worth it as we admired its sight.
Dropping vertically from its cradle of rock and trees, the falls poured over the ledge in a magnificent fashion. I tossed off my shoes once again to relish in the falls, to feel its cold damp rock, be deafen by its thunder and bathe in its spray.

As contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist and thinker Mehmet Murat Ildan wrote, "Waterfalls are exciting because they have power, they have rainbows, they have songs, and they have boldness and craziness!” I can only agree. They are truly one of creation most magical and breathtaking sceneries. Their power, roar, and brilliance in nature's tranquility will always beckon me to travel their waterfall trails.

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, we would love to see it. Submit it to us at nickayak@gmail.com


#JustAddWater

Wow! What a great way to end a trip to Loon Lake. Came home to have my fabulous prize from @nrsweb and @kleankanteen waiting at the door for being a lucky winner in the #JustAddWater contest. Thanks, guys!

How can you #JustAddWater to your summer adventures? Tell them in a post on Facebook or Instagram, include #JustAddWater and tag (@nrsweb) and you’re entered! They are awarding weekly winners all summer, plus one amazing grand prize including a full SUP package from us, and gear from Chaco, ENO, Klean Kanteen, Ruffwear, and Yakima Racks. Learn more at nrs.com/justaddwater

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Friday, August 9, 2019

LOON LAKE ANTHOLOGY


“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” --- Terry Tempest Williams

The wilderness serves as a common metaphor for a space or time of confusion, transition and growth according to both philosophers and theologians. The bible tells of the Israelite's struggle through temptation, chaos, and revelation as they wandered through it. In the new testament, Jesus does much of his ministry in an urban setting, but many of his most transformative moments occurred in outdoor settings on bodies of water, mountaintops, and deep in the wilderness. As American Bible Society's Jenny Phillips points out, "The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space—an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, identity shifts, and new possibilities emerge."

American naturalist and philosopher John Muir tells that the wilderness is a place for healing, inspiration, and renewal when he wrote, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

At 6,378 feet, Loon Lake sits about 100-feet higher than Lake Tahoe in the northern section of the Crystal Basin Recreation Area in the Eldorado National Forest along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Offering pristine blue water, textured granite shore and awe-inspiring views one could find a no better wilderness for solitude and tranquility.

Nestled up close to the federally protected Desolation Wilderness, the reservoir created in the 1960s by the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District is a popular recreation destination for camping, hiking, and kayaking.

As a kayak leader in Bayside Adventure Sports, a church-based outreach program to encourage Christians to connect in an outdoor setting. I have wanted to take some the group on a one-of-a-kind overnight camping and kayaking experience to the Loon Lake for quite some time. With the manta, GOD created the Earth. RIDE IT. CLIMB IT. CATCH IT. EXPLORE IT. PROTECT IT, I knew from my past visits to the lake it would be a great venue for a little recharging of their our own.


At the boat, my crew of John, Jim, Debbie, and Erin scanned the lake horizon, which seemed to be a treat to the eyes. Some patches of snow could be seen on the mountains, while the cobalt waters of the lake were brimming up against its rugged boulder-lined shoreline. I pointed to the northeast, far across the way to where we would camp. The only way to get there was either hike or paddle.

We paddled with the wind, around the peninsula to the northeastern part of the lake called Pleasant Lake. Mostly out of the wind, it would be where we would enjoy most of our time while camping and paddling on the lake. We kayaked to the boat-in campsite, landing our kayaks on a point of granite reaching out into the lake.

Over the next couple of days, we explored the coves, bays, and islands of the lake, slowing meandering around glaciers exposed granite boulders dotting the shoreline. While at night, we reclined along the rocky beach looking towards the sky while we enjoy breathtakingly stunning sunsets across the western horizon. It was an experience we will remember for our lifetimes.


In the firelight, with the stars only above we embraced the quiet and solitude of the wilderness. It was a time for us to bond as a group and draw us even closer in our relationship with God. Above a meteor shot across the sky before burning up into the boundless heavens. It was in that moment of tranquil bliss, I ponder these words of John Muir.


"Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us, God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever."


