Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kayak Trip 2: Electric Boogaloo

Kayak trip numero deuce is under my belt.

I now have 4.3 miles under my belt on it so far all thru paddle power.

As you can see by the map (click the image to the left) that I inserted at the aqueduct in Saint Marys. This device is a series of tubes and waterfalls that carries the water of the canal over top of the Saint Marys river, as well as provides the river with overflow water from the canal. When properly functioning it helps maintain the canal at a normal level even during very very heavy rains.

The insert depth was roughly 2 to 2.5 feet with the same basic layout as my previous trip. Heavy decaying-organic mud on the bottom, shallow murky water, several fallen limbs and of various sizes.

On this trip I saw two things that I didnt see on my previous trip and it really is amazing just how different living things can can exist less than a mile from each other. However I'm sure it's easier now with humans creating artificial boundaries all over.

The first animal of note was a wood duck. This little critter comes to our area to nest and raise a family. So I saw 1 male and 2 or 3 females and several ducklings.

It was funny, as I would move down the canal, the mother would hustle the ducklings down the canal further on and they would scamper across the water surface trying to fly.

I tried to stay a safe distance back because I didnt want to stress them too much, and I've seen ducks attack swimming dogs before and didnt want to repeat that behavior. Two ducklings got separated and hid along the shore. When I passed they came out and squawked and announced their displeasure with me now being between them and their mother. All along the canal in this area the edges were much too steep and tall for the ducks to scale. Their mother didnt seem too happy with our new positions either and she didnt seem to want to adopt me. I made it to 66a, my goal was on past a few hundred feet away, so I decided to just turn around and not stress them anymore.

Things I learned from this trip:

  • Make sure your new spray skirt fits right before hopping in the kayak and trying to mess with it in the water.
  • Canal water is relatively clean, but will still stink after awhile on a kayak haul.
  • Better paddle control.
  • Trust the kayak to be stable standing in it.
  • A little bit of wind at your back can move you around.
  • I need to a bungie net on the deck to carry stuff easier.
  • People dont typically expect to see a person cruising down the canal in a kayak.
Oh and one last thing, there were some awesome purple wild flowers growing on several bushes down there.
They were more towards the spot I turned around at, so I picked one. Just like in the Batman movie, I had a quest that resulted in me picking a flower. So I think I am just that much closer to being a super hero.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My First Kayak Trip

So the other day I did something that, apparently, a few people didnt think I would do, or like to do, or be interested in or whatever.

I went on my first kayak trip.

Over the years me buying a kayak has sort of become and inside joke and way to tease me. Like I said before I dont think many people thought I was serious about doing it or would be into it. But now I own one and I have officially went on one more kayak trip than most of the people reading this blog post.

As you can see by clicking on the map on the left, I took a trip down the Miami-Erie Canal in my hometown of St. Marys. I used the My Tracks app on my Droid to record this trip. Unfortunately I only recorded the one way, so just double the map's distance and path. I took off from the red point, went to the green and back to the red.

It was a very nice and relaxing time. I saw a lot of interesting things on the canal including wood peckers, some wild rocket lilies (well semi-wild) and a couple of small fish jumping out of the very shallow water.

The canal water was about 1.5 feet deep with a very thick mud at the bottom that is unlike most mud you would encounter. It's thick and black and wont let you go if you get into it. So I definitely took it easy in the kayak and did my best to not tip it over.

I'm using a Pelican Break (80) that I bought from a nice lady south of here thru Craigslist. The kayak seemed to track well and was very stable even has I bobbed it from side-to-side in some more interesting moments.

Now what sort of trouble could I get into on a long since used waterway? Well I'm glad you asked. At the green marker on the map is a tunnel that leads underneath State Route 33.

The interesting thing about this tunnel is that it's very similar to a pedestrian tunnel that is on the towpath along the left side of the canal. A tunnel that I've ridden thru on my bike or walked thru several times in the past. So I thought, "What the heck? I can fit and I can see the other end, so let's try it."

The bow of the kayak is in, it's an 8 foot kayak so this isnt going to be very dramatic. A few more light paddle strokes and I'm in. It's dark, the noise is strange from the traffic above. The light reflections bouncing around on the sides are interesting and my paddles make a weird ding off the metal sides when I accidentally bump them.

Then I hit my first spider web. Face first. No big deal. I'm not afraid of a little spider ... or a medium sized spider. Heck even large spiders dont bother me, so I press on. Oh look, there's one of my spider friends right now hanging from the next cobweb. I'm about 12 feet in, roughly under the first lane of traffic, and am now face-to-face with...

Yep. Dun, dun, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun. The brown recluse. Not incredibly poisonous, but has been known to bite and cause some damage. I pass him slowly. He doesnt seem to know what to make of this person on a big piece of orange plastic invading his pristine home.

My mind races with what could be worse and pleased that my own personal Shelob had let me pass safely. And then I looked up. In the corrugated bends of the steel pipe I am in hangs the reason that I left the tunnel. Well the several reasons.

I present, to the uninitiated, the Orb Spider. This guy doesnt pack the potential problems as the Brown Recluse that I passed earlier, but they are much nastier looking. The abdomen was at least the size of the end of my thumb. Oh and notice how I am using plural pronouns? Yep, you guessed it, there were a LOT of them. I counted at least 15 directly above my head as I spun my kayak around ... there's 3 more ... weird splashing noises start echoing thru here as I hustle myself out of this womb of web weavers.

So I turned around and began heading home. Back the way I came. The canal had one last surprise in store for me though. A good sized snapping turtle leaped from the water, glanced off my back, hit the kayak's stern and slid into the water. Yeah, I think I was attacked by a turtle.

So all-in-all, a nice little trip. No rapids, a casual paddle down calm waters and a few close calls with some local Ohio wildlife. It was fun. I'm hoping to go out tomorrow to another section of the canal south of town. This part goes under State Route 66, a railroad another road and out to the feeder from the lake. I'm hoping this one will have less spiders.