Monday, May 23, 2016

a tale of two kayaks.

Have you ever been kayaking? It's my new favorite thing.

Well, new as of last summer, anyway.

One lovely spring day in Minneapolis, James and I rented kayaks. It was something we'd always meant to do while living in Minneapolis, but never got around to it (like so many things). We finally got our chance and took a two-person kayak out on Lake Calhoun. And... it was awesome. Having only ever been canoeing before, we estimated that kayaking would be similar - not too speedy, a little awkward and hard to steer, but a Minnesota necessity.

Turns out that kayaking is ten billion times easier than canoeing - even when you're in a two-person kayak. It took James and me a bit of time to hit our paddling stride, and even then, we ended up soaked. But we could cruise through the water and actually make turns, unlike any canoeing experience we'd ever had.

We tried kayaking one more time at a little man-made lake in Sioux Falls. The kayaking club was having an event in which you could test out their kayaks. Once again, we went for the two-person kayak, having not yet realized that one-person kayaks are absolutely the way to go. And once again, we got soaked. But we were sold on kayaks.
Dorky life jackets and all.
James and I bought our own kayaks on kind of a whim. We were strolling through Dick's Sporting Goods one afternoon in June and noticed that kayaks weren't nearly as expensive as we assumed they would be. And they were on sale! We did some mathing and realized that - thanks to Christmas money from my grandma - we could indeed afford two purchase two kayaks and two paddles. So... we did!

Unfortunately, there was only one of the kayaks we wanted left in the store, so we had to have one sent in from a different store... which took A MONTH. But we were able to take home one bright yellow kayak: James's kayak. We hauled that beautiful kayak to Lake Poinsett by basically tying it to the roof of  my car. It was absolutely terrifying.

The kayak took its maiden voyage in Lake Poinsett with James at the helm, and it was freaking glorious. A single-person kayak allows you to slice through the water like a fish, and it was downright amazing how fast you can travel along the shoreline of Lake Poinsett. Our friends and family all took the kayak out, and before we knew it, our friends (at whose lake cabin we were temporarily storing our kayak) purchased a kayak of their own.
That's my mom in the kayak!
When my kayak - a beautiful cobalt blue - finally arrived, James went to pick it up (and managed to put the first dent in his brand-new car while doing so). By this time, we had acquired a kayak rack, which was really not much better than our tied-with-bungee-cords-and-rope method. The rack wasn't bent the way it should've been, and the kayak holders didn't stay on the way they should've. But we weren't about to pay upwards of $300 (more than we paid for BOTH kayaks) to get a rack specially made for James's car (which is what all the kayak blogs - yes, there are kayak blogs, and yes, we read them - said we NEEDED). We thought we'd be fine.

Ha ha.

One of the great misfortunes (and there are many) of living in Luverne is that we live in the ONLY COUNTY in Minnesota without any natural lakes. Land of ten thousand freaking lakes, and we don't even have one. There was a man-made lake in Blue Mounds State Park until two years ago, when the whole place flooded. Luverne does have a small man-made pond on the edge of town: Creamery Pond. 
It's no Lake Poinsett, but it is a good kayaking place in a pinch. James and I also went kayaking in this slough-like body of water on highway 75, but it smelled like death, and we were pretty sure the toxic-looking pond scum would eat through our kayaks.

No pond scum here.
In August, James and I embarked on a week-long road trip to Colorado... and we brought our kayaks. Because we are idiots. We still had our questionable kayak rack, but we thought it would be fine.

We were totally wrong. And of course we were - this would be a terribly boring story if we had been right.

We took off during late Friday afternoon after I got off work, fully intending to make it to Rapid City that same night. Almost as soon as we got onto the interstate, the kayaks began to wiggle and sway - unsettling, to be sure. James pulled over on the side of the road more times than I could count, and each time, I was sure that he was going to be smushed by a passing semi truck. When it began to get dark, we decided to call it quits. Between the multiple stops and the low speeds, we had been on the road for about five hours and had only made it to Chamberlain - less than halfway to Rapid City. Bahh.

The next morning, James tied down the kayaks extra tight, and we ventured out once more. But guess what? It was super windy. And of course it was, because South Dakota is ALWAYS windy. It was on the interstate shortly after one of the kayaks had come almost completely loose and began sliding sideways that we seriously considered turning around and dumping the kayaks at home.

