Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Serenity on the Upper Cuyahoga
“Has to be early. We want to be in the water just as the sun is coming up to get good nature pictures. I’d say that’s around 7 a.m. which means you’ll need to be at my place by 6 a.m.,” I said. He goes into work every morning at 6 a.m. and I knew this would be no problem for him.
“How about 5:30 a.m.,” he said and we compromised on 5:45, but I knew he’d be early.
I’d put the kayaks on the van the night before, so when he arrived…early…we were on our way. We went to Russell Park, which is near the head waters of the Cuyahoga River just south of Burton. We were going to run the river past the Hiram Rapids and take out just above Camp High. The kayaks sit high on the roof of the van because of the racks, which can make taking them on and off a bit of a struggle. I had brought along a short, plastic stool to assist with the operation. Bruce took it to the front of the vehicle and used it to reach the kayaks. We had them off the van and moved them to the side of the road so they would be out of the way during the 30 minutes it would take to deliver the van to the take out point and return to Russell Park in Bruce’s car. As I began to pull forward, I heard a crunching sound coming from under the car. Then I remembered the stool.
Yeah…plastic stools are no match for minivans and this one was no exception. I spent the next 5 minutes trying to dislodge it from the wheel well. I didn’t want Bruce to feel bad about being an idiot and leaving it in front of the car, but I had to tell him what I was doing since it was dark and from his car, he couldn’t tell.
“You left Holly’s favorite gardening stool under the car and I ran it over and squished it like a ripe pumpkin,” I said.
“Oops. I’ll get her a new one. It wasn’t anything special…was it?”
“Um…well…her grandma used to let her use it when Holly helped her in the garden as a little girl. When she died, she left it to Holly because it represented such a special time together for them, but…other than that…no,” I said. He looked horrified. Oh what the hell…I’d lied again.
We were back and in the water by 7:15 with barely enough daylight to see the downed trees that were scattered throughout the river. We’d spend the next three hours on a leisurely trip down this wonderfully wild river…a hidden gem such a surprisingly short distance from a large, urban area. I’ve been around long enough to have seen the river burn and I know that situation is a distant memory, but it’s really hard to believe how beautiful the upper reaches of the Cuyahoga is and the variety of wildlife it supports. I commonly have beaver slapping their tails on the water and diving below the surface on my approach. Red-tailed hawks are always circling overhead, and Great Blue Heron’s often accompany me for long stretches of the paddle, flying a couple of hundred yards ahead and waiting for my approach before again moving down river. Occasionally, I’m lucky enough to spot an eagle. On more than one occasion, I’ve almost rolled the kayak as I twisted into some unusual position to snap a picture with the camera I always have hanging from my neck. It is from these pictures that will include fellow kayakers not wearing life jackets, that I get a load of crap from my sister. She’s the Director of the Spirit of America boating instruction and safety program, which, quite naturally, promotes the use of life jackets. I’ve taught some classes in canoeing and kayaking for the groups and always wear one then, but I’ve told her I’m not wearing one in water that only reaches my knees. She doesn’t want to hear it.
The water was reasonably high and I actually had some get into the hold as I moved quickly through the ‘beyond category’ rapids in Hiram. We pulled out just below the rapids in a little less than three hours. It’s not what I’d classify as a workout, but my butt was killing me and my legs were numb from being in the boat for so long. It definitely burns calories, gives my lower body a break, and, most importantly, provides a dose of serenity that almost anyone could use. All very good reasons to do it more often.
Kayak duration: 3 hours.
Training Heart Rate: 75 bpm.
Calories burned during workout: 1,000.