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The Farm Bleat: Up the shoreline with a paddle

As it turns out, paddling a kayak isn’t as easy as it looks. Mine wanted to go in circles or, worse, backwards. I’m sure it was operator error.

The view from my kayak
White, puffy clouds, calm waters and a beautiful shoreline were much appreciated for this first-time kayaker.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe
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I checked another item off of my unwritten bucket list over the weekend when a friend and I went kayaking on the sometimes smooth, sometimes rippling waters of Lake Bella.

Excitement had been brewing for the excursion ever since I was told that, at my age, I could become a member of the Center for Active Living and borrow one of the CAL’s six new kayaks. After writing about the kayaks — and taking pictures of CAL members tootling on Lake Okabena with them — I just had to give it a try myself.

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The long Labor Day weekend offered multiple chances for cooperating wind speeds, and we set out early Sunday afternoon from the boat landing at Bella Park.

As a first-time kayaker, I was concerned about 1) Tipping the kayak; 2) Drowning; 3) Dropping my phone in the lake; and 4) Dropping the truck keys in the lake.

As it turns out, I should have been most concerned about 1) Getting into the kayak and 2) Getting out of the kayak — neither of which was a pretty sight, I can assure you!

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Hence, I invited an experienced kayaker friend whom I knew would be kind and offer words of encouragement, rather than peels of laughter.

Lake Bella was chosen because I was fairly certain we wouldn’t have an audience to see my aforementioned blunders. As it turned out, it was the perfect locale for solitude and viewing nature — the ideal environment for a person on a kayak, in my opinion.

It took awhile for me to feel at one with nature, though. As it turns out, paddling a kayak isn’t as easy as it looks. Mine wanted to go in circles or, worse, backwards. I’m sure it was operator error.

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And the rocking! My heightened sense of fear likely was to blame for the incessant tilting to the right and left as I floated from the safety of the shoreline. I had visions of falling overboard, and my overactive imagination had me fearing all sorts of creatures that couldn’t possibly be in Lake Bella — like alligators! I actually envisioned the eyes of an alligator watching me. It turns out it was two ends of a stick floating on the water, but still!

Once my kayak finally decided not to rock and I became slightly more comfortable with my surroundings, I marveled at how tall the cattails look from the water and watched as a variety of birds soared along the shoreline in the distance. Seagull, pelican, hawk — then a sandpiper pecking on the shore.

I spotted a turtle sunning itself on a rock — it jumped into the water as we moved closer; and a baby turtle that did the same. I attempted to get a photo of the baby, but the sudden movement sent my kayak rocking again, and it jumped in the lake before my phone was in position.

I did manage to get a few photos of our time on the lake — mostly of my feet in the foreground to prove I was on a kayak (I wasn’t about to attempt a selfie!). Beyond my big feet, though, the images show white, puffy clouds amid a beautifully blue sky, the tree-lined and cattail-lined shore to the west and east, ripples on the water and reflections from above.

My first kayaking experience was all that I could have hoped for.

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Will there be a second excursion? Yes, after I watch some YouTube videos on how to properly get into — and out of — a kayak!

Read more from Julie Buntjer:
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Opinion by Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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