Sunday, May 23, 2004

Body v. Log. . . log wins, this time. . .

For those who don't know me or for those who know me but have the memory of gnat, I've been doing a Leadership Development Program for the last 9 months. The people within the program give it the orignal title of LDP (if you wonder why then you should reread what the program is called in the first sentence again. . . got it now?). The program is run out of a camp called Medeba in the buzzing metropolis of West Guilford (for the sarcastically unaware, that's aka the boonies), Onatrio. Medeba is actually a place that I hold very dear to my heart. It's a camp that I've worked at every summer for the last 8 years (one summer being only for a week since I decided I'd follow the big money of a grocer clerk over actually being happy). This year I decided to finally take the plunge and take the program they run the other 10 months of the year (in case you just aren't following here, the other 2 months is a summer camp. . . now keep up!!!) The program is about training leaders using outdoor adventure skills. We learn such skills as whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, ice climbing and the list goes on and on (okay, not really but I'm not in the mood to list everything). We then teach said skills to school groups that come up and I enjoy that because I get to be the centre of attention (remember my first post, I'm all about the attention). We also get to go on a lot trips such as a paddling trip to North Carolina, a ski trip to the Chic Chocs in Quebec and an ice climbing trip to the Adirondaks. I have to say that it has been a pretty wild time and I'm really glad I decided to take it. When I'm feeling extra motivated, I will eventually post a whole horde of the stories and adventures I've gained over this year (I know 10 months isn't a year but do you need to be so technical???) For now you'll just have to wait in eager anticipation. Since I've filled you in on what I'm doing this year let me inform you what us crazy LDPs did today.

Ontario has this river called the Madawaska. If you use your amazing recall skills, you might remember that whitewater paddling is one of the things us zany LDPs do. It just so happen that today we found ourselves at the Madawaska. In another odd coincidence, the Madawaska contains some rapids. It only made sense that we, the brave LDP, would kayak the mighty Madawaska. Or in the case of some of us (i.e. me), do something that looked strangely like kayaking but was actaully screaming in a boat while bouncing off rocks.

A little quick backstory, LDP went to North Carolina for 8 days of paddling. I only paddled for 2 of those days. I know that doesn't sound like a very good use of a paddling trip and I would have to wholeheartedly agree. It was hard to continue to paddle when your right arm is in a sling and you have no movement in your right hand. I would love to tell the great story that caused my arm injury but I'm completely baffled as to how I did it. I did exit from my boat at one point but after I returned to said boat, I don't remember my right arm screaming in agony (I'm pretty sure I'd remember if my right arm started making a noise). I do remember my arm being battered and useless after returning from that day's paddle. I just don't know what caused it unless my arm just decided to randomly tear a tendon out of boredom. I've since told people I bashed up against a rock mainly because people don't like to accept the random, out of boredom tendon tear. Anyway, this post isn't about the North Carolina trip so let's hop back to the now.

I hadn't paddled since the injury which was end of April. I was pretty eager to finally get back in a boat and be battered by the unforgiving river. Like I said before, I don't paddle as I just sort of get tossed around like a good chef salad. After a 3 hour drive in the morning, the 6 of us (5 out of 10 LDP and one instructor) arrived at the Madawaska. This was when I was reminded we are amongst a long weekend. I like living up here because it's usually easy going and quiet. But once May long weekend arrives, you quickly learn why this is called cottage country (West Guilford is in Central Ontario near Haliburton which is probably another place you never heard of). The roads where filled with a bunch of people from Toronto who decided they should leave their driving skills in the big city. For whatever reason, cottagers seem to think that normal rules don't apply up here. A quick note, everyone up here find cottagers a pain in the butt. They take all the good parking spaces. They fill up the once quiet sidewalks and then leave them with a nice dose of litter. You drive like morons. Of course, I'm talking like I live up here but I'm only visiting for a year. I'm a city boy too. So, don't take the moron comment too badly considering the whole pot call kettle black philosophy. Anyway, when we arrived to the river it was filled up with a lot of weekend warriors. I can't really go on a bitter tirade because everyone of them was 5X the paddler I am. I'm just some schmoe who bounces off rocks. It was the first time I've ever seen a river so full of people. It gave me a sad realization of what I can expect from here on in (since city folks don't pack it up until Fall rolls around which happens to be my leave as well).

You still with me? Good. LDP finally venture off into the river to be treated to a 45 minute paddle on flatwater. Flatwater is where I'm king. Of course, you have to ignore the fact that I can't paddle straight. At least, I'm not bouncing off rocks and crying for my mom. After the 45 minutes of non-action (good non-action because the scenery is beautiful as long as you can mentally erase the cottages) we arrive to the first big set of rapids. I almost pee myself. Luckily, I found a nearby tree and kept my swim trunks from a soiling. The first set rapids definitely earned their name of rapids. These weren't the type of rapids that you point at and mock with such names as 'wussy' and 'momma's rapid'. The rapids contained waves that could eat you up then spit you out but then decide to eat you so they could spit you out again. That would be enough to freak me out except there where a whole lot of paddlers playing on these fierce waves. If I had pride or dignity then I'd have been fearful of having all those paddlers around because I'd have my ego wrecked. They are just playing on the rapids while I'd most definitely being eaten and spitted. That wasn't what scared me about the paddlers. I saw them as obstacles to be added to the already scary waves. Not only do the waves give me the creeps but while on said waves I have a plethora a kayakers to run into it. Not really how I wanted to start the day.

