Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quebec Summer 2016

This summer, Erin Bendiksen and I completed a 630 nmi, 9-week trip from Albany to Lake Faillon. We ate lots of fish and berries, paddled down some rapids, and up a few, portaged 32 times including up four cliffs requiring rope and pulley systems, destroyed 1 kayak, recovered ancient first nations art, rescued mariners in distress, performed field surgery, screamed at bears, made friends and enemies, and generally had an excellent deep wilderness adventure.
We hope to pick up next summer where we left off, northbound.
Stories to come, though it may take a while since I have much to do.
In the mean time, check out our map and pictures.

Summer 2016 highlights

Monday, August 17, 2015

Norway Post 39

Day 36

I had about 28 miles to Ornes, where I decided I would finish my trip. I kind of needed to go home and get a job before the upcoming school year.  The school that I taught at last year closed and various promising opportunities that I had lined up fell through.

Twenty eight miles in one day was on the high side, so maybe I would finish early tomorrow. I wound through the tight archipelago and then crossed north east to an intermediary island between me and the mainland.

The wind from yesterday had only calmed slightly and I had to set my boat at a moderate ferry angle to compensate. At the northern end of the island was another archipelago though smaller than the first. By the time that I navigated out of that the wind turned into a solid tailwind and the sun warmed the world so much that for the first time in weeks I rolled to cool off. Those arctic waters did the job splendidly.

I caught a glimpse of Svartisen, an enormous glacier above me. Svartisen rose above the mountains like an ice dune and in the sunlight gleamed white as though it had never ever been peed on, which was quite impossible because that water had been frozen up there for a very long time. If there was any chance at all that it had actually never been peed on I would have landed my kayak then and there, climbed those mountains, and claimed that glacier for mankind. However, not being the first guy to lay eyes on one of god's most glorious gifts, I could paddle assured that some when someone had found a way.

Svartisen is a field of ice spanning 369 km^2 and for the rest of the day I reveled in amazing views of different angles and different parts of the enormous glacier.

I turned into a fjord and the tail wind I had enjoyed for most of the afternoon politely turned with me.

I slipped under a bridge, turned a corner, and after seven and a half hours on the water found a sign that said guest marina. Ornes was another seven and a half miles away, an easy jaunt for tomorrow morning and I would most likely arrive in time to catch the cruise ship to take me and my boat back to Alesund.

Children enjoyed the unusually warm day by swimming around the marina. None of them looked like they were about to die. Maybe Norwegian woman are so beautiful because they're have seal blood in them.

The shower in the gjest marina building was locked, but a sign advertised kayaking courses in the area and and I was given directions to the instructor's house up on the hill where I found a shower and an invitation to stay for dinner.

I found myself sitting at a table with three tall blond seal blooded lady kayakers, each one as bright as the glacier and as pretty as the sea. One of them wasn't seal blooded after all, she was from Upstate New York. I told them all sorts of kayaking stories in which I was the hero and they wanted to hear more. I may not have found Slartibartfast's plaque, but under a glacier in the Arctic circle I found heaven.

There was only one catch. It was Christian heaven. You see, all the young outdoors enthusiasts around me were the leadership of the bible school I sat in. The bible school had a strong outdoors program. Behind me a couple of guys shot a bb gun at a tree.

The thing is, in order to go to Christian heaven, you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and even for all the best kayaking seal blooded woman in the world, I wasn't ready to do that. I have Judaism, and while I wouldn't recommend it for everyone (anyone) I like it more than I do tall blond kayakers. Either that or I was so intoxicated by the dream I found myself in that I couldn't help but stumble away.

I got back in my kayak and paddled to Ornes. The wind had changed to blow against me, but I had the shiny bright strength of victory and paddled without weariness. All of my warm kayaking clothing was wet in my hatches from being rinsed down after the day's paddle so my bare shoulders felt the sun set and ignored the cold that came afterwards.

A porpoise surfaced and snorted. Maybe he was one of the three I'd seen the first week come to say goodbye. 

In Ornes on the dock I met a man who opened up the marina's gjest house for me.

"Wish me congratulations," I told him.

