This month we have a guest blogger, Dan Truitt, one of our awesome Ambassadors. Dan is a paddler in North Alabama and can be followed on Instagram: @southern.paddler
Growing up in Decatur, Alabama, I was never far from the water. There was a long period of time in my early adulthood where I did not paddle much because life became hectic and other hobbies seemed to come and go, but deep down I always loved the water. Eventually I bought my own kayaks since living in Decatur and having the Tennessee River and Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge just minutes from my house meant that I could go anytime I wanted…and I did. Last year (2019) I documented 37 day trips, mostly to various outfitters around North and Central Alabama. I lost count of how many actual trips I took just around Decatur, but I would sometimes go 3 times a week and I went at least once in every calendar month last year. This year I’m proud to be a social ambassador for 100 Alabama Miles and to encourage others to get out on the water.
I love paddling for several reasons. First and foremost, just being outside in nature. I love observing animals, looking at natural landscapes and simply getting some fresh air away from the city. Second, it’s incredibly relaxing to me. Getting out on a small river or creek, away from traffic and noise, and absorbing the peace and quiet does my soul good. Lastly, I enjoy the exercise. Most trips I do are relatively easy, meaning floating with the current but you can make it a workout by paddling faster and/or farther.
Alabama has over 5,300 miles of waterways and is one of the most bio-diverse states in our country. From the mountains in the northeast to the Gulf Coast, there is something for everyone and for every type of paddler. Whether it’s whitewater adventure on mountain streams, lazy floats on small rivers or exploring along the swamps and deltas of the south, there is an adventure on the water for you.
Paddle sports popularity, especially kayaking, has exploded over the last several years. Big box stores are carrying bigger and better selections of boats and gear, communities are adding new water access points and new outfitters are popping up every year. Alabama boasts over 50 adventure services. Plus, social media groups which share information on great trips, tips and advice are plentiful. All of this means that it has never been easier to get out and enjoy Alabama’s waterways.
To make your trip fun and safe, there are few simple tips. First, know what you’re getting into. Don’t take off on an adventure until you are comfortable with the type of water (flat, current, rapids) that you are entering. If your trip is on a waterway that is not maintained by an outfitter, be careful of log jams and other obstructions. Second, always have PFDs (personal flotation devices). You are not required to wear them (except for small children), but you do have to have one for each person on a boat. Secure anything on your boat that you don’t want to lose in case you inadvertently flip. Paracord or bungee straps should do the trick. Lastly, if you pack it in, pack it out. If we all do our part to retain and properly dispose of trash we will ensure pleasant and beautiful trips for those that follow behind us.