• Susan Conrad

Back in the Saddle(s) Again!

"We're older now than we've ever been, but we're younger now than we'll ever be again."

~ Hazmat Modine band, Box of Breath

I've set a new record for myself—one that does NOT float my boat. A self-imposed 109-day hiatus from kayaking, which happily came to a screeching halt last weekend. On the last day of 2020 (goodbye and good riddance!) I underwent Seattle's best hand surgeon's knife and came out the other side a bit groggy with my hand swaddled in ice-packs, suspended above my head in an oversized blue foam cube, which I nicknamed Pete. (I have no idea why I chose that name.) My trapezium bone, that tiny oblong bone in your wrist that allows your thumb to move in all directions, was removed, along with a few slivers of diseased joint attached to my lower thumb. After years of suffering with severe arthritis, I pulled the trigger (pun intended) and opted to have a Carpal Meta-Carpal (CMC) Arthroplasty to reconstruct my thumb joint. I rang 2021 in on pain pills washed down with a couple tablespoons of cheap champagne, then gingerly slipped into bed and slept for about 13 hours. Woot Woot. As if to add insult to injury, I turned the big 6-0 two weeks later.


But it's all behind me now and this aging adventurer is B-A-C-K!! I chose Lakes Kokanee and Cushman to break the paddling fast. My friend Laura Jo and I loaded up the gear, and headed out to get a good dose of aqua therapy. Don't forget the arnica, thumb braces and wrist wraps! These two beautiful bodies of water are located just west of Hoodsport, a small town on the west shore of Hood Canal, boasting a population of about 400. If you're still trying to figure out where this is at, find Seattle on your map and run your finger in a slight southwest diagonal line across one body of water, a large peninsula, another slimmer body of water (Hood Canal) and bada bing—you're there!

The view's even more grand with kayaks on top!

Thumbs up on Lake Kokanee! The fast is OVER! I broke in a brand spankin' new EXPED hat for the occasion!

Small lake; big on beauty.


My first day back on the H2O was a short one, rightly so. An early start, a 3+ hour drive, and a dash to our AirBnb to retrieve the parking pass for this gem of a lake put us on the water mid-afternoon. Lake Kokanee is short and sweet, and beneath it's surface swim many of its namesake species, although the local fishermen told us that snagging a sizable trout is a better bet.

Some local paddlers getting a lesson from Salmon Bay Paddle.

Messing about in boats. Minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.


My hand and wrist, although a tad sore, fared well after our mellow four-mile paddle on the first day. Day two would take us a smidge north, to Lake Cushman, a much larger lake a few miles north of Lake Kokanee.

Lake Cushman is actually a reservoir, located on the north fork of the Skokomish River. Uncharted waters for both Laura Jo and me, we were delighted by the crystal clear blue water, rocky shoreline, and thick stands of hemlock, fir and cedar trees.

I'm wondering if Dnitra is thinking "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right..." ;) Actually, it was sooooooo nice to finally put a real FACE with a FACEBOOK face! Dnitra and I had been corresponding via Facebook for months until we finally had the opportunity to meet in person. And I can't think of a more stellar place than on the water!


It feels so good to be back. I'm beyond grateful for the host of doctors, therapists, and healers who helped get me back on the water. I wasn't 100% confident how my hand would do, but nonetheless, I took a deep breath, let the boat settle beneath me, and felt that connection to my kayak, myself, and everything around me. I had fleetingly forgotten how being in my kayak gives me a much-need attitude adjustment and allows me to go deeper inside myself.


Where do you go, or what do you do, to go deeper inside? What's that one place or that one thing that makes your heart zing?