Monday, December 31, 2007

Eastern Neck Kayaking

On Saturday I took my final kayak trip of the year. Once per season my friend Marshall organizes a trip to circumnavigate the island of Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge. It's about a ten mile trip, though if you poke up the creeks it can be longer. The southern end of the island is open to the Chesapeake Bay and so is usually the choppiest part. On this trip, even this part was like glass. Here's Marshall's post mortem of the trip:

"We expected rain with 15 to 20 mph yet thirteen paddlers came out to paddle the last of our Eastern Neck Series….and what did we get? Calm waters, sort of sunny, no winds and warm. How do you ever plan a paddle? I guess for us, it just does not matter, we are flexible and able to change our plans and love to paddle.

We have all done this paddle a number of times but I truly believe that each paddle is different. Each season brings something different to the paddle, the number of paddlers bring something different to the paddle, the weather brings something different to the paddle and Nature is ever present to bring her special touch to the paddle. The paddle is a little bit of a puzzle, never knowing what it will be like. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we keep coming back, a surprise and enjoyment each time, so precious for today.

Saturday was no exception. For me it started as a very quiet paddle, with old friends. But I think Nature played more of a role then usual. We heard and saw many loons with their call out in the Bay…to us, the weather was a little gray with fog in the distance. Our main event, the Tundra Swans, only graced us with a fly by of 8, so much for the 5,000. But the pot had other ingredients that we were treated to. Thousands of ducks, bobbing on the river, inlets and the Bay. Each time we got close they took off with the sound of honking and the light thunder of their wings flapping. We saw eagles watching us as we watched them and then flying away, a chance to see there white necks and tail. When we landed we saw prints in the sand of raccoons and deer. Nature was all around us and it was all ours to enjoy. We were all in a leisurely mood, paddling, eating and talking with each other, enjoying our time.

We seem to make it around the Island, a little faster then usual, not even trying and our lunch spot keeps changing to accommodate this. This is fine but it changes our appetite for after the paddle. But you all surprised me with a great alternative, dessert at the ice cream parlor, you know how I like that, thanks. And they were so accommodating to our group. Between there and the coffee shop, we have a nice winter choice."

More pictures here and here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Last Pirates Paddle of the Year

The Pirates of Georgetown is a kayaking group that paddles out of Jack's boathouse in Georgetown every Thursday evening. It's been my kayaking home for years now - in fact, I'm the only member who has been around since the founding season. The group officially shuts down for the winter around Halloween (as does Jack's), but there are a few of us who continue to go out on the cold dark nights of winter. I haven't been very motivated about doing it this year - too many other conflicts, plus I've been a wimp about the cold. This week, though, the paddle was moved to mid-afternoon, as those of the regulars who were in town were available to start earlier (it's Christmas week and a lot of people have off).

So, six of us - Tom, Dave, Cyndi, Caroline, Brian and I - headed upriver from Jack's. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too cold, no wind. The river was empty; the water was like glass. We saw kingfishers and we saw deer.

Up near Chain Bridge there was some current. I was paddling a new boat for the first time and since I wasn't completely familiar with its characteristics I decided not to risk the currents. I pulled over into an eddy just below the bridge, as did Caroline. The rest of the group went up a little further, with some going as far as the falls. It was a quick trip back down with the current pushing us along. Then, dinner at a vegetarian Indian place in G'town. A very nice way to spend the afternoon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It may be quackery, but it's *good* quackery

All my life I've believed that chiropractic is total nonsense. This impression is based in part on the way the chiropractic profession publicizes itself. My first-hand experience with the art/science has been limited to going to booths at health fairs. At such booths the chiropractor on duty examines you with various Willy Wonka gadgets, then declares you to be terribly "out of alignment." This pronouncement is delivered in a tone that implies, "How are you still alive with such radical problems?"

Well, I'm here today to tell you that it's only partial nonsense. I've been having some back problems this year. A good friend, who I really trust as a rational and intelligent person (as well as a serious athlete), repeatedly suggested that I visit her chiropractor. I ignored this advice for a long time, enduring both episodes of pain and a surreal visit to an MD physiatrist. Finally I decided to visit the chiropractor.

