Friday, August 15, 2008

Extreme trash: Could this be a cool new sport?

Recently, a group of potential clean-up volunteers raised concerns about working on the north metro Mississippi River, citing the sometimes steep terrain, jagged debris, and other hazards. So just how hazardous is this whole project, really?

In my opinion, just hazardous enough to be taken seriously, but not dangerous enough to take the fun out of it. (Click on the arrow to play these images, click on the border of the box to enlarge them.)

For example... my last geo-tagging mission down the Mississippi left me with a small souvenir of the trip. I came across a chunk of scrap iron that was about 15 feet off-shore, and I wanted to move it closer to the riverbank so it could be more easily found on a later recovery trip (it was too big to throw into my kayak). Because it looked like a very heavy, blunt-edged piece of iron, I just grabbed onto it with one hand, as I used the paddle in my other hand to push myself toward shore. I learned very quickly that the item was not blunt iron, but sharp, bent, sheet-metal… which opened the flesh on my two middle fingers as quickly as if I had grabbed the wrong edge of a knife.

Thankfully, I keep a role of white athletic tape in my daypack where I was able to reach it quickly. (The tape can help prevent blisters where your inner thumbs cradle the paddle.) The cuts were clean, and I was able to seal them shut with the tape very quickly. I probably could have used a stitch or two on the middle finger, but the cut closed well with the tape, so I didn’t bother. The cut on the ring finger was minor.

The experience was a reminder that one should not go about this project thoughtlessly. Nor without gloves. (Shame on me. The Minnesota DNR sent me some gloves when I started this whole project. Along with some safety guidelines I'd be smart to follow!)

We knew we were onto something new when we started the whole idea of geo-tagging--or “geo-trashing”--as a method of river restoration. But who knew we’d be inventing a potential “extreme sport,” whereby participants get to experience the fun of being bruised, bloodied, and sweaty!

An extreme sport? I don't take myself that seriously. But it would be wise to remember the hazards that are out there... so one need not suffer the consequences. Use your head, keep your eyes open, and proceed with caution. Both you and the river will be just fine.

© 2008, Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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