Types of Fun

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal

Chip MacAlpine, Erie Canal, Kayaking, Sunset

Lots of things pertaining to outdoor adventures get ratings. Systems and classes are used to determine the size, technical difficulty and rank activities. Rivers get rated from Class 1, easy going riffles to Class VI, there is a good chance you will die! Mountaineering, ice climbing and rock climbing all use different grading systems. Skiing runs use symbols from green circles to black diamonds. Even “fun” has a rating system. It isn’t restricted to adventure, but since it is possibly the only time you will hear of this rating system, we will stick with that. There are three levels. Type I is general all around fun, it’s fun plan, fun while it is happening and fun to reminisce about later over a beer. Type II Fun, holds onto the planning and chatting about later aspects, but when it is happening you have to work for it. You are gonna suffer and might swear off such future activities. Before it’s over though with realize that it was actually pretty awesome. Finally there is Type III Fun, a bit of a misnomer, since you know it’s a bad idea when you are planning it, it’s absolutely grueling to enact and you have a hard time looking back on it. Although it may not have been fun at all, it is often the part of a trip that sticks with you for the rest of your life.

This trip has been a lot of work, yet I would still consider it mostly Type I Fun. Planning on daily mileages, where I might find a place to camp, what I’m going to dig out of the food cache, it’s all something I can enjoy. Having moments throughout the day, the sunrises, critters and folks I encounter along the way and yes, even the less then pleasant weather is fun. Each day ends up being different and can stand out on it’s own. Many of you believe I’m a masochist though, so in reality most of my time is probably Type II Fun though someone else’s eyes. Today was different though. Little things have been building and it seemed to go full blown Type III.

I try and not complain much about most things, but you vicarious recreationists aren’t going to get away with just a pretty picture and magical story this time.

My tailbone really hurts! It has since day three? Forty-five miles into a trip of nearly four hundred. Yeah. I’ve tried adjusting the kayak seat and back band every which way. I’ve taken my second pillow and have been sitting on it. The resulting pain is delayed, but it is still there. I squirm and fight it, saying, it’s just around the next bend, or I think I can get out in two miles, a half-hour of toughing it out, I got this. Occasionally I’ll slouch myself into a terrible paddling position. There might be some relief to my backside but then my arms suffer from the poor ergonomics, not to mention the efficiency of each paddle stroke. The opportunities to stop aren’t really there though and the next thing I know I’ve paddled all day without standing up once. Not only is sitting all day agonizing but if I’m not getting out of the boat I’m also getting the chance to cook the warm meal I had planned for lunch, so I’m not eating as well as I should be and my energy level ends up being inverse to the pain. Sure I have plenty of Clif Bars, jerky and even some dehydrated fruit stuffed in my PFD but those only get you so far. Being able to stop, stretch, walk around and cook lunch ends up being a big deal. The combination isn’t good for my mood. I’ve found myself yelling out and cursing the wind, or a passing motor boater for his bipedal abilities.

The other day when I showered, I think I got water in my ear. See, showering isn’t all that great! My ear hurt for the rest of the day but after some rest it felt fine the next morning. Well, I was dizzy and staggering around like a drunk in the morning breaking down camp and again later in the day while setting up again and cooking dinner. When I wasn’t on my feet and instead sitting in the kayak my equilibrium was fine. The next evening I passed through a town and figured I’d get some drying drops to prevent any more stumbling around and hold off an ear infection. While it could have been the fact that I was wearing my paddling jacket when the day finally warmed up, I felt exceptionally warm and the stumbles came back. I suppose it could be malaria or dengue fever from all these damn mosquitoes. I should have picked up some hydrocortisone. Okay a lot of it.

Last night I stopped to camp at a lock. I called ahead and asked permission before the operator went home for the day. He said it wasn’t a problem and that there were places I could get out and up on the wall. Non-kayakers really have no idea what constitutes a place to get out. I don’t need it to be an easy ramp to paddle up to each night, but try getting out of a half drained in ground swimming pool! This night instead of the eight foot high approach wall there was a shorter four foot high section, it was built to act as a spillway during spring flooding on the Mohawk River. Luckily there was a nice guy out for a walk who offered to help me, saying he was a kayaker too and realized the challenge I was facing. I just feared that his help would end up with us both floating in the canal, but with him stabilizing the boat I was able to do a little rope climbing and make it out. Leaving in the morning would be interesting. I suppose the easiest thing would have really been to drop (yes actually drop) Sally back into the canal, toss in the paddle and the wheels for the trolley and then jump in myself and do a wet entry and collect my floating things. The thought of jumping in first thing in the morning wasn’t appealing so I took a half mile walk with Sally on a leash until I found slope through the trees that seemed manageable. I should have known better to continue following the advice of the same person when deciding on my camp location for tonight. His last bit of advice after passing though the lock the next morning was the best though. As if stopping for lunch wasn’t tricky enough, he tells me “I might not want to stop in the next few miles as there have been a lot of bears in the area!” I know bears are great swimmers but hopefully they aren’t crazy enough to take a dip in the canal and come after me. If they are maybe dehydrated, Asian flavored turkey sounds better than Scottish Kayaker.

The weather was gray and gloomy all day. It made the push to make miles before the operating cutoff of the next lock feel even harder. I made it though and just as I passed through, the Sun finally came out. The warm glow on the fall color laden trees was the “calm after the storm” that I needed. Back to Type I Fun.