Kayaking on Sunday

Maybe this should be titled “Silliness on Sunday.”

It began during the river trip on Saturday with this:

…a basketball floating down the Catawba river, like thousands of others have done in the past. After determining its species (Spaulding), I released it to continue its migration.


When I finished on Saturday, I didn’t take the kayak off of the Frontier, hoping I might have a chance to go again on Sunday after worship. And that’s the way it worked out. The upper body exercise from the paddle movement felt great, and the seasonal scenes again blessed my awareness.


Suddenly, there was this:


I don’t have a football, so I thought this might be a cool, free find. But when I picked it up, water squirted out along the laces; it was too far gone. It posed for this shot before jumping back in.


Very shortly after the football, there was this:



Yes, folks, that’s a Care Bears ball. I wonder how long that’s been waiting in the woods for a flood to set it afloat.

I continued into the river’s western curve around the big island, different from Saturday’s eastern route.



On the way back down the eastern bank, something caught my eye over by the grass.



Until the very end of 2008, I don’t think I ever had a soccer ball of my own. That’s when I found a nice one in the dunes at Ocracoke, while exploring with Debra, Bryan, and Laurie. Then, when kayaking with Debra on the Catawba River back in the summer, I found one that was in pretty good shape, and kept it. Now here was a solid blue one just waiting to be found, like a watermelon in a cotton field. I manuevered the kayak close to shore, between the two stumps and clump of roots, hoping the ball was not too waterlogged.


Now I have three!

And just before heading in to land, this floated by:


(Here’s an article that gives a little background of this phenomenon.)

(And this one has a related picture.)

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 1:24 am  Comments (4)  

The Four-Day Weekend, Part 2

Saturday and Sunday happened in usual fashion, except that I did go see Angels and Demons on Saturday afternoon. It was a very suspenseful and high action movie that I enjoyed, but I always find the gratuitous killing of many law enforcement officers to be a disturbing thing. I worshipped and rested Sunday, and then…


That’s right, I finally made it back out in the kayak! And it was such a beautiful day for it. This was Monday, Memorial Day. I’m in the QCC Q700X, and Debra is in the LL Bean Calypso.


Kayaks are great vehicles for getting up close to whatever’s growing along the shore.

Being in a small boat on a river with dark edges is a perfect blending of relaxation with adventure. These places make me breathe easier.

And this trip was our first chance to kayak in the rain together.


In all my time on this river, I’ve never seen other paddlers unless they were in my group. So it was a pleasure to encounter canoeists and kayakers throughout our trip this time out. The combination of holiday plus the lilies in bloom upstream at Landsford Canal State Park brought the paddlers to the river.

This channel, sliding through shade between two parallel islands is a favorite part of the Catawba for me.

Here is a closeup of a very small lily colony, located a mile or two downstream from the state park. The large colony of them at Landsford Canal (see recent posting for photos) is reputedly the largest concentration of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the world. Of course, while the phrase “in the world” is accurate, better perspective is given when one realizes that their entire range is limited to just three states — South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Back at the house, grilling happened, but rain made me relocate the cooking under the garage roof.

Giving thanks usually comes at the beginning of the meal. But sometimes it comes while cooking, or lighting the fire, or buying the pineapple, or discussing the menu, or riding home wet, or glancing around to see her on the water.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Walking at Landsford Canal State Park

This was May 16, the day before the annual Lilly Festival at the park.









As Debra and I started the long walk back to the truck, rain came, soaking us thoroughly the whole way. That was fun.

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 12:07 am  Comments (1)  

Yesterday’s Walk Through Snow

I’m walking across the field, toward the woods, late in the afternoon. With me is Faulkner, a soccer ball, my voice recorder, but no camera. I want there to be no frame to limit the white beauty of woods in the snow. I want to know the scene as unbroken expanse, each dimension pouring its fullness into each other.

I turn Faulkner loose, and he knows where to go. I walk, kicking the ball in his direction, toward the opening at the edge of trees, snow blasting from my foot and up my pants in the motion. Each expected bounce is muffled as the ball stops in its own oval crater. I love these shoes; Merrell is worth every penny you pay for them.

