For many years, serving as a pilot in the Marine Corps, I felt that I was living pretty close to the edge and getting all the excitement any normal person should desire. Since leaving active service in the military, passing 50 years of age, and possibly acquiring a little more discretion than I had in my youth, I noticed that I was just as happy getting my excitement vicariously through the adventures related by my children, nephews and nieces, and other youngsters whom I happened to encounter rocking on our porch in the evening. Then my existence went through a sea change.
One day our daughter, Trish , told her mother and I that the outfitting/adventure company she worked with (need I mention the name ENDLESS RIVER ADVENURES?) was considering expanding their services to include touring (flat water) kayaking as well as whitewater rafting and paddling, and she asked if we would be interested in being the human guinea pigs to demonstrate if it was feasible to put novice paddlers into sea kayaks; i.e.: would they be safe and would they have a good time.
Two weeks later, after fifteen minutes of basic instruction, we were embarking on Lake Calderwood. Our boats were single seat, 17 foot long Cap Horn sea kayaks, our equipment were double bladed 7-foot paddler and a floatation vest, and our lives were changed. This first day we paddled about 8 miles over a four hour period, which is hardly a racing pace, and included two ½ hour pauses at a beautiful waterfall and an abandoned, mostly submerged railroad tunnel. My wife appreciated the fact that there was no pressure on her to maintain a pace any faster then the one she was comfortable maintaining, while I was happy to be able to experiment with different techniques and not constantly subjected to her loving critiques.
Within two months we had bought our own boats and were spending two or three days every week exploring the different lakes in western North Carolina, north Georgia and east Tennessee. By the end of the fall we were very comfortable doing trips of five or six hours covering up to 25 miles. I should hasten to say we found that it was not the distance covered, but rather the quality of the distance (relative solitude, natural beauty, ability to lose your worries) that made the trips memorable. The bottom line of our experiences has been, if you want a new way to adjust your attitude and shed some of the stress life tries to put on you, consider touring in a sea kayak….You won’t get the adrenaline rush of a whitewater cruise down a Class IV river, but the opportunity to spend some real quality/quiet time with yourself or your sweetie and to see how some of the country looked 200 years ago when James Fenimore Cooper was writing about it has rewards which are equally satisfying.
We took our first long paddle of this year during the first week of April on Lake Jocassee, and found that out memories of how great it had been last year were not mistaken!!