Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Clint and I jumped off at Moose Lake Landing on a cool August day. Clear sky, light breeze. In two hour's we'd be at the portage to Ensign- 200 yards of easy walk with packs and canoe. Another two hour's easy paddle and the portage to Mesabi would be at our feet and we'd finish it in the dark, set up camp not far from the portage. Dinner, maybe a little fishing by moonlight. Walleyes bite best at night, are dark water feeders.
Portage to Ensign behind, we did the short river run to Ensign proper and began our paddle. A light breeze at our backs encouraged us along, pushed the blades deeper and we sang- Clint had the absolutely best voice I've ever heard in a man- and enjoyed the day.
Then the wind came up.
Ensign flows east to west, is about six miles long, a mile or more wide, dotted with islands.
We'd maybe got a mile before we knew we were in for a stormy night. The westerly wind hit hard and sudden, lifting the water to troughs five and six feet deep from the wave crest, a few even deeper.
The Windsong would plummet bow first into the trough, suddenly rise as the pointed end hit the bottom, sweep us upward and we'd paddle furiously to reach the crest as the wave behind pushed us forward. Into the trough again we'd plunge and rise, the thin canoe a knife slicing the water and rising to cut again. Up. Down. Up. Down. A roller coaster ride, our bodies held between the thwarts of a thin piece of aluminum hull.
Wind blown spray wet our bodies, stung in our eyes, washed inside the canoe, wetted packs and feet.
I barely rescued my hat, blown off my head and caught as it whipped just to the end of arm's reach, to be stuffed under the seat beneath me.
Perhaps it was the kindred spirit, the lovers of Adventure, the primal man within us, the pure joy of living. Whatever, Clint and I both cried a "Hallelujah!" together and began to laugh. Lusty, bold laughter that comes from the release of pressures within, the loss of binding ties. Laughter from the depths, the purest form of sound that begins deep in the spirit and builds through every cell of the body, each releasing its joy and comes forth ringing in the ears.
Our paddles dipped fast and deep and we rose upon a wave. Higher. Higher.
And then we were upon it, sitting so perfectly balanced at the crest. Clint turned to look as I called his name, my arm outstretched, fingertips holding my paddle as it reached for the trough bottom. And stopped a foot short.
Above the wave, the wind was fierce, flinging white cap foam everywhere, soaking us more. From the cloudless sky it came, its whine added to the roar of the foaming water, louder than our voices of praise as we surfed the wave, perfect in its form, Clint at one side, I at the other, open air below us, the perfect belly of the Grumman lightly touching its element.
Miles passed beneath us as we were suddenly deposited on the sands at the east end of Ensign, the waves pushing until the pine forest stopped our progress.
We laughed as we stepped ashore, ear-to-ear grins as we eyed each other, dragging the canoe farther into the bush.
"Where's your life jacket?" I asked Clint, standing shirtless in the wind.
He grinned and laughed.
"The same place yours is- under the seat."
"Now we have to get back to the portage," he told me, pointing to the west and south.
Our escape had swept us three-quarters of a mile past our destination.
It would be great to say the paddle against those waves was easy, as much fun as the ride in, but it wasn't. It was hard work and we sweated under the spray, still with no life jackets on, and was several hours paddling to travel the short way. One stroke forward, two strokes back, as the expression is. Only it was reality then. Those waves made us pay in pain for the joy they'd given us, for the pleasure of our souls.
And that is what surviving is like.
Unimaginable in the purity of the joy of living. Painful in the work it can entail. Pleasure in just being 'able'. Not wearing a life jacket, but trusting in skill and One-ness with God in all His elements for He is in control and will bring us to fulfillment of His perfect Will. If we die in the process, so be it. Who are we to question the One Who is Perfect and has the Perfect Understanding?
I am only a man. So be it.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Greetings, All. Hot, hot days of summer are upon us here and I find my time being occupied with winter preparations, some house remodeling, yard work. No time for the kayak at the moment but it's always on my mind.
Here I am, making a feeble attempt at poetry to while the mindless hours and lonliness for the River. Enjoy, I hope. (Click the pic to enlarge and read.)
Here I am, making a feeble attempt at poetry to while the mindless hours and lonliness for the River. Enjoy, I hope. (Click the pic to enlarge and read.)
Monday, August 4, 2008
Being my first kayak rally, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I sure did meet a lot of nice people- most with a kayak wrapped around them. Was great fun watching, but not certain I'm going to do this kind of thing on purpose.
There were a few flips and dunkings and a couple of rollouts, but no one lost their wrappings. Sure was a tremendous amount of fast and furious paddling to get those raft switching direction and headed into the chute, heading around the boulders and aimed in the right direction.
Going through the chutes or getting caught in the hydraulic below the small falls, the racers were having a blast of a time. There were more kayak designs in evidence than I had imagined there would be at something like this- fully expecting to see only the short slalom style boats.
Makes a person wonder how these little craft can take the beating they sometimes get. But I'm sure glad they can!
