Monday, December 7, 2015

Annual December Paddle

It's that time of year again.  The planning, prepping, and watching river levels all comes to fruition in another successful winter paddle of our little paddling group.  What started as a silly idea has turned into an obsession for many of us.  We look forward to this trip all year, and plan years in advance too.

Our plans changed a little this year with all the rain that came around Thanksgiving.  It enabled us to paddle a portion of the Jacks Fork that would otherwise be too shallow in December.

We base camped at Alley Spring. 

Thursday night we dined on winter stew in bread bowls.  It was a little thick for bread bowls, but yummy none-the-less.  In face I ate so much that I nearly returned some.

I was trying out a new sleeping bag this year and fell in love with it.  It was roomy and warm.  We also tried a new teepee tent.  It has plenty of head room, but the door system could be better.

Friday morning was up early for some fried potatoes with bacon, onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos.  Then it was off to a lengthy shuttle made longer by missing a turn.  We paddled from Buck Hollow to Rymers.  It's a bit over 9 miles with scenic bluffs and caves along the way.  Jam Up cave is especially interesting, but it's hard to get out there - especially in a kayak in the winter.  Only three of us explored the cave.

We returned to camp a bit before dark to begin cooking a dinner of pork steaks, corn on the cob, baked beans, and slaw.  It certainly hit the spot.  The beans were a particular hit.

The plan for Saturday was a bigger breakfast, shorter paddle, and hitting the Eminence Christmas parade.

Breakfast was fried pheasant with biscuits and gravy paste.  I say paste because the gravy wouldn't flow through a slotted spatula.  It was thick, but had a great taste.

It was then off to Bay Creek to put in for the day.  I kayaked on Friday, but hit the canoe for Saturday; often times standing.

The whole group of nine boats on Saturday.

And don't forget the ever beautiful frost flowers that appear on cold mornings.

After getting off the river at Alley Spring and the shuttle run it was time to cook dinner. 

We had an early dinner of vegetables and bring-your-own meat before heading into Eminence. 

We've been to the parade before.  When we asked folks when the parade started we were told "dark".  We got to the courthouse to set out our chairs a bit before dark.  The parade started a bit after 6pm.  For a small town they put on a pretty good Christmas parade.

A little cobbler finished off the evening just right when we returned to camp.

Sunday was packing up and getting home.

Next year marks the 20th year of the trip so we'll be returning to the Eleven Point and where it all started with just three of us.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Connect, Collaborate, and Learn from Others

Years ago one of my mentors told me he really felt like he began to make a significant difference for his district after starting to attend national conferences.  He had long been a successful superintendent, but felt the exposure to innovative thinkers at the national level ramped up his leadership.

My experience would mirror that.  I felt like I was doing a pretty good job as a school leader, but once I started getting exposed to innovative thinkers beyond my state we really started moving the needle of student achievement.  It goes beyond exposure to innovative thinkers though. 

It's connecting with high quality, effective leaders that makes you want to do better.  You see what others are doing and want to replicate it.  You also get to share what you're doing and find that others want to learn from you as well.

I'm thankful to have been able to connect with amazing leaders in my state and beyond.  Each of them has helped me become a better leader. 

#suptchat colleagues Michael Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak

Missouri superintendents at a state conference.

AASA Executive Committee members Tim Mitchell, Brock Womble, Jule Walker, and AASA President-Elect Alton Frailey.

Monday, November 2, 2015

October Paddle

I was lucky to have an opportunity to paddle at the US National Whitewater Center in October.  Meetings had me in Charlotte for a few days so I took a later flight home and spent the day at the center.  The plan was to have a lesson at 11am and another at 3pm.  Each was to last 90 minutes.


After grabbing a rental car I arrived at the center early enough to do some exploring.  The trouble was that it was a bit cool and raining and I hadn't brought a rain jacket or poncho -- business travel you know.

There was a 5k and a 12k happening at the facility that morning so I watched them a bit, checked out their store, and explored just a bit.  The center is a playground with climbing walls, bike trails, ropes courses, zip lines, and of course paddling.

