by Chris Flores
When I got into a kayak with my friend, I thought it would be easy to kayak. I thought I would be easily able to turn and seamlessly be able to coordinate. I was very wrong. You see, we had just a few minutes earlier arrived at St. James boat club to take a kayaking tour of a wetland area of New Orleans called Lost Lands. Since there weren't enough kayaks for everyone, we were split up into two groups. One would go kayaking first while the other group received a short lesson. I was in the group that was kayaking first, along with my friend who I was partnered with. We were told to back out of the dock, and the arguing already started. We argued over whether to backpaddle left or forward paddle right, and then one of us hit the other person with their paddle, and then we started drifting under the causeway. The fact that the paddles were dripping water onto our legs wasn’t helping the situation.
Once we started moving, we were still super uncoordinated and at the back of the group. Then after a few minutes of being 50 yards from the group, it seemed like we all of a sudden realized what we were doing wrong, because we not only caught up to the group, we got ahead of everyone else. Once I was able to take my mind off of arguing, I realized how cool it was. You couldn’t see any solid land at all! It was just trees and plants growing to form a path that we kayaked through. But even the water had little plants growing in it!
There were a bunch of different types of teeny tiny little plants in the water. They looked like alien species, and they all looked like different variations of the same plant. They looked for the most part like one big, green, slimy, main stem with a bunch of smaller copies of it coming out and then a bunch of even smaller copies coming out of those. It also had a little flower-like thing on the top. Except, this "flower" had a bunch of microscopic hair-like things that when you dropped a drop of water on it, held the drop of water up in a clear, circle-like shape. It was like a Christmas tree, yes, a Christmas tree, except a Christmas tree where all the branches and needles looked exactly like the trunk but smaller.
Also, when you looked out past the "river," you could see just water. At first I thought it was the ocean. I later learned that it was Lake Pontchartrain. But from a tiny kayak, a big stretch of gray, murky water (It didn’t help that that part of the lake had a cloudy sky). It was almost scary what huge, carnivorous animals could be lurking just below the surface, ready to bite your head off! Anyway, we stopped going out into the dark, mysterious part of the lake/wetlands and took a right turn. This little branch of the river was very peaceful and quiet. It was just so tranquil and sunny! There were tons of animals.
Then we turned around to go back. We tried to beat everyone back and go faster than we had gone the entire rest of the ride! The problem was, everyone else was, too! As we came back through the peaceful section, the tranquility was interrupted as all 11 kayaks raced through the tiny river branch. As my friend and I avoided the crashes and kayaks t-boning each other, we saw the main river! We and a few other kayaks, which had managed not to crash into another kayak, all raced toward it. As we paddled as hard as we could, we started going super fast, and it felt like we were flying! Just the feeling of gliding along the water at high speed was so awesome! We came out of the little branch second, but we still got into the lead after a minute or so. The lead changed hands a few times (there were now only three or four contenders left) and it was really close at the end, but we ended up winning.
After the tour, we had our lesson on land loss due to ocean rising. One of the most shocking facts was that Louisiana loses 25,000 Acres per year. That is an area the size of a football field every 40 minutes. It was shocking. We saw so many cool plants and animals, it would be terrible if all of them lost their homes! We also learned that the reason that the oceans are rising is because the polar ice caps and other huge ice masses are melting into the oceans due to greenhouse gases (we learned more about these issues in Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth.). Finally, we ate lunch and just played around until it was time to leave and go to our next amazing destination!