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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kayaking, a natural experience

Life always seems a little sweeter in a kayak. The small boat rocking gently on the waves. Gently paddling from one place to the next, feeling the tension drain through the small scupper holes. You can almost see the troubles of the week sully and darken the water, and the next sweep of the paddle they are gone, the scenery has changed, and the whole world is a little nicer.

My first attempt was not a real success. Nervousness, tension, anxiety, pretty much trademarks of my life, and my first trip my wife said it was all there, in every sweep of the paddle. She said I looked angry, mad at the water. "You attacked kayaking," she said. Of course, she didn't tell me this until after my second trip. "Relax, just slow down, look around," she told me before I launched. Since she cares for me, and knows almost all of my shortcomings, has seen me at my worst, pulled me back from the brink of the abyss more than I like to remember I listened to her. And she was right, no blisters, no aching shoulders, no cramps in my lower back. It was smooth sailing, sort of.

In the movie Toy Story there is a scene where Buzz Lightyear the astronaut tells Woody the cowboy "now is no time to panic." 

"Now is the perfect time to panic." Woody says, with feeling.

That is my motto, almost all the time. Now is the perfect time to panic. 

Kayaking is different, though. There is the beauty of nature, the serene silence of the forest pushing to the edge of the water, sometimes even making it into the water. Trees bleached white, looking skeletal, haunting and beautiful. Turtles sit on the logs, frogs croak, sing in a noisy opera of natural harmony. Birds of prey float gently, effortlessly across the sky. 

Most of the places I kayak are too small for motor boats, so it is quiet, a few canoes, sometimes an epidemic of kayaks. I always thought I was joining an exclusive family of dedicated "sailors" standing against the internal combustion engine driven power boats zooming along the surface of lakes and rivers. Man, was I wrong. Most of the time kayakers outnumber everybody, maybe everything, in the few launches I have tried. But, that's ok. There is room for all of us. If you are thinking of buying a kayak you should, they are wonderful little devices to loosen up your muscles, let the heat out of your life for a while.

Our cabin on Lake Superior was so remote that we were the only ones visible on the lake. You could hear the power boats across the bay, but you couldn't see them. A suggestion of movement, no more.

Lake Hope will probably be pretty crowded, but that is ok. Gas motors are not allowed on the lake, and there are plenty of little bays to paddle around and disappear for a while. Plus, it is a last vacation for the summer, a farewell to the heat, humidity, and yard work, from a small cabin in the woods.