As I explored I found a bunch of homemade boats.  Later I learned that they were having a race down the competition channel.  Due to the rain I left my phone in the car, but I wished I would have taken photos of the boats.  Standing out were a boat that looked like a log flume ride, one that looked like the car from the Flintstones, one made out of blue coolers (didn't last long), and one made of over 16,000 corks.  The guy had been gathering them for about a year.  Restaurants from 12 states had donated.

I was getting chilly by the time it came time for my lesson.  After meeting my instructor Dwight we geared up (splash top) and hit the upper pond.  My goal for the day was to work on my roll because I had lost it over the summer.  I was also wanting to work on ferrying and running a bit of water.

After working on hipsnaps and set ups my upper half was wet and I was starting to shiver.  The plan was to get out and get the blood flowing, but I busted it on a slick rock getting out of the kayak and was now wet head to toe.

What finally started to warm me up was working our way down the wilderness channel.  We practiced grabbing eddys, ferrying, peeling out, and eddy hopping to go upstream.  A bit of a drop lay before us in the next section.  The plan was to go through it and eddy out at the bottom end.  I got sideways in the wave, leaned upstream, and went over.  No luck on the roll (bad setup) and I was swimming.  I hit the eddy, climbed on shore and watched Dwight as he guided the empty boat through the bigger water and the tail end of the run. 


I re-entered the boat in the nearly calm water at the end and we paddled across the lower pond and onto the conveyor taking us to the upper pond.  That was the end of the first lesson.  I was tired, wet, and hungry.

They are used to wet people there so having lunch soaking wet wasn't an issue.  Just wish their restaurant had been a bit warmer.  After lunch I went to the car to grab some fleece.  The hand dryers in the restrooms were most helpful. 

Between lessons I grabbed some junk in the store, walked a lot, watched the homemade boats get torn up, and finally grabbed a poncho from a vendor.  I was surprised by the number of folks out to watch the homemade boats in the rain.  The rain had gotten more steady during the early afternoon.

For the 3pm lesson I grabbed a Farmer John to improve the warmth.  It made all the difference.

After lots of roll practice again (still having set up issues) we hit the wilderness channel again.  This time I made it through the wave that threw me and eddied out.  The water downstream from this point was bigger than I wanted so I portaged around.  That's what will really warm you up.

I thought I was going to portage to the bottom end, but Dwight had me enter earlier where I had to slide down the concrete bank to enter the water.  The seal slide was fun, but it took me a few tries to get my weight shifted enough forward to break over and slide.  Effort = warmth on a cool, rainy day.

Once at the bottom we hit the conveyor for another trip through.  The third time through the wilderness channel I was gaining confidence in getting on the edge.

I was successful on the drop again (gotta keep the boat straight), but missed the eddy this time.  Dwight yelled to me that there was no turning back and into the bigger water I went. 

He was behind me yelling instructions as I went through the biggest water I've ever done in a kayak.  And I made it through.

My heart was pounding at the end...not chilly anymore.  At that point I had no more energy.  After a lecture from Dwight on the importance of never missing an eddy I was done for the day.

It was a great day.  I learned a lot and gained some confidence.  Just having set up issues on the roll.  I hope to return again and perhaps take a swiftwater rescue class.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Paddle

I did paddle in July it just wasn't a trip worthy of note.  It was on flat water for skills practice.  August, though, was a nice, short trip with friends.

One of the common ties among my paddling friends is Boy Scouts.  More to the point it is WoodBadge.  So with a closing WoodBadge luncheon with a river near by it was only natural to combine the two.

Four of us (all former course directors) met at Sam A Baker to camp for the night before a Sunday morning paddle, and then to the luncheon.  We arrived before sundown to find one of the crew sitting around a nice little fire.

The campground was nice and quiet so we enjoyed an evening of conversation around the campfire.

Sunday was up and on the water after making the shuttle run.  The water is slow and easy.  I have paddle this section more times than I can remember while teaching young scouts to canoe, but had not been on it in a few years.

The power of a flood is truly amazing.  Downed trees not only dotted the riverbank, but also the middle of the river making some areas a challenge to get through.  At the biggest strainer we met two guys from Arkansas who were finishing up an overnight.

They liked to paddle into November and backpack through the winter.  The conversation around shared passions was amazing.  They asked about our paddling club and were given club bling.

