Musings from a Kayak

And so it was that two young wives decided it was time to break free of the every day, leave the husbands to their own devices, and embark on their own outdoor adventure. A mini adventure, yes, but adventure nonetheless. My sister-in-law and I took off for the weekend for a few days of camping and kayaking, with a smidgeon of fishing and sunbathing on the side.

Delightful.

I had a bit of a rough start actually getting headed in the right direction and realized about a laundry list worth of forgotten things along the way (Ahh…Friday’s do have that very special effect of involuntary brain dumping by the end of the work day, don’t they?). But…I arrived in one piece and the weekend was no worse for the wear.

Our travels took us northwards, near Itasca State Park, to a little lake called Long Lake. Becca and John have grown quite fond of the spot and Becca thought it would be a good candidate for a girl’s weekend away. The campground itself is as busy as one might expect in the early summer – filled with families and pets out to get away for the weekend. So as far as ‘escaping it all’, not the best spot physically for that. Mentally, though, it worked just fine.

Friday evening was comprised mainly of drinking wine out of a coffee cup and good conversation around the campfire, talking of all manner of things. As sisters do. The evening was pleasant and quiet. Our campsite was blessedly set a bit away from the rest of the sites around, so though we could hear the chatter of the other camp goers, we weren’t right on top of any other groups.

Saturday morning, after waking up with the help of some French press coffee, we wasted no time getting the yaks down to and in the water. It was a beautiful morning that shaped into a beautiful, classic summer day. The lake was calm, with just a slight breeze working against us at the beginning. The water on the lake is amazingly clear and sets off a beautiful blue-green color, not always seen up in these lakes.

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Our goal was to kayak around the entire lake. It took us about 2 hours to get around the whole thing. Sometimes we paddled together and talked, sometimes we paddled on our own to the rhythm of our own thoughts. It struck me how after only a small passage of time living and breathing in the outdoor air and unplugged for once, whatever stress and mental battles that had been plaguing me suddenly felt smaller, less important. The demand from the outdoors for you to be anything but detached from your surroundings has a detoxifying effect on you. You can suddenly hear your thoughts more clearly, differentiate the ridiculous, toxic ones from the meaningful, encouraging ones. You are finally suddenly able to come up with solutions for many of your personal questions and problems that only a short while ago seemed unsolvable.

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As we paddled, eventually getting away from the motor boats that were out fishing on the water closer to camp, I began to really appreciate the freedom and naked naturalness being in a kayak allows when exploring the world on the water. It’s like having a second pair of legs that specialize in aquatic travel. It makes you feel small in the best of ways.

It also can test your physical stamina. On longer journeys in the yak, you may experience all sorts of water and weather conditions.  Unless you are just feet from your destination, your really have no option but to endure and conquer these things. Preparing yourself physically (as with any sport or outdoor activity) makes all the difference. I have been working out and hitting the gym pretty consistently for the past four months or so (which has been a huge achievement for me, because I’ve usually fallen off that bandwagon by now!). Building muscle strength and endurance takes time, patience, commitment, and hard work. Sometimes it gets so hard to appreciate the progress you make, which I think is partially because we can’t help by judge ourselves against perceived trimmer, bulkier, more toned persons.So it’s very rewarding to put yourself to the test with an activity that puts your work into real world use and you own it!

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After completing our round-the-lake stint, we slipped into relaxation mode. The campsite offers a small but adequate beach area. Becca and I donned our swimsuits and carted our towels and books down to the water and simply soaked up the sun for a good couple of hours, periodically taking a dip in the water to cool off. It’s been so long since I’ve just relaxed like that.

After supper, kayak fishing was our next endeavor.We paddled to the far side of the lake again and took up residence in a shady section by the shore. Much to my delight, no sooner had I dropped my line in was I popping fish out of the water like it was a fishy PEZ dispenser. Mostly Sunnies, though I caught one bass, and Becca thinks she may have got a Crappie or two. Fishing from a kayak is definitely a tricky endeavor, especially if you aren’t doing it from a true fishing kayak. There is simply not a lot of room for a lot of tackle, and rigging up your line while making sure you don’t loose your rod off the side of the kayak has it’s moments. In fact, the smallest rod you can get away with bringing the better. Also, we did all catch and release. I can’t imagine the scene in the kayaks if we were trying to transport them all back to shore! Always things to learn, of course.

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Sunday, our day of departure, was sunny but windy. Our original plan of getting up early to yak the lake at sunrise didn’t come quite to fruition (so still a bucket list item!) Our bodies were just a little tired from the previous day’s kayaking, so we decided to try to locate a stream instead to try some fly fishing. We couldn’t find a viable enough option except for maybe the Mississippi, that was winding it’s way out of Lake Itasca. After getting there, I was itching to get out on the river and explore it down a little ways. Becca was content to see if she could find a spot to fly fish, so we parted ways.

My stint on the river was beautiful and peaceful. Once you get away from the road, it feels completely isolated and with nothing but the natural sounds of nature engulfing you. As I paddled, it was fun to think about all of the different faces I’ve seen of the Mississippi on my various travels in the US. In some spots it’s just your general, basic sized river. Muddy. Some spots it is truly the Mighty Mississippi – giant, broad, and a little intimidating. Here, not so very far from it’s birthplace, it is gentle, small, winding, and so clear.

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It was a wonderful way to cap off a wonderful weekend.

Coming home from this trip, I felt my soul relaxed and quieted. A combination of a change of scenery, great company, and time spent in the beautiful outdoors had worked it’s magic, just like that.

 Never underestimate the healing powers of a small getaway…

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