Eric Douglas: Float with nature; take a mini-vacation

For a while now, I’ve been seeing people with kayaks all over the valley. I always tell myself that I need to get out on the water and try it. I’ve even thought about buying a kayak.

But I kept putting it off and worrying about how to transport a kayak. I mean, they are 12 feet long. That’s not something easy to move around, even if they only weigh 50 pounds or so.

Realistically, those were excuses. Before I ever dropped the money on one, I needed to try it out. That meant getting out on the water to see if I liked it. Another summer had almost passed me by when I decided to make it happen.

There are several rental companies around, so I booked a six-and-a-half-mile float on the Elk River. When I showed up, a rain 48 hours before had the river up some and muddy, but I wasn’t worried about that. I figured a little extra flow would make the trip a bit easier – I wouldn’t have to paddle as much.

My first couple minutes in the seat were a little unsteady. It took me a bit to get used to the movement and then I was able to relax.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The first 15 or 20 minutes, I was doing math in my head about how long the trip should take and what time I would be done because there were some other things I needed to do.

Finally, floating by myself down the middle of the Elk River above Queen Shoals, I felt myself relax. It was like a weight came off my shoulders and I was able to truly enjoy the experience. I had to get my head out of the process and just enjoy the water, the trees and everything else around me.

The most surprising part of the trip? There are rapids on the Elk. In my head, I knew there would be. I mean, that’s what shoals are. But there were several places where the water took me on a fun little ride. Of course these would probably be classified as Class .5 rapids, but it was still a fun experience.

Once I got home, I was tired but in a good mood the rest of the day – even though I mowed the grass later.

The biggest lesson for me was to not let life get in the way. I need to get out and try things that are literally in my back yard. It’s not as great as taking a week-long vacation, but it’s a lot more convenient and a lot less expensive too. It did some good for my mental state.

I’ll be back on a kayak soon, too. I want to get some more practice before the winter sets in.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com

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