For the past several years I have been learning to love and honor myself by taking time to recharge – by myself. My first solo trip was in 2015 when I decided keep a reservation I had made for me and Jerome when he ended up having a conflict and couldn’t go with me. Since then I have realized that I need (and crave) time alone. For a long while that time alone was hiking and bicycling. Just being able to move at my pace, stop and smell the flowers or hug the trees without thinking about someone else was freeing. There are times I need to have nature to myself.
Recently I’ve begun being a little more adventurous. We’ve had kayaks for years and we do kayak together, but there are times we are not together and I want to kayak. So now I do that. Alone.
Last month there was the girls’ weekend at my friend’s cabin on a lake. I brought my kayak knowing that I wanted to practice my roll – oh, in case you are NOT fluent in kayak, rolling is when you flip the kayak over and get yourself back up without getting out of the kayak.
I am not keen on practicing rolling without a spotter – I mean, what if I don’t get back up? So I was hesitant and stalled most of the weekend. Until there was no denying that I was avoiding it in the name of “being a good friend” and my friend asked when I was going to kayak.
So I unstrapped the kayak from the car and carried down to the dock. Between me and the open lake there was a lily pad and wild rice strip to paddle through. At least a football field away. In the deep(er) water. I knew what I needed to do – gear up and paddle out. And that’s what I did. I paddled out, paddled around, and sat. Thinking. Gathering my courage. And over I went and up I came. I rolled about a dozen times – successfully if not elegantly. I could do it. Alone.
Fast forward to Labor Day weekend. I decided late in the game that I wanted to practice rolling on the big lake (Lake Superior, for those of you who don’t know) and Jerome had alternate plans. So I made a reservation for myself and headed up – alone, with my sea kayak.
I woke up on Saturday morning in Grand Marais, MN, drank my leisurely cup of coffee (ok, CUPS of coffee) and thought about the day ahead. I could go kayaking right away in the morning and feel accomplished all day, or a I could explore Artist’s Point and maybe go hiking and kayak on Sunday or… I must have had half a dozen options, all postponing kayaking. Why? Wasn’t that why I came up here? To kayak? To practice? So…
I decided to enjoy Artists’ Point in the morning and go kayaking in the afternoon. Saturday was a bright, sunshiny day. And much warmer than I expected so by the time I finally got on the water (about 3:45 pm) I was ready to get wet.
Grand Marais has a great Harbor and several natural bays. The harbor is shielded from the lake and is always calmer with small or no waves. I had decided to paddle around Artist’s Point so off I went. I went left around the east breakwall and WHAM! Bigger waves. I felt unstable and uncertain. I decided to abandon this idea and head into the harbor to practice rolls. I headed to the west breakwall and followed the harbor around until I found the spot.
And I practiced my roll. Sure, I had to talk myself into it, but I did it. Each and every time I went over I came up. Sometimes better than others, but I came up. I know I need a lot more practice and I know what I need to work on. But I did it. I practiced my roll. And after that I tackled the water outside the east breakwall, inspired by April Seifert’s Women Inspired Podcast Episode 78 which I had listened to on the drive to Grand Marais, MN. If you haven’t heard of the Women Inspired podcast, I highly recommend it. In fact, I was interviewed long ago and you can listen to that episode here.
Yup, I paddled back around the harbor and out around the east breakwall and Artists’ Point. It was exhilarating – the waves really weren’t that big and I knew I could roll if needed. So around the point I went. And I loved it. I had worked through my fears and took my solo adventures to a new level.
Sunday had the potential for afternoon rains so I as I was enjoying breakfast I realized I needed to get out on the water so I could be off before the rains hit. What I didn’t think about or check was the waves report. Because as you may have guessed, as rain approaches the wind picks up and as the wind picks up the waves increase. Hmm…
Anyway, I got out on the water thinking I would work my way around the harbor and then go west out the breakwall, follow the shoreline until I found a good natural bay to turn around in, then work my way around the east breakwall and hit the same path around Artists’ Point I had done on Saturday. Easy peasy.
Only those waves. Yea, they were just a smidge bigger than Saturday. Maybe 2 feet – which is significant when you think that the kayak is about a foot deep. As I rounded Artist’s Point I had a decision to make: continue with my original plan OR screw it and get to shore and portage my kayak back to my car.
As a sane person I decided that the portage route was the best route for me. I overcame my fear of kayaking alone BUT I still knew I had to kayak within my limits and comfort level. So, it was a win – not only am I capable of conquering my fear and getting better I am also capable of listening to my fears and knowing I should take heed and stop.