I've always been a mediocre swimmer. I could never swim more than a lap or two before I was exhausted and needed a break. Even more embarrassingly, I could never submerge my head. I always had a primal fear of getting water up the wrong way somehow, and mastering the mechanics of breathing in time to my stroking seemed beyond me.
In short, I always wanted to learn how to swim properly, but didn't know how to improve. Swimming more laps didn't seem to help, and I just wore myself out faster. I also didn't have the money to hire an instructor and wasn't thrilled by the idea of taking classes anyway. It was obvious I needed some major tutelage but I wasn't sure a class was the way to go.
I read about Total Immersion on Tim Ferriss' blog and always wanted to give it a try. It seemed to be exactly what I needed: a relatively inexpensive multi-media program that promised to decrease my swimming drag, allowing me to go farther with less effort and far more gracefully than before. The fact that it was recommended by Ferriss made me trust it and want to try it more than I would had I stumbled across it on my own, as Ferriss' whole schtick is accelerated learning. The only issue would be finding a swimming pool, as I didn't have access to one.
After rafting around Lake Konawa for an afternoon, I was determined to find an opportunity to use my $25 pool toy again.
I decided that taking it on a river would be best as I wouldn't have to paddle as much. Thankfully the Canadian River passes just south of Norman as it snakes across the state. On maps it appears as a fairly major river, the biggest one in the immediate area.
The appealing part for me is that the expenses for a trip like this are basically nothing. I packed some snacks and a thermos full of coffee, and I got dropped off right about where I-35 passes over the river. A short hike later, and I was on the riverbank.
The pump provided with the raft broke while I was inflating it, but I was able to get it sufficiently aired up by just blowing into the valve. With my gear stowed and the raft ready, I headed into the water!
...which was maybe about a foot deep, two feet at its deepest. When I got into the raft, it basically dragged on the streambed. I wasn't going anywhere like that.
Improvising, I tied a paddle to the front of the rubber boat and pulled it along behind me like a water sled as I waded down the river. This worked surprisingly well. I was refreshed by the crisp autumn water- it was a beautiful day, warm but not too hot- and I didn't have to carry anything. I just put it all in the boat and dragged it behind me.
Geographically I was very close to other human beings and their artifacts. Slowly working my way downstream, I wouldn't have believed it. In truth I was probably less than a mile away from the city of Norman at any given time, but only occasional airplanes from the OU airport passing overhead were witness to that fact.
I took a leisurely swim and stopped for a late lunch and coffee on a sandbar in the middle of the river. I wondered, how far could I follow this river? Where would it take me? So far, this didn't seem like a bad way to travel.
Unfortunately, the river becomes quite noticeably degraded further downstream. The pictures of that part wouldn't have been quite as pretty.
Looking for a place to pull off and hike back to a main road, I came across what I dubbed, quite creatively, Bare Earth Bay.
Bulldozers had cleared this strip of the shoreline, but for what? I guessed that it was some sort of restoration project, and I may not have been too far off. I wound up being offered a ride back to the highway, and my kind driver said he thought they were trying to seal an old city dump that had been back there and was leaking into the river.
Turns out, I chose a good place to end my half-day adventure (I was out for about 5 hours). Jenkins Avenue, which passes near my apartment complex, deadends at the newly-named Bare Earth Bay.
All said, this was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The river was for the most part beautiful, I got to explore a part of Norman I'd never seen before, and I was able to enjoy a wonderful day goofing off in the water before the weather turns cold and dreary.
I'm looking forward to a longer trip in my raft, perhaps combining a trip down a river with an overnight camping. Though next time I hope the river I choose is deep enough to actually float down!
Until the next adventure,
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much