Friday, June 30, 2006

Tripping the Gaspe - Part 4

Returning from my hike to the lighthouse, I reached my parked car about mid afternoon. The rain had ended and the winds had nearly abated. The yacht I'd seen at sea rounding the cape was now lying becalmed well within the bay, her sails barely drawing, with her sailors trying to catch the last remaining wisps of breeze as best they could.
Rather than try heading out to the point the following morning, I decided I would drive around and sight-see a bit and then try my luck paddling out in the mid afternoon of the following day. It turned out to be a good choice. I launched at 3.30 pm and headed out once again towards the cape. The winds came and went, sometimes coming from ahead, sometimes pushing at my back, never constant, but always strong and gusty. Finally, the skies cleared and the sun became a welcome change from the previous day's rain.
I paddled past the now familiar cliffs and coves still amazed that people would come so far to live in what seemed to me to be a harsh and almost cruel land. What was it that pushed them and made them work so hard in this new land? What were the rewards for their toil and isolation? I wondered what they had left behind...

As I neared the cape itself, the winds died away completely. I found myself on a totally calm sun dappled sea able to paddle wherever I wished! The madness of the day before was miraculously gone. How could all that fury disappear so completely?
Seals welcomed me as well as guillemots, cormorants and sea gulls.

I paddled round the cape and headed down the north side. The smooth shearness of the cliffs was so awesome a sight, especially when I was able to paddle right up to their immense walls and then reach out and touch them.

The seals made the most interesting howling sounds, which at first I took to be some freak of the sea blowing in a cave or something. Very eerie, like sea-wolves, but not quite!

I didn't want to head back. I wanted to paddle on forever, but after about an hour exploring, I turned and made my way back around the point to the southern coast and headed towards the car, about 10 kilometers away.

I noticed jellyfish pulsing along with me, heading who knows where. A whale surfaced about a 100 yards off my bow, but finding me, chose to leave me as mysteriously. What is it about whales? Why do we envy them?

I was back at the car about 7 pm and began thinking about what to cook for diner. What about fettuccine with shrimp and a little white wine? Sounded good to me!
Tomorrow, I head to Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island two bays to the south of me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tripping the Gaspe - Part 3

Returning to my new put-in venue ready to paddle at last, I quickly changed and launched. The whole peninsula is part of the park and was originally settled by people coming over from the Jersey Islands. They established fishing operations off the few beaches and tiny farms on the meager amounts of arable land above the nearly continuous cliffs. Today a road run behind the farms, but it didn't in the old days. The isolation was complete except for a few tracks through the hills to neighbours and of course the open sea.
The weather was partly overcast with a moderate headwind as I made my way eastwards along the shore. I was constantly intrigued by the layered geology of the shore. The layers dipped into the water and here and there opened up little coves, caves and cracks for birds to nest in. The weather was very unsettled. Winds kept gusting down off the steep land on my left and would try pushing me out to sea.

Eventually, the farm buildings gave way to more rugged, forested areas and the cliffs rose higher and higher. I began to feel the ocean swell rolling towards me. Out to my right, I could hear the breathing of whales and finally could see their backs rolling as they paralleled my progress towards the point. Too far away for me to identify, it was fun to know they were out there keeping an eye out for me.
Suddenly, I realised I was at the tip! It was announced by a blast of air coming around the last huge cliff which pushed itself high out of the water above me. The wind blown waves coming perpendicular to the swell became quite unsettling making me wonder how wise I was to continue much further. I turned towards the cliff nearest me and found some shelter just off its base where I had only the swell to deal with. From here, I could see the waves flinging themselves on the weed covered shoals off the tip. It was a powerful moment as the sea put on a show for me. I had the best seat - the only seat - in the house! Seals began appearing here and there. I was amazed at their daring, darting into the white foam over and over again seemingly invincible.

Again I considered trying to 'round the cape' like a good adventurer should, but the more I watched the conditions, I knew it was pushing my abilities over the edge. Reluctantly I headed back to the put-in with the idea that I could try again another day.

