Last Wednesday Liesl took her new kayak out for the first time.
The night before, our friend Scott helped us load the kayak on the Subaru’s roof rack, securing it with tie-down straps, and ropes tied to the front and back. He and Liesl consulted the knot-tying app on my iPod, then created specialized knots that held the kayak securely.
Our plan was that Liesl would paddle from the Portage Lake put-in to a beach on the other side of the lake (about 3 miles, one way). Scott and I would take the tunnel to Whittier, hike through Portage Pass, and meet Liesl at the beach for lunch.
By the time we got to Portage Lake on Wednesday morning, however, we’d figured out that we didn’t really have a way to coordinate between the two adventures. Particularly since this was Liesl’s first solo kayak, Scott and I felt better about staying on the Portage side of Maynard Mountain.
So we launched Liesl, who was thrilled to be on the water. Paddling is a great equalizer for her––in her kayak, with her upper body strength, she has an advantage over most of us so-called able-bodied people.
As she paddled farther and farther away––and then disappeared––my anxiety began to build. One of the challenges in our relationship is that she’s an adventure seeker, and I’m an anxious Chicken Little.
Scott, Brady and I walked the trail to Byron Glacier, on the far side of the lake. Brady enjoyed the off-leash time, darting into the brush on our left to take quick drinks from the rushing creek, coming back at a run when I whistled for him. For some reason, he always barks when we get to Byron Glacier, and this time was no exception. On our way back, we met several groups of tourists and locals. Brady, our little social butterfly, enjoyed all the pets and attention they gave him. He’s such a love sponge!
Liesl was out of our sight for at least several hours, and my anxiety built to a level where Scott could feel it emanating from me. As a distraction, we decided to do a bit of shopping in the book store and gift shop at the Begich Boggs Visitors’ Center. In an act of faith, I bought a Portage Valley patch for Liesl, to commemorate her first solo paddle. We also exchanged a dollar for four quarters, for the high-powered binoculars outside. Joy and relief surged through me when I spotted Liesl on the far side of the lake, the wind at her back, steaming back to the put-in.
Scott figured we had at least a half-hour before she reached the shore, so we set off to scout out the Trail of Blue Ice. We were deep into theological conversation when my cell phone rang. It was Liesl, and she was high as a kite.
She had paddled into the wind, all the way to the beach on the other side. The water got a bit rough, and she almost turned around twice. But she’s determined and persistent, so she pushed on.
In my own way, I’m determined and persistent, too. The winds of anxiety may have picked up, and the water may have felt quite choppy, but I pushed on and through, because I know how much a day of kayaking means to Liesl.
And we both were very thankful for Scott, whose support made a great day of adventure possible.