Today I paddled 11.8 miles from Happy Campers Farm (the cool AirBnB property from my last post) to Gerry Boyle Park in Cambridge. Here’s the path I took:
Today’s paddle was significant for a variety of reasons. I’m having a hard time prioritizing and laying out those reasons in a way to create an engaging post here, but here goes.
I mentioned in the last post that my family is going through some pretty tough stuff. We lost my grandfather at the end of September, and just 5 days later, my mom lost her 4-year battle with ovarian cancer. The last few weeks have been filled with every emotion you can think of. And I’m exhausted. I was exhausted before I even hit the water this morning.
One of the reasons today’s trip was significant was because it was the first time I had been paddling since my mom’s passing. And this is the first time I’m writing a blog post knowing that my mom won’t be reading it (pretty sure she was my only follower until like last year!). My mom is the original inspiration in my life for pursuing adventures in the outdoors. She ensured that my sister and I played outside as kids, she told us stories about solo hiking with her dogs when she was a child, and she even taught me things like how to identify wildflowers and what the song of a bobwhite sounds like. When I moved to the beach and started working as a state park naturalist, I was able to teach her similar things, just the beach versions.
My sister, Julia, has spent a great deal of time on the east coast (she lives in Colorado) over the last 2 months which I am incredibly grateful for. I can’t imagine going through the last few weeks without her. Today, I was lucky enough to have her shuttle me from one end of my journey to the other (so I didn’t have to bring my bike). Julia has been here for over 3 weeks, and today she flew back home, but on her drive back to the airport, she gave me a ride. I actually hugged her good-bye right before launching, not knowing when I’ll see her next.
A big concern I had today was fog. Patrick had a 2-hour delay and it was pretty thick on the drive up from Ocean Pines. It was starting to burn off a little when I launched at 8:30, but visibility was still touch and go for a while. I decided to hug the shoreline for peace of mind. This added a little bit of mileage to my trip, but it made me feel safe. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to forgo 5 knot winds and flat calm waters! Birding wasn’t bad either. I saw a good handful of common loons, several eagles, and two coots! Coots are sooo dang cute!
Around 10:00 the fog lifted. It was like someone pulled back the drapes and all of a sudden I could see for miles. Perfect timing as I was coming around a point and about to head across some open water towards Cambridge. I no longer needed to hug the shoreline, and I felt confident to paddle among the boaters in the area.
Speaking of boaters, I had an encounter today that was way cool! Matt, The Choptank Riverkeeper. I’m pretty sure most people that see me paddling solo in open water or remote locations, think I’m mildly crazy, but I’m okay with that. I saw his boat coming towards me from a distance and when he spotted me, he slowed down, we waved to each other, and then I decided to paddle over and say hello. Why was I excited to talk to the Riverkeeper? Well, I follow him on facebook, and my uncle has been a riverkeeper for… 20 years now? He was one of the first Riverkeepers to work under the Waterkeeper Alliance. Larry Baldwin – google him. He’s been in some famous documentaries and is seriously badass when it comes to fighting for clean waterways. Anyway, turns out Matt knows my uncle! But I mean, even Natalie Portman knowns my uncle LOL! Nevertheless, Matt seemed like a cool guy, keeping a close watch on the river, pointed out Horn Point (UMD Center for Env Studies) which I was curious as to where it was exactly, and he seemed impressed with my ridiculous paddling goal. Oh, and he did make a comment about how he was wondering who the hell was paddling solo in the middle of the river – hah! That would be me.
After wrapping up the conversation, I continued on my way, but was exhausted at that point. I really struggled in the last 1-2 miles and I don’t even really know why. An 11 mile paddle is usually within my paddling comfort zone. And I hadn’t had to stress about the fog in over 2 hours. And there was no wind to fight. By the time I got off the water, my hands hurt and my arms felt like jell-o. I even struggled to load my kayak back on top of my car.
It didn’t hit me until I started writing this post that the reason I was so exhausted was likely a combination of physical exertion and the emotions of the past few weeks that had drained my energy levels. But at the same time, I felt pretty accomplished by the end, regardless of how tired I was. I was proud that despite the most significant, life-altering change in my life that just happened, I was able to push on and keep chipping away at my goal. And I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my mom. Her love of the outdoors and her encouragement to pursue my goals have been the biggest key factors in this journey of mine. And call it cheesy if you want, but there was something almost symbolic about the fog today and how it lifted so quickly. Life may have fog at times, and I may not know which direction I’m headed (like how I’ve been feeling lately without my mom), but at any given moment, sometimes when it’s least expected, the fog will burn off and everything will make sense again.