Having moved to Minnesota in mid-2008, I didn’t fully appreciate the beautiful lakes, parks and trails in the Twin Cities area until shortly before the frigid winter rolled in. After three trips out on Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis with some cheap plastic rental kayaks, I knew I wanted my own kayak for quietwater paddling.
My experience with lakes and water is quite limited. When I was fairly young, I remember my family renting a house on a small lake in Michigan. I would spend the days using the paddleboat to wander the lake. On other vacations, I had been out on Tims Ford Lake in Tennessee, but that lake was a bit crowded with powerboats and jet skis. It was there that I discovered my absolute love for hammocks (especially hammocks hanging under a shade tree next to the lapping water!).
There is an extensive Park & Trail System [PDF map] in the Twin Cities area. There are miles of paved trails that let you get anywhere you want in town. After discovering this, my wife and I immediately bought bikes and began to explore. A beautiful 45-minute bike ride to the north brought us to Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. We stopped to eat our packed lunch and enjoyed the sun and lakes.
This was late September of 2008, so everything was warm and green. I had never seen such a large lake with such still water. Although later trips to these lakes would show me that the wind could definitely get things choppy, I saw that paddling these lakes could be relaxing. Without motorboats, these lakes are pretty quiet.
There were a number of kayaks effortlessly gliding out on the lake. Whenever I had thought of kayaks, the mental image of whitewater kayaks battling the rapids and dodging rocks came to mind. Having whitewater rafted in the past, that type of kayaking was not terribly appealing. Seeing sea kayaks and recreational kayaks casually driving around the lake quickly redefined my mental image of kayaking.
On a number of the lakes, you can rent recreational kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and stand-up kayaks (ack!). I quickly returned to the lakes to rent a kayak and see how it was. I was uncomfortable in the rental kayak with no footrests, but did enjoy my first 2 hours on the lake. Later I convinced my wife to go paddling with me in a two-person kayak. She enjoyed sitting up front while I paddled from the back, but I doubt she will ever go out in a one-person kayak. A couple weeks later, I managed to get on the water one last time before the frigid fall/winter weather rolled into town.
I was hooked. As the temperatures plummeted, I began scouring the internet for any information I could find on kayaking. I picked up my first kayaking book. I watched almost every kayak technique video on YouTube. I found out that there is a kayaking group that enjoys quietwater paddling around Minnesota. Now all I needed to do was convince my wife to let me get a kayak, figure out how to live in an apartment with a kayak, and wait for the bitterly cold temperatures to subside…