Posts Tagged ‘kayaking’

Paddle Your Kayak: Getting Started

I’ve been working on setting up a new blog,, for a while now.  As much as I love fishing, at the moment I’m more interested in kayaking. I’ve seen a trend in my area where you can hardly go to the grocery store without seeing two, three, or more vehicles with kayaks strapped to the roof.

And since I live far from any SERIOUS kayaking waters, that’s really saying a lot. It seems to me that kayaking is a sport that’s easy to get into, has a pretty quick initial learning curve, won’t break the bank, and can be enjoyed by all ages of people.

So welcome. Expect that kayaking will be my Thursday posts — but I’ll still post about fishing now and then as well!

Set Your Hook: Lily Goes Kayaking

Teaching a Dog to Kayak

This past weekend, I decided to take the mascot dog, Lily, kayaking for the very first time.

Lily Camping

Here's Lily getting the most out of camping: digging and dirty!

Let me just share a few tips I learned on teaching a dog to kayak

  1. Invest in a doggy life-vest. Yes, all dogs can swim — it’s instinctual. But, if they leap out of the boat or kayak in the MIDDLE OF THE LAKE do you really want to rely on instinct and pray they don’t get tired?
  2. Attach a leash to the life vest AND to the kayak. That way if they do make the plunge, it’s easy to reel them back in.
  3. Leave the fishing tackle, camera, lunchbox, etc on shore. You don’t want a squirrely, excited dog AND stuff.
  4. Keep the trip short. If the pooch gets stressed, take Fido back to shore. You want it to be fun, not terrifying.
  5. Pick a calm day, smaller lake and keep it relatively close to shore. Again, make it fun not scary.
  6. If people stress your dog out (love or hate) pick a day with fewer people on shore and on the water.
  7. Don’t have anybody else talk to or call for the dog. Maybe they should stay on shore, or in camp, on in another town. (Or maybe out of sight but close enough to help if needed!)
  8. Bring towels!

So, I’m sure that you’re just DYING to know how I came up with this list, right?

When Code Wolf and I were camping at White Horse Lake last weekend, I decided that it was high-time Lily learned about kayaking. Now, being the do-anything dog that she is, Lily will let me harass her in pretty much any manner I see fit.

Lobster Lily

Remember when I dressed her up as a lobster for Halloween?

So, I put her in her oh-too-cute life vest, left all the goodies on shore – Rule #3 – (hence no pics of the event) and took off.

And I promptly broke Rule #5!

It was a breezy day that went from flat water to little bitty whitecaps. She did okay when it was calm but the second the kayak would start to rock in the breeze… well, Lily couldn’t decide if she wanted to be in my lap or as far from the paddle as possible.

I felt we were just getting the hang of it, slowing paddling around the lake. Then here comes Code Wolf to check on us. Happily, he calls out: “Lily! How ya’ doin’?” (Rule #7 — shattered!)

And Lily jumps out of my kayak and tries to run to him!

Of course, she promptly sinks WAY below the surface and then bobs back up, courtesy of aforementioned oh-so-cute life vest. (Rule #1)

But never fear, I just grab the leash (Rule #2) and haul her in. But when I started pulling on the leash, her head went under again! Once I got her back into the kayak I was practically screaming with laughter.

She took offense to that!

After making a half-hearted attempt to continue on around the lake, I gave it up as a bad job and head back to shore. (Rule #4)

Of course, of COURSE, there were people all over the boat launch fishing. (Rule #6) And Lily doesn’t like kids at the best of times but when she’s cold, wet and suffering the indignity of having jumped into the lake… Lots of loud barking ensued.

Once I had Lily back out of the kayak (I dumped her over the side into tummy-depth-on-a-small-dog water — again, I’ll never be forgiven) I hauled her back to the truck.

Thankfully, I had a towel in there. Don’t ask me why, but at the very least, I was able to comply with Rule #8.

Will I take Lily kayaking again? Absolutely! Will I plan it a bit better? Of course! Will she ever forgive me? Maybe, maybe not!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you boat or kayak with your dog?
  • How old was Fido when you started?
  • Tips for teaching an old dog new boating tricks?

Kayaking The Lower Salt River

Now that tax season is over (!!!) I have been itching to get outside for an adventure. It’s been knock-you-down windy here lately so that’s really put a halt to my outdoor plans. But, when ESP Boss invited me to kayak the Lower Salt River on Saturday, I jumped at the chance.

