The put in was at the south end of the Skokie Lagoons at Willow Rd and Forest Way Dr. The take out was at Dempster Rd. On a typical day, a paddler can get through it in a couple hours. Nothing typical about this paddle. Cold, wind and some people who aren't really qualified to do this trip make it very interesting.
I did this paddle for the first time last yr. as a rescue boater. I wore clothing suitable for the trip. (wet suit, polypro, pile and wool) with an outer shell of goretex. Something I didn't really think about, having paddled in cold weather before,(never this cold,8 deg.) but, that extra layer of clothing really inhibits movement. I discovered that I had to work to do a cross bow draw. So, I spent the day refining techniques and pulling people out of the water.
This yr the temps soared to 16-20 degrees, I was able to paddle without the poly layer. Really helped.
While it takes 2 hours to paddle the river, the safety boaters are on the water for about 6 hours. So, it's imperative to be able to move and stay warm. And be in a position to aid paddlers or more appropriately, inexperienced paddlers, for the duration of the trip.
We had 6 boats dump this yr. Some prepared, some not. In the invite, it states that this trip is for experienced paddlers and everyone is to have a dump bag with extra clothes etc. Being a park district event, we discovered, much to our dismay, that you can't keep people from paddling if they want to. We station gear checks at the put in, and if we see folks not prepared, we ask how they feel about dying today. To my knowledge, that has only deterred 1 paddler. For the most part, it's a great event. We saw 100 boats give or take this yr. This event has been going on for 26 yrs. In my eyes, this yr was the safest ever. I can only imagine it will keep getting better.
I'd rather be paddling...