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Paddling with Naomi: Braving the elements

Light reflected and magnified in the Arrow Lakes. (Naomi McKay)

Rain, rain, rain, and more rain.

Over the past few days it has been pouring rain in Nakusp. Raining like on the West Coast and interrupting my sleep with nightmares of flooded basements, a common plight for those living in our beautiful capital.

As many of you know, Nakusp is located in the Inland temperate rainforest and this unique ecosystem means we experience higher levels of precipitation. And it rains here more than many other parts of B.C.’s interior.

Many people assume that kayaking is only a warm season outdoor pursuit.

Certainly the summer is best if you want to cool off with a swim or paddle to a warm sunny beach, but properly equipped, kayaking is very much an all season sport.

In a sea kayak outfitted with a well fitting spray deck, only your upper body is exposed to the elements.

Spray decks prevent water from rain or waves entering the cockpit and are usually made of neoprene which also adds a layer of warmth.

With a raincoat and some waterproof gloves, you can paddle in pretty much any condition, even when it feels as though the only other boat you may run into on the Arrow lakes is the Olsen brothers out fishing or Noah’s Ark.

The very first time I did an extended paddling trip on the West Coast was in the Broken Group Islands, and the first few days were absolutely beautiful. But on the last two days as we paddled to the outer islands of Clarke and Benson it rained in biblical proportions.

My copaddler and I were in a canoe at the time and unfamiliar with quick drying poly propylene as opposed to ill-suited cotton. While it was the middle of summer we were fairly certain we may freeze to death.

My next extended trip was in a sea kayak in Desolation Sound.

It lived up to its name in terms of rainy and dreary conditions– well the afternoons and evenings that is.

Every morning was sunny and warm and encouraged my paddling partner and I to press on as we circumnavigated Cortes Island. I was much more prepared that trip, having learned my lesson on my Broken Group Islands canoeing trip and had spent a small fortune at the local Mountain Equipment Co-op buying appropriate outdoor gear.

Geared up and ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store. (Naomi McKay)

As I listen to the rain and reminisce about the hundreds of kayaking and sailing trips I have been on since the 1990s, there is one common feature and that is the seemingly predictable, unpredictable weather. It is not unusual to experience four seasons in one day even in the summer. And one can never be over prepared. I am pretty sure my collection of foul weather gear rivals my dress and shoe collection.

Most kayaks are equipped with at least one storage hatch such that storing extra clothing is simple. Larger kayaks will have hatches in the bow and stern and can accommodate enough food and clothing for week-long adventures.

The hatches are generally watertight although packing essentials in purpose-built dry bags is always a good idea.

This time of year the weather is less unpredictable such that rainy and snowy days are the norm.

This can cause many of us to hunker down inside and wait for the storm/winter to pass.

I was speaking with a local yesterday who told me she was having a hard time with the rain of late.

Like many, she finds the lack of sun depressing and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) impacts many locals. It is well known that even half an hour a day of exercise can greatly improve mood. A lunch hour walk to break up the day can make these dark days more manageable.

Now that the days are shorter, I have been taking advantage of the daylight and paddling at lunch.

Something magical happens on the Arrow Lakes even on the darkest of days.

While the entire area may feel “socked in” with clouds blanketing the mountains, on the water the expansive views up and down the Columbia River are absolutely stunning. Light seems to be generated by the reflection of the clouds on the water and even the tiniest sunlight is amplified.

And at times it feels like I am paddling in the heavens.

And even though I miss the long hot summer days, I know the mental and physical benefits of daily activity. This is an important reminder as I don layer after layer of foul weather gear and head out on the water. And if you aren’t quite ready to hop in a kayak and paddle in the rain, grab your raincoat and umbrella and take a walk down to the Nakusp waterfront to experience the magic that is this beautiful lake.

You can enjoy the amazing views and might even catch a glimpse of me out there bundled up and smiling from ear to ear.

Happy paddling!

Zach Delaney

About the Author: Zach Delaney

I came to the Revelstoke Review from Ottawa, Ontario, where I earned a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.
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