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Spring in the USA – blog by Jessie Stone

Over the last couple of months, I was back in the US from Uganda. It was wonderful because spring in the US is my favorite time of year there. The weather is completely unpredictable, and all the blooms and buds are just waiting for their moment to pop. Each day in spring is a day closer to the longest day of the year and thus more time to be outside and play. April this year was uncharacteristically cold punctuated with a few warmer days. The accumulation of snow in mid April was winter’s last exclamation point, thank goodness. The T’Ville Triple Crown took place over the Weekend of April 12th combining down river racing, slalom paddling, and freestyle kayaking on the Farmington River in Connecticut. A good group of paddlers from near and far turned out as well as a lot of local support for the event. It was a great way to kick off the North American paddling season.

Miraculously, the week after the Triple Crown, a fabulous surf wave on the Connecticut River came in. Though the temperature of the water required all my winter paddling gear to brave, the wave, known as Wave – O – Saurus because it is near some fossilized dinosaur footprints, was well worth it. I had not been there in 12 years and with the 2014 Rockstar, I was in surf heaven. A bunch of board surfers showed up as well as local kayakers during the week that it was in, lots of people were enjoying Wave – O.
Next stop on the US tour, was a trip to Buena Vista, Colorado, for the CKS Paddle Fest on the Arkansas River. Buena Vista is the definition of paddle friendly towns – almost anywhere you stay in town, you can walk to the river. It is truly awesome. This was followed by a stop in Glenwood Springs for another big beautiful wave recently in from all the snow melt. Colorado had a very good snow pack so there was plenty of water everywhere! After two days of Surfing in Glenwood with kayakers from all over, SUPers and surfers, it was time to head to the tiny town of Lyons.
Lyons had been devastated by severe flooding last September and has been in the process of rebuilding ever since. Talking to some of the locals, it’s amazing that everyone survived the flooding. Luckily, this natural disaster brought the whole town together – so much so that every person we met in town was very happy to welcome us for the Outdoor Games. Though there were many obvious signs of the flood’s damage, life was moving ahead as usual for everyone. Incredible how there can be so much beauty and destruction side by side. I felt truly inspired seeing the how well the people of Lyons bounced back from this natural disaster.
Finally, the US Spring tour concluded with a trip to Idaho for the Payette River Games. Two hours from Boise, is a fantastic whitewater park called “ Kelly’s Whitewater |Park” just upstream of the famous very difficult section of the North fork of the Payette River. Cascade, Idaho, population 2,000, is home to Kelly’s. The scenery is stunning wild open space with beautiful mountains surrounding the open space. Pelicans and Osprey fly overhead and nest near the river. If you are out for a paddle, you are sure to see some of these Osprey grabbing a fish right in front of you. The pelicans in the middle of Idaho really threw me though! The Payette River Games brought together many of the kayakers, SUPers and surfers I had been seeing in other places in addition to many others from far away destinations for one big weekend of whitewater fun. It was really great to share the river with so many water enthusiasts and catch up with many people I had not seen in years. Reconnecting with people from the river community and meeting new people is always one of the best things about being at any of these events. Even my good friends from Connecticut, Dave and Paula Saaf made the journey across to check out the Payette River Games. Hopefully, they’ll be back next year.
I should say that I think my most favorite event of the spring is that the Housatonic River in Connecticut is paddalable most of the time. This Spring I enjoyed a good number of days kayaking there and even some special dusk to moonlight paddles that were later and later as the spring went on and the days got longer.  As a kayaker, I feel like I have grown up on that river and I always love coming back to surf there and run the river. Its always beautiful and enchanting – I fall in love with kayaking and the beauty of the river every time I go back, and its something I really like sharing with other people. The first time I paddled the Housatonic was 18 years ago when I was a medical student – it was a great restorative for my mental, physical and spiritual health and it still is!

[Dr Jessie Stone is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014]