As in most years people are glued to the TV or media screens in the USA to watch the NCAA March Madness, college basketball.
Here at The Cedar Journal we have our own March Madness. In years past it has been awaiting the first day of the season to place the canoe or kayak on the water. Looking constantly at the perfect day in the forecast, the location we first want to explore, and checking supplies. You can read about those past adventures here and here and here.
This year is a bit different…
The Dutch government has extended the COVID restrictions now until 31 March. Although the government did make some minor adjustments this last week, like allowing for exercising with four people in a group outdoors instead of two; and adjusting the reservations for appointments to shop in stores, from only two persons in the store at a time so that now it is based on square meters of floor space of the store. All these changes still do not equal normal but they are small steps forward.
Suffering from my own new March madness I have been knee deep in projects. Planting seeds, making clothes and when I ran out of ideas…
I started making bias tape, pot holders and tea towels.
Somewhere in all of that I did my US taxes. Now, that is something that did drive me nearly mad. A simple tax return turned into seven pages! My question to the US Congress is why can’t we streamline the tax code? I gained a few more grey hairs on that week! Plus, I might have said a few naughty words towards Congressmen lawmakers and the IRS.
On top of everything else, I was informed via email that all mail going to the USA from the Netherlands must have a custom form filled out electronically and paid for in advance online. When I say ALL MAIL, even a birthday card or personal letters are now required such nonsense! I would send my Congressman a personal letter of complaint, but it would take four months to get there and now needs a custom form with electronic postage, WTF hassle!
Yup, March Madness has arrived at The Cedar Journal. We hope April brings calm waters and stable conditions for us and all our readers.
What is March Madnesslike for you? Share your thoughts in our comments below.
Being 50+, I shouldn’t have a great deal to “learn” I thought, until 2020 came along. I guess I am never too old to learn something new or to relearn things I had forgotten. I thought I would share my year 2020 list.
Dehydrating Herbs/Veggies –
I maintained or helped to maintain three gardens with a variety of plants this summer. Those gardens produced more than we could eat right away. We decided to purchase a dehydrator and started dehydrating the extras. We now have a huge quantity of items that can be used for our future camp meals. If any of you have ever purchased dehydrated meals for camping you know those meals are expensive. The reason is dehydrating is time consuming and tedious process. The best part of learning this new skill is we now will know 100% what is in our camp food.
Drinking Fresh Ginger Tea-
Somewhere this summer I read that fresh ginger tea is good for the digestive system. As I age, it seemed that what use to work perfectly now needs some extra external encouragement. I tried fresh ginger tea and it helped many of digestive issues. I learned to try a new food this year.
I took an online class this fall on herbal remedies. Mostly to try to beef up my knowledge of natural healing by using herbs. I learned a good deal of information. I am still learning each time I pick up one of the several herbal remedies books I purchased. Witchcraft? Not really, these herbal remedies have co existed with humans since the beginning of time. I like to think I was just relearning an ancient natural trade.
Sharing in the time of need.-
This is something we all like to think we are good at but I know I struggle with this as I get older. I am a bit more pessimistic about the world. It is also hard to gage sometimes when it is the right time to help and when it isn’t.
This year I volunteered at a local community garden. A great deal of energy and courage goes into just getting to the point of asking to volunteer. As a foreigner living in a country not of my birth, speaking a language that is not my native language, putting myself “out there” in any normal time is scary but this year it was dangerous.
Did I have the strength to control my doubts?
My way of gardening differs vastly with gardening techniques used here in The Netherlands.
Personalities and group dynamics (just like everywhere in the world) in volunteer organizations sometimes don’t click. This summer was a personal challenge for me and many times I had to catch myself from not doing the eye roll or just telling people to stop treating me like a child. Yet, in this time of COVID I just needed to be part of a group and feel connected to this adopted land where I now live. I volunteered through the challenges. This year helped me learn that sharing can help me build new relationships, it also helped me practice controlling my eye rolls and to hold my tongue.
That I am only guaranteed today.-
It is a lesson many of us in the 50+ group understand as we have most likely have lost friends, co workers, and family with more than a half century under our belts, but… this year was hard.
We have had friends and relatives pass away this year suddenly. I have paused, thought “wow, I didn’t think that the last time I shared a cup of coffee at their table, house, apartment would be the last time”.
Did I say all I needed to say to them? Was I as kind as I could have been then? How can I do better today? What can I do today to dispel misery right now with my own hands?
Today, is today and I am not guaranteed tomorrow. I learned I can always do better, be kinder, listen more…today.
Democracy is not dead.-
I had my doubts. I am now certain that people will make their voices heard by voting.
Now, Congress…so called “leaders”, listen! Fix this democracy to help all the people from the far left to the far right! Because, each of us has a voice and even if the voices differ in a democracy they all should be heard and considered!
Analog vs Digital.-
My generation 50-60 year olds, we came of age in the computer age. We like our technology. Maybe “like” is a bit strong of a word, we mostly embrace technology.
Flashback- The school I attended in the late 1970’s in Northern Minnesota had one of the first computer science classes. We used a dial up modem to the University of Minnesota where we could write programs that printed out cool stuff like a Christmas tree in ones and zeros. Wow! In eighth grade that was really cool.
Flash forward to last December and I would never (even after a career in high frequency radios, satellites, and computers) think there was anything else I needed to learn about technology.
Then there was the year, 2020.
WordPress “blocks”, Zoom chats, and my very first National conference attendance via online participation!
It still makes my head spin from all the new terms I needed to learn, protocols I had to follow (push the little hand in the tool bar if you want to ask a question), proper clothing to wear for these events (as long as you are sitting the bottom half of your body can still be in pjs while the polished business like attire must be seen in the camera view).
We have determined here at The Cedar Journal that we still prefer books with pages, paper and pens, and dressing like we are going out to canoe at any moment without having to schedule a zoom, team, or other social media video event that is socially distanced.
So we learned we are more analog (old school) than digital (modern). We are very OK with that!
We waited in lines, we waited for months for mail to arrive on the slowest ship the USPS could have contracted to save money, we waited for an election, and we waited to hear from friends and family. Some of those times it seemed like the wait would never end, like time was waiting for us to choose to stop the waiting. But, we waited anyway and found time did move on even if ever so slowly.
We learned to wait this year and hopefully that will give us a bit more focus and make us a bit wiser on how we can move forward in 2021.
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.
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.
As always it is sad to see the end to another Dutch Open Canoe Festival. Seeing old paddling friends, making new ones and always the learning that goes with new ideas or new techniques.
This year that included learning what each of us considered acceptable risk just to attend. What about bathrooms? Where should we stay as the event brings people from all around Europe and most of all can we still interact with old canoe paddle buddies and still maintain our distance. What challenges!
I will write a detailed blog later this week on our experiences from the weekend but promised two young paddlers that I would post a few pictures. To keep my promise before this old canoe paddler takes a nap to recover from so much excitement over the weekend here you go young people.😊
Best wishes and safe a healthy travels to everyone who attended. Until next season.😊