Friday, January 24, 2014

Paddling from Here to There.

"When you wake up and discover the hurt places don't run. Sink your paddle in and ride the river. Every time. Dive in,  let the river take you..." 

  That is what Charles Martin's book said in Where the River Ends, a story about a husband taking his dying wife on one last canoe trip. I read that book after my wife died in 2010.  Soon after that,  I was kayaking.
  I never kayaked much before. Sure, I took high school and church canoe trips, went camping with the Boy Scouts and went on the occasional hike, but it was limited. I was always drawn to the outdoors and the water, especially the water.
  There is healing in the water. In my grief, I found peace in touring the rivers and lakes in Minnesota. The year of her death,  I bought 3 kayaks for my family and I. We kayaked some 44 days before winter froze over the season. Up north, you trade your paddle for cross country ski poles and wait for it to warm up. It seemed like a good way to honor her memory and at the same time continue to look at new horizons.
  The next year I added three more kayaks and recorded 66 days paddling. Living in Fargo, ND at the time, I always knew there were lakes and rivers just across the border in Minnesota.  I had the interest to see what they had to offer. All in all, I visited some 15 Minnesota state parks; kayaked on 8 rivers and countless lakes including Lake Superior. The river trips included the St Croix, Rum, Kettle and a whitewater trip to Wisconsin.
  The following year I kayaked 117 days. Spring came early to Minnesota that year and by then I had the passion, strength and determination to paddle from when the ice breaks on the Otter Tail River to when it returns again in the late fall. I went up and down 11 rivers, even more lakes and added 9 more Minnesota parks to my passport. It was a pretty remarkable year. The next year, I thought would be more of the same.
  However, I didn't even come close. Only 56 days on the water in 2013. I guess that is what happens when you get married, sell your house and 3 kayaks and move away. It was a good effort even to make that many days on the water. Goodbye Red River and Minnesota and hello California.
  I did gain a new paddle partner with my wife Debbie and a boundless frontier of new places to paddle. I live just down the street from Lake Natoma and the American River with a good view of the Sierra. The ice will never keep me off the water again. Since the first of the year, I have already been out 7 days so far. For some that is not many, but for me, it is a blistering pace for the year.
 I'm looking forward to more adventures on the water every time I load my boat up. Paddling is just something I need to do now. Now like air, it is something I will always need to keep me alive.
On Folsom Lake New Year's Day 2014