The local paddling store, Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters in Hot Springs, has a ‘Demo Day’ every year. It was at this event last spring that we had a chance to meet the staff of the store and some local paddlers who had come out to help. It was at Demo Day last year when Bryan and Mandy picked out their LiquidLogic XP kayaks, and where Hayduke and I first tried, and settled on, ‘his’ Native Ultimate. Just a year later, we still have those first three boats in our garage, along with three more used boats we’ve bought since then, and four we’ve borrowed from other people. We’ve made some great friends of paddlers since then. We kind of felt like this year’s Demo Day was a sort of anniversary for us.
This year’s event was bigger and better than last year’s, I think. Hayduke kicked it off by cheerfully knocking me down and dragging me down a slick rock and into the cold lake. He does love water, but that was a little ridiculous, and I told him so, and he didn’t care about my opinion at all.
There were more kayaks available to try out this year, and there were boat designers and representatives from several different companies. We were most interested in the whitewater kayaks, but of course there were plenty of flatwater and fishing boats as well. Everybody in our family paddled several creek boats in order to compare them to each other, and Kathy and Jarion and Mitch tried a few things, too. Ivy rode nicely on the boats while Kathy paddled; Hayduke swam around in the lake like the idiot dog that he is, and we ran over his head with the boats, and he thought that was fine.
We’re not shopping for new boats right now, but we all daydream a little about it, and one needs to add a little fuel to a daydream, now and then.
The girls played in the cold water together, racing and having rolling contests. Mandy bare-hands rolled a Pyranha Jed with no footblocks, over and over, and kept at it until she couldn’t feel her head anymore. The water really was cold – I knew it because I’d taken a spill off a stand-up paddleboard just a few minutes before. But it was a pretty day and once out of the water, it didn’t take long for the sun to warm us up again.
Monkey’s been needing a boat of her own for some time – our family often doesn’t have anything appropriate to loan her, and the Dominatrix she’s been borrowing from Cowper just doesn’t fit and can’t be adjusted. She’s been trying other boats, seeing what she might like to have for her own. We’ve been watching the for-sale-and-trade pages for her, and she’s been saving up. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, she paddled Maggie’s purple Jackson 2Fun in the pool and decided that it was perfect. She and Bryan had a sweet conversation by text:
We’d found out through the grapevine that that OOO had a yellow 2Fun, brand new, that had been sitting in the shop for a couple of years. They wanted to sell it at an enormous discount, and Rachel and Mitch thought that sounded fine. They brought the boat to the lake for Demo Day, and Rachel got in it and just about wouldn’t get out. I think they’re perfect for each other, and I couldn’t be happier.
When everybody was done in the water, our little group put on dry pants and drove to a nearby trailhead for a quick four-mile hike along a peninsula into Lake Ouachita. Monkey ran most of the way – she claimed it was practice for track, but I’m pretty sure it was because she was still a little wiggly with excitement about her new boat. Ivy ran with her. Ever faithful in his awfulness, Hayduke stayed by my side.
It’s good to be in the woods. Big swaths of trees on the point had been knocked over by a recent tornado, and destruction’s always interesting to look at. For the most part we hiked on a well-made trail through good, open timber with a nice view of a favorite lake. The trees aren’t leafed out yet but there are flowers coming up here and there. We finished the hike well before dark. After supper together, we headed home, with Monkey’s cheerful little boat tucked into her father’s car.