When visiting Casper, my friend suggested we go sea kayaking on a cold October day and I thought “sure, that could be interesting”. After all, I’d kayaked class III in 20-30 degree weather, so a little fall chill on a peaceful lake didn’t seem like a bad idea. However, when it started snowing hard enough to prompt a last-minute purchase of hand and foot warmers at a gas station on the drive, I began to get slightly concerned. Our end destination was Lake Alcova, about 40 miles Southwest of Casper. We may have used four-wheel-drive to pull into the parking lot. By the time we ready to put the tandem kayak in the water, it was damn near approaching a blizzard.
I warned my friend that I’d spent too much time in cold water to put up with it for long. If things were just plain sucky (a technical term), I would want to get back in the warm car a lot sooner than later. He agreed, but I suspect he was secretly overjoyed that I didn’t call him nuts from the get-go. Donning a dry suit (previously known in my whitewater days as a “drowning bag” from their tendency to fill up with water when torn), brimmed hat, two pairs of gloves and sunglasses to stand in for goggles, we stupidly pushed away from shore.
I really began to think we were crazy when the ducks started giving me looks. However, the intense fog, snow and my unfamiliarity with the area made the lake magical and more than a little spooky. The excitement kept me going. We would silently paddle up to towering shadowy figures that would reveal themselves at the last second to be brilliantly red rock islands or looming canyon walls. Unsuspecting duck flocks scattered as they quacked, “just when we thought tourist season was over, these two dumb asses get a bright idea.” At least, that’s what I think they were saying.
I finally threw the towel in when the water dripping down the shaft of my paddle soaked my outer gloves and my hands were more involuntarily curled around the paddle than physically capable of independent movement. On the way back, my friend asked how the foot pegs were working out. “Foot pegs?” I said, “What foot pegs?”. A quick shuffle of my feet revealed conveniently located foot pegs that would allow me to get brace myself in the boat and get much more weight in every paddle stoke. We were 10 minutes from the take-out (river talk for the end of the trip), but boy did we fly. So the lesson is this: familiarize yourself with the gear before your adventure. Just because you’re a whitewater stud doesn’t mean you know jack about a tandem sea kayak.
Song of the day: Another Way to Die (click on song name to listen, then hit “back” in your browser to return to blog) by Jack White and Alicia Keys. It’s from Quantum of Solace and has some rockin’ piano.