Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kayak Journals, My History of Paddling

Lake Journals
May 27, 2010...Cole and I put our kayaks into the water.  The day had finally came. It is a beautiful day in Minnesota.

That's it. That is how it all started.  My son Cole and I put our brand new Perception and Old Town kayaks into Red River Lake just east of Elizabeth, Minn.  The day was bright and warm. The water was clear and smooth. We had just found out how to adjust our seats and our foot pegs. I guess we were a little shaky at the start.  But, soon we were watching the turtles jump off the logs in the quiet spots of the lake

 The only reason I can remember this so well is that I began to write a kayaking journal that very day to keep track of my paddling adventures. I have chronicled every day since I have put a kayak in the water. With three completed journals and one just begun, I currently have documented 300 days of kayaking. The books are small little travel journals with about 200 pages, offering spaces on each page for several paragraphs. The top of every other page of the journal contains a "highlight of the day" section. I usually reserve this space for a map, newspaper headline, but most often a photograph.
May 2010 on the Otter Tail River

 The pictures have documented my complete kayaking experience. Some of my favorite images include Cole and I holding our paddles over our head in triumph, the many over-the-bow shots of sunrises and sunsets in places called Itasca, Bemidji and Clementine, rustic campsites by lakes and rivers where I  hear the cry of the loon and those postcard memories of both whitewater and calm water from Superior to California.

  The pictures also include friends and acquaintances that I have taken out on the water with me.  For many, it is their very first time in a kayak.  Most of them start out the with the same question.
 "Is this going to tip over with me in it?"
  And at the end of the day when we are loading up the boats, it is always the same question.
 "When can we go again?"

Photos of my kids, my wife and even my dog blanket the pages. Like the shots of Cole white-watering on the Kettle River,  my son Taylor and daughter Alia sitting around a fire on a campout, or  Noel on leave from the Navy in a much smaller boat than her USS Nimitz, while paddling on the Otter Tail.
The pictures record the courtship with my wife.  There are images of Lake Natoma backwater on our first kayak outing. A great shot of our bright the smiles after placing in the Race on Red Canoe & Kayak race. Plus travel snapshots of a northern Minnesota camp out complete with mosquitoes, a thunderstorm in Colorado and coming back home again at Lake Natoma.

 July 4, 2013...This river has a way of slowing down time. The sun hangs like a big orange ball sinking just slowly, slowly, slowly. The trees reflect in a mirror image of the water.  It is very still, till the echoes of fireworks shatter the silence. After all, it is the fourth of July.

 There are essays about being lost on watery trails. Bodies of water have a way of revealing beauty and tranquility in the world  It is awesome to kayak in wonderful places. However, my pictures don't even come close to capturing the splendor of seasons surrounding my kayaking.  My words, has hard I try, don't come much closer. I try to embrace the fleeting spirit of the lake or stream of the day in my passages. Rivers leave no footprints. Each time it is a different memory. The old cliche, "It's the journey that matters" still rings true.  I look back through the pages of stored experiences reliving those hot summer nights on Minnesota lakes, the touch of autumn in Maplewood State Park, my freezing fingers of a first snowfall and the high water voyages during spring runoffs.

 Sometimes the entry is a combination weather report and a laundry list of where I went, who came with, did it rain or shine? and what did I have for snacks? Those entries are pretty simple. I usually describe what I saw along the way. If the lake was full of kayaks or if I had it pretty much to myself.  Did I see any wildlife? Was the weather pleasant or breezy? A record that I got for a 90-minute paddle across the water on a mid-week late afternoon.

It is second nature to me now.  I have made it a habit that either at home or by the campfire, I put down a few lines about the day's paddling. I have even expanded to other journals to keep track of my cross-country skiing, biking and hiking outings. I like to look back, to see where I went and how I traveled down the trail that day.

 August 16, 2012...The night is cool, but still very beautiful and even peaceful. I could have paddled even more, except for the setting sun.

 It is not for everyone, I agree, but for those who enjoy remembering their days on the water, I would recommend it. It will make each trip, whether a long days journey down a river or a quick outing on the lake, an odyssey.