Since we had to be on the road by 5 am, it was a little after 6 when we entered the Valley. And what did I see floating over the I-17? Hot air balloons. Too cool!

Hot Air Ballons over I-17

We were meeting our friend, Captain Ted, at 7:30 Saturday. The Lower Salt River is in the Tonto National Forest. The area requires a Tonto Pass, a $6 per-day pass that allows access to a variety of day use areas along the Salt. Since we’re not from the area, Captain Ted said he’d pick a pass up for us and also provide a shuttle.

We dropped our Jeep at the take-out spot and then piled our kayaks (and gear!) into the Captain’s truck and headed up river to the launch point.

And I’ll admit, I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of the names of the day-use areas that are the start and end points for the float. But, Code Wolf lives about 20 minutes away from the area so I’ll be back to snap pictures and get more details!

We were on the river by about 8:00. Well before the heat of the day. We also wanted to be on the river early since the Lower Salt River is known as a great place for tubing.

ESP Boss

ESP Boss & Captain Ted's wife, Lilly.

I knew next-to-nothing about the 9 mile stretch of the Lower Salt River that we were setting out upon. But one thing I figured out really quickly: Class I Rapids. Lots of them.

Class I Rapids

Now, before you get all worried about the word “RAPIDS” let me explain. A Class I is the smallest class of rapids. The water would break over the front of the kayak but not a drop actually ended up inside. They’re exciting but not really scary. They look a lot like white caps on a windy day.

I was amazed at the variety of wildlife that we saw. The stretch of the Lower Salt that we were on is less than 10 minutes away from the Valley. (I call EVERYTHING down there ‘Phoenix’ but it’s actually closest to Mesa.)

We saw a ton of herons.


Turkey vultures.

Turkey Vulture

I LOVE the sign he's sitting on! Too bad many river users DON'T pack out their trash.

And I saw my first ever in-the-wild turtle. Pardon the blurry photo but Captain Ted’s wife was coming in for a closer look which scared the bird which scared the turtle and they both took off. So I only got the one snap!


The water in the Lower Salt is crystal clear and icy cold. Which in some ways is unfortunate because I could clearly see all the trash left behind by people. Even though there were trashcans (lots of them) at every access point, the bottom of the river was littered with beer cans, lost towels, clothes, swimsuit pieces, water bottles, and just general trash. Some of it might blow in from the road or be released into the river through the waterflow, but I think most of it was just left behind.

It was really sad. And it made me FURIOUS. The Lower Salt River is a seasonal river that is controlled by having the large lakes upriver release water to create the flow. I’m not really sure how low the water gets during the winter, but I’m already making plans to head out there with trash bags and gloves to take as much trash out of the waterway as possible. I figure I can make a FORTUNE in aluminum can recycling! CITO anybody?

But more about the good things: and there were LOTS of them!

The scenery was stunning. I was a bit worried since the road to the launch point paralleled the river most of the way that I’d have seen everything the Lower Salt had to offer from the truck’s windows. But I was totally wrong!

Scenery on Lower Salt River

The first 6 miles or so had a good current and it alternated between Class I rapids and a calm river flowing at a quick pace. It was great to sit back and enjoy.

One of my favorite places was called ‘Mud Cliffs.’ There I saw red winged blackbirds and was dive bombed by swallows. The swallows made their mud nests on the cliff sides.

Mud Cliffs

ESP Boss below the towering Mud Cliffs.


Swallow Nests

Swallow Nests

The last 3 miles, however, while just a pretty, were FLAT. It’s after the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers. The water becomes muddier and the current isn’t as quick. Which means more paddling.

Flat Water

(And less photos!)

The highlight of the trip?

The Bald Eagle that was sitting on river left munching on a catfish! I’ve seen these birds in my travels around the state, but never so close. And I’ve NEVER seen one on the ground.

Bald Eagle

Captain Ted said that it’s common to see herons, ducks, turkey vultures, bald eagles, and red winged black birds. I’m not really into bird watching, but it was really cool seeing all of them. It’s less common but still possible to see wild mustangs and big horn sheep. (Didn’t spot either!) I did see signs of beaver along the banks as well.

As for fish, there were bass, catfish, carp, and walleye. And speaking of catfish, to the catfish that I ran over with my kayak, I sincerely apologize for the headache I gave you! (Seriously, it was swimming just under the surface of the water and I smacked it with the kayak!)

