What I Did with My Summer, Part Two

Not only did I spend a lot of my summer on a motorcycle, I spent a lot of it on local lakes and streams in my kayak as well.

When it comes to how to spend my free time, I have to admit I’m a little torn. When I head out on my motorcycle and see someone in a kayak, I wish I was in my kayak. And when I’m paddling down the river and see a motorcycle zoom by, I wish I was on my motorcycle. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to stay in the moment and enjoy that moment. Until then, I’ll continue to be torn.

It was almost mid-July when I realized I hadn’t been out in my yak yet, and I stumbled across a group on my Meet Up app called the Fox Valley Yakkers. Meet Up is an application you can use to create a profile based on the things you like to do, and then it suggests activities that you might enjoy that other people in your area are enjoying. The Fox Valley Yakkers are based out of Appleton, but do a lot of activities between Stevens Point and Appleton, so I thought I would sign up for a few of their outings.

Sometime in early July during the full moon, this group held a Moonlight Paddle on Lake Morris, so I jumped at the chance to get my kayak wet. The group enjoyed an outdoor meal prior to the paddle at Pumphouse on the Mill in Wild Rose, and then car caravaned to the boat landing. The ride there was very curvy and pretty, and I was having fun with that.

We helped each other put our boats in the water, and when everyone was ready, we paddled off. I didn’t realize how long Lake Morris was, and it was a beautiful setting for the evening. We paddled to the eastern end of the lake to enjoy some ice cream at Mount Morris Mill Coffee Shop, and then shoved off again to paddle into the sunset.

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Paddlers enjoy a full moon over Lake Morris, Wisconsin last July.

Being such a long lake, it was a nice relaxing paddle, and I got to know some of the other people on the paddle a little better. Once the sun set, we turned around to head back in the other direction, and watched the moon rise as twilight fell over the lake. It was really a lovely sight, since there were very few clouds in the night sky. We took our time paddling back to the boat landing, the evening’s quiet broken by a few random fireworks on the far side of the lake.

It was dark by the time we pulled the boats out, so flashlights and headlamps were in order to get everyone loaded up and on their way. I was damp and tired in the best way, reminding me of summers past when I was a teen, and we would spend a lot of time in the area camping, deer shining and generally wasting the warm days and nights flirting with cute boys.

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The Tomorrow River south of Amherst provides some beautiful views, like this one.

Later that month, I joined another group I found on Meet Up called Fox Valley Hiking and Outdoor Adventures, who were planning a paddle on the Tomorrow River near Amherst. It was a good-sized group with a wide variety of ages participating. This was a new paddle for me, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was pleased to find it an easy paddle, if you didn’t mind the numerous times we had to either duck, limbo under, or portage over some big trees that had fallen into the water. Most recreational kayakers have smaller, wider boats that can easily navigate the twists and turns of local streams and rivers. I paddle a 14.5′ Carolina Perception, which is a fair amount longer and a little narrower than the average boat on these paddles.

That means I have to do a bit more work when it comes to reading the river, and planning how to miss shallow areas, fallen trees with little clearance and strainers lying across the water. A strainer is a large fallen branch that can turn you upside down if the current pins you against it, so you have to stay aware as you’re floating downstream. It takes more time and effort to navigate a boat like mine through these sorts of obstacles, but I think it’s a lot of fun… most of the time.

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Paddlers help each other out at an especially tricky navigational challenge on the Tomorrow River. Sometimes getting out and walking the boats through is the best and safest solution.

The best part of the trip by far was the wild water fight the group had about half way through the trip. We stopped to pose for a group photo, and as soon as the shot was snapped, the water cannons came out without mercy. It lasted a good twenty minutes, and had everyone laughing until they were out of breath. For me, it was confirmation that once again, all it takes to turn a bunch of adults into 6th graders is a little bit of water. And that’s a very good thing.

 

Published October 8, 2017.

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