I was a bit concerned when I woke up on Saturday morning. Things were starting to get a little stiff and sore, and I wondered how I was going to make it through the rest of the weekend. I had never actually done four days of paddling before and thought maybe I had gotten in a little over my head. I popped two Aleve after breakfast and hoped for the best.
I did have a half-day reprieve from paddling on Saturday, as I had signed up for a local waterfall hike that would take the whole morning. I thought it’d be good to see some of the other sights in the area, and use some other muscles for a change. At least that was the idea.
We met at headquarters, figured out carpools and headed on our way. It was still raining, but at this point water was a given in our lives and nobody seemed to care about getting or being wet. We hiked to a total of six waterfalls that morning, on narrow, wet and steep trails, laughing at the … err … oddly shaped mushrooms we found along the way, as our guide shook his head at our antics.
At Munising Falls Park, there was a ranger station where two young ladies were getting sworn in as Junior Park Rangers. They received badges to wear after completing the oath, and their grandfather seemed very proud. Our last stop was Potato Patch Falls, which was a long steep hike to where there wasn’t so much water falling.
However, someone made a discovery of thimbleberries at the base of the falls, which made up for the lack of moisture we expected to find there. A bit rare, thimbleberries look a lot like raspberries, but are a bit smoother and brighter, and taste amazing.
Sarah from our group wanted to pick enough for everyone to try, and I was concerned she was going to forget where she was in her enthusiasm and fall through the thicket and down the ravine. I wasn’t in the mood for a rescue.
She didn’t though, and with her typical big warm smile handed out thimbleberries to all. Afterward, we headed back to base to prepare for the afternoon classes. At the hotel, I reluctantly wrestled my damp wet suit back on and headed out to Sand Point with my gear. The beach seemed oddly empty. I figured a lot of the girls must have chosen tours for the day, and finding the little group for Boat Control 2 was a bit of work.
Again the instructor asked what we’d like to get out of class that day. With only three of us, the requests were going to be easy to fill. We headed out on the water, which was much calmer, quieter and warmer than it had been the day before.
We were to be practicing turns, so needing a bit of room, we paddled downwind along the shore to find space away from the other groups. We started with learning the bow rudder, an elegant turning technique that I couldn’t get the hang of no matter what I did.
As we were practicing this new move, my classmate Lucy dumped her kayak and fell into the drink. The instructor took the opportunity to demonstrate a rescue – not a typical part of a class unless the curriculum is actually to teach a rescue – so we felt fortunate, even if Lucy didn’t.
The instructor paddled over to Lucy and told her what to do step-by-step, and we got her back in the boat. Once in, we cheered and teasingly thanked her for having the mishap. We learned something we probably wouldn’t have, and it was very good information to have.
We moved on to another type of turning technique called a low brace turn. I wasn’t any good at the bow rudder turn, but this one I got down pretty easily. However, it involved an edge, and if you remember from last week, an edge means tipping your boat sideways a bit so you can turn with less water resistance. The more you edge, the faster you turn.
Well, you guessed it. Experimenting with how quickly I could turn, I overestimated and fell out of my boat. Now it was my turn to be “rescued.” This time the instructor had our third classmate come over and do the rescue, so it took at little more time. She talked us through the procedure until I was back in the boat, and we had a good laugh about it.
I was actually pleased with myself for falling in. The instructors stress that falling in is a sign that you are pushing your limits and working outside of your comfort zone, so it’s actually a desirable thing. Plus, having been involved with two rescues in one afternoon was a big bonus in our education that day.
After class, I headed back to town to quickly eat and shower so I would have time to do a little gift shopping before the evening’s festivities began. That evening was the circus-themed costume party, and boy, did people go all out for this celebration. I was amazed at the quality, originality and variety of outfits people showed up in.
Halloween’s my favorite holiday, but I had been so overwhelmed with packing before I left that even though I had pulled out some things for a costume, I ultimately decided to leave it all behind. However, my friend Sarah had an extra clown nose for me to wear, and handed me a little balloon animal shaped like a dog to carry around so I didn’t feel left out. We spent a good part of the evening laughing, dancing and snapping photos with all the colorful characters of the circus.
Sunday morning I awoke from the best sleep of the weekend, but my hips were not happy. Three days of paddling in a sea kayak had done them in. I hoped they would at least get me through the morning’s tour without falling right off. The day was cloudy but bright, the sun still deciding whether or not to show itself.
The put-in was a long, rough portage from the parking lot and the beach was crowded with kayaks, as three separate tours were heading out on the lake from the same spot. Two of the groups were ours, and another from a local kayak adventure business. We let the larger group of ladies head out first. Their group was headed to Bridal Veil Falls, which was a bit farther than our paddle. Our group was only paddling about a mile up the shore to Miner’s Castle, a rocky tower of sandstone with sea caves beneath, where rock meets water.
It was clear we weren’t getting in the water any time soon, so I took advantage of my wet suit and played in the shallows of Lake Superior while we waited. I was eventually joined by a few others, while the rest looked on with sour faces as if we were circus freaks. I guess some people forget how much fun it is to play in the water. What a shame.
We made the short paddle to Miner’s Castle and back within just over an hour. Humanity was everywhere, and it wasn’t exactly what I would call a tranquil paddle, but I still enjoyed the tour. Back at the beach, our tired and sore bodies hauled the boats back up the long rough path to the trailer one last time. Back at headquarters, I returned my rentals, thanked the instructors once again and said my goodbyes, with the promise of perhaps seeing everyone again next year.
It was an expensive weekend, but I had learned a lot, gained confidence, made many new friends and really enjoyed myself, so it was well worth it. As I pulled out onto the highway with Munising in my rear view mirror, the clouds parted to show a beautiful blue sky, and the sun came out.
Originally published August 26, 2016.