The whole trip took about 4 hours. Any later in the summer and Captain Ted recommends starting about 5:30 or 6:00. That way, you miss the heat of the day, see more wildlife and miss the tubers!

I’ll be taking Code Wolf on the river this summer as a warm-up for an overnight trip on the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Willow Beach.

Mystery Mondays: Happy New Year

I’m hoping that you had a great holiday season and are getting into the swing of things in 2011. I wanted to share a few of my 2011 goals with you:

And, I also wanted to introduce my new blog to you:

Paddle Your Kayak Header

Paddle Your Kayak:

A beginner’s guide to kayaking

It will be hosted at which I’m still setting up. Please, leave me a comment and tell me what you think of the layout so far! It’s a lot easier to change/update before I have a ton of posts in there. I’m looking for something readable and easy to navigate.

And, of course, the goal will be to have a weekly newsletter as well. Look for posts to be added to the new blog over the course of the next weeks.

Welcome to 2011!

Adventure Trip: Kayaking The Colorado River

If you’ve been following The Outdoor Princess blogs these past weeks then you know that ESP Boss & I had been planning a trip to kayaking the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. It’s a total trip of about 13 miles, goes past 3 hot springs, 2 sets of rapids, and is the perfect place to see Rocky Mountain Sheep.

We started our trip early on Sunday October 18. In order to kayak this section of the river, you HAVE to be launched by an outfitter and have the proper permits. That’s because of security measures since we’re so close to the dam.

Water Flow

The floating rope bows out more when more water is released from the dam.

We launched about 9:00 in the morning. There was water being released from the dam and the outfitter warned us that the river could rise as much as TEN FEET in as little as an hour. Boy was I glad to know that ESP Boss had brought some rope so we could tie up the kayaks! I hadn’t even THOUGHT of bringing rope to tie up the yaks; I just figured we’d be able to pull them out of the water like we do at a lake.

Our first stop was a sauna cave. This was a man-made tunnel that goes back into the canyon wall. There’s a hot spring the bubbles up about 3/4 of the way back that heats the cave to a “balmy” 140.

sauna cave

That water was knee deep at the entrance was bath-water warm!

Next stop was Gold Strike Canyon. Here’s we got out to hike up the canyon to the hot springs AND to lay down some footage of our adventure. It’s currently in post-production but will be finished soon so I can show you more of the trip.

Gold Strike Canyon

Some pools of water were too hot to put a foot in let alone SIT in!

By the time we got back into the kayaks, the rapids just outside the mouth of Gold Strike Canyon were running. More water was being released from the dam so the river flow was higher (a LOT higher) and the rapids were very noisy.

Neither ESP Boss or I had really ever kayaked rapids before. What an adrenaline rush! Thankfully, we made it through the rapids without any problems; dry and upright!

From the first set of rapids, we headed to Boy Scout Canyon for more hot springs. But, since it was starting to get really cloudy (the whole day was overcast) and we could hear thunder moving closer, we hurried on towards our pre-planned camping spot near Arizona Hot Springs.

Boy Scout Canyon

It was a lot of fun splashing through the warm hot-spring-fed stream on the canyon floor.

The only problem? Arizona Hot Springs is just on the other side of Ringbolt Rapids. These rapids made the first set (never did find out their name!) seem like NOTHING. And, we could see a TON of people camping there. So we skirted the rapids and camped at one beach upriver from Arizona Hot Springs.

Want to hear about our camp? Check out the article on called Camp Setup Order of Priorities.

The next morning, we hiked over a couple of ridges to Arizona Hot Springs. You’re going to have to see this on film to believe it. Fantastic!

Arizona Hot Springs

I'm just about ready to climb that slippery rock to get to the next pool of hot water.

But, a word of caution about the hot springs. Most people wear clothes or bathing suits, but we did encounter a couple of people who were, how should I put it? Naked! Yep, apparently it’s not all that uncommon to run into people enjoying hot springs in their birthday suits. You’ve been warned!

After our dip in the hot springs, we headed back to camp to break camp and head down the river. We got to Willow Beach about 4:00 in the afternoon.

Now, you might be asking how we had heard about this trip. We found it in the book, Paddling Arizona by Tyler Williams. (That’s an affiliate link.) The only thing is that the information about this trip was kind of light. So, we’re working on a new eGuide that will cover EVERYTHING you need to know about this trip, including stuff to watch for (side canyons, hot springs, and the catwalk), GPS coordinates, photos and more.

