Memorial Day 2013 – the first day of sun, and clear skies for over a week. WhitefaceMt. was literally white with a snow fall of 34”, Killington, VT, a reported 17”. Here on the northeast end of the Sacandaga no snow, just cold wind, high water, and sharp air. The wind had enough bite to spur my taking the bow saw to a few downed limbs and cranking up the wood stove just to dry the house and my bones. Irony is my paddling the kayak in full sun while friends and family are still digging out from the blast of a reluctant winter and foreboding climate change.
I am not a professional paddler, however, once a Marine always a Marine and keeping with that mindset, and the lessons from family members still active in four season mountain search and rescue, setting the kayak in the river for the first time of the season is not a simple task. There is a preparedness that I as a lone paddler and hiker like to exercise. For example: I knew I would need to follow more close to the shore line due to the sporadic wind. I wanted to paddle into the wind at the start of my trip as opposed to the second half where I might be more tired.
How someone over 50 years old chest presses a Pimlico 100 into Thule J racks atop a Chevy Blazer can be a challenge, but here’s a couple of tips. Make sure you have a small rubber backed bath mat, and a sturdy box type step stool. Place the mat between the J’s partially on the roof and hanging down onto the door a bit. Make sure your stool is NOT a cheap ass plastic thing with wobbly legs that will sink into sand and break or tip or both at the key moment you need to hoist the tail end of your kayak into the second J sending you ass over band box and the kayak crashing onto your head. (Feel free to ask me how I know that…) Once you have readied the Thule straps you will need to get a shoulder inside the kayak so you can slide the front end along that bath mat and into the front J rack. This is where I need to use a step stool to hoist the back end into the rear J rack. T’ain’t easy, but what are ya gonna do?
What to wear? I am a tad eccentric in my solo living. I wouldn’t say that I’ve coined the term “Adirondack Couture”, however, I’d say I’ve given it my spin. Let’s explore this from a paddler perspective. I know there is wind, high water levels, and frigid rain that has made the river colder than usual. [You might be wondering why I keep referring to the Sacandaga as a river as opposed to a lake. Well, because it is. It was flooded years ago. An entire town, farms, Native burial sites and more succumbed to progress. At one time there was Sturgeon in the river. Now, it reminds us of its origins with a bottom current akin to the Mississippi. The Sacandaga does not give up its dead easily.]
So, what to wear? Those that know my love for Pink Flamingos would not be surprised that I chose hot pink lycra/spandex, mid calf length, running tights. The material is like a second skin keeping warmth, minimal drag, and free movement. I sported a white, long sleeve polypropylene top with an extended shirt tail and a couple holes where the bow saw bit in last fall. Foot wear is always important in any venue and I wear a pair of neoprene AquaStop boots that, once again, add warmth, a tread, and a shape that is like a small flipper. Of course I have my life vest that I strap correctly and snug to my torso. Flexible head fitting sunglasses and a bright yellow Drifit cap top off my practicality. Quite a sight! And, that’s my point. One could see me from air or land.
As any fine dresser and stylist knows, accessories make the outfit: I already mentioned the snug Coast Guard Approved life vest with buckles adjusted for a correct fit. After all, it is intended to float and although I would rather not capsize anything is possible, especially on the water with wind kicking up an occasional white cap and larger craft setting wakes. The vest needs to be snug so it stays in place if I were to “go for a dip.” It does no good up around my neck, head, or simply bobbing off altogether. A water proof watch is certainly nice to have as I tend to time myself i.e. 1 hour out 1 hour back sort of thing. Keeping with the Daffodil yellow theme, I picked up a cheap Bodyglove waterproof ID pouch that I actually put around my waist. (I’m not keen on things around my neck.) I put an expired driver’s license in it which has all my current info. One of my sons gave me a dry bag in which I tend to carry a large towel, a cheap point & shoot camera (the Canon doesn’t like water,) and an extra shirt.
Some folks might wonder what’s the sense of my sharing this info? Well, I know that I’m not the only person that lives alone in the Adirondacks. Perhaps it’s our nature to be alone in / with Nature. Start slow just to be safe. I knew there was a strong head wind. I knew that the water would be extra high and cold. It was my first time of the season to be on the water so I wanted to reconnect on my own terms. Did I end up with strange tan lines? Sure. However, I also got to settle into a rhythm with my paddling. I got to practice different techniques, strokes, tempos, while relaxing my body.
I got to feel waves from one direction and wind from another while adjusting grip, body, direction. I got to think. There is a peacefulness inside each paddle cutting the water. Paddling uses both sides of the brain – both sides of the body.
Kayaking the Northeast End of the Sacandaga is usually best during the week or off season. I set in just above the Conklinville Dam and head back toward Mayfield. I don’t have anything fancy but for safety purposes I am exploring having a sealed bulkhead installed in my kayak.
I do want to say a little something about being a veteran and kayaking. There is a wonderful organization in Waterveliet, NY that teaches kayaking to disabled vets from any era. Men, women, active, reserve, combat, non-combat: If you are a veteran and you want to learn kayaking then you need to check out The David Fisher Upper Hudson Heroes. Every penny donated goes directly to equipment. The organization is completely volunteer. They assist you in learning to kayak safely and how to purchase or adapt equipment suitable for your needs. Not only are the kayak instructors certified to teach, they are also trained to teach kayaking to people with disabilities.
We each seek solace in Nature for our own reasons. Be safe. Be wise.
It is in the wind that the breath of Memories bears life
and in the Honey Sun that grief is melted – gilded sorrows
live each day in a drop of water.