Sunday, July 24, 2011

FD 70: Day 1, The Lake

After arriving the day before, Monday was the first full day of camp, and our first time on the water in Montana. That morning began just like every other. I awoke to laughter from the kitchen, where the three camp 'moms' were preparing breakfast and packing coolers of lunch and snack supplies for our group of about twenty kayakers and and campers.

After a run and some food, it was time to hit the road. We packed into three vehicles and traveled to Lake Macdonald in Glacier National Park, where the other campers and I needed to demonstrate our ability to 'wet exit'. This means getting out of the boat if it capsizes.

My nerves kicked in as we were given a safety talk and asked to set goals for the week. Suggestions included performing a T-rescue, rolling, or perhaps just getting reacquainted with the water and for today, getting that wet exit out of the way. I made a mental decision that I was in the third group. In the two years since I had been in a kayak, I forgot one critical aspect of my feelings about it: Kayaking terrifies me. Specifically, being upside-down under water and trapped in a boat, or doing anything that could potentially lead to that situation, makes my heart race and my eyes cry. How I forgot this is beyond me. At previous camps, I had not attempted a T-rescue or a roll, and wet exits were specifically reserved for an accidental swim on the river, which I had not encountered during those camps.

As we pushed off the shore, I found myself unable to speak, and apparently my emotions were written all over my face, because Konvict, one of the experienced kayakers, came over and asked me how I was, adding with a smile, "I haven't seen that expression on your face before."
You haven't seen me in a kayak before,
I thought.

But in no time, I was sitting in my boat, upside-down, underwater. I tapped on the sides when I wanted to come upright, and Konvict flipped me back over. Once I flipped myself over and did a wet exit, Konvict asked if I wanted to work on rolling. No, I thought. But I nodded yes, and proceeded to spend some quality time underwater. It wasn't that bad...actually, it was fun.

As a group, we practiced strokes and played a game of sharks and minnows before paddling out of the lake to take on some moving water. The water was calm, and that allowed for some quality discussion. I got to know another camper named Johnny that afternoon, and later in the evening, one of the expert kayakers commented at our campfire sharing of highlights of the day that he felt lucky to witness what he saw on the river; how easily we had poured our hearts out to each other after only meeting the day before.

But that openness is part of the magic of First Descents, and something that is not at all unusual at camp.

1 comment:

  1. How amazing would it be to be able to live with this openness ALL THE TIME. I struggle with this - I feel like more often than not I avoid putting the effort in to make a connection with someone.