Monday, March 26, 2012

A young mans first adventure

I often wonder about the things that form and shape us. The things that make us the people that we are. I have no problem grabbing a map and planning a trip. Over time I have learned the things I need to be thinking about. But I am not sure how I did it the first time. Eventually I went to school to learn the right way to do things, But that first time I think I must have just thought it through.

In studying risk management I came to realize how important it is not to fall into the trap of 'I have done this 100 times before so that must mean it is safe!' On the contrary, it just means you haven't been 'caught' in a bad situation yet. I regularly hear people say 'but I have always done it this way!' like that somehow means what they are doing is safe.

The other side of this coin is the people that are paralyzed by fear. They are completely unable to decide what to do because they are afraid they are going to make the wrong decision. By not making the decision they have made the wrong one. There has to be a happy medium.

I have been pondering the amazing life I have had, and the way I got it started because I am seeing my son do the same thing. He didn't follow me into the outdoors. Yes he did rock climb for a while. And he has kayaked with me. But it never really attracted him the way it did me. When he went away to college I was excited that his fraternity did backpacking trips and was happy to loan him and his fraternity brothers gear and advice - well, I guess the advice was a gift, not a loan. But he was still never drawn into the outdoors the way I was. That is why I was excited - amazed really - to learn that he was planning a very ambitious trip.

This summer just after graduation from college he is going to ride a bike across the United States, from west to east. He is doing it with a group from his fraternity and they are doing it for charity. My adventures are much more self-centered than his will be. They are riding across the country to raise awareness on behalf of people with disabilities, they also hope to raise $500,000 dollars, he needs to raise $7000. As I am not much of a cyclist I have ended up having many conversations with people who spend much more time on bicycles than I do. We helped him get the right bike, and cycling shoes and all the other gear he will need. I have ridden with him on a couple of occasions as he trains for this trip, which has been fun for me. The one way I can help him with this is the psychological aspect of doing a long trip. That is an area where I have some expertise, and we have had a few conversations on the topic and I suspect we will have a few more. You don't really know what it is like on day fourteen of a long trip until you get there. The first and last days are easy!

Another area of expertise I have that was able to serve this project was multimedia. I helped him make a video to aid in raising money.

I am proud of him as he takes these first steps into adventure. I am very curious to see how he does, and his changed perceptions upon completion. We plan to meet him in Washington D.C. when he is done. I am glad that he is doing the trip with a supported group, and that he doesn't have to make all the detailed plans that I do for trips. If he enjoys this experience there will be time for him to learn those skills in the future. You can read more about the trip here, as it was picked up by his schools website. You can read more about the trip and if you can help him reach his goal here. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saturday, bloody Saturday

The plan was simple. take a few days off and go to the beach. Relax, and write a little. Most importantly shoot the remaining two videos for the book. I never shot video for the scramble self rescue and paddle float re-entry. A friend offered up his families beach house, and another couple decided to join my wife and myself. It looked to be a perfect weekend. 

We got to the beach Friday night, and the rain started while we slept. I hadn't been in a kayak in close to a month, and despite the rain I was able to wait until almost 1 before the urge was overwhelming. It was raining, and cold, but as always the dry suit served me well. The ocean was very rough with wind driven surf well into the range of 'not safe in a seventeen foot kayak' so I found a boat launch that was on a canal that fed into the ocean. I paddled into the canal and paddled to where the canal met the Atlantic and played in the surf for a bit. On my way back up the canal, I found a spot perfect to shoot the video I needed. 

I slid out of my cockpit and up onto the back deck. I dropped my feet in the water and and sat silently for a few moments. the water was cold, but calm and flat. There was no boat traffic because of the weather. I slid into the water with the plan of doing a couple of scramble self rescues for the camera mounted on my bow. 

I placed a hand on my back deck and one on my cockpit coaming. Lowered myself deeper into the water and kicked up onto my back deck. I slid slightly and my hand went into my cockpit for greater leverage. Two fingers on my right hand brushed something sharp, slicing off the tip off my ring finger and creating a deep laceration on my my middle finger. I looked at my hand in disbelief. I finished the self rescue and slid into the cockpit and dropped my hand into the water to clean it off so I could see the severity of the damage. Very quickly I assessed my situation. I was two miles from my car and more importantly the massive first aid kit in my cars trunk. There was literally nothing in my boat except what I was wearing, a bilge pump and a paddle float. I had no way to stop the bleeding. I applied direct pressure with fingers from my other hand while keeping my injured hand above my heart. I did this for a few moments. That was when the driving rain started. It was slack tide, so I was neither being pushed to the car, or drawn from it. It was cold, and the direct pressure worked on the laceration, but not on the digit with no end. I figured I had to just go for it, and get to the dry clean gauze in the first aid kit in the trunk. I paddled hard for about 15 minutes. concentrating on my stroke, and rotation. I got to the boat ramp I had launched from, and pulled my bilge pump from under the bungies to get the water out of my cockpit before i had to lift the boat. It was then I realized that there was blood everywhere. On my bilge pump, inside my white cockpit, and all over my right hand and paddle. 

I got the kayak on top of the car without too much trouble, but actually securing it was difficult. getting my drysuit off was near impossible. I ended up driving back to the beach house with it around my ankles so as not to get my car seat wet. Before driving home I pulled out my first aid kit and got some gauze on the two fingers. 

Sunday I skipped paddling. On Monday when I redressed my finger with the missing digit it bled again. The laceration is healing nicely. 

The big lesson from this adventure is that there will always be a small first aid kit in my kayaks cockpit. Always accessible. I am thinking it might be velcro'd to the underside of the deck. If I had a first aid kit with me I could have easily pulled up onto a beach and taken care of my hands. The second, and perhaps more important lesson is what cut my fingers up in the first place. Looking into this there are two uncovered screws at the back of my seat. Looking at the video though it doesn't look like my hands get near that location. I am going to follow up with the medical director from the company I teach wilderness medicine for to see if a cold water soaked hand is more likely to get lacerated than a warm dry hand. Something bad can happen, and it's important to be prepared for it.