Kayak outing special through grandson’s eyes

This past Labor Day Weekend was an extremely warm one. I usually don’t do much in the heat but fall asleep, but my daughter invited me to join her and my grandson on a kayak outing Saturday afternoon, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day.

The day didn’t start out well. All sorts of little niggly things were going wrong, and it seemed like there were “demons” chasing me for most of the morning. I did my best to ignore them and press on, and get my kayak loaded and out to the meeting point by the designated time.

My daughter was ready almost 45 minutes early and asked if I wanted to meet a bit earlier. I hadn’t even come downstairs yet, so I told her I’d meet her at the original time. I like to sleep in on my days off, and when I say sleep in, I mean way in. Let’s just say if sleeping in was a competitive sport, I’d be a gold medal winner.

I hurried downstairs to eat some breakfast before loading up and heading out. I’ve gotten the load-up routine down to about 15 minutes, which I’m very proud of. However, in my excitement and rush to get out of the house, while waiting for her at the meeting spot, I realized I had forgotten my paddle, and ran home quickly to get it. In hindsight, it might have been the universe trying to tell me something.

At the boat landing, my grandson ran over to me, very excited about heading out on the water with his Nana. We chatted a bit about his first few days of kindergarten and all the things he’d done that week. I unloaded my kayak and my grandson proudly “helped” me carry it over to the water.

His mom chose a kayak she liked from the ones available on the shore, making sure they were dry and spider-free. She pulled out two bags of goodies for our journey.

“Wow, you must be a mom!” I teased, remembering the times I would have similar goodies prepared to keep the family happy while out and about for an afternoon adventure.

She smiled as she suited her son up with a life jacket, and we proceeded to get into the water. As soon as we were afloat, however, one of the oars on my paddle, damaged in an earlier outing this summer, decided to fall off for good, and I had to grab one of the rentals. Go ahead, insert “one-oar-in-the-water” joke here, it’s fitting. Perhaps that’s why I’d forgotten it when packing the car – the universe already knew it wasn’t going to be worth taking along.

Oh well, not a big deal, I thought, but I hoped the demons of the morning would leave us alone on the water. As we headed out along the shore, my grandson happily broke out into song, one he’d learned at school that week. His mother and I exchanged grins. As we floated along, we took turns flicking river water at each other and giggling.

The day didn’t seem quite so warm on the water, which was a good thing. My daughter wanted to stop on a sand bar she had found a few weeks earlier, so we crossed the river at a very wide point, heading for the island where she thought the sand bar was. Well, things tend to look a little different on the water, and she changed her mind several times about just which island we were heading to.

We eventually found it, a tiny little island surrounded by very shallow water, and beached the kayaks while we had a snack and played in the water for a bit. My grandson found the river bottom “sticky” and was not a fan of the seaweed. I can totally relate, I’m no fan either. He noticed the “big sticks” in the water, and I explained that they were old trees that had fallen down long ago.

We loaded up again and headed down a channel that led around a much larger island. Here the water was still and calm, and hearing us mention it, my grandson commented that the water was “taking a nap.” My daughter and I exchanged another smile.

As we paddled along, he also noticed the trees in the water, referring to the reflections of the trees along the shore in the river. He wanted to know how those trees got there, and it was amusing to listen to his mother explain about how calm water is much like a mirror.

When he noticed that grandma also had a twin in the water under her boat, he laughed aloud. “You keep hitting yourself in the head with your paddle, Nana!” he observed.

Farther along, I found myself zenning out, listening to the sounds of the woods and water, a train running along tracks in the distance, the birds calling out to each other, and I heard a little voice say, “Nana, why are you so super quiet?” I laughed and explained that I was listening very hard to all the sounds around us and pointed them out for him.

We continued around the island, ducking low branches for fun, cruising through thick lilypads and watching fish swim and jump around us, occasionally cooling each other off with a good splash or trickle from a paddle if we got close enough.

All the while my grandson was calling out instructions to his mother and I … “Get closer!” “Why are you so far away?” Faster, faster, she’s catching up!” … in between requests for juice and more snacks, of course.

Even though it was a holiday weekend, there wasn’t a lot of activity on the water, and we had the river pretty much to ourselves. We even spotted a turtle sunning itself on some driftwood in the center of the channel.

As we made our way out to the main body of water, I snapped a few photos from my phone to have a remembrance of the lovely afternoon. We did negotiate a few waves on our return, as we were heading into the wind now, and it had picked up a bit. It’s funny how big the open areas of the river seem when you’re in a little boat with a little paddle.

After a discussion on exactly which pier was the one we were returning to, we headed back across the water. We were both getting a little tired, and my grandson was getting a little cranky. His mother found many ways to cheer him up and keep him distracted as we paddled back to the starting point, pointing out ducks, fast boats and just being generally silly, which our family is very good at.

Just before we got to shore, we took a poll on who would like to go for ice cream. It happened like this – my daughter whispered something into my grandson’s ear, and he looked over with a glint in his eye and asked me if I’d like to go for ice cream. I responded, “There is never a time when I don’t want to go for ice cream!” A big smile crossed his face, and it was decided.

Back at the pier, we sat on the dock and dangled our feet in the cool water while my daughter gathered up her things and took them to the car. Part of me wished that moment could have lasted forever. It had been a lovely afternoon, watching him interact with his mother and Mother Nature. I hope it’s the beginning of many more kayak outings to come, and a lifetime love of the outdoors for my grandson.


Originally published September 11, 2015

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