The thickening air and warming rays of sunshine have embraced the valley early this year. With the warmth comes the definitive presence of spring rains; these deluges of freshness mound the creeks and rivers with a pounding current.
At times, these rains burden the area with flooding, but most of the time these rains define the start of another fertile farming season as well as a content kayaking season.
To the beginner, the novice, the person who has yet to attempt the balancing of herself in a solitary boat, these rains do nothing but intimidate the imagination. While expert kayakers rave at the chance to ride the thunderous waters of Penn’s Creek after a spring storm, the newbie yaker is likely petrified to expose himself to the fury of such tides.
So maybe the wild rapids of the creeks, defined by the abundance of April rain, are not the ideal launching spot for the novice yaker, but this does not mean that one needs to wait for subsiding water levels or the dry month of August to start a kayaking career.
As a beginner kayaker, it makes perfect sense to be worried about raging waters, depth, the distance to the shoreline, and the current beneath. So, it also makes sense to first experience kayaking with the entrancingly calm serenity of sitting on still water.
The predictable and placid current of a lake or pond is easily found throughout the valley, specifically, Walker Lake in Adams Township, Montour Preserve in Danville, Central PA Wesleyan Camp Ground in New Columbia, and the game lands in Allenwood.
For anyone looking to get in a boat and not be fearful of distance to the shoreline or the brutal strength of a current, any one of these four locations is ideal. Each location has easy launching and docking ramps, minimal current, and zero forms of debris, such as fallen trees or bulging rocks. If the yaker is afraid to flip over and fall in, then he is normal, but the yaker is also safe at these places.
Make sure to wear a life vest and have a whistle and you’ll be fine. Obviously, knowing how to swim is also ideal to ensure a yaker’s complete safety. Whichever place the yaker chooses to begin, they’ll be most comfortable knowing that nothing at these locations will sweep you away, suck you under, or knock the yaker out of the boat and unconscious. There are many things to learn about the boats and the methodology of a strong paddle, but always know the conditions of the freshwater system you intend to kayak.
Recognizing and anticipating is necessary for any yaker, for understanding the environment of the water will define your kayaking experience. In other words, start with a slow and stagnant body of water, be able to see the shore, wear a life vest, and bound a whistle so it’s within reach of your mouth and the yaker is guaranteed a safe experience.
The assurance of safety is essential to enjoying the water, but nothing is safer than numbers. Aside from fighting off pirates and raiders, the group of yakers also allows for a plethora of types of boats. The slow moving and wind driven currents of lakes and ponds is also ideal to test different boats.
With the variety of heights, weights, and shapely constructions of a person, kayaks are meant to mold with the yaker and formulate to the needs of the individual. Novice yakers should certainly adventure on waters with friends for safety, but more so, in order to share, test, and judge a variety of boats. This testing is essential to distinguish which shape and size is ideal for each individual yaker.
When testing a boat, the first consideration must be the distinction between sit-in and sit-on-on-top: sit-in refers to the mold around the person as they sit, whereas the sit-on-top distinguishes the yaker literally sitting above the boat.
There are many reasons to use both (that’ll have to be another article), but regardless of which the yaker chooses, he will likely be sure to evaluate how the seat accommodates and supports his back, how his knees push against the sides (everyone has a preference; I personally recommend your knees tuck under and push against the sides), and how well the paddle can reach the water on each side. The width and length of the boat is also crucial to the type of water a yaker intends to paddle (whether it be the river, or creek, or rapids); the most standard boats will be between 8 feet and 12 feet in length. Any longer or shorter and you are tipping towards specialty boats (short boats are for rapids, rolling, and kids, whereas long boats are meant for speed, distance, and tracking).
Ultimately, larger kayaking groups will create a diversity of boats, which in turn will allow people to try a variety of types of boats all in one trip. And just to reinforce, still bodies of water are ideal for trading boats because docking points are typically closer and friendlier in various spots; getting in-and-out is a typical moment for vulnerability of falling into the water, so to have an easy dock that promotes stable wading feet is essential for avoiding a spill.
Ultimately, getting the boats to the location and finding friends that have boats is not always convenient, so there are a few places in the area where a novice yaker can rent in small groups or large groups.
Specifically, Canoe Susquehanna (www.paddlehappy.com or 570-524-7692) of Lewisburg does medium and large group outings throughout the spring, summer, and fall. They will also be able to give simple lessons and provide a variety of boats. All of their tours are done on the Susquehanna, but with their guidance and expertise, any earful yaker is surely guaranteed safety.
Or, if the yaker is looking to take the boat to a pond or lake, then there is Penn’s Creek Kayak (www.pennscreekkayak.com or 570-837-3821) located in (guess where) Penn’s Creek on route 104. Nelson, the owner, will surely have various boats to choose from including all the necessary gear for safety.
And as a yaker becomes more experienced and conscious of his abilities, check out Lake Augusta Outfitters on Packer Island in Sunbury (www.lakeaugustaoutfitters.com or 570-286-2148). Regardless of which venue or boat the novice chooses, be sure to bring water, go with others, and be at ease knowing the surroundings. Enjoy the spring rain.