Paddling Arizona

This is a good all-around refrence to kayking in Arizona.

Pitch Your Tent: Camp Setup

Camp Setup Order of Priorities

Remember how last week I said that we weren’t expecting rain for our Black Canyon kayaking trip until Monday afternoon? Yeah, well the rain showed up early!

But, thankfully, ESP Boss is a super-duper camp-setter-upper. And, he doesn’t listen to his daughter when she’s saying (over and over)

“Pops! I’m SOOOOO hungry. You never feed me!”

When we finally found a reasonable beach, the very first thing we did was to set up the tent. As you can see, the beach was far from level and that was the ONLY spot that we felt was far enough away from the river AND was big enough to pitch the tent.

Camp Composite

Our tent is a back-packing tent and the rain fly is optional; you don’t have to put it on the tent to keep the bugs out. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t really WANT to put it on, but the clouds kept building and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.

Did I mention ESP Boss is an EXTRA super-duper camp-setter-upper?

By the time the tent was fully set up WITH the rain fly secured, and loaded with all our stuff, it was drizzling. By the time we were done with dinner. It was raining. By the time the dishes were put away and the kayaks unloaded it was POURING.

I don’t have any photos of the storm but let’s just say the rain was coming down in sheets. We developed a waterfall on the west side of camp and the gully we were camped next to started running.

We sat out as long as we could with a rain poncho over our knees and wearing our rain gear. But watching the rain when the rain is also dripping off your nose just isn’t as much fun as watching it through a window!

But us? We were able to crawl into a warm, dry tent!

Moral of the story?

Set up the tent FIRST! Load it with your sleeping stuff, even if you don’t roll out the sleeping bags. Then have dinner.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any tips for setting up camp?
  • What do you always do first?

Find Your Geocache

Ghost Love: Finding A Virtual Geocache

Way back in June, I wrote an article about non-traditional geocaches. The type of cache where it isn’t just a box of swag hidden in the woods.

Virtual cache icon

And I had mentioned, under virtual caches:

I’ve run into a few virtual caches but I never participated — I wasn’t sure what the ghostie meant and it made me nervous!

Then, blog reader Don_J left the comment: “Don’t be afraid of the Ghost.”

Well, Don_J, I took your advice and went after my first ever virtual geocache.

There’s only one geocache (virtual or otherwise) along the Black Canyon stretch of the Colorado River. Before I left, I used’s map feature to locate the cache: GC69E0 ‘Tale of Two Signs’. Since I’d never gone after a virtual before, I was careful to not only PRINT the cache description, but also to put it in an accessible spot in my kayak.

Map of 'Tale of Two Signs'

I think the hardest part of this particular “find” wasn’t so much the kayak OR having the GPS in the kayak (I’ve found caches with my kayak before) but that there was a current. It made it really difficult to figure out just how quickly I was moving and to plan when I should get my camera ready to snap the “proof” photo.

Geocache sign

I emailed a better pic of the sign to the cache owner for proof I had found the cache. But I'm posting THIS photo to keep everything spoiler free!

But that’s why I take ESP Boss with me! I was paddling and watching the GPS and he was about 30 feet down river from me watching for the clue. It was a good thing too! If I had gone strictly from the coordinates, I would have missed snapping photos of the signs.

Sign from river

The current made it tough to get a good photo for "proof" for this cache. That little white dot? Yeah, that's the sign!

As it stands, ESP Boss and I both got our first ever virtual geocache. Don_J, you were right! And I’m not afraid of the Ghost any longer.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you like best about virtual caches?
  • What’s your best caching story involving a virtual? (Or waymark!)

Mystery Mondays: Night Kayaking

Fireworks in Prescott, AZ 7/4/2010

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you all had a safe, fun holiday. I think that ESP Boss & I have just found a brand-new holiday tradition that I wanted to share with you.

Kayaking by LED lantern light to watch fireworks!

ESP Boss saw a flier in a local sporting goods store about renting canoes to go out on Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona, to watch the fireworks. Since that sounded like our type of outdoor adventure, we left the barbeque a bit early to load the kayaks.

Besides the kayak, life vest, and paddle, here are some supplies that you’ll need:

  • Insect repellent. We used Off! Clip On Mosquito Protection and it worked great. There were bats swooping all over munching down on the skeeters but we didn’t get a single bite!
  • Coleman LED lanterns (2 for the front of the kayak, 2 for the back)
  • Battery operated LED light stick (2)
  • Long-sleeve tee-shirt or button-up tee (for when it gets chilly!) I was really glad I had brought mine because just before the fireworks started, a slight breeze came up and I got chilled. With it, I was able to enjoy the show and not be too cold.

