Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paddling Festival

I attended The Hiawatha Paddling Festival last weekend. As I'm just beginning to get into coastal kayaking (ocean and Great Lakes), I thought it would be useful to learn more about it in a fun, safe way. This event was held in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Les Cheneaux Islands of Lake Huron. Jessie Hadley, owner of Woods & Water Ecotours, organized the event, and she did a great job. There were very good instructors, a wonderful place to stay on the shore of a bay, good food, and a program packed with learning about gear, first-aid and survival, and fitness exercises for paddlers. The evenings had enjoyable and informative programs about nature and kayak-travel, music, sauna, and campfire.
Hands-on, we learned paddle strokes and rescues. Of course the rescues meant getting in the 57 degree water; even with a neoprene wet suit, it was chilly. Jessie loaned me a sea kayak, 17 feet long and very skinny, much different than my wide, tanky Hobie. So I got to ride waves higher than I'm accustomed to on the small inland lakes and that skinny sea kayak handled them well.

There were more women than men at this event. What intrigues me about this group though, is that the majority of participants chose to camp when the fee for indoor accommodations was only $12 more per night. And we had cold nights, one with frost. I didn't hear any complaining in the mornings; just suiting up to jump in the cold water. Awesome outdoorsy people, this kayaking lot. Guess they know, out is in, even if it's in cold water!

Photos: Jessie Hadley, owner of Woods & Water Ecotours, with her kayak trailer.
Prentiss Bay on Lake Huron where Hiawatha Paddle Festival was held.