ArticlesTent Bound

Spring Kayaking

paddling a kayak

The ice just won’t leave. It’s going. At the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Sawbill Outfitters up the Sawbill Trail from Tofte reports that the ice thickness has dropped from 27 inches to 22 inches from the 2nd of May until the 5th. At that rate, assuming a linear ice melt, the pace of ice melt puts ice out on the 18th of May. That’s when Devil Track Lake, the lake I currently sort of live on, went out last year. We broke a record. I wonder if it’ll happen again.

There’s something about this time of year, especially this year with the 1 to 2 feet of rotten, wet snow in the front yard that drives me nuts. I’m trying to do the repairs that need to be done. For example, I tried to put a NRS neck gasket and wrist gaskets into my Kokatat Meridian drysuit, because my old ones were shot (btw, if you need a drysuit, the Meridian can’t be beat). The repairs were frustrating and seemed to take as long as the ice to melt. The wrists worked fine while using Nalgene bottle as forms, but the neck only went so-so mainly because I didn’t have anything that would work as a form, so I made cardboard templates via Kokatat’s directions and the NRS neck gasket didn’t really work well with it. You think I’d make a foam form or something, but all the foam I had with just a touch too small and wrapping foam around every single pot that I own never ended up with the right size. Oh, well, it seems like I go through gaskets in about a year, so I’ll have another chance next spring. This is also the time of year that I have to put together all the tiny pieces that have to come together in order to have my guiding business run for another summer. I got new boats last fall that haven’t even been taken out of the plastic shipping wrap — they just melted out of the snow this week.

kayak on lake superior under ice
Katie taking a “spring” paddle on Lake Superior.

The ice in the harbor went out last weekend, but then ice from somewhere north on Lake Superior blew in last weekend. It finally blew out the other day. The shore is still icy in places. It’s also weirdly cold and the weatherman says that when Lake Superior is icy this late, it means a cold summer, unless the El Niño happens. If that happens, we’re suppose to have a warm summer, so maybe the warm and the cool will cancel each other out and we’ll be normal for once. At least, the ice will be gone. Speaking of reading, I read the other day that the polar vortex might be caused by the excessive pollution in China, which causes the jet stream or something like that to push south into the Midwest. Thanks, China.

I haven’t really been out paddling this year much even though I’ve been around open water. I finally decided to give up my record of 5+ or something like that years of paddling once a month every month on Lake Superior. I just couldn’t stomach getting out on the water when it was hovering around zero in February. It usually warms to 15 or 20°F for a few days and I get out. Not this year. Just as well, because trying to keep up that personal record was feeling like a chore instead of fun. And kayaking should be fun.

ice kayaking in grand marais
Jeff takes a nap on ice in the Grand Marais harbor.

With the ice and cold hanging around though, it’s hard to get motivated to get the kayak out, especially since has one hole in the rear steam that needs repaired (again) (stupid rock in waves), a crack in the rear compartment about two inches long that needs to be repaired (another stupid rock from when I mistimed the wave and it left me thudding on some really sharp basalt), and a bunch a chipped gelcoat, and apparently my feet have almost worn the fiberglass completely through where they sit. And that’s just my Romany. The repairs I need to do on my Explorer are much more extensive.

I really hope the ice goes out in canoe country soon. Then we’ll be able to hear the loons on the lake, drop the canoe into water and enjoy the northwoods for another paddling season. And just like ice, eventually the spring frustration will go away.

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p.s. one the great side of life, I won Wilderness Systems’ photography contest, which means that I get a free WS kayak, AT paddle and Bomber Gear splashtop. That’s pretty sweet.


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