Overall it was a nice morning on the water with friends. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Animas River Rafting

Thanks to 4 Corners Whitewater I had the opportunity to run the middle/upper Animas river.  Ryan was a great guide.  I didn't take a camera or phone so no pics I'm afraid.

Although it is a day trip I reported the day prior for instruction and swim test.  The training is the same style video other rafting companies use.  The swim test is a brief trip on the Animas through Durango.  From 4 Corners we traveled a bit north to the put-in.  Once in the boats we practiced executing commands from our guides.  At Santa Rita Park we pulled over and walked upstream along the path to start our swim test through the last water feature at the park.  I could have stayed a while to watch kayakers and SUP boards ride the wave.

After returning to our raft we headed downstream once again.  At the bottom end of the park there was a fire truck and ambulance.  The next day we learned a 56 year old man had a heart attack and died after his raft flipped in the rapids we had just swam.

The next morning we took the Durango/Silverton train, boarding at Rockwood, to Needleton and rafted down to Tacoma, barely making the train the return to Durango.

This video gives a taste of the Class V Broken Bridge rapid, but imagine the water much higher.  Water levels were at the limit of paddling.  We swam through Durango at 4,100 CFS, but it was almost 5,300 CFS the next day.  Not sure what the flows were upstream, but she was up and moving.

We stopped 3/4 mile above Broken Bridge to scout the rapid.  The left side was our line and we ran it one raft at a time.  Once the last raft was through we peeled out for a long dose of Class IV rapids.

This was the most intense, big-rapid rafting trip I've done.  I would like to have run the upper as well, but the water was just too high.  You better be in decent shape to do this run because it will be work.

High Altitude Crash

What a nice view of Pike's Peak from the Garden of the Gods!  This may be the best photo I've ever taken...and from a phone at that.
Our plan for the day was to do the Cog Up/Bike Down from Challenge Unlimited.  We ran a bit late getting to their office and had to quickly complete paperwork before heading off with a group of 24 and our guides to the Cog Railway Depot.  Our guide Sarah got the tickets, Kelly gave us instructions, and the guides took off for the summit in the vans. 

It got steadily cooler as we gained elevation.  The temperature was around freezing with a slight wind when we reached the summit.

After gearing up and getting fitted for our bikes we were ready to take the 20-mile ride down the mountain.  The plan was to make several stops along the way.

We left the parking lot near the rear of the pack.  After rounding the first switchback I thought one in the group was going off the edge as he looked back to check on his wife.  I passed him, came around a slow curve to the left and saw that we had really gotten behind the group.  Debbie and Zack were behind me.  Most of the group and lead van were waiting at a rally point at the next switchback.
I let off the brakes and took off to the group.  When I got there I turned around to watch Zack come in to the group as well.  I got prepared to help him stop, but he did a great job coming to a safe stop.
When I looked up the road to see how the others were doing I saw that our chase van was stopped and folks were tending to someone who was down.  I knew Debbie was up there somewhere so I started looking for her white jacket, but couldn't see it.  By that time Jackson, one of the guides, was starting to head up the mountain on his bike to assist.  I was concerned that Debbie was down so took off hiking up to the accident.
When I arrived I found Debbie on her back in the road with Sarah keeping her head stable.  Her helmet was off and damaged, her sunglasses were in pieces, and she had a large knot on her left cheek.  Sadly, she really had no idea of what had happened.  One of the riders behind her reported that she turned her handle bars to the left and went down.
Guides Ken and Kelly had taken charge of the situation and called local EMS.  After some time we got a neck collar on her and loaded into one of the vans.  Traffic was horrible which probably delayed getting her in the van and headed down the mountain.  Zack and I jumped in the van and Ken took off driving.  I felt sorry for the rest of the group as we drove past them.  They had been standing in the elements for some time and I could see some shivering.
Ken is an experienced guide and ranger with lots of experience on the mountain.  He drove like a man possessed, passing cars and bicycles until we hit a logjam of traffic that slowed us down.
And then it started hailing.
The amount of hail was amazing to us.  It made feel even more sorry for the rest of our group still up on the road coming down. 
As we came into Glen Cove a motorcycle went down on the wet road covered in hail.  We had passed a plow truck heading up hill just a few moment prior.
We had made it well down the mountain before meeting the ambulance coming up for her.  After a quick assessment by EMS, Zack and I jumped in the ambulance with her and we headed the rest of the way down the mountain and on to the hospital.
Debbie was quite lucky to escape with no broken bones in her face.  She went down hard and has pretty good road rash on her cheek.
Our belief is that she got light-headed from the altitude, passing out, and then going down on the bike.  We believe she was pretty limp as she hit the road because she has no defensive wounds on her hands. 
She has a black eye, swollen check, sore shoulder, scraps on her knuckles, and a sore hip and back.  We're thankful that she wasn't hurt worse and very thankful to the guides who took care of her.
As the days wore on Debbie has gained memory of some of her time on the peak and her short ride, but has no recollection of her accident.  She recalls wanting to sit up in the van, but remembers little else in the van.
I'm not discouraged from attempting this trip again, but I may be going it alone.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Whitewater Clinic Trip