But we didn't - we soldiered on, having had some success bending the kayak rack in Rapid City (with tools borrowed from the nice guy working at the Dinosaur Park gift shop). We arrived at our first destination - Fort Collins - a full half-day after we planned.

After all that pain and suffering to get them there. James and I would be damned if we didn't use those kayaks. We decided to kayak in Clear Creek in Golden - it was a beautiful day, and there were tons of people in tubes and little bitty river kayaks out and about.
So naive!
What we didn't consider is that our kayaks are not really meant for rivers - they're touring kayaks - and that we are not skilled river kayakers. And the water is super fast.
Check out the rushing water around my ankles. That should
give you some idea of how fast the water was moving.
So what happened? James and I set off on our Clear Creek adventure, and the current quickly took us. The water was fairly shallow, so we had to do our best not to get caught on the rocks. We successfully navigated through some small rapids, which was really quite awesome – until James got stuck in some rocks. I was up ahead, and I heard him yell what I thought was “Wait for me!” Turns out he, in fact, yelled “DON’T wait for me,” but I wouldn’t find that out until it was too late.

I tried to stop myself in the rushing water, but my efforts were quickly thwarted. The water was stronger than I was, and I was almost immediately turned sideways while heading for another set of rapids. And then? The kayak flipped over. Of course it did. I ALMOST lost the kayak completely, but I managed to hook my foot in it before it rushed down the creek. The current was powerful and dragged me along the bottom for a minute or so until I was able to drag myself and the kayak to the bank. I was fine, but SOAKED. James made it over to me and hauled the kayak to shore.
Still alive!
So river kayaking? Maybe not.

James and I were planning on spending the last full day of our trip driving through Rocky Mountain National Park and kayaking along the way. We had read that Lake Granby on our way into the park was a perfect kayak spot. And it sure looked like it as we drove in – with the mountains and the clear water, it looked like we were in the damn Alps. 
But guess what happened by the time we arrived at the launch site? Yes, it was storming. Lightning and all. James and I are not historically wise when it comes to, well, life, but we did decide that it probably wasn’t the best idea to go kayaking in a lightning storm. We did continue through the park, though – and even without kayaking, we loved every single majestic bit. And we totally saw a moose.
On our way home, we stayed overnight in Rapid City and made one last effort to use these dumb kayaks that we’d hauled for a billion miles. We only had an hour or so in the morning before we had to leave, so we brought them to Canyon Lake. It was BEAUTIFUL. There was no one there, and the weather was gorgeous. We had a nice, leisurely kayak trip around the lake, which was exactly what we needed.

We managed to get a couple more kayaking adventures in before the end of the season. We took the kayaks to Palisades State Park and paddled through Split Rock Creek – a short trip, considering we kept getting trapped in rock patches. It was so beautiful, though – looking up at the huge pink quartzite formations. 
(According to Wikipedia, the rock formations are 1.2 billion years old. There’s your amazing fact for the day.)

James and I also enjoyed one unseasonably warm day at the very end of September, so we put on our adventure hats and decided to kayak the Rock River – Luverne’s very own. 
James had scouted the river earlier in the week, so he had our route all planned out. It was absolutely glorious. We packed beer and Cheetos and picnicked on a branch in the middle of the river. 
We paused to explore the banks and enjoy these last few drops of beautiful weather before the onset of fall. Sounds like perfection, am I right?

Well, almost.

The Rock River is 144 miles long (again, thank you Wikipedia), so it cuts through all sorts of land – including pastures. James and I almost got clotheslined not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES by electric fences. So yeah, that was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and did I mention that the wind was blowing about a billion miles an hour... and it was blowing in the opposite direction of the current? Electric fences and feats of magnificent paddling aside, though, it was a damn good river trip.

We are chomping at the bit to take our kayaks out again. We missed out on a lot of good kayaking last summer because we didn’t have both of them until July, but we’re reading and raring now. And… WE HAVE A PICKUP THIS YEAR. A lot of what stopped us from taking our kayaks out was the horrorshow of getting them secured to a car roof. It took a good half-hour at the beginning and the end, so we needed plenty of time if we were going to go kayaking anywhere. Now? We’ll just throw them in the pickup and go. Just THINK of the possibilities!

Summer 2016 will be the summer of the kayaks. I am determined to make it so. And I can hardly wait.

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