Friday, October 07, 2016

Down the River With a Paddle

I joined Lamb for a field trip at school that involved a kayak ride down the Huron River. It was certainly a good father-daughter outing.

The school called for parent volunteers and I figured I'd rather keep an eye on Lamb in that environment. Lamb wanted to paddle with a friend to keep me at safe parent distance (we have a running (semi?-) gag about how close I'm allowed to get to avoid "embarrassing" her in front of her friends).

As it turned out, her friend's dad came, too, and he wanted to ride with his daughter. So at that late time, I was the default partner. Good thing.

It was cool but not cold. Sadly it started raining just as we started dragging a kayak to the river.

Still, since we were paddling we were not cold despite being wet.

Lamb struggled with her end of the kayak while dragging it to the dock, and that showed why it was a good idea I was with her. With another young girl, that trip would have taken longer and really tired them out.

The ride started with practice paddling before hitting the series of rapids that led to the river. We managed that without spilling. Not bad considering neither of us had done this and during those runs a friend of Lamb's flipped in the kayak with her dad. I grabbed the dad and could at least tell him his daughter was above water on the other side of the flipped kayak. Lamb and I were swept down another rapids with one of their paddles, but we waited there to return their paddle when they caught up.

The water was not deep and we had to keep our eyes out for shallows. My presence allowed me to Flintstone our way across one grounding (two feet over the sides pushing) but I did have to get out a couple times to drag the boat. Lamb never had to get out of the kayak between docks, I'm proud to say!

Our proudest moment was at a string of rocks that went across the river. I thought we'd have to get out and drag the kayak but I spotted a couple gaps that we'd fit through.

One had some swirling water just beyond that looked like a submerged rock so we went for the right-side gap.

Despite scraping bottom beyond the gap, we made it! We paddled past the shallows and kept going.

Lamb wanted to speed up to catch up with people (we were among the last to get in the water), but I told her we should pace ourselves so we don't exhaust ourselves just as we hit an emergency.

At one point I even had to stop paddling for about a minute just to rest my arms a bit. If I didn't exercise, that trip would have wrecked me, let me tell you. I'm getting old for this kind of stuff.

And as Lamb said, paddling on the Wii was not really preparation for the trip. Lamb did well on paddling, but she did note that while I was not paddling she could see she wasn't doing as much as she thought she was!

Guilt got me paddling again in short order. Hence my mere minute of coasting.

Lamb spotted the turn to the destination dock and we rounded the corner to go in! Which was good sine I missed it. And considering that Lamb's glasses were rain spotted, I'm grateful she saw the sign!

That's when we discovered a minor emergency. Two girls were struggling along a retaining wall with their capsized kayak. They looked exhausted.

We stopped to help them and they flipped the kayak while I held it in place while they got on the water-logged boat. They made it but the thing was filled with water and that led it to capsize again.

There was no place to beach to empty the water and since we were so close, I offered to tow them.

The girls held on to our kayak while holding their paddles and overturned kayak and Lamb and I started paddling.

Finally we saw the dock. It looked very far away and we were going very slow. My arms hurt.

A teacher in a single kayak came by and offered to take one of the girls. I said that would help a lot.

The girl Lamb and I were towing gave in to exhaustion and stopped doing anything but holding on. I periodically asked her how she was doing to make sure I hadn't lost her.

And I just put my head down and paddled, only looking up every once in a while to keep my bearing because just staring at the dock was depressing since it did not seem to get closer.

But finally we made it. And dock employees pulled the girl we were towing out of the water.

And Lamb and I crawled on to the dock. My legs, to my surprise, were rubbery. I hadn't notice that when I'd gotten out of the boat during groundings. That last towing leg of the trip was the killer, I think.

Lamb dried off and we finally had two small pieces of cold cheese pizza to revive us.

And then we had to suffer through wet lessons on the ecology of the park.

Finally, I led a group of 14 students, including Lamb, back to the school. I was drenched and changed into dry clothing in a restroom. Lamb went to her last class where she got peer kudos for our work as the Huron River Coast Guard, and then I took her home, with a nice--and even fun if wet--field trip under our belt.

Let me tell you, I was glad Lamb didn't experience that with another young girl as a partner. Mind you, we lost nobody and it would have been a good experience to deal with the challenges.

But still. My daughter!

And I can say that I was not sore the next day. In younger days I would have been. I'm not a muscle-head, but I do try to keep in reasonable shape as the intrinsic health of youth has disappeared. I guess it paid off.

Despite pre-event joking by Lamb who said I had to maintain a large parent-daughter distance to avoid embarrassing her, she said she was glad I was there with her.

I'll miss this stuff when this leg of life is gone.