Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Really Bad, or, Follow the Rules, Stupid

Went for my first kayak ride of the season on Saturday with mixed results. I usually choose creeks or rivers for my paddling so decided to try out Bear Creek. This seems to run from Bear Lake to join up with the Seguin River. The day previous we had walked along three quarters of the route via the Seguin Trail and it was very beautiful. The creek was wide enough to paddle due to spring runoff, no people or vehicles, hundreds of birds, very peaceful.
The Good
So early the next morning we left my car at the takeout place in a disused driveway on Highway 518, and then I started out from Bear Lake to paddle downstream for an hour or so.
It was a great sunrise, clear and cool, lots of ducks, geese, blackbirds and robins, and a fish jumped out and flung itself back in the water right in front of me. The current was moving fast so I was doing almost as much steering through the winding wetland watercourse as actual paddling. Many submerged beaver dams created mini-rapids and waterfalls. It was a new experience for me, and really fun.
The section I was most worried about went great. An eight-foot high culvert, followed by a sharp right and then a narrow section of rapids. Just like The Flume ride at an amusement parks! A couple of bounces off rocks but nothing too scary.
The sun eventually came up and it got nice and warm, a wonderful day for an outing.
The Bad
Within the first ten minutes I came to the spot where someone had built a footbridge over the navigable part of the creek and there was no headroom; the kayak itself just barely fit. I was so proud of myself. I got out on a bank, fed the boat under while holding onto a long rope so it wouldn’t get swept away, caught the rope on the far side and fed the rest of the line through. Got the boat next to the bank, and got in. And then it tipped enough to take on water and sank. Yikes. Wet to the waist but boat is half submerged, out in the middle of a big swamp, and car is at least five clicks away. Hmmm. Spent half an hour hauling boat out onto grassy knoll to balance and tip it over. It now weighs about 100 not 40 pounds. Managed to get back in without an encore spill.
Kept going. I wanted to go through that culvert anyway.
Shortly after the culvert I started to hear a dull roaring noise, and told myself it was the highway. For a while. However, there is very little traffic on this road. As well, I knew in my heart that I was now in the last quarter of the route – the part that we had not checked out as per rules – and that it had to be a waterfall. It was.
But I remembered about lining a boat, got over in a little cove and climbed out. Took about 20 minutes to clamber around on the bank leading the kayak over the drop and untangling the rope from various pines and tag alders. Wedged the boat between two grassy knolls and got securely in. Backed up and continued through a nice sunny section. Actually this was almost Good, not Bad.
The Really Bad
More ominous dull roaring. I was amazed that this little creek had turned into such a monster. The day before, it was all narrow, innocent and swampy. Today it was a beast, widening out and rushing through a rocky gorge. I was too tired to get out and decided to run over an 18 inch dam. Not the best logic there, but no disaster. However, the rapids seemed to continue forever, deeper water, high rock walls. Once the kayak spun sideways and then shot backwards down the creek I knew it was time to give up.
As the current tossed the kayak against one bank, I grabbed some alders and beached it, hauling myself out gratefully if not gracefully.
More Good
Climbed the bank and felt like doing a little dance when I saw the Seguin Trail, hot and sandy in the sun not more than 30 feet away. But instead I tore into the egg sandwich I had brought. Delighted that my little MEC Black Diamond pack that was advertised as waterproof… was waterproof. Phone and camera and food all doing great. Mind you there was no signal so I couldn’t check in with Frank.
But the trail was excellent. Whoa. Went back to leave water bottle beside trail to mark the place to go back and retrieve boat. Then, two kilometers to the highway and then one more to the car seemed like a dream come true – warm and breezy in my natural habitat, dry land.
Twenty minutes later I pulled up the driveway and got a big welcome from Rocco. Went inside and took the phone into the hot shower with me. Frank answered, “Hello, Bear Lake Search and Rescue.”
It wasn’t quite a joke, seeing as I had to get him to take his truck on the trail, past the sign saying $500 fine for driving vehicles in there, to haul my kayak up the steep bank and deliver it back to our yard.
But seriously I was very grateful for this help. And even more thankful to have made it through the whole adventure safely. When they say check out the whole route before going canoeing or kayaking? It doesn’t mean three quarters of it. Really.

No comments: