Monday, November 12, 2018

Day 18: Row, row, row your boat...

September 2: I woke up to a light rain, which surprised me since no rain was in the forecast. But we lingered in camp until 8:30 at which point the rain had stopped. Soon after starting, we spotted some reindeer--clearly the reason for the unexpected rain.

We passed a surprisingly large number of people along the trail. One large group was clearly part of a larger organized tour, but we guessed that everyone was clustered fairly close together because they all took the same boat across the lake that was still ahead of us.

But the day's hike was largely uneventful, and we arrived at the lake shore where two rowboats greeted us. Karolina and I wanted to row across this lake although a charter boat was an option here. The lake in our way was Lake Lajtavrre, an usually light blue lake filled with glacial flour. The other side of the lake was three kilometers away as the crow flies. With only three kilometers to do and because two boats were already on our side (meaning we wouldn't have to row across three times to return a boat to this side), we wanted to row. It would be fun!

This water crossing had a list of rules to follow, such as a lifejacket being required and directions to follow large, white signs to the other side of the lake. From our location, they looked like tiny pinpoints, but we could see it which is what mattered. We knew where to go!

Karolina and I put on lifejackets. We didn't wear them the first time we rowed because we didn't know they were stored in a large plastic box. The German guy was about to push off and we were so anxious not to miss the boat, we totally missed the lifejackets. Not that we really thought we needed them, but if they're available, why not?

While getting ready, a woman arrived hiking in the same direction as us. We had first met her earlier in the day. Actually, to say we 'met' was something of an exaggeration. More like we had crossed paths a few times. She passed us on the trail, then we passed her, then she passed us again, and then we passed her again.

We asked if she wanted to join us on the boat, but she said she didn't know how to row. We assured her that it didn't matter. We were happy to row and would be rowing anyhow, but it's also not very hard and she'd get the hang of it in a minutes if she wanted to give it a try. It's not rocket science or anything. So we talked her into joining us. Originally, she had planned to take the charter boat.

Karolina and Claudia, rowing the boat
Before pushing off, I suggested that if anyone had to pee, now would be a good time to do it because there were no restrooms on the boat and it might take over an hour to cross the lake. Everyone was good, though, and it was time to launch the boat!

Just pushing the boat into the water was a challenge in itself, but eventually we got it floating in the water and all three of us boarded. We made introductions as we headed off, and we learned our new friend was Claudia from Switzerland.

Claudia and Karolina were sitting where the oars were located and both of them grabbed one and started paddling, but they weren't well synchronized and we soon ran aground on the shallow rocks of the lakeshore. I took another paddle and used it to try pushing us off the rocks, and eventually we got ourselves into deeper water. I don't think the water was actually deep, but we couldn't actually see more than about two inches through the murky glacial flour of the lake. The water could have been one foot deep or a thousand feet deep--there was no way to be sure. But I was pretty sure this glacier-made lake was rather shallow all the way across.

The un-synchronized paddling by Karolina and Claudia spun us in circles and Karolina soon took control of both oars and Claudia joined me on spectator's row.

When Karolina got tired of rowing, Claudia went back at it for another go. You'd never have been able to tell that she had never rowed before.

And then when Claudia got tired, it was my turn to row. The rowing was difficult, too. We spun in circles. The wind was blowing in from the west and pushing our boat hard, and I quickly realized that 90% of my effort was going towards rowing the right oar. Ten rows with the right oar, one row with the left, ten on the right, one on the left. My right arm was definitely getting tired.

Now it's my turn to row!
The wind also picked up as we approached the center of the lake. When we launched the boat, it was in a small bay of the lake and was somewhat protected from the wind, but halfway across, we had no more protection and the boat swung wildly out of control.

And Karolina started worrying that the boat might capsize. The water was definitely getting choppier, but I wasn't especially worried. Not yet, at least. I couldn't see whitecaps on the water, but we were getting close to it, and Karolina would cuss in Polish every time a particularly large swell hit the side of the boat. Eventually, she sat down on the bottom of the boat, presumably to lower the center-of-gravity and make capsizing the boat less likely. I didn't think the swells on the lake were big enough to be a concern--but that's not to say that I didn't have concerns. I worried the weather might get worse before it got better. The skies didn't look pretty and if the wind picked up even more, it could get bad. I didn't mention my concerns to Karolina, though.

Karolina looked back and asked if it might be better to return to the side we came from, but at this point, it appeared we had already passed the halfway point and I had no intention of going back. Nope! It wasn't happening!

After a half hour, my arms--especially my right arm--was getting tired and I wanted to switch off with someone else, but I was a little worried about Karolina and wanted to exude a calming presence. She seemed calmer sitting on the bottom of the boat and I didn't want to upset the balance. Not just by making Karolina take over rowing where she'd be higher up and feel the rocking more, but I didn't even want to switch places with Claudia because just switching places would make the boat rock.

