Friday, December 14, 2012

Pushing Packraft Possibilities

by Greg

Hmm. This packrafting thing…

I'll admit to an immediate fascination when I first realized that I could take a small, light, high-functioning boat on my bicycle. (And could take my bike on the boat.) I thought it would be great for crossing rivers that got in the way of mountain bike rides. (It is.) I thought I might enjoy floating down calm rivers surrounded by scenery. (I have.) But I thought that scenic rivers with a few splashes would be my limit.

Apparently… No.

I have to thank Mike for introducing the whole packrafting thing in a way that began to make sense to me. And for making me think beyond the calm water that was all I'd imagined I'd be floating. And for pushing the seasons.

Sure, it has helped that it's been a mild autumn. Still, when the water is cold and there's frost on the banks and there is little sunshine in the canyon, it wouldn't normally have occurred to me that it was still boating season. (Trina say's she'll get back in her raft in June. Maybe May.) And whitewater boating? When the river is thrashing enough to make dumping the raft a real possibility? Well?

Here are some shots from recent floats. Two trips to the canyon where the highway rides on pylons and the river knocks through the rocks. There was some careful scouting. Some good fun. And some dicey moments. But no swimming occurred. Thank goodness.

Also one solo afternoon bike/float on calmer waters. Biked through town with the raft on my pack.

Rode trail to the river.

Followed in other tracks for a minute.

Inflated the boat. Loaded the bike.

An archival photo Mike took of me with my camera a month or so ago that will stand in for the photos I didn't take on the water because the wind picked up and I had to paddle or blow back upstream, spray coming off the bow and my camera not in its waterproof shell for the day...

Back off the water, boat on the bike this time.

Outside it's been sprinkling through the day, possible snow tonight. Will this be the end of floating for now? Or will we keep pushing the season?

Tech note: Taking the cue from Mike and paddlers from around the world who are pursuing rougher water in packrafts, I installed thigh straps in my boat to give better control. They're great! Much better feeling of connection to the boat and a sense of control that I'm still developing. The straps run between two d-rings, the knees slip up under them. Brainlessly easy to get out of when the boat flips.

Only real problem I had with them was that every time I tried to get them installed and set up, I got this kind of help.

Training note: Mike spent months this last year teaching himself to eskimo roll his packraft, working from videos and rumors and with help from kayakers (who didn't understand the differences packrafts brought to the drill). Very cool. With his help and thigh straps, I've managed to eskimo roll in mine! Cool! So far only in carefully controlled conditions in a swimming pool. But hey! I never even really thought it would be possible. Now I hope it'll someday be a useful river skill.

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