Six paddlers (Al L., Susan G., Jim G., Larry I., Rob P. and I) met at the traditional location, Mason Neck. It wasn't a super-cold day, but high winds were in the forecast, just like 2008's paddle. So, as we have done in the past on windy days, instead of heading out into the river we stayed in the more protected waters of Belmont Bay and the Occoquan River. We kayaked up the river as far as Occoquan Regional Park, where there's a car-top boat landing. All of us except Larry got out and took a break there - Larry preferred to just float around.
On the way back we were paddling into the wind, and when we came out of the river into Belmont Bay it began to be pretty hard work - some whitecaps, and waves rolling over the deck. We knew we had a section ahead of us where the wind was going to be abeam, which makes it tough to control the kayaks. Rob had the idea that rather than paddle straight back we should do a "dog leg" - turn starboard into the wind then ride downwind on a final leg. Three of us (Rob, Susan and I) tried that approach. It didn't really work out that well - the upwind leg took us into an area of hydrilla (water plant) and the combination of the thick plant growth and the wind made for some really difficult paddling. Al, on the other hand, just let the wind push him across the river, winding up far to the left of the launch, which required him to do a final leg back along the shoreline to the launch once he got across the bay. The remaining two paddlers toughed out the direct route. And you know what? We all got back to the launch at about the same time.
All of us were, of course, bundled up in dry suits. Susan was in addition wearing a neoprene hood, which is a good idea, but opened her up to teasing from Jim about how she looked like Snoopy in his World War I Flying Ace getup. "Have you spotted the Red Baron?", he kept asking. After the paddle, through the wonders of the Internet, he bought and sent her a set of aviator goggles - she was gracious enough to send us a picture of herself in fully Snoopy regalia
|Where's the Red Baron?|
After the paddle we went over to Fairwinds Brewery - which was hopping (no pun intended) - where we had beer and food. Being a brewery, Fairwinds doesn't have a kitchen, but there was a food truck outside. I got an outstanding banh mi sandwich and a stout (eschewing my typical IPA). I was good in terms of my eating and did not even taste the duck fat french fries, but I understand they were out of this world. Bela joined us there, late in the game due to traffic. After everyone else headed out I hung out just with Bela for a while, which was nice.
A successful outing and a nice part of my birthday celebration. The paddle was only about eight miles, but the wind made it feel longer.
My birthday celebration also included:
- Shawn Colvin concert at the Birchmere with Valerie
- Family dinner
- Going to see Dead and Company with Valerie (and, apparently, my third cousin whom I had never met before - but that's a story for another time) at the Verizon Center
- Buying a new suit
- Some cool presents (bike computer, new electric drill, etc.)