ON THE WATER Do you have a crux run? Wherever you’re at with your boating, that’s that one river that gets your blood pumping, your palms sweaty. That run epitomizes where you are with your paddling in that moment, not so challenging that it’s out of reach but hard enough that it pushes you to the upper reaches of your abilities. You feel pretty seriously accomplished when you make it to the take out.
A few months ago when I ran the Ocoee for the first time, I started thinking about rivers I’d like to be paddling in the next year, and Wilson Creek was one of them. I had no idea back in May that a river I was hoping to be paddling a year from then I would be spending most of my boating time on barely a few months later.
Stepping it up is all about comfort and management of expectations. The first two times I was on the river, I walked Ten Foot Falls and the lead in rapid (and I walked off the river altogether, once, too). I didn’t feel like not running it would take away from my exposure to and experience with a new river; I just wanted to get comfortable. That crux run: it’s not about racing to the finish and bombing down all the rapids just to say that I can; it’s about running the river at varying levels to see what the river does, to know how it responds, and to get comfortable and familiar with its character.
That run is only clutch for you so long as you put off getting to know it better. This means those scary, intimidating things like catching eddies and boat scouting and trying different lines and levels. This is not to say that you won’t get nervous or even scared… just that you’ll have a better understanding of what the river has in store, where the eddies are, what rocks you can boof over and which to avoid, and so on. Wilson Creek makes me nervous, so whenever there’s enough water to get down it and I have the time, that’s a river I’d like to get to know. Don’t put your blinders on and bomb down water that makes you uneasy; make a conscious decision to know the water you paddle, and to know it intimately.
IN THE BELLY We’re on a weekly food budget… AHHHHH!! Seriously, any of you out there do this? I’m talking meal planning, saving receipts, and, yes, even entering into that dark, scary realm of couponing. Here’s the thing: we’re running a small business so we’ve got to be budget conscious. We discovered that- probably due to our inclinations to hanger- we spend a good bit on food and groceries, so we decided to sit down and make a weekly food budget to at least keep a better eye on what we’re spending.
$75. That’s what we’ve got from Wednesday to Tuesday to spend on food, and that includes eating out, on the road snacks, etc. It sounds crazy, but this lady feeds a family of four on $200/month, sometimes less. We can do this!
If we’re being honest here, this was our first week at this and we missed the mark pretty bad. It’s hard. But it was our first week taking a stab at budgeting groceries, and a few things became pretty apparent pretty quick.
- Meal planning is super important. Sit down, get a few ideas in mind about meals throughout the week, accounting for busy evenings or long days, and plan accordingly. Going to the store without a clear idea for what you’re shopping is a good way to overspend… a lot of that food goes to waste quickly, too.
- Save receipts. Keep track of how much you’re spending and on what.
- Check out your fridge and pantry before heading to the store. Is there that one thing in your kitchen that you have seven of because you keep forgetting you have it so you keep buying it? Do a quick run through before leaving… no, you don’t need another jar of peanut butter. You have five half eaten ones already.
- Hold yourself accountable and exercise some discipline. I know this is easier said than done, especially after a long day on the water… it’s so much easier to stop for a bite on the way home than to wait and then have to cook. Those are moments that can save or cost you money. Use those opportunities to plan ahead, bring some snacks, and throw something in the crockpot so you’re not at everybody’s throat on the way home out of hanger.
- Keep trying. We missed the mark this week, but we’re also new to this. If $75/week on groceries is way too ambitious for you and your family, start with something more manageable. Over time, you’ll find areas where you can cut back on spending and get better at budgeting.
…we’ll keep you posted on that one. For the time being, we’re pretty happy accepting benefits from friends who have much greener thumbs than us.
FOR THE BODY You’ve probably seen me hiking my kayak along the conveyor belt while you ride along effortlessly, haven’t you? If you’ve spent any time out at the Center this summer, you’ve caught me in the ghastly act of not taking the leisurely ride from the bottom pond to the top and,
instead, hopping out of my kayak, sometimes embarrassingly falling all over pond scum, and lugging myself, my boat, and sometimes my dignity back to the upper pond. Why walk when you can ride?
You don’t need me to tell you why walking is so good for you. We live in a day and age where most of the things we spend most of our time on (work, transportation, etc) result in us sitting on our butts for extended periods of time or standing still, not using our muscles or pushing our heart rates (seriously… have you tried parking farther away from your office yet?). I won’t bore you with all the details about why walking my boat from the bottom pond to the top instead of riding the conveyor belt is good for my health and my fitness; you probably already know that.
