Originally Posted July 2013
Summer has finally reared it's brutal head here in the South. I guess I shouldn't say finally, that makes it sound like I wanted it here. Those that know me well know I get really excited for warmer weather, in the past that meant beach trips, and being outdoors. Now that I'm living in North Alabama, summer weather means extremely hot temperatures, and lots of sweat. I'm all for a good sweat session when I workout, but when I'm dressed up, my make-up is fixed and it's 104+ degrees outside, I'm miserable. Give me a kayak, and a cold beverage and let me float, otherwise I will be a beeotch to deal with.
One of my favorite bloggers, Miss Erin over at Living in Yellow shared what she called "The Best and Worst Day of her Life" to me, it looked like an amazing weekend on the lake with 40 of her friends. They do an annual canoe run, which is amazing. They even made commemorative koozies. How cute is that? Read about this years annual canoe trip here - it's even more epic! Commemorative shades, yes please!
Erin's post made me think a lot about how many times I've been out on the creek in my canoe, or kayak with my husband and friends and how even when you're wanting to have a great time, you must always put safety first.
I thought I'd take a moment and feature some safety tips, and items that are must haves for a float down the river or creek. Be it for 2 hours or a full day. So here are my personal must haves for a fun creek run!
1 // SUNBLOCK
I can't stress this enough. If you burn easily, or are a bit like me (OCD about burning and causing damage to my skin for cancer and vanity reasons) you must bring sunblock. I usually put some lotion on 20 minutes before I head out the door. Asking Mike to get it all over my shoulders and back. I recently started bringing spray sunblock with me for re-application. Just because it says SPF 120+ doesn't mean you don't have to reapply. Say it with me people, REAPPLY. If you aren't a freak about SPF, then by all means bring your tanning oil, I like to smell you as you float down the creek and pretend I'm at the beach. [Please note: I didn't reapply enough on my first run this season 2014 and I got crispy and red - lesson learned!!!!]
2 // HAT
This one isn't a NEED, but more of a suggestion. Again if you worry about your face burning, or the sun in your face, or just want to sport a fun accessory, the hat is the way to go. Be it a cowboy hat made of straw, a fun trucker cap, or just your favorite old ball cap. Rock it out. I'd suggest bringing one you aren't head over heels in love with. Better yet don't wear anything you couldn't bare to lose. Mike still has regrets of losing a Pearl Jam tour shirt he can't replace once while canoeing. [And forgo jewelry if it's important to you - not to mention necklaces make strange tan lines folks]. Hats are very handy incase you encounter a storm as well. They make it easier to see through the rain. Trust me on this one.
3 // SUNGLASSES
Who doesn't want to keep the sun out of their eyes. Bonus, when you can't wear full make-up on the creek they hide your tired eyes. If you wear full make-up on the creek, I have to ask, what's wrong with you? Ain't no body got time for dat! [I usually put on some concealer for my dark circles and some mascara, otherwise, it's SPF and sweat baby!]
4 // CHAPSTICK WITH SPF
Are you sensing a trend? The sun is brutal people, and your lips are fragile. Pucker up those puppies and coat them with some protection. If you must wear lip gloss fine, but don't cry to me when your canoe tips and you lose your most favorite shade that cost you $7.00+! Get some cheap lip shit, and if you lose it, no big - get some more at the gas station next time you get ice for your next trip down the creek.
5 // GOOD WATER SHOES
I can't stress this enough. If you are going on a big lake, or gentle waters while kayaking or canoeing then by all means sport some flip flops, or cure sandals that show off your pedicure. If you are however going on a creek that is often times rough, ever changing and there's a good chance you will either have to walk through the creek bed, pick yourself up after falling out of a canoe, or do some moving IN the water with rocks - get some good shoes with a closed toe, preferably with a reenforced toe. Keen's are great. The pair shown above are just like mine and I've had them for 6+ years now. I literally only want new ones because mine have become so old, and dirty (love you creek water). You'll pay a lot up front but they will last. Other sandals will work, most will stay on your feet but some will slip, and it's hard to walk in the water when your feet are slipping. There is also the fear of stubbing your toe on rocks mid flip, no one wants that. Just a safety tip from me to you.
6 // BUG SPRAY
No one wants ticks, or bites from other random bugs while kayaking. So if you are one of those people that bugs seem to LOVE, get yourself some spray for the trip. Take it with you (put it in the dry storage bag - see below).
