As the snow finishes melting and we take guesses at when the ice will go out, our thoughts often turn to our summer paddling plans. On June 1, we once again kick off Celebrate Paddling ADK, the month-long series of paddling-related events in the Saranac Lake region.
One of the best things about canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding is that it can be enjoyed by the entire family. I met up with Jason Smith, local family man and owner of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, to find out how he spends the perfect family day on local rivers, ponds, and lakes. Jason not only outlined his day, but also added some tips and tricks for paddling with a family of any age, from young children to teenagers. Here is his day:
7 a.m. – Wake the family up.
7:15 a.m. – Wake the family up again.
7:30 a.m. – Send Mom to wake the family up (for some reason this final wake-up works).
7:45 a.m. – Assemble the family to plan out the route for the day. Jason says he makes sure to include everyone in the decision-making process. Weather, age, and experience of the children, and overall mood of the day, will be some of the factors in determining where they choose to go. It’s a good idea to offer two or three options and let the kids pick which one they like best. Going over the routes on a map with every child and pointing out some landmarks will help everyone get excited about their decision. Choosing good boats for the selected route and paddling ability of each person is also important.
8:00 a.m. – Pack up! It’s best to use a simple checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten. Older kids can help load the canoes or kayaks, younger kids can make sure they remember their bathing suit and water bottle.
8:30 a.m. – On the road (make sure the dog isn’t forgotten). Jason makes sure to stop by Origin Coffee or Blue Moon Café for some breakfast sandwiches and coffee, of course!
9:00 a.m. – Stop by Lakeview Deli or Fusion Market to pick up a delicious bagged lunch. Hopefully the cooler isn’t forgotten; it’s important to keep the beverages cold and the pickles crisp.
9:15 a.m. – In route to the put in!
9:30 a.m. – Arrive at the put in! If a loop route has been selected there’s nothing more to consider. If the route starts and ends at a different location, make sure a car is “dropped” or “spotted” at the take out. A fun way to do this on shorter trips is with a bike shuttle; it can be even more enjoyable to turn this day into a multi-sport activity.
10:00 a.m. – Once the boats have been loaded, the gear packed, and the car double-checked, it’s time to set out for some exploration! Jason always reminds his family to load the boats while they’re fully floating in the water so as not to damage the canoes or kayaks.
10:15 a.m. – Let the paddling commence! While on the water there is a plethora of activities to do with the family. Older kids can lead the way and set the pace for everyone else, possibly exploring some side channels and hidden bays. Younger kids can be entertained with stick, fishing line, and small rubber ducky. Simply tie the ducky to the stick, and let the kids cast and reel in their catch! A good learning opportunity is to ask the kids to point out where they are on the map, an important skill that will greatly contribute to their future route-finding awareness.
Noon – Time for lunch! Jason’s usual spot is a beach or campsite, but as long as there’s a place to swim everyone will be happy. Approaching shore is a great opportunity to teach kids about some important canoe and kayak strokes, such as a draw stroke to help the boat move sideways towards the landing. Lunch time is also a great opportunity to do some fishing. Make sure that everyone 16 and older has a fishing license, which you can purchase at Blue Line Sports right on Main Street, Saranac Lake.
1:00 p.m. – Once the trash sweep is done (leave it better than you found it), it’s time to get back on the water. While paddling Jason likes to involve everyone in more experiential education. From Adirondack history to teaching about local flora and fauna, there are always learning opportunities to be had.
3:00 p.m. – Time to conclude the paddling portion of the day! A little “controlled tipping” of the canoe or kayak can provide good rescue practice for the kids, and it certainly helps cool off after a warm afternoon of paddling. Jason always makes sure the canoes or kayaks are completely washed out so as to keep invasive species from spreading to other waterbodies. A sponge greatly helps with this process!
3:30 p.m. – Once the boats have been packed up and the dog dried off, it’s time to head to the nearest ice cream location. Thankfully the Saranac Lake area has over five to choose from!
4:00 p.m. – Back at the house, it’s important to clean, dry, and store all equipment properly. This is, of course, a family affair, so Jason makes sure everyone recognizes that if you take care of your gear, your gear will take care of you.
5:00 p.m. – Family nap time. Go on, you deserve it!
6:00 p.m. – It’s time for dinner! Jason usually surveys the family to find out what everyone’s in the mood for. Sometimes a cookout is in order, and friends and family are invited over to take part in a backyard grill. Other times they head downtown to experience the plethora of evening dining options.
8:00 p.m. – After dinner Jason and his family drive home, often stopping to enjoy the sunset on the way. Once home, they reflect on their perfect Adirondack paddling day, and usually start thinking about where they’ll paddle next week!
If you need help putting your own perfect family paddling day together, reach out to Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, or Mac’s Canoe Livery. While you’re at it, ask about some of the exciting events offered this June during Celebrate Paddling ADK. From the Adirondack SUP Festival to the outdoor food tasting and recipe swap, there is something for everyone. We look forward to seeing you and the rest of your family on the water this June!
Submitted by guest blogger: Tyler Merriam