Once I'd dried off and changed, I couldn't help myself. I had to go out again and see the wind and the waves. This time, I chose to take the hiking trail out. Part way there, it began to rain and as I got higher the wind became more and more of a factor. I was glad to have got off the water when I did.

At the trail's end, I came to an opening to find a lighthouse! I'd never noticed it from the water, probably because I was too close to the cliffs to see it. A good sized sailing ketch was coming round the cape under reefed sails. What a fun time they were having!
Huddled together in the only sheltered spot at the cape was a mixture of nationalities, France, England and Austria were all represented. None had comfy rain gear like I was wearing. They must have had a chilly walk back to the parking area several kilometers away!

I went part way down the cliff face to a lookout to see the area I had just been paddling in. Again I watched the seals playing in the waves and was impressed by the crashing waves as they blasted over the shoal waters just beyond the cape. I could see the sheltered water I had stayed in while trying to decide if I was up to venturing into the fray. I'm glad I stayed put!
Tomorrow, I round the cape under quite different conditions!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tripping the Gaspe - Part 2

I had been advised by the Forrillon Park guides that I would be better off launching and paddling my kayak from the south side of the peninsula, but being one of the stubborn types who needs to see the evidence first hand, I drove around to see what they were talking about for myself.
There is a small marina basin on the north side a few kilometers from the peninsula, which looked ideal for launching. I drove over and indeed there was good parking, and a decent wood-lined concrete ramp extending into the sheltered artificial harbour. Once out on the sea however, I could see some possible problems. The open bay was exposed to the full blast of the Gulf winds, and one could easily end up having a long slog back to the shelter at the end of the day. The steep beaches along the way tended to be exposed to dumping waves and many rocky shoal areas extended just offshore making them tricky areas for landing in an emergency situation. On a calm day, the nine kilometer paddle out to the tip would be easy, but I was concerned that, with changing conditions, the chances of being trapped against the cliffs with no possible exits was too great, especially as I was going solo. Paddling with others tends to bolster one's confidence or at the least gives one the impression that they might be available for a possible rescue attempt!
The park maps suggested another launching possibility lay closer to the peninsula itself, so I checked it out next. As I arrived in the parking lot, I was gratified to see a number of other paddlers preparing themselves to head down to the beach. That meant getting into their wetsuits - none had dry suits - and so on and preparing their boats and gear for the carry to the beach.

I chatted briefly with them and headed down to the beach to look it over. A little trail led from the parking area into the trees and towards the beach. After a short walk and a dozen or so stairs I arrived at an overlook area with the beach still far below me! It turns out that this overlook was still about a 100 steps above the beach via a double set of the steepest stairs I've seen in a while. Obviously the other kayakers had decided this presented no obstacle to them as they already had one boat on the cobble beach below. They were moving them several people carrying at a time!

Down on the beach itself, the dumping waves and the steepness of the beach began to turn me off bothering to carry my boat down. I shuddered at the fun it was going to be getting back up those stairs especially with the wind that was already blowing! Somehow, I decided, there must be an easier way for an older guy my age to enjoy a paddle out to the point without begging for help getting my boat to and from the beach and without providing a cardiac festival for those innocent folks enjoying themselves on a tourist beach!

Instead of paddling I decided to hike to the cliff summit and survey my new domain. That walk proved to be a fun outing as the view from the top was spectacular. By the time I got to the top, the kayakers - in three doubles and a single - were making their way along the cliffs out to the tip. From the heights they looked small and fragile out on the waves! I began to wish I'd got their help carrying my boat down the stairs...
On my way back down the trail I began to notice small signs marked SIA/IAT. Suddenly it dawned on me! This trail was, in fact, the end point of the famous Appalachian Trail which begins far to the south in Georgia and recently became international by extending from Mount Katahdin across Maine, New Brunswick and ending here in Quebec at Cap Gaspé. Oddly enough, my sister lives at the other end of the trail!

