Thursday, August 6, 2009

The 'second shift' arrives and tent angst

We parted ways with the SKOAC Renegades on Sunday afternoon after lunching at the Sand Island dock. We then headed over to York to await the arrival of the 'second shift' on our permit, the crew from Des Moines and Omaha, guys that the VOR and friends had met while windbound on Sand Island during last years Womyn's (no men) Trip. KayakPoloBret, BillyMitchellSteve, and PaddlinJK showed up right around happy hour and we began to fortify ourselves for the trip to Devil's in the morning.

Monday dawned with a northeast breeze, 180 degrees opposite of the forecast southwest wind. Imagine that in the Apostles! We met the other two members of the group, DrBackCracker and ProfessorLichen, about a mile off York Island in a perfectly timed though haphazardly planned mid lake rendezvous. Lunch on Bear and then the short crossing to Devils made for a nice long paddle day. Five of us unloaded at the Devils campsite in preparation to head to the sea caves while Doc and the Professor waited. They were scheduled for South Twin that night. We had a great time in the caves as usual. I always take vicarious pleasure in watching other folks enjoy the caves for the first time and this was no exception. The beauty of the caves, the fabulous sound track of the waves bouncing around inside, and the effort it took to get there make the Devil's Island caves one of the most satisfying locations in the park. We landed, wandered up to the lighhouse and found Heidi, a 12 year volunteer we'd met before, and a Coast Guard crew replacing the light. It looked a bit more complicated than screwing in a light bulb but they had it well under control. We also had a lesson in unique lichens on the island from ProfLichen, an expert in the field. The wind was swinging to the northwest as predicted and the whitcaps were beginning to build as we decided to head back down the east side of the island rather than circumnavigating. Our lighthouse keeper, Heidi, suggested that might be a good plan. We arrived at camp around 5;30 and Doc and ProfLichen prepared to head for South Twin. We all lobbied them to stay with us since they already had 16 miles under their belts (none of us are college age guys), they were tired, it was late, the lake was kicking up, and we had the seven people permitted for the camp. There was one problem however. Too many tents.

The reason that they had not stayed with the five of us in the first place was the three tent limit per site. The rule was implemented to minimize impact on the campsites and general wear and tear on the areas. There are a couple problems however. I don't know of any kayakers that have a three or four person tent. As we all know, the tent manufacturers capacities are optimistic or based on camping trips made up entirely of jockeys. As we all know, a 4 person is really a two person plus gear. The human social factor is another issue. The odd number of seven folks per site would seem to require a couple of two person tents and a three person if you really wanted the full seven people. The three person tent concept is very problematic. If my sweetie and I are in the tent, listening to the waves lapping on the shore, I sure as hell don't want a third person of either gender in there. As far as three guys, the auditory and olfactory impact might be more than a man could bear. I visited the Soviet Union in 1976 and six of us guys were stuffed in a tiny triple bunk sleeper on a Russian train with barely room to move. We had gone to bed around 3am after sharing vodka, various pickled vegetables, and black bread with some Russian students. We had introduced them to the Cold War thawing wonder of Jack Daniels and I don't think any of us were feeling any pain. We overslept for breakfast of course, and one of our fellow travelers, a sweet young lady, was sent down to the sleeper to roust us. She politely knocked, slid open the door and began to say, "Guys its break....." before she was wracked by a fit of gagging, choking, and near retching. "How can you guys even breathe in there?" was her comment as she scurried away. I guess we had just become used to it. The other issue with three guys in a tent are comments like, 'was Bill's beard scratchy for you last night?'. Not that theres anything wrong with that. I will not comment on three women in a tent, thank you, no frame of reference whatsoever.

We did persuade the guys to stay, even though one of the crew works for the DNR in another state and thought it hypocritical to break a rule when his agency would insist on people respecting their rules. I suggested that looking at the scenario described above, tired, long day, waves builidng, and a two hour hump, it could officially be construed as a safety issue and that I considered them to be weather bound. The lake, as we know, is the boss and it was most definitley building and did so thoughout the night. Getting back to the tents, most folks have the very small single person backpacking tents which have a footprint very similar to a coffin. Mine even feels like a coffin and I've taken to sleeping in it with my hands folded across my chest. Perhaps a modification of the rule might be however many tents fit in the tent pad or tent area. Or dropping the number in a party to six. A party could have two big honkin' Walmart wall tents that would crush more vegetation than Paul Bunyan's boot while 4 or 5 small singles might take up considerably less space and have less impact. We all should know to pitch tents on the sand or hard areas and avoid the fragile beach grass and other vegetation. Just a few things to ponder.

All turned out well on Devil's that night, with an extra tent or two, and that forecast NW wind building to harass the VOR and I on our 14 mile slog back to Little Sand Bay. The group from Iowa and Nebraska continued on, now with the legal number of tents, and are coming off the water today. After 12 miles of headwind and 1-3' seas, the VOR and I were whipped by the time we got to the York spit and had lunch and a power nap. We AARP eligible paddlers felt better though, when a group of college students stopped and said they weren't going any further after paddling 6 miles from the Oak dock. We cruised into Little Sand Bay and made a beeline for Mortys Pub where we were discovered by Chris from Boreal Shores Kayaking. I guess we've become predictable or maybe just traditional. Morty's is always great and two local staples, South Shore Brown Ale and fresh Lake Superior Whitefish are a fitting as well as traditional end to a paddle trip in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

1 comment:

Silbs said...

A sterling post, indeed. I don't know if I found vicarious joy in it or was just tortured as I sit here preparing final exams.