Weaving training into a busy life

042615 swimming pool
Added swimming to the training this week in Waterville Valley, NH

A huge number of people attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail every year and an impressive number succeed.  Not so with paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  A recent email from NFCT reported that 79 people (only 79) have completed the entire trail…since 2000!

The AT “Class of 2015” has a Facebook page, simply bursting with hikers, many of whom are already out on the trail. How about the NFCT Class of 2015?  Well, so far there is one other person listed in the NFCT paddler blogs, Mack Truax.  Mack is retired and his training regimen certainly puts me to shame.  His typical training paddle is 25 miles, half of it upstream!  It will be so fun to follow Mack and cheer him on as he starts his journey later in May.

Oh well, I am not retired and, even if I was, I probably don’t have a 25-mile paddle in me, at least not now.  So what am I doing for training?  Anything I can.  Earlier this week, we spent a few days at a resort with a great pool.  Between the swimming and using the treadmill with a wicked incline, I was in heaven.

I also started upper body strength training in early March.  I began with 2 sets of 10 reps with 3 lb. weights and am building up to 3 sets of 15 reps with 5 lb. weights.  My exercise routine (every other day) includes the shoulder press, front and lateral raises, bicep arm curls, overhead triceps extensions, and upright rows, hopefully covering many of the major muscle groups.

Yesterday I was able to get out for another paddle on the lake and river, covering 6.3 miles, with some great wildlife out on the chilly, breezy waters: loons, cormorants, a pair of goldeneyes, and a beaver cruising the shoreline on patrol.  Totals for April so far are: 43 miles walking and 24 miles paddling (note that the latter is one mile less than Mack’s typical training day!).

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Wind and water

“Welcome home,” whispered the gentle waves
Spring still life

Well, I am debating whether I can manage without taking my iPad Mini this summer.  I already know I can’t live without my binoculars and GPS and SPOT and phone and probably my camera, at least for the latter part of the trip.  So here’s my first “phone-only” post!

We’ve been away for the first bit of April vacation, so yesterday morning was my first paddle on the open waters of the lake, totaling 6.6 miles.

Going out, I was headed into the wind, but got quite a push from the current on the usually placid river, about 1.5 mph.  On the way home, thank you wind!  Birds galore: swallows, flickers, buffleheads, an osprey, Canada geese, and a pair of very vocal loons. I thought I heard a kingfisher, but have yet to see one this year.  I may add a couple more photos from the camera after this experimental post works.  More soon on our explorations earlier this week…

042415 buffleheads
Pair of buffleheads on the sparkling lake
042415 Canada goose
“Are you looking at me?”

It doesn’t take much, a poem

041915 Black ice
Friday evening – just before ice-out, the surface of the lake turns a uniform black color
041915 ice breakup
By Saturday morning, the ice was starting to disintegrate and today…none there!

Spring just makes me want to grab hold of life with both hands.  To sit in the sun and absorb the warmth with all my being and, yet, to say a lingering goodbye to the waves of icy air that are still flowing from the patches of ice marooned in the woods.  I am restless, not least of all because I am in the process of leaving my lay ministry job and embarking before long on my paddling trip.

Poetry is new for me, but today’s just seemed to write itself:

041915 skunk cabbage

It Doesn’t Take Much

It doesn’t take much, this time of year, to lift a tired heart.

Just a quiet hour to roam the woods, to wander with springtime dreams.

Rubber-clad feet sink deep in the mud, but at least it isn’t ice.

No slippery, sliding, breath-taking suspense to see if you’ll stay upright.

Just a cushion, a carpet of softest duff, welcoming, moist and brown.

It doesn’t take much this time of year, to feel the throb of life.

A barred owl calls in the height of day…”Who cooks for you?” he asks.

Then comes a sound to drown out them all, a chorus of horrid croaks.

“What species is this?” you want to know, so stealthily you sneak near.

Quietly perch near a murky black pool that gradually comes to life,

With tens or hundreds of busy gray frogs in a noisy springtime dance.

It doesn’t take much, this time of year, to find beauty at every turn.

No need for a violet, a lupine, or rose… a humble skunk cabbage will do.

Squat down to look closely as the new plant unfurls,

And you’ll be amazed what you’ll see.

Bright shiny purples and pale mottled greens have a beauty all their own.

No, it doesn’t take much this time of year, for hope to spring anew.

Two quick trail dinner recipes

042015 Salmon alfredo
Salmon with parmesan spinach pasta…three ingredients…590 calories…under $2.50
041215 Ingredients
Ingredients for a “Backcountry Thanksgiving” from thru-hikers The Dusty Camel
041215 Thanksgiving in a bowl
Yummy, yummy and super easy to make…three ingredients…525 calories…under $2.50

In retrospect, not much else could have been wrong, short of a wrecked boat or a drenching downpour.  Twilight was descending swiftly over the endless curves of the Dead River, the time measured in stabbing back pain with every paddle stroke. Somewhere ahead on river left lay one last campsite. Here were no sandy beaches or rocky fir-clad bluffs, just mud and grass and tired alders.

