When we attended the Dutch Open Canoe Festival a few weeks ago we decided to accept a suggestion of staying at a less busy camping location not far from the Weerribben.
The Hubby and I had visited another area of this forest earlier this Spring and knew it had features we wanted to explore including a lake.
As we pushed the canoe cart towards the lake we were stopped by the Park Ranger who was clearly a wooden canoe enthusiast. He asked us all the normal questions we get about the canoe. Did we build it? How it was made? How does it paddle?
Then he informed us that the beautiful lake was not available to paddle but that he would allow us if we respected the wildlife. We quickly thanked him and continued to the lake and had a very nice paddle on a lake that reminded us both of areas in Northern Minnesota.
The campsite was spacious and the campground had done a great job of making it as COVID 19 social distancing proof as possible. This was comforting as we camped through the busy weekend we never once felt we were at risk of catching the virus from any of the other campers.
There are a number of hiking trails located within walking distance of the campground. With hidden treasures of nature or man made features waiting to be discovered.
The park has several tipis for rent but this one seemed to be used for nature programs that the Park Rangers provided.
Not that a small gnome house would be surprising to see on this trail. It was a children trail and what better way to inspire children in nature than to feature gnomes and a small house.
I would recommend this beautiful forest location for anyone who would like to get out of the house and into nature.
The hardest part of the year was not kayaking. This blog is about how on Wednesday I had my first kayak paddle of the season and most likely the last kayak paddle of the season.
I don’t have a Dutch drivers license. I am at the liberty of the Hubby’s time availability for getting to a kayak location. After our weekend canoe paddle in the Weerribben I knew needed to find my way into the water in my kayak for a day. Kayaking was my first love and it was part of my PTSD therapy recovery plan. The healing properties of water and nature are well documented and amazing. I needed some “me” time.
I arranged to be dropped off at my favorite local lake, the Westeinder in Aalsmeer. We have featured this lake several times before on this blog. It was the training lake where the Hubby and I spent several days paddling in preparation for our BWCA trip, three years ago.
The fall days are getting shorter. The Hubby dropped me and my equipment off at the beach before the sunrise.
As I waited I had a very friendly goose approach me.
I had enough equipment for a five day trip but the plan was only to paddle to the Historic Garden in Aalsmeer where I volunteer. My first visit to the garden since April.
I always get a bit of a thrill when my kayak hits the water for the first time in a season. I am always a little nervous. The weather, wind, and muscles all have to once again tune into each other. It is like meeting an old friend after not seeing them for awhile. Excitement and also caution as you know it has been awhile since your last solo paddle. Plus, kayaking is not canoeing.
As I paddled from lake into harbor the sun was changing the reflections and sky as the seconds ticked passed. I pulled around the corner to find the sun putting on a spectacular display of color as it crested above the horizon.
In my own special place, alone on the water, I thanked the heavens for health and ability to paddle. To be able to experience this special place in this time, even though it has contained such heartbreak and misery for so many all over the world.
As I entered the canal that takes me directly to the Historic Garden I was reminded of my mantra… Carpe Diem.
I silently slowly paddled my way closer to the garden so my arrival time at the garden would be timed perfectly. I knew the garden bridge over the canal opened at 8 am. My timing was perfect as I was greeted by one of my co-volunteers lowering the bridge.
Pulling my kayak onto dry land my co-worker greeted me and jokingly asked if I paddled all the way from the USA.
I laughed, “nope just from the lake beach“.
I sat and had my coffee then toured around the gardens. I trimmed and deadheaded the roses for the first time this year. Then the day outing was over as the Hubby returned to pick me and the equipment up.
Sadly, this might have been the last day this year I would have an opportunity to kayak. Who knows what the coming days or weeks will bring?
My last thought on First and Last…today 28 years ago my first son was born in the shadow of Mount Rainer in Washington State. Happy Birthday son!
I worked for a boss a few years ago he would stop me in the middle of a conversation and tell me to “get out of the weeds”. He didn’t have the time or the energy to listen to a long story about what had happened and how I came to the solution. He only wanted the guts of the situation and what the solution actually was. Then, if asked, he could explain it to his boss. When I finally made it to his position I didn’t have as blunt of an approach with my people but, I did finally really understood why he used the phrase.
Now, that I have provided all of my readers with all the “weeds” and “back story”, I will continue with our most recent paddle into the Weerribben National Park.
I was told about this paddle by my canoe friend Petra about two years ago. I always know which canoe paddles are awesome by the way her face lights up as she talks about them. In this case, her face had glowed with that secret of giving away a cool location that few canoe paddlers venture to this location. I made a mental note. I looked at the location on the map several times in those long winter months of planning but we never had made it that far to the East in the park. I had even gone by bike on one trip to the Weerribben to recon the location but had never found a launch point.