Here is the thing about running a river, in order to run it you actually need to go through the rapids. So, as appealing as clinging to a rock and crying was, I finally decided to brave the rapid. I braved it right after every other LDP went. I decided that I would follow them precisely because they knew exactly what they were doing. Then I watched as a fellow LDP did the first flip in the waves and had to bail from his boat. I then apparently proved I must not be so good at 'Simon Says. . . ' because I didn't follow my LDP friends at all. They went away from the big scary hole caused by the waves while I went right in it. At the time I thought I had followed them but I didn't really have a lot of time to ponder this because I was being eaten and spitted. Next thing I knew, I was upside down and shortly after that I was floating in the rapids. What a way to start off my glorious return to paddling, I swim on my first set of rapids.

After that, I started to get my paddling groove on. Until we appraoched the next set of scary rapids. These rapids had three ways to approach them: you could try to paddle to the left avoiding the huge waves but trying to break through a wall of water getting to calmer water, paddling to the right but being careful not to miss the calm water and being sucked into crazier waves, or going heads on with the waves plowing straight through the middle (also known as the Not Guts No Glory Route). I was fine with having no guts and decided that going to the left was the most appealing. I did. Or at least, I tried. I paddled hard to the left but the wall of water apparently didn't want me to go through and spit me back into the centre. So the gutless wonder was now going for the glory. I had no choice but to paddle straight through but making sure I yelled as loud as possible. I learned that a good yell will make up for any lack of skill one may have. I made it through that set of rapids and felt I was truly the man.

Until we got to another set of rapids. I was pumped and all ready to prove my new found manhood until I watched one of my instructors tip in the rapids. Then I decided, along with a few other LDPs, that going upstream seemed a lot more appealing. Of course, you don't really go so far when you paddle upstream. Thus eventually it was only a matter of time the rapids needed to be faced. They got faced. They actually turned out to be pretty wimpy. I fellt pretty foolish for paddling from them. Luckily, feeling foolish is a daily ritual so it wasn't anything new. I definitely couldn't claim being the man anymore.

We went through a few more straightforward rapids and this time I decided to paddle for them rather than away. I slowly started to get the feeling of 'man'ing up the river. Until we came across a big set waves. A real big set of waves. Waves that would be more than happy to eat and spit me all day long and then come back to do it again on Sunday. I was pretty sure they were in the midst of plotting to destroy a small village. They could do it. They could do whatever they wanted. They were monster waves with the intent on destroying all in their path. Being the man I was, I decided to find another route.

Right beside the waves of destruction, was a small route of rapids that came from around a giant boulder. The boulder seperated this route from the crazy wave path of extreme horror. I voted that the route beside the boulder was my place of choice. Three other LDPs stood by my choice. One of my instructors (we had two now because one met us there), didn't like that route and felt it was pretty unsafe. He didn't like the fact that the rapids seemed to be pushing up against a giant log (keep log in memory bank because it might be important later). He tried to convince us that the giant waves weren't so evil and all LDPs could master them. We decided he was crazy. So, he gave us the advice to paddle hard and be wary of the log (remember that log!). He promised to be nearby in case it got ugly. I was pretty convinced this route would be easier than tying my shoes. Then again, I forgot that mostly through elementary school I used velcro.

I was all pumped and raring to blast through this route that did have a fair share of rocks and gremlins (though the gremlins where hiding under the rocks). The more I looked at it, it did looke like a hard route. My new belief in the hardness of the route was confirmed when a fellow LDP did a tip into the rapids. It was too late and I was off to the races. I was 'man'ing it up all over again. I was showing these rapids who was boss. Then the rapids showed me to the log. I was tipped right into said log. Thus it was the match of the ages, my body battling with a solid log. Or moreso, it was my left ribs being crushed into the log. Next thing I knew, I was upside down and beng slammed into Mister Log. My ribs weren't liking it so much. I wasn't liking the fact I felt like I was trapped up against this log. Luckily, once and awhile even the weakest of people get a rush of adreline. I was able to finally push away for the log and tear myself from my boat. I got to shore. This time, I new exactly why my ribs where feeling a little bashed up. I wasn't breathing like a champ. I was hurting like a chump. After a few minutes of sitting and panting, I was breathing and just aching (which I hear is a better option then not breathing and rotting).

Michael (I've decided to name one of the instructors now) informed me that was probably one of the scariest things he ever saw. He thought I was going to be trapped under there. I proved how truly manly I am by getting out of there alive. Okay, he didn't say that last sentence but he was thinking it, I'm sure. He then checked me for injuries and this is where I felt a little jipped. With the arm injury in North Carolina, I got to have my arm in a sling. That gets major sympathy points from the ladies. This time I didn't have any battle scars at all on my aching left ribs area of my chest. Nothing to show off at all. I did have a grimacing face to show every time Michael decided to poke my left side. I basically looked like a wimp as I gasped in a pain while a man poked my ribs. For an added bonus, it hurts when I laugh, cough or decide to move. At least I can breath fine, let's throw a party (you can bring the ice cream).

From that point on, I sort of became useless. I walked around the next set of rapids. When I decided to tough it up and paddle the rest of the way, I grunted out loud with every stroke. Not so tough when your paddling on perfectly calm water but you sound like you are giving birth (something I don't plan on every really doing. . . I'm selfish like that). Luckily, the river running was almost over and I was able to make it to the end of the trip. I was batterd up enough that even my other instructor, Bean, decided to carry my kayak back to the van. A little secret, I'm not so good at letting people help me. Having her carry my kayak helped reaffirm I was a beaten man.

I'm back home now. Trying not to cough or laugh or have random people poke me on my side. I have to say, I was glad I went on this trip. Hurting isn't my favourite thing but I got a lot out this experience. You can't master the river everytime. Failure is where the real learning is found. I'm glad I wasn't my best on this river. Now, I have something to shoot for. I learned some of the mistakes I made such as big waves being better then hard log. I will be back. Madawaska will feel my wrath. That log will not win the rematch!!!!

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