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Why Tote It When You Can Float It

by Arthur Kuehne

Are you a backpacker? If not, you should be. The Dallas Sierra Club even has beginner backpacking classes twice a year to get you started (in February and September). If you are a backpacker, you can visit some really neat places on our bus trips, weekend outings, and other trips. And of course, you and your friends can go hiking on your own. But, let’s face it, even with modern lightweight equipment, backpacking can be quite strenuous. There must be an easier way to get outside, see some spectacular places, and spend some quality time in the wilderness that does not involve quite so much work. The answer is canoeing!

Is canoeing easier than backpacking? For the most part, the answer is yes. Many beginning canoeists seem to think that canoeing is hard work. They will tell you that a day on the river will wear them out. But canoeing is like most other sports: The more you know, the easier it is. With a bit of training (more on that later) and a little practice, most people find canoeing to be quite easy.

While most of the time canoeing is pretty easy, at times conditions can test your physical stamina and endurance. A strong head wind is the canoeing equivalent of hiking up a long hill. Occasionally, difficult put-ins, take-outs, or campsite landings can test your load-carrying capacity. And canoes and kayaks are heavy. Muscling them onto and off of your car is often a two-person job.

One of the things that people like the most about canoeing is that you can bring just about anything with you. It’s OK to bring that extra big tent and that extra thick sleeping pad. And a chair and table are always welcome. Fancy dinners and a fine bottle of wine really make the backpackers jealous. In fact, you can bring just about anything except the kitchen sink.

Kayaking is another option to get you out on the river. They are faster than canoes and easier to handle in the wind. Some people find paddling with a double bladed kayak paddle is a bit more tiring than with a regular canoe paddle, but – since kayaks are generally quite a bit faster – you don’t have to paddle as much. Many people like the speed, handling and independence of kayaks, but kayaks do have a few disadvantages. They hold less stuff, so you will have to pack more like a backpacker, and they are a little harder to get into and out of than a canoe.

If you would like to learn to canoe or kayak, you'll need to take lessons.  The Dallas Sierra Club has classes every year or two to get you started. Lessons are also available from several companies in the Metroplex.

After you complete your class, you need to actually go on a trip. The Dallas Sierra Club has several trips each year.  Keep an eye on the outings list for details.

So, here is the bottom line: Get your rear off of that couch. Learn to canoe or kayak, or learn to backpack. Sign up for a trip or organize your own. Get out and spend some time in the wilderness. It will be good for you.

See you on the river.

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