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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Add a hobby that forces you to explore

I’ve been thinking a lot about a quote Matt Mullenweg wrote about earlier this year. It reads:

Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.

I’m going to drop in my own personal suggestion that we add a hobby that also forces us to explore.

I’ve noticed something in myself, and perhaps this fits your make-up as well — I enjoy having a reason to do something or to be some place different.

UAV with Nicholson Bridge in the background

Photo: Flying a drone in a thunderstorm over a river.

My photography has always forced me to find a new perspective. It has forced me to explore new places and to find new ways to look at places I’ve already been. Though I’ve picked up kayaking I consider it a facet of my photography. It affords me an entirely new perspective to areas I have already been and to explore new areas I couldn’t otherwise access. And now with Eliza’s gift of a UAV I find myself adding on a new facet of my photography hobby that does both of these things yet again; I’m able to get a new perspective on places I’ve already been and also access areas I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

So my creative hobby also forces me to explore new places and try new things. I hope yours does too.

Merli-Sarnoski Count Park Kayakers

Merli-Sarnoski County Park Kayakers – May 2016

Published: June 15, 2016

Observations from the first two years of kayaking

I’ve been kayaking for two years and one month.

Colin in Sandbridge VA

My first post about kayaking is a sprawling post about my first two paddles but one that I’m really happy I wrote and published. In it I show exactly the types of things a new paddler worries about; falling in, being cold, getting in and out of the boat, etc. In a recent post you see what a paddler thinks about after they’ve gotten over those things; where go to, what to see, and missing opportunities to catch snakes.

A bridge in Keenlake Campground

Kayaking may have saved my sanity. For the last two years I’ve been attempting to create a new company and I completely failed. Most start up companies fail. I knew that going in. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have an immense amount of stress living the ups and downs every day. Kayaking was my way to decompress. (More on this story in future posts.)

I’ve paddled in tons of local areas and even some a few hundred miles away from home. I have mentioned my goal of kayaking in Scotland once or twice here on my blog. Two years into my kayaking hobby and I still have that as a goal to do some day.

Tide is out in Back Bay Sandbridge Virginia

Here are some random observations I’ve made after two years of kayaking:

  • Anyone can do it. If you think you can’t for some reason, you’re likely wrong. Start off simple and slow with no expectations and you’ll likely be surprised.
  • More people should do it. Kayaking sounds like a great hobby to everyone I talk to and yet not as many people have kayaks as I think should. Especially here in Pennsylvania with thousands of bodies of water to explore.
  • It is less expensive than you think. A used kayak will set you back a few hundred dollars at most. The rest of the gear you need; paddle, life jacket, etc. is maybe $100 for a brand-new set. A rack for your roof may cost up to $100 too (unless your car already has them). After that kayaking is generally free and you can likely do it for years on your first set of gear.
  • It is very good for you. Exercise, fresh air, sun. All great things.
  • It is the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done. Some like to read a book to relax, some like to nap. I like to paddle. I like to be active yet my brain can simply forget the cares of the day and focus on moving forward or finding critters or enjoying the sounds of nature.
  • You don’t fall in often. In fact, I would say a more cautious paddler than me would almost never fall in. I’d even go one step further and say you could, if you wanted to, plan to never even get wet. I’ve paddled in jeans before. Getting in and out of the water using a dock you may never get any water on you at all.
  • You won’t be cold. Your body heat in a kayak creates a really nice insulated spot. Bundle up a little, you won’t be cold even in winter.
  • Pay attention to wind more than any other weather factor. Kayaking in rain is fun and adds no difficulty to your paddling. Even in a downpour it’d be a long time before your kayak gets enough water in it to make a difference. (And, you could cover your hull with a skirt if it is that bad). However, wind is a huge factor in how difficult your paddle will be. Take a minute to read this post I wrote after kayaking in Back Bay, Sandbridge, Virginia in 2015.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. Even very rough estimates of either of those things help a lot should anything happen.

Here are some, quite literally, random photos from the last two years.

Snapping Turtle in Lackawanna State Park

Oru Kayak in Back Bay Sandbridge VA

Crab claws in Sandbridge Virginia

Eliza and I in Lackawanna State Park

Eric and I in Quaker Lake

Dunn Pond

Sunset over Lackawanna State Park

A colorful Oru in Prompton State Park

A painted turtle in Prompton State Park

Oru Kayak in Prompton State Park

Snake in Back Bay Virginia

Colin and Justin in Sandbridge Virginia

Kayaking in the rain in Back Bay

Kayaking with Eliza, Kim, Jackie in Lackawanna State Park

Kayaking and rafting down the Delaware

A Beaver Dam in Dunn Pond

Eric and Jackie in Merli-Sarnoski County Park

Painted turtle in Merli-Sarnoski County Park

A peaceful paddle in Lackawanna State Park

My next kayaking goals are to get onto a few rivers, to paddle a two-day trip where I camp on the side of the river or lake, and to maybe fish from my kayak. I haven’t done any of those things yet.

Kayaking Merli-Sarnoski County Park in May 2016

When choosing a location to go for a paddle, don’t be fooled by the size of the body of water. Enormous lakes aren’t necessarily any more fun than the small ponds.

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Merli-Sarnoski’s Mountain Mud Pond is an excellent example of this. The entire shoreline of the pond could be paddled in under an hour yet it offers a lot of great little islands and tons of lilies to paddle around.

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Last week my friends Eric, Jackie and I went for an afternoon paddle on Mountain Mud Pond and it was just as fun as paddling in a much larger lake.

