Saturday, August 6, 2011

Total Immersion.

Summers in this part of the world are hot. Until this year, the way I've adapted is to ride early (rarely), ride late (more common) or escape completely to the high country. Otherwise, I could be found hiding in a climate controlled building while doing anything other than riding.

The packraft changed all that.

Lately I've spent increasing amounts of time out paddling, even and especially in the heat of the day. Fang is my most common paddling partner, followed closely by Greg.

Living at ~5000' in the desert means there aren't a whole lotta choices on where we get to float. Two big (albeit flat, and hot) rivers run right through town. A few pothole lakes and abandoned oxbows sit on the fringes. Unless you want to get in the car and drive a bunch, that's about it. So we've gotten creative to keep it fresh--we've ridden our bikes to the put in, then floated (and flipped!) with bikes aboard on the way home. We've paddled all of the lakes at various times of day, created a new-to-us loop by paddling The Death Canal and then running (to stay ahead of skeeters) back up The Path of Blood. We've paddled with Girls, in silty water and fresh, with and without dogs, with and without bikes, and lately, even in some massive-to-us waves. Which means we've also gotten some experience swimming, and wet re-entering our boats.

Getting out with L, or Fang, or friends, and just being outside, unhurried, and in the relatively cool water has been the only real goal. But while sitting here editing this video tonight, it occurred to me that I've gained a heap of experience at the same time. I am NOT an experienced boater--I'm not even into the ranks of intermediates yet. But I feel like I've turned my learning curve from vertical to maybe just a wee bit tilted. Still a long pitch to climb, but I'm starting to see handholds.

Is that even important, if the goal is just to be outside? Well, yeah. Experience means you have a better idea of your limits. If you can stay inside those limits, future experiences don't have to be scary or even anxious--they're more likely to just be fun. More to the point, if a month ago you were quaking in your sodden socks every time you approached a riffle or a wave, and now you feel like those same waves aren't just NOT scary but are actually pretty dang fun, well, that's progress. Progress is motivating, making the act of further progress yet more motivating. It's a self-energizing cycle, and one which translates well beyond the backyard.

Which brings me 'round to the real point of this post: In a few short hours I'm shoving off for Alaska, with fat bike and pudgy boat in tow. Myself and some good friends are heading out to the Alaska Peninsula. We'll ride and push the bikes along ~200 miles of bluffs and beaches. When we encounter water too deep to wade we'll use the boats. A cursory count says we've got 3 big bays and ~30 rivers to cross, so the boats are gonna get used bunches. With a little luck and a lot of determination, we hope to make it from Cold Bay all the way to Port Heiden.

Although all of us have spent the better part of our adult lives outside, this trip is a bit beyond all of our comfort zones. In short, it promises to be A Challenge.

I think that by now I've got the biking part pretty well figured out: Never been fast, but I can usually get there. And I've been good at shiver-not-sleeping in a bag while everyone around me saws logs since... ...forever. World class really. Here's hoping that the past month of boating fun allows me to contribute to an otherwise solid group of guys, all set on experiencing some new-to-us wild country. And with a little luck maybe bringing back some images to share.

Til then, thanks for checkin' in.