Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First Float

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 6:13 PM

As I start laying down wax on my snowboard in October, I start to wax nostalgic for long, warm days and their propensity to make me less pale. This summer wasn’t the biggest ballyhoo I’d ever had, what with graduating college and, you guessed it, finally working 40 hours a week. But I managed to pack in and pack out a few great moments. For starters, did I ever tell you about the time I commandeered my first kayak? Gather ‘round.

It was early June and the sun wasn’t letting up on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park. I had decided to venture around the park alone for a day or two. Really I just wanted to swim, but when I saw two younguns bringing in a tandem sea kayak I figured I should finally give in to the paddle.

After downing an IPA my muscles would later regret, I walked to the quaint dock office and asked for a kayak rental. I figured I’d be out for an hour or two, packed away some things in a dry sack (OK, it was actually just an ice bag) and set my feet in that sweet carbon fiber.

click to enlarge Looking over my feet toward the Tetons and the island in the middle of Jackson Lake - BROOKS JOHNSON
  • Brooks Johnson
  • Looking over my feet toward the Tetons and the island in the middle of Jackson Lake

“Um, what do I do next?” I asked the two women helping me get the boat off the beach. “...Sort of new at this.”

They laughed, handed me the paddle and said: “Sit down and push out. You’ll get it from there.”

I did get it from there, but before I got too far one of them yelled after me: “Turn the paddle around! It should make it easier!”

Oh, right.

I set my sights on a sizeable island in the middle of the lake and found a good stride. It took a few adjustments to get an appropriate hold, but by the time I felt a little pro the shoreline had shrunk behind me and those two young women were hopefully done worrying about me.

click to enlarge My first destination, which I shall simply dub "Kayak Island." - BROOKS JOHNSON
  • Brooks Johnson
  • My first destination, which I shall simply dub "Kayak Island."

With my legs stretched out I could feel the geography of the water, especially when the winds lifted. I took care to not get broadsided by the waves, the only advice I’d been given when asked if I should plan on getting wet.

After what seemed like a long time (probably 15 minutes), I angled the boat toward a gravelly grounding on the island. I got out and walked up a shallow embankment onto the lightly vegetated, sun-bathed green. With the Tetons poking through the trees, I made it to the top and back in a few minutes, realizing that the French were right: Those mountains really do resemble large nipples (les grands tétons).

Feeling confident and re-energized I pushed out the boat and took a long way back along a densely wooded arm of the lake. Realizing that I was probably getting sorer than I thought and I hadn’t put on sunscreen since that morning, I reluctantly brought the boat back to its home.

Needless to say, I didn’t need the same help getting the boat in as I did with my first embarkment. Perhaps I even impressed those girls? I’ll never know, because I needed a beer to celebrate my first yakking (is that what the kids call it?). I also needed aloe, roughly everywhere. But for $15 to pick up a new hobby on a sunny day in paradise, it was worth it.

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