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There was one mishap though… I almost caught two water snakes of some kind at once (I think they were mating, one of them is in the above photo) and I missed them both because of me being unsure of their exact species.

I was paddling up to an island and saw the pair of them basking in the sun on top of one another. They let me get very close before they began to move, probably because they smelled me or could sense my heat, and so I placed my paddle on top of both of them. They didn’t fight it much at first. They were likely confused. I was trying to get a good look at their heads (which is how you can most tell if a snake is venomous or not) and before I got a good look they slid into the water.

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I did, however, manage to get my hands on this eastern painted turtle. He, or she, was forging underneath the water and I saw its feet kicking back and forth. So I reached in and nabbed the turtle for a closer look. I put a video of the release on Instagram.

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It was an incredibly nice and warm day for a paddle. Looking forward to paddling Mountain Mud Pond at Merli-Sarnoski Park again.

Thomasz Furmanek, Kayaker, Instagrammer

I’ve been following Thomasz Furmanek on Instagram for a few years already (right around the time I got my first kayak, the Oru Kayak, which is the same one Furmanek uses).

I liked this bit in his photographic interview with Daily Mail:

The kayak enables me to travel to remote places and show people these places from a different perspective than they are used to.

I think this is one of the reasons people enjoy my photos too. I have people come up to me and say “I love your photos, please keep sharing them”. And I think it is because they are seeing places they go to and have seen (parks, recreational areas, rivers) but from a completely different angle. I will keep taking them and sharing them because I love doing it.

Regarding Furmanek’s photos, though… he’s cheating. Norway is just stunning from any angle.

The new Oru Kayak: Beach

An all-new kayak from Oru Kayak, Beach.

It’s the easiest collapsible boat in the world to put together, taking just three minutes. Its 28″ width makes it stable and comfortable. The open cockpit makes entry a breeze, for paddlers of all shapes and sizes.

I love the design and it looks like there are tons of improvements, both obvious and subtle, that have been made since I got my Bay. The only thing I don’t like is the name. It is a bit misleading. You’d never want to use this one on the beach.

Paddling for snapping turtles

Check out this guy (or gal). A screenshot from a GoPro video.

This past Saturday afternoon we had some beautiful weather and so I went kayaking at a nearby lake. This time of year is an incredible time to paddle since every animal is very active, making nests, waking up from the winter, preparing for the heat of summer.

 

The geese, in particular, were insane. If you follow me on SnapChat you’ll have seen some wing-to-wing combat going on. Fiercely territorial, these geese in the above image were dead-set on the land grab.

One other thing that makes this time of year great to paddle is that everything is turning green, blooming, sprouting, and reaching for the sun. Check out this tree blooming.

 

Something I didn’t plan on (but should have) was that turtles were beginning to wake up out of their frozen sleep sessions and scratch and claw their way out of the mud. So I ended up seeing a few turtles and having the opportunity to catch one.

 

One thing I took some time to learn last year was how to properly catch these guys without hurting them or myself. Many people will simply grab a snapping turtle by the tail, fearing their lightning quick snap, and end up seriously injuring the animal or slowly killing them. It turns out that by holding them up by their tail could dislocate their spine and give them a painful death.

So, last year, I watched a few YouTube videos and many people that are catching snapping turtles don’t care about harming them because they are going to eat them. And I’m all for turtle soup. I just don’t think you need to injure the turtles to enjoy some soup.

Anyway, the proper way to catch a snapping turtle is to grab the back, tail-end of their shell, lightly lift their back legs off of the ground, slide your hand underneath their belly, grab their chest/shell and pick them up. All of their weight will be on their chest which won’t hurt them and the worst they can do to you is scratch you with their claws.

This snapping turtle was about 6 lbs. So, a pretty small snapper even for our area. I’ve seen snapping turtles that were at least 3’ across the tops of their shells. I’m hoping to have a chance to catch one of those this year.

 

Oh, and when trying to catch a turtle I fell in.

 

Pro tip: Don’t kayaking in jeans and fall in. Rookie move.

I was in Eliza’s kayak which is virtually impossible to tip over but somehow I managed to do it by diving after a turtle. My phone was in my left pocket and I somehow managed to keep that pocket dry (as you can see in the above photo) and pull the phone out just in time.

Stay tuned for more kayaking and turtle adventures this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Bullhead Bay, Lackawanna State Park, November 2015

Published: March 29, 2016

Kayaking at Sunset, White Oak Pond, October 2015

Published: March 22, 2016

Sunsetting, Back Bay, Virginia, October 2015 (related)

Published: March 14, 2016

Kayaking Quaker Lake and Lake Carey

Last weekend my friend Eric and I went paddling around Quaker Lake and Lake Carey; each in northeastern PA pretty close to the New York border and each equally different.

Quaker Lake is a beautifully clear glacial lake that does not allow speed boats or jet skis and has some really well kept and manicure homes and properties. I’m looking forward to bringing Eliza here at some point. In fact, I’ll be seeking out lakes that restrict the horsepower of the motors more often.

Lake Carey is the opposite of Quaker Lake… the smell of fuel is pretty prevalent and the speed-boaters and weekenders partying in the middle of the lake are rampant. Not my style so I likely won’t be back on the yak. However, if I ever want to get a cool Bud Light and chat about how much the local fishing laws stink I know right where to go.

Photos from Quaker Lake:

Photos of Lake Carey:

Thanks to Eric for showing me around.