A Winter Hike For Exercise

Today I first tried to ice skate since there is minimal snow on the ice.  Unfortunately the rain 8 days ago pretty much ruined the surface, so I struggled for a little while exercising the dogs at the same time throwing balls on the ice using a “chuck it.”  Then we headed off to Peach Mountain on foot for a nice hike in the woods.

I could have cross country skied as well, there is just enough snow, not a lot of base but the rains also put a hard layer of ice and snow on the ground.  The vertical drop from the top is 300 feet according to my GPS.  This is a pretty good rise and you’re out of breath at the top if you walk fast.  Dogs are panting also by the top.  I would classify the cross country skiing as intermediate to advanced due to the hills, I’m also a downhill skier, so I enjoy the runs down the mountain from the top.

The views from the trail are scenic and the peaceful quiet is relaxing.  There are many ridges and gullies in the area formed by glaciers many years ago.  The trees are relatively new as they were logged at the turn of the century.  The woods have been allowed to return and some sections planted with pines during the depression.  These are CCC trees, go check Google if you want to know more about the history of the trees and Michigan.

The point I’m trying to make is there are interesting places to get outdoors and get exercise close to the developed areas in the greater Detroit area.  Parks along the Huron River is another example.  The Pinckney Recreation area is just beautiful, hard to tell you are not up North.  Waterloo Recreation is another nearby area for some nice outdoor exploration.

The main thing is even in winter you can explore, get exercise, and have a great time.  If your active outside in the winter, dressed appropriately for the activity, you will find that you are not cold at all.  Be careful to not overdress as this is the best way to get cold while enjoying the winter landscape.

Kayak Entry and Exit From Shore

Getting in and out of your kayak from shore.  In cold weather keep yourself dry on entry and exit.

Some people will tell you that you can have your kayak perpendicular to the shore with the front of the kayak on shore or on a ramp to get in then push off.  I have never found this method to work for me, too much effort to get the kayak off the shore when you’re in it.  So I am not going to cover that method.

This method works on a sandy beach, a rocky shore line, on a ramp, or a river bank.  Line your kayak up parallel to the shore in enough water to float the kayak.

Put your paddle across the back of the cock pit on the deck, the rest of the paddle is on shore.  You will be placing your weight on the paddle such that the pressure is on the part on shore using your hands about shoulder length apart on the paddle shaft.

Now there are two ways to get in from here.  One is to sit on the shore and swing your feet in then keeping the weight on the paddle quickly move your butt into the seat.  The other is to straddle the kayak with your legs over the cock pit then when lowering your butt into the seat keep the weight on the paddle on the shore to stabilize the kayak, the once your butt is in the seat quickly pull your legs into the kayak.  This second method only works if the cock pit is large and the opening in front of the seat is big enough for you to get your feet in after you’re seated.

To get out basically do the reverse of which ever method you used to get in.

One way you can keep your feet dry, the other make sure the ground is dry before sitting down if you want to keep your seat dry.  Either way just a little practice and you can look like you know what you’re doing and not dump yourself into the water.

Look for a certified instructor for basic kayaking techniques who can show you all the correct ways to start kayaking

Kayak Roll In December

Sunday while there was a blizzard going on I was on my way to do some kayaking, with the kayak on the roof of my truck. People must have thought I was crazy. I was going to a 4 hour intensive training session with Expanding Horizons in a nice warm pool at Brighton Michigan High school. There were only two people in the class today, good for a lot of personal training. Normally there 4 to 6 people in the class, but I guess a snowy December day is not when most people think about kayaking.

I just got some new tires on my truck Saturday, two tires had slow leaks, not fun filling up tires all the time in the cold, and 2 weeks ago I almost went off the freeway during a sudden down pour where my breaks did not even work, the truck was hydroplaning due to the low treads on the truck. So today I really enjoyed the new tread in the snow, not needing four wheel drive, they are even better than my last set of tires for traction in the snow.

Back to the pool. As you may know I do not claim to be a kayak expert, only that I can help someone go from zero kayaking to being pretty good at it. Today’s class was for learning how to roll. The class started out with a video for a slightly different technique than I was used to. I think this one is easier to learn. That is the advantage of going to a certified instructor that knows the latest methods. Then we moved to the pool deck for a little rolling on dry land. Moving quickly then to the water for the remainder of the session. We held onto the front of the kayak and got some practice going from the side to upright, then next was a paddle float for a roll starting upside down.

There is actually a lot of time when you’re turned over to set the roll up and try to remember everything taught so far. The biggest thing to overcome is rushing the roll and bringing your head up too fast. If you follow the technique exactly the kayak feels like it is turn itself upright almost on its own. I got it, and at least for about 5 rolls on my own. Then when I was to show off my new found skill I lost it. I was my head coming up too soon. By this time I was getting tired so with the knowledge I now had, I know I can be a rolling fool at my next pool session.

Next step is to reduce the air in the paddle float and continue the rolls. I learned that the paddle really does very little in the roll as far as pushing the kayak over. The paddle does more to set up how your body moves and having the right weight distribution. The paddle movement is called a high brace. I need to practice this more as well.