Before you launch, be sure that you turn on the LED lanterns and push them as far into the bow and stern of your kayak as they’ll go. For extra glow, we had two lanterns in both the front and the back.  We had these really cool red, white, and blue, LED light sticks that were about 10 inches long and ran off 2 AA batteries. They fit perfectly under the knee pads of the kayaks for 360 degrees of glow. (We picked them up on clearance at Walgreens; when we went back to get more, the store was sold out!)

Isn't this a cool photo of ESP Boss?

In fact, David, a new friend we met at the lake called us the red fireflies. And we had several people tell us how cool the two kayaks looked floating on the water during the fireworks!

You can ONLY get amazing photos like this if you're on the water. (And lucky with the camera!)

For all you kayakers, if you’ve never kayaked in the dark, you are totally missing something. If you are going night kayaking, here are some tips for you:

  1. Check your local boating regulations to find out what the rules are about night boating. Here in Arizona, you must have a bow and stern light for any boating after dark.
  2. Check the batteries before you leave! Nothing is worse that getting to the lake and having a dead flashlight.
  3. Bring warm clothes — just in case you get chilly.
  4. Wear your life vest! In many states just having it in the boat is enough. But if you tip out in the dark, you want to be wearing that life vest not having it float away in the black!
  5. Bring a headlamp so you can use it to light up that path you’ll be paddling along.

A few more photos of fireworks:

We were close enough to hear the "WHUMP" as the fireworks were launched.

Happy Independence Day!

Mystery Monday: Kayaking Adventures

ESP Boss kayaking, Father's Day 2010

Happy Father’s Day!

About three years ago, my folks hosted a Rotary Exchange student from Brazil. While this was an interesting experience all the way around, one of my favorite parts was getting to do all types of brand new adventures in my own backyard.

One of the first things we did with Diogo was rent kayaks on Watson Lake. Needless to say, I was hooked! I bought a red 10 foot kayak (a Perception Prodigy) and starting heading to the lakes. Soon after, ESP Boss decided he couldn’t let me have all the fun, and bought an identical kayak as well.

Now, Dad & I are getting set for our next big adventure: an overnight kayaking trip! Much like backpacking, we’ve got to figure out how to get all our gear into the storage spaces in the front and back of our yaks.

And that brings me to how we spent our Father’s Day: ESP Boss decided that he wanted to test out some different kayak models. Luckily, our one & only local sporting goods store Manzanita Outdoor offers kayaking testing every weekend.

The first yak ESP Boss tested out was a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Kayak. He said it was okay, nice and roomy, easy to paddle, and with a hatch for dry storage. (Our Prodigy kayaks don’t have any dry storage.) But, he wasn’t overly thrilled with it because it seemed kind of tippy and not really stable.

(If you’ve ever seen ESP Boss get into or out of a kayak, you’ll know that stability is a must. That man ALWAYS gets wet!)

The second kayak was a Native Watercraft, Ultimate 12. The kayak was super steady (a good thing) and had a large cockpit. That’s a really good feature for ESP Boss since he get’s kind of claustrophobic if he has to put his legs into too small a space. It had a ton of storage too! And a really comfortable seat.

The problem with the Native kayak was that it paddled more like a canoe than a kayak. ESP Boss said that it didn’t cut through the water very well and it had problems with tracking (going in a straight line).

The third kayak of the day was a Dirigo by Old Town. It had lots of tie-downs for cargo and a dry hatch in the back. Of the three, this seemed to paddle as close to the Perception Prodigy that he already owns. One really cool feature was a built-in cup holder that is molded into the deck. When the cup holder is in the seat between your legs, you always bump it and send the water bottle rolling around the cockpit of the kayak. It also had a little tiny dry storage well — perfect for a cell phone or small camera.

The biggest thing that made ESP Boss not like this kayak was the width of the cockpit. Old Town makes excellent yaks, but the cockpits do tend to run a little narrow.

But, the good news is that ESP Boss did find a kayak that he really loved. The fourth kayak of the day. ESP Boss got in, paddled away from the shore, and turned to me suddenly and said: This is it! This is the kayak I like!

And the lucky winner?

The Perception Prodigy 10.0. Yep, the kayak he already owns!

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