When we found that the Dutch Open Canoe Fest was very crowded on and off the water this past weekend, we headed to this new location with fingers crossed that we might find a launch point.
One of the most adventurous parts of any canoe paddling trip, to me, is locating the/a launch point. Many are hidden from view, only known by locals or, in some cases, they just don’t exist. When they don’t exist it can make your plan for paddling that day fall apart instantly or become very creative as to how to place your vessel in the water.
We were lucky on Saturday, we didn’t have to get creative. We found a launch site I had missed on all my other trips to that same parking lot. A nice boat launch and canoe platform was clearly visible.
We unloaded and headed out against a strong wind that bounced Cedar along the water and made our paddle muscles bark from the lack of use this summer. There were two kayakers who had launched just prior to us and then headed quickly back, passed us going in the opposite direction. They told the Hubby that they didn’t want to be on the ship canal. Ok, we thought, but there is a nice lake and that is where we were heading.
We crossed the busy ship canal. Enduring a strong head wind on the canal we paddled hard to the other side and then ducked under the bike bridge to enter the lake. Oh, what a dream! A well hidden small lake with vegetation along the entire shoreline with not one soul or boat of any sort to be found! Awesome!
I silently thanked Petra for this location tip as we glided across the mirrored water. The lake was calm in the protection of the trees and vegetation. We commented to each other that this was like something we could find in Northern Minnesota. A catch in my throat, as I thought about missing an entire paddling season this year in my beloved canoe country of Minnesota. So thankful, that we have some beautiful spots here in The Netherlands to paddle.
Petra had told us that there was a canal that exited the lake on the other side. We had seen the exit point on the map. Although, looking across the lake we couldn’t spot it from where we sat. We stopped at an old dock and turned on our GPS to help us locate the exit point. Again, we experienced a flashback of paddling in Minnesota as we had this same issue in the BWCA three years ago. It all looked the same, just tall reeds and woods. Even looking at the tops of the trees, a skill I use sometimes to determine where the river runs out of a lake in Minnesota (usually a break in the skyline), I couldn’t determine where it could be on this Dutch lake.
We paddled in the direction that the GPS gave us, just as we neared the shoreline it was revealed, a canal that was only about canoe wide. Again, “awesome” escaped my lips.
As we paddled along, the weeds seemed to want to keep this location secret. We were slapped in the face with their overreaching branches and pulled aside by the long leaves. As we paddled deeper and deeper into this canal we did wonder if we would just disappear into the reeds never to be found again. Mostly we wondered how we would get the canoe turned around to go back.
As the front paddler, I made sure that the Hubby didn’t have to get spider webs in his face. I cleared the way forward through the jungle of green. It seems that spiders think this is a great place to catch insects to eat and some of those webs almost caught a human. What a surprise that spider would have had!
I was having fun. I think the Hubby was too but he really likes things all laid out for him and isn’t as adventurous as myself (I think), so I won’t speak for him. I do think that the branch that snapped him was unpleasant…
The GPS kept telling us that the ship canal was close and that we would soon enter it again. We stopped when we finally “eye balled” the ship canal and then determined our next plan for the paddle day. We would head towards Kalenberg and then take a canal that heads towards Nederland.
Again, I have been in this location many times on the bike but never with the canoe. As we headed into this new canal was a bit busier. We paddled a short ways into the canal and then found a nice place to stop to have a break and to make a plan for our return trip.
The place we stopped was a old boat house where there were canoes, SUPs, and boats parked. Beautiful wild orchids grew along the edges of the canal. We were just far enough off the main canal we could secretly watch other paddlers and boats go speeding by.
We had such a good time going through the weeds the first time that we decided to take the same way back. We had already cut a path with the canoe and I had captured all the spider webs along the path. So why not?
It was a much faster paddle on the return. The wind at our back, the path well clear of vegetation and spiders. The front paddler that sometimes listens to the Hubby’s instructions about what is needed at the front of the boat was mostly silent on the return trip.
(spoiler alert: another blog post will be totally dedicated to paddler partner communication).
We returned to the spot at the launch and were happy with the location we had just paddled and added it to one of our favorites.
We were finally “Out of the Weeds”, but really sometimes being in the “weeds” is the best way to find out what is really going on or to find something special like we did this past weekend.
Later in the day, when I spoke with Petra, I told her what a nice paddle we had and where we had gone. I saw, once again, her face light up from her memories of that secret location. Thanks to Petra and to all those great paddle adventurers who share their secret canoe paddling locations. You keep all the rest of us dreaming and then experiencing them ourselves. 😊
Do you have great paddle location that you share with friends? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.