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Questing For Kayaks-Part I

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Beginning in July 2020, I became a regular contributor to Wisconsin Outdoor News (WON) in "From The Little Cabin In The Woods" column.

This article was published in the WON September 9, 2022 issue.


You know how she is when she gets something in her head,” I have said on many occasions to my son-in-law, Dan Honl, in reference to my daughter, Shannon. “Generally, it is best to just get on with it, as that is where things will end up, eventually.”

I would have said this to him three weeks ago, except Dan was in Canada fishing with his cousins. Shannon was here, in Wisconsin, visiting for the week. We had made definite plans for a musky hunt on the Wisconsin River. We had discussed renting kayaks at Hartman Creek State Park. We had also researched going on a guided, night kayak trip on the Waupaca chain of lakes.

I had been in Waukesha at a dog show with my Airedale, Major, for the weekend. Shannon had been home for two days and was well into her quest for a pedal kayak when I arrived. My route home from Waukesha took me past the little cabin, where I met Stan and Shannon. We had lunch at the Wheelhouse and then took a drive past Schmidt Boat Lifts and Docks, a Hobie kayak dealer. It was Sunday, so they were not open. We peered through the windows and were amazed at how many models were on display. Shannon must have hit dial on her iPhone, the minute the store opened on Monday. Before I knew it, we were headed to Waupaca to look at pedal kayaks, up close and personal.

Pedal kayaks are not the simple, lightweight craft that you use a two-ended paddle to move. Depending upon the brand, they have a mechanism that sets into a hole in the floor of the kayak, just ahead of a seat that perches above the boat. Some brands use a bicycling motion to power the paddles under the kayak. Some use a motion similar to that of a stair-stepper exercise machine to transfer power from your legs to the paddles underneath. You change direction using a lever mounted next to the seat that controls a rudder. What is the attraction of all this? It is mostly hands-free. It is a very efficient use of muscle groups, that, especially for women, are generally better developed and stronger. These types of kayaks are very stable in the water. Also, you are not dropping water onto your lap with each stroke of a paddle, because you are not paddling.

The salesperson at Schmidt, Kendal Kolpien, was excellent. He took us from model to model, explained the pricing, the colors, the options, and answered all of Shannon’s many questions thoroughly and politely. Shannon asks LOTS of questions. He held the kayaks steady on their cradles so we could sit in them. We are both under 5’ 3”. He adjusted the pedal mechanisms so we could be sure that we could comfortably reach them.

The different models ranged from a fairly stripped down, and lighter weight model whose mechanism only moves the boat forward, to fully loaded tandem models that reverse and that are set up for fish locaters, rod holders, cup holders, and in-hull coolers. Most models can take sail kits or Bimini tops. There was a mid-range model, the Outback, that could be tricked out for fishing. I was on that like a bass on a June bug. Now, Shannon was not the only Thomas woman with “something in her head.” I could see myself in that boat.

For Shannon, this started in mid-July when Stan’s brother, Steve Thomas, and his wife, Bonnie, hosted family members at their lake home in Siren, WI. Shannon attended with her female Airedale, Vesper. Steve had kayaks. So, Shannon decided to see if she could get Vesper to go with her. They started on land. Shannon got her to sit in the Kayak. They did a few rounds of putting Vesper in the craft and letting her get out at will. Eventually they moved onto Shannon towing her around in the shallows. Finally, they went for a ride. No one got wet. She wants a kayak so she can take her dog for a ride.

Shannon was probably ready to buy one on the spot. However, Dan was in Canada. So, she did not know if they should each get one, she should get one just for her, or get a tandem. Where would they store them? How would they transport them? Also, Dan had missed a large

of the quest so far, meaning she was facing the task of bringing her partner to the place where he needed to be on a family issue like this one. I suggested more research.

The next day, we rented pedal kayaks from Adventure Outfitters at Taylor Lake, on the Waupaca chain of lakes. Their kayaks were Malibu brand. They had the bicycle-type mechanism. I was a little nervous. I have not done much kayaking. When Shannon was very young, I took her with me to New Brunswick, where I was speaking at an International Hunter Education Conference. We took a guided kayak trip on the Bay of Fundy, where I worried the whole time about her capsizing into the 33-degree water. Another time, we took a kayaking class as part of a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop in Eleuthera in the Bahamas. My last kayaking experience was 20 years ago. I wondered how I would do.

It could not have been easier. The staff at Adventure, had the kayaks situated on a boat ramp. They gave us instructions about how to run and steer. They pushed us down the ramp into the water and we were off and cruising. We were out there early on a Tuesday morning. There was no traffic. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, and the lake was like glass. We glided silently past lovely lake homes, through lily pad-rimmed, channels, past rows of painted and other turtles sunning themselves on downed logs. You have read many times how much I love being on the water. This experience took being on the water to a whole new level. We only rented the kayaks for two hours. The time just flew by.

“Okay,” I said to Shannon on the way back to Stevens Point. “We know we like pedal kayaks, but the ones you think you want to buy use the stair-stepper motion, not the same as what we tried today. Is there some place where we can rent those?”

Up next…the quest continues.

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