One of my dear old Seabee friends that I've not seen since about '76 (but email often) that lives in North Pole, Alaska asked what adventure I planed this week. I sort of whined back that I didn't think I would go out this week because the remnants of Rita were suppose to be on us and I thought it might be too wet to be comfortable. Then I wondered how I would beg off my new paddle partner that had rearranged his total work week to be off on Mondays to match my off day.
So, I called Curtis on Sunday and sort of whined about the rain and how uncomfortable it might be. He seemed to have the hint of incredulous in his voice that super kayak man would be put off by ANYTHING when a paddle opportunity arose. I was amazed that the thought of discomfort did not jar him and that he had the vision that it should not jar me. It made me start to wonder what was wrong with me. I told him to be ready, I would swing by to pick him up as usual.
We went fairly local to a lake in Madison County known as Wilogreen Lake to some and Taylors Fork Lake to others. From long end to long end, it isn't but about 2 miles with two nice feeder creeks. The feeder creeks are always my goal as that is where you see all the wild life and no gas boat traffic. The weather was moist, somewhere between a light drizzle to a heavy mist. Not too bad, and there weren't but a few fishermen out and they were close to the ramp and were gone not long after we put in. And I thought I was a wimp. The tributaries were extra nice. They were alive in the moist weather and looked like they belonged in southern Alabama or Mississippi instead of central Kentucky. I commented that they looked like or Katrina blew them up from the south, as I felt wetlands like this could not be this beautiful down there after the storms. The water vegetation was so thick that the cranes were walking on top of it. Though the creeks themselves were about 30 feet wide, most places only had a boat clearing of about 5 feet. The rest was choked in lush green water plants, cat tails and some kind of elephant ear plants. Very nice. The deeper we paddled into the woods the heavier the rain got. Or at least it seemed. After back tracking out of the first creek, it was evident the heavy rain was really just the moisture collecting up on the leaves and dropping down in loads when the leaves could hold no more. It seemed like a down pour in the woods and a drizzle in the open water, but it was the same conditions in both places. We had dressed in dry tops and brimmed hats and wore the boats skirts, so we were dry enough to enjoy the rain.
The real treat for me this time was not the location, the adventure, or the weather, but my new paddle partner. The first time we went out we did 7 miles and it was a great adventure. He fell out of the boat in deep water and took five times to get back in, but he wanted to go again. The next time we went out, I pushed his limit on a 12 mile paddle. He almost got sick from the endurance paddle, but it was a great adventure and he wanted to go again. This time, we were in nasty mucky weather, but he had a blast. And he found his stroke. First time since going out. When he finally discovered how to lock his legs in the boat and use those muscles all the way up his arms for a power stroke...he was off. He left me in his wake for a solid mile paddle. It was great and how it should be. He is 20 years my junior, there is no way that I should have kept leaving him in my wake. I think he is hooked. And to think I was going to ditch the opportunity to get out in nature because it was a little wet. Thank goodness the spirit of a young man brought me back to the reality of my love of this sport.
As I've said, Curtis has made his work week to match mine so he can join me on these adventures. He has asked me how far into the season we can do this. I told him with my boats, we can hit three seasons, but in the cold of the winter, you need a rigid inflatable to give a layer of air off the frigid water. I have four crafts that can do the three seasons. He said by this winter he will have two inflatables so we can take the adventures year around. I think Curtis may be ready for a long distance adventure.
I've always thought that there is two good ways to really know a person. One is belly up to a bar from sun down to sun up. The other is in a survival situation. There was a day that I preferred the first, but in my later years, I prefer the latter and I prefer to set the scene in motion as to happen stance it.
I've been around the world and two county fairs. I've seen a lot of things and done a few. I've met men and women in situations that I will know of them till the day I die and others that I forgot a moment after I met them. I knew my wife was a good woman before I married her. But 17 years later, for her to volunteer to join me on a 5 day voyage into the southern Everglades completely removed from any touch with civilization......well, she is one of those people that I know I can depend on in any situation. She is stronger than she will even ever know she is.
I think Curtis will turn out to be stronger than he knows he is. Our young people today do not have to have their limits tested by serving their country like my generation or the ones before me. And that's alright. But some of them never know where their limits are or how they will react when the squeeze is put on. Some times you just want to know that about people around you. I'm that way. I want to know if I can depend on people around me if all the softness goes away. Thats why I try to make my adventures a bit extreme, to stay on the edge. Most people will take soft over hard and that is fine too. Thats why I've been going out alone a lot on my mini adventures. And that's why I really appreciate a young person that has the drive to join me. He's looking for more; he's looking for his limit. And he reminded me that I almost opted for the soft way out instead of keeping my sight on the ball. I almost escaped the wrong direction because I could.
While we were paddling through an immense mass of Cat Tails, I asked Curtis if he knew he could eat the roots of the Cat tail like a potato. He said he did not. I told him that most people did not, so if food became a shortage, he knew one place close that had a bunch of potato type food to keep him going till the Calvary got there. A tidbit of information that I hope him or me never need.........but none the less, is an option to escape starvation. Escape.....not because you have too....but because you can.
The rings of Rita. They didn't last long. They weren't the deal they were down south. We needed them here. We needed the moisture. I should have known to appreciate them. Thanks to the higher power to send opportunity to knock on my door and let me know (again) that bad, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and the rings of Rita were really a beautiful thing in Kentucky.