Saturday, March 28, 2009

Get Ready for New England Paddlesports Show

Mark your calendar now for the New England Paddlesports Show next weekend. That's April 3-5 at the University of New Hampshire Field House in Durham. Doesn't matter if you're a novice, expert, or somewhere in between -- if you're into canoeing or kayaking of any kind (stillwater, whitewater, or sea), this one's for you!

Of course, you'll find knowledgeable salespeople and the latest gear here. But what I really like about this show are the seminars and in-pool demonstrations. Short of taking a hands-on class, it's the best way to get some great tips. Here's a sampling of some of the sessions:
  • Getting Started Kayaking
  • How to Choose a Kayak
  • Kayak and Canoe the Northern Forest Trail
  • Kayaking for Women
  • Easier Kayaking for All Skill Levels
    • The above topics are mostly for those new to the sport. But if you're more experienced and ready to take on bigger challenges, there's plenty of inspiration and expertise for you, too. Check it all out at New England Paddlesports Show and while you're there, be sure to download the coupon for $2 off admission to the show.

      Thursday, March 19, 2009

      Happy Birthday to Us!

      New Hampshire... Love it or Leaf it turned one on March 1st. It's common in the blogosphere to mark this milestone by bragging about your site stats...how many visitors you've had and how many pages were viewed in the past year.
      By comparison, our site stats aren't that impressive--we've had about 5,000 page loads in a year; some sites get that in a single day -- but the numbers make little difference to me. We're a small niche blog, meaning we'll never play with the big kids.

      That's okay with me. What I care most about is serving up useful information for those who do land here.

      If you are a faithful reader or a first time visitor, thanks for stopping by! I hope we continue to earn your trust and loyalty.

      I can honestly say...after three years of kayaking, one year of biking, and one short season of snowshoeing, my enthusiasm for exploring New Hampshire's natural beauty hasn't faded at all. I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait for spring! Please write and let us know what's on your "outdoor adventure" wish list.

      Saturday, March 14, 2009

      How We Lost Our Groove in Florida

      I know this is a blog about New Hampshire, but I promised to write a little more about manatees and our kayaking experiences in Florida two weeks ago. Maybe you had to be there for this one. I'm not sure I can really describe our attempt at tandem kayaking.

      But Here's the Deal
      Tandem kayaking is not for us! We discovered this at Wekiwa Spring State Park in Apopka -- about 45 minutes outside of Orlando. We rented a two-person kayak because that's all they had left. How difficult could it be?

      Plenty! The Wekiva River is narrow and has lots of fallen tree branches and at least a few alligators. There were tons of people out in rented canoes and kayaks, so we were constantly dodging other boats. Doug sat in front -- that was our first mistake. We learned afterward that the stronger person should sit in back.

      My job was to steer the boat, but I couldn't see where we were going. Doug was supposed to tell me to "paddle left" or "paddle right" to avoid obstacles, but apparently it was more conversation than he wanted to make. Add to that the fact that my reaction time is a tad slow, and you start to get the picture!

      Our daughters were ahead of us in a canoe and they could hear us arguing all the way down the river. We hit trees, we hit boats, you name it. It was not fun! Once we arrived safely back at the launch site two hours later (sweaty, exhausted, and a little annoyed) we just looked at each other and laughed. After 33 years of marriage, you learn not to sweat the small stuff.

      We vowed not to say another word about it. Sorry, Doug, I just had to break the silence to warn others: If you're going to try a tandem, at least paddle in an area where there's room to make mistakes.

      A Rescued Manatee Returns to the Wild

      Now, a little more about the manatee released from Disney World during our visit to Blue Spring State Park. We missed the weigh-in and the ultrasound, but we did see this 1,000-pound mammal up close as he got acquainted with life in the wild. Pretty cool!

      "Bock" had been rescued as a 66-pound orphan in 2001 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By the time he was sent to The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot two years later, he weighed 500 pounds -- and that's on a diet of Romaine lettuce, fruits, and vegetables! After 8 years in captivity, his progress is now being monitored by the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.

      I'm not sure how long Bock will be wearing a satellite tracking device, but I guess he's doing his part -- like it or not--to advance our understanding of life in the wild for this endangered species.

      Saturday, March 7, 2009

      Kayaking with the Manatees

      Click to see more photos on smugmug.com.
      A trip to Orlando usually brings a close encounter with a certain mouse, not to mention hours in line at a theme park or two. Well, we visited the area last week and decided instead to explore the natural side of Orlando. Our "featured" activity was kayaking with the manatees on the Crystal River, about 90 minutes northwest of the city.

      Before leaving home, we had booked a three-hour guided trip with Aardvark Kayaking. During the cooler winter months, West Indian manatees or sea cows migrate from the chillier St. Johns River to warmer waters inland. These large, gentle mammals (averaging 800-1,200 pounds) are an endangered species. Many of them carry scars from their run-ins with boat propellers, their largest threat.

      I really wasn't sure what to expect from this trip, although I had imagined a wildlife setting. As it turned out, we never really left civilization behind and didn't cover much distance. But we did see lots of manatees -- at least 20 during our three-hour tour. They are interesting to watch as they slowly glide through the water and pass directly under your boat. It's a little unsettling at first to be sitting in this small watercraft and realize that a 1,000 pound animal is headed your way!

      Our guide explained that manatees can sense where their bodies are and will rarely if ever bump a kayak. They were close enough to touch, although we were advised not to do that. Humans often think that because these large mammals come so close and are gentle, that they are looking to be petted. Some places even allow swimming with the manatees -- for a fee, of course. But the reality is that when humans disturb these creatures, it can cause a mother and calf to be separated.

      I'll write another post soon about an orphaned manatee we saw earlier in the week and also fill you in about kayking in the Wekiva River. For now, I would say that if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to kayak with manatees -- do it!