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Friday, July 26, 2019

CANOE MORNING


Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest's life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toughness of the cedar,
All the larch's supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily.
  Paddles none had Hiawatha,
Paddles none he had or needed,
For his thoughts as paddles served him,
And his wishes served to guide him;
Swift or slow at will he glided.
---  from the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was another quiet early weekend morning on the lake that I have come to look forward too. Just turning my truck into the park and driving with the windows down along the lake's conifer wooded shoreline as giving me feeling of jubilation as the earthy scent of pine delights my scent of smell. It's the perfume the forest. So sharp, so sweet, and ever so refreshing as anyone who has taken a therapeutic walk in the woods will tell you.

Arriving at the boathouse and to access I gazed down the path to the water below. The lake glistened a golden glow in the bright morning sun silhouetted by the rising row of pines. Where there were ripples on its surface there are brief flashes of diamonds. I inhale the view of tranquility taking in both its sight and sound. It's time to reset my body, mind, and soul because my rush to the lake is over.

I'm not the first, nor will I be last to find that elation about the beauty of water the forest. A nineteen century Wesleyan Missionary in Northern Canada Egerton Ryerson Young called it one of those sights that seldom comes to us in a life, where everything is in perfect unison.

"I was entranced by the loveliness of the sight," Young wrote in his book By Canoe and Dog-Train Among the Cree and Saulteaux Indians, "The reflections of the canoe and men and of the island and rocks were vivid as the actual realities. So clear and transparent was the water that where it met the air, there seemed to be only a narrow thread between the two elements. Not a breath of air stirred, not a ripple move."

The upper lake part of Lake Jenkinson is much narrower and quieter then its larger sister lake nestled in the picturesque setting of Sly Park near Pollock Pines, California. Divided by a narrow channel, the larger rounded lower lake is home to the speedboats, picnic, and campgrounds and swimming beach while the upper part features a path to a waterfall, two nesting eagles and in the morning when the lake is still, a place to canoe.

Where do we come from and where are we going?" wrote filmmaker and canoe guru Bill Mason, "There is no better place and no better way to follow this quest into the realm of spirit than along the lakes and rivers of the North American wilderness in a canoe.”

Pushing away from the dock at the boathouse, the Old Town canoe is transformed into a time machine with each quiet stroke of my wooden paddle as it takes me back to the way it used to be.  My morning solo paddles are a reflective time as I ponder the water, the trees, and the sky. In a way, it's sad that so many sleepy campers just up the way, miss this time on the water.

The calming emerald green waters design what looks like a moving painting as it ripples and shimmers and reflects on its fluid canvas. The gentle sound of my paddle dips and singing birds create a soothing magic of serenity. But then again, I have had a few mornings when a hurried fishing boat passes by with its droning engine desecrating the morning's tranquility and sanctuary. At this time of of the morning, the only way to honor the lake and its transparent placid flat waters is by canoe with only a paddle.

“The movement of a canoe is like a reed in the wind," wrote canoeist and naturalist, Sigurd Olson, "Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, the shores."



Sweeping my paddle, I glide among the ducks and geese at the little bay across from the boathouse. Below, I can look down into its crystal depths and see a few fish darting away from the movement of the canoe. If I'm lucky, one of the neighboring eagles will fly over while fishing the lake from above. I can't really go much further, nor do I really want too.

I find solace in the just floating idly in the little bay watching and listening to the creation about me. As writer John Graves pointed out, "Canoes, too, are unobtrusive; they don't storm the natural world or ride over it, but drift in upon it as a part of its own silence. As you either care about what the land is or not, so do you like or dislike quiet things. . . . Chances for being quiet nowadays are limited.”

Of course, the time is fleeting on the water. As the sun comes up, the park wakes up, as folks seek the relief of the lake's cool waters to escape the summer's blistering heat. I take a few more sips of my coffee before I make a one big giant turning stroke back to the dock.