After the Whitewater Races Zack and I decided to take the Whitewater Clinic offered by the Missouri Whitewater Association.  After registering it was time for a bit more gear.

We arrived at the campground on a Friday and got camp set up.  Zack wanted to hike along the rocks so we headed to Millstream Gardens Conservation Area.  We started near the shelter you can see in the distance below and made our way downstream along the rocks. 

A group of four kayakers were making their way down the river and we moved along the rocks staying in line with them.  Not on purpose, we were just moving at a similar pace.  That is until a rock moved when I stepped on it.

Of course the rocks are slimy and slick and into a shallow pool of water I went.  The water wasn't shockingly cold and I just kind of laughed a bit, stood up, and then realized my phone was in my pocket.  I handed it off to Zack to keep in a dry pocket and decided we would go into town and get some rice to help dry it out later. 

I was wet from my shoulders down, but we kept walking for a while.  The slim from the rocks was all over my pants so I was worried about staining.  I've ruined pants this way in the past.

We eventually headed to the truck, went back to camp for dry clothes, and headed to WalMart.  There I got the rice for the phone, as well as stain remover and laundry detergent.

The phone was unusable for the weekend so my plans for a few photos were squashed.  Interestingly the phone works, but only with the stylus.  It won't recognize a finger swipe or finger touch.
Anyway...on Saturday we were up early and to the gathering area on time.  It took a while for them to get organized, but we ended up with a good group.  Our instructor was Slim.  Mike, John, and Steve were the safety boaters for the trip, but also helped with instruction.  They were all great about giving tips and answering questions.  The clinic participants in our group were brothers Jim and John, Mo, Bev, and the two of us.
After getting the shuttle together we were off to Fisherman's to start our day.  Mike led us in some stretching and we headed to the water.  We spent about two hours in the pool, eddy, and ripple at Fisherman's working on strokes, peeling out, eddying out, and ferrying.  Of course I got over zealous and went swimming during a ferry.
We stopped at Millstream for lunch and then headed toward Big Drop (photo below from Whitewater Race weekend).

 Zack and I both made it successfully through Big Drop on Saturday.  It was a fun run, but Cat's Paw came next.  A few in a our group decided to portage around Cat's Paw, Zack included.  I attempted to run it, but slammed into a rock, got out of position and hung on to the rock and bottom until being rescued.  I lost my paddle while holding on and tried to move my boat backwards into a small eddy but struggled against the strong current.  Mike came into the eddy, got out, and tried to help from the rocks.  Slim came towards me yelling at me to get my arm out of the way before slamming into me (no doubt the hit would have broken my arm) and correcting my angle on the rock.  That allowed me to get out and then down to the bottom using my hands as paddles.  At least I stayed in the boat.

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our time learning strokes and moves and we went down the river.  I swam two more times while playing in rapids.  One was a silly mistake, but on the other I bit off more than I could chew.

After peeling off wet gear we hung around the pavilion for dinner and Zack played Frisbee golf with some guys.

The weather was wetter and cooler on Sunday.  We gathered as a group and headed back to Fisherman's for more ground instruction and stroke practice before heading down the river.  At Hollywood beach we practiced hip snaps, T-rescues, and some of us rolled.  I was two for two.

Zack was bragging about staying in his boat.  John asked him if he had ever heard about karma.

