Kayaking is a great water activity: it is enjoyable without being burdensome on others. Canoeing is an activity our family enjoyed for years, but when I want to go by myself, kayaking is very doable—not so easy with a canoe. I like the fact that a kayak sits lower in the water and is more stable than a canoe. I can go from my home any time, without waiting for assistance as I would with canoes. I try to go several times a week, and it’s even more fun when I take my cocker spaniel, who loves to go along. This spring, after not kayaking in Maine for six months of winter and cold, I asked my dog one morning if she wanted to go kayaking. She ran straight to the kayaks before I gave any sign of what I was doing! Only then did I go to the garage for the paddle and lifejackets—one for her, too. She sits very still and alert, with her front paws up on the front opening of the kayak. We are quite a familiar team on our waterway, and people wave to us.
In the spring, I watch for enough of the ice to disappear so that I can go out for the first time. I don my lifejacket and head out, maneuvering around the bergs of ice, from one end of the open way to the other. The time of this first kayak ride varies each year; I am able to get on the water sometime between mid-March and mid-April. When I can go out in the kayak, I know that spring is truly on its way.
During the summer, I go out in a kayak to relax and view nature. I check to see how the bald eagles are doing in their huge nest, high up in a now-battered pine tree. Every year, the couple repairs the same nest, and for a number of summers they have successfully raised one or two eaglets. Although they are large birds, they make a small, sharp, high-pitched call. The loons are always happy to show off by flapping their wings, then diving deep and far. It is amazing to find where they will come up. Red-winged blackbirds have their nests in the marshy area nearby where I pass. The ducks, mallards, black and pintail are busy skirting about the surface. Cliff swallows appear above the water, especially on warm, calm days, skimming the surface for water bugs. After dark, bats do the same thing, skimming and darting above the water eating insects.
What fun to watch a muskrat family that lives on the shoreline, with burrows under the tree roots below the ground. In early spring, I have seen one of the adults scurry across the ice, so afraid of predators. Rarely will they swim straight out across a big span of open water—safer to go along the shoreline, under our dock, or safely home.
There are turtles: box, painted, and big snapping turtles. On warm sunny days, a few will be lined up on a fallen log above the water, until the kayak comes too close, and then all will dive into the water, like dominos falling one by one. There are fish nests in shallow areas, with one of the adults always swimming above the nest to protect the eggs. The blue heron is a favorite bird to watch, slowly wading in the water, looking for tiny minnows. It follows a regular flight pattern and daily routine of when it comes and leaves.
I kayak in other nearby places on rivers, lakes, and along the coast. It’s a lovely change of scenery. Kayaking is a great activity for a single individual or a large group of friends. Whether I go for a few minutes or a full day, it adds another dimension to physical fitness; best of all, kayaking celebrates the calm of nature.
(posted November 24, 2015)