IMPORTANT ADDITION: LIFE JACKETS My husband, Mike added in the comments the importance of having a life preserver / vest in the canoe / kayak at all times. And he's SO right, and I'm sorry I forgot to mention that. You don't always have to wear it but most state laws will insist you have one in the boat. Better to be safe, than sorry OR finned for not having one. Mike and I usually strap our vests to the back of our kayaks (with the cords on the boat), when we canoed we would strap and clip the vests to our seats and have them within arms reach to show cops on the creek, or incase the water got too rough. Side note, ladies if you get a chance to lay back and relax in the canoe while your partner steers (or gents) the vest makes a really comfy butt cushion for the bottom of the boat. Also, one more note - if you leave these in your car after a long trip on the creek your vehicle will smell to high heaven the next day. Always remove them, and let them air out!
You've got your cooler, and your hands full of all the crap you want to take with you. So let's load up the cooler with beer, food and ice. If you're kayaking it will be a small cooler, think lunch box or 6 pack size. If you're canoeing, you can bring a HUGE cooler and carry more stuff for yourself and your friends. Don't be rude, carry stuff for your friends, seriously. Besides they might even share some beer and snacks with you. You might also want to bring one of the canoe straps you used to tie your canoe to your vehicle. If you rented a canoe, maybe invest in a strap or two to bring with you. Belting the cooler to the canoe center seat will ensure you keep most of your drinks and snacks, in the cooler, if you should flip. (You can strap the lid shut if you get close to rough water). No one wants to lose precious brews on the water. ALSO: Please bring a "trash bag" - Do NOT Litter in the water. Put your cans, bottles and wrappers in the bag and dispose of it when you get back to dry land (in a trash can).
7 // DRY STORAGE BAG
These are great and come in a ton of different sizes. There are some big enough for you to bring a dry tshirt, some towels etc. I wouldn't suggest bringing a towel WITH you, but instead leave it at the pick-up vehicle so it will be warm and toasty when you get out of the chilly water. Usually we haven't had a need for that, but these bags will double as a great way to take along all the items listed above and keep them dry PLUS if you get smaller versions you can put your cell phone and wallet inside. I URGE you to invest in a hook that will attach your car keys to your belt loop, or your partners. That way that if you flip the canoe you don't lost your keys to the car you are supposed to be riding home in. [ALSO before leaving on the water, check to be sure your pick-up driver HAS his/her keys before you leave - it's a long ass walk home if they leave their keys IN the drop off vehicle]. If you have a small cooler, feel free to put some snacks in the dry bag that don't need to be kept cold. This is also a great place to store your toilet paper. You never know when you're going to need to pee. (Or you could just hang your booty in the water, just saying.)
8 // WATER and or HYDRATION DRINKS
Depending on how long you are out on the water it's always a good idea to carry a few bottles of water or hydrating drinks. Beer is great but when it's very hot, and you're sweating a lot you're only making your situation worse by dehydrating yourself further with alcohol. It's great to party. I've been there - 3 beer bongs deep and countless numbers of vodka shots on the creek -
9 // REFRESHMENT
To drink or not to drink on the creek, that is the question. The answer is only if you can hold your liquor and don't put others in danger. It's hard to navigate a canoe with one person, it can be done but it's sort of a dick move to leave one person piloting the boat while you sleep it off. Drink responsibly. My other suggestion is try to find drinks that come in cans vs. bottles. Bottles can shatter, and also take up a lot of space in a cooler, and in a bag when you are finished drinking them [can't stress this enough]. Cans can be smooched, and won't break. Bonus points if you pick small brewery made Craft Beers. Ladies, I have the best thing for you. If you love frozen drinks, go a head and get some of the pirate bay or whatever brand the make now (Mike's Hard Lemonade) frozen pouches. Put them in the cooler and get some LONG STRAWS. You can treat them as your adult Capri Sun's going down the creek. Cool and refreshing. Just make sure they don't melt too much.
ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WATER POLLUTION:
**** PLEASE PLAN TO BRING A TRASH BAG OR USE YOUR COOLER FOR EMPTIES. SO HELP ME IF YOU LITER WHILE CANOEING I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND BEAT YOU WITH YOUR OWN ARMS ***** You've been warned. [Sensing a trend, told you I couldn't stress it enough!]
10 // SNACKS
For short trips, or folks that are always hungry (like me) bringing some snacks on the trip are a must. Try to pick snacks that don't need to be chilled, and that are sturdy. Think Pretzels vs. chips. Chips will get all broken if they get shoved in dry storage and bounced around. Granola bars or Cliff Bars are great snacks to take. Both are dense, keep you full and are really, really good when they have the suns heat baking them, trust me, so good. You could also bring beef jerky or anything else your heart desires that won't perish outside of the cooler.
