03 July 2010

Waterfront Property

I am NOT a fan of the water.

Living near it is wonderful. Being on it is...okay. Being in it is.....Gah!! There must be some misunderstood fear about the water for me. So do I let a small detail like that stop me? Nope. In fact here I go on a 3 day 2 night kayak trip. Nothing but a thin plastic like substance someone once upon a time dubbed "kayak" between me and the restless water for 48+ hours. My own exclusive waterfront property for the next few days of paddling back towards Sitka, about 18 nautical miles and towards dry stable land. For sure the farthest Ive been so far in a kayak.

No limits kayak expedition is for those with diabetes. We are even being so brave to bring a spontaneous Marylander to film the duration of the trek! I met the filmmaker yesterday, and we leave bright and early tomorrow morning. We are sitting outside on the deck of the guides house and setting up equipment for my pre trip interview. Gulp. I was told only recently that we would be filming a short documentary type film, and I would be one of 3 diabetics on this journey. Double gulp. Im no mathematician but my head is swimming with variables of how much I would generally be filmed. Gulp, scrunch the eyebrows together, and slowly EXHALE.

Thats okay, I just will not let myself go thinking about who will be watching this footage. Oops, except, here I go thinking about it. So instead I try to focus on preparing. Preparation of clothes, preparation of mental status for the weather forecast, prep on what food I need to bring for potential hypoglycemic episodes. Prep on feeling better about my swinging blood sugars! I have not been feeling too well. Stress, being too busy, and pushing myself far too much.

I can NOT miss this trip! So here I go, pushing myself again.

I never wish for diabetes to have control over my life. Or to hold me back, it may be a tough road but I will not allow it to hold me back! Now the trick is to keep this positive stream of thoughts filtering through my brain throughout the trek. Through the rain, and the wind, rough seas, the tiredness, potential blisters, and mainly the wet/clammy/cold of southeast Alaska. Luckily I am a local, I know I can deal. So now how to prep the filmmaker.....did I mention she was from Maryland?!!

Day 1:
We arrive on this chilly morning toting what we need to survive in the wilds of Alaska. Messy hair, slurping coffee, some of us talking too much(I am not a morning person)growl....and load all of our gear and kayaks into the boat that is waiting patiently to take us out to our drop off point.

But, we all begin to be bubbly with excitement and although it had been pouring not too long ago,

it seems like the weather is even giving us a little break to start off our journey. For the time being anyhow....

The boat drops us off at the Tom Young memorial cabin. The cabin is a pan abode style with a second floor loft with sleeping quarters. Easy camping to start off with. The next couple of days will be the Alaskan way, involving a bit more roughing it. We finally unload all of our equipment, and with a slight panic of: I cant locate my backpack with my diabetic supplies, did it get left on the boat that just left? Nope, phew- here it is. Then I take a look around at all this gear... how in the world are we going to fit ALL this stuff into the seemingly small holds of the kayaks!

As we finish moving everything up the beach to the cabin its drizzling. Not just a light refreshing rain either, no; a true southeast Alaska soul drenching drizzle. We huddle around the camera gear on the table inside the cabin. We must all be thinking nearly the same thing.....
is the weather going to cooperate
throughout this trip?!

Already the rain begins to cease, and through the window suddenly we witness a spray of water. A lone humpback whale has surfaced almost directly in front of the cabin.
The filmmaker grabs her camera to see if she can get a shot. As we all stand outside watching the whale spouting near the shore line, all of the sudden it lunges and opens its mouth and plunges back down into the water! I have never seen a whale "lunge feeding" If this is how the paddle is beginning, I think things might just go alright.

That is until the guide requests the filmmaker to enter the water and participate in a "wet exit" shiver, I don't want to let the filmmaker know until afterward how severely I abhor "wet exits" (*see top paragraph) but fortunately did mine in the pool last year. I did not want to deter her at all, but she fared very well. We even got it on video *grin* maybe we will have to put it in the outtakes!
Day 2:
The next morning the guide demonstrates how to make the most of the hold in the front and the back of a kayak....I'm glad I'm not the only one currently having a tough time packing..... how DO you get a good sized cooking pot to use its space wisely? And what is this nerf football doing along with us on our journey??

Finally with a few adjustments we get underway.

