Monday, July 25, 2011

Glacier speed

This is an Alaskan glacier painting by Stephen McGowen, master painter of North Dartmouth. Thanks to his generosity it is in a place of honor in my hall. He gave it to me to bring me luck with my Alaskan residency applications, and it seems like it did the trick! I'm posting it in the hopes that its power can keep the government from defaulting, resulting in the padlocking all our national parks and canceling my residency on Prince William Sound. (The downside to posting it is I've now raised the bar for glacier paintings awfully high.)

But until I get to the state of Alaska I'm going to be in the state of denial and continue to prepare for my adventure, which is only 2 weeks away. Yes it is, the government will NOT shut down.

Last weekend I spent another 5 hours practicing paddling and testing my waterproof camera case in the Great Swamp in Kingston. So far so good. I managed to keep my camera dry, and get out and over a beaver dam with no mishaps other than almost putting my hand on a 2ft. water snake (they bite, but not venomously, the little wimps) who swam away like the Loch Ness monster, giving me the evil snake eyes.

I practiced paddling as fast as I could (or as I like to call it, keeping-up-with -forest-ranger-speed) navigating up winding swampy rivers, paddling sideways and backwards, and pretending I didn't really have to use a bathroom for the last 4 hours of the trip. Wonder where the bathrooms are on Prince William Sound?

I'm really liking kayaking though, and feel silly that I didn't try it 20 years ago. I just might have to think about getting one of my own next year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Paddling practice

Last weekend I spent a perfect summer day with friend Mary Grady in the sprawling but shallow waters of the Narrow River, logging another 5 hours in the cockpit of a kayak in preparation for my Prince William Sound Residency.   I just might be beginning to get the hang of this.  Which is good since I'm leaving for Anchorage in 19 days. Or so I hope. It occurred to me last week that if the government should shut down due to all the political game playing going on in Washington, the national parks and forests will most likely shut down too. I am trying not to think about it, since everyone says they are just bluffing, but it is nagging at me.

But it's full paddle ahead unless I hear differently. Next destination, The Great Swamp!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gearing up

Above, a row of colorful sea-kayaks on a perfect July day at the Kayak Center in Wickford. Sure they look innocent enough, even rather pretty. But in the hands of instructors Ken and Becca they are apt to flip completely over, leaving you hanging upside down, still attached by your spray skirt. Thankfully the waters of Wickford Cove are shallow and warm, and the instructors, aside from their teasing, have a great way of talking you through exactly what you need to get back to the surface and back into your kayak. Not that it wasn't still a bit scary, but I figured if I chickened out in the serenity of the cove, how was I going to brave the frigid waters of Prince William Sound when the whale surfaces from underneath me? So I held my breath and said "go", managed to unhook my spray skirt and was up before I knew it. I even managed to "rescue" a classmate. I learned some better paddling technique too, and apart from a teeny bit of terror, had a really good time. 

Then, to complete my Alaskan poser persona, I've acquired THE footwear of the true Alaskan, Xtra Tuff boots. I figure these will be on my feet for 7 days at least, kayaking, hiking, running from bears...they are very cool.

OK, so I've been a little obsessed with planning for this Alaskan adventure. I've put so much thought into making sure I have the right gear for the environment that I have to remind myself to pack some art supplies too. Whatever I do pack will have to be small. How will I capture the immense landscape on a 5x7 "Write-in-the-Rain" sketch pad? Hmmmm

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