Friday, July 6, 2018

Board not Bored

When Tanker and I booked our campsite at Long Point for the Canada Day weekend and I saw that there were no trails at all in the park, I thought I might end up bored.

Sun, sand and SNORE.

I'm not a beach person, really. I grew up on the water, sailing and playing in Lake Ontario, but I've never been one to just sit on a beach, and even wading tends to lose its appeal after fifteen minutes or so. I haven't been going to the pool lately (schedules changed, a pool closed, and now it's almost impossible to get to a lane swim that isn't ridiculously late) and have no triathlons on the horizon, so an open water swim wasn't too appealing beyond a bit of splashing around to cool off.

Then, things got interesting when my Mum bought me an early birthday present.

I really am a spoiled brat.

All the way back in October of 2011, I'd taken a stand up paddleboard lesson with Bill Trayling while we were up in Muskoka. While Lake Simcoe on a windy day wasn't the most ideal place for a clumsy first-timer, I did actually manage to get the hang of it.

I only fell off once.

Bill even got me to try some schmancy planks.

I absolutely loved it, as I do pretty much all paddle sports - I've been canoeing and kayaking since I was a kid, and I've always derived limitless joy from being out on the water. I looked into renting paddleboards around Port Rowan, Turkey Point and Port Dover, and there were a few options...but with the heatwave and the long weekend, everyone and their dog was going to be down on Ontario's South coast wanting to play in the water. The couple of places I talked to said I should have reserved a board for rent a month or more ago, as they were solidly booked. It looked like my odds on being able to get out for a paddle were pretty slim, until my wonderful Mum stepped up and bought me a board of my very own.


After hitting the market on Saturday morning, having brunch and heading down to the park, we got ourselves all set up at our campsite...conveniently located about 100 feet from the beach! As soon as our tent and bedding were sorted and our gear was stowed, I grabbed my board and paddle and climbed over the dune to get a look at Lake Erie.

And I do mean climbed.

The lake was a little ornery from the wind that had been blowing all day, but I headed out regardless.


Gawd bless Tanker and his quick camera skills. Despite the 4' ground swell and fairly extensive break, I did actually manage to get to my feet a couple of times.

I can't believe he managed to snap a pic!

Both times, though, I met the water at speed within a second or two.


But I had a lot of fun just paddling on my knees and learning how the board handled.

She surfs really well!
Me, less so.

Tanker and I did some wading as well to cool off (though I'd been in the drink plenty - even managed to fall off from my knees once!) before heading back over the dune.

Love having fun with this guy!

We had a wonderful evening at our campsite - the dune broke the wind off the lake down to a lovely, cooling breeze, I cooked us up a good dinner, and we walked on the beach at sunset.

Yes, I do enjoy this part of beach life.

Then we sat by a campfire and toasted maple marshmallows. We even made s'mores with 70% dark chocolate and (because of my food allergies) corn tortillas.

I call them s'mortillas.

I hadn't worn shoes since about 30mins after we arrived - it was delightful just walking around barefoot in the sand all afternoon and night.

Even toasting my tootsies by the fire.

We had to climb back over the dune around 11:30pm to have a look at the incredible orange moon over the lake, leaving a glowing trail on the surface.

And then we ran away, because apparently all the mosquitoes went down to check it out, too.

Sunday - Canada Day - dawned just as sunny and hot as the day before.

I could get used to waking up to this.

It was all I could to do restrain myself from running straight to the beach with my board, but there were priorities.

Pancakes with lots of maple syrup - what better way to celebrate Canada?

As soon as brunch was done, though, off I went over the dune. The wind had dropped overnight, so I found a much calmer Erie, and quickly made it to my feet once I paddled out past the break.

I got up and stayed up!

I had a lot of fun even with some remaining ground swell trying to tip me off the board, but it certainly wasn't very cooling - I was pouring sweat from the exertion of balancing and paddling under the hot sun, and only my feet were really getting wet.

But, I brought last week's crayon art to life!

Once he'd done the dishes from brunch - after I'd paddled around for about 45mins under the blowlamp noon sun - Tanker came down to the beach to join me. Due to a traumatizing childhood experience, he's a little ware of open water...but he shares my love of paddling, so decided to give my board a try.

He started on his knees to get a feel for it..

He got standing up for a minute, too!

A tumble into the water later he'd had enough for one day, but has said he'd like to try again!

So proud of him!

