At which point I began to doubt that this was necessarily the wisest way for my spouse and I to learn kayaking.
It’s something we’ve always wanted to do but hadn’t really found a way. We checked out kayaking classes and ran up against some teachers who felt that learning to kayak was a major lifestyle decision — nay, a calling — and we would need to approach it with the same solemnity and devotion one might expect from novice monks.
So, we kind of shelved that idea for a while.
Then we had the chance to go on a kayaking dealy with our Druidry group. Score! All we’d have to do is rent a kayak and some life jackets, and we could figure it out, right?
Since we were both going, we could just get a tandem kayak. My spouse has more upper body endurance than I do right now, so he could do the majority of the paddling with me as backup. It’d be easier and safer than taking individual kayaks, where something could happen that’d conceivably result in one of us needing a tow anyway. Easy peasy!
Tandem kayaks are known as “divorce boats” because, as it turns out, paddling a kayak with two people is only slightly more difficult than herding cats or folding origami dragons using nothing but your forehead. If your paddling isn’t in unison, then things get weird. You might hit each other’s paddles, or spin in a circle, or distribute your weight wrong and flip over.
(Speaking of which, did you know that kayaks can be carried on your head?
It’s true! A kayak might seem way too big at first glance, but, once you flip it over and put it on your head, it’s capsized! ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ )
Fortunately, our partnership survived the Ordeal of the Tandem Kayak, and nobody even almost drowned. He sat in front, so I just kind of let him set the rhythm, helped with turns, and took over when he needed to rest for a bit. It was way easier and less nerve-wracking than I expected it to be, and we were both honestly impressed that we not only didn’t get dumped in the water, but actually managed to paddle for several miles along the Anacostia River.
The Anacostia has a bad rap. In the past, this wasn’t entirely undeserved. For a long time, it was used as pretty much DC’s trash dump — to the point where parts of it are still lined with the remnants of “malaria walls.” These were retaining walls designed to help cut down on some of the garbage and assorted filth that ended up in the river, which created stagnant areas that turned into malarial mosquito breeding grounds. While this was once (sadly) helpful, it’s even more helpful to not dump things in the water in the first place. The river itself is much better than it used to be, and there are ongoing efforts to protect and improve it.
For our part, we all had grabby tools for picking up any bits of floating trash that we passed by, and mesh laundry bags for holding on to it until we could reach a trash can. (As it turns out, they’re pretty much perfect for towing along behind a boat when you don’t want to have to keep muddy water bottles and waterlogged grocery bags in your lap.) Since neither of us was solely responsible for paddling, it made it easier to grab the occasional piece of litter. It’s like the watery equivalent of plogging.
We paused for a bit near clusters upon clusters of lotuses. They aren’t in bloom right now, but the lush greenery, blue sky, songs of the red winged blackbirds, deep twang of frog calls, and the scent of catalpa flowers were still beautiful. We said a short prayer in reverence and gratitude, pausing to take it all in as we bobbed gently on the slow, easy current.
If I had to give one piece of advice here, it’d be to not just put sunscreen on your face, arms, and shins, decide that’s good enough, and let your upper thighs get burned to the color and consistency of glazed ham. I don’t even burn easily, but the sun, lack of shade, and light reflected off of the water was way more brutal than I’d anticipated. Sun hats and cool, long clothing is a must. I went with a broad-brimmed hat, a bright, long-sleeved two-piece bathing suit, a pair of jorts, and some hiking sandals. With the exception of the jorts, this worked out pretty well.
Seriously. It’s only on my upper thighs.
I have Neapolitan legs.
It’s ridiculous, and now every time I wear pants it feels like I’m rolling in ground glass.
The aloe plants in my kitchen aren’t super happy about the situation, either.
Also, wear bright oranges, yellows, and hot pink. The color of your swimsuit/clothing can make a huge difference if you end up in the water and need to be saved. You might be surprised at just how many colors seem to blend in and disappear under water, especially natural bodies of water.
All in all, the experience was 10/10. (I won’t even deduct a point for sunburn, because that was my own dumbass fault.) The only near accident came when I noticed a small stowaway on my hat, and we tried to navigate near an overhanging branch to let them go safely. A boat passed by, and the wake made things get weird for a moment.
(This stowaway was a spider. If you have arachnophobia, you should maybe stop scrolling now.)
(It’s kind of a small spider, though. The picture makes it look a lot bigger than it really was.)
(Also this is not a back widow or brown recluse, so it probably isn’t bitey. Even if it is, it is probably super not a big deal.)
I’m excited to go again. I had a ton of fun, and I know how to do even better next time. Our group also had long stretches of the river pretty much to ourselves, too, so it was honestly a pretty beautiful and profound experience.