Friday, June 30, 2017

From smooth paddling to wind-whipped waves

What happens when you go canoeing after a too-long hiatus and get so enthralled by the beauty of the river that you paddle upstream much farther than you'd expected and then have to battle high winds on the way back?

Pain--that's what happens. Also happiness, peace, exhaustion, exuberance, fear, comfort, and a sense of gratitude for the wonders of nature, but now that it's over I'm mostly feeling pain. In the arms, shoulders, wrists, neck, and back. Plus I'd like to sleep for about a week--and then find another wonderful place to go canoeing.

The reasons we haven't had the canoe out since last August are complicated and boring, and getting out today almost didn't happen because of a wave of storms moving through the area. However, we managed to slip into the upper end of Dillon Lake during a long break between storms and paddled up into the Licking River under blue skies. Because of our long hiatus and the still-fresh memories of flipping the canoe in the Ohio River last summer, it took me a while to reach that essential sense of oneness with the canoe; I started out feeling wobbly and klutzy and on the verge of disaster every moment. I don't know exactly when mind and body started working together to make it all feel natural again, but at one point I got distracted by a bird and forgot to feel nervous anymore, and that was that.

I'd like to share some pictures of all the wonderfulness we saw, but I didn't take the camera because of the volatile weather. But there's something about the muddy upper end of Dillon Lake that is particularly attractive to great blue herons, so I can't begin to estimate how many we saw--fishing in the shallows, perched on branches, gliding across the water right in front of our faces. Such majestic birds! 

And then further up the river we saw kingfishers, more around every curve, and two bald eagles. In a quiet cove we started three wild turkeys--one adult and two juveniles--which exploded out of the bushes and disappeared into the woods.

We paddled upstream in gorgeous weather until we reached a spot where the river was choked with debris, and then we turned back downstream, expecting to glide easily with the current, which we did for a while. Then the clouds started rolling in again and the wind whipped up: sometimes it pushed us from behind so we flew downstream, and then we'd round a sharp curve and find the wind shoving us to the side and then pushing in our faces, so staying on course took every ounce of energy.

And then we hit the lake. With no trees to moderate the wind's power, we faced it head on. By that point we'd been paddling pretty steadily for nearly three hours, but we had to keep moving our tired muscles just to keep the canoe from being pushed off into the mud flats or into the massive stands of poison ivy on shore.

I noticed, though, that the herons were unfazed by the sharp wind. While we were flailing and struggling to keep the canoe from foundering, the herons still stood there fishing in the shallows or perching on tree limbs or gliding effortlessly across the water. Do their muscles every get sore? If so, what would they take?

Me? I'm living on Aleve.

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