Sunday Paddle – 3/1/2015

I often talk about wanting to paddle in the snow. Most years I complain that it snowed while I was at work. This last weekend, it happened to me again. It was snowing like mad on Saturday, but I was home alone with the kids. I wasn’t upset, but life just happens that way. Then on Sunday I ended up meeting up with Dan Prater, a paddler with the same desire to get out in any weather. Our plan was a 14 mile route along a scenic section of the Meramec River. Our initial take out was slated for Route 66 start park. Due to the snow, the park was not open or even plowed. Not deterred, we went to the other side of the river and found a place to park across from the official ramp.

I gathered my gear and hopped into Dan’s truck to head to Pacific Palisades for the put in. Dan has 4 wheel drive, so there was no worry about getting to the ramp. I should add that we were mildly worried about ice, but the river appeared to be free of ice enough to get through without issue.

After a few donuts in the parking lot with lots of shared laughter, we unloaded the boat and our equipment. With a quick change of clothes, we were ready to put on the river.

View downstream at Pacific Palisades
View upstream at Pacific Palisades
Our fresh tracks on the ramp. First and likely only visitors for the day.

Right before we set of down the river, Dan got a call from Daren. He wanted to paddle, and we arranged to meet him at the Allenton ramp and provide a shuttle back to his car after we finished. As we paddled along, we quickly got warm enough that we pulled over and took off a layer of clothes.

The view was perfect and it didn’t take long till Dan told me to stop paddling and get out my camera for the first eagle nest of the day. My cell phone doesn’t do it justice, but it was amazing!

What are photos without a selfie? Hogan in the front and Dan in the back.
Just before the turn with the eagles.
Eagle in the tall tree.

Dan is quite familiar with this stretch of the river and took us on an interesting side route. I was very nervous of tipping in the cold weather, but Dan pulled us through with only a little extra excitement on my part. It didn’t take long till we turned the corner to the best photography of the day, ice down a cliff!

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I wanted more photos, but my phone started having issues, so the rest are just in my head. We didn’t share too much additional conversation after this view as it was just a lot to take in. But we were just around the corner from the half way point.

At the Allenton ramp, we pulled in and waited for Daren. We had a friendly conversation with a lady taking photos. She asked about eagle activity and we shared what we had seen and suggested where she might drive to see more eagle action. It took at least 15 minutes from when we stopped till when Daren was ready to go on his stand up paddleboard (SUP). During that time, Dan and I both shared coffee from a thermos to stay warm.

I was slightly worried about Darren as he was wearing street clothes on top of a SUP. If he fell in the river, he was going to be in big trouble and we would have to rescue him! Having Daren around created another person to focus our conversations on. Dan and I paddled easier so Darren could keep up with us, not that he was any slouch!

While we were in a rhythm paddling and talking, we got to a straight stretch that I’ll never forget. Up ahead on the trees were two eagles, a bald mature one and an immature one. The mature eagle flew down from its perch on high with something in its claws. I wondered what could be going on but we all stopped paddling to see what would happen. With wings wide, it flew about 25 feet off the water a few hundred feet in front of us. Then it dropped a stick into the water. This seemed strange, almost like a stick that was not good enough for its nest.

Then the immature eagle flew down from its perch a tree over. Again with wings spread, it floated down with its claws out. It took two passes, but the younger eagle grasped the stick back up out of the water and flapped its way back up to the tree it started from. We had been floating ever closer during this process and were rather close to the starting tree. I heard a thump when the young eagle landed back where it started. None of the three of us had ever seen anything like that before!

Both fortunately and unfortunately the paddling trip was over before we knew it. We pulled up to the ramp and I was quick to get up to my van and start it for heat. I was having trouble feeling my fingers, not realizing how cold they were. We efficiently packed up Darren’s paddleboard on the van and moved Dan’s boat near the road to pick up on our way back home.

I love my dry suit, but 3 hours is about all my body can take at a time. See what it did to my wrists! This is probably also why my hands get cold fast, having less circulation.

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Hogan Haake