Riccardo Mora, a member of Jackdson Kayak’s “think tank” and a great friend, the “EJ of wines” set Kristine and I up for a day at Napa to get away from it all for a late Mother’s Day celebration.    We left Dane and Emily to watch KC in the RV at the Reno Whitewater Park while Kristine and I jumped in the Mini and  headed over into Napa Valley, and Sonoma Valley for an overnighter there.    We left the RV at 6:3 am and were at Simi Winery by 11:00am for a private tasting and then private lunch.    We had plenty of wine before noon, and an incredible lunch prepared by their own chef.     A short trip over to Blackstone Winery next where we checked into their “estate house” where the “hospitality manager” Emily introduced us to their new label of wines, while Gerard, their chef was busy in the kitchen preparing our dinner.      After an incredible dinner, and lots of Blackstone wine, they left Kristine and I to the house for the night.    It was still light out and the sun hadn’t set, so we set up the croque set and played a few rounds on the lawn.    

In the morning we slowly made our way out of Napa Valley and back to Reno to find a happy KC and Emily, but a not so happy Dane.   Nick and Stephen headed out of Reno to California to meet up with Darin McQuoid, Ben STookesberry and more for the Big Kim Shew and South Branch of the Middle Feather.    Dane wanted to go but needed our permission and couldn’t get ahold of us.      Nick and Stephen were planning on another week of hitting up the best things going in Cali and this time Dane got the thumbs up from me to go.   Meanwhile, I was torn as i haven’t missed a USA Team Trials for Slalom kayaking in 26 years and was excited to see my old slalom friends and race again.   We were also destined for Colorado in a week anyhow.   I decided to head to CO, and leave Dane with Nick and Stephen, and I just found out he is having a great time, as I imagined and I am sure we’ll see video up soon.

Meanwhile- Emily and I just finished Day 1 of USA Slalom Trials here in Durango on the Animas River which is at 5,300 cfs right now! 

Emily has a 2nd and a 3rd in her first two runs (each run counts as a race for the USA Team here, and your best 4 out of 6 runs count)

I got a 13th and a 12th place so far, about 10 seconds out of the lead.    The course is awesome.   Big water and fast water on a natural course.    I love artificial whitewater parks for slalom, but nothing compares to a big open course like this.   

I used to race here in Durango at the “Champion International Whitewater Series” races in the early to mid 90’s, and usually on this weekend here.      This reminds me of that, except only USA paddlers and two Canadians here for the experience.   No Richard Fox, etc..    At that time, however, I was one of the fastest on the water and won my share of these events.   After 13 years of no training for slalom I have to resort to what I remember, including what my body remembers.   I am happy with my first two runs, especially since I improved 3 seconds in time and 2 seconds in penalties on my second run.  I can feel it all come back.    My goals here are simply to have fun and keep my self in striking distance from the top of the pack.   I haven’t planned on a comeback in slalom unless my kids want to train for it and I’ll have them as training partners.  If it is just me,  that wouldn’t be as fun.    something tells me that Dane will be expecting to extend his creeking season next year and that we’ll be missing some  events to do so.  I am already thinking along those lines.    He is going to be so fired up when i see him next week about hitting up some of Cali’s finest.  In 2004 when he was 10, he did South Silver.    He hasn’t done anything other than Brush Creek, South Merced, the American (Kiebers, North and South fork) etc..    The super steep epic creeks he has seen in videos is now something he is experiencing.   After our trip to the Alseseca this spring there was no doubt that i couldn’t hold him off any more from this stuff.   Dane doesn’t cry often, but tell him he can’t paddle this or that and it crushes him.      i can’t believe I am not with him now, but he has Nick and Stephen with him and they are like family.  

Today is day 2 of trials and I love the course they set.  My favorite type of gate is in it,  a “Dive” gate in the eddy.   In the biggest part of the rapid (at 5,000 cfs) you have to boof a curler and jump into the eddy pointed downstream and run a gate downstream in the eddy and then a sharp turn back out to a gate in the current.  My Richochet is perfect for that!   I will try to cut my 10 seconds down to 7 today or less off the leaders, we’ll see.  These guys are so fast!   Bret, Scott Mann, Jure, Aaron Mann, etc..    Lot’s of depth in the field, with Eric Hurd, Jim Wade, etc. etc. they just keep coming!

Look for two more days of slalom and then it is freestyle time again with the BV rodeo next week, and it just keeps coming in CO.   USA Team Trials for Freestyle in Gleenwood Springs (10,000+ cfs), Teva Mountain Games with the Steep Creek Race and Freestyle, and then Animas River Days or Lyon’s Outdoor Games, and Finally Fibark in Salida.    Whew what a month!    Dane is the only Jackson that has to make the USA team as Emily and i are pre-selected as the current World Champions.    Nick is already on the Canadian Team, along with Joel and Billy.   Stephen, Clay, etc. etc. still have to make the team for hte Worlds in Switzerland.

We’ll it is 8:00am in Durango.   i have already pulled a Hero down from the roof to show a guy at 6:30am.   Got water for the RV, walked the Dogs for a 1/2 hour.   Driven from 4 Corners Riversport to the race course,  eaten breakfast, and tried to fix an electrical problem with the RV, but not successsfully.   

Now it is time to be a racer.    Emily just told me that Dane ran a 50 footer yesterday, no suprise, I guess.   I am torn….     I must say it is super fun racing here with Emily and it is something new for us to do together.   I am bummed that I am missing something that will be a highlight for Dane.     Next year Dane will have to lead me down the creeks he is doing now, that will be cool.

Perhaps Vallicito will be a reasonable level by Monday…  

OK, race time.