Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Paddles

So, it's Christmas week and my biggest problem while kayaking is getting overheated. This time of year usually means numb fingers and ice on the deck. This week I had to make sure I had ice in my water to keep cool! I'm not complaining: I'll take too hot over too cold any day.

Christmas Paddlers
Trip 1: 12/25

Ralph organized a trip out of Truxton Park Christmas morning. I was surprised that he got a pretty good group - evidently I'm not the only one for whom Christmas morning isn't a big deal. I guess these were the folks who celebrated Christmas Eve, had no family locally, or were just generally humbugs. In addition to Ralph the group included Tall Tom, Tim, Tom B, Dave I, Linda and me. Just about everyone had a Santa hat. Tim didn't wear a Santa hat but decorated his boat with mistletoe. That left me as the one true humbug who wasn't sporting anything Christmasy. I have to admit, I don't know why I find wearing a Santa hat too Christmasy. I mean, is it any worse than Christmas Eve when  I happily participated in Christmas caroling at Westover Beer Garden? I do enjoy planing the Christmas music, though have to admit that when I sing Christmas carols I hum my way through the "Christ our Savior" parts.

Christmas Music at Westover
Anyway, we did about an eight or nine mile trip out of Spa Creek and down the Severn River into Lake Ogleton (which is no longer a lake). The key thing to note about the trip is that it was increadibly foggy. I was comfortable going out only because I was with people who knew the area well, because there were times when you couldn't see squat. I hadn't brought my GPS, so I really would have gotten turned around if I had been on my own. As we were coming back into Spa Creek we had to stop and wait for a bit . We heard a powerboat. We couldn't see him at all, but we figured he was heading towards the same channel we were. So, we just sat by the channel marker (well outside the channel) and waited until he loomed into sight out of the fog like a ghost ship. We then we followed him in.

Then One Foggy Christmas Day ...

Back in the fingers of Lake Ogleton the fog had been a lot thinner. Dave, an old Coast Guardsman, explained that it had something to do with the temperature differential between land and water. Anyway, we could see and be seen and exchanged lots of "Merry Christmas!" wishes with folks on shore - including a woman who ran down her dock with a toddler in tow to wave at Santa. Cute!

Trip #2: 12/27

I had been looking forward to this trip. A chance to circumnavigate Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge in winter without cold fingers and toes. Unfortunately, warm weather isn't necessarily good weather. We arrived to find the wind was blowing more than predicted and more than any of us expected.(1)

We decided to give it a go anyway. Bogle's Wharf, where we launched, is in somewhat protected waters and we figured we'd paddle to the south end of the island, peek around the corner into the part of the island that is open to the Bay and decide at that point if we wanted to proceed.

It was a workout paddling into the wind and I have to admit that I must be out of paddling shape as I was definitely bringing up the rear of the group. I can explain that Rob was in his super-fast (if tippy) Epic, and that Tall Tom had a longer boat and more natural horsepower. Unfortunately I have no excuse for being slower than Suzanne, who was paddling exactly the same boat I was. Except that maybe I'm weaker than a little girl. New Year's resolution: strength training.

Anyway, we grouped up at the southern point of the island and decided that, (a) we could all handle the conditions around the exposed side of the island, but that (b) none of us really felt like a "survivor" paddle that day. So we turned around and went back. So, we did a seven mile out-and-back rather than a ten mile circumnavigation. Oh, well.

After landing and loading our gear we figured that as long as we were there we might as well explore some of the nature trails. Unfortunately, the trails are all quite short. The longest one was about 1.2 miles, round trip. Still, we enjoyed the little bits of hiking - need I even say that once we were off the water the wind dropped off, the sun came out and it turned into a gorgeous day?

Anyway, when we had exhausted the trails and the visitor center we headed into Rock Hall to try and find lunch, but alas, on a Sunday in December everything was closed. So, we parted ways and headed for home. I was hungry so as I drove I kept a lookout for someplace where I could stop and eat. I wound up stopping in Chestertown where I sat on a park bench in the town square and ate part of the lunch I had packed, and then ducked into Dunkin' Donuts to pick up a coffee and a muffin for the drive.

All in all, a lot of driving for not a lot of paddling, but a nice day hanging out with some good friends.

(1) One of us checked the forecast the night before and pointed out the forecast of wind and fog to the group, but let's not go there.

Friday, December 18, 2015

You Will Be Assimilated

A while back my friend Cyndi had told me that the cycling community is huge compared with the kayaking community and that as I got into cycling I would find people who shared whatever kind of cycling I was interested in: road touring, mountain biking, gravel rides on odd number Tuesdays, whatever. To date I haven't really found this to be the case - or maybe it's too true. I joined a cycling Meetup but every ride is instantly over-subscribed. I joined Potomac Pedalers, but most of their rides are beyond my capabilities. There are so many cyclists out there that I never seemed to see the same people twice. Plus, the cycling world seems to be heavily populated with poorly behaved "Lycra Louts" for whom Spandex bibs are religious garments and who obsess over every aspect of bicycles and bicycling down to the weight of their spoke nipples.

Not for nothing does Pearls Before Swine have a recurring obnoxious bicyclist character.

I have known for a while that there were groups of cyclist who meet for coffee at various locations on various days, but I always had the impression that they were attended primarily by people who stop by for coffee after having knocked out their daily century rides - maybe that was influenced by knowing that Cyndi, who is that kind of person, is a coffee club regular. However, kayaker Gina, who now lives in my neighborhood and is an avid but not extreme bicyclist, assured me that the groups are friendly.

So, Wednesday morning I left early and somehow my EFC to Virginia Square ride picked up a detour to Shirlington. I arrived to find a couple of cyclists, including my neighbor Steve C. (who is a hardcore) there. I joined them and soon more people trickled in. About 15 in all, including kayaker Gina. Everyone was very friendly. When I admitted to being something of a newbie and casual cyclist they reassured me that anyone who enjoys cycling is welcome. I think it helped that (a) I had already signed up for the wintertime "Freezing Saddles" competition, showing my commitment to cycling, and (b) despite the fact that I profess to be a newbie, I do know something about what the sport - and was dressed in appropriate tribal attire (baggy shorts, no Spandex look for me, thank you very much).

The bottom line is that my 3 mile, 20 minute commute somehow stretched to ten miles and two hours, but it was fun and I will certainly be back. Have I been assimilated into the bike borg?