Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Before…. BANG! After.

The weather this past Sunday was just too nice to resist so I cut the lawn mowing adventure short and loaded up the kayak for a “quick” afternoon excursion.

By the time I was loaded up and on the road, it was nearly 4 in the afternoon.  Because of the time, I thought I’d check out a new (and closer) section of the Wisconsin River that my wife and I were considering for a longer trip later this fall.  This course begins at Riverside Park in Merrill just below the damn to nearly Brokaw – 11 miles in all.  Obviously, this 11 mile version would necessitate a vehicle on each end but I figured I’d just get a feel for the starting leg and turn around and come back up river.

I should have stayed home and finished the lawn.

If you’re not familiar with the Wisconsin River, it is VERY dark in color from the tannin produced by the dense tree growth along the entire length of the river.  When you’re sitting only a few inches off the water in a kayak on what had suddenly become an overcast day, your hand disappears almost right below the water’s surface.  In other words, visibility sucks.  I was no more than 100 yards from the boat landing when I almost went over the side after hitting an underwater obstruction.  That’s the greatest benefit of the kayak. You’re floating in only a few inches of water… except when you’re in a Hobie with the Mirage Drive system.

A little dinged (note the new backward angle), but still operational so I kept going.  And then I started to notice a few riffles here and there as the elevation of the river dropped.  I wasn’t thinking too much of it until I took a look at the shore and gauged how fast I was going while coasting.  I was starting to understand why this was generally a 1-way trip.  I have to paddle back UP the river to get back to the truck! 

Rather than delay the inevitable, I pulled off to the side of the very shallow and rocky edge of the river, climbed out and pulled my kayak back up above the drops to a depth I could climb back in and then paddled my little heart out until I came back to the boat landing.

While I had big hopes of some nice wildlife images from the trip, the wounded Mirage Drive photos are the only evidence of the entire trip.  Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

On the up side, now I have an excuse to upgrade to the Hobie Turbo Fins!  To Hobie’s credit, this little mishap provided another opportunity to really appreciate the thought that went into their design.  Those two steal rods (masts) that thread into the drive unit and extend down into the flipper are replaceable at a price of around $16 each.  Cost of a new Mirage Drive assembly… about $500!  Hobie, I and the submerged rocks/trees of the Wisconsin River thank you Smile.


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