In the end, the site was not too hard to spot, marked as it was by the dilapidated remains of an ancient dock. Even now, four years later, there is no need to look back into my journal to recall the misery. A steep and slippery bank to climb, the unpleasant evidence of roadside access, a dirth of branches for hanging my food bag, and THE BUGS, a solid cloud of black flies that made a terror of the outdoors. Supper that night was peanut butter crackers with water.

Luckily, few evenings feature all of these negatives, but many will have at least some challenges…bugs, a late hour, exhaustion, and sometimes rain.  In planning food, these are the rule rather than the exception.   So my mission this spring is to discover economical, nutritious, yummy meals that are absolutely the easiest to prepare.

An idea that had escaped me until I started watching all those backpacking videos, was the simple concept of cooking in a pouch.  Sure, that’s what you do if you buy those expensive freeze-dried meals, but did you know that lots of thru-hikers are doing that with grocery store packages like the pasta in the photo above? The package may say cook for 7 minutes, but they are just dumping in boiling water and letting it sit for a while in a pot cozy. Super quick, with no dishes to wash.

My first experiment (other than successfully cooking instant oatmeal in its pouch) was salmon with parmesan spinach pasta.  For one person, use the entire 2-serving pasta package (480 cal), a scant 3 tablespoons of instant nonfat dried milk (40 cal), 1 3/4 cups boiling water, and 2.5 oz. pink salmon (70 cal).  I feel like this is a fairly nutritious combination, with the milk, salmon, and variety of vitamins from the spinach.  The result was almost chowder-like and delicious, although some of the pasta was clumped together and chewy. I need to work on how to mix it more thoroughly and perhaps create a pot cozy to hold in the heat while it is “cooking.”

Another recipe came from the January 2010 issue of Backpacker magazine, courtesy of thru-hikers Ian Mangiardi and Andy Laub.  For a one-person “Backcountry Thanksgiving,” combine half a package of stuffing mix (3 oz. dry and 330 cal), a 3.3 oz. can of chicken (70 cal), 1/3 cup of dried cranberries (125 cal), and 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir together, wait 5 minutes, and enjoy. (Both of these recipes could also include butter or olive oil to increase the calories and flavor, but they are fine without.  The directions call for 1 T. butter with the pasta and 2 T. butter with the stuffing, adding 100 calories to the pasta and 200 to the stuffing.)

The world is alive with the sound of music

041215 remnants of ice
Remnants of shrinking ice have a beauty all their own
041215 turtle underwater
A painted turtle meanders slowly across the muddy river bottom, beside the wavering reflection of a birch

This brilliant Monday morning was yet another gem in a string of true spring days.  Lily (my black lab friend) literally bounced along on our early morning walk and I felt like bouncing too! Up she scrambled to the top of one of the few remaining snow mountains, then tore down to explore the mysterious muddy smells emerging from winter’s blanket.

The woodland symphony added some new members this morning.  Joining our old friends the chickadees and woodpeckers were the first thrushes trilling from both sides of the road, between the impossibly deep drumming of not one, but two, pileated woodpeckers.  The soft clucking of a distant turkey might have been lost, had we not stopped to enjoy the thrushes.

Yesterday on the river, the story was the same…life blossoming, spirits released from the rigid ice of winter. I am still paddling my kayak, with the new canoe scheduled to arrive early in May. I paddled the Pemaquid River from the visitor’s center to the bridge and back, about 4 miles.

Thought you would be interested in yesterday’s river wildlife list: wood duck, ruddy ducks, mallards, other yet-to-be-identified ducks, ospreys, great blue heron, swallows, and a painted turtle who was hanging out on the river bottom.  The ducks were again great in number, rising in flocks long before I approached, with sometimes a group of delicate, downy feathers floating to mark where they had been.

Late this afternoon, I paddled the river again, going as far as the lake, where I met an unrelenting barrier of ice, then back to pull the boat out (about 3 miles).  As my dog-sitting stay ends tomorrow, the kayak now waits at home for ice-out, when it will take up residence on a nearby lake.

The last hurrah

041115 sunrise I’ve been missing my blog in this busy week when life has taken over my life.  As I write this with a lovable black lab curled up by my feet, though, there are some good memories.  This sunrise over the frozen lake, spotting 2 turkeys and 5 deer in one morning, as well as the incredible display of stars that made the tree silhouettes sparkle with Christmas lights as we went for a late night walk. Last night we had 1 to 3 inches of snow predicted, which was at least 2 to 4 inches more than any of us were wishing for!