Karma was just about to smack him in the face.  Zack made it off Big Drop fine, but flipped quickly after.  He pulled his skirt, but wasn't getting out.  Several boats headed to him and I jumped out of mine to get him out.  He was all but out by the time I reached him.

Being upside down for between 10 and 15 seconds startled him and he was shivering.  We got some food in him, Steve gave him another top, and a small group of us headed down the river ahead of the others to get him off and warm.  He was hesitant to run anything after that, but only portaged around Cat's Paw.  My Cat's Paw run was successful on Sunday, but I bit it on the bottom end of Rickety Rack.

We got Zack off the river around 2pm.  By that time he had warmed from all the paddling, but was hungry.  After changing into dry clothes we headed home.

Overall it was a great trip and I will definitely do the clinic again in the future.  Zack and I also plan to head back down there in a few weeks for some stroke practice.  Without other boaters we won't run any of the rapids, but we will work on peeling out, eddying out, and ferrying. 

Maybe next time I won't mess up my phone and actually get some pictures or video.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Stand There Or Do Something?

You are the second person to arrive on the scene of an injury accident and the first person is just standing there looking over the injured person.  Do you instinctively say, "Don't just stand there, do something!"?  Or do you think this person is perhaps assessing what needs to be done before doing it?

Sometimes we act first without thinking.  Unfortunately that happens quite a bit in the social media world.  We react to a situation that is upsetting without thinking through what we post.  And then it's gone and out of our control.  Sure, we could delete the post, but we don't know who has saved it in some manner.  We've launched something into cyberspace and getting it back is challenging, if not impossible.

As leaders we don't always have as much time to reflect as we would like before making decisions.  The leaders I have most respected made sure they assessed situations before taking action.  They set great examples of reflective practice on behalf of the students they served.

Today's leaders are no different.  They work in service of children each and every day, doing amazing things for students and communities.  Reflective leaders from across the country are collaborating in a variety of ways to ensure opportunities for the kids they serve.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 Whitewater Races

March is the month for the Missouri Whitewater Races held at Millstream Gardens on the St. Francis River.  It is sponsored by the Missouri Whitewater Association.  We've been a few times over the years, but made and extended trip of it this year.

 The rocks at Big Drop are a favorite gathering place for spectators.

Looking up the course from near Big Drop.  The start of the race is down the hill from the pavilion.

 Can you get yourself through the gates?

 Zack is ready to call it a day.

For the trip we camped at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park.  After spending the day at the races we played on the rocks at shut-ins.


The old campground at Johnson Shut-Ins was destroyed when 1.3 billion gallons of water from the Taum Sauk Reservoir came rushing down.  The scour path is amazing.

Below you can see the rebuilt reservoir.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Duty to Mentor

Have you seen the latest on teacher engagement from Gallup?  One of the findings was that having someone to support your development is key to engagement.  Similar findings of having a mentor is key to student engagement.

I assumed my first superintendency in 2001 and was lucky to have a group of superintendents in the area that took me under their wing.  They called to check on how I was doing professionally and personally.  They made sure I was aware of what I would be facing in the next few months.  They encouraged my involvement in regional and state professional associations.  A few years later they encouraged me to join AASA.

Later I was tapped to help develop a mentoring program for new superintendents in Missouri.  Since 2005 I've chaired our state association's mentoring committee.  Our role is to ensure each new superintendent is paired with an experienced superintendent to help guide them during their first year.  Often, that one year turns into a great relationship held for years.

In Missouri we also have a New Superintendent's Academy for superintendents in years 2-5.  It has a critical mentoring component as well.

Not too long ago AASA formed the National Superintendent Certification program in association with the SUPES Academy.  The first cohort is set to graduate next month at the National Conference on Education.  Also at the conference the third cohort will kick off.  This program also has a strong mentoring component.

I remember, years ago, citing the Boy Scout Oath for the first time.  That Oath has always resonated with me and I've remained active.  As I think about the programs above and the Oath I go to the last few words, "help other people at all times."

As leaders we help others each and every day.  I challenge you, though, to reach out to those new superintendents in your area and help them.  You might not be a formal mentor, but the expertise you have might just help someone navigate a situation they're facing.  As leaders we have a duty to mentor others.