It was just 30 minutes after our last stop and my legs and butt were already numb. Except, of course, if they were numb I wouldn’t feel the pain; so they must not actually be numb yet.
This was the first of nine days in a kayak, but I was convinced that this discomfort was both normal and that I would get used to it.
When we hit our next stopping point I was not sure I could trust my legs to hold me up. Could I successfully get out of this position to standing? I did, with only a slight bit of trouble.
As I stepped into the water and out of my kayak, it felt as though my right rubber boot was filling with water. Eeek, what happened? Was I deep enough to go over the top of the boot? I didn’t think so. There was a crack in the back of my boot that must have developed as I was moving my feet in weird ways in boots that I hadn’t worn in ages.
Yikes. This might be a long trip.
I got a bite to eat gearing myself up for the biggest crossing of the trip. It was a gorgeous day on the water and it didn’t occur to me that this was something to be nervous about. I am not comfortable in a kayak, and in the cold Alaskan waters I did worry about tipping over. I worried that it would be such a cold shock that I would inhale water and drown. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to release my spray skirt to get out of my kayak. And I was quite certain that if I did end up outside of my kayak, I would not be able to get back in – even with the help of my traveling companions – until we reached shore.
These worries existed but were quite far buried in my mind – it was time to work not to worry. Plus, by the time we started, two of my toes on my right foot were numb so I busied my mind worried about my feet rather than the crossing itself.
I am quite a stubborn person, and in my teens I had poor choice in footwear and was in the midst of learning self-care. The result: I spent hours upon hours with numb feet in the snowy Colorado winters. I could handle the short-term pain and my young mind wasn’t concerned nor aware of long term consequences.
But now a few toes on my right foot go numb particularly quickly, and they warm extremely slowly. On this trip I had my (now holey) rubber boots, Chaco sandals, and tennis shoes. Our weather was likely to be mid-50’s to mid-60’s during the days and 40’s and 50’s at night with rain, potentially lots and lots of rain. I had to find a way to keep my toes warm enough. While I once didn’t worry about numb toes – I now do – probably more than is warranted.
Between my mind on my feet and pleasant conversation with my companions, we made it quickly across the body of water and to the shores of Admiralty Island – the 7th largest island in the United States and the place featuring the highest density of brown bears in North America (and very few people).
It was mid-afternoon as we paddled through Oliver’s Inlet to the land portage that would take us to Seymour Cabin where we would spend the night. We celebrated, feeling as though our day was complete, unaware of the scope of work that lay ahead…