I kept paddling, but keeping control of the boat was devilishly hard and we continued spinning in a circle on a regular basis. Progress seemed agonizingly slow.

Finally we started nearing the other shore and I could see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. We were almost there! If the boat capsized, I'd definitely swim for north shore. Or walk--if the water was shallow enough. It was impossible to tell how deep the water was.

The wind was blowing up pretty well--the wind was our biggest problem the whole time--but I suddenly realized that if I paddled directly upwind of the dock--which was ever so close!--the wind could essentially push up the last part across the lake and I could rest my arms.

So I rowed to a point that I felt was directly upwind of the boat launch then pulled the oars in and just allowed us to float in the water.

It was kind of nice. Claudia and Karolina seemed skeptical of my concept, but I was so glad just to rest my arms. My right arm and hand were exhausted. After several minutes, the shoreline and boat launch were noticeably closer and the girls finally seemed convinced that my plan was working.

Although I did have to make a small coarse adjustment halfway there. After a minute or so adjusting course, I let the boat be pushed by the wind again.

As we got closer to the boat launch, I noticed that we were once again starting to run aground and tried to paddle the last part checking the depth of the water with my paddle. I was a little worried we'd run aground and get the boat stuck. If push came to shove, we could get out of the boat and walk to shore pulling the boat behind us, but none of us really wanted to do that.

And happily, we did not. I finally manuvered the boat into the boat launch while Claudia helped control the boat's direction with an extra oar. I jumped out of the boat onto dry ground--well, mostly dry ground. I couldn't avoid stepping in the water that was an inch or two deep so my feet got a little wet. But once I was securely on dry ground, I pulled the boat further up the ramp where Karolina and Claudia could get out without getting their feet wet and we unloaded the boat of our backpacks. When the now lightened boat, we pulled the boat the rest of the way up the boat ramp. I tied the rope at the end securely and we were done. We had made it across! It had been a lot more difficult than we ever anticipated, though, and it took us an hour and a half to make the 3 km journey. (Well, 3 km as the crow flies. With our spinning in circles and zigzagging, we probably covered a lot more distance than that!)

We finally make it to dry land!

I finally had a chance to take a closer look at my right hand. Just as I thought--two small blisters had formed where I had been rowing with the oar. My hands weren't used to doing so much work! I named the blister on the left "Port" and the blister on the right "Starboard." It seemed approapriate.

Just up the trail, maybe a five minute walk away was the next hut on the trail. We walked to it where we took a short break and filled up with water. We wanted to camp a couple of kilometers up the trail and wasn't sure if there would be water around, so we would pack in all the water we needed for the night and most of the next day.

We stopped to set up camp at the trail junction with Skierfe. It included a nice, scenic overlook of the lake we had just crossed, and a view of Skierfe which Karolina and I planned to conquer tomorrow.

Karolina wanted to cook another one of her freeze-dried meals so I boiled extra water for her and accidentally poured the boiling water onto my bare hand that was holding the bag. I dropped the bag, cussing loudy. Some of the food from Karolina's bag fell out onto the ground, but fortunately for her, most of it stayed in the pouch. After taking stock of the situation, I finished filling her bag with water before making my own dinner.

My hand--already with two fresh blisters--was now bright red where I had poured the boiling water onto it. It hurt and felt like a bad sunburn, but except for being a bit red the skin looked normal. I figured I'd be fine, but I was grumbling over the unnecessary injury.

It had been a tough day....

View from camp

I take a break in a chair we found on the trail. I also pulled out my tarp to dry from the rain and condensation earlier  in the morning.

Lots of reindeer today!

The lake in the distance is the first view we had of the lake we'd have to row across.

Karolina preps the boat!

That mountain the background is Skierfe--which Karolina and I planned to conquer tomorrow!
Another view of Skierfe, this time from the other side of the lake.

I fill up a platypus with water at the hut we passed

Karolina and Claudia rowing the boat!

And my turn rowing a boat


GG said...

For those of you who also wondered what the heck is "glacial flour"
Rock flour, or glacial flour, is the result of glaciers grinding against rock beneath the glacier. The clay-sized particles of rock were suspended in meltwater and transported into the Clark Fork drainage (Lake Missoula). The image above shows bedrock that has been scraped by rocks carried in glacial ice.
(thank you Google)
Now it's two new things I've learned today.

Michael said...

Just imagine if there weren't two boats on that side of the lake; and if you had to cross all the way there, pick up the second boat, cross all the way back, drop the 2nd boat off, and then finally, cross the third time. Yikes! I'm glad for both (three) of you that the both boats were on this side of the lake.

(Thanks Lou! I thought it was a misspell at first.)

Al Lemieux said...

I wondered if cuss words in Polish sound as harsh as they sound in English.

Cousin Sue said...

What? No Santa!