Tuesday, November 23, 2010

RECAP - the 2010 Paddling Otaku expedition skills camp

With the skills camp ending a few days ago, I have had some time to go over the event in some detail. I must say I am very happy with how well it went.

We had some last minute cancellations, so the group was smaller than I had hoped. But the participants were literal sponges for expedition information. With topics including meal planning, float plans, basic navigation, loading kayaks, making camp, where to store boats, how to dress for the water, etc.

The culmination of the event was a long paddle day. In my opinion the best skill for an expedition paddler to have is the ability to spend a long day in a cockpit. It is the only way to get the kind of productive mileage you need to maintain to accomplish a long distance paddling goal. We hit the water on Saturday morning right on time around 9:30 am. We spent 40 minutes looking for a water source - something not uncommon on an expedition - and then started paddling. We took a break an hour and a half later, earlier than I would have liked, but didn't stop again for another two hours. In all we paddled just shy of 17 miles, in just around 6 hours. I was very proud of how well people did in terms of keeping comfortable, and keeping focused.

I shot a little video, but probably wont post anything. I hope we get to do the 2011 expedition skills camp in the spring. This time some place with tides!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


It seems like I have only been home for a few days, and yet I am packed and ready to go back out. This seems to be my theme for next year, as I already have many trips planned for 2011.

This past week I was in Lander Wyoming, completing the training to teach Wilderness First Aid for The Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS. I have been associated with NOLS professionally since 2006, and since 2000 as an Alumni, but I have never had a training experience as difficult as this WMI instructor course. They have exceptionally high standards, and I wasn't sure I was going to make the cut until about the last 24 hours - folks at WMI, I am honored to have been selected! Next year I will be teaching 6 wilderness first aid courses by June for WMI, and I am really looking forward to it. In July I will be paddling in Alaska for a month. And tomorrow I leave for the three day paddling otaku expedition skills camp. All I can say is I have a very understanding wife, and a very sad dog. Fortunately I can pack for a three day trip pretty easily. Very little of my gear set actually changes. And though I always forget something, it is usually something pretty minor. Lets hope.

Friday, November 12, 2010

People worry about bears.

When I talk to people about the number of times I have been to Alaska, one of the first questions I generally get is about bears. People are afraid of bears significantly more than they need to be.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take appropriate bear precautions, but you also shouldn't lose sleep over our ursine friends. I highly recommend reading 'Bear attack their causes and avoidance' which is the final word on the topic of bears, and the causes of bear attack. One of the most important things I took away from that particular book is this:

You are 50% more likely to get injured if you have a gun than not. Now that doesn't say 50% more likely to get injured by a bear, just 50% more likely to get injured, and I think that says a lot. I hear many people talking about guns for bear protection - part of that may be that I live the American South East where people like their guns - But guns, particularly hand guns are not a good bear deterrent. Even the biggest hand gun has a relatively small bullet, and therefore small stopping power compared to the size of a bear. A much better idea is bear spray. Though again, you have to know how and when to use it.

Education is key, and I think a very big part of the equation is confidence. I think that bears sense the confidence level of the people in their vicinity, and base a lot of their actions on that, though that is just my opinion.

Of course, sometimes the right thing to do, is nothing at all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This isn't kayaking related

But it is very cool. I initially thought it was using a GoPro which got my interest. I was wrong but this is still a very cool thing. Home made spaceflight is now possible, along with video of -almost- the entire process and GPS tracking for retrieval.

I think this is important because there is less and less interest in science in the United States. We are falling woefully behind other countries in science and math, and that is going to hurt us in the not too distant future. We all need to be doing everything we can to get our children interested, and active in the sciences.

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Thanks Drax!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Paddling Otaku Expedition Skills Camp

This November I will be hosting a small group skills camp - primarily for the Alaska paddlers but some others may be joining us. We are going to be going over various kayak expedition skills, including but not limited to:

Navigation, Packing a kayak, Tent site selection and kayak placement in relation to tent placement. Float plans, On water leadership, meal planning, clothing for paddling and camp, Tides, weather, and safety.

It will be three full days both on the water and on land. A big part of what we are going to be working on is getting people, and their bodies, comfortable with the concept of long days on the water and in a kayak. This is probably one of the biggest challenges. But when you have 350 miles to paddle, and a limited amount of time to do it five or six mile days don't work. You need to be in the mindset of fifteen to sixteen mile days with the occasional 25 mile day thrown in for good measure. The only way to do that is to find what makes you comfortable in your kayak, and getting in the right mindset to do that.

For me a long day in the cockpit is a meditation. Usually groups will determine that every two hours or so, people want to do shore breaks, stretch their legs, and go to the bathroom. I generally don't get out of my kayak on long days. When people are going ashore, going to the bathroom, eating some snack food, I am sitting in my kayak resting, eating and re hydrating. Once I get set, and I am in the right mind set I don't want to mess with it. My body just tends to feel like it just wants to keep going. For me, that is the key to expedition kayaking. Getting in the zone where all that needs to happen is around fifty thousand forward strokes. That is a wonderful place to be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Here is to clear Skies.

No, this isn't a post about the weather.
This morning I am heading to Lander, Wyoming to take the WFA ITC.

If your not into Acronyms that would be Wilderness First Aid Instructor Training Course with WMI of NOLS - Yikes more acronyms!

Wish me luck!