I am probably the last person in America to try kayaking. Yesterday, though, I overcame my hesitancy about being that close to open water (that is, without at least a ten-foot boat around me) and attempted what has for years looked like a lot of fun.
My kayaking instructor has a friend with a cottage here on Lake Wentworth. The waterfront was piled high with various versions of kayaks and water toys – she keeps her kayak here, and she chose one for me that she thought I might be comfortable with. Hers is the kind where you sit down in a hole; mine was open. The idea was to keep close to shore, where it is shallow, until I was reasonably sure that I was not going to tip over and drown.
I quickly realized that on this beautiful lake you could be 100 yards out and still be in shallow water – I couldn’t believe how clear it was, and for much of the trip I could see the bottom. My kayaking pal spent some time showing me how to properly work the paddles … not rocket science, but it still took awhile before I got the hang of it. I spent more time concentrating on how to make the boat move than watching where I was going. Fortunately she assured me that it didn’t hurt anything when I ran into her.
When I realized fairly early on that my life was not in imminent danger, we took off and headed for the opposite end of the lake. It was a perfect day … 80-some degrees, clear skies, no wind or humidity. My tour guide pointed out the little islands with funny names that dotted the lake: Stamp Act Island, Goose Rock, Triggs Island, Seven Sisters Islands. She explained what we were looking at in the distance, and told me how in some places you can see huge, rectangular chunks of stone lying on the bottom – obviously hand-cut, they must have been remnants from a building project years ago and left to melt into the lake in the spring. She told me about seeing, last summer, an abandoned rowboat on one of the islands that someone had planted with a miniature vegetable garden.
At some point I was asked, “Do you want to go into the river?” The river? Why would I want to go into the river? Where was the river? I replied, “Sure!” and we paddled in that direction, one of us going much faster and politely waiting for the other to catch up.
As we came to the mouth of the Smith River I saw why she asked me the question … I was dazzled. The water was so still it was a mirror image, a kaleidoscope of sparkling greens against the rocky shore, and in places it was so shallow I could almost touch the sandy bottom. Sun glittered off the surface, fishes darted around our boats, and at times I simply stopped paddling and took it all in. Children played amid the reeds and stacked rocks. We floated under a wooden bridge, past docks adorned with colorful Adirondack chairs, and I thought, why would anyone want to live on the lake? I want to live on the Smith River!
The river feeds directly into Crescent Lake, and this was as far as we went. We turned around and headed back, this time with the sun at our backs. We passed a small kayak piloted by a couple of kids who maneuvered it effortlessly onto the sandy beach at their house; I was further inspired, thinking that if 8-year-olds can master this darn paddle, so can I …
Going back was more difficult. I felt like I was paddling like mad but not going anywhere, or at least not in the direction I wanted. My companion thought it probably had to do with the wind and the current and was not entirely my doing. She is very kind. I had a harder time keeping up with her, but maybe it was because I was just getting tired; she figured all total we went about five miles. “Ambitious for your first time out!” she said. (She obviously just wanted to make me feel better, knowing full well that I would have sore arms the next day.) We stopped to watch a pair of loons, and finally made our way back to our own dock. After two and a half hours, the hardest part of the whole trip was getting out of the darn boat. And standing up.
Thank you for the lesson, Candy … and for being so patient! Kayaking Lake Wentworth is the perfect way to spend a warm August afternoon.