In addition to this blog, we have written an annual holiday letter for the last 23 years to let friends and relatives know what our family has been doing. Ed has always used the annual letter as a measure of whether or not we have been living life to the fullest. One year he found we had done so little during the year that he was too depressed to write–Patty had to write the entire letter herself.
Now we are writing this blog every week which brings Ed stress 52 times a year—he starts getting nervous around Wednesday if we have not yet engaged in any blog-worthy activities. Fortunately, we recently participated in an activity for the first time that was sure to make this week’s blog—zip-lining.
Ironically, Ed considers zip-lining to be what he calls a “pseudo-nature activity”, one of his pet peeves. Here are some others:
- Jet skiing. Maybe if jet skiers slowed down and were actually going somewhere, they could enjoy nature. However, they always seem to go as fast as possible, back and forth, over and over, usually in front of our camp site (thus eliminating the possibility that we could enjoy nature).
- Air boating. We may be biased because we were almost run over by an air boat while kayaking but this is probably one of the most unnatural outdoor activities invented by man. Here’s a hint—if you have to wear ear protection, you are not enjoying nature.
- Mountain biking. Although Ed enjoys mountain biking, you can’t really enjoy nature when you are avoiding running into trees. If mountain bikers were on a relatively safe trail and slowed down, they could possibly enjoy nature. However, for most mountain bikers, going as fast as possible seems to be their primary goal.
Despite the fact that Ed was skeptical of zip-lining, he knew it would be blog-worthy. As a result, we paid $84 per person to go zip-lining at Shenandoah River State Park.
Ready to go–we should say that this was one of the safest activities we have ever done—Ed had less straps when he went sky diving.
Patty on the zip line conducting what is advertised as a “canopy tour”–in fact, zip-lining has been used for many years by scientists to move slowly through tropical tree canopies and study flora and fauna. However, commercial zip-lining consists of “zipping” through the forest (at speeds up to 40 mph according to our guide), so the likelihood that you might spot a bird in a tree is about the same as winning the lottery.
Patty enjoying nature?—Ed couldn’t even get Patty to look at the camera, much less the tree canopy.
After eight zip lines and two rope bridges, Patty was not happy to find out we still had to rappel to the ground from the last platform.
Our conclusions after zip-lining: it’s safe and fun but it has little to do with enjoying nature. To be fair, our guide did describe what types of trees the zip lines were attached to so we now sort of know the difference between black, red, and white oak trees.
In search of more blog-worthy activities, Ed, daughters Lindsay and Adrienne, and son-in-law Al visited the James River to do some hiking and kayaking.
Lindsay on the James–when we got to the launching point, Ed was concerned because: 1) there were rapids downstream of the launch, 2) our kayaks are not intended for whitewater, and 3) Lindsay has little experience with this kayak and none in whitewater. As a result, Ed made sure that Lindsay wore a life jacket.
Ed’s concern turned out to be misdirected as Lindsay easily kayaked through the rapids but Ed’s kayak flipped over. Some (including Patty) may consider this another example of Ed taking unnecessary risks, but he considered it an opportunity to demonstrate what to do in a kayak emergency. The following photos demonstrate proper emergency procedures.
Step 1 (not shown) – Put on your life jacket. Ideally you should do this before beginning to kayak (and landing in the water) but Ed did not, even after insisting that Lindsay wear one.
Step 2 (above)—Pump the water out of your kayak—water in your kayak makes it very unstable so you have to get the water out (at least Ed brought a pump).
It took a lot of time to pump the water out of Ed’s kayak so Lindsay lost interest and took a selfie.
Step 3—Blow up and attach a float (the yellow object) to the paddle. Attach the other end to the kayak. (Note that Ed is standing on the river bottom—he practiced these procedures once before in our old Gainesville swimming pool and it is a little harder when the water is over your head.)
Step 4–Climb up on the back of the kayak, using the paddle and float as an outrigger for stabilization
Step 5–Move forward to the cockpit, keeping your weight towards the side with the outrigger.
Step 6–Climb into the cockpit and dismantle the outrigger–disaster averted!
Bonus tip—make sure you put your valuables in a waterproof bag (which Ed did) and make sure the bag is tightly closed (which Ed did not). Otherwise, like Ed, you will be leaving your valuables out to dry.
After our adventure in the river, Adrienne’s dog, Roary, swam out to greet us–the first time she has shown any interest in swimming!
In addition to swimming for the first time, Roary went kayaking with Adrienne.
Al kayaking on the James
From left: Roary, Lindsay (nice sunglasses), Olivia, and Adrienne
Patty and I also did some kayaking two weeks ago on the Shenandoah River. The water was higher than when we visited last year so we were able to kayak upstream from the park.
Kayaking upstream on the Shenandoah River—as Ed likes to say: “You can’t spend your life always floating downstream”. Ed realized that this is a good metaphor for life. You paddle upstream and sometimes progress is easy and other times you reach obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Inevitably, you reach an obstacle that you cannot pass. At that point, hopefully you can retire.
Bottom left—a dragonfly on Ed’s hand appears to be trying to tell him something
Top left—a totally silver dragonfly on Ed’s kayak
Top right—a dragonfly on Ed’s paddle
Bottom right—birds do it, bees do it, and (apparently) dragonflies also do it
Ed is pretty sure that jet skiers and air boaters do not routinely observe dragonflies that land on their watercraft.
[Editor’s note: Patty would like to thank everyone for all their kind words after the passing of her mother, Eleanor Deyden.]