If you want to go on a canoe or kayak trip at Sly Park contact:
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS: Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com

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Friday, July 19, 2019

2019 GREAT AMERICAN TRIATHLON TRAINING


This weekend they will be running, biking and paddling again on The American River Parkway as the Great American Triathlon on kicks off its inaugural event. Following the same course as Eppie’s The Great Race which called it quits last year after 45 years, The Great American Triathlon includes all the Eppie's ingredients of a 5.82-mile run, a 12.5-mile bike and the final leg a 6.10-mile paddle down the American River.

Last year it looked like the end of the traditional summer race when Eppies organizers decided to discontinue the event following a steady decline in participation. For many like Dana Thompson-Maker, they thought their kayak racing days on the river were over for good.

"It was sad, it was bittersweet," said Thompson-Maker, "It was wonderful doing it but, it was also sad because we were hearing it was going to happen anymore."

But earlier this year, co-founder of Innovations Health Systems Ken McGuire took up the mantel to keep the race alive.
“I felt it was too great a tradition to let die,” McGuire told The Carmichel Times, “People came here from all over the USA to compete. Eppie’s was a boost for our national profile. For all sorts of good reasons, keeping Eppie’s alive seemed critical.”
In the same spirit of Eppies, the new race will also be a philanthropic drive to support the American River Parkway Foundation and local children’s health charities.

It's good news to Thompson-Maker who enjoys the fun and comradery of race day.
"We were thrilled. Absolutely thrilled! " said Thompson-Maker, "I think it's smaller number right now, but the more people hear about it, the more they will want to it."


With the new race also containing kayaking portion like before, it provides a different dynamic from other triathlons with a "no swim" competition feature. To help people get on the water, Dan Crandall the owner of Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips offered an array of training nights and one clinic during the last couple of weeks to get participants familiar with the river, learn the fastest and safest routes on the water to ensure success come this weekend. Over the years, Crandall and his instructors have coached over 1,000 participants build their confidence, paddling skills, and river reading knowledge.


"Keep those hands loose and drive your feet into the footpegs to get your power,' Crandall calls out over the water to the group of boaters while preparing to leave the Sunrise access, the starting point for the kayaking section of the race.

"I was a little apprehensive at first I've never on the river," said first-year participant Mary Closner, "I've normally just putz around the lake, but my group needed a kayaker so here I am."

Like Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon, the kayaking portion of the race runs right through San Juan Rapids, a place where racers can lose valuable time and easily go from first to 31st by miscalculating the boil. During the Current Adventures' practicing sessions the paddlers were encouraged to run the rapid a couple of times during their training sessions to familiarize themselves with its flow and circular eddy.


"Keep smiling and lean forward. It more about finesse than muscle here," warns Crandall while approaching the rapid. "Let it push you around a bit, but just get through it,"

During each training night, there were more smiles than swims as the boaters navigate the troublesome rapid and then head downriver to the finish line at River Bend Park.

"I'm so glad I took the course from Current Adventures," said Closner, "I learned quite a bit with this being my first time on moving water. Now to turn it into a personal victory."


Current Adventure Kayak School and Trips
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS: Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com


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Friday, July 12, 2019

PYRANHA FRENZY: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVE FUSILLI

Dave Fusilli left and Pete Delosa on the South Fork of the American River.
Whether it's river running, creeking or freestyle kayaking, Dave Fusilli says he loves all aspects of kayaking and admits it's pretty hard to narrow it down to any particular favorite when it comes his time on the river.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, he confesses that at first that he found kayaking a bit scary when mom and dad took him out. In college, however, Fusilli says he was bitten by the whitewater bug igniting his passion for the sport. From then on it was his mission to paddle much as possible. Since he's gone on to become a world-class boater and has paddled on some of the world's most demanding rivers.
A longtime employee of Pyranha Kayaks, he started his career with them on Team Pyranha, the company's sponsored group of whitewater specialists used to promote their boats and products, before switching to Pyranha's West Coast sales and distribution team

When he is not on the road, Fusilli can usually be found going rapid to rapid and bridge to bridge on the Little White Salmon River near his home in Oregon.
"The thing I love most about kayaking is being outside in some of the most beautiful places on the planet," said Fusilli, "Add to that the focus and respect one has to have with themselves as well as the natural world around you; it's a special sport for sure."
Photos Courtesy of Dave Fusilli

Fellow boater and Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips instructor Pete Delosa says its guys like Fusilli who make the truly kayaking special.
"One thing that makes Fusilli stand out in the whitewater world is that no matter where he is kayaking it’s always evident that he is there to have fun," said Delosa, "Despite being one of the best creek boaters in the world he never turns his nose up at class II."

