Row, Row, Row yer boat...
I finally was able to go out kayaking this past Sunday. Summer almost over. I don’t remember ever getting into a kayak last year so it has likely been at least 2 years. Paul gets to go with our neighbor, Bob, almost every week. He gave up on making me go since there is always SO MUCH else that needs to be done at home. Employment is way over-rated as a way of life. I think I should have been a millennial.
Anyway. Our friends emailed us to see if we’d like to go out kayaking with them on Sunday. Actually, the invite was sent to Paul, not me. Maybe they really only wanted Paul to go. He forwarded it to me and … EXCITED…I was. Like I said, I had not been on a river for two years (I’m going to stick with that). So I immediately answered Paul’s text with “YES!”
Well, Paul likes to point out that I very rarely say “yes” about anything so it took a while for me to come home from my job to convince him that I meant…yes!
Next came the whatever you call that bit when you are texting back and forth amongst each other trying to plan out where to meet. THAT took a long time, including the part where our friend Dan was starting to write up a National Science Foundation proposal to study the effects of two couples trying to figure out how to get four kayaks to and from a river.
Finally it all worked out and we were able to meet and leave a vehicle at the point of take-out and drive up to the point of put-in in one vehicle. At the put-in, as Paul was taking everything out in his slow, meticulous way, I didn’t even realize that our friend, Jen, had already gotten in her kayak and taken off. She was halfway to the take-out before Paul finally got his gear ready to go. After watching both Jen and Dan pop into their kayaks and take off, Paul said he would hold on to my kayak as I got in. Fine! I thought. Yes, I can often get myself into a kayak, but almost as often I end up slipping out on my butt into the water.
At long last, all four of us were on the water. The first bit of the trip was just like I remembered from two years ago. Even that Bald Eagle that has been at the same nest for at least four years. Presuming it is the same one, of course. I cruised along with everyone. Though mostly behind them since I am the least experienced.
The day was overcast and there was NO one out on the river except the Sheriff patrol that went past us with scrutiny the first time, saw the tags prominently shown by our two friends, then passed us without even looking on the return trip.
It was a beautiful day. Our friends stopped to pick blackberries. I don’t like blackberries at all. I think the thorns and the seeds do not justify the flavor. I was outnumbered here, Dan even looked at me like I was crazy for not liking them and said he wasn’t sure that he could be friends with me. He was kidding…I think. Anyway, we picked a lot of blackberries and I have a few scratches from it, including one that I scratched bloody at work. Why do I hate blackberries?
After that. We just floated down the stream – merrily, merrily.
Dan suggested we head to the slough that is just across the river from our take-out. There was an island that separated the main channel and another channel that led down the bank-side and into the slough. There was actually a couple of semi-tough spots in this side channel. I nearly tipped over trying to get around a limb. But I was glad to go see the slough since I had been there on one of my first trips out with Paul and liked it. It was a lot different from my memory, however. I am not sure if that is because of a poor memory or if it is because the slough has changed from so many years of overflow and current changes (especially after the huge flood this past Spring). It was much more of a channel and less like a pond than what I remembered. I preferred the channel since it was what I love: murky and pond-weedy. My only problem with it was there were no turtles! In all my years out here in Oregon, I have only seen one turtle (that wasn’t a pet). I have been told that they are here, but certainly not in the quantities I remember from Michigan.
However, there was a Great Blue Heron and some coots. Coots make up for anything for me. The slough just came to a dead-end eventually and we had to turn around to go back. As we headed out of the slough and into the main river, I could see that it was a bit rough. Jen headed into it first and went straight across but was having a little trouble. Paul read the river better and took the path up the shore of the island to a point above the take-out so that he could float down into it. This all happened in a moment. I was right behind Paul when Jen, the woman I had just seen race across the river like a pro, yelled back to me “follow Paul! Don’t come this way.” However, it was way too late. I was caught in the main current and there was no way to get back to where Paul had turned. Dan, behind me, followed Paul easily.
My kayak (Paul will say it’s HIS kayak) has a fairly flat bottom so it does not rock back and forth as much as Paul’s kayak does. This is a good thing because it means that my kayak does not tip over as easily. However, it also means it is caught by the side current much more. I was out in the main current. I couldn’t go up. I couldn’t go straight across. I had to find an angle that was just enough that I could go up a little bit with each stroke and make headway across while still being pulled downriver. It was major work. I finally got across to the other side only to find that the eddy against the bank was also strong and pulling me downriver. I started to tire out. I felt like I was paddling flat out as hard as I could but I wasn’t really getting anywhere except tired. I could see that Paul, Dan, and Jen were already on the shore and cheering me on. Right then, the Sheriff Patrol also pulled out from the boat launch (our take-out was the same place that the sheriff comes and goes from).
I continued my struggles. The Sheriff pulled alongside of me but more toward the other side of the river. Damn! I thought. I was not very worried that something bad was going to happen to me since they were RIGHT there waiting. However, I sure as hell did not want to become one of those people that had to be rescued. I even saw them talking to each other and placing bets whether I would make it. "What do we say to Death? Not today!!!" I took a deep breath and dug into the river. No form at all, just pure fight. I was not going to give in!! It felt like a month while I was paddling to get to that boat launch since I was going forward two and back one, but I eventually did make it.
I could see the two sheriff in the patrol boat looking at each other, somewhat disappointed. They were hoping for a little bit of excitement on what had to have been an otherwise boring day...even though one of them must have lost the bet.