11 // MEALS
If you're going on a longer trip, think 3-4 or more hours, you may want to think of a meal. Your meal could be as simple as a sandwich with your pretzels or as extravagant as hamburgers. Yes, I said hamburgers. Let's start with the sandwiches. Pick a sturdy bread, you don't have to do this, plain old white bread / wheat bread is fine but keep in mind the longer it sits the longer your condiments are going to soak into the bread. Again be sure to keep your sandwiches cold, especially if you are using mayo. Nothing ruins a float more than a rancid sandwich except maybe a drunken boat buddy.
Now I say hamburgers because once Mike and I went canoeing for an entire day and he made a makeshift grill using the grate from our grill and some charcoal and branches. I pre made the patties with all the ingredients we needed and we kept it chilled in our cooler. They turned out amazing but it was one hell of a thing to do. Mike is a grill master. If you are a bit nervous brats and hot dogs work well too. Easy to tote a long and the hot dogs cook up in NO time. Just remember to keep your charcoal dry during the trip.
12 // KOOZIE
While this isn't a necessity, it makes for a fun addition to your snacks and refreshment. Mike figured out a way to use a kooz as a drink holder on our kayaks and I love it. Besides keeping your drink cold, it helps you to grip your drink if you have to set it between your legs while you paddle. Even better are the koozies that go around your neck, but I always feel silly wearing those. If you're a mixed drink kind of person a drink around the neck jug with a straw is perfect! Just try to remember to search for a plastic bottle for your booze and your mixers!
So you survived the creek/lake/river. Your muscles are screaming, you're head might be aching and for some reason eating 4 Clif Bars suddenly has you feeling a bit queasy. No worries, once you've loaded up your boats, tossed away your trash in the PROPER place you can climb into your vehicle and head home. Hopefully you'll remember when I say this, stash some towels in the pick-up car, or your car if you rented a boat. Your car seats will thank you. I always forget to bring them and I'm sure my leather seats hate me for it. Sometimes you get off the creek and you're burning up, other times you're freezing. Having a nice, car warmed towel after a long trip is heavenly [see I told you]. And they make your car smell fresh if they were just washed and dried.
So what to do now? You can go home and pass out (like a bitch), or you can invite your friends over for some grilled food and drinks. Usually this is exactly what Mike and I do. We are usually planning our dinner as we float down the creek. I don't know about most people but after a long day out in the sun, paddling left and right, I crave one thing - CARBS! Usually in the form of mac n' cheese or mashed potatoes.
13 // ALOE VERA
After you shower you'll realize how much sun your skin has taken on. For the reddest spots you might want to dab on some Aloe. It helps hydrate your parched skin and sometimes even helps from having too much peeling happen later down the line. I swear by this stuff.
14 // BBQ "AFTER FLOAT" ATTIRE
COMFORT IS KEY! You've been on the water all day, taking in the sun, the water and the elements. You've been suck in a swim suit that's been tied around your neck, or your manly jewels and you just want to feel relaxed. I always toss on my favorite comfortable pants, or shorts, a loose flowing tank-top or long sleeved t shirt (depending on how much sun I've had) and a pair of super easy flip flops. Doing your hair and make-up at this point is truly optional. I mean these people have seen you all day sweating and they still love you, forgetaboutit.
Now all you have left to do is bring a side dish to the hosts house, sit back relax, chat some more, laugh a lot, stuff your face with grilled goodness and give those muscles in your body a rest.
CAN'T FLOAT? NO ACCESS TO A KAYAK OR CANOE? NO WORRIES!
You can still enjoy the water, just swap the kayak/canoe for a beach chair. Gather your friends, their kids, your dogs and head to the nearest creek, or water way. Set up a day picnic and bring all the stuff I mentioned above. You don't have to float to enjoy the water, although some floats to put in the water, with cup holders would be excellent. Relax and enjoy the rays and your FREE Stay-cation afternoon.
BEWARE ON LAND OR WATER:
Be mindful of Snakes, Turtles, other wildlife - RESPECT NATURE!!!! They are everywhere. Study up on your poisonous varieties and also double check your knowledge on poisonous plants. And leave the critters alone, I don't care how cute they are - would you like someone interrupting your bath session?
All in all, be safe, have fun and keep your skin protected! I hope this helps anyone wanting to try kayaking or canoeing. I think my next write up should be about camping, what do you think?