Last weekend, I joined some fellow kayakers for a paddle down the Bayou Vermilion from Abbeville to Palmetto Island State Park. I was told it was “approximately nine miles.” I only started kayaking last summer. The farthest I had paddled was around five miles. I was usually sufficiently tired after those five miles. Could I paddle nearly double that? I wasn’t sure. But it was a beautiful winter day and I wanted to get out. My kayak had been in the garage for too long.
The weather was perfect. Warm and very little wind. We headed south with the current. I felt great. A few miles into the trip, someone informed me that, no, this trip was not nine miles, but actually eleven. Maybe nine miles as the crow flies, but not as the river winds. Eleven miles, huh. A niggle of self-doubt crept into my head. Could I do it? By this time, clouds had formed, the wind pushed from the south, and the tide started coming in. We were not only paddling against the wind, but against the current as well.
I paddled on. Prior to the trip, I only knew one other paddler out of our group of fifteen. We were quite a variety of kayakers – the group included a priest and his beagle, a six year old and his dad, two married couples, and an assorted mix of the rest of us. I enjoyed making some new friends. Conversation helps pass the miles. Around mile four we took a lunch break. I had no idea how long the trip would take, and, while I did have a small snack, I was wishing I’d packed more food. One nice guy shared his homemade deer jerky. That helped. Note to self – pack more snacks.
We continued on. At around ten miles I got pretty excited, thinking we were almost done. I felt somewhat tired but was doing alright. When one guy suggested we take a break, I asked, “Why are we taking a break? Aren’t we almost there?” And at that point I learned the park was still three or more miles away. (They know this via these handy GPS gadgets hanging around their necks or on their smartphones.) My heart sunk. At that point, I couldn’t imagine paddling three more miles. But honestly, I didn’t have much choice. I just kept paddling, stroke after stroke, bend after bayou bend.
Finally, after 13.4 miles and five hours of paddling, we arrived at the park! We devoured an apple pie one gal had brought. Then drove back to Abbeville and ate a much-earned dinner at Shuck’s Seafood Restaurant.
If I had known at the outset that the route would be 13+ miles, would I have attempted it? Probably not. But I’m glad I went. I learned I could paddle a whole lot farther than I thought I could. And that’s a good feeling, to accomplish something I thought was out of reach.
Think of something you think you can’t do. Then challenge yourself. Dare yourself. Go out and prove yourself wrong. You’ll be glad you did.
(Thanks to Ian Wright for photos.)