The Inland Paddler: Fall Ahead

Lisa Schell Columns, The Inland Paddler Leave a Comment

Fall Sunrise

The river in autumn knows just where to go, through short days and falling leaves. It measures a pace neither hurried nor slow, as it makes its way down to the sea – Joe Newberry

My Facebook news feed has been lit up with paddle folk lamenting the change of season that has now descended on many of us or is about to. This week, here on the East Coast, we had to grab hoodies before going out on what is now pre-Dawn Patrol. It got cold(er) all of the sudden. Exactly on the first day of Fall, to be precise. Here in the Southeast, where we are more fortunate than most of the country, the water temps both inland and on the coast are still warm, but getting to and from the water, especially after a workout when we’re sweaty, now means a chill. For our SUP and prone ohana farther north and in the Midwest, it’s worse: booties, wetsuits and even sub 50-degree water on the Great Lakes. You California folks may have colder ocean temps year-round than we do in the South, but at least your days are still temperate. And we know it never rains out there. You lot in Hawaii, yes, yes… we know…”lucky you live Hawaii.” Aloha, luv ya, mean it.

Then there’s the whole time thing. Damn the Earth for rotating on its axis. First light is now not until 6:30 or so. And while hitting the water at 5:00 is still hitting the water at 5:00, now it seems so, so dark. And lonely. And foreboding. Soon, the media will be reminding us to Fall Back and then it will all go to hell in a hand basket on both ends of the day. (Again, Hawaii and Arizona – shush! Don’t want to hear about how you don’t have the time change!)

Naish in the darkHere are some other cons to the change of season for those of us who live and breathe paddling:

  • School busses. They are everywhere on my drive home in the mornings, adding at least ten minutes to my return trip.
  • Non-paddling friends constantly talking about how they are so ready for the Fall, how it’s perfect football weather, how they can’t wait to bundle up in favorite sweaters and boots, and how they just LOVE PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING.
  • Fresh, local summer fruits and veggies ARE GONE, replaced by flavorless, GMO’d imposters from places like Guyana.
  • The beavers on the lake really scare the heck out of you when they slap their tails because it’s so dark you don’t know they are there.
  • Cold toes and feet, and hands.
  • Everything takes more time to do when it’s cold.
  • The fear of Falling In.

There are some pros though, if we just stop a minute and notice:

  • Fewer boaters are out, especially early in the morning.
  • Annoying critters (read bugs and snakes) are beating their retreat for the winter.
  • It’s very quiet. And as long as there is no cloud cover, the stars seem brighter and more intense.
  • Brilliant autumn sunsets.
  • The humidity is gone, for the most part, so even a short session doesn’t feel like a death-inducing steam bath.
  • The promise of the winter swell.
  • The promise of fewer pop-up, scare the crap out of you thunderstorms to ruin your afternoon paddle plans.
  • You can wear your favorite long sleeved paddle top comfortably!
  • The fall colors are brilliant, and you get to see them in places most people don’t.
  • Your Badass Klout score goes up because a) you’re paddling in the cold and b) you’re paddling when it’s so FREAKIN’ DARK OUTSIDE.
  • Pumpkin Spiced Hot Chocolate Chai Latte Macchiatos (or whatever) do taste really, really good in the chilly weather.
  • You can have a Pumpkin Spiced Hot Chocolate Chai Latte Macchiato because you just did intervals!
  • Monster and Sea is coming out with some awesome hoodies and scarves!

So, gonna invest in some good cold weather paddle gear, take a long draw on that Pumpkin Spiced Hot Chocolate Chai Latte Macchiato, and suck it up. Because, even though Winter Is Coming, it’s only temporary. I’ll commit to paddling as much as I can, and when I can’t, I’ll get reacquainted with an old friend (my mountain bike) get to know a new one better (the rock wall) and enjoy the serenity of my yoga mat. And I’ll wear my slippahs (flip flops) for as long as I can.

Paddle on, and Namaste, y’all. Spring is Coming.