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Klamath kayak klatch

Some people spend their mornings solving the world's problems at local coffee klatches.

Not Penny Tuttle, Sue Romig, Darlene McConnell, Mary Young and an always shifting roster of other Klamath Falls-area people. Three days a week they palaver from their sit-on-top kayaks while leisurely taking in the sights at places like Lake Ewauna, Upper Klamath Lake or, occasionally, canoe trails near Rocky Point.

The informal group doesn't have a name, so maybe call them the Klamath Kayak Klatch.

"There's nothing like kayaking for relaxing and stress relief," insisted Tuttle during a leisurely mid-morning paddle from the Veteran's Park Marina boat dock along Lake Ewauna's western shore to the railroad bridge and back. "Make the most of where we live."

"Enjoy where we live," echoed Romig. "We all love to bird watch."

Even on a day when the usual volumes of birds weren't puttering in the lake or seeking shade in lakeside marshes or cruising overhead like silent F-15s, there still was much to enjoy.

Romig and Tuttle noticed a raft of baby mallards that only weeks ago were tiny are quickly growing larger. They spied snowy egrets that seemingly tried to hide unnoticed in marshes, something that's difficult because their ghost-white bodies contrast with the green grasses.

Black-crowned night herons exploded from leafy hiding places, their wings slapping loudly. One white pelican lounging along the lake shore moved nonchalantly, purposely gliding out of sight, but more anxious others lifted themselves from the water then flew briefly away before landing again on distant lake waters.

Unseen this particular morning were Western pond turtles, which earlier in the year — Romig, Tuttle and the others began this season's kayaking outings in June — were frequently observed perched on logs in secluded marshy areas.

The two took their time, sometimes yakking, other times gently kayaking.

"This is just so relaxing," Tuttle said, only occasionally dipping her paddle.

Therapeutic relaxing sessions are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays spring through fall. This year's outings began in early June, later than usual. Typically, the informal group gathers at a predetermined boat dock at 10:30 a.m., although they meet a half-hour earlier during the heat of summer. This morning it was only Romig and Tuttle.

Some days the group numbers four to eight paddlers. Their average age is in the 60s, but individually they range from the 50s to 80s.

"We've all gotten to be friends," said Romig, who enjoys the physical and social aspects of the morning get-togethers.

So far the group has been women only, but men are welcome, too — "We're always open to anybody who wants to come," she said.

Romig and Tuttle began their seasonal kayak klatches in 2014, partly because they enjoy being outside, partly because they find kayaking a gentler, more enjoyable way to exercise. They've lifted weights but, as Romig was quick to explain, "We decided kayaking was more fun."

"We do something physical most of the year, but kayaking is our first choice," said Tuttle, laughingly explaining how they might otherwise have to do Pilates or other indoor exercises. "It's wonderful to be outside."

Both have lightweight sit-on-tops kayaks, light and short enough that they can load them in their vehicles. They equip themselves with the required life jackets and whistles, along with face and head-shading hats, filled water bottles and sunscreen. Paddling plans are sometimes decided only a day or two before the next outing. Tuttle also keeps interested people updated on her Facebook page.

"That's probably the easiest way," she said.

Likewise, "It's always easier if you know somebody is going to be there," she says of the advantage of having others to paddle with.

Joining with others also means there's someone to help carry the kayaks to and from the put-in place and, more importantly, offer advice on such challenges as safely getting in and out of a boat, recommend what clothes to wear and give tips on how to more easily paddle and steer. Most of the group have their own kayaks, but with advance notice Tuttle or others might bring along a loaner. Having other paddlers means having other people to chat with, just like the coffee klatches.

"We're not fast kayakers. If people want to do that, that's fine," Romig said, steering the conversation to the peaceful aspects of their morning paddles. "We're out here to enjoy the scenery."

— Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

Penny Tuttle and Sue Romig enjoy expansive views during a recent paddle on Lake Ewauna. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]