In the trip-preparation part of my life, I finished a rough draft of my entire NFCT itinerary over the weekend and did a bit of shopping at Walmart.  Also squeezed in an Easter paddle on the Pemaquid River, this time wearing my snow pants!  For dinner last night, I experimented with a new salmon recipe for the trail, with fairly good results. The highlight of the last few days, though, has been the multitude of friends from all aspects of my life (and from as far away as Honduras), who have sent me words of encouragement after checking out the blog. If you are one of them, thanks!

040915 last hurrah
The morning of April 9 and it’s still snowing lightly, with four or five inches on the ground. Tomorrow’s rain, though, will be followed by days and days of sun into the 50’s and 60’s…could this be the last hurrah?

The wheels on the boat go round and round (my old kayak cart)

Portaging to Biscay Pond May 14 cropped
First time on the road in May 2011…this photo was in the local newspaper with the announcement of Paddle for Hope. I vividly remember how amazed I was to discover that a well-balanced boat would roll along fairly effortlessly on the flat and downhill sections of a paved road or even the gravel shoulder. (Photo by Bill Bausch)
photo
Trying the wheels with the demo Fusion just before returning it to Maine Sport Outfitters…note the kickstand is down in this photo. Our neighbor’s lobster boat and stacks of traps in the background are another sign of spring!

Happy day, it’s another package from REI, although this one is for my father.  It’s another Wheeleez Tuff Tire Kayak/Canoe Cart. After reading often about wheel breakage and meltdown on other paddlers’ blogs, we were very pleased to find that this exact model was still available. The price had gone up slightly, from $129 in 2011 to $135 now.

I chose this model initially for its weight (9 lbs.) and the solid, foam-filled tires which gave me one less thing to worry about.  It has carried my kayak on about 50 miles of portages since 2011, with no problems.  Even such places as the last third of a mile of the Demo Road portage on NFCT Map 10, which is basically just a rocky trail through the woods. Does it help that I walk so slowly? And my load is well under the cart’s 176-pound capacity.

In my kayak, the cart rode upside down behind my seat, fully assembled.  The wheels can be taken off, however, and the marine-grade aluminum cart folded up. Last weekend the wheels were very squeaky, so we greased them, and I will take a bit of grease and some spare pins with me this summer. The cart comes with two 13-ft straps, which traveled across Maine with me in a small Rite Aid bag, tied to the frame! Not very professional, but they were always handy when needed.  I think this time, though, I will get a small dry bag that can be clipped on more securely.

040315 Wheels with Fusion

A Good Friday

040415 icy river

Today the temperature reached 60 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.  After joyfully noting this miracle, I hurried home to walk the dog, then set off for the river, where I promptly came as close to being stuck as has ever happened with my RAV4. I guess you really can’t just drive ANYWHERE with aplomb. A bit of maneuvering and I was back on the gravel boat launch drive and unloading.  What a joy it was to slide my kayak into the water for the first time in 2015.

Remember those stories of the earliest wilderness explorers, who wrote of vast flocks of waterfowl, more than could be counted? That was the Pemaquid River today. I felt like an interloper, one who had arrived weeks before human presence was allowed.  On every side, ducks took flight and Canada geese honked belligerently from the water and on the ice.

My muscles know that I paddled today (and did my upper body workout with the weights).  There is that familiar little nagging stab in my back, about halfway down and more to the right than to the left. Today I logged the first 2 miles of what will be many hundreds for the year. It was a good Friday and also Good Friday, with worship at the Bremen Union Church after my paddling adventure.

040415 water dripping
Liberated from its winter captivity in the barn, my paddle once again dipped and dripped in a comforting rhythm.

God in Nature’s Song, a poem

DSCN1308

Oh, how I long for spring. Every inch of brown and muddy earth seems a victory, wrestled back from the tenacious hold of winter. The mud may suck and clutch at the soles of my wellies, but at least it isn’t frozen, at least not on the sunny afternoons. I will ignore today’s weather forecast, which shows snow of varying amounts on five upcoming days!

I’m back on the lake for a time, caring for my dog and cat friends.  Here I will watch the ice as its character changes, until finally it will be gone.  The kayak rides promisingly on top of my RAV4. Paddles, PFD, seat, are all handy in the back. It won’t be long.

While we’re waiting, here’s a poem I wrote on another early spring morning…

God in Nature’s Song

Tendrils of rosy mist swirl in tantalizing morning dance,

as God hints,

Beech leaves rattle, delicately breaking winter’s icy silence,

as God whispers,

Spires of deepest feathery green climb the endless azure sky,

as God beckons,

Raindrops drop a gentle soothing patter on an unnamed lake,

as God sympathizes,

Lady slippers shyly bow, delicately framed in darkest brown,

as God rejoices,

And those who truly listen, pause in understanding wonder,

as God speaks.

Inspired by Romans 1:20 – Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.