Into. Ahead of me the ball rolls down the trail. These woods have the freshness of an open-minded discussion, and I’m here to listen. The Sunlight is doing some amazing things on the white branches. The outline of white, up the trunks and out the limbs of the largest trees, is just — clean! A sea of Smilax briar vines, red cedars, wild cherries…they all are catching light and casting shadows in a perfect display of God’s artistry.

Why does snow in the woods make a man feel so warm?

Layerings. I’m listening to a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Its voice is traveling through pine branches covered with snow underneath the blue sky. Behind me is the horn of a very distant train. Grasses bend in support of their icy weight, and sweetgum balls stand out in silhouette against the pale openness above.

I keep expecting Faulkner to jump a rabbit and go chasing it out through the weeds until briars stop him and let the rabbit go free. Now the trail opens into a patch of pine needles and moss. And the sunlight is perfectly balanced against everything that is here. I am watching light, breathing it, pumping it through my arteries, and telling Faulkner things he’s too busy to notice for himself. He is happy and alert, running around in his winter fatness. Simple woods. I can never get too much of this. And twilight approaches.

Several small oak trees here still hold their brown dried leaves, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet matches the temperature with its thin, piercing call, but only giving two notes of its usual three.

Another thing I did not bring with me is binoculars. So, as I call the birds to me, I cannot see, in these shadows, what each of them is, but I do recognize a Song Sparrow. Dozens of others come close, staying just out of signt and are not identifying themselves by voice. Now they fly away as Faulkner follows his nose through the weeds underneath them. There’s the soft chuck of a Hermit Thrush, most likely agitated by the calling that I did. And back toward the spring I hear a Northern Flicker yelping its strident single-syllable creed to all the woods within a quarter mile.

Faulkner walked up to me just now, offering me his head for a scrub of his scalp, enjoying this place and my presence in it with him.

On to the spring, now, where water is flowing through the lightly frozen remainder of day. Faulkner runs his usual patrol across the broken fence and up through trees around the ridge. Today he’s easier to see, with snow as the background instead of brown forest floor. Much snow has melted and the flow of water out of the primary spring groundswell is more vigorous than I am used to seeing. I reach into it with my left forefinger and nudge a gray salamander who moves slowly out of my reach. The water is warm, moreso than I expected. And down here at ground level I notice a soft vapor rising off of the pool that is formed by the flow.

Now back up to the trail, I return to the soccer ball that I have been kicking all along this walk, through snow and leaves. The presence of a Nike soccer ball in these woods seems incongruous, but so it seemed in the place I first found it. That’s a story I still need to tell.

This is enough, and more than I can appreciate: these woods, this way. I am at home in the cold. No wind was here, trying to move the magisterial grandeur of snow where it lies and limbs where they accept space in the sky. I’m glad to be walking here now, and glad that this is enough.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 12:24 am  Comments (5)  

Ten on the River.2

The paddlers:





White [New to the group!]

White, again, with her face visible

Elder [New to the group!]




Cranston, the river guide

The weather was about as good as it can get. Conversation floated like the boats that carried us. Being there, with good friends, on an October river, is something I hope to repeat as soon and often as possible.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Ten on the River

The Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge group met at the Highway 9 boat landing for some time on the Catawba. Here are some scenes from the morning half of the fun.









Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 5:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday — The Rest of the Way

August 25, 2008 — Long Island Lake to takeout.

From our campsite on Long Island Lake, we continued to Lower George Lake… Rib Lake… Cross Bay Lake… Ham Lake… plus two unnamed small lakes. There were six portages totalling 243 rods.

Here are some scenes from our final day of paddling.






Some men are barrel-chested. We were barrel-backed.

Finishing strong

A cool shot just as Phil was beaming back up to the mothership:


The day had been truly beautiful. A morning that was born in the mist matured into an autumn-like freshness of air. There were lily pads and grasses around us much of the day, and we encountered ducks on the water and rocks — Gadwall, Common Goldeneye, Wood Ducks.

We made it to the takeout by our 3:00 appointment, and the Suburban and trailer were waiting for us. At the outfitter we were given cold drinks and clean towels, and everyone eventually found their way to the showers. Hot water is a wonderful thing!


On the way back to Duluth, we stopped in Grand Marias for supper at The Angry Trout. After that, the two-hour drive back to the hotel gave good time to process our week together.

Thanks, guys! Peace in your journey’s next leg.

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 9:36 am  Comments (4)