Well, has chiropractic cured me? Dunno - my back problems are intermittent; they pop up only 2-3 times per year. The fact that I haven't had an episode in the past two month means very little. Does the traditional chiropractic adjustment help? I don't think so. The chiropractor body slams me in various ways and makes different things pop, but I don't feel much of a difference afterward.

Here's what has helped: the DC spends most of her time with me on soft tissue massage. This is painful, but really seems to open up my movement. I walk out of the office each time with greater hip mobility than I remembered even being possible. She also is good at noticing structural imbalances; yes, the very same thing I considered quackery upon instant diagnosis at the mall turns out to be valuable when done with care. Fourteen years of running have overdeveloped and over-tightened some parts of my body relative to others. I've certainly got more flexibility in some directions than others. All of this she's pointed out and she's given me exercises to help.

So, is chiropractic medicine? Not quite. What about chiropractic manipulation? No value that I can see. But as a supercharged masseuse and physical therapist - great stuff.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Concept 2 Arrives!

My primary form of exercise since Teddy was born has been running. I didn't take it up because I loved it. No, it was just the only exercise I could do on a moment's notice. I'm fortunate to have a really nice bike trail a few blocks from home, which provides a place for some pleasant off-street runs. After 14 years, my morning runs have become an enjoyable habit, except in the extremes of temperature. Running has also been good cross-training for kayaking. Kayaking is my real joy, but given the time involved in getting to and from the water, it's not something I can do every day.

The problem is, the years of running have started to take their toll. LAtely my back and one knee have been bothering me a little bit, and I've come to realize that I have a lot of imbalances in muscle development. Plus, it's winter and it is a little dreary to run in the cold and dark.

I mentioned to my kayaking friend Cyndi that I thought a rowing machine would be a good workout, but I had never been able to get a good workout from one. Cyndi, a competitive kayak racer, took this as a challenge. She took me to her gym and proceeded to torture me with one of the hardest workouts I've ever done - an experience we've now repeated a half dozen times or so. I'm pumped just at the notion that I can row at a pace that (almost) matches hers.

To make a long story short, our little-used treadmill has been sold and in its place is a Concept2 rower I picked up off of Craigslist. Now I can subject myself to torture any time - and have been. It's cool exercise, though I have to admit it's still more fun to be out on the pseudo-water with a partner - particularly someone as relentlessly upbeat as Cyndi.

Mission aborted

I was scheduled to go out kayaking with some friends - a special "Xmas Eve Eve" paddle. Unfortunately, the weather forecast turned bad. Windy (gust of up to 50 MPH!), rainy, possible thunderstorms. I showed up (I had some errands to do near the put-in anyway) to find the group hanging around trying to decide whether to hit the water. In the end, some did and some didn't. The weather turned out not to be as bad as forecast. I didn't mind having bailed out, though - in winter, with cold water conditions, I say better safe than sorry.

Plus, I didn't miss out on the social part. After the paddle (or not), everyone went back to the organizers' house for a little party. That was really nice.

A year of geocaching draws to a close

Just about a year ago I got the idea that my family might enjoy geocaching. This hobby is basically a GPS-assisted treasure hunt. You use a GPS receiver to find caches hidden in various places. The caches themselves are usually just small containers containing a logbook (to prove you've been there) and sometimes some trinkets. For the most part the fun isn't in the treasure itself; rather, it's in the hunt. Some caches are more complicated, involving multiple stages or puzzles. Some are "virtual", meaning you have to find a particular spot (for example, a historical marker) and answer questions about it.

Well, all four of us tried it out last Christmas day. Teddy and I got bitten by the geocaching bug and have each logged about 200 finds in our first year. Valerie isn't so keen on the outdoor activity involved, and David is just too impatient to put in the time required for finding cleverly done hides.

There's also a large and friendly community built around geocaching. That's nice too.

On Saturday Teddy and I went out to do a loop of caches (most "virtuals") around the monuments in DC. Teddy had already hit 200, but I wanted to bring my total up to 200 for the year. Over the course of a 5.5 mile walk we succeeded in hitting my target - though I will officially log one of the caches Teddy created as my 200th "find".