by Sue Markovitch
As you know from my previous blog, I recently researched and purchased an inflatable kayak. I unpacked it in my living room to get the hang of inflating and assembling it. This weekend, I was ready to take it out on the water.
My first stop was Lake Pleasant near Phoenix, AZ. This is a popular recreational area that allows motorized boats, jet skis, fishing boats, kayaks and SUPs. The entry fee was $7 for the day, plus $2 for non-motorized watercraft. I asked the ranger where the best place to kayak was, and he recommended Desert Tortoise Cove. Perfect.
I unloaded everything and lay the kayak out on a beach towel on the ground next to my car. It has two compartments for air, so I used the pump that was included and inflated them both. I’m pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to inflate with a manual pump. The seat is separate, and I already had it inflated so it installed easily. I clicked the two sides of the paddle together and voila. Ready to go.
In addition to the kayak, I spent $10.99 on a very groovy waterproof “dry bag” to put my stuff in, such as keys, phone, wallet, glasses, bug spray, things like that. My purse, basically. It was nice to know if I flipped myself over somehow, the bag and its contents would stay dry and afloat.
I flung my life jacket and dry bag (henceforth to be known as kayak purse) over my shoulder, grabbed the paddle and kayak and headed down to the water. I can easily carry all these things (thank you, strength training). I found a spot on the beach that looked flat, and put the boat down backside (stern) in the water. This kayak has a little removeable fin called a skeg on the bottom of the boat towards the back, so that needs to be in the water, whereas the front end can be flat.
There were two women watching their kids play in the water. I said hello, and warned them this was my first time trying this, and I may end up face first in the lake. They laughed and said they have always wanted to try kayaking, too. That I’d do fine. Good luck, you go girl.
I did exactly what the videos had told me to do. I put the paddle across the kayak, straddled both sides near the seat, then plopped my bum down quickly. And just like that, I was floating in Lake Pleasant. They clapped for me as I picked up my paddle and took my first stroke. I was going backwards, so I turned around and headed for the next cove over.
As I paddled along the no wake zone, I encountered campers, swimmers, people fishing, and even several horses cooling down and splashing around. I was suddenly so happy. This wasn’t complicated or scary. It was easy and delightful. I applied sunscreen, drank some water, and headed onward.
I have rented hard shell kayaks several times, so kayaking itself wasn’t new to me. The two things that were new was 1) owning the inflatable kayak and 2) going out solo. Previously, when I went out in a regular kayak, it was with a meet up group or guided tour.
This was really fun to do solo.
I ended up spending about two hours out on the water. Part of that was accidental. Since I’d never been in Lake Pleasant before, I didn’t know it well. Therefore, when I went to look for the cove where my encouragers were, and where my car was parked, I had trouble finding it. Glad I brought Gatorade and lots of water. It was hot by this time (103° F).
When I finally found the right cove, the gals said, “We wondered where you were!” I laughed and told them I couldn’t find them, and was pretty glad to be done. I rowed right up onto the beach, climbed out and carried my kayak back up the hill to the car.
Once again, I lay my beach towel out on the ground under the kayak. I let the air out by simply undoing what they call a Boston valve, which is quite easy. I removed the skeg, undid the paddle so it was in two shorter pieces, and had everything dried off and in the car in about five minutes. I’m not kidding. Super simple.
The following day, I wanted to see what a no wake lake would be like. I belong to an Arizona outdoor Facebook group, so I asked where I should go and the majority said Watson Lake in Prescott. That sounded great, because Prescott is at 5,400′ and that means cooler temperatures. YAY.
By the way, these outdoor enthusiast groups are incredibly helpful. Following these pages does create a little FOMO (fear of missing out), because people are out there exploring some really amazing places, but it is inspiring and helpful. From that one post, I have a list of about 15 awesome lakes to try out my kayak here in Arizona.
Since I wanted to see sunset, I left here at 4:00 pm and arrived in Prescott around 5:30. I happened to see a ranger when I first arrived at Watson Lake Park, so I asked him where the best place to launch a kayak would be. He said, “Follow me”. He led me to the boat launch near where they also rent kayaks and SUPs . Pefect.
Again, I organized my five minute set up. Kayak on the beach towel (to protect from stray sharp objects), high volume air pump, install the seat and skeg, organize kayak purse and carry it all down to the beach. I call it a beach but it isn’t sand, but rather dirt and rocks. Flip fops or water shoes definitely required.
I put the stern in the water, straddled up and sat down. So easy.
I’d read some reviews about how the inflatable kayaks are difficult to control in the water. Or that the seat isn’t comfortable. And compared to a high end hard shell, that may be the case. But this was well under $200, I can transport it easily, carry it myself, and it floats. For me, that independence is well worth giving up some of the speed and control. I really just want to float around and see beautiful stuff. I’m not trying to GET anywhere.
This was the lake for me. So peaceful. I saw several different species of birds, including heron and wood duck. The water was calm and the temperature divine (upper 70°s ahh). The surrounding red and gray rocks created a stunning backdrop for the lake as the sun slowly set behind the distant mountain ranges. The near full moon lit up the water as I made my way back to shore.
I am incredibly pleased with my purchase, and plan to go out again this week. I am realizing, like hiking, that time on the water does more for my soul than anything else I know, and it is well worth the drive to find these unique, peaceful, beautiful places.
If you are currently adventuring solo, don’t wait. Be brave. Do something new. It’s so uplifting to be out there. It’s been quite a year. Remember, down is optional. UP is mandatory.
See you on the lake!
Here is a link to the kayak I bought:
Or the two person. I may eventually get this and set up the second seat to take the dogs out with me. We’ll see! I’m just getting started.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
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