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Sat, April 20

Paddling with Prescott's finest good for your health

The knees go first," I lamented to Howard Kravitz, retired pulmonary physician and president of the Prescott Paddle Club.

"Three surgeries on the right knee and one coming up on the left. What really ticks me off is that I'm losing some of my cardiovascular conditioning because I can't run anymore."

Howard had an answer.

"Let me show you how to increase that cardiovascular workout by learning how to maneuver a kayak. You can sit in this thing in relative comfort and, using your upper body muscles, move the craft around the lake."

"Can I get my heart rate up by just paddling?"

"Are you kidding? Paddle as fast as you can and it's like bicycling uphill. Ever done that?"

"Yeah, and it wore me out."

We moved off the dock and onto the huge expanse of Willow Lake, off of Willow Creek Road, north of Willow Creek Park in Prescott. Howard showed me how to paddle forward, backward, sideways, and how to turn the kayak on a dime. The learning curve was fast and it became fun right away.

"What's the biggest problem out here on the lake?," I asked.

"Wind, and its ability to push you around and tire you out if you have to paddle against it. As a matter of fact, you can feel that wind picking up this morning. It usually starts shortly after sun-up and picks up strong by 11 a.m. It comes consistently from the southwest. If it gets strong enough to cause white caps on the lake, it's time to paddle back home to the dock."

I followed Howard and his paddle as we skirted the shoreline, then broke out on a 45-degree angle against small wind waves coming right at us. I decided to try out the 'paddle fast' challenge.

As I dug the blades into the cool water faster and faster, my heart rate zoomed and I knew I had found a secondary conditioning exercise. Howard caught up and slipped by me, leading me through a couple openings in the above-water granite outcroppings that jut up along the lakeshore.

We floated the kayaks together and just enjoyed the quiet. Quiet! Yeah, that was it. Everything was quiet - no traffic sounds, no phones, no boring TV news anchors, nobody wanting anything from me. Life suddenly became serene, calm, relaxed. I was totally in the present - no past, no tomorrow, just right now - just the sound of solitary ducks, cormorants and herons, accompanied by the sounds of huge cottonwood trees swishing in the wind and the gentle slapping sounds of small waves up against the kayak hulls.

The universe stood still for a few moments as those waves rocked the small boats back and forth in the timeless rhythm of the human heartbeat - moments all too infrequent in the speed of modern life.

"Hey Howard, can we stay out here all day?"

The Prescott Paddle Club keeps a regular schedule at Goldwater Lake (first Saturday of the month), Lynx Lake (second Saturday of the month), Watson Lake (third Saturday of the month), Willow Lake (fourth Saturday of the month) and Granite Basin Lake (fifth Saturday of the month). Paddle times start at 8 a.m. from May through September. For more information, contact the Prescott Paddle Club online at prescottpaddler.com.

(Dave Ganci is owner of The Hike Shack, an outdoor hiking and walking footwear store in Prescott. He runs the Arizona Outdoor Institute, an Outdoor Skills

Program, and leads hiking classes for Yavapai College)

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