Monday, June 3, 2013

Paddling with scouts

You may notice quite a few white stars covering the faces of other kids, besides my own. The reason for that is that, if I understood correctly, people might react in a "funny" way, when they discover pictures of them or their kids have been used online. You'd have to ask their permission first. In order to avoid a lot of hassle I opted for making them unrecognisable instead. Saves everyone a lot of trouble and no one's privacy gets hurt.
Allthough it doesn't make the pictures prettier....

An introcuction into a way of the outdoors that has gotten both the kids and me hooked!!
What a fantastic experience this has turned out to be for all of us! It is very relaxing, allthough you have to be fysically active. The sound of the paddles working their way through the water, the repeating splashing and dripping certainly has a meditational, almost even hypnotical effect. 
Canoeing allows you to go places and see things thay are otherwise very hard to reach or see, yet the effort required is a lot more then you might expect. It is quite easy to learn the basics and, for me, it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding ways to spend quality time with my son; just the two of us, paddling away and enjoying our surroundings and each other's company. I did not get to spend any such time with Annalena this trip, but I will make sure that we will catch up on that soon!
How that all came to be?
Well, we had a scoutinghike last weekend, which was centred around this activity. Sven's first experience with canoeing was about 2 weeks ago and that did not go to well, ending up with his canoe tipping over in the middle of a lake with water being 6°C warm (or cold). My last experience was over 20 years ago, when I was in the army, being in a leaking kajak on the Ourthe river in the Ardennes during the third week of december. And Annalena had no experience at all and barely knows how to swim! So we were a bit anxious.... to say the least.

After spending the first half of the saturdaymorning packing and organising the cars (I ended up with 4 backpacks and all the provisions) we headed toward our destination the Uvbergsviken in the Borlängekommun. scouthajk satelite image The left blue marker is the startingpoint at the Stora Tuna/Borlänge scoutgroupsite and the right blue marker is the windshelter on the Nordanö naturreservation, where we stayed overnight.

Upon arrival we quickly unloaded the cars, explored the immediate area and headed for the canoestorage. Canoes, paddles and vests were inspected and within an hour after arriving we were on the water. We spent about 3 hours there, learning, enjoying and discovering!!! We did not have a fixed place in mind to set up camp, yet, so we looked for a suitable location along the shores. Unfortunately the three girls from our group, including my daughter, would not be with us untill the evening. Their class was taking part in a national chesstournament and this was the finales! They would be joining us later that day.

Getting ready to launch
It was obvious some of the kids had previous experience, but even those that hadn't quickly picked up and were off...

My son in front...

and offcourse the nut in the stern had to be shot, too...

Would this place be a good place to set up camp??
This paddlingexperience was marked by a, for Sven and me, exciting intermezzo; the discovery of a fiskgjuse
(Pandion haliaetus) and it's nest! As our scattered group of canoes came near the nestsite, the bird took to the air and circled over the site and our heads, catching our attention. It came really cloes at time, no less then 5-10 meters over us and it had the courtesy of landing on the nest, so we saw that too. 
Unfortunately my camera has seen better days and the autofocusfunction is getting worse and worse, so the best moments were lost. Sitting in a canoe, while riding the waves the motorised watertravellers caused, didn't make things easier...

On and on we paddles, untill it was time to hand over the canoes to the younger group of scouts, which had come later. It was their turn now, so we could then focus our attention on making lunch!

For the rest of the afternoon, from about 14:00 till 16:00, we had no special plans. The youngsters were still paddling around and we had to wait for them to hand over the canoes again, so we could set out towards our campingsite. That meant that our group spent a good deal of hours in the water, swimming and clowning around. Those that didn't want to swim took turns in the leftover canoe and some of the older attendants just relaxed ashore.... During the afternoon I made an unvoluntary dive, whilst helping some kids setting off with their canoe. The site where they usually come ashore is covered with rubber mats. These are covered by algae, just under the waterline. Around the waterline a lot of pollen has gathered and when you mix all that with boots with rubber soles, you have a very slippery mix..... As I, much to my dismay, found out. I slipped, landed hard on my back and shoulders, hurt my neck and was covered in a greenish-yellow goo, whilst being wet. I was the only one that weekend to get an unwanted dip..... which is exactly in line with previous experiences.....
a kind of mayfly??

