MD - Severn River - 2008/02/24



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A solo training paddle on a cold winter day is an exercise in focus.




by Gina Cicotello

Launch: Jonas Green State Park

Sunday was looking reasonably nice for February, with no threat of winds or precipitation. Loading my Baidarka onto the car, I did a thorough gear check this time, and headed for Jonas Green Park under the Naval Academy Bridge (Rt 450) in Annapolis.

While preparing for what to wear, I discovered my Palm drysuit, with a zipper across the back of the shoulders, is possible to zip myself after all. I attached a long piece of webbing to the zipper pull, like a wetsuit would have, which allowed me to reach it. The zipper is still really tough, and forced me into contortions that my previous shoulder injuries didn't really appreciate, but with patience I managed to get it on and off. I have a dry top and pants that I'd feel safe wearing in somewhat warmer conditions, but with temps in the 30s I prefer to be fully encased in Gore-Tex and gaskets. (Ironically, one of the other two kayakers I saw all day was wearing a short-sleeved paddling shirt under his PFD.)

In an attempt to shake off the winter blues and expend a few calories, this was intended as a workout paddle. With all of my gear stowed and a fix on my GPS, I headed upriver staying on the northern shoreline. I don't train for speed, but my endurance needs work these days, so I tried to keep a steady cruising pace as I clocked some distance.

A little note here... Anytime I go out for a training paddle like this one, a little rebellion happens in my psyche. The focus and determination I have to conjure in order to stick with the plan and not get distracted or quit feels like going numb. I find myself with my head down, counting paddle strokes or inwardly humming an inane little tune while I concentrate on my stroke technique. Numbness has negative connotations for me. It's counterintuitive to what I love about kayaking, which is full awakening of the senses so I notice everything around me. I could never understand people who kayak with iPods, but when training is the goal it actually makes some sense. In contrast, the most meaningful and successful dedicated training I've done in my lifetime has been through yoga. Both a physical and mental practice, my yoga experience has been a conscious effort to wake up in a higher sense, to feel and experience at a deeper level, to avoid being an emotional coward. Turning off my brain to keep a rhythm seems like a waste of the short time I'll spend on this planet, and I resent it even though I know my body will be stronger for it.




But I digress. This trip I managed to keep a pretty good focus. I paused only a couple of times to watch waterfowl. Once I spotted a flock of tundra swans, and admired them as they gracefully flew overhead in formation, quietly bugling to communicate with each other. Hundreds of scaups made the Severn a temporary home but they didn't let me get close, revealing how wild they actually were. Other than two kayakers and many high-class houses along the waterfront, I didn't see much.




My route took me across to Herald Harbor and Saint Helena Island, a place I'd spotted on a chart and wanted to see in person. As I circumnavigated, the few houses (which must only be accessible by boat) made it quite clear this island is private property. One emphasized the point with a sign that read "No trespassing, You have been warned!" The only life I encountered was a couple of herons, and I kept moving.



By this point my rhythm was relentless, so I didn't even pull over to stretch or snack on the goodies I'd brought along. I headed downriver, crossing again when I got to Sherwood Forest with its houses all painted the HOA-standard green





Once I reached the Rt 50 bridge and the end was in sight, my energy started to wane. Those snacks would've been better off eaten than languishing in a dry bag, and one liter of water wasn't enough as I started to feel thirsty.




My new GPS batteries died about 3/4 of the way through the trip, so I didn't get accurate data for the whole thing. Going upriver with a slight wind at my back, I was averaging around 5mph; downriver against the wind and incoming tide, around 4mph.
The track shows the route I took, calculated at 11.6 miles. The Severn River continues several more miles and gets considerably narrower further inland, which I'll save to explore another day.


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EVEN THE BEST BOATERS CAN FIND THEMSELVES IN SERIOUS TROUBLE ON THE MILDEST OF DAYS ON THE WATER. PARTICIPATION IN THIS SPORT IS A STRENUOUS ACTIVITY. CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY SUCH ACTIVITY. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT EACH BOATER TAKES FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN SAFETY, AND IS TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ASSESSING THE DANGER LEVEL AND ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS SPORT.


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