I was excited for my friend, Lala, when I heard REI’s announcement that they would be closed on Black Friday, but didn’t necessarily think it would affect my life too much. After all, my normal Friday-after-Thanksgiving plans involve sleeping in and eating leftovers. When Lala invited me to come “hiking or something” with her, I wasn’t sure trekking through cold, November, Pacific Northwest woods was my idea of a fabulous time. However, when she updated the invitation to kayaking, that sounded a little better to me.
Conditions were absolutely my favorite. It was cold out and sunny, with no wind. I love to paddle when it’s chilly – some long underwear in addition to my normal kayaking gear is usually enough, and I layer a hoodie and scarf in case I need them. The water was glassy-calm with a bit of steam rising as the sun came over the hill to hit gentle waves. I soaked up the gorgeous scenery and kept reflecting on how much prettier it was than the inside of any store.
We launched from the Steilacoom boat launch and saw a harbor seal as we headed past the ferries. I was on the lookout for additional seals when I thought I saw waterfowl diving in the distance – in pairs. ‘Hey, wait a minute,‘ I thought to myself, ‘I know what dives in pairs – harbor porpoises!‘ I quickly turned to the Hubby to point them out, only to realize he was pointing at another group, a little further north. For a time, he and I sat and watched masses of porpoises surfacing between Steilacoom and Fox Island. I couldn’t help thinking how much better it was to be around a crowd of porpoises than a crowd of crazed shoppers.
We kept going (although I continued to crane my neck to see more of the porpoise show), and headed under the railroad trestle into Chambers Creek. The Hubby saw a seal in the inlet with us, but the truly impressive view was the “Where’s Waldo” of herons as we paddled past the madronas and evergreens. At one point, I spotted 8 and Lala counted 12 herons roosted in the trees. Although their squawking is surprisingly raucous, it’s fun to see them lift in flight with their long, graceful wings and necks bent into a tight “s”. After a short time, peering into the branches to try to determine how many birds I could spot, it was time to turn around.
I snapped this shot of the Hubby heading back under the bridge (and had fun editing it at rei.com, as you can see above). On our way back to the boat launch, I spent more time staring at porpoises – there were more there than I’d ever seen in a group before, and they stayed active almost the entire time we were paddling. It was good that we headed in when we did, as this was my first time in a kayak since my accident, and these are definitely some of the same muscles the physical therapists are working.
The Hubby had a demo scheduled, and I headed to a local park to read in the sunshine while they explored what the NC17 Quest and NC19 Expedition can do. I had a great view whenever I wanted to look up from my book, and I could even see some of the demonstration from my vantage point. That’s the Hubby & his demonstrator in the second picture – those little black smudges in the water.
I can’t imagine a more perfect way to spend Black Friday. We haven’t gotten the house decorated for Christmas yet, but I have the deep satisfaction of spending time in nature, with friends, using my body. That feeling is hard to beat.