Paddle Fest comes but once a year, and this year the festivities fell on Saturday, August 6th. Scott and I met my mom and her friend, Martha up in Lowville to see what the event was all about. We showed up around 9am where we received a number for the side of the boat, a card with 11 questions, and a bag with miscellaneous SWAG inside of it (like sunscreen…). Once the boats were in the water we were off on an 11.2 mile paddle down the Black River. Every mile there was an inflatable pool toy, which contained multiple choice answers to the questions on the card we were given at the start point. The questions were related to the Black River and the surrounding area.
While I am a HUGE lover of scavenger hunts and trivia, I found it nearly impossible to juggle a piece of paper and a pen while trying to keep my kayak out of the path of other rowers. My paper was soaked within the first 30 seconds of being in the kayak. I quickly abandoned the question and answer portion of Paddle Fest and began snapping photos of everything around me.
The Black River is mostly surrounded by farmland which made for an interesting landscape, replete with all earthy tones you could imagine. Beautiful rolling green pastures, warm brown dirt and the cool slate blue/green waters were dotted with the candy colored kayaks everywhere you looked. The shocking pinks, brilliant oranges and neon yellows added an air of excitement to the placid scenery and made for some pretty great subject matter.
Scottie and I sang Flogging Molly and Bob Marley songs as we paddled down the river, and met new people as they floated by. At the halfway mark, a local restaurant had set up an enormous grill and was selling pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, beverages and snacks. Scottie returned to his kayak with a predictable fist full of skittles. I was feeling pretty awesome by the time we reached the halfway point and I thought to myself, “God, this is fun! Why the hell are we only doing this once a year?”.
It was around mile 8 when I felt confident that I was ready to call it quits. I was tired and hot, my arms and hands hurt and I was no longer in the mood to sing songs or be friendly. I started swearing a lot. Scott didn’t look too thrilled either. He had blisters on his thumbs from paddling and kept muttering something about how I predictably took the “good” kayak (I totally did). Mom looked tired too. Only Martha seemed to have maintained the sunny disposition she started the trip with. By the time we reached the end, my arms and shoulders were so sore I was walking around like a T-Rex. Scottie’s thighs had been totally burnt to a crisp, which made him look completely ridiculous, however he wasn’t in the mood to be mocked, which I learned quickly.
While we waited on the shore for my dad to come and pick us up and return us to the house where hot showers, comfortable couches and dinner awaited us, we sat on the banks of the Black River and talked smack about the police who had showed up on their Jetski’s for the last 3 mile leg of the trip. Our attitudes had turned sour and stayed that way. I thought I may never smile again…or lift my arms.
The next day, I was less sore than I had anticipated but still so tired that I took a 4 hour nap in the middle of the day. Scott wasn’t in much better shape. Only Dad and our dog, Mr. Jackson (who had stayed behind for this adventure) seemed to be able to face the next day with that certain joie de vivre that weekends are made of. Perhaps this was the exact reason that Paddle Fest is held but once a year.