By Eric Jackson
If there is one thing I believe about Christmas, is that it is what you make it. Christmas doesn’t just happen in a way that you want it to. My favorite part of celebrating Christmas is that we gather as a group family and friends, each of us thinking our best thoughts, taking time for others, in the giving spirit. Kristine is the center point, creating plans, inviting others, making food, and creating a situation that is easy to enjoy for anyone. My job is to make sure there are plenty of games to play and that the games don’t stop. Chess, Backgammon, Ping Pong, Bag Toss, Pin Ball, etc.. Our phones turn into cameras, our attention turns to the moment and place where we are. It is one of those times where we take more notice of others and are less focused on what we are trying to accomplish.
Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without kayaking! Kayaking is something we try to make sure we do on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s, and then every other day. This Christmas we had a wonderful present from mother nature, providing 2” of rain on wet ground. Rock Island became a big water paradise, shooting up to 12,000 CFS on Christmas Eve, and then 20,000 CFS on Christmas Day. The Falls, Sieve City and the run downstream got quite big! Nick, Emily, Clay, and I met up for Christmas Kayaking.
A highlight run was on Christmas Eve. We all ran non-traditional lines on the falls. Clay and I ran “Bushmaster”, and Nick ran the “Highline”. Emily met us down below Sieve City. The high water running into the Falls is impressive. Once you run the big water class 3 rapid upstream of the falls and make the corner, you are committed to the falls with a long sloping slab of bedrock and no eddies for 40 yards. I followed Clay down Bushmaster, getting a big boof out and away from the hole and landing in the spray. The landing zone is a 180 degree bowl of waterfalls around you with lots of water/mist and wind. A short ferry out of the bowl, around a downed tree got us moving downstream again. Our next stop was running a special line on Sieve City that is only in a certain levels (11-14,000 cfs). This is a line that I have run with Dane before, but would be Nick’s first time. The line is a boof from the side off of a close to 20′ waterfall, landing in the crazy water of Sieve City and forcing a run down the big water class 5 rapid. The good news is that the landing zone is on river right, setting up the easiest line to run the rapid possible, but it doesn’t make it any smaller. The main features at the bottom of the rapid at this level are just like the main hole at Rapid #9 on the Zambezi- which is a big one. I ran first and turned to watch Nick and Clay drop the falls and begin coming down. The both paddled past and staged up the big water line, attempting to pass by, without getting dumped into the main holes, and were successful. Nick was picked up and tossed by the huge eddy wall that folds into the biggest hole, but came out on the backside of it. I ran a far right line from the eddy I was watching from. We were all paddling our new Zen, a perfect choice for this type of water. We love it when we can use a new design in an extreme version of what it is designed for.
When we exited the run-out from Sieve City, the three of us all had genuine fired up, “We are so lucky to be right here, right now” smiles and high fives. It was a special moment in kayaking, on Christmas Eve, shared among friends and family. Emily was waiting there to do the rest of the river with us. The peel out into the “Put-In Waves” is a big water section that leads into the crazy water where the 3,600 CFS meets the other 10,000 CFS and makes some big seams. The main hole is massive and more like a huge breaking wave than a hole. Nick surfed it while the rest of us paddled past and watched. Workout Wave is next, but is another big hole at this level and then “Brave Wave” Rapid offers some big breaking waves. The run is only 1.5 miles long, maybe 2 from the Falls and the water is moving fast. There is one more awesome wave train above the take out at Rock Island State Park. Christmas Eve was calling, and we all got the perfect present from Mother Nature; rain. We all missed Dane on the run, however. We had family arriving at 2pm- Kristine’s mom, two brothers, and their families.
It is a 5 year tradition now that Nick makes his special Lasagna for Christmas Eve Dinner. It is an epic creation that we all cherish. He switched gears from kayaking gear, to cooking gear and put dinner together. He already cooked the sauces the night before. Nick, Emily, and Dane bought a hot-tub for the house as a Christmas present for Kristine and I. It was a huge gift and a surprise. Our friend, Tom, came over to set it up, which included some serious 220 volt wiring, breaker boxes, drilling through the basement walls, etc.. It was finally finished last night (26th of December), and Kristine, KC, and I just got out of the water from our 6am hot tub session! Another tradition is that Patty, our sister-in-law, makes gross (chinese dumplings), and Kristine’s brother makes his special spicy dip. We ate solid for 4 hours straight before dinner time.
Presents- We draw names out of a hat a month before Christmas so that we don’t have to buy gifts for everyone, but we can buy one gift for the person who we draw for. I had Nick. Emily and Dane got Kristine and I, etc.. I got Nick a laser distance measurer for bow hunting (or waterfall measuring). I also made a Lego table for KC, something that Kristine picked out and wanted for him.
It was after mid-night before we got to bed. Santa would hopefully come for KC and Tucker. Dane believed in Santa until he was 15. “Hey Dad, follow me on “Big Bang” I know the line here, you don’t need to scout… hey, do you think Santa will bring me a new camera?” It was an interesting combo of a confident, skilled class 5 kayaker, leading me down rapids, while asking what Santa would bring him at the same time.
Santa filled our stockings with all kinds of fun stuff. He brought me an R/C plane kit that I am almost ready to fly. Sweet!
Christmas day was another epic kayak run- this time we just did the big water run from below sieve city to the boat ramp. I paddled the new Fun and it was SO fun! It was 20,000 CFS, an amazing level.
People are waking up and it is time for some games! We are lucky to have Rick and Paula (Nick’s parents) here for a visit. I assume that we’ll be doing some more Bocce Ball, Disc Golf soon! Hot Tub party also!! Go Kayaking, come home and jump in the hot tub… awesome!! That is something we never had before. I still can’t believe that my kids pulled off such a big gift/project like that without us knowing!