I will tell you two things I’ve learned from sucking it up and walking the conveyor belt. The first is that the short walk hiking my boat has made hiking my boat- in general- a lot easier. Have you paddled Section III of the Chattooga? Hike in, hike out. Wilson Creek has a decent walk out, and I don’t have to tell any of you local boaters about the Upper Green. Not only that, but can you remember a time when you’ve walked a rapid or an entire section on river? It’s hard. It takes time(remember when I walked the Narrows section of the Big Laurel?). And there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a significant chunk of energy on doing it… so maybe it’s something we shouldn’t avoid like the plague when there’s a possibility we might have to do it- planned or unplanned- when we’re out on a natural river. It’s a learned skill just like anything else with paddling.
Not only that, but walking that short distance up the hill with my boat gives me a quick and clear indication of where I’m at with my energy. If I’m too tired to walk my boat from the bottom pond to the top, it’s probably time for me to call it a day.
I’m not saying you need to quit taking the conveyor belt but think about ways you can incorporate more movement into your day, whether it’s catching up with family and friends from a walk around the neighborhood once a week, a lap on the trails in the woods, or making something a bit more challenging by walking rather than riding. The best part about life off the water is that so many positive actions have a way of channeling back into our paddling and making us better boaters and stewards of the water, which, in turn, makes us healthier people when we’re not in our boats, too.
OF THE MIND Okay… so this part is not as overtly creative as pictures or sewing projects, but it does require a bit of planning and thinking to help create a better experience… that counts, right?
We’re hitting the road for one of our first extended trips as a TEAM (yeah!), kicking the week off with our Common Sense Rescue class… which we’re pretty excited about. We’re spending a day of planning and prep on the water and then two days with instruction up in Hot Springs… and then we’re heading to NOC for the 2013 Freestyle World Championships. I’m bringing my boat so I can spend some time on the water when Chris is busy but also some off water play gear, too. We are going to be bringing some live coverage of Worlds from the gorge right to you, and are pretty excited about sitting down with some athletes and putting a different spin on the Championships.
Which brings me to this: how on Earth do we plan and pack for more than a week on the road/river, camping, driving, playing, and not going hungry?
Here’s a quick breakdown.
– Keep it simple. Essentials for this trip are warm layers for a rescue class and paddling gear, and whatever we need for camping. Do you need four pairs of shoes for a week on the road? Can you part with two out of the three sweaters you’re packing to save some space? A good rule of thumb is to pull everything you think you need for your trip, set it out in front of you, and then trim down everything you don’t need. When you’re traveling from a vehicle, overpacking becomes cumbersome and stressful, especially when you’re caught in a rainstorm and your rain jacket is buried under the stack of books you brought because you thought you’d have time to read. Pack light and with layers.
– Invest in a cooler. We all know how crappy gas station nutrition can be, so save yourself some money and headache by packing some easy, on the go food with you. My folks have a little handheld cooler that’s perfect for packing sandwiches, snacks, and water. It will keep you from overspending at a restaurant and overindulging with fastfood because you’re “just so hungry” from not preparing for the day. Apples, oranges, cucumbers, carrots… all are great, transportable goodies that can keep in your car, at your campsite, or in a cooler while you’re on the move.
– Be flexible. The best part of hitting the road is the freedom it gives you to do what you want. Have some ideas for things you’d like to do, but avoid creating really rigid itineraries for yourself, friends, and family. When traveling, things rarely go as planned and it’s best to go with the flow than stress over missed attractions or arguments over how to spend time.
– Plan for messes. Muddy, damp, sandy… this is the norm for the traveling paddler. Gear is going to get wet and stay wet, so plan for a spot to tuck it away in your space where it won’t get to your precious dry clothes. I’ve seen everything from one of these (which I’ve heard you can get on the cheap) to a plastic laundry basket, which we use in the trunk of the car. Keep wet/dirty stuff in the trunk, dry stuff in the car or have a way to keep the two separate. Don’t forget the underrated beach towel, gracious bestower of warmth, dryness, and discretion when changing.
– Splurge on space for creativity. Bring your camera, notebook, or laptop if you have to. You never know when you’re going to get inspired or have a great idea. Depending on your plans, downtime takes different shapes and you may just find yourself wishing you had brought your iPad to update your blog or website of your adventures that day. Be sparing, but not so much that your creative outlets suffer.
That said, stay tuned to H2o Dreams throughout the week for behind the scenes peeks into the 2013 World Freestyle Championships. For us, a change of scenery is always a chance to get creative so we’re excited to keep you posted on gorge life for the next few days. Happy paddling!