Returning to the car, I drove around to the south coast, got a camp site and headed out to see what the launching prospects were. It turns out they were perfect! Close to the water, an easy carry, a sheltered bay, and a parking lot where changing wouldn't provoke a 'nude-man-caught-in-the-parking-area' type scandal as it seemed nearly deserted most of the time. My kind of put-in!
Tomorrow I'll write about my first trip out to the point and the interesting conditions I discovered out there!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tripping the Gaspe - Part 1

I drove to the Gaspé along the shores of the St Lawrence river so this posting will be about that coast. There is a new series of maps out called 'La Route Blue' which, when finally complete, will become a 'water trail' outlining various features of the south shore of the St Lawrence river. At the moment it is complete from roughly Quebec City to Rimouski. Places to launch, land, rest and camp as well as ecologically sensitive areas are all marked both on the map as well as via signs on land. In theory, these maps should make a kayak trip interesting and fun. Unfortunately, for me at least, most this coast is low lying, girded in gooey mud flats and awash with boulder strune shelves of jagged rock just waiting to feast on my precious gelcoated kayak. While there are some really great paddling areas, like the islands off of Kamouraska where I saw beluga whales feeding last spring, most of the coast is a somewhat boring paddle at least from a scenery perspective. I had thought it would make a great paddling trip, but having now driven its length, I see problems.

The prospects begin to change north of Matane where the first picture (above) was taken. Gone are the endless mud flats and real beaches with some possible camping opportunities begin appearing. Things change quickly however, so that by the time one reaches Sainte Anne des Monts huge hills plunge directly into the river. The hills are so high and abrupt they are now well known hang-gliding sites and draw dare-devils from afar. The road either tucks inland to avoid the cliff faces or is built on fill alongside the cliffs themselves and protected by concrete walls. Towns appear only in the deeper bays and coves where tiny bits of flat land affords room for a few houses, a huge church and a place to drink. These villages are the only place a kayaker can land because of the cliffs or the concrete walls supporting the road bed. I can't imagine a worse lee shore in a storm! You'd need to carry a grappling hook on your rear deck within easy reach... The propects were scarey indeed.
This picture of cliffs and tiny towns carries on right to the outskirts of Parc Forillon where the cliffs end up pointing out almost needle-like into the Gulf of St Lawrence (see below).

Depending on the wind direction, the best choice is to camp on the south side of the park. The north side seen in the picture is almost always windier and the put-in choices both have issues I didn't care for. I'll talk about them in detail in the Part 2 of this post.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gannets Galore!

I had no idea that there were gannet colonies on Bonaventure Island which is a few kms offshore from the town of Perce Rock here in the Gaspe. This morning, at 8:30 under overcast skies I headed out from a small town about 9 kms south of Bonaventure and circled the island. I chose thisa town as Perce itself has no easy water access, there being high cement sea walls of cliffs everywhere. Once I was under the colonies of birds, I was astounded at the racket and the skies and cliffs full of gannets and mures and a couple of other species I don't know! I have never seen anything like it from the sea before. The seas being reasonably calm, I was able to go right in under the cliffs, just me and a number of seals to see the birds. Dropping started to become a serious issue!
As I rounded the island and began to see Perce Rock again, the wind started blowing, fortunately at my back. I decided not to paddle beneath the famous rock, but instead took advantage of the wind to surf back the way I had come.
After winding my way through the fisherman's floats for a about an hour and a half, I was back where my paddle had begun. It was 12:30, time for lunch! What a great morning's paddle. I estimate distance paddled there and back and around the island was around 30 kms. That's enough to warrant beer with lunch, for sure!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Perce Rock

After spending a few days paddling in the Park Forrillon area I I have moved my site of operations into the Perce Rock area this morning. This is the site of the famous ship-like rock which most people think of as Gaspe. In fact, the town of Gaspe is northwest of here about 60 kms. However...
I had some great paddling at Forrillon during the past few days. I tried twice to get around the cape, paddling out the 10 kms to try it, but the first day was far too rough for me! I actually got scared by the breaking waves and cross swell action that was going on out there. I am not rock-garden paddler, it would seem!
Yesterday after battling head winds all the way out to the point, I went around in total calm! Incredible. There were birds, seals (making a strange howling noise...) and even a whale out there to keep me company. I will post some pics when I get home.
If the weather cooperates tomorrow I will paddle out to the Rock and maybe even Bonaventure Island which is further offshore.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gaspe Bound!

