This morning we woke to still air and heat. We had sweat running down our faces as we loaded up the boats and began our first day of paddling in the Intracoastal Waterway, aka The Ditch.
Gone were the houses. Gone were the docks. And save for one kingfisher, one pelican fishing by the culverts, one cormorant and one hawk, gone too were the birds.
For 12.5 long nautical miles we paddled a line of dark water bordered by sand embarkments topped by soil and pine trees. Some pine trees were barely holding on, like this one with one deep tap roots and a bunch of smaller ones.
And I felt like I was pulling an anchor behind me. My left shoulder ached. Then I had to dig in harder with my paddle on one side than on the other. I could see I was moving alongside the bank but it felt like I was being pulled backwards and sideways. What the heck?! How was I going to paddle for 15 nm like that? Was it because we didn’t eat dinner last night? Were my mitochondria crying out for fuel? Was it the heat? The sameness of the scenery? Or the fact we hadn’t taken a break in five days and we are approaching mile 100?
Flow is when I’m paddling gracefully, smoothly, evenly, just moving continuously as if of its own momentum for hour after hour. There’s almost no beginning and no end. This morning I was all out of flow. Push. Shove. Start. Go.
One jet ski with its rooster tale passed. And then a very big very fast speed boat which thankfully slowed down. And then another boat that didn’t. And then a barge. They were the excitement. They broke up the monotony.
We pulled over for short breaks. After three hours we pulled over for lunch. And I ate and ate: smoked oysters, rice chips, peanut butter, apples, raisins, licorice, jerky. And finally I could paddle effortlessly again. The current shifted in our favor. A light breeze blew the sweat off my face. I was back in the flow and the miles started zooming by.
Our destination was a spot called BFE on the map, which stands for Best Food Ever. It’s the name of a restaurant located next to a bridge which lets paddlers camp behind it. After our last bridge-sleeping experience, John wasn’t too excited about the prospect. And at 12.5 nm of paddling in six hours, we were tired. So when he spotted a rare and actually delightful camp just three miles shy of our destination, we first hemmed and hawed and then decided to call it quits and stay.
So here we are. A few bugs but nothing like the horror of two nights back.
And it’s our first night of rain, which began fortunately just as we’d tidied up camp for the night and crawled into our tent … at 6:15 pm!
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.