The first Explorations outing beyond the Twin Cities took us to Mankato, MN on June 9! Our new partner Health Solutions hosted this kayaking trip on the Blue Earth River, led by Bent River Outfitter. In a mixed group of experienced kayakers and beginners, we traveled a short distance down the river and learned more about Bent River Outfitter and about staying healthy and fit.
After meeting the group at Bent River's home base, we took a shuttle to a spot near the Rapidan Dam to launch our kayaks. During the shuttle ride, Health Solutions' Deb and Pam led us through a few simple stretches that can improve strength and flexibility and prevent injury from repetitive motion. Because kayaking involves leaning forward and a lot of wrist and arm movements, we stretched our wrists and forearms as well as our backs. Later, after the trip down the river, we stretched again and did some planks and "sit-backs," a healthier alternative to sit-ups.
When we arrived at the river, Bent River co-owner Dain Fisher and guide JJ (his "river name") led us through a quick tutorial on how to paddle and how to stay safe. Then we got into our boats and set off! We paddled down the river a short way, stopping on a sandbar partway through. Dain explained that this break in the trip can help the muscle memory of paddling and steering set in, and said that many people are surprised by how the technique comes easier when they get back in their boats. For the second half of the trip, two of our group traded kayaks for stand-up paddleboards, challenging themselves to stay balanced on their boards while paddling through rapids.
During our break on the shore, Dain and JJ told us about their backgrounds and how how Bent River was founded and operates. Dain said that Bent River has helped bring more people to the rivers around Mankato for kayaking, paddleboarding, and other recreation, and it has encouraged people in the area to appreciate the rivers as an asset.
Our trip was brief to keep the Exploration to just a few hours, but we were all tantalized by our time on the river and eager to kayak again soon. Next month, you can join us for a brewery tour Exploration at Modist Brewing in Minneapolis or Oswald Brewing in Blue Earth. Click through the slideshow below for photos of the kayak trip!