I`m finally on my way to the Gaspe area to do a little paddling. I stayed in Trois Pistoleslast night and am using the free internet service in Matane at the moment to post this note. Hope to be paddling tomorrow.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wherechago? Whachado? Eh?

I went for my customary paddle this afternoon, down one side of the lake, under the two bridges - a tight fit with the water being so high - then return, under the bridges, this time against the current, up the far side and back to the put-in. Remember those people drinking on that low-lying restaurant porch on the river a few days ago? Unbelieveably, there were people there today, having drinks on that porch who had actually waded out to their tables! Mind you it was 34°C in the shade this afternoon, so I suppose a person would go anywhere, do anything for a drink!
I chatted with a teaching colleague of mine as well. She was sitting on a dock near her river home. She has been snubbing me for over a year now because she claims that I kissed her improperly... I had taken advantage somehow. It seems that I had overdone the Quebeçois tradition of kissing people we meet on both cheeks. I had no idea until today of where I'd gone astray with her, but we seemed to have straightened that misunderstanding out. Some days, it pays to paddle!
Next I came upon this old boat. It's been lying in the bushes for about a year now. I wonder why no one has what it takes to get rid of it? Why isn't it a cool, hard to find kayak? I'd gladly tow it home and fix it up. I guess old boats aren't that cool.

Out on the lake again to find the wind had really picked up. I got to slog my way upwind as the waves began building and cresting. Given the heat, it was a fun wet ride. I began to fantasize about being on an expedition again. Would I make it into a quiet cove at the day's end, or would it be an unceremonious dumping on some rocky beach like Chris Duff got in New Zealand, the one that smashed up his boat? Well, as you can see I made it home in one piece, the boat ready to paddle another day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Walrus's Gift

I'm finally ready to motor down the road to adventure. I've done with "speaking of many things," the walrus said, and want to get paddling some place wild and new like I've been promising myself these many weeks. So Monday is the big day. I'm on the road again (that could be a song title, don't you agree?).
Speaking of walrus takes me back to 1969 when Neil Armstong stepped onto the moon. As he did so, I was on an ice pan in northern Foxe Basin with a man named Qaminaq. We'd made a supply run into Igloolik a few days earlier and were now returning back to his hunting camp at Iglujjuaq about 70 miles away. It was a beautiful sunny day and as we traveled in his large 24 foot freighter canoe the number of ice pans began to grow in number all around us. Before long, we were weaving through the few open water leads between the ice pans, wondering if we'd make it back to camp that evening. Then around mid afternoon, we spotted some walrus hauling themselves out onto a large pan of ice ahead of us. Qaminaq shot one of the animals and we began cutting it up to take home with us as both his family and the dogs in camp were getting short of food. Suddenly he slit open the stomach and out onto the ice poured a pile of freshly shelled clams which the walrus had been eating only moments before. We didn't hesitate! Rinsing off the gastric juices in some fresh melt water on the ice pan, we feasted on the clams. They were excellent, and not a speck of broken shell to break our teeth on!
While finishing getting all the meat into the canoe, I looked up and noticed the moon in the sky and it hit me. I had learned the news while in Igloolik that Neil Armstong was due to step onto its surface that very day! Thinking back, it was a big day for both of us: his on the moon and mine being fed by a walrus. How marvelous life can be for those willing to live through adventure. Certainly for me, it's a day I'll always remember. I'm sure Neil feels the same.
Qaminak was less impressed. He's heard many stories about people visiting the moon from Inuit shamen over the years. That there was a man walking on the moon while we ate our clams was not really a day to remember! How naive and cloistered I felt in my ethnocentric ways!
We made it to camp about 24 hours later after spending part of the time sitting in dense fog, surrounded by ice only about 100 yards offshore of the camp. We could hear people talking and doing things, but because the fog was so thick, we had no clear idea where they were and no way to reach them! We could hear them complain to us of having little to eat and yet just a moment away in times of good weather, we had a ton of walrus all to ourselves. Life can be full of opposites sometimes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


If you've been following this blog recently, then you might recognize there is a missing dock in this picture! We've had so much rain that the lake has risen close to two feet above the previous picture I put up showing my boat on the dock. Now I can paddle right over it saving valuable time.
This hasn't been the only effect of the rain. I put off my trip to the Gaspé partly because our driveway washed out and required my road rebuilding skills. Unrelated, but still water oriented, our sink drain plugged up solid forcing me into a day and a half of plumbing. I was finally forced to actually cut out the blocked pipe and install new plastic pipe. Now that's what I call stuck! Lovely job, working in the drain business...

