Paddles Up!

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.  Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

This past weekend, my husband, a long-time canoeist but first-time kayaker, joined a gaggle of us experienced kayakers on a day-long river trip.  Watching my husband during the day – as we got ourselves ready, as we paddled down the river, as we stopped for lunch – reminded me that interpreting for kayakers is, pardon me, a whole other kettle of fish than interpreting for a stationary group on land.

How does interpreting for paddlers differ from interpreting for landlubbers?  William J. Lewis in Interpreting for Park Visitors offers some tips.

  • Safety will be a primary concern.  On our kayaking trip, we wore life jackets and carried whistles.  The leaders instructed us not to wander off by ourselves, and shouted “River right!” or “River left!” to gather us on one side of the river so that oncoming motorized boats had plenty of room to navigate around fifteen kayaks.
  • Tell the group what to expect, but anticipate the unexpected.  Before launching our kayaks, the leaders showed us a map of our route and suggested a shorter route if the group wished or a thunderstorm arose.  But the leaders couldn’t know that we would chase herons down the river or spot an osprey nest sprawling atop a buoy.
  • Plan for a shore activity.  We had lunch midway along our route at a historic site, with outhouses and picnic shelters as well as displays of artifacts.  The lunch spot was a much-needed chance to stretch our legs, and learn some history as well.

Lastly, have fun!  Paddling is a great way to get exercise, fresh air and sunshine – and one of the few outdoor activities suitable for summer in the Sunny Southeast.

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