Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White Water Kayaking

So we are back! We spent 3 days camping in Jim Thorpe, PA and 2 days in Kayak School... both of which were awesome and unforgettable!

Friday after work, I took the 2 and 1 trails up to Koronets for a slice and a beef patty with Paul, after which we hopped in my car, renewed our lease, and get on the GW Bridge. We were heading to Jim Thorpe, where we'd be camping at Mauch Chunk State Park. We came across slow moving traffic and some rain, but we were not deterred. It may have taken us an extra hour and a 1/2 but we got there and we were thrilled. We immediately began to set up our tent while it was a bit misty, hoping the rain wouldn't come again before we were done. After adding an extra tarp above our tent, we knew we'd be dry through the night. The next step was hanging a tarp over the table - no sense sitting in the rain during dinner. Then Paul was up at bat... his turn to light the camp fire and get the grill going.

Once the coals were hot, I got set up to begin cooking. No hot dogs for us! We feasted on some Salmon Fillets grilled with lemon and spices, a spring mix salad with grape tomatoes and some grilled summer squash. So delicious and satisfying after the long drive in traffic and setting up. After that it was time to relax with a beer, the fire, some cuddling and some excited conversation... tomorrow we have our 1st day of Kayak school!

We registered for the 2 kayak school with the Northeast PA Kayak School. So Saturday AM, we were up bright and early, got on our swim suits and headed out to town for breakfast... high in carbs and protein. We got to Jim Thrope's facility where we met our 5 instructors - all of which were awesome. They fitted us with a kayak (I rode a Liquid Logic Remix), paddle, personal flotation device, skirt and helmet. We were ready to go. We drove up to Beltzville Lake where we got a few minutes of dry instruction (how to hold our paddles, carry our kayaks, put on our gear, etc...). Then it was carrying our kayaks through trails flanked with poison ivy out towards a beach about 8 feet wide onto the lake.

We were instructed that our 1st lesson would be concerning the wet exit... a necessary skill for any kayaker (esp. those in a sit-inside kayak). We paired up with an instructor, got into our boats, put on our skirts, and were flipped over while holding hands with an instructor. They felt our hands for 2 reasons: to see how comfortable we were under water trapped in our boat, and for us to squeeze when needing to come up for air. We were then taught the wet exit which is the method to escape our boat after it has capsized. This is not an easy task when you are fitted into your kayak like a glove, but the training was essential. The next day we wouldn't be doing this in a calm lake, but while capsized in the middle of rapids (rocks and all).

In addition to the wet exit we were taught:
  • proper balance and lean techniques
  • bracing skills
  • how to turn using our paddles and using our boat to carve
  • propulsion and steering strokes
  • and the Eskimo roll
The roll is probably the most sought after kayak skill any beginner wishes to conquer. Unfortunately I was unable to get it all the way. I was maybe the closest in the class after Paul. The instructors were convinced I'd nail it, but alas, I'd get almost there and then tip back over. I think a few more hours on the water and I'll have it nailed! It LOOKS so easy, but it isn't. There are so many pieces involved in the C to C turn - try it for yourself. I'm hoping so badly to learn this skill, because until I do, every time I flip my kayak I must perform a wet exit - which ensures a nice a long swim to shore where I'll be dragging not just my paddle but the heavy kayak which is now filling with water. Then I need to empty my kayak, which is no easy task, especially when performed alone. I will roll - I know I will!b Paul nailed it with less effort - I was a bit jealous but most proud! He was the only one in our class who accomplished it.

After my Eskimo roll attempts I went home, full of bruises and a rub rash. My eyes were red, my body was tired, my stomach was hungry, and I was dehydrated. It was a full action packed day... on flat water - go figure! After a dinner of burgers, salad and corn - I had a smore and was off to bed. I could hardly keep my eyes open... and thank God for a good night sleep - we'd be doing it again Sunday!

Sunday we met again at Jim Thorpe, piled into vans and headed to the Lehigh where we got back into our kayaks to tackle our first day in fast moving water and rapids! We had a blast! We learned how to enter eddy's which is no easy task ... it takes carving skills, a strong paddle, and a loose body! I nailed it and loved it! Paul found this to be a hard task... after a few more tries, I'm sure he will love it! In addition we learned to Ferry, Carve turns and practiced our ruddering. It was pretty awesome! In addition we were taught and practiced peeling out. I loved it... I was one of the 1st to try it and had my 1st unanticipated capsize - so a wet exit was due. I got to shore, emptied my boat and immediately got back in. I wanted to try again, I was going to nail it. My adrenaline was going and I knew I needed to conquer this next step in our instruction. I got back in my boat, paddled strong across the current and tried again... and nailed it. It was awesome! I did it about 3 more times then switched to approaching to the left. I nailed it again... it was great. You could really feel the power of the current and the rapid but rather than fighting it, I was working with it. It was a truly beautiful thing.

Seeing my excitement, as well as another person we were asked if we wanted to try some peel outs in the bigger rapids and I nodded my head yes faster than a bobble head in a 2 year olds hands. I was up for the challenge and performed sub par on my 1st try. I needed to go harder, bigger, stronger... and I did. I got it perfect... I nailed it on that 2nd try and did it once more to make sure I got it down. Doug, our head instructor, congratulated me on a job well done. I was beaming from ear to ear... and Paul was proud too, so he tells me though I couldn't tell right then and there.

At the end we combined our skills learned and had a shot at surfing. Again I was excited to try and I tried SO HARD and failed miserably! I paddled so strong, so hard, but my angle was wrong, I couldn't hold my tilt, I was over thinking it, and I capsized... time for wet exit #2! The rapids and current were so strong, by the time I had exited my boat, I was already a good ways down river. With the help of an instructor's tow, I was brought to shore... and by the time I emptied my boat, it looked like we were coming to an end... oh well... this might have been my 1st try but it won't be my last. I love kayaking.

I really really do love it! I get a thrill, exhilaration, a sense of pride, a challenge, and that sense of adventure I try so hard to find in natural settings... I LOVE IT! So I know I'll be heading back for some instructed river days to learn more, practice more, and get good... then one day, it might be me instructing you? maybe?

After day two... we headed back to camp and made a feast... skirt steak marinated really well, eggplant, summer squash, salad, onions, beers, fire... it was great! We cuddled, chatted, laughed, drank, took walks, listened for fireworks (we couldn't see) and relished in each other's company. We had a great night talking, laughing, drinking... oh and the best part... we were the only occupied camp site within eye site and almost ear shot... we couldn't see another soul. Rather than turning on our lantern, we let the light of the fire be our only light and we hang out in the darkness giggling like kids. Before we knew it, it was past midnight and we decided it was time to head in. What a perfect last night to a perfect weekend...

After getting up the next day we had an odd hamburger breakfast and beans (hey it's camp food right?) packed up our gear which took far less time than it has in the past and headed into town for a stroll... we checked out the historic buildings and a few outfitting shops - then decided it was time to go home.

Back in queens we had some good thai/cambodian/indian/philippine fusion and saw Bruno - dissapointing. Then went home and relaxed... what a long tiring and perfectly great weekend. I'd do it again right now if I could... well maybe not in this rain.

So this weekend I was surrounded by my loves: Paul, water, adventure, challenge, accomplishment, fear, nature, campfires, camping, cuddling, great food, great beer, great laughs... and great memories.

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