Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The River Challenge - Another Success!

The 2009 Friend's of the Mississippi, 'Mississippi River Challenge' has been a success, for it's sixth year running! Thank you so much to all of those who helped me raise donations! Look what you did! You helped me raise $470!!! Holy balls-a-roni!

This year was a record, with 425 participants, paddling down the great Mississippi in kayaks, canoes and other various watercraft.

The weather was good to us. The first day winds were blowing strong, but as they were out of the northwest, that happened to be firm against our backs for most of the day. We did get nailed with just a bit of rain, and moaned a little about it, as we happened to be sitting in a lock and dam when it hit.

The initial stretch down from Coon Rapids is mostly forested shoreline. You start at one of the more turbid areas, with the flow of the dam waters, the shallow parts and rocks, causing one or two boats to get stuck, go broadside and tip. But from there out, it's mostly smooth sailing, as thumping of the Native American ceremonial drums disappear behind you.

Fort Snelling was its usual fun with a canoe of endless supply of Summit beer, unique and diversely palatable food and chance to room the walls, towers and take a lonely stroll down across from Pike's Island.

The second day was pretty, but always with the companion of aching muscles and general fatigue that everyone shares with camaraderie. Pulling into St. Paul is so rewarding. Pulling off onto Harriet Island, the most accommodating way stop of the trip, you grab your snackies and wolf them down as you stare across at the beautiful downtown.

From there, it gets oh so long! In fact, I find myself not being able to imagine doing this again, but quickly dispense of that thought as mere brooding fatigue. I got to see my folks near Jackson landing and my mother runs a good deal of the way down the river, as I paddle ever onward.

There was no great emergencies I had to attend to. Although, on that great long, 7+ mile stretch, the National Park Service boat lost a cushion out in the middle of the river. Begrudgingly, I paddled out to rescue it and my darn radio was not transmitting in this dead spot, so I had to wait another mile or so, wave them down and paddle back out of my route to return the thing. So, that helped to add even more mileage on an already long route.

After another stop near Pig's Eye and down that most beautiful back channel at Lion's Levee, you eventually see the inlet to your left and you are homeward bound. A good thing too, as the sport boaters were out in droves, pulling their water skiers behind them, ever so close to we, in our little plastic boats.

I am going to be recruiting friends and acquaintances for next year, I've decided. Every year at that fort I imagine how fun it would be if you guys were there with me.

There really is nothing like the Mississippi River Challenge and the Friends of the Mississippi River, preserving the very soul of our region.

To see the tally of all your great assistance, Lookie Here:


Till next year, my friends, when I'm bringing you with me!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Always A New Adventure!

Well, it's been quite the run! I was able to venture down the South Carolina and Georgia coast. First making some shoots in Myrtle Beach, that area mostly known for its party and biker scene, but also for its golf courses. Last time I had head north, this time it would be south, down to Hilton Head. Many remark about the beauty of this area. The main roads are densely framed by trees and busy with tourist traffic. You are much more likely to find BMW's and fancy SUV's here and the building codes make it very difficult to find a restaurant or gas station as they are tucked away in the trees, have no large signage and are constructed of muted colors.

I shot a few resorts, had a few conversations and took a glance or to out at the ocean, but was happily anticipating my next destination, Charleston.

Pulling into downtown Charleston, I head right to the address of my shoot, being a hotel located right on the convergence of the park and pier. There couldn't be a better location. From my window I could see their playful water fountain. It shot arcing streams of water from pedastels located at the outer ring, into a main pedastel in the center. It begged for people to play here. One child apiece would occupy a pedestal, getting soaked and controlling the stream as you would a giant sprinkler or hose and you could stand in the center of the circle and get soaked.

I revisted a past haunt and walked along the waterfront park and encountered the same experience as I did years ago-smiling people, relaxing on benches. I made conversation for a few and made my way into the old historic alleyways.

It's easy to pretend you are back in 1750, as not much has changed in the construction in that time and the houses are so well-maintained. To add to the unique energy of the nearing evening, a big storm approached Charleston. I watch big thunderheads moved in and heard the cracks of lightening. I stood gazing at the tallest church steeples just hoping, that I might see I nice bolt touch down. But with the coming of a hard downpour, I dodged into a restaurant.

After my shoot I was able to take in some more exploration of the old markets, watching the black women weave in Gullah style and had a convo with a potter that had recreated a glaze he found on a pottery shard at a colonial archeology site.

Then, with and hour and a half drive, I was into one of my dearest favs, Savannah. After some shooting, there was time to take in a pint and bangers and mash at a pub. I though it fitting that I spend July 3rd here, this land that remained loyal to England even after the Revolution.

After a little time back I was out again to areas a little closer to home. I made my way through central and northern Minnesota. Many of these regions I had explored in great depth last year, this time I would make may way through in a span of just over two weeks, for 23 shoots. I actually found many of the cabins quite charming and this stood in contrast to the musty beds I spent time in last year. Areas like Ottertail, Kabetogama, Nisswa, Crane Lake, Baudette and even up into Canada.

Of this stretch, it was Canada that brought the most adventure. It began with an hour and a half stop with customs. I just happened to get an immigration agent that had to cross every t and dot every i. He began by refusing to let me pass, then proceded to page through all of his binders, scrutinizing the words of NAFTA. After all that, I got in as a 'Business Visitor.'

My only shoot was about 3.5 hours over the border in Vermillion Bay. It was for a fly-in cabin resort company, that flew in Otters and Beavers float planes into the surrounding lakes.

The weather started to get crappy and the rain would not stop. Visibility was poor and winds were picking up. The people were friendly and Canucks through and through. Talking about da 'wicked' twister, 'eh' that came tru recently.

They were surprised that I was willing to go up. "You don't mind flying in rough weather?" I said I was up for it if they were. "Just so you don't shit yer pants!" But the woman behind the counter reassured me not to worry since she shit her pants in weather like this.

So, off we were up into the rainy sky. Keeping about 100 to 300 feet above the trees to keep site of the lakes and not lose ourselves in the clouds. Also important, we were trying to avoid colliding with the other planes up in the same sky. You'd the pilots let one another know where they were and you could peak and see a fellow flying about a mile away from you, at the same level.

We touched down onto at least 3 lakes, each touchdown made me more and more thankful as the pitching and rocking and dropping of the plane was making me green.

I'm actually glad I mentioned the fact to the pilot when I was on land, as he popped the only ventilation port, right near my face when we took off again. So, I kept my mind occupied with shooting and enhaled that sweet, sweet air through my nose to ward of the rubbing of my guts and perspiration and locking jaw that always proceeds you shitting yourself or puking. But, mission accomplished.

Now I am back to first do my part for the Mississippi River Challenge and then onto a week of escapades I will fill you in on a different time.

I hope your journeys, your time with your families and your summer days, treat you all well!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mississippi River Challenge

Well gang, it is that time again! Time to raise pledges for one my most beloved events, the Friends of the Mississippi River, River Challenge. It takes place on July 25 and 26th this year.

I encourage anyone who is interested to participate themselves, even if you have to come from a great distance to do it! It's possible for people of all ability levels to complete this fabulous event. You can rent a canoe or kayak if you don't have one. Whether you choose to go solo or bring along a few friends, you'll find an equal amount of enjoyment.

I'll be volunteering as a safety captain again this year. We're the ones you see with that pole flag, like the ones you used to find on fire hydrants, sticking up out of our boats. Makes us easy to spot and wave to from shore.

If you are not participating, all donations are greatly appreciated, but don't feel obliged! Your respect and stewardship of this great river is what's most important.

For donations, they can be made by clicking here: