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Piney Run kayak adventures good, wet fun

An early season trip to Piney Run Park for kayaking was a lot of fun.
- Original Credit: Submitted photo
An early season trip to Piney Run Park for kayaking was a lot of fun. - Original Credit: Submitted photo (Submitted photo / HANDOUT)

Kayaking with my husband, Dan, and my grandson, Matthew, last Sunday was a comedy of errors. Eleven-year-old Matthew had called on Saturday to ask if we could go. He'd received a kayak for his birthday last year and after the long winter, he was itching to get out on the water.

The lake at Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania, has been our chosen spot in the past, but with Sunday's cool breeze, I had a feeling the water at Codorus would be choppy. I wasn't feeling up to fighting waves. I wanted to enjoy a leisurely paddle around a lake, so I suggested the lake at Piney Run Park. Dan and I had learned to kayak by taking a lesson there several years ago, but we hadn't been back since purchasing our own kayaks.

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After picking up Matthew and loading the kayaks we headed south to Eldersburg. On the way, Dan said, "I read in the paper that yesterday was Piney Run's first day of the season for boats."

I didn't realize the meaning of that until we arrived and had to wait at the entrance as a long line of boating neighbors checked in. Afterward, we rolled down the hill and stopped by the docks to unload the kayaks. As Dan drove the truck up the hill to park I gazed at the docks and wondered how we were going to launch. We usually leave from the shoreline. I'd never gotten into the kayak from a dock and with my bad back I had a feeling it would not be graceful.

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Sure enough, even with Dan's help, as I dropped into the kayak I tipped it over just enough to let a bucket of cold water run over the side before righting myself. There's nothing like riding in a kayak with a freezing, wet butt, but I was determined to have a good time, so I paddled off to the side and watched Dan flawlessly drop into his kayak to join us on the water.

Dan took the lead, paddling fast, with Matthew right on his tail while I fumbled like an old woman in a gymnastics contest. It was like I'd forgotten how to paddle. While I headed for the shoreline, they paddled toward the choppier middle of the lake. After a bit, they realized I was not following and they stopped to wait.

While traveling down the dock side of the lake we came across several beaver dens. I pointed them out to Matthew and we rowed closer to examine the construction. A line of fallen trees provided further evidence and paddling closer, we could see even marks made by sharp beaver teeth.

"Careful," Dan said. "The last time we were here a beaver tried to tip over my canoe."

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I laughed and said: "It did not! It was just diving underneath."

"Well, I think it was trying to tip me over," Dan said, but he was laughing, too. Matthew didn't know who to believe, but he backed away from the beaver's home.

Beavers are an odd lot. Normally, I don't like rodents, but they fascinate me. With most of them over 30 inches long — not including the tail — and more than 40 pounds in weight, they are the second-largest rodent in the world. While man works hard to cut down a tree, using a lot of muscle and a saw and throwing his whole body into it, a beaver fells a tree with only his teeth. And the reason he can do that is the most intriguing fact of all. The enamel of beavers' teeth has iron in it, which is why their teeth are orange in color.

I wiggled in the canoe, trying to forget my cold, wet pants. Only me, I thought, and almost laughed. Almost.

It was like that old kayak joke. What's the difference between a kayaker and a catfish? One is always wet, has whiskers and smells bad. The other one's a fish.

As we worked our way down the lake the guys would get ahead and then patiently circle back and wait as I worked to regain my paddling skills. Slowly we worked our way back to the middle of the lake — into choppy water. While heading down the opposite shoreline, Dan said he wanted to take Matthew to the far end of the lake to show him the eagle's nest. I didn't want to paddle that far or continue at their speed, but I knew they needed to let off steam, so I suggested we part ways for a bit.

"I want to meander into some of the inlets," I told them. "So go ahead without me. You can catch me on the way back."

The boys took off like a flash. I slowly headed around the curve and into a quiet inlet. I watched a pair of mallard ducks glide along the water ahead of me and raised my camera to take a few photos. Around the next bend I found a beautiful black bird with ruddy patches on its cheeks. I worked my way closer and — despite my cold wet pants — a warm feeling rose inside me. This is why I love kayaking. It isn't about treading water with a paddle. It's about being one with nature.

With his head cocked and one beady eye on me, the bird steadily floated ahead. When it spread its wings it reminded me of a cormorant. I'd never seen a cormorant other than on Assateague Island and never one with ruddy cheeks. I was mesmerized.

Even though he knew I was watching and snapping photos, the bird allowed me to keep watch as long as I kept my distance. But when a fishing boat came around the corner, he finally spread his wings and rose into the air, slowly flapping across the lake and out of sight. I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding.

Across the water, two small figures in kayaks waved at me and I waved back, thinking it was Dan and Matthew and that they were heading back. I turned my kayak and started paddling. The inlet respite must have done me some good, because it seemed my paddling skills were back. I dug in, zipping across the water like a water-skeeter, speeding up the shoreline until the docks came into sight.

Rounding the corner, I stared at a metal contraption to the left of the docks. It was long and narrow with rollers between two rails. I nearly exploded into laughter as it hit me what this was. A kayak launch! There was no reason for this cold, wet bottom. We could have rolled down the launch and right into the water.

I waited, and finally the boys were back.

"Are you OK?" Dan asked. "When I saw you flying up the lake, paddling fast, I thought something was wrong!"

"Nope. Just got my mojo back," I said.

I pointed at the kayak launch and we all cracked up. And guess what? It was easy to get out of the water.

Lois Szymanski is a Carroll County resident and can be reached at loisszymanski@hotmail.com.

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