I had done some research before we left and found a tract of trails not too far from our campground called Backus Woods. I didn't want to go the whole weekend without running, so we headed over there after I got changed into something a little more appropriate for running.

Not to mention a little more patriotic.

In sweltering heat and vicious sun I ran into the trails from the wild turkey release historical plaque trailhead, enjoying the shade of the trees for a bit before emerging at a sun-drenched creek.

And some seriously overgrown trail.

It was absolutely beautiful running through the tract, but the trails are obviously not very well used despite maps at every trail crossing that make navigation incredibly easy.

Even a lemming like me couldn't get lost.

I could see why some might be hesitant to explore in the high summer, though - the woods were absolutely teeming with mosquitoes and deer flies, all hungry for a taste of sweaty runner! I ended up running much harder than I would have otherwise just to try to escape them, as stopping or slowing to a walk would lead to every part of me being absolutely covered in biting insects.

The network of streams and bogs that criss-cross the tract likely don't help with the bug situation, but the footbridges are lovely.

I put in a little less than 7km, doing the outer perimeter of the section between 3rd Con & 4th Con, then called it a day while I still had any blood left in me.

I'd usually hike a hill like this, but that wasn't an option here.

Afetrwards we made a lightning trip into Port Dover to hit an amazing bakery, and I went for a wade at the main beach to cool off after the sweltering run. The lake was like glass there, and I had a pang of jealousy - why couldn't it have been that smooth when I was out paddling?  We did a little bit of browsing through some neat shops, then headed back to camp.

I was feeling a little worn out, so didn't know if I'd actually take my board out again - my quads were feeling my noon paddle, as your legs work pretty hard to keep you balanced on the board, and I actually considered buying an inflatable lounger at a camp store we stopped at so I could just float in the water to cool off. I did pick up some after-sun moisturizer as I'd got rather badly burnt while out paddling after brunch, but decided against the lounger - I could just wade and float a bit.

Once we got back and settled in, I threw on a tank top and a fresh pair of bikini bottoms, and decided to bring the board over the dune to the beach. I figured I could always paddle with my hands, laying on my belly so I'd get wetter and stay cooler, but I brought the paddle along just in case.

I'm so happy I did.


While Tanker treated himself to a cigar on the beach, I paddled calm, smooth waters for another 35mins in one of the most transporting experiences I've ever had. The last of the stress from my work week - which had been extra hectic - simply melted away in the golden evening sun.

Happy girl.

The breeze was freshening, which did a lovely job of keeping me cool as I paddled but boded poorly for wave conditions come morning. That was a problem for another day, though - for now it was back to our campsite for a tasty dinner and another campfire to round out what I honestly believe is my best Canada Day ever.

Still barefoot.
I wore shoes to run, and flip flops in Port Dover, but that's about it.

Monday morning brought more sun and a stiff wind off the lake. The latter helped keep the mosquitoes down at our site while we had brunch, but the former, well..

You tell me if you think I needed more sun.

Having already been down to the beach when I got up for a pee around 8am, I knew there was no chance I'd be able to stand on my board to paddle before we left.

Lake Erie got a little angry again.

So, after we packed up camp, I brought my board over the dune again but left the paddle behind. It was time to try some surfing! I started by paddling out with my hands and surfing in on my belly, but soon figured out that it was easier to just walk the board out past the sand bar until I was in neck-deep water, then jump and scramble up on the board and start paddling to try to match speed with an incoming wave. After a few times I decided to try popping up to my knees when I caught a wave, and it was a riot!

No, I didn't try getting to my feet.
I know I'm a klutz!

It was a ton of fun, and despite my burn I spent nearly an hour just playing in the waves.


By 1pm, though, it was time to get on the road home so we could unpack and get ready for another week at work. I was sad to say goodbye to our beachy haven, but I look forward to many more adventures with my awesome birthday present!


As a matter of fact, as soon as I get home this evening I think I may have to go out to one of the lovely little lakes that surround our home for a quick paddle. The heatwave may have finally broken, but there's still plenty of sunshine, and it always looks even lovelier from the water.

Best Canada Day weekend EVER!

It sure doesn't hurt that standing on the board helps me work on balance and proprioception, which are areas that will help with my ankle injury and with trail running. So technically it qualifies as well as being a ton of fun!

FUN FACT: I'd much later discover that I was 2 weeks pregnant at the time of this trip.

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