I felt very good after the class; I was told it would take longer than this to get the roll technique going. You do need to get used to being upside down and under water. Moving nice and slow works to get the kayak over without much effort. If you’re working hard at it then you are not doing it right. I was tired so I knew I did not do it right as often as I need to be.

Just practice and having someone to critique and coach you is all it takes. Find a certified instructor before you get bad habits formed. Remember to get exercise and start kayaking.

Audio Link

Kayak Entry and Exit

Getting into and out of your kayak can be embarrassing if not done right and you end up in the water and not your kayak. You don’t have to look graceful doing it, just have to be effective at staying out of the water especially if it is in the colder weather.

My lake already has a thin layer of ice on it now so all my kayaking likely will be done in the pool except for maybe a trip or two down the Huron River in sections that do not freeze. I’m looking forward for some good lake ice to ice skate, conditions are not always right for forming smooth ice. This year has promise if it does not warm up again.

Kayak Dock Entry or Exit
If you have a dock for entry that is close to the water, I find this the easiest and best way to get in and out of a kayak dry. The technique is simple but there are a couple of pitfalls to keep in mind. First make sure you have what you need in the kayak or within reaching distance. Most important is knowing where your paddle is and not losing it. If you are a beginner kayaker, you can use a paddle strap / cord that keeps the paddle loosely attached to your kayak, sort of like those gloves attached to winter coats mothers make their small children to wear.

This fall I was getting in at my dock and the paddle was on the dock (no strap) and I was in the kayak adjusting the foot peddles, not paying a lot of attention to the dock, it was a very windy day, and before I knew it, I was away from the dock, the water was not deep but cold, so I did not want to paddle with my hands or get my feet wet. Glad there was nobody there to see me, pretty embarrassing, so I had to wait until the wind blew me side ways to my neighbors dock, then I could get back out and go get my paddle. Fortunately the wind was in the right direction rather than blowing me out in the lake. This is perhaps another reason to have a back-up paddle attached to your kayak (another tip).

The dock technique is to sit down next to your kayak (don’t let your kayak get away from you, use a rope or cord attached to the dock if you need to). Then put your feet in, turning your body towards the bow of the boat, and then quickly move your butt from the dock and into your seat while still holding onto the dock. Make sure your weight is distributed correctly so the kayak does not roll to the side during this maneuver. Moving quickly is effective in keeping the kayak stable. To get out just reverse the actions getting your butt out of the seat and onto the dock with your feet still in the boat. I have even used a belly flop onto the dock and a roll, at times when I’m tired, this also works. Just not pretty. The proper dock technique can be practiced at the pool session in the off season. I will cover other entry methods in following blogs, those however will require warmer conditions to practice.

Sitting In Your Kayak
Many new kayakers are not used to sitting in a kayak and may not know how to adjust their recreational kayak seat properly. The best position for kayaking is an upright position. Most recreational kayaks have seat back supports that can be adjusted. Remember a kayak is not a ghetto cruiser and having your seat back adjusted all the way back is not what you want, otherwise you will have a sore back. Adjust the seat back so that it forces you to sit upright. If adjusted correctly you will be using your abdominal muscles to sit upright, you won’t be leaning forward. The balls of your feet will be on the foot pedals and your legs will be rotated outwards against the sides of the kayak and under the side pads if your kayak has them. When you purchase a kayak look for kayaks that have pedals, if it does not have them, then look for another model.

Remember get out there and do something for your health. You can always start kayaking.

Audio Podcast

How To Kayak

With the weather colder, days shorter in December in Southeast Michigan I have not been able to make my own videos lately, so I found a good collection of “How To Kayak” videos on YouTube.com most being made by REI.com,  the links are at the end of this post, just click on them to open a new window, then come back to this window for the next.

Not all the techniques have worked for me, maybe they will work for you, so I thought one of my goals for next summer is to make a series of “how to” videos of my own with things I know work, and are used by my kayak friends most of which are better kayakers than I am.  This way I am showing techniques that work by everyone that I know and should work for you as well.

As I have mentioned before winter is a good time to learn kayaking skills, watch the videos and take some classes in pools held by various certified  instructors.  I’m taking a rolling class next Sunday and hope to make some comments about that experience.  I will stand out a little driving around in 20F degree weather with my sea kayak getting to and from the pool.

Getting into and out of a Kayak



Kayak Basics


Basic Strokes


Paddling Tips


Wet Exit


How To Choose A Kayak


Audio Podcast

Extreme Kayaking

There are many types of kayaking and so many places to go to kayak.  I enjoy flat water kayaking which means there are no rapids however the water is not always flat, especially if you venture out in to the Great Lakes to kayak.  There is white water kayaking such as the video linked to this post.  This is extreme kayaking in an exotic place that most people will never get to.

There is limited white water kayaking in Michigan which is one reason I prefer flat water sea kayaking.  There is maybe more excitement in white water kayaking, but is it also more dangerous.  I have no desire hurt myself finding enjoyment in less risky sports.  I am also not likely to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute just for the fun of it.  Go ahead call me boring.  I used to be a speed freak, fast cars, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, but now I get my speed fix from a road bike peddling hard.  I still enjoy skiing down a mountain as fast as my ability will allow.  I prefer hot summer weather for vacations to a cold mountain ski so I don’t ski as much as I would like.

