Saturday, February 16, 2008

The basic tools we use

Last week, I shared some information about the “software” we use to survey a river site, to prepare for a restoration or clean-up effort. I thought it might be worth the time to also explain the “hardware” we use. Keep in mind that anyone with a garbage bag is equipped to clean-up some junk on a stretch of river.

NOTE: Nobody on this list has paid for promotion or product placement. I share this list only to demonstrate the basic nature of our tools. We attempt to be “cost efficient” (nice words to mean “cheap”). You might say we’re trying to pull a bunch of crud out of the river, using a shoestring. Here are the tools we use:

Canoe. We chose an Old Towne Explorer, which we bought for about $700 on sale. It is made of Royalex, which has proven to stand-up nicely against the miles we’ve put on and the punishment of bouncing off debris items and the shoreline. It is also light enough that I can carry it alone, and even toss it onto the truck or into the river “going solo,” when necessary.

GPS. I’m delighted with the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx handheld. It cost about $300. You can spend less on a GPS device, but this one is considered “high sensitivity,” and the software that came with it is compatible with Windows Vista, which was important to me. I took a class before I decided which one to buy… and I’m really glad I did. The one-evening course saved me a lot of grief.

Kayak. I started with a ten-foot Pelican Getaway, which I bought for about $300. Made of Ram-X, it is small and light enough that I can carry it over one shoulder. I hadn't done much kayaking before, so I didn’t want to spend much money on my first one. (I knew I'd be beating the heck out of it.) But this modest little craft has served me well. I took little counsel on this purchase... and made the mistake of perhaps buying it one size too small.

The wish list. I'd like to find another, slightly larger kayak (12’ to 14’), so that I could grab more “light trash” during the course of a trip intended to survey for large objects. A second unit would also allow me to travel with a partner when surveying. Related: I have to invest in a dual roof rack for the Xterra. I’ll shop for both at Craig’s List later this year.

I'm not sure how much they cost, but I'd like to invest in a portable winch (the kind that are powered by 12-volt battery) to use in lifting appliances, scrap iron and other heavy objects up the riverbank.

I’m also going to keep my eyes open for GPS unit or two, so that I could lend them out to folks who’d like to help extract large objects, but who don't happen to have a handheld to help them locate the target.

Last, but not least, I need to invest in some server space and web design tools to help this blog grow into a bona fide web site. I’d like to develop a “wiki” environment, which would allow anyone, anywhere, to upload digital photos and GPS waypoints from places that need attention. Plus, I’d like it if people who wish to help could capture those photos and waypoints with a simple point-and-click, or drag-and-drop procedure.

All of these things would be nice, but they are purely optional. (If we waited until we had everything we wanted or needed, we'd never get started!) And I repeat: Anyone with a garbage bag and the will to walk a riverbank can help restore a river. We are blessed to have enough equipment and intelligence to start making a dent in some beautiful rivers.

There are a few other expenses you can plan on. For example, while the DNR will provide some garbage bags and gloves for an official clean-up effort, you’ll still want a good pair of boots… or I love the Keens my wife bought me; they’re as rugged as boots, but as comfortable as sandals. And if you’re going to spend much time pulling trash out of a river, you’d be well-advised to make sure your tetanus vaccination is up-to-date.

Finally, there are state park fees and campsite rentals, and fuel to-and-from each project. But using the parks as our base camp allows us to transform a clean-up project from being simply, a “task,” into being part of a fun weekend, and a great way of enjoying the outdoors.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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