Why Do We Paddle?

By Jeff and Suzanne Bahls

We sat down to write about a paddling adventure but couldn't just pick out one, so we settled on why we paddle. It gets us into some pretty cool places…

sunset by kayak
There's nothing like a sunset on the water!

Not only exotic places like Alaska, Lake Superior Sea Caves, Death's Door on Lake Michigan or BWCA, but also a small river just of couple miles from our house. It has this really neat rocky outcrop that one would expect in some "famous" river.

Our most cherished paddle is little creek that passes through our property. Many birds and animals have been spotted along the way. From a lone Sandhill crane nesting on a muskrat hut to great-blue herons, yellow-headed blackbirds or orioles following us along the way. Paddling, any time of day and any season, gets us away from the roads, noise and stress and gets us connected to nature, peacefulness and tranquility.

Every paddle is its own adventure.  For a couple years a pair of bald eagle built a nest in a tree that hung out over the river. I’m pretty sure we paddled that stretch on a weekly basis to see if the Eaglets had hopped out of the nest onto a branch yet.

bald eagle
One of the eagles with nest material

One year as we paddled around a bend, Jeff was going along, close to shore and a roosting barred owl, sitting on a low branch took off, he could feel the wind from its wings as the owl flew over his head. Snow was falling lightly as we launched our boats for a winter paddle and Suz spotted a red fox taking a drink at the edge of the river.

We've had lunch with Prothonotary warblers. An otter family swim under our boats, mink run alongside the stream bank with us. Deer stare us down. Dragonflies have hitched rides on our boats. A leech latched on to a paddle. We found a little snapping turtle. A pelican nearly landed on one of us.

A local beaver

Yet sometimes we are just as thrilled seeing hoar frost on ice or icicles hanging off the ledge during a winter paddle. Naraly bark on a tree, moss on a log, or the exposed roots of some tree that had tipped over long ago. Dew on a spider web hanging from a branch. Frogs. Singing birds. A few drops of rain. I guess we paddle for adventure whatever form it may come in.

Every once in a while, we get to paddle for a purpose, like the time we helped band Trumpeter swans with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation. Our title: "Swan wranglers." We paddled alongside young swans until they tired, then hoisted them into our boat, and at 18 lbs I do mean hoist! We then transported them back to shore for banding and processing. I think that was the most fun I have ever had in a boat.  

swan wrangling in a kayak
Suzanne, the Swan Wrangler!

For us, it brings us back to center. It’s simple…a boat, a paddle and a PFD and you're set. Ready for a new adventure!

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