Monday, July 15, 2013

"Biking" in the Water

            I couldn’t get the hang of kayaking until I applied my biking skills. You might wonder how a predominantly lower-body activity could inform one that uses the upper-body – but it was the feel of cycling that helped my body “get” the rhythm and movement needed to kayak.

            I’ve been vacationing north of Minneapolis on a lake that shall remain nameless – lest its pristine beauty become overrun by tourists. My host, Ruth, wanted to show me Cuyuna recreation area – a series of six interconnected lakes that were created from extinct iron mines.

            We headed to Cycle Path & Paddle to rent kayaks. While waiting to be transported to the lakes, I explored this very friendly store – which also (as you could surmise from its name) rents bikes. I spotted a couple Surly bikes with the most enormous tires I’ve ever seen on a bike, and was told they’re good in the snow – of which Minnesota, of course, gets plenty.

            I also was intrigued by the T-shirts sporting “Shred the Red” slogans. The mountain bike trails around the mine lakes are called “the red” because of their color – derived from the iron-rich earth. So mountain bikers who tackle the 25-mile trails around the lakes are said to “shred the red.” The tires of the rental bikes showed plenty of red residue ground into them.

            But this was to be a kayak adventure. I have kayaked only occasionally – each time feeling clumsy and awkward, if not downright incompetent. Ruth tried her best to instruct me (as others have tried in the past) but my body just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. And then I took a few strokes and said – with revelatory joy – “It’s like riding a bike!” More like a hand-cranked bike, but that body connection was all I needed to begin gliding gracefully along the water. As the day progressed, I had some moments that felt full of ease and with all the pleasure I get from riding fast on a bike or swimming with flippers: movement, momentum, freedom, joy.

            We paddled through several of the lakes until we found a peninsula onto which we could pull the kayaks. The day was breezy but quite warm, so we were eager to dock the kayaks and swim. The water was perfectly clear – its temperature refreshing without being frigid. There were multitudes of small green fish – two to three inches long – that we glimpsed through the lucid water. I picked up a few iron-rich rocks from the bottom near the shore (which then dropped off quickly to deep water). The rocks instantly stained my hands a rusty red from their iron.

            After swimming, we ate our picnic lunches and reminisced about long-ago boyfriends, our conversation meandering aimlessly like the lakes through the forest. We swam again before getting back into the kayaks to return to our starting point. Despite my improved kayaking skills, paddling into the wind was not easy! But I felt the satisfaction of good exercise and was happy to return to the cottage for a quiet remainder of the afternoon.

            To our surprise, the cottage had lost power – perhaps a casualty of the gusty winds. But it stays light here until nearly 10 p.m., and by the time it’s dark I’ll surely be ready for bed.

(Postscript – my blog was handwritten to preserve battery power in my laptop. A few hours later, power was restored and we were able to cook our dinner and flush the toilets without having to haul buckets of water from the lake.)

1 comment:

  1. So glad you had a great time up in the Cuyuna Lakes area!
    Stop by and see us again the next time you are in Minnesota :-)
    ~Your friends at Cycle Path & Paddle