'Follow, follow the sun'
I'd been involved so much in everything Iditarod, I'd forgotten about the other simple, type 2 fun things I enjoy. The more disciplines that I can fit into a leave pass the better. Today was the day to paddle to North Stradbroke Island and go for a walk.
I left Cleveland Point at 5:30am with an hour of dark paddling till sunrise. Oh yeah - for my overseas friends - this is our winter.
It was still so warm that I didn't need my spray skirt. Paddling close to Peel Island in about 2m of water, I could see skates and small rays darting beneath me against the white sand.
Transition to trek mode. I locked the kayak up adjacent the ticket office for the Micat vehicle ferry. This weekend there was an 8hr rogaine on Straddie, I was planning to race it with a friend, but she was on call at work. Ah well, still doesn't stop me from having a little off-track fun.
'Breathe, breathe in the air. Cherish this moment, cherish this breath'
- Xavier Rudd
My first 'self imposed mandatory' CP was Brown Lake and the plan was shortest route possible overland.
The Golden Orb spider weaves a web of strong, sticky silk, between trees and at random heights - just another trail obstacle to look out for.
This plant grew on the eastern slopes, the bush was alive with the sound of bees gathering nectar from the tiny flower.
But this same plant also had hypodermic leaves. Legs were peppered and punctured...might be a few days before I can shave them again.
Ran into quite a few teams doing the rogaine - some looked in better shape than others...
Their goal was to capture as many CPs as they could.
Today, my goals were far more organic - these were the only white and orange items I wanted to capture.
'Take a stroll to the nearest waters edge, remember your place. Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came'
Not all off track today - unavoidable short sections of blacktop.
The track is that way.
There were sections that took me back to Alaska on the Iditarod Trail - that thin white line through the Farewell Burn.
Lets delve into gear and a hint of tech. My trekking poles weigh a scant 300grams, full carbon. I chose the 120cm, fixed length model to suit my wrist height. Andrew, a good mate of mine from Wildearth on the Goldy shipped me his last pair!
The foam handles have a 2 position grip - the lower segment for steep ascents. You can also see the buttons for locking the poles when assembled. Reflective accents.
Collapsed the poles are only about 33cm long and stow easily across the front of my pack. I prefer them close to hand, not stowed on the back of my pack. The quicker and easier they are to access, the more inclined you'll be to use them .
Here is the secret to their foldability, flexible Kevlar cords.
The baskets are not removable, which is a boon in tough country as they can't get torn off (which is mostly what these will see) but have plenty of surface area for the sand. The rubber tips are replaceable and can be subbed for concave carbide tips, for use on ice.
Left and Right specific wrist straps.
Large surface area top for descending.
Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes are my tried and tested boot of choice. I love the traction they provide with a very aggressive tread. I couple that with a low Salomon sock gaiter and Moxie shin gaiters.
I used this Salomon Skin pack in Alaska, couple it with an OP crampon bag as a front balance pack and close-to-hand storage. Just hidden behind my poles is my SPOT tracker, so my girls can follow. Joby tripod for flexible shooting spots.
The camera that captures all these great pics? My tough Olympus TG-4. I went through an exhaustive process to replace my previous adventure camera - the venerable Panasonic FT2. The TG-4 was the only compact tough camera to accept an accessory lens (for filters, tele or wide angle - I love to shoot wide angle), an awesome microscope function, incredible low light performance, flexible timers and multi shot modes, super simple wifi and app connectivity, low temperature reliability (I was shooting at -30C on the Iditarod) and true tough camera performance - make this your next tough camera!
My second mandatory CP was Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a window lake with some of the clearest water around. I've hammock bivvied here before and the frogs and birdlife is incredible.
This is one of my stoves - Jetboil Ti. I stow the fuel canister wrapped in a Chux wipe - its uses are only limited by your imagination. I cut the top off one of my Sea to Summit silicone cups so it fits better.
North Straddie is a tropical island - so what better flavour than coconut would match?
'So which way is the wind blowing, what does your heart say'- Xavier Rudd
It's not all quiet bush trail back to the western side.
All too soon, it was time to go. 30km trek done, it was time for the couple hour paddle back. Trans back to paddle with an hour left before sunset. It was a millpond, not a breath of wind. The tide was turning and a few strange eddy currents to fight in the channels.
The water was like liquid silk all the way home. No need for a headlamp, just the taillight for rearward marking. The moon shone occasionally through the cloud, when I stopped to savour the night, I'd hear the soft splash of marine life breaching and the chitter of bats as they echo-located their way to feeding spots.
Another shoutout to Wildearth - Andrew kicked out the jams to get me a new PFD - a 'Quest' from SeaToSummit. A feature packed PFD with a 1.5L bladder, plenty of accessible pockets, D-ring, whistle and plenty of reflective.
'So follow, follow the sun. Which way the wind blows, when this day is done'.- Xavier Rudd