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Active Outdoors

Paddling cures for the common July

  • A summer kayak camp on the Connecticut River. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    A summer kayak camp on the Connecticut River. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • A kayak is the perfect way to enjoy a summer morning. Canoes work just as well if that's what you prefer. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    A kayak is the perfect way to enjoy a summer morning. Canoes work just as well if that's what you prefer. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Get out on the water on a summer morning in a kayak or canoe. If you go early, you can enjoy the coolest part of the day.  (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    Get out on the water on a summer morning in a kayak or canoe. If you go early, you can enjoy the coolest part of the day. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • A summer kayak camp on the Connecticut River. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • A kayak is the perfect way to enjoy a summer morning. Canoes work just as well if that's what you prefer. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • Get out on the water on a summer morning in a kayak or canoe. If you go early, you can enjoy the coolest part of the day.  (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

Are you are among the significant minority (personally, I think we’re a silent majority!) of New Englanders who, when faced with the relentless sun, heat and humidity of July strive to accept with good grace the things we cannot change? The question is: Other than hiding in air conditioning, what can you do to survive until the weather improves? How can you stay active and have fun without succumbing to summer lethargy.

The heat-of-summer strategy for my sweetheart Marilyn and me is often one word: paddling. For us, kayaks are our first line of defense against the summer blahs. Of course, canoes are just as good; it’s just personal preference.

When the weather’s cool, we’ll go for a paddle almost any time of day or night, whenever the mood strikes. Like everyone in New England, we have lovely places to paddle only minutes from our house. Every little pond and marsh, every quiet section of every river, every lake and coastal bay is a place to be explored. You don’t need to make a big deal of it. You just throw boats on the car racks, grab paddles, PFDs and a water bottle, and go.

But, in the heat of July and early August, we typically become sunrise paddlers. First, we check the weather the night before and make sure that morning thunderstorms are unlikely or, at least, not inevitable. When we get the all-clear, we decide where we want to go and throw the appropriate boats (yes, we have choices) on the car. Then we get up very early and try to be on the water well before sunrise.

That occasionally means fighting off hordes of mosquitoes as we launch (they disappear once we are on the water and moving), so it pays to be prepared. But it also gives us a cool couple of hours to paddle and enjoy ourselves before the sun starts really cooking and other people emerge.

If you’ve never tried a sunrise paddle, I think you’d be amazed at how quiet the world can be on a summer morning, especially on weekdays. On the ocean, you’ll have to share the water with lobster boats, and on lakes you’ll occasionally find a waterskier who wants to get out before the lake gets choppy (and thus creates a choppy lake … go figure). Some rivers are really popular with paddlers (the Saco around Conway comes quickly to mind). But much of the time, in the early morning, you can have the water all to yourself.

Sunrise is definitely the best time of day to paddle (or bike, or hike) in summer and most folks sleep through it. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Kayaks, canoes and camping

Camping is another wonderful way to get through July, and kayaks, canoes and campsites just kind of naturally go together.

There are two great ways to combine camping and paddling. The simplest is to just camp somewhere that offers paddling opportunities and bring your canoe or kayaks along.

Many of the developed campgrounds around New England, especially state parks, are on the water, and many of those offer canoe and kayak rentals if you don’t happen to have your own. It’s a great way to get started in both camping and paddling.

A number of sea-kayak guides along the Maine coast offer multi-day camping excursions, usually to islands along the mid-coast. You pay a basic fee and supply your own tents and sleeping bags, they provide the kayaks, all the cooking gear and food. It’s a fabulous way to get started and if you want recommendations, just drop me a note. If you own sea kayaks and camping gear, join the Maine Island Trail Association (mita.org) and just go whenever you want.

Of course, if you own your own canoes, kayaks and camping gear, you have a world of other options, too. I’d suggest checking out the campsites along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (northernforestcanoetrail.org), especially the ones on Umbagog Lake (nhstateparks.org) in northern New Hampshire. Another great paddle/camp resources is the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail (connecticutriverpaddlerstrail.org), with campsites from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound. Even in the height of summer you can usually find a campsite here. Finally, Lake George (lakegeorge.com/camping) in New York state has a host of island campsites for kayakers and canoeists, and there are myriad sites in the Adirondacks (dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7825.html).

Great Bay Discovery Center

The Great Bay Discovery Center (greatbay.org) in Greenland is putting on a bunch of discovery programs this summer. One that caught my eye is the Watershed Series Kayak Program, focused on learning how human activities and behavior at the top of the watershed affect other people and the environment all the way from the headwaters to the ocean. This paddle series consist of three trips, each focusing on a specific section of the watershed. You can sign up for one, two or all three.

∎ July 16, 5-7 p.m.: Sunset Birding in the Great Bay estuary where rivers meet the sea. This departs from the Great Bay Discovery Center. Cost is $35 per person, $25 for Great Bay Stewards Members and only $15 with your own kayak. No prior kayak experience is necessary for this trip.

∎ July 19, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Celebrate Freshwater on Pawtuckaway Lake. This departs from Pawtuckaway State Park, Neal’s Cove Boat Launch and focuses on the freshwater habitats at the top of the watershed. Prior kayak experience is necessary. Please provide your own kayak for this program. Cost is $15 per person and plus a $5 per person park entrance fee.

∎ Aug. 23, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Coastal Beautification by Kayak at Odiorne Point Boat Launch in Rye. Bring your own boat for a challenging paddling day on the ocean. Harbor seals are common here. The group will help with a rocky shoreline beautification project for the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Prior kayak experience is necessary. Cost is $20 plus a $5 parking fee.

To register, call 603-778-0015.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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