Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Season Trailer

The time is almost here...
Bryan and Fitz sent me this sneak peak at "The Season" trailer.  Look forward to my first individual episode in early Feburary.

The Season Trailer from Fitz Cahall on Vimeo.

Help spread the word...I think this could go huge!

Down Home for the Holidays

My niece helping Santa hand out gifts

Being away from family is by far the hardest part. I get back as often as I can, but it's never enough.

Missouri is known for many things. It's the home of the blues, Ice creme cones, ice tea, and Truman just to name a few.

Missouri was the first slave state to free it's slaves and is the "Gateway to the West"

Named after a tribe called the Missouri Indians; meaning "town of the large canoes" We take canoeing pretty seriously.  As a kid growing up in Missouri you spend many weekends with friends and family lazily drifting through lush ozark mountain forests on cold, blue-water spring fed streams.  

We mastered the canoe skills needed to safely navigate the mild rivers Missouri is known for just about the time plastic kayaks were becoming popular to rent.  I was nine years old and five minutes into my first kayak trip when it happened...I was hooked.  This new craft was not just a chance to paddle with two blades; It was independence!  

Up until that day I had only experienced a river by tandem canoe.  My Dad knew he had just lost his bow-man and bought a couple old Perception Dancers the following winter from a couple Missouri Whitewater Association members.  We took a whitewater class, learned to roll and never looked back.

My uncle and a friend had already bought some rec boats, made skirts and started paddling on Missouri's only consistent whitewater run; The Saint Francis River, which quickly became our favorite place to spend time together.          

On this particular trip home, I took in two of the "show me state's" finest experiences.  One brought me back to those lazy float trips where we would stop off at all the caves we would find along the rivers and explore.  The other was a favorite place of mine.  My home river.  A trip down to Missouri just ain't finished til' ya do some cavin' and some floatin'

The Saint Francis River, or just "The Saint" as it is often referred by the locals, is the primary whitewater run in the region and is the glue that binds together the finest paddling community in existence.  The lack of other paddling options within a day's drive means that in Missouri, warm rainy weekends are more like big disfunctional family reunions that spontaneously occur along the banks of this amazing midwest gem.

This particular weekend was not warm, nor was there much water, but we were determined to make the best of it.  My uncle John and I loaded up and drove down to "D-bridge" (the take-out) by way of a Steak n' Shake.  We parked the van and walked down to the bridge to have a look at the gauge....        

2 inches.  Not a great level, but enough water for a fun scrape down.  Looks like I missed a good season down at the Saint this year.  Missouri got record rainfall all October.  That's an inner tube deposited high in the tree!


The main run goes by many names. Millstream Gardens, Tieman's Shut-ins, or just "The lower"and contains fun rapids such as Big Drop, Cat's Paw, Double drop, rickety rack, and others.
It's a beautiful class 3-3+ run at most water levels.  It's smooth granite features and friendly rapids make for an enjoyable run with a huge range of boatable water levels.  It is paddled at below zero on the d-bridge gage up to 10,12, even 14 feet over the bridge!  A range of 200cfs to about 35,000 cfs !!!

Curtis sizing up double drop

Uncle John sticks the move above the second drop

The line of the day was laid down by Freddy Carter...proud owner of "The Mega Pickle"

He looks...

He Charges!


I thought I was about to lose some teeth getting this shot.

The zone around the Meramec River in Southern Missouri is one of the most porous places on earth.  Everywhere you look you'll find small entrances to caves.  Some contain enormous rooms and tunnels who's mysterious beauty draw you deeper and deeper into the darkness .  Huge deposits of limestone far beneath the surface have gradually washed away leaving a labyrinth of caves that stretch from Kentucky to Kansas.

Many of these caves are protected and have been fenced off to prevent further falls in bat populations.  Fortunately, there are some amazing caves that remain open for the public to explore at their own risk.  A friend of mine suggested Green's Cavern along the river right bank of the Meramec R.

I had been to the cave's mouth many times as a kid.  It's 90' x 90' entrance perched above the river was easy to spot and the cold water running from it's depths was a refreshing oasis from the oppressive mid-western summer heat during long float trips.

 I had never been far from the mouth.  During float trips only a handful of us had flashlights and it was always too cold walking up the cave's river to go in very far.


Getting to the cave from the river was always easy, but during the winter, most people choose the long walk in.  We followed a topo map to the closest trail head and started into the woods.  

The little stream in the foreground is the one that runs inside the cave.  You can make out the huge mouth in the background.

Once inside, the going was pretty easy.  The water didn't seem nearly as cold as I remember.  I think it could be a combined effect of being accustomed to the frigid water temps of the Northwest and being at the cave in the winter instead of during the usual summer float trip.  It's always 60 degrees in the caves.  When it's 95 degrees out that feels cold.  During December it's a balmy retreat.

We saw several animals almost a mile in...Several frogs, a few bats...a cave dog.

This is a great cave to bring beginners.  Bode dog had no issues.  He was actually able to get further than  any of us as the last 2000 feet of the cave are done on your hands and knees.

The stalactites and other cave formations were ENORMOUS.

In several places the stalagmites and stalactites joined making giant pillars that lined the river.

The only tight squeeze

Most of the time we didn't even have to duck.

On the walk out I stopped to snap this shot to capture the size of the cave's mouth.  You can just make out the others standing in the shadow to the right.  Most of the caves I've been through start with a squeeze into the opening, then they open up once inside.  This is truly a beginner friendly cave.

Part of what makes this part of the country unique and why the floating streams run all summer long is it's springs.  The caves and springs go hand in hand.  On our hike back to civilization we stopped to check out this little outflow when I noticed that the tiny spring drained a bigger pool up off the trail.  We crossed the small creek and walked up along the spring outflow to the edge of the pool and found this perfect little spring.

I love this shot.  The reflected trees look like a black and white photo yet it's hard to tell what is the roots of the tree in the water and what are the branches being reflected from the trees above.

All in all it was a great visit and an amazing year.  Check back in 2010!  Have a great New Year!!