Bonding on the River

Kayaking is a unique way to share some quality time with girlfriends.

This past weekend, I traveled to my friend Holly’s cabin in the town of Crivitz, Wis., about an hour north of Green Bay, for a college reunion. There were eight girls, five guys, and 15 kids under the age of 10 (with some of the college crew absent). Most people camped on the property; we scored a bed in the cabin.

We swam in Left Foot Lake, grilled over the open fire, played lawn games, drank margaritas and rumchata, and spent valuable time catching up, that is, when we weren’t chasing the kids. The weather was just about as perfect as it gets on Saturday, so we decided that just the girls should go kayaking—no kids or guys allowed—down the nearby Peshtigo River. Thankfully we’re all with smart, competent men who get along with one another and understand the value of the occasional girls’ night out (or in this case, girls’ afternoon).

kayaking on the PeshtigoDuring the first stretch of our kayaking excursion we laughed and joked and talked freely about love and life and loss and the random things that come up when you’re with close girlfriends who have been part of your life since those crazy college days. Sometimes we were quiet as we enjoyed the peacefulness of nature and the lull of the river; other times we were laughing so hard we were almost crying. Either way, it was good stress reduction therapy.

The current was steady, the sun was shining, and the company was excellent. There were plenty of other kayakers and people on innertubes enjoying the river, and cabins dotted the shoreline—all good signs that civilization was right there should we need anything.

We were having so much fun we opted to pass our first possible pick-up point in favor of Plan B—kayaking to our friend Sara’s parents’ land—just a “little” further down the river. The problem was, we grossly underestimated “just a little further.” Gradually, little by little, there were less kayakers and tubers and more remote stretches of land. There were no cabins in sight. We had started our kayaking journey at 3 p.m. and didn’t check the time again until it was after 7 p.m. How had we lost track of so much time? We had no idea when we would arrive at our new pick-up designation, in 10 minutes, in one hour, or in three hours, and there wasn’t anyone else on the river to ask: just eight girls, eight kayaks, and eight paddles going like mad. (In Sara’s defense, she had never kayaked that particular stretch of river so wasn’t familiar with the route.)

We started losing daylight. A lone eagle was spotted overhead not once, not twice, but three times as if to say, “Turn back. This is my territory now.” My wild imagination kept picturing a black bear crashing out of the woods and jumping into the river. I know, I know, highly unlikely scenario, but what would we do? What if one of us got injured? We were alone on the river. I wondered why we had thought to bring sunscreen and mosquito spray but no First Aid kit. We quickly ran out of beverages, and only one friend had been smart enough to bring food—a lone banana. I have never craved a banana so much in my life.

Even when our paddles were hitting the water with Olympic speed, we were still laughing and joking and enjoying our time together. Our get-togethers are less frequent now that we’re older and have families of our own, and this was truly uninterrupted girl time. In the end, our leisurely trip down the river turned into a 13-mile, 5.5-hour adventure.

I learned valuable lessons that day—the harder it is to reach your destination, the more you appreciate the journey; and the next time I go kayaking, I’m going to bring a First Aid kit … and a banana.


Gather a group of girlfriends and explore the Twin Cities by water. It’s a fun way to spend time together. Here are a few locations where you can rent kayaks and canoes:


Lake Minnetonka Kayak and Paddleboard Rental in Excelsior (on Lake Minnetonka) — single kayaks = $15/hour.


Three Rivers Park District (Numerous locations) — single kayak = $4/for every 30 minutes. Rentals include paddles and life jackets.


Lebanon Hills Visitor Center  (Eagan) — $20/three hours. Rentals include paddles and life jackets.


Midwest Mountaineering (Minneapolis) — $30/day.


Lake Calhoun & Lake Harriet (Minneapolis) — $11/hour.


REI (Bloomington) — single kayaks = $30 per day for members; $40 for non-members.


Tally’s Dockside  (White Bear Lake) — single kayaks = $15/hour.


For a full list of rivers and kayak outfitters, visit this Minnesota DNR site.