On of our fellow scoutleaders is also active in the local scoutgroup, hence the location and canoes, and has his own zodiak here. He said he needed to get rid of the old gasoline in the tank and that was best done fast....
Yeah, right... ;)
Than, at around 17:00, the moment of thruth was there. We had to load the canoes with our backpacks and all the other stuff, like food, water and utensils, causing the canoes to sit lower in the water. By now the wind had picked up a bit more and there was more motorised traffic, too. So now we really needed to focus on the paddling...

Upon arrical at the site a good half an hour later, I got a phonecall from my wife. She was at the startingpoint with the girls and they had just set off too.
My wife took this picture as the girls set off. They were accompanied by a canoe  with  2 leaders.

And they made it too!!
We unloaded the canoes and hauled all the stuff, incl. canoes, up to our campsite, about 150 meters deeper into the woods. There we set up camp, using the canoes and paddles. It hadn't rained so far, even though that was predicted and the rain would be kind enough to stay away untill we were asleep.... or tried to be.
The rest of the evening we spent preparing food, sitting around the campfire, having coffee and talking, whilst keeping an eye on the busy kids around us.

The kids thought this was delicious. I was less impressed; bananas stuffed with chocolate on the fire.
One thing I did enjoy was the sun setting over the lake. 

the girls
Here's what our sleepingplace looked like. The tarp measured 5x3,5 meters and was held at the sides by two upturned canoes. We used two paddles to raise the front, thus creating room for 4 adults and 3 children. The gear was stowed under the canoes and at the footend. This wat you can sleep in relative comfort..... if you're not being harassed and sucked empty by a million mosquitos, as one of the kids put it. Even I walked away with more than a handfull of bites!

Annalena clowning around on my bunk....

The next morning we spent preparing breakfast, breaking camp and packing, befor we headed back to the startingpoint, where we would have the ceremonial season's end together with parents.
Strangely enough everyone was much more quiet then last night. The weather wasn't as good either, being overcast and windy and noticeably less warm. After we arrived back, we unloaded the canoes, stored them, the paddles and lifesavervests, put our backpacks in the cars and made some lunch, meaning eating the last grilled saucages with buns, cooking soup and having sandwiches. Whilst having lunch I dropped a bombshell on my fellow scoutleaders by announcing I would not be returning as a scoutleader after the summerbreak. It was something I had been thinking about ever since the end of the autumnseason, during the christmasholidays. By then I thought I should give them and myself another chance by attending the springseason and ending the year with this hike. This one really brought forward some of the fundamental differences between me and this scoutgroup, some of which simply can not be overcome. The mentalities and ways of thinking differ on a fundamental level and the most basic ones just can not be overcome from either side. And a bombshell it was! They had not seen this coming! But I think it should not be just the kids, who are having fun. It should also give the leaders joy and maybe even some pride to accompany and guide them. So our ways parted in good spirits and I was ensured that I would always be most welcome should I decide to come back. And if I should not, the final act as a leader will allways be with a very good memory and a lesson that probably will impact my and maybe even my entire family's outdoor life.
And for that I allready am most gratefull!


  1. Looks like you had a cracking time!
    My mayfly knowledge is not the best, but to me it looks like a Ephemra Vulgata.

  2. Great trip Ron. That looked like a lot of fun. It's hard to beat a paddle trip.

  3. Heh, looks like I'm not the only one who fell in a lake last weekend! :D

    Seriously, though, it looks like you had a fantastic time out there! I don't canoe much nowadays, but used to enjoy it quite a bit as a kid and teenager. Great fun!

    About leaving the scouts, you gotta do what you gotta do. You gave it a good shot and taught the kids plenty as well. Maybe something else is waiting around the corner!

    Great pictures, as always, Ron!

  4. Thanks.
    It can be refreshing to drop in every once in a while....
    I want to take this canoeingthing up a level and so does my gang. That means getting a couple of them for ourselves.