Monday, July 11, 2016

With a million stars all around

Art and I attended a family gathering in Bend, Oregon last week. Fifteen people from daughter Melissa and son-in-law Scott's families met up for activities and meals for several days.

Art and I passed on the river rafting (did it before, probably no longer limber enough), the day trip to Crater Lake (been there), the mountain bike ride from the top of Mt. Bachelor (not crazy).

We did do the starlight canoe trip, though. We've done that before, over ten years ago, and loved it. When I was in high school I took canoeing lessons one summer, and Art picked it up someplace (probably at a family gathering of his own). We've been canoeing a number of times - once on a lake in Georgia ten years ago, and several times on a "canoeing trip" in Nicaragua, where we passed on the canoeing almost every day to explore something of local interest on one of the small islands on the Solentiname Archipelago on Lake Nicaragua.

In Bend, eleven of our group met up with our guide at the office of Wanderlust Tours. We loaded into their van at 8:00 pm; six canoes were loaded on the trailer. Our destination was Elk Lake. After unloading the canoes and gear, our guide, Jared, gave us a ten-minute review of how to paddle, how not to capsize, who moves the canoe forward (person in front/bow) and who steers (person in back/stern). We were each issued an infrared head lamp so we could see in the dark without losing our night vision.

It was near dusk when we put the canoes in the water. We paddled toward Mt. Bachelor across the lake. I paddled on the right side until my arms got tired, then called "change sides" so Art could steer from the opposite side. Every time he changed it felt like we were going to capsize. I wondered what on earth he was doing back there.

A couple of times the six canoes "rafted up" so Jared could tell us something about the geology or history of this area.

At the other end of the lake we disembarked. Jared built a fire and then handed out beer/hot chocolate and cookies. We watched the sun set.

It was dark by the time we started back across Elk Lake. There was no moon and no clouds. We donned the infrared lamps. Even with that help, it's hard for me to know where I'm going at night. Even after cataract surgery on both eyes it's hard to see where I am out there. I was in front, looking out at black. Except for other red headlamps and a bazillion stars. Art was supposed to be steering, but I didn't trust him. It seemed to me that I was responsible for getting us back. And I had no idea where that was. I got scared.

I told Art I was afraid. He told me to head for the trail of stars heading for the ground, but I had trouble believing him because it seemed like such a random comment. I fretted several times about not being sure where we were headed and he said, "Don't worry about it." Which wasn't helpful. As the paddler in the rear, he was steering, but I fought him. Again, when he changed sides it felt like we were going to capsize into the dark, cold water.

The six canoes rafted up once on the way back. Jared told us a story about why you never see Scorpio and Orion in the same night sky. Mythological characters getting ticked off at each other, you know. With no moon and no clouds and no ambient light, the sky was spectacular. We could see multiple planets and constellations and the Milky Way. I haven't seen such a beautiful night sky since we were in Kenya three years ago.

When we reached the beach I said, "Why did you say that, about heading for the trail of stars?" Art said, "Because that was where we put in." I said, "But those stars weren't there when we put in." He laughed. I guess there was a topographical feature he remembered. He's very observant about that kind of thing, and I am sometimes not. I was a matter of perspective. It would have been much easier if I'd just paddled calmly and trusted him to get us there.

Turns out we still know how to canoe. Even with creaky knees and cranky feet. So good to know!


Olga said...

I canoed often with Mike and never gave a thought to my own lack of ability and orientation -- just depended on him to get us where we were going. Next week, for something new and different, I am taking kayaking lessons. i am more independent these days.

Dreamer said...

Your canoe trip sounds wonderful. It has been many years since we have been canoeing and we have never done a night trip. Being able to see all of the stars is something that I am looking forward to on the Heritage Schooner.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, does that sound like an amazing trip. I would have loved it. Hope if you do it again, you relax and trust Art. He did get you back safely.

Debbie V. said...

What a good story - I envy you accomplishing the canoe trip even though you were scared (no peaceful easy feelings I take it). The sky, the dark, the stars. I hope I get to do something like this too.

Barbara said...

I'm one of those persons that is afraid of turning over or getting lost and I would not have tried it. I'm so glad you did and even though there were tense moments (Haha) it sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

The whole idea sounds wonderful and romantic, but I wouldn't have thought in advance about the difficulties involved. As it turns out, there was just enough of a threat to make the whole journey ultimately more valuable. Great story!

Linda Reeder said...

You like to be in control, don't you. Me too, so I recognize the symptoms.
It sounds like a wonderful ride, which could have been even better if you had not scared yourself. I recognize that too.

Carole said...

Just beautiful! The canoe ride would have made me nervous too. I'm not a great swimmer. Glad you found your way back :-)

DJan said...

What a wonderful thing to do! It's hard to walk around in the dark for me, too. Not knowing what's under my feet is scary. Great story, well told. :-)

joared said...

That sounds like an interesting adventure I would have enjoyed years ago, but don't think I'd have the endurance now.