Through fields of kelp,
And some silly songs about seaweed and otters, which with regular intervals pop their fuzzy little heads up from between the rifts, register human
presence and slip with less than a splash back into
the safety of the underwater forest.

We make good time paddling and stop at Frosty Reef for some well deserved lunch. (And a little snooze) and surprisingly a few bars of cell phone service!

We set out again shortly after testing blood sugars, repacking kayaks, and taking care of nature calls. And paddle off toward a cove called Kanga Bay to locate a fresh water source to fill up our canteens and bottles. My muscles are faring pretty well, considering the repetitive movements.

but, not much later than this thought produced itself:

I feel my muscles beginning
to protest with the constant paddling
motion now, a meditative exercise
that is bearable. Except is it
bearable? Its starting to get hard
now. In fact, the sea is looking a tad
wild, and I am struggling against the
swells. And all the sudden I realize,
exactly why I have lost my strength so
quickly. Sea sickness. Yep, nausea,
limp limbs, eyeballs so tired I could
flip them into the water and they
would drop like a lead cannon, sinking...
all.. the way.. down... to the bottom...

I focus on the guide, calling out: Just a little farther now! We just need to make it over to that island over there! I look across the aggressive bay, my head is swirling with the effort. But I hunker down and just think about my arms. Paddling, one arm, then the other. Then, to my dismay, I hear the guide again: We are going to pick up the pace so we can make it in front of this troller. I look to my right. Sure enough, there it is, barreling towards us through the choppy water. In my nauseated state I wasn't even aware of it's approach. I honestly think to myself, can I make this?! Well I'm not going to sit out here in this rocky sea and wait to hurl. Push, strain, pull, groan, wipe the spray from my face. And push on again. Finally, in what feels like ages, we get past the danger point of the boat and see the sweet relief of one of the Taigud Islands, also known as "Strawberry Island."
Except, no edible strawberries grow here, just the reminiscent trailings of a lonely plant that somehow rooted and survived and multiplied upon the grassy hillside of the mass of land of which we are now setting up camp to spend the night.

The clouds have rolled in and fat raindrops are making their way into our business, of setting up tents, unpacking kayaks, and finally with a heavy plop, sitting ourselves down to our make shift kitchen for some hearty chili our guide has so smartly stowed away. Really, does his kayak hold more than all of our kayaks put together? He is a packing master I tell you. A campfire later and my eyelashes are fighting with gravity. I wander to the tent I am sharing with the filmmaker, and slither into my inviting sleeping bag and after a few moments of chattering and reflecting on our day, I close my eyes. Despite what the weather may be doing currently outside our tent, or the terrible seasickness earlier, with all this clean fresh air, and the calmness of being out in the wilderness, I know I'm gonna sleep great tonight.

Day 3:
The weather has officially gone from bad to worse, which has been known to happen in southeast Alaska. I'm not surprised, but it is a let down. A let down that we have come this far to what, get stranded on an island that doesn't even have any edible strawberries!?

We cook breakfast in our kitchen (hey I'm beginning to like this set up) especially when the guide has packed the ultimate meal variations, I will never, NEVER whine again about having too much gear when you get to sleep in an awesome tent, to wake up, wander into the woods pick fresh blueberries(still looking for those strawberries) and eat pancakes for breakfast!!!

We finish up breakfast and huddle together to make the decision of what our next move is going to be. Option #1. Gear up and fight for the next 8 miles against what looks to be 5 foot swells. (Uh please tell me someone remembered the anti nausea medicine?) Option #2. Make a call to our boat to make a run out to save us. Although the guide was ready for some ocean surfing- the remainder of us sadly yet unanimously voted to make a call. About 2 hours later, through whitecaps and sideways rain, the boat sidles up to the beach. We clamber as gracefully as our stiff joints allow, as fast as we can onto the deck, kayaks and all.

The ride back to town is the wettest, coldest part so far of the entire journey!! Wet, shivering and ready to get back to warm, dry, fluffy things we normally take for granted, we truly feel satisfied with our adventure, but.....

boy am I glad to be off the water!
When are we going again?!

(This kayak trip was taken July of 2009, and written in the winter of 2009/2010. Sometimes patience on a perspective is all that a good story needs! No Limits really is planning another trek for this coming July 16-19 so stay tuned!!)

(And if you are diabetic dont hesitate to sign up!!!)