I took a chance of drowning and went out for a paddle this afternoon where I spent the time dodging rain showers. This final picture is my favourite boat house. I like it's closeness to the water, it's conveniently submerged dock and the pewter blue colour of the trim. I'm thinking of stealing it one night and dragging it to a certain 'Lot 23' on Manitoulin Island someday. It'll be perfect for my needs up there!

On second thought, with all this rain, I wonder if 'Lot 23' even exists anymore. Maybe I'd better go for a paddle up there and check...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Cluster Map

I've been enjoying my little 'cluster map' down at the bottom of the right hand column. Not only does it tell me the number of folks looking in each day, but it gives a general idea where in the world they are located. I had expected to have readers from the United States and Europe, so those dots didn't give me any big surprises, although I thought southern Europe would have found more paddlers. The northern Norway hits were really also a surprise to see!
Then come the really fun ones. Probably the most far out reader seems to be from the Alice Springs area in Australia. What are they thinking? Are there kayak freaks surfing down Ayer's Rock or something? Some one checked in from Israel, another from Sri Lanka and then Singapore and Japan. So cool!
Next come three heartwarming dots, two in the Canadian arctic, one seems to be from around Churchill, the other from Nunavut or as I like to call it Nunasiavut (!). Could that be Mittimattaluk (Pond Inlet)? And the third is from west Greenland where my paddle design comes from.
Finally come the blank areas. Large parts of the Earth appear not to be reading my blog. Is it a question of language? Perhaps it is internet access. Whatever it is I find it a bit troubling, not so much that they aren't visiting my blog, but I wonder if they can or want to connect to other people in the same way my readers obviously have been doing. I'd like to think all of us will eventually have equal access to the cyber-world and can feel free to explore our world as those with access presently do. I have learned a great deal even in the short time this blog has appeared. I intend to learn much more in the future! Thanks for visiting me!

Monday, June 12, 2006

You got wheels, I got wheels...

A few years ago I blew out my right elbow while throwing hay bails into our hay loft. The elbow seemed fine to paddle with, but lugging my boat to and from the car and the water was a serious problem. I'd heard about canoe carts, but most of them were big and I didn't want to have to stow the thing on my deck. I spent a few minutes in the local hardware store's wheel section and realized I could make a single wheeled 'cart' which I could use to push my boat like a wheel-barrow.
As you can see in the picture, it's made of 4 basic pieces. First is the wheel assembly, which I screwed onto a piece of 2x4 scrap. I cut a 'V' shaped groove into the wood for the keel and added some plastic covered hooks. These help to keep the wheel unit from slipping off sideways when underway. Finally I used a piece of webbing with a clip attachment to hold the unit onto the kayak stern.

Here is the unit attached onto my Boreal kayak, ready to head off to the water. Under way, the kayak wants to tip sideways, so one is obliged to hold it upright. It will work pushing or pulling, however pushing seems to work better (much as it does with a wheel-barrow). To be honest, I have not used it much. It turned out using it didn't seem to help my elbow. I have also not used it with a fully loaded boat, which may be problematic. I don't know.

