September 29, 2005

Train the Body, Practice Kayak

I had a lot of fun on a kayak trip with Kevin and May in July. Since then, I've been doing my best to stalk them - and they have proven themselves to be quite good at avoiding me. But! No more! Kevin finally ran out of excuses, and agreed to paddle with me. We were planning on the 1000 Islands, starting just past Kingston somewhere. Well, let's get real, we weren't really "planning", we were being lackadaisical in that we figured we'd find a launch point and take it from there. So, given such extensive planning, it took very little for us to change our plans: Kris - who we met on that trip back in July - was interested in doing something too, and when he called me at work to set it up, I was in the middle of something and dealt with the call in a very efficient manner (my sentmail from 30 seconds after that call, paraphrased: Dear Kevin - please call Kris. Here is his number. Whatever you plan is ok by me. Johanna).

If one is distracted and does not take an active role in trip planning, one should not be surprised at not really clueing in to where the trip is going. That's the lesson I learned, anyway. Because as far as I was concerned, all I had to do was get myself and my kayak to Kevin's house on Friday afternoon, and as per instructions, I only brought kayak gear, not camping gear - because we'd be staying at Kris' cottage. I didn't know where said cottage was, or where we'd be paddling, or Kris' last name for that matter (I still don't know that, actually), but I figured, it would all be great. But just past Kingston, it occurred to me to ask Kevin where we were headed, anyway. He passed over the sheet where he'd written down the directions and turned on the truck's inside light. I looked down. I looked up. Dude, that's practically Montreal! My exit off the 401 is #312 - as in, 312 km from Windsor. To go to Kevin's house, I'd taken #418 - so that's 106 km from my house to Kevin's, plus a few kilometers drive off the highway. The exit for Kris' cottage? #825. Or 407 km from Kevin's house. And exit #825 is the last exit on the 401, because after that? After that is Quebec, and it's Highway 20, though I can't give you more details than that because my Ontario Road Atlas just tells me "eastern limit of map". That's right, we were practically driving off the map!

Heh. I so was not upset by this, just startled. I suspect all of this information was available to me all along but a) I did not listen well, and b) I did not process what I did hear. Which is probably why I didn't realize that the cottage we were going to is actually Kris' house (though he has a cottage in the back yard), and that this house if built right onto the shores of Lake St. Francis (the wide part of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Cornwall). And what a cool house it is - I didn't really figure it out, that night, when we had some drinks with Kris - but in the morning, I woke up upstairs with the curtains closed and trundled down the stairs to go to the bathroom. I came to a complete stop. For a second, I thought I was on a houseboat - because, see, if you look out Kris' windows, all you see is water. So very cool. That was it, there was no going back to bed, I basked in the sun until the boys got up and Kris made coffee. Realizing that there would be coffee took care of any last doubt I had about this adventure: it was going to be *great*. No reservations left (I can't use the word "great" before my first coffee of the day, just so you know).

So, Saturday morning, we didn't practically go to Montreal - we went to Montreal. Kris' plan involved a visit to the Îles de la Paix Wilderness Area, which is a bunch of protected islands near the south bank of the St. Lawrence, just west of downtown Montreal (but you know why they're protected? You would assume it's for the peace of the wildlife there, wouldn't you, given the name... but no. For starters, it was duck hunting season, and we saw a lot more decoys than ducks and camouflaged hunters in every reedy patch. The protection part comes in because, according to Kris, this is a designated crash zone for Dorval Aiport. As in, if a pilot needs to do a crash landing, these islands have no people to crash on, and the water is nice and shallow too.) Kevin thought the Îles de la Paix looked like the Everglades - I, never having been to the Everglades either intentionally or unintentionally (e.g. if I thought I was going to, say West Virginia, but didn't pay attention to the planning process), can't comment.

From the Îles de la Paix, Kris' plan was to circumnavigate Île Perrot, for a daytrip total of well over 40km. I was ok with that - lovely day, good company, empty boat... and current helping in places. We had a lunch stop at an old mill (it took me a while to figure out we were heading for a mill, since I understood Kris to be talking about the mile on the highland, not the mill on the island), where Kris persuaded the lovely young interpreter at Parc historique de la Pointe-du-Moulin to open the water tap to refill our bottles (the water is pour les animaux, but Kris said if it was good enough for the animals, it would be good enough pour moi).

The circumnavigation of Île Perrot was fun - there was much to look at: fancy homes, rock jetties, McGill's McDonald campus on the West Island, marinas, powerboats (contrary to most kayakers, we don't like it when they slow down near us - we like the wake), bridges, and more islands. At one point,
Kris said we should paddle like stink *up* a set of small rapids. Kevin and I, in our glass boats, looked at each other in disbelief. I turned to Kris, smiled, and said, after you. He took his plastic boat and charged in there, and didn't seem to scrape bottom - so then we did too. I did clunk my paddle on one of the rocks, and I did have to paddle like a fiend, but I actually hauled myself up the rapids in a sea kayak using brute strength (the channel was much too narrow to attempt anything other than willfull charging). Fun! Even more fun was had on the other side, where the flow constriction between Île Perrot and Dorion meant a swift and super-fun ride down the current for a while. When we got back to our starting point at Les Cèdres, we didn't take out but instead started playing in the rapids (Les Cascades) near there. It was fun, I decided to try and ferry upstream - but only got as far as the first set of swifts, where I could comfortably sit in my boat and enjoy the rushing water all around me until I got bored and peeled back out into the current. Kevin didn't have any more luck either, but Chris hauled himself up the side of the river (plastic boats, man) and had fun playing on the way down. He attempted to do the same on river right, but when he got up there, suddenly, there was an agitated hunter and his dog - Kevin and I missed the exchange because a) it was in French and b) we were further downstream, limited by our glass boats. The upshot of it was that Kris was admonished in not particularly respectful tones to "respect the hunter". I didn't really get it, and I don't think Kris did either - but the dude had a big gun, a big dog, and no doubt a not inconsiderable blood alcohol level. Thus, prudence dictated that we were done paddling for the day (that, and we were starting to get hungry. Kris had announced that he would be barbecuing beef tenderloin that night. I was all for getting back and getting on with dinner!).

Sunday, it was gloomy, but that didn't stop us. We paddled on Lake St. Francis, toward some islands in the distance. The water was glassy flat, and not even passing lakers stirred up an interesting wake to play with, and I was getting bored and wished - out loud - for some wind. Not half an hour later, I got my wish: we got caught in a sudden storm, with firece headwinds and driving rain. Good thing I like that sort of stuff. Though having lunch in a duck blind, soaking wet and with bugs around, was perhaps not the highlight of the weekend - and when there was a discussion to explore some more or head back after that, I voted for heading back. After all, I was practically in Montreal and I had to work the next day - in Guelph. Exit #295. So I'd had enough of train the body, practice kayak - it was time to start the car, practice drive. Which Kevin did. I napped. A good weekend: generous and fun hospitality, and successful Kevin stalking. I'd say he's working on his list of excuses to avoid further stalking right now, except I know he's not: he's on Lake Superior, doing train the body, practice surf.

Posted by Johanna at September 29, 2005 12:44 PM

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