This"outdoorsy" looking contingent of ladies are part of a "paddling affinity group" that participate in an assortment of kayaking trips on the lakes and streams of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Apparently, the name/activities of the group has stirred up curiosity, as we had a couple of members of the press accompany us on a recent trip. This photo shows photojournalist Kevin Pieper taking our group photo at the beginning of the adventure. Kevin was there on assignment from the Baxter Bulletin ( www.BaxterBulletin.com ) to get images to accompany an article being planned for the newspaper's healthy lifestyle magazine, called Living Well.
Each outing has a designated leader, to ensure that all participants are wearing their required personal flotation device, and the leader asks that none of the ladies get out in front of her. Likewise, there is a designated lady to be the "sweep", or last person in the group, to be sure no one is unintentionally left behind.
The Buffalo National River ( www.nps.gov/buff/ ) has several access and takeout areas, but the tricky part is getting enough cars at the take out point to return the kayakers to their vehicles left at the starting point. Fortunately, the Internet and various social media sites have made this process easier than it was back in the days when the Buffalo River first became a national park!
Our group floated on a weekday, which is less crowded than floating the river on a busy spring weekend. We had plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the scenery!
Thejournalist accompanying Kevin Pieper on this trip is (partially!) shown in this photo. Her name is Chandra, and she is also the one who took the first two photos on this blog. You can tell she did a better job with her photos than I did, as I didn't get the camera aligned properly to include all of her lovely face!
We were fortunate to still get to see a few dogwoods in bloom along the bluffs we went past.
I have had people ask where the name "WHOyaker" originated, so here is the story, as I understand it:
Several years ago, a group of ladies in the Twin Lakes area started meeting regularly once per week to hike some of the dozens of trails we are blessed with. For example, they hiked the trail that is on top of this bluff amidst the pine trees you can see. They called themselves the "Women Hiking the Ozarks", or "W.H.O." for short.
The women did not usually hike in the summer, because of the intense heat, humidity, TICKS, and CHIGGERS, that make climbing up the hills and switchbacks, somewhat less enjoyable. Therefore, that same W.H.O. group of hikers started planning kayak outings for the summer months, and came up with the name "WHOyakers"!! So now you know "the rest of the story"!
Ifyou think kayaking is something you might enjoy trying, I would recommend signing up for a kayaking class in the area where you live. One way to find out where and when such a class might be offered, if going to the website of your state parks system. For example, when I typed "kayak" into the search box on the Arkansas State Parks website ( www.Arkansas.com ), there were 591 results, telling about various kayaking events around the state. I have participated in some of these, most notably, the FANTASTIC overnight kayaking trips put on each spring and autumn at Lake Ouachita State Park near Hot Springs. I would heartily recommend that event for ladies, gents, kids, and families! (see posts dated Oct. 26, 2008; May 21, 2013; May 22, 2013) Likewise, I am scheduled to participate in a kayak event sponsored by the Bull Shoals White River State Park, on May 31, 2014. You can phone 1-870-445-3629 for registration details for those classes.
I have been a fan of Kevin Pieper's work for years, and felt really fortunate to get to spend the day observing him in action! He is quite a skilled outdoorsman, which is fortunate, considering the expensive camera equipment he had around his neck during the trip! I have a copy of Kevin's wildflower poster on display in my home, and he also has a photo book published, which you can order from his website www.pieperphoto.com . Besides being a photojournalist, his college degree is in zoology, so he was quick to point out the bald eagles, herons, hawks, and other wildlife we saw along our journey down the Buffalo.
There are numerous gravel bars along the river, where it is easy to pull your kayak out, and have a "shore lunch".
Although it was not chilly, one of the ladies built a campfire to gather around, just for the ambiance!
If you are a woman, and would like to spend more time enjoying God's great outdoors, but you don't have a clue as to how to start, I would recommend that you look up a program called "Becoming an Outdoor Woman". I have participated in their weekend events in the states of Missouri, Oregon, and Arkansas, and they have been FANTASTIC! ( See blog posts on Sept. 23, 2008, for more info). One gets to take classes in a variety of outdoor activities, and find out ( in a non-threatening environment!) if they enjoy a particular sport. I have tried out snowmobiling, cross country skiing, chainsaw operation, shooting sports, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, rappelling, backpacking, fly fishing, survival training, and others I can't remember! If you go to this website, you will find that most states have a program, so you just click on the state you are interested in, to find out the information: www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow/ .
Likewise, some state parks offer outdoor weekends for women, that can give you a sampling of a variety of sports. I have had the good fortune to attend such weekends at Lake Catherine State Park ( October 15, 2013, blog post) and Bull Shoals/White River State Park. There are lots of photos and information about the BSWR event on the blog posts dated October 7, 2009, and March 6, 2013.
Kayaking for me is a "rush"and sometimes scary, but for some people, it is total relaxation! One of the ladies seems to be enjoying an afternoon snooze when we stopped to stretch our legs!
Ourgroup made it safely to our take out point at Gilbert, Arkansas, and found a person to take this group photo that included Kevin. He had earned his title of "Honorary WHOyaker"!
One has to be a "water watcher" if they plan a trip on the Buffalo National River. Since it is one of the few streams remaining in the USA that does not have a dam on it, there can be wide variations in its water levels. I find it interesting that this phenomena of varying water levels is even mentioned in the Bible! Psalms 126:4 says "Bring back our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the South." The explanation for this verse in the Jeremiah Study Bible ( www.JeremiahStudyBible.com ) is that the streams in the south dry up in the summer heat and swell in the autumn and winter rains. The psalmist pleads with God to swell the streams of Israel's returnees, until all are back from captivity. Just as it was true in the southern parts of the Holy Lands, so it is true for the southern parts of the USA! So when you are considering a float trip on the Buffalo, look up at the skies, and down at the water levels, and you are sure to have "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia