It's been too long since my last post– unfortunately, time flies when you spend some of your time doing homework and the rest of it thinking about doing homework.
Anyways, on the weekend of October 9th, over our short excuse for a Fall Break, I spent Saturday through Tuesday sea kayaking in the 1000 Islands of Ontario, at the beginning of the St. Lawrence River just east of Lake Ontario–and took care of graduation requirements by doing so! This trip was the culmination of a short PE class offered by Cornell Outdoor Education–it was the first time I had ever been sea kayaking, and it was, of course, an awesome experience.
I met a really fun group of other adventurous students and had the chance to photograph some cool scenes during the long weekend. We met on friday after classes to load the boats on the trailer, gather our gear, and head a few hours north to the Canadian border, where we marveled at the smuggling potential of 10 empty kayaks strapped so tightly to a trailer that looking underneath them was not worth the effort. We arrived at Misty Isles Lodge, on the river's shore, and pitched our tarps for the night. When dawn came, we were coerced into quickly abandoning our sleeping bags and suddenly entering a 35 degree world in t-shirts and shorts (at least in my case). However, the two pileated woodpeckers that swooped up to grasp the bark of the tree right above my head quickly dispelled any unpleasant thoughts.
We had a short paddle that Saturday morning, for people to get acquainted with their boats, and promptly lost most of our group on the small island we stopped at for lunch–not surprisingly, a rather difficult thing to do. Of course, being a tiny island, there was a short, circular path that skirted the shore, and we brilliantly followed each other around the island for several minutes before settling down at different spots without our food. Not to worry; we figured it out eventually.
We made our first camp on Beau Rivage Island, a mostly deciduous and fairly busy little island. After spending an afternoon gathering firewood, exploring the island, and watching the sunset, we had to take care of dinner. Of course, in our pre-trip meetings, many people were confident that they would be inhumanly hungry on our trip, so the instructors packed a lot of food, all of which had to be eaten. So, it wasn't the cooking that we had to "take care of"– it was the eating. That night we had about fifteen pounds of beans to split between the twelve of us. Needless to say, that was a relatively unpleasant experience. However, for our valiant (and successful) efforts, we were rewarded with quite the showing from the clear, moonless sky (which subsequently ignited a furious debate about whether the Big Dipper actually appears bigger when closer to the horizon...I was on the winning team: http://www.astronomy.com/asy/default.aspx?c=a&id=2194).
The following day, we made an exhilarating crossing with high winds and 2-3 foot swells. Crossing the shipping channel diagonally with the cresting waves was quite exciting, because with waves pushing from behind, keeping straight took a lot of hard paddling; if you do begin to slide sideways, flipping is almost inevitable–eventually, two people flipped on two of our windiest crossings. After regrouping, we set up camp on Camelot Island, a beautiful, secluded island dominated by white pines and raccoons. This island provided us with some of our finest moments. Not only did we have time to take a tranquil afternoon paddle around a few pristine islands, with a loon calling and a pair of surf scoters hugging the shoreline, but one of our group, Robert Chen, provided us with several moments of incredible entertainment...
...the greatest of which ensued while the other eleven of us were eating dinner. While sitting at a well lit picnic table, talking loudly, we heard from about 100 feet up a hill: "Uhh...guys?" Where was Robert? There was a faint glimmer from a headlamp in the darkening trees. "I can hear you, but I don't know where you are." A brief rescue mission ensued. After a night of fighting off raccoons before going to sleep, and distributing paddles to sleep by for defense (or offense, which admittedly was a much more appealing option), we awoke the next morning to head out for our last full day of paddling.
Monday involved a relaxed paddle back to Gordon Island, near our starting point. There was a big gazebo to sleep under here, so we spent our tent-pitching time watching the sunset instead. That night, after getting all situated under the gazebo, we made a last minute decision to sleep under the stars. For ten minutes or so, we enjoyed several shooting stars and even more stationary ones. Sadly though, we saw storm clouds quickly approaching and again retreated to the gazebo. We planned to get up at 4:30 the next morning to break camp in time to paddle into the sunrise on our way back to Misty Isles. It was really cool paddling by headlamp in the pre-dawn darkness and silence, and we eagerly awaited the sunrise as we started to see a pink line on the horizon. About twenty minutes later, while we were still watching the horizon, we realized the sky above us was already fairly light...the sneaky sun had risen behind a cloud bank that we couldn't really make out at the time. We thought about feeling sorry for ourselves for getting up so early in vain, but then decided against it– a pre-dawn paddle makes for quite a memorable experience regardless of the sun's mode of entrance. Life could be worse :)