French Linen

Monday, August 13, 2012

Discovering While Recoverying

The Trustees of the Reservation Kayak Discovery Tour
I’m happy to say that I’ve been “checking off” my vacation To Do List.  On one hand, it could be argued that one shouldn’t have a To Do List while on vacation – I’ve done vacations both with and without them – and there is rationale for both sides of the coin.  In this case, I had had such great expectations of it being a big training week in preparation for my first Olympic triathlon so I suddenly found myself having to dramatically change those expectations and was in need of a plan.
I always had kayaking on Martha’s Vineyard Great Ponds on that mental “I want to do that someday” list.  I’ve never been that enamored with the “slowness” of kayaking but the nature discovery has its appeal.  Now that speedier pursuits aren’t options, it was the perfect time to actually do it.  Plus, it would allow Mike to have a guilt-free bike ride without me.
When Mike and I were on our hiking binge a few years ago, we had discovered many interesting spots on our bigger-than-one-would-think Island.  It’s been over twenty years since I first set foot on this approximately 40 x 20 mile land mass separated from the mainland by Vineyard Sound, and I’m continuously amazed that I can keep discovering and experiencing new things.  On one of our hikes we had explored Edgartown Great Pond but I had never been to Tisbury Great Pond.  As I looked at kayaking tours, I found one for that Pond offered by the Trustees of the Reservations that launched from their 600 acre Long Point Wildlife Refuge.
“Find Your Place” is the tagline for the Trustees of the Reservations which describe their purpose as:
“We are more than 100,000 people like you from every corner of Massachusetts. We love the outdoors. We love the distinctive charms of New England. And we believe in celebrating and protecting them – for ourselves, for our children, and for generations to come. With more than 100 special places across the state, we invite you to find your place.”
We have already been enjoying their other Vineyard properties, in particular Norton Point Beach where we have an oversand-vehicle permit that allows us to drive on the beach and ‘find our place’ in the sand.  The Long Point property was originally settled (as much of the Island was) by the Wampanoag Indians who depended on it for agriculture, firewood, fishing and hunting / gathering.
Indeed, as I drove into the property for two miles on the dusty, bumpy, single lane road with turnouts, I was in a forest that one can imagine much hunting and gathering taking place.  I proceeded to the gate and waited along with another four-person family for our tour guide to arrive and unlock the gate to our awaited treasure.  I knew already that I had picked the right kayaking tour since the road into this public access property is purposely vehicle restricted to preserve its specialness.  Furthermore, realizing I had forgotten to inquire on the price of the two hour tour, I had conservatively brought along $80 based on the price of other advertised commercial tours.  “That will be $20 if you are a member or $25 if you are not,” said our California native guide who had recently graduated from college and had decided to spend his summer days in peaceful existence running the tours.
We lathered ourselves in sun lotion and bug spray and got our basic questions out of the way as we awaited the other tour participants, who had decided to hike their way in and were taken by surprise at the property’s mass.  The teenage daughter nearly stumped the guide with a first-time question whether or not we should be worried about sharks (I suppose there was some validity to the question given the recent photos in the media of a shark in pursuit of a kayaker on Cape Cod!).  He explained that this being a brackish pond, it was highly unlikely we would see any sharks although technically it was possible that a shark could pass from the ocean through the breach that had just been opened up in the sandbar.  The breach is often manmade to relieve the flooding that can occur to the property owners surrounding the Pond but it usually fills back in over time.
A family of five French speakers showed up, sweating after their hurried, longer-than-anticipated hike.  We sized our lifejackets, took a paddle and headed to the water, adding another half mile hike for the French couple and three teenage daughters who remained upbeat (since I speak French, I could understand them - a fact I did share to their surprise after it was clear my spying was yielding boring results).  The Tisbury Great Pond revealed itself in all its beauty living up to the tour brochure of the opportunity to explore “one of the rarest habitats in the world”.  Varying species of birds dotted the blue sky and occasionally dove into the aquamarine waters for their sustenance.  There were no shark fins in sight but the seventeen year old was still obsessed as she boarded a two-person kayak with the protection of her slightly older brother.
The Great Tisbury Pond Breach - A Natural Water Ride!
I was very excited that our first destination was the breach to the Atlantic Ocean.  A couple of years ago, Mike and I tried to hike to the breach at the Edgartown Great Pond after a realtor had described it as his favorite place on the Island.  In one of those “this Island is bigger than you think miscalculations”, we weren’t able to reach the spot before realizing that we had better turn around or face a night under the stars.
It was a good paddling warm up as we made our way across the calm waters in about 15 minutes.  It was nice to have a guide who steered us through the shallow waters as we watched an unguided group of kayakers get stuck on a sand bar and resort to pulling their kayaks to shore.  He encouraged us to explore the beach and so I headed straight for the breach and jumped in.  As advertised by the realtor, it’s a magical experience to jump in the Ocean surf and be carried by Mother Nature’s natural water ride into the Pond.
From there, we departed for one of the Pond’s long, finger-like coves.  Since this was my workout for the day and I had been inspired by the Olympic rowers, I decided to go all out and work my swimming shoulders and arms (not to mention my desire to escape the continued shark whining which was starting to get on my nerves).  Twenty minutes later I enjoyed ten minutes of solitude in the peaceful scenery and chorus of birds until the others showed up, a little surprised that the woman who claimed she hadn’t kayaked much had smoked them (Not that I’m competitive or anything.  And remember I speak French!).
I returned home thinking maybe one of those triathlons that includes a kayak leg is in my future after all.

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