Off The Press

March 30, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Warren Kagarise Press Reporter

Warren Kagarise Press Reporter

Kayaking trip yields new perspective

Where I come from, a cold day is 60 degrees — balmy by Western Washington standards.

My parents and I moved to Florida when I was 12. Awash in the boundless sunshine that gives the state its nickname, I banished memories of childhood blizzards to the deep freeze of my mind. Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State with good reason.

I landed in Washington eight weeks ago. My own version of Manifest Destiny abounds with adjustments large and small. I expected cold. I expected rain.

Instead, when I woke up March 15 and glanced outside, I saw fat, heavy snowflakes as big as quarters. My assignment for the day was straightforward: A kayak tour of the great blue heron rookery along the lakeshore.

Before I left my overheated apartment, I bundled up as best as I could, piling on long johns (a recent acquisition) a beanie and many layers in between. For a moment, I considered calling to check if the unseasonable snow would postpone my fellow paddlers and me. Then, I drove — very carefully, mind you — from my Seattle neighborhood to Lake Sammamish State Park.

Drivers face snowbirds and dozens of other hazards on Florida roads every day. But snow, even these harmless flakes that didn’t stick to the ground, bordered on a catastrophe. Around Bellevue, I began to think I might be overreacting. I told myself to relax.

My reluctance returned as I climbed into a DayGlo yellow dry suit on a cold, soggy morning at the state park. As a first-time kayaker, I was convinced I would wind up in the lake. My fellow paddler, Park Ranger Heather Hansen, assured me we would not be taking an impromptu dip. She even pulled double duty as I jotted notes in my waterlogged notebook.

Eventually, I relaxed. Sure, I may have left behind Florida’s eternal sunshine. On Lake Sammamish, I began to see what I would experience in the Evergreen State.

The dry suit kept out the rain and drizzle. The long johns and layers atop them kept the cold at bay. The trip was silent except for the dip of the paddles and the murmur of fellow kayakers. In the black cottonwood lining the shore, hundreds of herons filled the branches.

Part of being a journalist means leaving behind my comfort zone, at least once in awhile. Even if the comfort in question is something as trivial as temperature.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment on this story at

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