WYOMING — Okay parents and caregivers, we’ve all experienced the trials of finding activities to get our kids off and away from electronic devices.
I made that my goal this summer, along with pushing my son to try new activities.
So, when I saw Frances Slocum State Park’s advertisement for a Morning Kayak Paddle on June 9, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce Nick to a water sport my husband and I had enjoyed before he was born.
I called the park’s environmental educator Kathy Kelchner and learned kayaks would be provided and that we should wear hats, sunscreen and bug spray.
I also informed her Nick has never kayaked before, but has rowed a canoe, a boat and he can swim. I forgot to mention the year he was on the Times Leader’s Dragon Boat team for the Dragon Boat Races on the Susquehanna River during River Fest.
I reassured her I felt he could handle a kayak.
My husband Eric was thrilled with the idea and we decided not to tell Nick what we were doing, instead telling him only we were going on an adventure and he should wear clothes that could get wet or muddy.
It was not until the kayaking day I told him he would be in a boat on the water. The ‘Mom, what are you getting me into?’ look was priceless.
We were all a little over eager and arrived at the park’s Education Center nearly 20 minutes early.
The lake was calm and inviting.
Kathy suited us up with life jackets, a must when you’re on state waters.
She told us we might see a variety of wildlife on our voyage, including Great Blue Herons, deer, jumping fish, turtles and bullfrogs.
Before getting in our kayaks, she told us to first inspect our boats to make sure we didn’t have any “unwanted passengers, such as a mouse or snake.”
Nick was first to get in his kayak and get pushed offshore. He wobbled a bit until he gained his balance and then had to figure out how to paddle. Once he figured out what side of the paddle to use, Nick was gliding through the water with ease. I was impressed.
I was next, then Eric.
Soon, three other participants arrived, suited up and joined us on the water.
Then, Kathy paddled out to meet us and we were on our way to explore the lake.
She kept a close eye on Nick as she paddled over to a lilypad area. She told us to look carefully and we could see turtles sticking their heads out of the water among the lilypads.
I did see quite a few, but when my kayak drifted too close, their heads quickly dropped beneath the water surface.
We made a loop around the lilypads and paddled along the opposite shore from where we launched.
It was incredibly peaceful.
Songbirds were singing and occasionally a bullfrog could be heard.
The water’s surface created a mirror image of the lush green trees and vegetation along the shore. Our paddles broke the reflection as they slipped in and out of the water, propelling our kayaks forward as we followed Kathy.
The atmosphere made all the troubles of the work week slip away.
As we approached a partially submerged tree trunk, Kathy pointed to several painted turtles sunning themselves on an exposed section of the trunk.
I counted over a dozen turtles sitting there, end-to-end.
Kathy explained a type of bacteria forms on the turtles when they are in the water so they come out and stretch their necks, legs and tails in the sun to kill the bacteria.
“When they get too hot, they drop into the water,” she said. “Watch as we get close. They will fall, like dominoes, into the water.”
One-by-one, the turtles jumped into the water with a plop as our kayaks glided closer.
Kathy tried to get Nick to help her get a turtle on her kayak paddle, but the reptiles were too fast and exited their sunbathing platform before the duo moved into reaching distance.
We continued what became an hour and a half voyage, stopping only once for a drink break.
At that time, both Nick and Eric gave me a thumbs up for signing them up for the kayak paddle.
We did see a Great Blue Heron along the shore and watched him fly to the opposite shore with his long legs stretched out behind him.
I overheard Kathy say the park often offers guided kayak tours throughout the summer and fall.
We will keep our eyes open for the next one.
In the meantime, there is an abundance of free or low-cost local activities to do during the summer; just keep your eyes on the Dallas Post’s Civic Briefs listing or Google local state parks and see what’s on their calendars.
You may be surprised.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.