Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boost Your Self-esteem Through Kayaking

Recently I came across this quote in a women’s magazine; “Five minutes of exercise in a natural setting-like walking in a park or even raking leaves in your backyard-is all it takes to provide a boost in both mood and self-esteem, say researchers from the University of Essex in England. Most powerful; activity near water.”

My first thought was this is what how right that was.  I was feeling terrific as I sat by our cozy wood stove. I’d just been out clearing several inches of light, fluffy, easy-to-shovel snow from our deck and paths. It was about 20 degrees out, and if the air wasn’t completely still, the wind was from the west and blocked by a nearby hill. It was night, after a long day of sitting at a desk, and it was just terrific to be outside moving and watching as the moon peaked out and disappeared behind the thin cloud cover. I was reminded as I worked, how very wide human’s range of vision is, how very big the space around us can be. And really, how much closer can you get to activity near water than shifting snow?

And I thought what a wonderful ad this made for kayaking. But then I found the University of Essex article about the study and discovered the researchers found just five minutes of outdoor activity produced the largest positive effect.

Really? I would get the same mood boost whether I just walked down to my boats and back up the hill than if I got in the boats and paddled up to see what was happening up river? The same mood boost from clearing just a part of the deck as completing the job?

Now, I understand that not all of us (myself especially) are going to circumnavigate Australia, or even Ireland, and that doesn’t mean we don’t have a sense of accomplishment. 

For years I’ve paddled under various bridges over streams leading into the Penobscot, and wondered, could I get under all three bridges in the same tide cycle? Turns out I can, and that’s one of the achievements I’m proudest of for 2010. And there are some people for whom a five minute walk outside is a challenging goal, and who feel great pride on achieving that goal - as well they should.

But though achieving the Three Bridge Challenge definitely improved my mood, I’m pretty sure setting and achieving a bigger goal would help my self-esteem more.

So, I’m not sure who those University of Essex folks surveyed and studied, but I’m pretty positive that there is a measurable difference between the mood boost from exercising outside for just five minutes and spending a day paddling out to Isle Au Haut and back. Though, in a pinch, when my workload is high, it is nice just to sit by the Penobscot and dream of summer……

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Power of Decoys

One of our river neighbors keeps a pair of goose decoys by the river, which in turn attracted a pair of Canada geese.  The foursome hung out together all summer, so when we'd paddle by we'd always guess which were the real geese.

This picture, taken just a minute or so later makes it clear; did you guess right?

The decoys and geese stayed until October.  This shoot is close enough that the plastic eyes are obvious.  The real geese are still nearby.
Shortly after that picture was taken the decoys went away, and presumably the real geese did as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Welcome Hampden Highlights Readers!

Penobscot River on Dec 10, near Hamlin's Marina
Today the Penobscot River is mostly ice free, with dark lines running across it marking the paths of competing north and west gusts. A little more open than it was mid December, thanks to today’s warm weather and visits from the Coast Guard ice breaker, but hardly inviting for paddling, so instead I’m inside at my computer updating my blog.

I’d like to thank Annie O’Reilly for mentioning this blog in Hampden Highlights. All who know her can attest to her generous and supportive nature. I ran into her while interviewing Janice for Calkin's Castle/Castle Rock, a story she felt others in town might enjoy.
Mark paddles by Castle Rock
Calkins Castle/Castle Rock tells the tale of how Burpie Calkin may have influenced Stephen King, and shares a beautiful feature of the Penobscot River.

Other local stories are listed under “Tales from the River” in the Index, (found on a tab up above). Reflections on the Week, and 1000 Miles have been popular for their photos, while The More Things Change displays another old postcard.
It’s been easy to write, because there are so many incredible places to paddle in the area. I list our paddle trips on the Index under “Trip Reports” subdivided by “Salt Water” and “Fresh Water.” While I do post some cautions on conditions we encounter, (See Canals of Bangor) it’s not practical to list all the skills and equipment needed for all the conditions which can arise on a trip. But I like to remind all paddlers to be ready to climb back into their boats or swim to shore at all times.
We are omni-paddlers, enjoying the quiet water of Birch Stream and the swells off MDI on a visit to the Porcupine Islands. Even if you don’t paddle, you might enjoy these trip posts for their many photos. If you do paddle, you should visit other paddling blogs listed to the right, two other local blogs are Sea Kayak Stonington and Waterlines - A Maine Sea Kayaking Journal. A variety of other wonderful bloggers are also listed, so check them all!
Early color along Birch Stream in Old Town
Be sure also to check out the “Misc” category which includes posts like A Tale of Two Trap Trees and Ginger Season.
A few local notes: Calkins Farm Stand still has cider, maple syrup and other items for sale - watch for the open sign as you pass by. The minced ginger and ground orange peel (along with other tasty treats) was purchased at Hampden Natural Foods. The wide variety of ginger beer used in Ginger Season was purchased in Hampden, at Hannafords.

I try to post regularly and hope to see you again!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Searsport - A Great start to the New Year!

Howling blizzards, wind speeds of 44mph, temperatures in the single digits; that’s so 2010. Now that it’s 2011, let the winds be calm, and if temps are in the single digits, let it be single digits Celsius!

Counting on the warm weather continuing, we kept the boats on the roof of the car. And mindful of the limited time span that immersed fingers and limbs remain nimble, even when ensconced in drysuits and gloves, it was another tame trip, from Searsport to Moose Point State Park.
Basics: Launch Searsport ramp. Parking area is cleared, access from ramp or beach. Portapotties are gone for the winter. Launch 11:30AM, low 2:20PM, finish about 2 PM. 5 miles
The sky was grey and the sea like mercury.
Pintails argued across the bay.
Pick Me! 
UPDATE:  Suasco Al is correct, the right name for these birds is Long-tails (not pintails)
The granite pier towered like Inuksuk over the water.
In Searsport Shores campground the picnic tables were all perched at angles, the better to view the sea. A few trailers claimed spaces, and an eagle claimed a tree.
We stopped at Moose Point to give Mark a chance to cool off, and to admire beach views. Moose Point is closed in the winter, but often cars park at the entrance and explorers hike in.
Southwest, over Northport, the sky was an orange red, odd coloring for 12:20.
I wondered what it meant:
Red sky at noon, spring will come soon?
Red sky mid day, sailors say “hey”?

On the way back, the gentle north breeze kept us from overheating. A confetti of seagulls rose up to welcome us back to the harbor.
So we’re off to a great start and should get in more miles than ever this year … unless that north wind was a portent of the return of more seasonable temps ...

I hope your year is off to a bright start as well!