"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Camping with kids tips: Rent some kayaks

two boys in rented kayaks Erie Canal Fairport NY
Hey, let's go kayaking!

When you're camping with kids, you have to keep them entertained -- or else. This is especially true when camping out with teenage boys. They have unlimited energy and the attention span of a hummingbird. If you let two teenagers get bored, fighting ensues. It's a law of nature.

There was a time when bicycling and rollerblading around the camp loops took care of the energy and boredom issues. If the campground had a nice little store where we could buy some ice cream, that was good enough. Those days rest peacefully in our camping past.

These days, we seek out camping resorts with lots of available activities. Most offer swimming, miniature golf, and some sort of arcade. Several have fishing ponds or streams. We bring our croquet set so the whole family can compete in something at least mildly athletic. In case of rain, we always have games we can play under the awning.

With a bit of planning, you can find even more interesting things to do on your next camping trip. Campground websites usually offer "nearby attractions." We had hoped to go kayaking, one way or another, and finally took the plunge (literally!) this summer. If you find a vacation spot with a stream or canal nearby, chances are you can rent kayaks by the hour.

Turns out that we didn't have to look too far to find kayak rentals here. We didn't even have to book a campsite. Our kayak outing took place in downtown Fairport, right on the Erie Canal -- about four miles from our front door. For less than $50, we three boys rented kayaks, got a few quick pointers, and spent an afternoon wearing ourselves out.

Lesson One: Leave your valuables in the car!

kayak workout on the Erie Canal Fairport NY
If you've never piloted a kayak (we hadn't), consider the possibility that you might end up in the drink. After we spent a few minutes paddling around and getting used to the feel of these little watercraft, we decided to organize a game of Kayak Tag. We chose a wide spot on the canal, set end boundaries (dock to dock), and the chase was on.

After a few close calls and much laughing and taunting, we had our first victim. My youngest overturned his kayak and found himself treading water. His boat took on some water and ended up partially submerged.

Lesson Two: Kayaks do not "flip back up" by themselves!

We had basic open kayaks, not the kind you see in white water videos. These little boats are perfectly capable of sinking, if you aren't careful. Fortunately, we were only a few yards from one of the two docks. After some shouted instructions from our friendly boat rental guy (on the other shore), we were back on the water.

Less than twenty minutes later, the canal claimed its second victim -- my oldest son. Luckily, he'd left his cash and Blackberry in the truck. He also managed to right his kayak without too muich flooding. We learn from experience.

Two out of three was enough.

With two of us soaked to the skin, that left only me unscathed. I had money and my cell phone in my pockets, and I was getting worried. For one thing, I'm the least coordinated of the three of us. It occurred to me that both boys would have loved to see their dad in the water. I checked my watch (yes, I'm a glutton for potential disaster), and saw that our time was nearly up. We had already secured an extra half hour, after our first man overboard.

Not that my clothing wasn't soaked from splashing; but my valuables were intact. We had tempted the fates long enough. We were exhausted, too. Kayaking is hard work! We pointed our rented boats back to the launching dock, took time for a few pictures, and called it a day. I have to say, it was a very good day.

We had tried something new, spent an afternoon together, and burned off a few hundred calories in the process.

Mission accomplished.

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  1. raymond alexander kukkee9:13 PM

    Great article Jim, I really liked it!

  2. Thanks, Raymond.

    We had far more fun than I'd envisioned. Still, I'm glad I stayed dry in the end.