Column: A special day on the water

ESCANABA — I’ve owned a canoe for nearly 40 years. I was used when I bought it and has seen some interesting trips on streams and lakes. It was an easy and inexpensive mode of entertainment for me and my family, especially the kids.

Each spring we’d head down to Ludington Park Habor in Escanaba and practice getting into and out of the canoe and how to react if something bad happens. We’d beach the 17-foot craft and whoever was in the front would have the responsibility of hopping out and securing it to the ground so others could get out and keep dry. At one point, all five of our children had gone through basic training as they grew and time went by, About 15 years ago, I purchased my first boat and motor and the canoe has since been hanging on the fence in the back yard patiently waiting for a reunion with me on the water.

As my wife Mary Kay and I approached retirement we talked about things on our bucket list. While we’d canoed, neither of use had tried kayaking. Not long after Mary went out with a friend of hers that owned two kayaks and she really liked it. Two years ago I purchased one for her as a Christmas present and later that spring took advantage of a local sale and bought one for myself. The big difference between boarding a canoe versus a kayak is that getting in is easy while getting out takes some real skill. Our idea on how to train was to set them in the front yard of our home to practice. If we made a mistake, the consequences of a mistake would result in grass stains rather than falling into the water. I later pondered how goofy we must have appeared as neighbors rode by and saw two seniors appearing to be paddling on dry ground.

Last fall I won two more kayaks, thanks to Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County. Now having four, we can join with our kids or let them take rides whenever they’re home without having to invest in outfitting themselves. There is a local rental company that is very reasonable and also provides paddle boards and prior to acquiring what we have today, that’s how everyone used to go on the water.

Memorial Day weekend, with my daughter Lisa and her husband Jim home, we decided to take all four kayaks out. Mary Kay, our daughter Carolyn and her daughter Haddee would join us. Jim participated from shore by flying and videoing our venture with his drone. What started out as a whim idea, turned into something a lot more memorable.

When we were establishing our family, another form of affordable recreation was camping. Our whole family camped including my parents. While my father enjoyed camping, he rarely participated in some of the common extra curricular activities like going to the beach with the little kids. Instead he’d use the quiet time for relaxation by sitting outside the camper and reading the Wall Street Journal.

How was that any fun?

One time, while camping at Shakey Lakes, I asked him why he couldn’t do something else? “What the hell is there to do?”, he responded. I asked him “When was the last time you went on the water for a boat ride? “When I came back from India in the war (World War II). I was sick as a dog the whole trip so every time I think about going on a boat I get sick to my stomach!“, he said. “Have you ever tried a canoe?” “Nope!”

I just happened to have mine with us and after some prodding, he finally agreed to give it a try. He did well and had such a good time, we paddled up stream to the nearby powerdam and drifted back to the beach area so many times that I had to quit because my arms were getting sore. When near the beach area, he’d yell out to everyone with a big grin, “Hey look what I’m doing!”

I had the opportunity to introduce my father to a new form of recreation and it is was cherished moment in my life.

While our recent kayaking experience was my first time out, it took on a special meaning and it would be hours later when I realized why.

In talking with Lisa, I reminisced about the time at Shakey Lakes and how I introduced my father to riding in a canoe. It then dawned on me that now my daughter (around my age then) is sharing a very similar experience with me (near the same age as my father then) in my first venture in a kayak and it was quite moving. I never thought how much of an impact one simple moment could have provided and my mind clicked in deja vu. How wonderful!

It also remind me of a story I heard once in a radio broadcast from a famous newsman, the late Paul Harvey, as he spoke about journal entries from President Andrew Jackson. An examination of both the father and son’s one simple experience outdoors noted how we sometimes take too much for granted. President Jackson’s note of his day with his son stated “Took young Andrew fishing today. One day wasted.” In his son’s posting on that same day he wrote, “Went fishing with father today. Greatest day of my life!”

The lesson here is that we are provided a plethora of opportunities to enjoy our kids as they grow up in the Upper Peninsula. As they mature, move on to establish careers and their own families, moments like the canoe and kayak experience makes us all long for the spontaneous times together in memories and bring those gone by back into the picture as if it just happened yesterday.


Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.