He shook my hand and looked at me questioningly.

"I paddled here from Alesund. It's been about 640 nautical miles and I think it's time to go home. It's been spectacular."

"Congratulations," he said.

I caught the cruise ship the next morning at 7:15. The kayak was too heavy and I didn't want to drag it all that way on the asphalt. There was nowhere closer to the cruise ship's dock to make a landing. I borrowed an unhitched car wagon trailer from a parking space in the marina.

The ship took me back the way I came. In two days it rewound through seven weeks.

I didn't find Slartibartfast's plaque, but I did find one of the most amazing summer kayaking adventures I could hope to have. Perhaps I'll have to come back one day to keep on looking.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Norway Post 38

Day 35

On Saturday an east wind slipped through the mountains out to sea and loved what it found. It told its friends and soon more and more came. By Sunday they were flying. The forecast called for a southeast wind, but I'd met the southeast wind before, and perhaps if I stood at the top of a mountain I could look to the southeast and feel the wind on my face, but down at sea level, the wind raced out of the fjords, whether they were pointed to the southeast, east, or northeast. I chose a route that would leave me sheltered from the wind by islands, except for when I crossed to and from them.

I hoped that this time the wind would really be more from the south, and as I headed northwest up to the end of the peninsula it was. I turned north and crossed into the arctic circle. A monument on an island marks the line and I celebrated achieving my trips major secondary objective. I hadn't found Slartibartfast's plaque, but I found the Arctic's and rejoiced with song.

I cut due north to the archipelago that would shelter me from the wind. The crossing was slow and the arctic waters sloshed around over my boat bouncing it up and down. Not even a little bit of the wind came from the south, it was straight out of the fjord, north east.

With the shelter of the islands the wind flashed from calm to sprint in every direction. The water densely rippled around me without enough fetch to grow into anything more formidable. My next crossing would be much longer. Tomorrow the weather would be much better. The sun was bright and beautiful and the weather warm, but if I got separated from my boat in wind and waves during the crossing, the arctic waters would suck the life out of me like a monkey with a yogurt tube.

I've never been separated from my kayak before, and I haven't missed a roll in a long time, but better safe than a discarded monkey's yogurt tube.

I pulled into a small harbor and was invited to stay in a lovely guest apartment. Check out www.Helgelandsidyll.no if you're looking to visit Norway. The shower handle has a digital temperature display, and if that's not enough the owner rents kayaks and it's one of the most beautiful places to paddle in the world.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Norway Post 37

Day 34

The weather was much the same as Day 30, except that the wind changed direction to be head on.

I pushed through the cold windy unhappiness towards the end of the peninsula. Once there I would turn north and a little east and likely have a tail wind. About a mile before that I found a nice marina with a shower and a living room, so I gave up exhausted having covered less than half of my intended route for the day.

I needed a break. It had been a long week. The next day, Friday, was my birthday. If I paddled north I might not end up anywhere for the Sabbath as nice as the marina I was in, so I took the day off.

A strong north wind in the afternoon meant I had probably chosen wisely. The sun lit the world and wild flowers perfumed the air. The mountains here are beautiful and one of them is sporting an enormous cave fairly high up. This is a great birthday!

On Sunday I'll hopefully cross into the Arctic circle, just three miles north of here, and on Monday I'll likely end my trip in Ornes. That only leaves me with two more days of paddling to find the plaque. But even if it doesn't turn up, the trip won't have been a failure. I've documented my route so future explorers will know where it's not. Also, I'm having a pretty great time looking for it and that has to count for something, right?

From Norway Aug 13 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Norway Post 36

Day 33

Gray clouds blanketed the sky. The original plan had been to arrive in Brattland today, but that was too far from my middle of the nowhere camp off my original route. I could go to Nesna, but there wasn't much in between and Nesna was too close.
I could take the sea side shore of Hugla and Handnesoy as a shortcut and arrive in Bratland today after all. I'd see less of the inner cost and consequently would be less likely to find Slartibartfast's plaque, but I'd get a better view of the islands Donna and Lokta which are sufficiently spectacular that it might be hidden on one of their cliffs. Maybe today would be the day that I find it after all.

