About a week ago, my friends and I signed up for a weekend kayak trip. The activity was organized by Luther College Recreational Services who organizes free kayak trips every weekend for students! The kayaks are also provided by Luther for free. Our kayaking trip took place on the Upper Iowa River from the Pole Line Rd./Bluffton Rd. bridge all the way to Luther College. It was my first time kayaking, so I was no doubt excited for the adventure.
After church on Sunday, my friends and I had a quick lunch and immediately went to the Student Senate office to gather with the rest of the students signed up for the kayak trip. We all got into a van together and then drove to the starting destination. Rec Services had some difficulties that day because one of the trailers carrying the extra kayaks was unable to attach to the van. My friends and I just sat by the bank of the river chatting while we waited for the extra kayaks to come, which didn’t take long. We then got into our life jackets, grabbed our paddles, and helped each other carry our boats towards the river.
The moment I got into my kayak, I wasn’t able to balance my sitting very well so the kayak was constantly oscillating left and right before I was finally able to stabilize it. Once the rest of my friends were in the river with their kayaks, we we all started to get the hang of it. Paddling was tiring at first though because I felt like my paddle was pretty heavy.
But after some time, kayaking immediately became super fun! I knew how to navigate my kayak properly using the paddles—like going left and right, reversing, slowing down, and pushing myself away from the river bank or the rocks in shallow waters. My friends and I even set our kayaks side-by-side (making a kayak train) to take a selfie. At some point we even tried trading snacks while we were kayaking. The journey was simply relaxing. I never knew how beautiful the nature of Decorah was until I took the time to immerse myself completely in its wonderful sceneries. The weather that day was perfect as well. It was sunny with some clouds, with the perfect amount of breeze that blows through the bare tree branches dipping into the river. That is what I call tranquility.
The annoying part about kayaking, however, is when you collide into any of those branches or you can’t paddle fast enough to get unstuck. These branches, as beautiful as they are, were what got me into trouble. My friend and I were kayaking together when the both of us noticed two paths diverging ahead of us. We figured out that the paths both eventually ended up in the same place, but both paths had different currents—one fast, the other slow. We spotted the difference immediately and opted to take on the slow current of course, but since our kayaks were so close, we couldn’t paddle as hard to make it to the slow path. My friend managed to make it on time, but I unfortunately ended up at the intersection among a streak of rocks. Before I knew it, the fast current was pulling me to the other side!
The worst part was that my boat was backwards at that time. I tried to navigate myself to face downstream but the current was too strong and it took me awhile. The next thing I knew, I was about to hit a tree hanging as low as my forehead! What do you do when you’re about to hit a tree? Instinctively, I grabbed onto the tree hoping that it would stop my boat. No thanks to my wits, the strong current pushed the boat with full force, causing my boat to overturn and throw me out of my seat. I then found myself underwater in between some branches and probably some roots; the current was strong enough to pull me away, but thankfully, the depth of the river was only about four feet, so I could stand up.
I called for help immediately. I was lucky that my two other friends were still kayaking behind me, so they came to help. The river was getting colder and colder the longer I stood in it, so I climbed onto the big branches and onto the river bank. From there, my friends arrived and retrieved my kayak that was stuck in between the branches. They poured out all the water and retrieved my paddle and my windbreaker too. I lost my cap and shirt on the way, but it was fine because I couldn’t have been more grateful with my safety. When my kayak was ready and drained from all the river, I got back into it and caught up with my friend who was waiting for me at a nearby river bank. We all of then kayaked our way to Luther until we met up with one of the Recreational Services employees.
I couldn’t have been more grateful to my friends and our chaperone for that trip. I don’t suppose my parents would be happy if I ever decide to go kayaking again, but nevertheless I was grateful for the experience. It was truly invaluable. I guess the only tip I would give when you’re going to kayak is to stay in the center. ALWAYS. Also, don’t panic when you know you’re about to collide into a tree branch because apart from my boat overturning, I crashed into a lot of other tree branches, but the kayak was strong enough to go unbalanced from the force. Just push yourself from the river bank and DON’T try to stop your kayak from the collision.