We caught up with Fusilli a couple of weeks ago at a demo day at The River Store to asked him about Pyranha, this year's big water and his paddling life.

OAM: You just made a big swing through California. With all the snow this winter the flows should be amazing all summer long. How has it been? Any favorite places you can't wait to get back too?
DF: Yeah there is a huge snowpack this year making for a very long season on CA! So far I have enjoyed the Kern, a few runs on the Middle Feather and a bunch of laps on the Upper Middle Consumnes! I can't wait to get back on the South Merced, Upper Cherry, and Royal Gorge. These runs are going to drop in maybe later than paddlers have seen ... possibly ever.

OAM: Tell us about your involvement with Pyranha.
DF: Pyranha... yeah I started paddling as a team paddler in 2006. From there I started helping organize our team and this added some income. That lasted up until the fall of 2017 when I added another role which brings us to today. I still help with the team, but also manage our West Coast warehouse, sales, and distribution for the West. I still do a lot of media for Pyranha as you might know. Some are specific edits, such as the 9R2 promo, but a lot more is to help keep the brand poppin.

OAM: You have been paddling for quite a while now so what your all-time favorite boat? What made it so special?
DF: I think my all-time favorite boat is the original 9R. The reason being is it was unlike anything I had ever paddled at that time and it changed whitewater kayak design. All brands chased and are still chasing the 9R. A boat with that much rocker that is that fast and flew out of drops like it does was just a whole new feeling. A very close second is the Ripper. I still really like freestyle kayaking and the Ripper allows me to be creative on the creeks where I live. It's so fun!

OAM: You seem to border on the outrageous in your exploits are you really that bold?
DF: I don't really know about that? I know lots of my friends that send it harder than I do. When I run something it seems to me like a pretty good to go line. I've been kayaking a long f*cking time as well so my perception may be a little different than most.

OAM: Who were your greatest influences? What advice did they give you?
DF: My Mom, Dad and a good old boy from PA, Jess Hartman were big influences when I was learning to paddle. My Mom said don't ever give up... or she more showed me that than said it. My Dad took me kayaking a lot, he still paddles. He also really showed me a passion not just for kayaking, but the outdoors in general. That lives deep, deep in me. Jess Hartman was huge at pushing me to the next step. I was very motivated, but so was he. We would paddle every day after a long day of raft guiding on the Lower Yough. Boofing, cartwheels, blunts... Jess helped me with all of this.


OAM: If you take anyone living or dead on an adventure with you, who would you take and where would you go?
DF: I would actually like to take all of our world leaders down 21 days in the Grand Canyon. We would do raft support, most of the side hikes and eat mushrooms a hand full of times. I think this would change the world. I'm totally down to do this if anyone could round these f*ckers up. I'd do it for free even.

OAM: How do you spend your offseason?
DF: I will kayak all winter long, but mostly from where I live. I love skiing and snowboarding and I will hit the gym a good bit. Lifting weights is cool and I think it helps to keep my body parts intact. I will probably go on some trip, but not sure where yet?

OAM: Where can you kayak in your neighborhood?
DF: I can walk to the White Salmon River from my house! This has been a dream since my last dream which was to kayak all over the country/world.

OAM: Describe your perfect day?
DF: Upper Cheery, but it flows right into Big Kimshew creek that then goes into Dinkey creek which flows into Manns creek, and into Skookumchuck at sunset (but somehow I'm now in my Carbon Jed), and into the Green Truss. I then walk to my house, sit on the back deck and drink a beer. Something like that.

You can keep up with Fusilli on Facebook and Instagram and watch his videos on Vimeo and YouTube. You can learn about Pyranha Kayaks and Team Pyranha by clicking on the links.

