PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
WHAT TO BE AWARE OF
This is kind of a disclaimer/random thoughts page becuase I’d like everyone to go at his or her own pace and be safe. I’d be crushed if anyone got seriously hurt on any part of a trip reported on this site. So... Here goes...
First, I can’t absolutely recommend the specific trips that I take on this site because most of them are quite long. I’ve gotten accustomed to kayaking around 20 miles or hiking 10 on a day trip - this is not what most sane people want to do. In describing the trips I take I’m rather hoping that people will get an idea of what these locations are like and then decide for themselves if they want to go and how far.
...and to that point - you can make any of these trips as long or short as you want by making them “out and back” trips. This means that if you want to be out for, say, 1 hour, you’d go kayak or hike for ½ hour in one direction and then turn back knowing that you’ll have been out for around an hour total. You’ll also know about what time you’ll arrive. I use this technique all the time.
Any trip in the outdoors does involve some risk. It is best to go with at least one other person if you can. The cliché “There’s strength in numbers” definitely holds true in the wild.
When you come into contact with an animal please stay WELL out of its way! Even seemingly docile animals can be deceptive.
If you have to cut a trip short then DO IT! You can always find another trail or waterway. If you have to do so because of a questionable animal in your way, a path that looks so overgrown you’re not sure if you’ll be able to keep to it without getting lost, or anything like that – please just stop and go back.
I love it when I see kids out on a hike or while paddling, but they should always be accompanied by an adult.
There’s a great book on these subjects that I recommend called the “Wild Country Companion” by Will Harmon. There’s a wealth of information here on many things besides just safety.
SOME ODDBALL TIPS THAT COME TO MIND REGARDING PADDLING
Going under tree branches on any stream or lake is hazardous. I don’t care if you’re power boating, paddling or even swimming. You’ve simply got to be extremely wary of fishing lines. I’ve seen these all over the place. I don’t know if they get stuck in the trees and the fishermen just leave them there or what, but they can snag you and if one does it could tear you up and possibly even give you an infection. It needs to be said, and the whitewater guys (and gals) must have a real problem with this! Please be very wary of these when you’re out there and always bring a first aid kit in case something does happen.
Something else: be very careful when you stop paddling, whatever the reason. Please be mindful (as I've often not been!) as to the angle of your paddle blade! Sounds crazy, but your body gets used to exerting a certain amount of resistance to the water as you paddle a stroke. If you stop, your paddle is apt to turn - even if it's ever so slightly - and when you resume paddling that blade, being at an incorrect angle, will cut through the water like a hot knife through butter and the resulting "shock" can be enough to tip you over. This can have deadly consequences in cold water. It's best to stay close to shoreline at any rate.
In regard to lakes, in specific:
Another thing to watch out for is what I call “graveyard trees”. These are trees which apparently were swamped under when a dam was put in. They’re dead now, but they're still firmly rooted under the lake. Some jut way above the surface of the water, while others lie only just underneath, and if you hit them just right, they could tip you over. Thus, it’s best to keep a mind on your balance when you’re out and to again follow the shoreline fairly closely in case of a flip...
Another thing about paddling on lakes is that they can be incredibly confusing to navigate; what with all the power boats, jet-skiers, water skiers, tubers, paddlers, and shoreline fishermen. I started out paddling on rivers on odd weekdays when fewer people were out and then on lakes, yet even though I’ve done a lot of paddling to-date I still don’t think I’ve mastered the art of navigation. Boaters are almost always very fun loving and considerate, however, and I’ve found them to be very tolerant of me. I guess I’d just suggest that you use the utmost in consideration and navigate the best you can. Make sure you bring a whistle, too, in case you do have a boat bearing down on you, and wear obnoxiously colored clothing if you can so you’ll be more visible.
In regard to rivers, in specific:
I ALWAYS paddle upstream on any river that I'm unfamiliar with. If the current is too swift, I either go back or find another place to paddle. Otherwise you're just inviting peril becuase you'll have no control of what you'll encounter. You could go over a dam or encounter some unexpectedly treacherous rapids.
...and speaking of dams - I don't mess with them. Way too dangerous! I am always acutely aware of my every move in relation to one because going over most of them means almost certain death. 'Nuff said!
One last thing... if you find yourself running out of time on the water --- and this will only work IF you are sure of the direction you're heading (which can be difficult to discern on a cove-filled lake but fairly easy on a more straight-forward river) - hug the inside of the corners and diagonally cut through the straight sections between these corners. For example: say you've got a left curve, a straight, and then a right curve... Hug the left shoreline on that first curve, and the instant you see the inside of the right curve at the end of the straight, make a B-line for the very tip of that "peninsula", cutting diagonally through the straight. WATCH OUT for power boats though (and especially on the diagonal!), but this technique cuts an unbelievable amount of time. There have been many times when I thought for sure I'd get back well after dark, only to arrive an hour before. It works.