Saturday, June 21, 2008

Berger Maintenance

Today the boys and I participated in a trail maintenance event at Alexander Berger Wildlife Sanctuary near Fredericksburg. We noticed the event because it was listed as a geocaching event - some local cachers had done this to publicize the trail maintenance day, which was really a Nature Conservancy event.

And the cachers did more than list it. The couple who had listed it showed up with a veritable feast of trail food - coolers of soda, every sort of snack bar imaginable, fresh-baked cookies, fruit and more! We were a well-fed crew. And a hard-working one too. The group split up into three work parties: one walked trails clearing brush, another side-hilled the trails (dug the trails back into the sides of hills) and a third built log walkways over some areas that had flooded due to beaver activity. T went with the brush-clearers, while D & I worked bridges. It was not an easy day! Two days later and I'm still sore. But a lot of fun, and everyone there was really nice - the staff, the cachers and the non-cacher volunteers. We even won a prize for having traveled the furthest to the event. In a way it doesn't seem fair, since we were passing thrugh anyway on our way to go camping at Westmoreland State Park.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

I came upstairs a little while ago to find my wife watching an an old Sex and the City re-run. Now, I must admit to knowing the basic story arc of the show, however I haven’t seen nearly all the episodes. But the one V was watching tonight is my new all-time favorite. Why? Because it’s the one where Harry Goldenblatt and Charlotte first hook up. The idea that an average-looking, bald Jewish guy could wind up with an uber-Shiksa like Charlotte is an inspirational fantasy for those of us who happen to be average-looking, bald Jewish guys. Not that I’m in the market for a new relationship, uber-Shiksa or otherwise. But it makes you think anything is possible.

And now, the tenuous hook to the outdoorsy theme of this blog: one positive thing about being bald; you don’t look mussed up after rolling a kayak.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Early morning at Mason Neck

Today is my first Friday off in my employer’s new “9/80” program – work 80 hours in 9 days, get every other Friday off. It’s kinda funny – we all work nine or more hours a day anyway, so it really hasn’t made my other days much longer. As one of my colleagues said, for us it’s a tacit approval to actually take some of those many accrued comp hours every once in a while.

Anyway, as soon as the family was out the door this morning I threw the kayak on the car and headed down to Mason Neck. It was a misty morning – quite beautiful, in fact – the water and sky differentiated only by varying shades of gray. Mason Neck is always a great place for bird life. This morning, the wonders started before I even got on the water. As I was unloading my boat a bald eagle swooped by and grabbed a fish out of the water. I stood transfixed by this scene, realizing only after a minute or so that I still had my sixty pound kayak slung over my shoulder. The rest of the trip was equally enthralling, birdwise: lots of eagles, ospreys, blue herons, geese, and the occasional cormorant.

I paddled for about two hours. After celebrating the (finally) warm water with some rolling, I first headed out to Conrad Island. The water was as high as I had ever seen it, so I decided from there to poke up Kane’s Creek. I stopped where the Sensitive Wildlife Area warning signs are posted across the creek.. This was the first time in quite a while the water level had been high enough for me to make it even that far. After paddling back out of the creek I did a little loop around part of Belmont Bay then headed to shore.

I have been focusing on improving my stroke this season, and today I did something I have never done before. I put my GPS receiver up on deck, set to show speed, then I monkeyed with my stroke mechanics to see what worked best. I also did some sprints, trying to keep up higher speeds (for me, this means in the 5-5.5 MPH range) for extended periods. I was even able to break 6 MPH a couple of times, but I can’t hold that speed for very long. The use of the GPS was very enlightening and offered me a challenge to keep a steady pace. I think I’ll be doing that again.

I got off the water just as the clouds were burning off and it was starting to get hot. All in all, a very pleasant morning.