 

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Friday, June 28, 2019

A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM: A SOLSTICE PADDLE AT SLY PARK



Not only is it Sum­mer Sol­stice, drops a Full Moon. May love sur­round you like sun­shine on a sunny day. --- William Shakespeare


The lake was finally close to being quiet now. Gone were the speed boats and fishing boats, whose muffled motor rumble we could be faintly heard from the big part of the lake. Gone was the laughing and splashing the frolicking pre-teens jumping off the dock. They had either gone home or were back at their campsite gorging on hot dogs and potato chips. And gone was the sound of the wind rustling through the trees and the waves sloshing against the boat dock. The lake was still, calm and so inviting.

It was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year marking the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and sun was in no hurry to set. Each year, I've anxiously awaited for this time of year to stretch out my time at play on the water. For paddlers everywhere, longer days mean more time for paddling. It's that simple.

In Northern California, Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips has been hosting our popular sunset/moonlight paddles for all skill levels at Lake Natoma near Sacramento for many years. But, now they offer a new venue at Sly Park Recreation Area's Lake Jenkinson with paddle rentals, paddling classes and special programming like this Summer Solstice Paddle for those wanting to escape the valley.

Lake Jenkinson and Sly Park Recreation Area are stationed in a picturesque setting of the Sierra foothills near Pollock Pines, California. Divided by a channel into two parts, the larger rounded lower lake is home to the speedboats, picnic and campgrounds, and swimming beach, while the upper part of the lake is more narrow, much quieter due to a 5-mph speed limit and lined with a fringe of tall pines, reminiscent of my  of summer camp memories in the Northwoods.

It's was a great group for of both young and young at heart were joining me for our first Solstice Paddle on the lake. We traveled along the south side shore of the upper lake, past the eagle's nest under a border of tall pines on route to Sly Park Creek and its waterfall.

I loved to watch the light reflecting off the on the water as we moved along on it. How it changed with each ripple from our kayaks. How it at first it started with a sun blinding glisten silhouetting the paddlers and pines, before turning into a subdued glow of oranges, reds and shadowy greenish blues. On the south side, the trees of the lake the solstice sun brightly illuminated the trees in the distance like the moon while towards the west the tall pines filtered the light reaching the lake a picket fence flashing brilliantly between them as we paddled past.

At the creek, the forest closed around us like in a Tolkien tale as we paddled up toward the walking bridge. There the creek narrowed into a constricted rush of water just above the bridge that we could paddle no further. We would have to walk the path to the sound of the waterfall.

Sly Park Falls the bubbling man-made waterfall is always a popular destination for those visiting the park by either hike or paddle. Flowing from a pipe, the falls are only 33-feet high that drops into a translucent pool of water. It's just a brief stop before the water keeps moving on down to the lake.

It's the highlight of our paddle tonight that enchants the paddlers as they watch the water pouring vigorously out the hillside with an almost deafening roar. It always gives me a certain thrill. I'm sure the paddlers visiting it for the first time had the same sensation.

Before long it's back to our kayaks to circumvent the rest of the lake past Hazel Creek and Chimney Campground, named so because of the ruins of the chimney still left standing before the lake was formed rises out of its depths. Campfire smoke, camp clatter, and laughter hung over the water as it filtered down from the campsites.

By now our trip was almost over as the solstice sun had fallen behind the horizons. We paddled back in the coolness of the night air maybe wishing for our day not to end.


If you want to go on other kayak trip to Sly Park contact:
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS: Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com

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Friday, June 21, 2019

A SAFE HAVEN


The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. --- Albert Einstein

It's a phrase printed on bumper stickers and T-shirts in paddle shop everywhere reading, ‘Paddle faster, I hear banjos.’

For years, it's given many folks in the paddling a slight chuckle as it makes reference to the 1972 classic movie Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. The film was adapted from the James Dickey novel, about a group of suburban men on a weekend canoe trip down the fictional Cahulawassee River in the Georgian mountain wilderness. The adventure turns to horror when they encounter a pair of dangerous mountain men that set off a disturbing sequence of events along the river.

