Sunday, October 21, 2007

feeling lost

If you really are not lost, if it is geographically impossible for you to be lost, might you still experience the shudder of feeling lost? Sure. And a cell phone in your hip pocket wont make a lick of difference.

So innocent, I thought. Ed, always on the lookout for interesting hikes, rides or paddles in our region, suggested a kayak trip down Token Creek.

A kayak trip with Ed always means getting the bikes and boats into the truck, leaving the bikes at the takeout point, then driving up to where we put in the boats. You get it, right? We go down the river or stream for several hours, then pull out, bike back to the starting point and bring the truck around for the boats.

I felt rather complacent about it all. I was heavily into kayaking back in Poland. Today we’re to take on wee little Token Creek, flowing into Cherokee Lake which is a sneeze away from Madison proper. What’s the big deal. The review said it’s twisty. I can twist.

We drop off our bikes. As we’re pulling away, Ed asks – did you note the markers to look for? When we’re paddling down the final stretch? I glance back and think – sure – a lamppost, a tree – easy.

We launch our boats. I slide into mine with a splash of water. Nice. I haven’t even left and I’m sitting in two inches of melted ice. Or so it feels.

But the creek is stunningly pretty. It’s narrow, but it’s fed by many springs and in the end, it is said to contribute more water to our Lake Mendota than the well recognized by Madisonians Yahara River.

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Still, it’s curvy alright.

The current feels rapid. Tame. A knot and a half, Ed says. Thst's his opinion.

We pass two men sawing off logs.
We cleared it to the rail bridge… beyond that, you’re on your own.

Let me explain, through photos, what it means to go down a creek where timbers have deliberately chosen to fall over the river, rather than, say, to the side of it (yes, death defying photos, taken so that you can feel like you’re on board without ever leaving your computer):

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And just as I think – we’re done! It’s wide and free of logs now…

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…we go around the bend and there’s a snag:

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Lean forward! Ed shouts.
You’re lower in your boat! I cannot.
You want to portage?

No I do not want to portage. I try to back paddle, to take it slowly, but I’m pushed right into the thicket again and again.

Two men, wet and resigned are paddling back up stream.
We give up… they say.

But with Ed, one doesn’t give up.
Famous shrug and on we paddle.

And indeed, we are rewarded. Just a handful of hours later, we float into the beautiful, wide, tree-free Yahara.

Only, we’re in the Cherokee marshes.

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Where the hell did we leave our bikes? Cherokee Lake, but...
What markers do you remember?
A lamppost and a tree…

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The wind picks up. We’re splashing a lot of water into the boats. The coast looks rural. I don’t remember rural. I remember a suburb with a lamppost. Did we miss a turn off somewhere? Neither of us studied the map with much care. I mean, if we keep on going, eventually we’ll wind up at the UW Memorial Union, but that’s an awful long trek and the sun is pretty low.

The feeling of being lost without really being lost. Images of possible outcomes: landing in darkness somewhere. Walking for miles along the coast in search of bikes. Asking strangers for a lift. Not eating dinner til after midnight.

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But the good thing about feeling lost and not being really lost is that eventually you find it: a strip of land, a row of houses, a lamppost (I exaggerate here; I never did spot the lamppost). Happiness is knowing that all you need to do is ignore the wind, paddle like crazy, and soon you’ll have the luxury of land.

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On our bikes now. Load the truck. And drive into town for dinner. Don’t forget about dinner (see previous post).