The week end wasn't a total loss, anyway- people made it interesting and got a few shots I think readers may enjoy, so rather than talk about it, I'll put a couple pix in and call it 'fun'.
Some of this looked like so much fun I bet a few politicians are trying to legislate against it.
I need to learn how to add more shots to the page than what these folks are allowing...hmm...I wonder...
"Don't wonder too far or you'll get lost," an old friend used to tell me. So, better quit while I'm ahead.
SunDog hasn't been getting much exercise the last month- pretty darn busy getting ready for winter. (I know, it's only August, but there's lots to do yet and it can't all be fun.) We did make it to the Clan Gathering last week end, got out on the West Two River and managed to get a pair of sun glasses sucked right off my face. Had the good fortune of watching them drift out of sight into that muddy green water. Shucks- another $15 down the drain. The family reunion was fun: got to introduce a couple clan members into kayaking, they loved it. One had such a great time I began to think I was either going to lose the kayak to her or she was going to get lost and miss her ride home. Hers was the biggest kayak-eating grin I've ever seen. She sure enjoyed herself once getting over the fear of tipping and figuring how the paddle works.
Otherwise, despite some really beauty days, it's been all work and no playing on the river for this kid. Things will slow down a bit next week, though, and I'll be able to enjoy myself a bit more. Besides, I need to get the larder full of fish for winter and what better way than from the deck of the SunDog?
Later, All. Keep the wind at your back and the bubble topside.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Skeeters were having a wonderful season this year. Hordes of them buzzed about my head, drawing a bumper crop of dragon flies to swarm about me as well. Another beautiful Minnesota summer day and I was dipping paddle on the Sand River.
Sand River begins in a little 30 acre puddle about five miles north of the Laurentian Divide and winds and crisscrosses itself for close to forty miles on its way to Hudson Bay. En route, it joins the Pike river, enters Vermilion Lake, continues north through the Vermilion River, eventually finding its way into Canada. The terrain varies like most rivers in this country. From its beginning in the puddle of clear, cold spring water, it worm-tracks a couple of miles through high grass swamp, occasionally alongside a stand of tall, straight White pines before going back to swamp. Seldom can a paddler see more than a hundred yards, most often not that far.
Two deer didn't hear or smell me coming, but they saw me soon as the bright sunset-colored kayak rounded the bend, my hand reaching for the camera. They backed up and slowly, quietly disappeared into the brush and tall grass. Nuts- another missed shot. Well, I wasn't quite as polite as 'nuts' but that's what it meant. Oh, well- next time, maybe. I just had to be patient.
Dragon flies proved to be difficult to shoot as well, even the 'almost cooperative' ones that landed on the blade of my paddle, only to flit away before the Canon could focus. Patience is something I gotta learn new every day. On days like this, it's easy to be patient, though.
Today was a day of "going no where to do nothin'" and I had the day to myself and the bugs and deer and muskrats and beaver. A day to sit back and not hear civilised sounds. Just the bugs an' paddle dipping an' the sound of the water sliding along the reeds and brush and the kayak sliding over it. Just the river, the kayak and me playing peekaboo with whatever I could.
Lily pad flowers were popping out, hardly an inch round, inviting flies to their opening buds. Bees humming about. The brush fully leafed out, the grass green and thick, animal, and some human, trails opening onto the bank.
Swept into a curve by the increasing current, a dam of spring-flood swept brush nearly caught the bow of the kayak but I saw it in time to do a couple fast strokes, direct my way around the blockage. Farther along, a dead fall tree lay in the water, its branches poking up. Between them, I could see a "V" of fast, deeper water and aimed for it, pulled faster by the current, then across the trunk and in calm, deep water.
An occasional stop to take a picture, held stationary by my foot wrapped in the shoreline grass or bow ploughed into the shore. Sun hot and refreshing on my face. Skeeters not really bothersome due to the breeze following the river course. No place to go, no place to be, just a day to "be", to enjoy, to unwind.
Need many more days like this. Away from the house, away from people and animals and appointments. Away from responsibility. Carefree, God filled days of just enjoying His creation the way He meant it to be.
God bless, happy paddlin'-
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Okey, since it's raining, here's the plan...
Got temps in the 50's today an' no sun shinin' through the clouds, so here's what's happened. Like, anyone can have a kayak- well, DUH!- an' be paddlin' around with it. But, there's more to havin' just the craft. At least that's true for me. In order to carry out the maxim "more is less", I made a kwik run to town- it's only a half-gallon of gas away in the Taurus- and spent a couple of bucks on some gifts for the SunDog. To whit: nice, shiny nylon spray skirt, just the right size; a second/spare collapsible (read: two-piece) paddle; a couple of stow-bags (okey- three); a diving knife (cuz it's stainless and has a plastic sheath so I won't 'have' to ruin the leather sheath for my Western 902); and a lensatic compass just in case I forget to pack the Michael's (cuz it's on the 902's sheath). Somthing else was in the bag, too, but I can't recall wut it wuz just yet.
