“A sailboat in the moonlight and you. Wouldn’t that be heaven? A heaven just for two.”

From the first time I heard Billie Holiday’s raspy voice sing these words, I have always wanted to do a moonlit water outing.

But back then in college, we could only rent a canoe to take down the bayou that ran through the middle of campus, for the day. After that, many years passed before I stepped foot near water for a paddling adventure and at the time, kayaking was not as popular for the masses yet.

Last year, Jon and I considered getting a pair so we could fish in some real back river areas but the season got away from us. So the other day as I was cooking up some catfish, Billie’s song flowed out of my iphone bringing a smile to my face.

I happened to remember those college day dreams about silently gliding across the black waters while the moon lit the way. The night songs from hidden critters as I paddled on by would keep me company. An onlooker with no other intent but to soak it all in.

I imagine it would be a soothing, relaxing and rejuvenating adventure.

A few days later, I did a little research and found kayaking does indeed have some amazing benefits for people, no matter their age.

Kayaking releases certain “feel good” chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins (called neurotransmitters) that can put you in a better mood. These chemicals, when activated or released, also have been found to boost self-confidence levels and improve your ability to focus.

Physically speaking, kayaking is an excellent, low stress form of cardiac exercise that gets your blood flowing and strengthens your heart. It also provides a very positive minor core workout, even by simply sitting upright in the boat because it uses your core muscles, which means you get a minor core workout with every kayaking adventure you go on.

Your core plays a crucial role in helping you stay centered and balanced on the water. The motion of paddling works your lower back, abs and obliques.

Overall and hands down, in my mind, kayaking is a much more fun way to burn off calories than jogging on a treadmill for an hour. In fact, one can burn up to 500 calories per hour if they are paddling at an average speed of 5 MPH.

At the end of the day, the number of calories burned by kayaking depends on your weight, the distance and speed you kayak, and difficulty of terrain. The average person burns between 375 and 475 calories per hour when kayaking.

Of course, a paddle up the river does not have to be done for the results of exercise, even if you really enjoy it. One can simply paddle up the river just to enjoy being in the great Ohio outdoors … it has expansive shores along Lake Erie’s edge and throughout the state, plenty of winding rivers, sprawling lakes and pristine water.

In fact, the Mohican River is noted by, kayakhelp.com, to be the 7th ranking kayak destination in Ohio. It has also been designated as having “scenic” notoriety in two spots.

The 40-mile river runs from Ashland County down and into the Walhonding River. This water trail has no rough waters, but the water flow itself keeps a small craft such as a kayak moving without much effort

Mohican River is also loved by many kayakers for the amount of shade provided throughout the entire trip downstream.

Near Mohican there are several places to rent and launch kayaks for paddling adventures, no matter your skill level. If you feel a bit rusty, head over to one of the marinas in the area (Charles Mill or Pleasant Hill) and seek some information or a crash refresher course.

However, if you are considering kayaking and would feel better doing it with a crowd before going solo (of which many will be novices as well), then find a calendar and mark down some of the events and dates that follow below.

Between June and September, there are Moonlight Kayak tours at each lake and the best thing is that they have different dates scheduled so that one can double their kayaking outings. In addition, each lake has special kayaking events on this year’s calendar.

Special upcoming kayak events at Charles Mill :

June 21 – Celebrate the Summer Solstice and mark the official beginning of summer by kayak. Known as the longest day and the shortest night of the year, this day occurs annually in the Northern Hemisphere, when Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt toward the Sun.

June 26 – Learning to Kayak. If you are new to kayaking or want a great refresher course, sign up! July 28th – Look out for the meteor showers while kayaking the lake during the Meteor Shower tour.

Aug. 11 – Join the Lake Monster tour and learn about the urban legend of the Charles Mill Lake’s monster reportedly seen in March of 1959 by three local teens.

Special upcoming kayak events at Pleasant Hill :

July 1-4 – Independence Weekend twilight kayak tour

Pleasant Hill also offers a self-guided kayak tour that is also the first “historic water trail” tour by paddle. Along the 850-acre lake that is only 80 years old, you will get to learn the hidden history lying under the waters of Pleasant Hill Lake, like what caused the disappearance of two local towns.

This water trail is five miles and features five stops, all along the shoreline and where interpretive signs are located. Each stop highlights the area’s unique (hidden) history in that location. The trail is noted as being easy to moderate, taking approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. These tours can be done simply by downloading an online map or stopping at the Pleasant Hill marina and welcome center office. And if you don’t have your own equipment, there is a special kayak rental discount for those doing this hidden history water trail.

Both Pleasant Hill and Charles Mill have kayak rentals and supplies. When participating in a specific kayaking event at either place, the fees include kayaks & equipment, including lights when the event is at night.

Kayaking activities at both lakes are noted as easy to moderate. Complete waivers are required for all participants and they list the maximum weight capacity at 375 lbs for a solo kayak and 500 lbs for a tandem kayak.

Tips for having a great kayaking outing

● Be prepared to get wet! The simplest thing is to make sure you have closed toe water shoes and outdoor type of clothing that dries fast. That will make the wet not seem so wet.

● Be protected from Mother Nature. Bring bug spray, sunscreen (waterproof), a hat and sunglasses – because the water does throw out some bright reflections during the day.

● Pack a couple snacks but BE SURE to bring water.

For those who have not kayaked often or at all, you may want to consider using a double kayak. If you don’t exercise regularly, then you may want to consider using a double kayak, as well.

Not only are double kayaks easier to paddle, they are less likely to flip. Also, remember to check the wind if you are not a regular kayaker, because the more wind that is present, the more chance one has for issues to arise, and thus the more you ought to consider using a double.

● If you weigh less than 120lbs and do not regularly work on upper body strength, you may also want to consider a double kayak.

Kayaks don’t really have a set weight limit because fitting in a kayak has more to do with your body shape than your weight. Likewise, being able to handle a full-day tour has more to do with your athletic ability and upper body strength than your weight.

Rule of thumb seems to be that with a pear-shaped body (upward triangle), the kayaker should have an upper weight limit around 250 lbs. If you have a rectangular body shape or an apple body shape (downward triangle), the upper weight limit to safely paddle a kayak is around 280 lbs.

Lastly let me leave you with this thought — find the right kayak for the type of paddling excursions you will most likely want to participate in so your water time is enjoyable and productive.

Types of Kayaks

There are two main categories of kayaks: flat water and whitewater, which is more for sporting use, according to www.americankayak.org.

Four types of flat water kayaks include sit-on-top, recreational, touring and pedaling kayaks. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

Sit-on-top kayaks do not have a closed cockpit, so they are easy to get into and out of. They are usually wider than most, so they have good primary stability. They are nice for fishing because all of your gear is easily accessible.

Recreational kayaks have a closed cockpit, but it is usually a fairly large opening, enough to put a small child in there with you. They are shorter than touring kayaks, usually 10 feet or less, making them easier to store and transport. Unfortunately their size makes them not as fast as touring kayaks because they don’t track as well. Tracking is the ability of a kayak to go straight instead of turning when you don’t want it to.

Touring kayaks are usually 12 feet or longer, they generally have smaller cockpits and are also narrower. The smaller cockpit has thigh braces in it so that if the kayak rolls over the paddler uses his thighs and hips to roll himself back upright. They are very fast because they are so narrow and long. Most touring kayaks use a rudder to help them turn.

Pedaling kayaks are great for people who have back or shoulder problems because the only time you need to use your arms is when pulling into shore. They are also wonderful because you can go much farther distances because you are now using muscles with more “slow-twitch” fibers that are better for longer duration than the “fast-twitch” fibers that are in your arms.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

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