Having seen Rodem's wheel unit, makes me think the idea could be developed into something quite workable and it being small, it takes very little storage space and can easily be stored below deck.
Now I also have a roll-up plastic sled which I want to try. It slips under the hull and allows one to pull the boat across wet grass, sandy beaches, through shopping malls, airports, symposium parking lots... well you get the idea!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rainy Reading Revelations

Yet another day in a long drippy wet string of days, darkly revealing low hanging clouds, the prisoners of the guardian trees in the surrounding hills. The lake looks up at the grayness above and weeps with rain circles. The wee folk of the forests stay hidden in their musky homes in the crook of knarled roots. The fish watch the growing circles above and slow their gill movements. They will wait.
No one will carve a keel-line in the lake's surface today. Not even me. Only sodden adventurers stir themselves and venture away from the hearth on a day like this. Unlike the fish, they are driven by other gods deep within their souls.
No. Instead, I will read about a woman who goes off to live in the desert with a band of Australian Aboriginals to learn their secrets and their wisdom. She will discover a Nature unknown to her. She will put her trust and faith in another culture's inner knowledge and seek what she can of their spiritual guidance. She will test her physical endurance and search for a personal transformation among one of the oldest cultures we know. Why?
Powerful stuff. Rainy day stuff for us non-adventurers in arm-chairs, reading with tears in our eyes, and impossible dreams in our hearts.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Telling Tales

It was -30°C with a crisp wind so I wasn't about to waste much time wandering around the little village. When I saw a number of people in the window of Tattie and Nuna's house, I headed for the door. Inside, people were piled up everywhere like they'd been thrown inside in a hurry. I carefully made my way in trying not to crush any fingers or toes on my way to a bit of empty space along a far wall. My glasses steamed up in the sudden heat. The only light in the place came from a bedroom where some of the kids were already asleep.

Old Tomassie Kudluk was telling a story. He was an elder, a qajaq builder, and one of the last of the great story tellers in Kangirsuk. He knew all the old stories, but tonight he was mesmorizing his audience with a hunting tale from his younger days. In spite of the packed house, the only sound was Tomassie's quiet voice working it's way through the story once again.
Tomassie was not a big man, standing perhaps 5 ft 5in at the most. The story he told was about a bear hunt he had been on years ago. The men he was with had located the winter den of a mother bear. Being smaller than the others as well as agile, Tomassie was elected to wiggle his way throught the snow tunnel and into the den of the sleeping bear where he would work his way behind her and then wake her up. The idea was that the suddenly awakened bear would panic and head towards the entrance where the other hunters lay in wait.
I guess the plan must have worked. After all, all those involved were still around to tell the story, but it made me think that somehow, the old days provided more opportunities for serious excitement than we can easily get today. I mean you can't even play with the bears in the zoos these days!

The next day I mentioned the story to some friends who'd been there listening as well. They were amazed that I'd been there too. It turns out they were so involved in the story, they'd never seen me enter the room or leave afterwards. Imagine being so connected to the story-teller that all else disappears. The people in that room had actually entered the story itself and had been transported to the time and place of the actual event. And we like to think time machines don't exist!
Tomassie's dead now, but one of his inland style qajaqs can be seen in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.
It made me realize it's a bit like you're paddling along then suddenly you 'wake up' to the fact that you've been paddling on automatic for a while, lost in your thoughts, in another world entirely. Perhaps that why many people find paddling so relaxing and comforting. Traveling by dog sled is much like that too. I remember sleeping on a sled for several hours not knowing we had arrived in the village! No one said anything. They let us sleep away the day!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

All Day Paddle!

As my wife's car is laid up in the garage for repairs, my grand adventure is on hold for a few days. But all is not lost! I decided to follow the lead of the other adventurers out there and so got an early launch into a calm lake with the idea of paddling all day. Just like the real expedition people do!
Now I don't usually do this sort of thing, so I was prepared for some surprises, aches and pains. I have a fair amount of endurance, so the first few hours went well. No pains kicked in to wreck things, no cramps in my legs, nothing like that. The day was hot so I did suffer a bit from the sun and heat. I laid on the sun-screen, but wish I'd brought along my wide-brimed hat. I'll probably feel that sun right into the evening.

The turn-around point at noon I named Point Blister after a blister which formed in the early afternoon on my right index finger. That was a first for me. I never get blisters on my hands from my paddle, but there it was. I will bring along my leather palmed gloves on my next adventure. I was also getting low on water by mid-afternoon. I had thought a liter bottle would be enough, but the heat was unexpected. I have a bladder bottle system which holds 2 liters, so that will also come along next time.
As the afternoon went by, I ran into patchy winds which kept changing directions, but generally wind and waves never became a problem. I kept waiting for a muscle to start howling, but other than a slight twitch in my left wrist which came and went, I was in good shape as I drifted into the dock.

