Saturday, August 13, 2022

Kayak yak

Daily Inter Lake | July 24, 2022 12:00 AM

I finally got my kayak out on the water this month for the first time, the latest in any season I’ve had my boat out.

Kayaking season can be from May into October, even early November. One year I rendezvoused on Halloween evening with a friend on Foys Lake and we circumnavigated the lake wearing witches hats.

But this year, weather and circumstances delayed me until the first skills session of the year in Somers Bay sponsored by the Flathead Paddlers nonprofit kayaking group. I’d joined the group about eight years ago, the year after I got my kayak. Up until then, I’d only kayaked a couple times, once with the Women On Water (WOW) class that FVCC used to offer in the summer. I remember thinking on my way home from that bluebird day paddling on Flathead Lake from Dayton to Wild Horse Island that if I was to ever pick up another sport it would likely be kayaking. But kayaks and gear are expensive.

When I heard about a raffle for one being held in conjunction with a fundraising event in Polson, I bought a $10 ticket. Turned out I’d won a pretty darn nice Dagger Alchemy kayak and was even able to pick the color — I chose yellow (figuring it would make me more spottable by rescuers.) The one catch was that it had to be delivered to a retailer, not a private residence. I called Sportsman & Ski Haus in Kalispell and the good people there not only offered to have the kayak delivered to their store but, when I realized I didn’t have a way to get it home because I didn’t yet have a kayak carrier on my car, they even offered to deliver it to my house. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I came home and saw that sunny yellow kayak sitting there.

Flathead Paddlers requires all participants “prove-up” annually, which entails a wet exit (capsize) followed by an unassisted re-entry. It’s a skill no kayaker should be without, but takes some grit to accomplish. Due to my overzealousness over the years, I’ve often come away with bruises on my knees and shins after heaving myself on the stern of my boat and corkscrewing my body back into the cockpit with the aid of an inflatable paddle float.

I recently kayaked Smith Lake, one I prefer to paddle in the spring before it starts filling in with pond lilies, reeds and aquatic weeds. Ashley Creek is accessible for a limited time from the lake and a favorite pastime is paddling up the creek a few miles where it’s practically guaranteed you’ll see great blue herons, eagles, turtles, ducks, and even swans. This time I’d talked myself out of attempting to navigate through the reeds to find the creek entrance because I figured it was too late in the season.

But just as I was about to get in my boat, (Unbelievably, I was the sole person at the lake) a guy pulled up, passenger window rolled down and we started chatting about kayaking. In passing, I mentioned I happened to get interested in kayaking because I’d won mine. He then told me he’d also won his — also a Dagger, though a different model — by filling out lots of slips for a drawing sponsored by an Idaho grocery chain where each of its stores was giving away a kayak.

Now, that’s what I would call serendipitous — the two of us (the only ones around) striking up a conversation on the shore of Smith Lake, and both happened to have won Dagger kayaks.

But what was even more serendipitous for me was that when he asked me if I ever kayaked up Ashley Creek, I replied “Lots of times. It’s one of my favorite places.” When I told him I was just going to stay on the lake because I didn’t think I’d find the entrance, he looked out that way and said he thought I could still get through … so I did. And, just like that, I was back in my happy place, and lucky to spot two great blues.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or

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