Fireworks Paddle: 4th of July 2017

Filed by trip leader Ben Towne

On the 4th of July 2017, the CMU Explorers boarded a raft in the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh for the Flashes Of Freedom show by StarFire Corp, "with handmade firework shells in the form of strobes, jellyfish, golden willows and sunflowers, and a special structure that create[d] a 180-degree firing effect."  They were choreographed to a soundtrack that we could hear parts of as we paddled around the waters near the Point, in weather about as good as it getsTens of thousands of people packed into limited riverbank viewing areas, competing with each other for little bits of space, while we were out on the open water with plenty of space around and pretty much unobstructed views of the fireworks and their reflections on the water.  An encore of the show will air on Saturday on PCNC from 8:30-9:30PM, with some excerpts posted here (check 'em out!), but it was even more awesome from the river. 

We were glad to have had a whistle on board and plenty of white lights around the outside when the Coast Guard came along to enforce those rules, and next time might consider a waterproof AM radio if someone has one to bring, but not having that helped us really feel the fireworks' colorful booming explosions. Most of the group was new Explorers Club members or guests, enjoying a great welcome to the club. We had Olga V., Sam T., Anna S. and Ian, Albert T. and Marina, and Ben T. on the trip.  A great time was had by all.  Happy birthday, USA!

Slip Clinic 2016

Four intrepid Explorers spent the weekend of June 4-5 at Slippery Rock Creek for the Three Rivers Paddling Club's annual Slip Clinic. All 160 people at the clinic were split into groups by skill level. The three beginner kayakers among us joined three different groups as students, while Joris Kinable, a much more experienced paddler, helped out in a fourth group as an instructor.

The clinic was a perfect opportunity to work on paddling skills and to push ourselves to try trickier moves than we were used to. With two instructors and a safety boater in every group, there was plenty of help for anyone who needed, and lots of drills and tips. Several of us went for a few swims, but trying new things was exactly what we were at the clinic for, and a swim or two in cool water was a small price to pay for learning so much.

On Saturday night, we joined many other TRPC members for a delicious hot dinner. After enjoying each other's company for a few hours, we all retired to our tents to rest up for the second day.

The Slip Clinic was the best paddling instruction we could have asked for, and a great time to boot. Now for a summer of even more exciting paddling!

-Jesse Dunietz

Light Up Night On The Allegheny

On Friday, November 16, 2012, a massive crowd descended on downtown Pittsburgh for the region's biggest event of the year.  800,000 people (including a sizeable handful of Santas) were expected for this year's Light Up Night and with the beautiful weather that evening, actual attendance was probably more.  Folks crowded into Market Square, PPG Place and Rink, Fifth Avenue Place, One Oxford Center, EQT Plaza, numerous other downtown sites, and the Clemente Bridge Party for an evening of lights, live music, treelightings, and other fun.  It was capped off with "the region's most creative and spectacular theatrical production of Zambelli fireworks and pyrotechnics special effects, including a rainbow and Niagara Falls, all launched from the Warhol Bridge."  The best view of all was had by the dozen Explorers and guests, right on the river under the Clemente Bridge.  We loaded up a whitewater raft and shredder and four kayaks, passed a surprise lighting inspection by the local Coast Guard commander, and launched into the Allegheny just at the start of the 8:45 Point Park show fireworks finale.  We then headed upriver to the edge of the river closure and enjoyed an awesome view of an awesome show, as live music spilled over the bridge deck down to water level.  We had that part of the river to ourselves, shared only with the Coast Guard boat enforcing river closure between the Clemente and Carson bridges.  The show included some floating pyrotechnics - multicolored embers resting for minutes on the river surface - and a shower of white sparks that looked like a waterfall as we gazed upstream.  The reflections of the fireworks in the downtown and North Shore buildings added to the glittering color.

Those of you who changed plans or cancelled at the last minute really missed out!  My learning for next time is to not keep my phone handy in an outside pocket to take calls and messages from last-minute plan-changers, but to leave it in a car (on this trip, it wound up being left on the bottom of the river).  Those of you who missed the announcement should subscribe to explorers-kayaking :-).

Here are a few video clips from Ahmet, on the raft:

Though the video can hardly do it justice, you may be able to gather that the trip was awesome!

-B. Towne