Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disability Kayaking - Living an Adventure, Creating a Memory

Yesterday I went kayaking with some friends. My friend Carol went along. On the surface it was just some friends eating a picnic in a beautiful park and then kayaking a few miles down Pennsylvania's Youghiogheny River.

However this was a very special adventure and memory! Another friend and I first planned to take Carol kayaking, but our plan grew into an adventure and memory for several other disabled friends. All seven of us participated in the adventure and making a wonderful memory!

When I went into Yough Outfitters to pay for the kayak rentals, I told the young man at the counter that we only needed five oars as one person on the trip wouldn't be rowing. (The single kayak was privately owned with its own paddle) I explained that my friend walked with a walker and had a bad shoulder. I wish you could have seen the expression on his face. He said, "You are going to take her kayaking? Are you sure?"

I smiled and said, "Yes and it will work. We have a plan." When he continued to look at me as if I had three heads and an extra eye in the middle of my forehead, I said, "Trust me. It will work fine!"

Yough Outfitters rented us kayaks and transported us to a lovely park. We ate a leasurily picnic and then put in the Yough from the boat ramp. We ended up with seven people and four kayaks: three tandems (kayaks built for two) and a single kayak.

We stowed all our gear including two coolers in the four kayaks. Then we walked Carol from the picnic table across the grass and down a little incline. The wheeled walker she usually uses was back at the outfitters in our van. Two of us got on either side of her and were her "crutches." She also used her folding cane.

Our plan was to seat Carol in the front of a tamdem and then push the kayak into the water. With only a few lurches, Carol was soon seated and ready to roll!

All in all we had a friend with Altzheimer's, a friend who is blind in one eye and another friend who suffers from depression plus Carol who has Parenchymatous cortical degeneration of the cerebellum. She has severe issues with her balance and a number of other challenges.

We put into the Yough River at the park and floated down the river a couple of miles back to Yough Outfitters.

The original plan was for another friend and me to take Carol kayaking. We had a plan as much as you can ever plan for something totally "out of the box" and very challenging.

When we were several miles into the trip, the youngest member of our party decided to jump out and "swim" for awhile. Carol told me she'd like to swim, too. Amazingly Carol was able to sort of fall out into the water without turning the kayak over. She brought two swim noodles. We rigged those around her and removed her life vest. Some of the others held the two kayaks. Two of us got on either side of Carol in the water. We walked her and floated till we were just in sight of the last set of gentle rapids.

When Carol suddenly "fell" over into the water, some in our group were shocked as they didn't know it was planned. The water was mostly shallow enough to walk except for some deeper spots.

When we got close to the rapids, we steered our kayak and Carol over to really shallow water. We were able to push Carol back over the kayak and then turn her so she was seated properly again.

On the way home we all agreed we'd had a blast!

It's so cool to be able to give an adventure and a memory to someone who couldn't do kayaking without considerable effort on someone else's part.

Just getting Carol to the picnic table and then back to the boat ramp to put her in the kayak was challenging and interesting.

By the end of the day, we were all tired, happy and ready to do it all over again another day!

And as Porky Pig says, ""Th-th-th-that's all folks!" - for now!

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