A couple weeks ago, my family and I, along with some friends, set out for an extended kayak trip down Paint Creek.
I knew the trip would be long (from Greenfield’s Felson Park to the Paint Creek State Park Campgrounds off Rapid Forge Road), but I don’t know that I have ever felt such a bone-deep exhaustion coupled with a simultaneous exhilaration before.
Our prior trips have been small, maybe no more than an hour or two, and have been a nice meander down the creek.
This trip was no exception, save for one instance between me in a too-quick current and a rather large tree branch, but I am no worse for the wear. Most of the trip was nice and relaxing with plenty of time to chat, really look at the trees on the banks of the creek, and listen to the birds that live there.
Then came the end, the last couple miles or so. Since we were in the lake and no longer in the creek with the shallow water and its current to move us along, our movement was solely dependent on our own steam.
It became a bit difficult, but no less of a wonder.
I quickly found, especially with my burning arm and back muscles, that a steady pace was the best way to go. And once having found that cadence of movement, I could look around easily enough and take in the sights.
As the creek widened, seemingly slowly becoming the lake, I saw things I had not seen before, like all of these rock formations jutting up from the water with large trees in precarious positions.
It was breathtaking, and I couldn’t help but think, as I have during previous trips down the creek, how these waters had once been, essentially, a highway, serving as a popular mode of travel for all sorts of folks for all sorts of reasons.
And here I was, feeling quite blessed to have the ability to take it all in.
My daughter was along for the trip and was in her own kayak, tied to my boat or my husband’s by turns.
In these flat and seemingly motionless waters, the girl got some practice in on learning to paddle on her own. And that little bit of added momentum was a Godsend there at the end when I felt that, if I spoke, the action of speaking would expend energy I needed to paddle.
I found myself wondering a few times if I had it in me to get myself to the dock at the campgrounds.
Then I would remind myself, I had to have it in me since, for one, we were all tired, and two, I am far too proud to throw in the towel.
I was even pulling my daughter’s boat for a while, muscles burning a little more with each swipe of the paddle.
But it was one of those situations when you know you’ve got to perform, and you do.
Much like the Little Engine That Could, trudging up that big hill, my mantra was, “I think I can, I think I can,” until I knew I could.
By the time we got to the dock we were all beat but good, all except for the two little kids, that is.
And I was a little mad at my husband, but that passed quickly enough.
You see, he kept saying we were nearly there, “just around the bend.”
So I spotted the next bend and thought, that, yeah, we can do this.
But it was more like three bends. That anger may have actually helped a little bit.
When we had all the boats loaded, we drove over to the shelter house nearest the dam and popped open the coolers and grilled hot dogs. I tell you, those had to be about the best hot dogs I have ever eaten.
You see, I had started the trip with only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my tummy, which sticks to one’s ribs good enough, but a few miles of intense physical activity will burn it up quickly.
I have always enjoyed outdoor things like this. In my youth, I played the sports I played with fervor. My childhood was full of hiking, swimming and exploring. We were outside doing something all the time and I miss that.
I love the physical activity and love being outdoors, but I’ve noticed that with the demands of life, getting out there and playing is a lot harder to get worked into the schedule.
But I’m glad we did, and I’m glad we do.
It’s worth every burning, working muscle to see what we saw that day and to take in the seemingly untouched nature we were surrounded with.
And it’s a great way to just enjoy – no phones or televisions and no idea what’s going on anywhere besides our little neck of the woods and the creek that runs through it.
Angela Shepherd can be reached at 937-402-2572 or on Twitter @ashepherdHTG.