April 02, 2020

New means being wet behind the ears and everywhere else.

My parents and friends were skeptical when they learned I was going winter kayaking.

“You’re crazy,” they said, though I was unsure if it was because they thought Jersey girls don’t kayak during the second week of December or because complaints about the snow since Thanksgiving were expressed.

Anyone with knowledge about kayaking offered advice. A friend said to learn how to roll before getting into a kayak, and Shaun Donovan, the guide, offered me a wetsuit and explained how one should paddle.

When starting our adventure, I still had no idea of why one rolls, and since the water wasn’t even 3 feet deep, why wear a wetsuit?

Encountering the tree branch that would actually flip me and the kayak 180 degrees upside down, I soon realized why the advice was given.

Trying to go underneath the tree branch taught me to never fight with mother nature. “I don’t need a wetsuit,” was the confident response to the offer — not only was I mistaken, I would soon realize I was all wet by my decision.

Though a clear day, the stream was so cold that ice was forming around the edges of its shoreline.

Once I’m in the water, upside down in a kayak, the initial reaction to my predicament was this is how I’m going to die.

Unfortunately, getting out of the kayak involved letting water into it. (The sprayskirt prevents water from entering the kayak, even when flipped over in the water, as long as one is still inside.) Now I was freezing and wetter than before being underwater.

Everyone on the trip was concerned after seeing the spill. Heading for the shore, I stopped when Shaun began talking to me to prevent shock. Giving me a blanket and bandanna to try to slow the heat escaping from my head, he got me back into the kayak.

Teeth chattering and shivering, I began to paddle as members of the group got me through the tough spots, hastening to return to the van. Thankfully, it was only five minutes from where I took my swim. I changed into the spare clothes given me. Now I know why Shaun said, “Prepare for the worst.”

Hypothermia was soon becoming a very familiar word in my vocabulary. Everyone who thought I was crazy for kayaking in the first place now thought I was going to die of exposure.

Arriving at work that night, concern was expressed about my well-being. Except for the fact that I was freezing, I felt fine. The completely warm feeling came about 12 hours after my spill.

A few days later I was shown a kayaking guide, which listed the stages of hypothermia. Learning how dangerous it could be, I realized I was lucky, since there were no thoughts of going to a doctor.

I saw Shaun a few weeks ago and he asked when is our next adventure. Not sure, I’m not closed to the possibility. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the Maine scenery and peace and quiet. No doubt, I’ll wear a wetsuit, and perhaps I’ll even have my roll down — just in case I meet up with that tree again.

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