Saturday dawned up in Washburn, WI 180 degrees opposite of what the weather alarmists forecast. Partly sunny and a relatively pleasant 45F or so. Neither snow shovel or sleet scraper were needed. I immediately decided that at 3pm my nose would be lifted from the grindstone and I would get out for my first Gitchee Gumee paddle of 2012. The VOR was on a mission and offered to drop me off and pick me up wherever I chose. As long as she could get me there in ten minutes. I chose the north end of the Washburn coal dock with a pickup point at Thompson West End Park. She dumped the Explorer and me at the coal dock along with my gear for a short day paddle. As I stood there I began to belatedly run through the rusty check list in my head, a check list last utilized somewhere around Halloween of last year.
I confess that I just don't think about kayaking all that much from the start of the whitetail deer rut at about the beginning of November through the end of the ski season, late March most years. When my sons played hockey and wanted to join the spring league, summer league, fall league, and attend a few hockey camps as well I explained to them that they needed to take a break and get into soccer, baseball, even fishing in order to be well rounded and avoid burning out on a single activity like so many kids I've watched over the years. Kayaking is like that to me, an activity that sort of obsesses me from April through mid October, at which point I look forward to deer hunting with giddy anticipation, the kind of anticipation that I felt Saturday before I launched into the big lake. The problem with the layoff, and especially a layoff where a fifty plus year old brain is involved, is that it takes a while for the synapses to fire and fire efficiently and accurately. As I watched the VW head off to Ashland I stood next to my pile of gear and began to check off the gear and launch procedures into what had turned into 1-3 footers with about a 20mph north breeze.
I had a few screwups but it was a good shakedown. My shoulders and abs are a bit sore from the poor skiing and lack of exercise this winter but that will work itself out. Like the first ski run of the year, the first climb up into the tree stand, or the first cast of the fishing season, the excitement and the familiarity of starting a brand spankin' new season is something I will never get tired of. If I lived in Vancouver I could do all three things, ski, hunt, and paddle, in the same day but it just wouldn't have that same 'season opener' vibe. I almost can't wait for deer season!