"The thistle is a prickly flower, aye, but how it is sweetly worn."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In which I attempt to kayak

This summer I went kayaking for the first time with my brother and some family friends.  It was a Saturday morning.

The night before had been my sister's wedding.  In which I had danced my rear end off.  And gotten home at 2am.  At my ripe old age of 28, let me just tell you when you dance for 2-3 straight hours (while holding a grumpy toddler on your hip), you feel it.  At 8am when Joel woke me up to go on said kayaking trip, it hurt to walk down the stairs.  I felt old and arthritic.  He tried to convince me to go.  I tried to get out of it.  And then I reasoned, "Well in a kayak you're sitting the whole time.  I just have to use my arms.  I didn't use my arms while dancing, so it should be relaxing.  And I know if I don't go I will regret it."  This reasoning would come to haunt me.  Oh irony.

So at 8:30 we stopped for coffee and bagels and headed out to our friends house.  Which was a good 30 minutes away.  We got to their house and followed them to a kayak rental shop in the middle of Houston.  We made small talk with the guy at the register.  He asked us where we were going.  We said Brazos State Park.  He looked at us like we were insane.  Then he told us we were awesome and brave.  Hmm weird?  So in our ignorance we probe for why.  Oh just because Brazos State Park is know for gators.  NBD!  We were a little shaken up, but decided to persevere.  We followed another worker out of the parking lot, 5 streets over to a warehouse in which they kept said kayaks.  And got loaded up.  And hit the road.  The road that was supposed to be no more than 30 minutes away

But actually it was an hour and a half into the middle of nowhere.  But by the time we realized it was pretty dang far away, we had come too far to turn back.  So we persevered (theme?).  We got to the state park finally, and saw this welcoming sign:

My what a lovely gator.  We drove up to the window to pay, where we saw sign.  After sign.  After sign proudly displaying gator love.  But we were not deterred.  We went inside to talk to the park rangers to get some ideas as to where we should go to the kayak drop spot.  We learned some interesting things.

Such as:
- this park was just opened up for kayaking, so they haven't gotten it set up quite yet
- there are approximately (I forgot exactly) 1000 gators at this park
- over 600 of them are over 8 feet long
- and lucky for us the river is low and the current is not "strong".  Apparently if the current is strong, kayaking would be impossible.

Then we asked Country Joe Park Ranger this question- can we just take our kayaks onto the lake?  His response (imagine Larry the Cable Guy saying this) "Shoot no!  Them gators'd eat your alive!"

We got an insane amount of directions to the kayak drop.  I will walk you through them.

First, we got back in our car.  Drove a mile down back the way we came.  And turned right onto a dirt road.  This dirt road went on forever.  And ever.  And we were surrounded by so much dust it was amazing we ever saw the 'gate'.  The gate looked like this:

It had a padlock exactly like the one on my locker in high school.  We were given the secret code.  Sarah had to hope out of the truck, let us in.  And lock the bad boy back.  So we parked the car in the clearing, put on our bug repellent, and followed the path to the theoretical kayak drop.

It was a third of a mile away.  Then you come to a 30 foot incline with which it is advised you use the provided rope to not fall.  Then it is 100 feet through the sand to the actual water.  I wish there were pictures of the ridiculous of this walk.  We hadn't brought the kayaks yet.  So we scaled back up the incline while holding the rope, which basically felt like rock climbing- on grass.  Walked the 1/3 mile back.

We got 4 kayaks down.  Kayaks weigh approximately 50 lbs a piece I was told.  We had 200 lbs total of kayak and 1/3 of a mile + grassy incline + plus sand bar to cross.  And kayaks are not shaped in such a way as to make traveling in this way easy.

So me and Sarah attempted to carry two kayaks together while we walked this 1/3 mile for the third time.  Which incidently, you may remember I only agreed to kayak because I wouldn't have to use my legs.  So much for that because at this point, I had logged 2/3 of the mile already and was about to add another 1/3.  With "weights".  I don't remember how far Sarah and I made it with two kayaks.  Eventually we left one behind and just carried one together.

By the time we got all 4 kayaks to the water it was about 12:30 noon.  We had left the house at 8:30.  And I had had a coffee and a bagel.  It was the heat of the day in Texas.  By we'd be darned if we didn't get our times worth kayaking.

Joel (my brother) and Andrew (Sarah's husband) did more exploring and ending up down the bend.  Whereas Sarah and I didn't go so fast.  Probably because I could not figure out the whole paddling thing.  Partly due to never having done it.  Partly because the water was so low that the paddle kept hitting sand.  Partly because even with the 'low' current, you have much to struggle against.

As Sarah and I were chilling in the sun and slowly paddling we heard the loudest crack imaginable.  (We later found out that Joel and Andrew both heard the same crack when they were around the bend.  And from our view point their bodies were mere specks.)  The crack occurred literally on the other side of the river from where we are.  You can see on the picture how far it was from one side to the other.  Aka not far at all.  We never saw what animal made it in to the water, but it was terrifying.  Considering it was the gator park.  Sarah hopped out of her kayak and yelled that the guys return.  We headed back after that.

And by headed back we mean.  Pull four kayaks 100+ feet through sand.  Drag 4 kayaks up a 30 foot hill while simultaneously holding on to the rope.  (The guys did this for us.)  Once all four kayaks made it up the mountain hill, Sarah and I began our attempts to carry our share of kayaks the 1/3 mile back to the trucks.  It was hot.  My arms hurt.  My legs were exhausted.  And kayak strings hurt my hands.  My shirt was so soaked with sweat it literally could not get wetter.  Eventually we made it.  It was now approximately 2:45.

We finally got things loaded.  Finally went back down the dirt road that lasts forever.  Finally back towards a highway, and stopped at Chick Fil A.  It was 3:30.

It was 3:30.  I was eating for the first time since 8:30.  After walking 1 and 1/3 miles with kayaks plus rope climbing a hill twice plus the 200 feet of the sandbar without kayaks plus the 200 feet of sandbar with kayaks plus the rowing of the kayak.  In 95+ degree heat.  A political chicken sandwich never tasted so good.  And my body has never hurt so bad.  I'm not sure how to adequately describe how I felt the next day.  But I was hobbling like a granny.

It is a funny story in retrospect :)  I wasn't sure I would survive at the time...  Overall, it was fun...  But next time- I better only walk 10 feet max to the water :)

Like a boss

Or not....?

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