Friday, May 13, 2011

The Richness Of Life Found In Adventure

 On a warm, slightly windy, and very clear day I decided that it was finally time to dig out my kayak, my paddle and the rest of my paddling gear and head to the reservoir at the South Fork.
I have not paddled since last July 4 weekend.  
I was in Juneau at the time and it was 50 degrees, drizzling and overcast.
The coldest July 4 weekend I have ever spent but it was a good time regardless.  
On that particular weekend I still managed to hike up to Herbert Glacier on one day during the too-short long weekend and kayak on Mendenhall Lake next to Mendenhall Glacier on another day.
Cool, drizzling and overcast, but a very good weekend regardless.
Yesterday was clear and warm and I felt excited to be out on the water again but also like a paddling newbie again.
It seemed like forever since I had sat in a kayak.
My Mountain Boy took these first pictures both of me paddling and of the scenery surrounding the reservoir while I was out............
 The longest I have ever paddled was 18 hours during a race in West Virginia a few years ago.
I had only been racing for a couple of years and the race was 300 miles - 5 1/2 days.
As part of a relatively new two-person mixed-gender team we were in way over our heads.
Thankfully we didn't know it at the time, and by the time we figured it out we were completely consumed with the race and determined above all else to just finish the damn thing.
It started at midnight as multi-day races back then were often inclined to do.
We had been up for sixteen hours by the time the race started, so were (as was every other team) starting a race already sleep deprived.
We had been told in the race updates prior to arriving in WV that we could bring our own paddles or use the ones provided by race management.  
If we brought our own we had to be prepared to carry them with us for a long time after the paddling section.
The race started with a paddling section and in our dumb-ass inexperience we decided to use the heavy outfitter paddles provided by race management.
As we all took to the water in our inflatable two-man rafts we were the only team using canoe paddles.
Everyone else was using kayak paddles, and within just a short period of time we knew that we had made a very big mistake.
We were going to be on the water for a very long time and within the first hour we were already trailing in the back.
The map and race instructions required us to paddle the lake north to pick up a checkpoint, then return the way we had come, pass the race start and head south hooking up with Class I and II and low Class III rapids to the take out sixty miles down river. 
As we made our way back to the start and prepared to continue down lake and then down river we saw that there were still many canoe paddles laying in the sand on the bank.
Realizing that we had to do something drastic to make up time we pulled off the water, grabbed a couple more canoe paddles, duct taped them together to make make-shift kayak paddles and continued on.
They were heavy, and I was uncertain as to whether or not the duct tape would hold, but it did.
We made up some time and finished the first of three paddling sections during that race at 6pm that evening.
Talk about a long and cold race.
Absolutely freezing for much of the next five days and I had some of the weirdest hallucinations I have ever had in races, but we made it............
 There are multiple small islands in this section of the reservoir and they are used extensively as nesting areas for pelicans, geese, whooping cranes and other smaller birds.
Even though I made shore on a couple of the uninhabited islands so that I could take pictures, LC actually took better pictures of some of the birds in the area than I did.
They were everywhere - flying overhead in small groups, swimming, walking on the islands, walking along the shore - but they were also very skittish.
By the time I paddled within 500 feet of any island birds took flight.
All very visible but extremely difficult to take pictures of...............
 My yard-sale purchased kayak on shore of one of the uninhabited islands..........
 Taking pictures from a kayak is a royal pain and I still have not figured out how to make it less of a pain.
Between paddling gloves, dry bag, non-water-proof camera, low to moderate wind and chop, and really not wanting to tip over my kayak, digging out my camera and taking non-fuzzy shots was a challenge.
I took some on the water but a good number on the two islands I pulled onto
I hoped to get a picture of a pure white pelican who was sitting on shore with something in his beak.  
Disappointingly he took to the water and swam in the opposite direction from me.  
Spooked even though I was still a long way from him.
LC and I both took some lovely pictures of a lovely place yesterday but there were so many wonderful shots that passed me by.............
 While I was paddling in this very lovely place I couldn't help but compare this paddling experience from the last one I had on Mendenhall Lake in Juneau.
Both were very wonderful experiences for different reasons.  
Warm and sunny day vs grey and cold day.  
Warm and shallow water vs deep and cold and calved-glacier filled water.  
Mountains and birds and beautiful in both lovely places.
Being in a kayak and on the water is just a good place to be regardless of where you choose to be.............
 My Calvin and Hobbs sticker that reads Life is Short........Go Kayaking Naked..............
 Not long after I bought my kayak I went paddling on the huge lake close to my house in Tennessee.
The same lake that is across the road from the endless miles of single and double track that I rode on and ran on for many years before moving to Juneau.
I was greatly enjoying the experience paddling across the lake, roaming in and out of inlets, paddling along the shore, checking out small islands as I came across them.
As I was happily wandering on the water on a day that was very similar to the one we had in Cody yesterday I crossed into the middle of the lake intending to check out an up-til-then unexplored island.
As I got closer I saw a very large bird resting on a log in the water close to the shore of the island.
I stopped paddling for a minute, not wanting to scare him away.
And that is when I heard it.
What sounded like the screeches and screams of hundreds and hundreds of birds that inhabited the island.
I tentatively and slowly paddled towards the island no longer focusing on the one bird, but instead on my new and totally unexpected discovery.
As I got closer the noise got louder.
Not only loud.  The non-stop noise sounded almost prehistoric.
As I continued to paddle close to shore and then slowly made my way around the entire circumference of the island I saw thousands and thousands of birds of all kinds.
They were walking along the shore.  Swimming close to shore.  Flying from tree to tree.  Nests everywhere.
I had unexpectedly found a very busy, very noisy, very frenetic nesting island.
After excitedly but cautiously paddling around the island I rushed all the way back to the take out where LC and I had parked the truck.
I could hardly wait to tell him what I had found.
We promptly named the island Bird Island (not exactly original or creative, but certainly descriptive) and visited it often after that..............
 A good amount of water has been released from the reservoir over the past weeks in anticipation of the coming snow melt in the mountains.
Right now the water is shallow.  Right now the water is cold but not freezing.
Both of those things will change in the coming weeks and months............
 I learned that the richness of life is found in adventure. . . . It develops self-reliance and independence. Life then teems with excitement. There is stagnation only in security......William Orville Douglas

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