My all day paddle adventure was a great success, but my wife tells me her car won't be ready until tomorrow night. Does that mean I have to go out again? All day? What if it's windy or raining? I think I'll go anyway. I could really get into this stuff!
I have no idea how far I was able to paddle, but I figure at about 4 mph and a little over 8 eight hours, I might have done around 35 miles for the day. I wonder if that's good enough to get invited on a real expedition somewhere...

Saturday, June 3, 2006

This one's for you...

Claire! This is the sudden first birth-ling from a plant we've had for many years in the house and several times nearly pitched into the compost as it tried us sorely with it's bug problems and other various ailments over time. Who would have guessed it would so miraculously produce such a delight! Alas, like all it's kind, the flower lasted only a day before it withered, but there's promise of siblings to come. Pity the most delightful things in life can be so fleeting. Why can't we make the good times last?

Friday, June 2, 2006

Today's paddle comes after yesterday's rain. When I put-in at the dock I noticed the water was higher than it had been. In fact looking at the photo I'd say the water was about 20 cms higher than it had been. On a lake this large, that represents a tremendous amount of newly added water.
I hadn't gone very far when I saw my first person on water skis this year. I also found I didn't need to wear my neoprene gloves. The water was noticeably warmer. Then it hit me. The newly added rain water being warmer and lighter was sitting on the heavier, colder water down below. With little wind, there had been almost no mixing of the lake and rain waters. Not only that, but it's possible that the lake had gone through it's years 'turn over', something which occurs each spring about this time.
What that means is that as the ice melts and the resulting water warms up to 4°C, it gets heavy and sinks to the lake bottom displacing the water at the bottom, forcing it to the surface, hence the lake 'turns over', top water to the bottom, bottom water to the top. As the lake water continues to warm up, the warmer water ends up floating on top of the denser 4°C water. During the summer warming period, the body of warm water grows larger and larger, and goes deeper and deeper. You can actually determine how big it is by swimming down and suddenly entering the cold layer on which the warm water is floating. This cold water layer begins at the surface in the spring and gradually descends to about 10 meters in our lake by mid-summer.
The warm water in the lake today was mostly the result of the recent rain, but the appearance of water-skiers and swimmers indicates that the lake may have turned over as well. Summer is on it's way!

Another inch and those drinkers on the right there will be swimmers! Good thing I'm in my trusty kayak!

Thursday, June 1, 2006

It Doesn't Matter Anymore...

I took this picture yesterday as I was leaving the wharf for a paddle. I didn't realise until this morning that the spider was missing a leg. In fact his whole right side has obviously suffered some kind of damage. He was definitely hurting.
The paddle began in calm conditions, but a storm was coming. After about an hour, the wind began building and the ride was beginning to get wet. I slipped into my favourite little creek so I could make a phone call without drenching my unprotected phone with spray. By the time I got back on the lake, the rain had started in ernest, but I followed my usual route anyway. I was dressed for getting wet, so, why not continue?
For the first time, people were actually in the water swimming - and screaming! It was still cold enough for me to be wearing my waterproof gloves! A couple were making out under the over-hang of their boat house. Why not? It was 32°C, raining and blowing hard, and they thought there was no one on the water who could see them... I kept paddling. I began to fantasize I was on a major trip somewhere. I tackled the on-coming waves with real survival in mind. I was having fun! I was feeling good.
This morning the spider made me think of something profound. Nature is constantly at work repairing whatever damage life inflicts on our pysches and our bodies. If bad things happen, then so do good things. Even short distance 'adventure' kayaking on a small lake in a rain storm can be restorative.
Maybe that spider lives by the words in Paul Anka's song, "There ain't no use of crying... it don't matter anymore... All the days I've wasted, just don't matter anymore." Thank you spider! Thank you storm! Thank you cell-phone!