So there are many ways to get outside and do something.  I am promoting more human powered fun activities so that there is the element of exercise as well in the activity.  You could also consider them green activities since there is no fossil fuel being burned.  Just get out there and start kayaking, help your body and do no harm.  You don’t have to be an environmentalist to enjoy a sport without the sound of an engine.

Check out the video for some white water kayaking in a far away land.

Audio Podcast

Sea Kayaking Tips

Is It Too Cold In Michigan?

If you think it is too cold to paddle these days in Michigan, then you need to watch this guy in BC from last January.  The guy is a nut doing multiple rolls.  The conditions are not slowing him down a bit.  Of course he is an expert kayaker and he has the right gear for the conditions.  Someone starting to kayak won’t be doing this and not in these conditions.

What you can learn from this video is how the roll is done if you watch closely.  Notice the sweeping of the paddle and the position of the paddle.  Notice how he lays back on the kayak and stays there until the kayak is upright.  He is also using  a Greenland style paddle which also has a learning curve.  Here’s what was said about the Greenland paddle:

Narrower blade, and shorter length than Euro-style paddle. Less fatigue in shoulders, especially during prolonged periods of paddling (hours/days/weeks/months). Designed to allow for hand positioning at any point along paddle (tip to tip).  Personal choice primarily.  I am ordering one for next years paddling from a guy who custom makes them out of carbon fiber rather then the traditional wood which makes it more buoyant.

There are so many interesting things to learn, so get out there and start kayaking!

Any body want to go to BC for kayaking in January?

Audio Podcast

Kayak Rolling – A Learning Process

If you are just beginning to get into kayaking you really don’t need to know how to roll, no worries.  However after you have mastered all the basics then to be able to show off you can learn how to roll.  It’s also for safety when you get into rough water and deep water.

It’s easy once you know how.  The trick is learning it so it’s second nature.  There is technique involved, and it is easier to learn with an instructor who is certified such as Expanding Horizons or a knowledgeable friend to help you.

Audio Podcast

Huron River Kayaking

Are you looking for exercise, serenity, a chance to explore, and a feeling of being at one with nature? Perhaps all of these are at your own back door in Southeast Michigan with the Huron River.

My area is the chain of lakes in Livingston and Washtenaw county.  There is also good Kayaking North and South of me on the Huron River,  Although South of Ann Arbor is not as kayak friendly as the portages have not been designed to be river trip friendly.

The Huron is considered to be flat-water kayaking. There are a couple short stretches South of the chain of lakes with white water that can be avoided if you desire.  The problem with power boats is that in no time at all, the entire body of water has been traversed.  Some people enjoy this, considering it as just travel time to get to their destination to fish, duck hunt, swim, or just relax. I want to be able to appreciate the journey. Perhaps I’m more journey oriented than destination oriented when it comes to enjoying the water.   That is why I enjoy flat water kayaking so much even in less than perfect weather.

The chain of lakes and river  that can be negotiated in a powerboat end to end in a little over one hour, is a full day’s adventure for the paddler. The degree of exercise depends on how hard one paddles.  It is up to you.  For me, as I start such a journey, initially I found myself approaching it with the same rush as in my weekday life. Then the rhythm of the paddling takes over.

The rush to get somewhere disappears and the journey becomes that which is important.  The steady rhythm of the padding melts away the tensions of the week, plus the excess calories, the relaxation that follows allows me to take in the beauty of the slowly passing scenery around me. It is peaceful and yet exciting.

My experience is such that paddling has become automatic. Paddling a kayak involves the entire body, not just the paddle.  I have a sense of being one with the boat, you become the boat, and the boat puts me so close to the water, that I soon feel to be a part of it as well.  I have watched the great blue heron eye me as it decides when to take flight, or stay frozen like a decoy. I have had deer run across streams in front of me, and watch me from the shore.  I have paddled by wary turtles sitting on floating logs on the shore. Because of the slow pace of the kayak or canoe, otherwise small bodies of water become potential sources of adventure and there are more lakes and rivers nearby that I can visit and explore.

Southeast Michigan Lakes and Rivers for kayaking map

The Huron River is a highly accessible river and is a  favorite getaway for families throughout the Detroit metro area. It winds through expensive lakeside developments of northwestern Oakland County and peaceful farm country around the villages of Hamburg, Dexter, the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to the busy industrial communities downriver from Detroit. The river still has a rural remote feel despite its proximity to development with numerous small towns and larger cities.

So if you have never been kayaking, even now in the late fall there are still some opportunities to paddle.  Now is also the time to take some training indoors to get into kayaking the right way and the safe way.  There are introductory classes available, and more advance classes as well which I’m planning on this winter.  There are many resources to find instruction, people I would recommend just from having personal contact with them are the following links:

Expanding Horizons
Black Parrot Paddling
Kayak Corral

Audio Podcast