Took a while to figure how to close those 'waterproof ' bags- in fact, a second trip to the shop I got them at. They don't really seem water-tight to me, but the guy says they are and if anyone'd know, it's him. His family's been runin' that shop since the 80's (last century), so that's a long time.
I dunno how many times I ever used the spare paddle in the Grummy becuz I lost or broke the main one, recalling only once when I duck-taped them together to make a kayak style paddle so I could fight the wind better on one trip. Oh, yes- I do recall one time we wuz bein' stoopud white men and run some rapids, capsized (talk about wet sleepin' bags!) and hadda run downstream, then go swimmin' across the river to get the paddles outta the brush pile they washed into. Of course,the paddles were made by me, built to last and one piece of ash: I've bent them into 'C' shape and not broke them. (Love to see someone do that with a tin paddle.) Anyway, having a spare paddle is only common sense if someone's plannin' some wild country trips, which I is planning. Or is it 'are plannin'? Hmm..grammar grammar gramercy... Back to the paddle. It's a shorty, like the one piece, splits in the middle and is adjustable for angle/cant/opposition of the blades (terminology is coming- be patient). Here again, I don't see how it can be more efficient than blades parallel, but I'll learn. Oh, yes- the blades are yellow on this one. Color coordinated paddling, something I never would'a thunk of.
Actually, kayakers seem to be kind of like bicyclists to me, in that people seem to be a pretty flamboyant group and like bright, flashy colors. (Hmmm...I wonder- isn't that what 'flamboyant' means?) In a world where 'not being noticed' is my priority, all of a sudden I'm making myself into a neon sign. Go figure.
Back to the paddle...nope, we're gonna talk skirts next. (If anyone calls me a sissy for wearin' a skirt, I'm gonna use the dive knife on 'em.) The canoe never wore a skirt but they are available in single and two-person configurations. Just never made sense to me, even when the canoe was fillin' with waves. The gear got wet- no biggie. (Until setting up camp and I hadda sleep in a wet down bag.) Anyway, I had a dickens of a time figuring how that skirt goes on: easy as pie. I was makin' it more complicated than it is. Lights go on in my head sometimes and they did after spending enough time figuring how to use the skirt I could have built a boat. Couldn't understand why they'd put suspenders on it. (Now the lite comes on.) Duh (only small one this time): the skirt comes off when you capsize so you can get water inside the boat. Well, actually- so you can escape the craft if your Eskimo roll don't work. (And mine doesn't, yet.) So that's why it doesn't fit really, really tite on the coving. Interesting. Now I'm tempted to go paddling in the rain and see if it works at keepin' water offa my scrawny legs. Not to mention my butt. (Gotta put in a chuckle here, thinkin' about my scrawny butt...no, second thot, not now: this is a 'G' rated page. Will make the next one 'X' rated an' tell ya wut my GF said about the kayak...)
So the skirt comes off with the wearer, which seems to be a good idea right now.
A Micheal's Forester compass has been in my pack forever. Love it, never been lost with it (not that I get lost, I just misplace the road home), but since the SunDog is a new vehicle, it deserves its own guidance system, too. (Not a chance I'll let it get OnStar- I wanna stay away from people, not attract them. Besides, those kind of things are for people that sweat getting stranded. Dang, I love being stranded. In fact, the note on my windshield reads "Have gone camping out here, will be back sometime".) Back to the compass...it's a 'lensatic' type, aka miltary style, oil dampened needle/dial with sight wire and window. Was looking at the type mounted on the deck of the kayak, but thot two things: 1) sticks up too high and will get peeled off eventually; 2) wut if I get separated from the SunDog? Won't do me no good then. Anyway, I like the feel of a compass hangin' on my neck. Gives me a false sense of security.
Why get a dive knife for a kayak? Welllllll, ever tried cutting rope with your teeth? (Or in my case, your gums.) And it's really stainless steel, with a rubber/kraton handle that won't swell or rot or do anything but stay like it's s'posed to. Also, knives come in handy when you don't wanna grab the hatchet to slice a chunk of firewood or filet a fish (oops..forgot: some PETA folks mite be readin' this...good: it's about time they learnt P.E.T.A. means "People Eating Tastey Animals", fish included). Oh, speakin of eatin' critters: you vegans oughtta stick to your diet an' don't be tellin me I'm mean for likeing wut I eat.
Sorry, I get side-tracked too easy and have to examine other tracks I notice. Kind of like a dog sniffin' every footprint an' turd it runs across.
Oh, yah- I remember wut I forgot. Never would'a thunk of gettin' on for the canoe. When it fills with water, just get under it, kick like hell and lift it outta water, upside down. Water falls right out. Can't do that with a kayak. So I got a hand operated bilge pump and sponge. Pump will do eight gallons a minute (probably if you're in good shape and not fightin' more waves) so I figured that'd be enough water for me to get ridda. And the sponge will work nice on my butt an' legs.
An' that's it: all the new goodies for a while.
'Nuff for now- got some paddlin' to do...oh- anyone interested in a paddling partner? Look me up.