I had a great tail wind and moved quickly, if frigidly, through the gray rainy Sttgfjorden. I took a fairly straight route through the center of the fjord .  In the wind without shelter changing snack bottles and peeing was challenging. I did these things quickly during lulls in the weather.

Near Selnes, towards the end of my day, I was less sheltered by islands to the west than I had been earlier and the wind changed direction to take advantage of the weakness in my defenses. Instead of a tail wind I had a beam wind. Breaking waves sloshed over my boat, sometimes chest high, and I bobbed up and down on the swells as I leaned into the wind and pushed towards Alderfjorden.

Once there, I rejoiced. I turned east and for the last couple miles enjoyed a solid tailwind. When I pulled into Brattland's marina I pumped about an inch of frigid water out of my boat. A man let me into the marina's shower and living room. I introduced myself and shook his hand.

"You're freezing!" He said.

"I know." I told him. The hot shower was nice.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Norway Post 35

Day 32

The forecast called for southeast winds. My day began with crossing Leirfjorden which pointed to the northeast, and that's where the wind came from.

While fighting through it the huge cruise liner which I incorrectly call Hutaruita bore strait down on me from much too close at nearly the speed of sound. I lay my paddle on my skirt so that both hands were free to grab my radio. I keep it secured to the back of my life vest so that it looks a little bit like a ninja sword. I don't use it very often and unclipping it is a two hand procedure.*

Panicked, my radio message was not in the best form "SECURITAY SECURITAY SECURITAY. Solo yellow kayak crossing north from Sandnessjoenn. Hootaroota, this is Solo Yellow Kayak, Make Sure You See Me. Hutaruita, this is Solo Yellow Kayak. Make sure you see me! I'm heading north."

I turned east to get out of his way and a moment later the juggernaut turned enough to the west so that I wouldn't die.

I finished my crossing and began paddling north along the Ranen peninsula. The wind came from every which way and strongly. Sometimes it would be a headwind, others a tail wind or a beam wind. I watched gusts ripple across the water to feel a brief whoosh when they arrived and then passed.

I stopped on a beach to stretch my legs and remove the water that accumulated in my boat during the crossing. My spray skirt is not a great fit. A woman who lived in a house above the beach warned me that a storm was coming.

My goal for the day was Nesna and when I began crossing the fjord to the neighboring island of Hugla the wind was with me, but as soon as I was farther out in the channel it set against me. The wind continued against me as I climbed into white caps and bounced over oncoming waves. Nesna was about seven miles away, but at my current speed I wouldn't make it any time soon.

I turned around and landed on a beach with a number of houses above it. Quite a bit of rain was forecast for the night so I was especially hoping to find a garage or boathouse to sleep in. All the driveways were empty. Summer homes, without very much summer this year people were staying south.

I got back in my boat and paddled a little farther back and took out at a small dock with a couple of motor boats tied up to it. The first people I met told me to continue paddling back even further to a guest house at the marina. The second people I met were happy to let me sleep in their garage.

The moment I had dragged all my things up and was under its shelter the storm began. Thunder boomed and rain soaked the earth. The waterfall on the cliff above me roared.

I was cold but at least dry. I took out my things to make dinner and realized I left my fuel canister in my kayak. I ran through the torrential rain down a grassy path, onto the bridge over the rushing stream, to the dock and got my canister. The rain poured, but back in my garage I made dinner.

I had not been invited into the house to shower.  A hose next to the garage invited me to snuggle in its icy jaws. I ACCEPT!

I went naked into the freezing rain and hosed myself down. I scrubbed with Dr Bronner's soap and then rinsed myself off. I wanted to huddle and shiver but instead I breathed deeply, looked into the sky, and shouted from my soul "I AM A BEAST. I LOVE LIFE."

Then I was a clean beast, and then I was shivering in the garage and getting dressed when a neighbor came in and invited me to sleep in his house and take a hot shower if I like.

The warm bed was nice. Maybe I'm more like a Lab, they like beds, the water, and are vaguely beast-like to people who are scared of dogs.

*Later I changed the system because it was stupid.