Kayaking the River as the Crow flies...

Last week I went kayaking on the Grand River. It was the stretch in between Saranac and Lowell. I grossly underestimated the distance as well as the pace of the river. It was low and the current was moving along at a snail's pace. My wife dropped me off and according to my unintelligent estimation I put myself on the banks of Lowell in about 2 and a half hours. I should have known better than to base my calculations on how the crow flies and the rivers speed at the apex of a spring thaw.

The river twists about like a serpentine maze and due to the drought of the last couple weeks, there were certain places where the river would widen and I might as well have been in a country pond, stagnant and unstirred.

It didn't take me long to realize that if I was going to make Lowell by nightfall, I would have to paddle my way there with the brute strength of an Olympic rower. My shoulders were about to fall off a quarter of the way into the trip. The sun was beating down on me, the horse flies were seizing the opportunity to get at the one guy who was floating down stream like a piece a raw meat, and I couldn't get the small of my back to find a place of comfort in the little plastic seat it would call home for the forthcoming hours.

I also came to another realization about an hour into the trip. I had no landmarks with which to gauge my progress. I didn't know whether I was half way, three quarters of the way, or 10 hours from my destination. For some reason I thought I'd be able to see Rt. 21 that parallels the river off to the right, but I couldn't make heads or tails of where I was even when I could hear the clamoring traffic. The further I went, the more I feared that I wasn't moving fast enough to get to Lowell by dusk. This wasn't good because I planned on meeting my wife at the 3 hour mark. When she called to see how much further I had to go, I couldn't give her a straight answer. "Um, yeah, about that. Uh, I don't know where I am in relation to where I want to be so I'm not sure when I'll be floatin' into town." She had to find that mildly ridiculous, but it was true. "I'll give you a call when I see the bridge by Keisers." That could be in the next 15 minutes or the next 15 years for all I know." She chuckled and said she was taking the girls to get their nails done and would await my call.

When she hung up, a small yet persistent panic set in that I wasn't even close to Lowell and that in order for me to get there by sunset, I would have to quicken my pace and paddle like a banchi (whatever that is). I fortified my resolved, set my gaze, girded up my loins, and paddled like I was being chased by a tribe of headhunting Indians. My shoulders were cramping, but I didn't let up.

As I rounded a corner, I spooked a massive bald eagle out of a tree and watched it soar over my head and upriver. It was majestic and magic all at the same time. Not 10 minutes later, I saw a deer with her little fawns nibbling on some green grass at the river's edge. They stared at me like I was a freak of nature, the kind of stare you would give an alien that climbed through your window and into your bedroom while you were putting on your pajamas. I smiled in delight.

About three hours into the trip, I picked up a sight for sore eyes...the bridge by Keisers. The relief that set into my muscles was palpable and I breathed a sigh of joy. As I forded the ravine and tucked under the bridge, there was another train bridge just ahead. Atop the bridge was a huge nest made out of large twigs and mud. It was an eagle's nest. The most fantastical part of it all was that a little baby eagle was perched in the nest looking down at me as if to say, "Ahoy mate! How are your shoulders?" I talked to it like you would talk to a newborn baby, for that is what it was. It was a beautiful things to behold. I love seeing creatures in their natural habitat.

In a matter of minutes I came to where the Flat River flows into the Grand and the current picked up quite a bit at that point. It was then that I realized why my calculations were so dreadfully wrong as to the pace of the river. The part of the river I always see when I'm crossing the bridge as I head out of Lowell on Rt. 50 isn't characteristic of the river as a whole. Its current is heavily influenced by the conjoining current of the Flat River 500 ft. upriver. It was all making sense to me now. I wasn't as stupid as I felt for the last 3 hours. This still doesn't explain why I was gauging the distance with a "crow's flight patterns", but I'm a novice at this kayaking deal.

As I ran my vessel into shore, I threw out my water bottle, my bible and a couple other belongings. I then braced myself and threw my leg out of the side ever so slowly so as to not disturb the equilibrium of this glorified canoe. When I did, my phone, that was firmly grasped by my left hand, somehow slipped out and was quickly submerged in about two feet of water. I reacted so quickly that I forgot about my balance and quickly joined my phone in its baptism. I quickly drew the phone out of the water, wiped it off with my shirt, watched as the screen slowly faded to black, and then took the battery out of the back to see if I could give it some CPR. I wasn't ready to call a "time of death" quite yet.

I placed it on the shore in the full sunlight hoping it would dry out and regain consciousness. About an hour later, I placed the battery back into the phone and it worked. Not without a couple glitches in the first day, but amazingly it made a fully recovery.

I write all this to say, life is full of twists and turns, and I love it.


Leslie said…
I enjoyed this story :-)

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