Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mary The Kayak Lady: One Woman, One Kayak, 1007 Lakes

At a time when everyone seems to be so enamored of the big feats of kayaking (crossing the Atlantic, circumnavigating Australia), it was refreshing to read about a woman who simply chose to make it her goal to kayak on all the lakes in her county.  No sponsors, no website, no blog.  However, if you live in Itasca County, Minnesota, that may not be as simple a goal as it sounds.  The first problem is that she lives in the "land of 10,000 lakes".  Her county claimed to have 1007 lakes while the DNR's official lake list "only" included 945.  It took her eleven years to get to the 945 lakes on the DNR list, and then she made it a quest to find the 62 other bodies of water that were considered "lakes" under DNR criteria.

The author, Mary Shideler, chooses to highlight just a small sampling of her experiences during the many years that she paddled on these lakes.  Her life circumstances change over time, and she changes over time, as well.  The chapters are illustrated with photos taken by Mary and her friends.  The photos are nothing spectacular in an artistic sense, but their inclusion gives us a clearer picture of Mary and her personality.

While paddling on the lakes, Mary also attempted to add to the body of information about the lakes in her county by taking depth measurements and water clarity readings on each lake with a Secchi disk.

At a mere 142 pages including dozens of photos, this is a quick and easy read.  It may not be worthy of a national bestseller, but in it's own way, it may be an important inspiration to other paddlers to get out and set a big goal for themselves.  It isn't always necessary to paddle around a continent to be an accomplished kayaker.