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Daily Dirt: Ski Resort Attendance, Whitewater Paddling Race in N.C., Avalanche Deaths, Kayaking Legend

Ron Gabel and Mike Baird kayak paddle the coastline for over three hours and about six miles round-trip, south of the put-in at Spooner's Cove in Montana de Oro (MdO) State Park near Los Osos, CA 18 August 2009. On the way out we passed by MdO bluff trail and the Coon Creek outlet area about a quarter-mile out due to the breaking waves (~5-7 foot swell). We then paddled to near-shore when we got past Point Buchon on PG&E property (the nuclear power plant property extending to Avila and Port San Luis, CA). We were then able to explore numerous pristine arches, caves, and jetties during predictable swells and good weather. This is isolated largely untouched clean clear water-wilderness, with many sea birds, some harbor seals, and lots of healthy floating Giant Kelp beds that often impeded making headway, but served to tame the waves. On the way back we followed the coastline all the way back to Point Buchon. We were able to paddle into a cave that then opened up into the base of a famous MdO sinkhole about 100 feet wide and 75 feet deep. I wished I had my SLR with 15mm fisheye lens to capture that scene. After exploring the numerous caves (mostly on the south side) near the Coon Creek outlet (which forms the property line between State Parks to the north, and the PG&E property to the south) we once again had to paddle a bit further out to avoid swells that were closing out. Photo or Video by Michael "Mike" L. Baird, mike [at} mikebaird d o t com,; using the little rugged Canon D10 waterproof camera (highly recommended by the way - just keep the glass lens cover clean or you will get blurry shots), shooting JPGs mostly on Canon's iContrast (fill-light enhancement) setting, minus 1/3rd stop, and using flash for close-ups. I erred on the side of publishing way too many low-quality photos of this event because I thought some people would like them for their documentation value.

Your daily news update for March 19, the day gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931.


The season’s latest winter storms are bolstering attendance at West Virginia’s ski resorts. A West Virginia Ski Areas Association spokesperson said the weather has produced some of the best ski conditions this late in the season in years.

Snowshoe, Canaan Valley, and Timberline each received about eight inches of snow on Monday. Snowshoe plans to continue ski season operations through the first weekend of April, and the other resorts are currently re-evaluating their plans to extend the season.


The nation’s best whitewater slalom and wildwater paddlers will hit the chilly waters of the Nantahala River this weekend for the Bank of America U.S. Open. This is the last major event before the senior U.S. Team Trials the following weekend in Charlotte.

“The U.S. Open is one of the few events in the United States where all the best American slalom athletes participate and is the first indication of how well they are prepared for the season,” said U.S. National Team Coach Silvan Poberaj.

Approximately 60 of the nation’s top slalom athletes are expected to attend this year’s event, hailing from as far as Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. The competitors include Olympian Benn Frakker, who competed at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The races take place on March 22 and 23, with the competition beginning at 10 a.m. each day.

Deadly Week of Avalanches

Last week saw another slew of deadly avalanches in the western United States.

A snowmobiler triggered an avalanche in Montana that took the life of a fellow rider, 18 year old Zach Junkermeier. Junkermeier was found nearly two hours later in the debris, which was reported to be 500 feet wide and 20 feet deep in some places. Another snowmobiler was also trapped and killed by an avalanche in the Uinta Mountains of northern Montana on Friday, March 8.

A backcountry skier was killed in southwestern Montana last Monday near the small town of Philipsburg. Peter Maxwell, 27, was with a group of six other skiers when he was trapped in the slide. He was recovered by the group but unable to be revived.

Also last Monday, ski patrollers deliberately initiated an avalanche that gained more power than expected and wiped out a chairlift at Crystal Mountain in Washington. Thankfully no one was injured.

Since December 26, 23 people have died in avalanches nationwide, according to reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.


Kayaker Steve Fisher, who has stared down the biggest rapids on Earth, will be sharing his story at the final day of the Lookout Film Festival on March 23 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Fisher is an internationally known explorer and paddler, named “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic in 2013 and an Outside magazine “Adventurer of the Year” in 2013.

His latest film “Congo: The Grand Inca Project” has taken the festival circuit by storm, including an award for “Best in Show” at the National Paddling Film Festival and “Best Film” at the X-Dance Film festival, the world’s premiere action sports film festival.

The film follows Fisher’s team down the Inga Rapids on the lower Congo River, a 50-mile section of waterfalls and kayak-eating whirlpools known to be the biggest on the planet.

“Congo: The Grand Inga Project” and 33 other outdoor adventure and conservation films will be shown at the second annual Lookout Wild Film Festival March 21 to 23 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Centennial Theatre. Film descriptions and full schedules are available at here.


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