Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great Falls, Great Morning

The weather was unseasonably warm this weekend, a brief respite from the really nasty winter we've been having. Saturday I took advantage of the weather to work outside on sanding the Greenland paddle I'm making (which is now ready for finishing). Sunday I popped awake at about 6:30 AM with one thought in mind: to get outside and enjoy the weather (it was cloudy, but it was warm!!). After coffee and a glance at the newspaper I headed out the door to Great Falls. I pulled into the the Difficult Run parking area at about 8 AM to find a smattering of cars already there. My fellow early morning nature lovers were an affluent bunch; the cars included a Mercedes, a BMW, an Audi, a Range Rover (and of course a Subaru). This has no bearing on the story - but I notice cars.

I hiked Difficult Run Trail to the Old Carriage Road, then onto the Matildaville Trail all the way up to the "civilized" part of the park where I pulled out my Thermos(TM) and sipped coffee to the accompaniment of the roaring water of the falls. When the water is really high the falls actually look less dramatic since the vertical drop is hidden underwater, but the power of it all is really impressive. I watched some large debris cycle through a big circular eddy current while I sipped my coffee. Big tree trunks and pieces of who knows what being flung around in the whirling water. On the way back I took the River Trail, which was muddier than the others had been. I began to wish I had worn real hiking boots - but I was able to avoid any real foot-sucking mud.

Cheesy in-camera HDR shot of Great Falls

The park felt pretty empty in the early part of my hike, but on the way back there were lots of other people about - birders, runners, hikers and climbers. I took the River Trail to the Ridge Trail and then back onto Difficult Run, where I had to scramble around a section that had gotten washed away. Difficult Run took me back to Georgetown Pike as I expected, but not back to the parking lot and so I had to figure out which way to go - which turned out to be a short walk.

High water near Sandy Landing

I figured I walked about four miles, enough to earn a treat at the Westover Farmer's Market; however, while I did go to the market I didn't wind up buying anything there. I had heard that Westover Market now serves brunch and so after perusing the root vegetables at the framer's market I popped my head in there but the place was populated primarily by that handful of people whose legal county of residence is "Westover Beer Garden". I did grab a cup of coffee there and sat for a couple of minutes, then headed home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

President's Day with TimTom

When Tall Tom emailed me about kayaking on President's Day I checked the weather forecast. High of 35 degrees today, but 60 by next weekend. My first thought was to suggest waiting a couple of days for the arrival of warmer weather, but there's no time like the present, so I said "yes".

Tom had been a little unclear about whether the 2 PM time was arrival or launch. I got there a little before two to find Tall Tom and Fairly Tall Tim already there and close to being ready to go (Not Tall Deke had dropped out). I arrived dressed for paddling (yes, I drove to the launch in my drysuit) and so I was ready to go in something approximating a jiffy. The ramp at the boat launch hadn't been plowed. Being the only one of the three of us with a plastic kayak, I cavalierly tossed my boat onto the ground at the top of the ramp and gave it a shove. As I had hoped, it slid nicely all the way down to the water. Seeing this, Tom implored me to repeat the stunt, except this time with me in the boat. This request was patently ridiculous, so of course I acceded. I dragged my kayak back up to the top of the ramp, hopped in and kayak sledded straight down into the water. My best launch ever.
Tim & Tom
The rest of the trip was a lesson in radiant heat and wind chill. On the way upriver the sun was out. We felt warm to the point that I planned to take off a layer or two when we stopped. The neoprene hood came off and the pogie/glove combination was keeping my hands almost too warm. We made it up to Fletcher's boathouse (about five miles) where we took a quick break.
Juneau? No, Fletcher's Boathouse.
As we launched for the return trip the sun started to dip behind the high banks of the Potomac shoreline. Also, we found we were paddling into the wind. If there is a kayaker's corollary to Murphy's Law it is that the return trip is always into the wind. Even though the temperature wasn't that much lower than when we left the change in sun and wind made a big difference. We started to feel COLD. I had taken off my gloves during our break so I could fiddle with my camera and relief zipper (not at the same time). This was a mistake - my hands got cold and never really warmed up again. They weren't painfully cold, but they were stinging a little.  At about the halfway point I felt I needed to put my neoprene hood back on for some additional warmth. Unfortunately, I had shoved it under the deck bungies when I had taken it off earlier and it had gotten wet with cold water that dripped off my paddle. I knew that it would quickly warm up, but when I first put it on WOW! I got an instant "ice cream headache" and felt like I had dipped my head in ice water - which wasn't far from what I actually did. I immediately felt like tearing the damn thing off my head but kept it on knowing that in a minute or so it would warm up, which it did. As we paddled on we began to notice ice forming on our decks and spray skirts.The temperature was continuing to drop and was apparently now far enough below freezing to solidify on our kayaks.

Ice Crystal Formation at Fletcher's
I always love being out on the water but let me tell you, we were all pretty glad when we got back to Columbia Island. Tom and I started our cars right away to get the heaters going. I pulled out the Thermos(tm) of hot tea I always bring with me on cold outings and slurped at the hot liquid. I had to pry some ice off the deck rigging in order to put the straps underneath it when I loaded my kayak. It was cold.
Shaking the ice off my spray skirt
Despite downing the rest of the hot tea in a warm car I was still pretty chilled when I got home. Cold enough that I didn't even bother to put my kayak away properly. Instead it did it's thrid bobsled run of the day when I slid it down the snowy side of the house into the backyard to be retrieved later. I went inside where I eventually regained feeling in my feet.

And now the unexpected closing: the outing was a lot of fun and I'd do it again.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Turn it and Turn It Again

It's been too @$@#$^&* cold to go out paddling - or do pretty much anything outdoors. The river is frozen and the weather is bleak. Fortunately, there's good fun to be had indoors - for example, at kayak rolling sessions at some local pools. Here's a video I put together at last Sunday's session at Lee District Rec Center: