Sunday, June 01, 2008

Down the Humber and back

I had two adventures kayaking on the Humber last summer. The first time, P-Doug took me down there and introduced me to the pastime. I'd never done it before, but I was delighted to find how naturally it came to me. That time, we were guided down from Bloor to the mouth of the river at Lake Ontario, and then back again.

The second time was in September when my friend R-Lang was visiting from New England. That time didn't go as well for me. I had a devil of a time keeping up, largely because I couldn't keep the kayak straight. I eventually suspected that the stabilizing fin hadn't deployed, which turned out to be the case (it was jammed with sand). I finally had to turn back on my own and fight the thing back to the landing ground, where I cut my palm open falling into the water getting out of the thing, and spending about an hour and a half waiting for P-Doug and R-Lang to return.

Oddly enough, that second experience didn't sour me on the whole thing. I managed to keep my perspective — pretty rare for me, actually — and put to down to an anomalous occurrence that need not spoil things the next time out. And I was determined there would be a next time out.

Well, happily, that came last Saturday. I drove down to meet up with P-Doug and his missus, G, and we all went to St. Lawrence Market, where I availed myself of 6 lbs. of ground chicken (parceled off Monday night into 17 packages to be eaten over the next few weeks), a spicy pineapple-cranberry spread that's nice on toast and quark (a soft German spreadable cheese with no fat content, just milk protein), and my favourite hot sauce, Z: Nothing Beyond. After that we dropped off G back at home and then took the subway down to Old Mill Station, aiming for the 1 p.m. launch. We missed that, but I honestly didn't mind because I was perfectly happy to go at our own pace, rather than be led around.

Just like the second time I went, I brought my cameras. This time, I had the G9 and the infrared S70, as well as my cell phone and PhotoTrackr. I had everything in a little shoulder bag, all packed up in sandwich bags in case I fell in or otherwise got wet. This was, to be honest, of limited utility. To use the G9, I had to take it out and expose it to the elements (though I had the neck strap on, so unless I actually fell overboard, nothing much was going to happen to it). Using the S70, I kept it in the sandwich bag, which had the advantage of guarding it and rending it likely to float, but had the disadvantage of causing glare at certain angles and increasing the risk I'd drop it because there was no way to use the wrist strap and the bag itself was smooth and difficult to hold. I never dropped either one, but I was constantly aware I was risking a lot of money every time I took a shot that wasn't from the chest.

We got to the river around quarter after one and out on it around half past. I spent a lot of time messing with the cameras, taking shots and some movies that turned out pretty nicely in places, I think. P-Doug slowed down a couple of times to let me catch up, but I think eventually he decided that my shutterbuggery (if I can use that term) was bound to hold me back more or less constantly and he drifted down at his own pace. In truth, it's hard to keep in lockstep on a river anyway, unless you're a voyageur. We linked up a few times, especially at the first marsh where he lingered rather longer than I did. By that time, the sunny midday had taken on a decided overcast, and there was a sense of rain in the air, but it didn't seem overwhelming.

I think it was just after the second marsh, as I headed down towards the bridges with a decided pace, that I realized I'd left P-Doug behind. I was around a bend at that point so there was no way I could gage just how far back he might be... I waited for a few moments, but when I didn't see him, I figured he was taking his time at the second marsh and I just pressed on to the bridges and the mouth of the river. I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment in getting there again, and I'd decided to wait for P-Doug there, but right around the time I got turned around, the rain started. I had no idea how bad it was going to be, and the wind was really picking up. I had most of an hour's trip back, too, so I pretty quickly gave up on the idea of waiting around and I headed back. Turned out to be just well because I never did bump into him on the way back.

The rain was never more than showers, really, but it fell for about fifteen, twenty minutes and I was convinced it was probably going to get worse. I was paddling pretty steadily, pausing when my arms tired. I noticed that it was mostly my left arm that seemed to tire, probably because I'm right-handed. The trip back always seems longer than the trip down (of course, you're going against the current, however slight) and I felt the pressure to get back before it really opened up on me. But it never did.

As I was approaching the landing ground, just above Bloor Street, I could see P-Doug's distinctive hat atop a figure beside another. Conversing, I figured, with the kayak owner. I wondered how long he'd been waiting. But as I was closing in, I happened to notice a deer on the east bank of the river. She noticed me, too, but didn't run away. I had to get a picture of her. I circled back, and took a number of shots. Then, I turned on the video function and got a wonderful 30 second movie of her as she wander away, and then loped off as the subway train arrived with its distinctive racket. I then turned back to end the excursion.

We headed back on the subway to rejoin G and all went to my place to watch Miller's Crossing and enjoy a spaghettini and sausage dinner, courtesy of P-Doug and his culinary skills. A pleasant day all around. Even for the deer, I bet.

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