Monday, September 27, 2010

Changing Feet

In the photo on the left, a birch tree has grown on the decaying trunk of a predecessor. As the old trunk slowly disappears, the young birch appears to have a set of legs well above the forest floor. It reminded me of the legacy we all share with each of our pasts. We are what our pasts has made us, aren't we?

I'm trying to change a bit of that past these days as I recently discovered I can no longer paddle in the old comfortable way I've done for the past five years or so. In 2005 I bought a kayak with a Smart Track rudder system. Over the years I have developed the habit of pushing on the foot peg on the same side as I was placing my paddle: left foot, left hand; right foot, right hand. Doing this would enable me to give the rudder control lever on top of the peg a little tweek to keep the kayak going in a straight line.

Why change now, you might think? Well, my new boat has no rudder. Direction control is based on what I do with the boat. Placing both foot and hand effort on the same side of the boat with each stroke causes the boat to wander off course. Until recently, I would correct this with a bit of edge or by adjusting the skeg. This would work, more or less, but I was starting to wonder why it was happening. It turns out much of the problem is to be found by the way I was paddling, all one side, then all the other.

I began paddling using a left hand side stroke combined with a right foot push on the peg, followed by the opposite diagonal pattern. I immediately noticed less wander and more boat control! Now I have to unlearn an old habit as I must consciously avoid falling into the old pattern. As many of you know, breaking old habits isn't easy. That old trunk is still there affecting everything I do!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eustis Geocaching Event

Geocaching has becoming a regular part of my life when I'm out paddling or hiking. I'm not much into looking for caches when driving around, but I've discovered that geocaches are often hidden in interesting and scenic areas well worth kayaking and hiking into. Flagstaff Lake in western Maine is one such area. I camped there briefly last summer, but only now have found the time to return to explore and look for caches. I found there were some serious challenges! In some cases, the fall draw-down of water has created a shoreline which is both shallow, strewn with snags, with a bottom composed of boot-sucking mud!

Once onshore, the challenge continues! I found it was seldom possible to land directly in line with the geocache's GPS coordinates, so it meant heading along the shore before entering the area of the cache. Some bays, like this one, are packed with wood debris. The gorgeous mountains in the distance, full of their fall glory made it all worthwhile, however!

On the other hand, much of the lake has shores of fine sandy beaches. Easy on the kayak's hull and it sure makes looking for a cache a whole lot easier.

The lake itself being dam controlled varies in depth over the year. Fall is the time when the water level tends to be lowest and many spots were shallow. Happily, the sandy bottom in most places means that a sudden grounding of hull or paddle isn't that damaging. The whole day varied from cloudy, then sunny and just as suddenly windy and rainy. Still, the whole lake has beautiful mountain vistas, covered at this time of the year in glorious fall colours. Highly recommended!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ontario Greenland Camp

Most folks into Greenland style paddling and rolling know about QajaqUSA's fall retreat called Delmarva and many have made the annual trek to meet up with friends and share their knowledge and skills. Well, now we have the makings of a similar event in Canada. Learn To Kayak, two people from the Toronto area with the help of friends and businesses put on the first annual Ontario Greenland Camp last weekend. Space was reserved for 50 kayakers and mentors at Camp Tamarak in the Muskokas and we got down to business.

Skill sessions were held in a number of areas including rolling, of course, forward strokes and harpoon throwing. In the photo above, a rolling demo was put on for us to enjoy. I missed the games event which was re-scheduled, but it included a race taken right out of Knud Rasmussen's movie, 'The Wedding of Palo'. I understand it was lots of fun although the weather conditions were somewhat better than that seen in the film!

All in all, a fun event! I hope to return next year... If you're a FaceBook member, lots of photos from the event can be had on the Learn to Kayak page.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Silent Lake, Ontario

Here's my routine these past few weeks: Pack the camper, drive to the chosen destination and set-up camp. Usually, if the area has enough interesting paddling spots and some hiking trails, I'll stay in a campground where I can have easy access to showers, toilets and so on. If not, then it's either, quicker and rougher stealth camping - or sometimes kayak camping in a tent. Here, at Silent Lake Provincial Park, it was the former. There are no paddle-in camp sites here, but it's a nice little lake with lots of hiking trails. I ended up spending four nights on this spot.

Access to the water was quick and easy, although it required a drive from the campsite. Once at the beach, it was an easy launch on a lake which at this time of year was almost mine alone to enjoy.

I managed to grab one lakeside geocache, but spent the rest of the time exploring all the little channels and bays on the pretty lake. There's a hiking trail which works its way around the lake as well as several loop trails to various ponds and bogs nearby. The Kawartha Highlands area is just a short drive away and it too offers lots of lakes to explore. I didn't get into that area this time, but with better weather and more time, it looks like an interesting area to explore.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Geocache at Crotch Lake

Almost a year ago Mairi Watson and I left a geocache at site #42 on Crotch Lake in Ontario. It was placed in a couple of ziplock bags and hidden under the ground juniper cover. We knew it wasn't the best arrangement, but it had been a spontaneous thing so we went with what we had. In the spring of 2010, we visited the cache and finally registered it on the official Geocaching site. Within a couple of weeks it was discovered. Naturally comments began coming in about the container... Finding myself in the area once again last week, I launched early in the morning to see what I could do to put things right.

Site #42 was all in order, much as we had left it, although someone had added a green plastic chair, and some firewood, all carefully stacked. The rain and high winds of the previous weekend had required people to add a multitude of rocks to hold down their tents as well as some overhead scaffolding for tarps. I headed off to look for the geocache. I was shocked to find it lying in full view! The juniper bushes were much thinner this year than last exposing the ziplock cache for all to see. In fact, it looked more like trash than a geocache...

So here is a photo of the new container with its original 'hot' contents together with some of the additional items which discoverers have added over the summer. The new container has been covered in 'camo' duct tape and hidden in the original spot, buried in the ground cover making it less visible, less 'trashy'. Who will be the first to find it now?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grenadier Island Paddle

On Labour Day Weekend some friends and I paddled out to Grenadier Island, one of the 1000 Islands downstream from Kingston, Ontario in the St Lawrence river. It was a new area for me and I was looking forward to doing some exploring. I'd been upstream in the Ivy Lea area years ago, so I knew the paddling would be interesting both because of the currents and the incredible houses that have been built on some of the islands. Leaving from Mallorytown Landing, we paddled over to Grenadier and set up camp, our base for the weekend.

I woke up during the night as rain began dropping on my tent. Oh no, not a rainy weekend after weeks of glorious hot weather! It got worse. By morning, the rain turned to showers but two of us decided to make a re-supply run back to the cars to ferry over things which didn't make the cut on the trip out the day before. On the return crossing, the wind picked up. A lot! The crossing quickly turned into a sideways surf ride! By the afternoon the wind was clearly trying to blow the water out of the river, or so it seemed! Paddling was put on hold while we scratched around for other things to do.

With paddling on the river temporarily put on hold, we followed the island trails visiting some geocaches, some old houses, a golf course (!), a couple of ancient cars and an ice vender! Cold beer! Just the thing when you're stranded on the shore for a weekend without paddling!