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Andrew "Grizz" Ray, Ryan Welch, Justin Sievert, Clinton Begley, Laura Sievert and Ryan Craven preparing to kayak from Canton, Mo., to Quincy Bay.

In my very first blog for The Local Q, I wrote, “We might not have the Rocky Mountains in our backyard, but we’ve got plenty of great ways to ‘Get Out’ and have an adventure.”  When I wrote that though, I’m not sure I really believed that our area could compete with the Rockies. I thought finding things to do and topics to write about would be a very difficult task.

Since then, I’ve written about running, cycling, hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, conservation, caving, rafting, team sports, fitness classes … it’s a pretty long list for six short months. It’s fair to say that my friends and I have had a lot of exciting exploits in a mere half of a calendar year. 

This Tuesday, I set out on yet another wonderful adventure with a great group of friends. This time it was kayaking again — the seven of us braved the 102-degree heat, launched boats and paddled the Mississippi River from Canton, Mo., back to Quincy Bay. The trip was action-packed and fun for all of us. We practiced different paddling strokes, explored shore lines and surfed barge wakes. We saw jumping carp, great blue herons and at least one very surprised soft shell turtle. More experienced paddlers shared tips. We all practiced rescue techniques. I spent at least a half-hour trying to learn to roll a kayak. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer afternoon away from work.

A dear friend and fellow Local Q blogger Clinton Begley joined us on this trip. Clinton has spent the last few months as a guide in the “Touch the Earth” program at Georgia State University. There, he helped guide student groups on some fantastic excursions including paddling some of the famous whitewater rivers of the South, traversing Yosemite National Park during some late-in-the-season heavy snow, and even hang gliding from mountains in Tennessee. Adventure really must be his middle name.

Anyway, it was near sunset, and we were paddling our kayaks toward the bay. Clint had paddled off to my right a few hundred yards to snap a picture of a barge with a tug named “Clinton,” and I studied the stunning panorama in front of me. The elbow in the river had opened to a wide channel with several offshoots, and the sinking sun had painted the Bayview Bridge gold a few miles in the distance. My friends were ahead of me in their colorful kayaks, paddling down one of the great rivers of the world, enjoying a brilliant summer day on the water, and I was taken aback by the unparalleled beauty of the moment. My words failed to be as poetic as the feeling in my heart as I yelled to Clint, “Yo man! This is absolutely gorgeous!”

He hollered back in agreement and explained when he’d paddled close enough for me to hear he said, “You know, this area has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to adventure. Not with this in our backyard.”

Looking back on the fields, rivers, roads, parks and people of the past six months, I can see that what Clint said was true. This is a great area to live, and there are so many things to discover right here in the Midwest. With that in mind, I’ve decided to offer an apology, a thank you and a promise for my six-month-blog-anniversary.

I apologize for spending many years in the Midwest complaining about the lack of options. Really, the intrepid and the creative can find great adventure anywhere, as long as we take the time to explore.

Clinton Begley

My “Thank You” is broad, and goes out to all of the people who have facilitated, inspired and participated in my expeditions. You’re spirited friends with big hearts and bold ideas, and I appreciate you for all you’ve added to my life.

And my promise: I promise not be the woman who stands near the river and says it is beautiful, nor to be the one who would dip a toe in just to say that she’s been there. I promise to dive in, get wet and, from time to time, float away.

For another great blog of discovery, please read my very favorite entry from Clinton Begley by clicking here.

Original Post August 5, 2011

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