Kayaking a new lake with “old” friends

Classmates reconnected: Traci, Shari and Kori

When I started Two Orange Kayaks, I asked if anybody wanted to join me on a kayaking adventure, and the first to respond was Kori, a high school classmate.

“How do you feel about beginners?” she inquired.

I was pumped to introduce my favorite pastime to a newbie! My mission is to share the joy of kayaking with others.

This weekend, we were finally able to connect, and we met at the summer getaway of another high classmate, Traci, on Lake Koshkonong in Milton, Wisconsin, about 40 minutes southeast of Madison.

Close to home, but a lake I’d never been to, I was curious about its name. One of the early settlers in the region, the Potawatomi Indians, referred to the area as Gishkzhegonang or catfish place, which was transcribed into English as Koshkonong. Lake Koshkonong is a reservoir along the Rock River, spanning about 16 square miles with an average depth of six feet.

Kori slipped easily into the kayak and I pushed her off the beach into the lake while Traci and my daughter, Rebecca, got settled in their kayaks. Once we were all in, we floated for a moment, giving Kori a chance to get a feel for being on the water. She liked it and immediately felt comfortable.

Our first decision was which way we should go: northeast or southwest? I felt there was a soft breeze blowing into the beach, so we should go into the wind, southwest, so it would be easier on the ride home. (Let me note right here, I never get this part right!)

Southern Wisconsin has been getting a lot of rain this spring and all week the forecast threatened more rain for Saturday. We were lucky – the sun was shining on us and the chance of rain kept getting pushed later and later in the day. It turned out to be a perfect morning for kayaking. The lake was quiet, occupied by a few fishermen and a couple of landowners installing their docks along the shoreline.

We paddled leisurely along the shore, not exerting too much energy, which gave us time to catch up.

I’ve only seen Kori and Traci at a few class reunions over the past 30 years. Our graduating class consisted of 16 students. (Yes, a small rural school! Small then and small now; the 2019 graduating class had 21 students.) Going to school together for 12 years, we were a close-knit bunch and all knew each other’s parents and siblings. Facebook helps us stay somewhat connected, but it was great to spend the morning talking about our families and mutual friends.

The three of us each married young and our kids have all graduated from high school and most from college by now. Even though we’re “barely hanging onto” our 40s, we agreed that by starting our families in our mid-20s, now we’re still young enough to have fun and be adventurous as empty nesters.

Talking and reminiscing, we continued across the lake. After passing under the bridge toward the Rock River, we decided to turn around and head back the way we’d come. As I noted earlier, my intention of choosing the right direction to paddle so it’s easier on the way home doesn’t usually work out as planned. Since Lake Koshkonong is really part of the Rock River, we’d been moving with the current to the south. No wonder paddling had seemed so leisurely! Now, to get home, we seemed to paddling uphill. I felt bad giving Kori a workout her first time out with me in the kayaks.

She never complained and continued to smile through it all. We paddled our way back to shore, and while I fear she and Traci may have experienced sore shoulders on Sunday, we had a great time!

While it’s not always easy to find a day that works to meet up, it’s always worth it in the end. We don’t see each other often, but getting together reminded me that these two ladies are good people, good friends and we share a strong past. They are a part of home.

I drove away with a happy feeling in my heart. And it wasn’t long before we were exchanging messages again.

“Today was so nice. Let’s do it again soon!” said Traci.

“Agreed. It was so fun! I am game to go again anytime and am thinking I will need a kayak soon,” said Kori.

That makes me smile. Mission accomplished: we have a new kayaking enthusiast among us!

Rebecca, Traci and Kori head away from the shore on Lake Koshkonong.

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