Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 10/11 - defining moments

If ever there was a day that tested every ounce of energy and determination I could muster, yesterday would have been it. I am writing this email sitting on a picnic table in Hastings. Yeah, I said it "HASTINGS". 12 hours 45 minutes and 60.5km after setting off from Peterborough at 9am.

It did come at a price though, my right hand is now pretty much useless, it's 10am and the first time I can actually hold my blackberry to type. Has been sore since day 1 cause I probably didn't know how to paddle correctly yet and now it's telling me enough already. Shut up hand, we are not stopping now, will tape up with duct tape today though, maybe that will help. I also sprained my middle finger days ago on the same hand and that isn't making matters any better, I can barely bend it but no swelling, last night I cut my ring finger on the same hand getting kayak out of water (it hates me now) "does this look infected?" Other than that I'm in great shape, yes tired of course but no issues other than the hands and wrists.

I can almost see the finish line, it's about 100km 17 locks thatta way --» and 5 days to do it. All major lakes have been conquered and it's basically canal paddling until the bay of quinte and lake ontario, childs play at this point. It's funny, I have this foldout pamphlet which shows the entire trent waterway, it folds open to a 7 by 2 section map, I no longer have to open it as the rest of the trip is on that last little page, amazing to look across the entire map and say, oh yeah, I did that.

My nephew may join me for the last 3 days and that would be cool, glad I'm a day ahead now, I won't have to push him and he can relax and enjoy, gives me company for the last leg of my journey.

I've also estimated that over the entire trip I will have made well in excess of a quarter million paddle strokes, somewhere north of 350,000. 32,000 of those puppies were yesterday. Here is how it went down.

At about 1:30 am the thunderstorm hit, was insane, wind howling and dropping buckets, I lie in my tent wondering if it's going over, felt like it, my tent holds up perfect and I stay completely dry, good tent worth the money, every last cent. I can hear the thunder clearly and the lightning makes it like daylight each time it goes off, I'm counting the time between and getting closer, perfect. Gets closer and all of a sudden a thunder crack like I've never heard, the hair on my arms and neck shoot straight up and my whole body shakes, now I'm nervous. Another half hour and the storm moves on, thankfully I get to sleep quickly. Next morning lock master says oh yeah we get hit by lightning all the time, thanks for warning, not sure if it did but that big one sounded and felt really close.

I wake up at 6 and it's overcast with dark clouds in the direction I'm paddling, have breakfast and take my time packing up, I set off around 9. This time I'm prepared for rain. Wearing wet shorts and a life jacket, rain jacket stored beside seat just in case.

About half an hour in all the rain clouds are now behind me and it's a gorgeous day for the the rest of the trip, couple of quick sun showers but nothing crazy and was refreshing.

I make my way down the otanabee river which is about 30k as it goes into rice lake, My intended destination for the end of day 10. The river is a nice paddle and I see the most wildlife than any other day, I have family of ducks who paddled right up to kayak and followed for awhile. didn't want to scare em off by getting camera out, did get a picture as they left.

Oh and I came across the most elusive creature you will find on the trent, to the best of my knowledge this can only be found in this specific region. The "island goat" ok wtf, island offshore with two goats, first, who put them there? Second, why would you want to? They walk along and follow me down the island and I'm about 5 feet away, goats are cool but don't want them jumping on my kayak, that's all I need. I don't get out to go for a ride. Fyi, to ride a goat you have to lie backwards, hold the tail and wrap legs around their neck, don't ask me how I know that, it's like the whole cow tipping thing.

Paddling down the otanabee I can hear that "deliverance" theme song again pretty much everywhere. Wish I would have brought my guitar but now I'm thinking banjo all the way.

I almost into rice lake at 3:30, 30km and 6 and 1/2 hours later. I pull up on shore and make some lunch/dinner, been paddling straight and now hungry. Plus I have to now find a place to sleep for the night, nearest lock is hastings 30km away. I set off and hit rice lake at 4, slight favorable breeze, clear skies and calm water. Rice lake can be the worst lake if the weather sucks and want to make it as far as I can down, it's still early, keeping eye out for camping spot.
I make it down the first half in good time and now thinking to myself, hmm could I make hastings? It might just be possible, but still a long way to go, it's about 6ish now. I see the end of rice lake in the distance, now the wind starts to pick up and with 20km of lake to gain speed it gets rough, helps my speed though. Only problem is that I notice sky getting dark and the wind/waves have come up quickly, I don't have time to get the paddle skirt back on and not about to take hands off the paddle. Waves are crashing over the back and taking on water. I've learned that when adrenaline kicks in and storm coming, it doesn't matter how tired or sore you are, paddle hard and fast.

I get through the end of rice lake in record time and stop at mckraken landing. The rain never comes and clear again. Can barely move and literally have to pry the fingers of my right hand off the paddle and struggle out onto dock. Once on the dock I almost can't stand on my feet, they have been in wet shoes with sand for about four hours and they look like they've been soaked in water for a month, they just don't look right. After about half hour everything but hands are back to normal, I put on birkenstocks now.

Pump out cockpit, water was up to bottom of my legs, get my headlamp out as I know I'm going to be paddling in the dark tonight, it's 7:30 and still 3 hours to hastings, thankfully in calm water. I'm pretty tired at this point but already done almost 50k, what's another 10 or so, about an hour and a half from hastings the sun goes down, probably my favorite moment of the trip, water like glass, not a sound and just enough light to see. I wanted to paddle at night at some point and going to get my chance. The view of hastings at night as I come into the harbor is pretty nice.

As I paddle under the bridge, I'm not sure where to go, my light isn't strong enough to reflect the buoy unless I'm almost on top of it, and I see sheet lightning in the sky. Thankfully, my co-pilot kicks in and directs me in the right direction, thanks Andrew. I'm exhausted at this point and can't wait to setup camp and sleep, it's about 9:45.

Now the lowest point of my trip, nowhere really to camp, weirdest lock in the trent, camp is on other side of lock, which is a long par 5 away and over a road, I'm not carrying my stuff that far. I eventually find a little patch of grass literally behind the macs milk store and it's only a par 3 away. Unpack and carry all my gear to my site and will tell you, 35pound kayak on your shoulder after you just paddled 60.5km and carried 250 pounds of gear 200 yards is not a pleasant reward for a hard days work. Andrew googles camping at this lock for me and can't find any info saying no

I get 2 double cheeseburgers and a coffee from macs and devour. I finally get the energy to take off life jacket and put on a shirt. Got a little too much sun during the day and prob should have put more sun screen on, arms and shoulders are a little tender. Ouch.

I crawl into tent and didn't even get to counting the 2 goats from earlier, I pass right out around 11:30. Storm never came or if it did I slept through it.

Woke up at 8 this morning which is sleeping in and was very stiff, took couple of hours to loosen up, hand not so much but better than last night.

There is a big carver yatch here who left the same area I did in georgian bay and we talk for awhile, they say they keep looking out for me cause the pretty much see me every day, it's like a game she said, where we going to find the kayaker today, she didn't expect to see me here though. Lol.

The lcbo is on the other side and they let the old folks from the legion next door use the grass for horseshoe tournaments. Watching them as I type, they say they are just waiting for 11 to start drinking. Old people are funny.

Going to start packing up now and head to heally falls for the night. Want something better to look at than the back of a macs store and if going to pack just to move to bottom of lock, might as well go to the next one. Only 20k away so should be a quick day, wind behind me too I think and sun is out.

Everybody I pass has had nothing but rain, I've had only one day so far and sunny every other day, amazing that the weather has been following me. Very thankful for that and has make the trip so much more pleasant. I guess it travels at 5kph too.

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