In the memorable opening scene of the movie, a suggested mentally challenged and inbred banjo player joins in and plays with one of the guitar strumming canoeists. Improvising a song between them, the two produce a bluegrass tune known as “Dueling Banjos." It's the bright spot, in an otherwise, unbearably dark film about conflict on the river that is now a part of paddling folklore.

In all my days of paddling rivers, however, I have never really had any conflicts with anyone either along the shore or paddling nearby. Most of the folks I've come across along the waterway proved to be either helpful and courtesies. I have seen paddlers offer over equipment that has been forgotten as well as advice to just about anyone at the access site. I have seen total strangers retrieve lost boats and paddles for frantic swimming paddlers without any question.

"They were just ordinary paddlers," wrote Jeff Moag in a 2014, June edition of Canoe & Kayak magazine, "Who extended the lessons of the river of life: If you have a rope, use it. If you need one, grab it and hold on."

Those are the people of the river and paddling community I have come to know. I 've found that everyone is pretty much your friend when they have a paddle in their hand. That's why I was surprised and very disappointed after reading about the incident on the Flint River in Northern Alabama last month.

For a group of teens, a kayaking trip down a popular Alabama river known as flat water enthusiast's "dream come true" turned into a nightmare when the kids were allegedly attacked and threatened with sexual assault by three suspects.
Collins Nelson

According to Alabama news outlets, Collins Nelson of Huntsville says he and other friends were on the river when a man paddling behind them began heckling the group. He says, words were exchanged, as the group tried to get away from the man as he threatened one of the girls with rape saying he and his friends would see them downriver.

“We proceed to go down the river a little more and hear his friends running through the woods telling us just to be ready,” Nelson told AL.com, “It was just chaos from there. Flipping our kayaks, flipped my kayak, some man put me in a headlock and proceeded to beat my face.”

Nelson said he was held underwater by his attackers, and couldn't remember much of the fight after that.

John Norris who was in Nelson's party told, WAAY 31-TV this account, ""We are sitting there hands up begging, 'Please stop,' and they just didn't care and continue to go on,"

Someone on the river called the police, who were waiting when the party finally made it to the takeout point. According to a girl who didn't want to be identified told AL.com, "If the police hadn’t been there, I think these people would have continued to beat us up. I think that was their intention.  It “definitely” could have been worse."

Nelson suffered a broken nose and fractured eye socket that will require surgery, among other injuries in the attack. The Huntsville police are investigating and have since arrested three suspects with at least one more arrest is still expected in the case.

Incidents like this should shake up our paddling community. Our rivers and water trails should be a safe haven for all who travel them without fear of being bullied, intimidate, coerce or attacked. Our rivers both wild and mild should be places where we offer those using and enjoying them despite their race, religion or sexual orientation the same friendly respect that our paddling community is known for  That alone should be enough. But, it isn't. There are many issues and the banjos continue to get louder.

In most cases, alcohol is always involved.

Nate Peeters, a public affairs officer for Huron-Manistee National Forests, told the Detroit Free Press this past February, while a Michigan group was trying lead a petition drive to ban alcohol on three of the state's popular waterways, that intoxicated individuals on the river have needed to be rescued from the water, have assaulted others, and pollute the rivers with cans and bottles.

"This behavior is really excluding families and youth groups and other community members from experiencing safe and enjoyable recreation on the rivers," he told the paper.

Other conflicts may arise with paddlers vs landowners in respect to river access with one of the most extreme events being The Burro Incident, where Arizona kayakers faced a gun-toting landowner. Paddlers should know their rights about navigable rivers, but also should recognize private property.

And maybe the most alarming case was the 2016 investigative report furnished by the U.S. Department of the Interior that showed that women in the rafting industry have been the victims of sexual misconduct for years. Since the release of that report, thousands of more women from all facets of the outdoor industry have stepped forward to share their stories of some form of discrimination, retaliation, or a sexually hostile work environment.

As you can see there are many concerns when comes to making the river a safe haven for everyone. But the days of "What Happens On The River Stays On The River" should be over for good and the paddling community should not try out paddle these banjos anymore.

As Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel said, "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever humans endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented."

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