I haven’t been outside in my kayak for some time. The waters of the local lakes are frozen thick despite the milder than usual Minnesota winter. This weekend I was fortunate enough to find a fellow paddler to brave the waters of the Mississippi. We put in at Hidden Falls Regional Park, the ambient temperature was showing 12F, it was gently snowing and there was a slight westerly breeze. I was wearing a 3mm Brooks tuilik, and Kokatat Expedition Dry-suit, an Immersion Research Thickskin Union Suit and NRS Maverick 2mm neoprene gloves. I stayed warm.
We paddled up river to Lock and Dam No. 1. The sluices on the East side were open and the current was flowing well. Ice was forming a thin film over everything, including the camera lens making photography impractical.
A break for a warm lunch
After admiring the power of the water we broke into the flow and shot down river, the GPS showing we peaked at over 6mph. The Mississippi cuts through the City of Saint Paul, its banks are lined by woodlands and park lands; it is rare to see much housing or industry. As we turned the corner and got the view of the State Capital building we pulled over and took a break for lunch. We had covered about 5 miles by then. Two parts of my body were feeling the cold, my fingertips, and my toes. I had mistakenly kept my watch on my wrist and it was applying pressure to the tendons under the gasket of the dry-suit and the neoprene of the Tuilik, it felt good to get it off. My fingers quickly warmed up wrapped around a hot cup of ginger tea I quickly brewed on my amazingly efficient MRS Reactor stove. I quickly followed the tea with a lentil curry and a handful of almonds.
Cold sweep
We didn’t hang around to get cold. After lunch we jumped back into our kayaks and paddled upstream, hugging the shore to avoid the current. I switched paddles; I had used my 86 inch x 3.25 inch Novorca all morning, for the return trip I used my 90 inch x 3.5 inch Root Beer paddle. The additional area provided a lot of power but I found myself feeling quite a lot of strain on my wrists, either I am out of practice, or I was gripping the paddle too hard, or both!
Cold dunking
When we arrived back at our cars I decided the trip would not be compete without a few rolls. My paddling companion took my camera and shot a few pictures. The ice on the lens fogged them up badly but a few came out okay. The water was, understandably, cold and burned my face on contact. I rolled a few times, braced, lifting the paddle vertically for show and then scurried ashore to warm up. As with my previous cold water rolling practice I found the back of my head was the area most affected by the water temperature. Oh and the water froze on my sun glasses making the paddle ashore an interesting exercise in blind paddling.
Cold rolling
In total we paddled 9.61 miles, averaging 4.1 mph, with a peak (river assisted) speed of 6.3 mph. It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to kick off the years paddling.

Rolling with Sticks DVD Preview
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