My Book!!

One opportunity that the blog has brought me is the co-authoring of a guidebook, Paddling Southern Maine! It is something in which I take a lot of pride! My writing partner, Sandy Moore, and I have created a book with 54 amazing trips that are within about an hour of Portland! Our motto as we wrote the book was wanting to 'get people to spend the day on the water and not in their cars!'

If you want more information on our book please visit Sandy and I are available to attend/present various functions/events. Please email me at for more information!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Balloons and Full Moons!

This post isn't like my other posts.  This one is more about sharing the experiences vs. directions and details about the locations.  (For directions to the Androscoggin River Launch used to access the river to watch the hot air balloons take off, click here. )

**Update: I tried to return to the balloon festival to see an evening launch.  With launch time scheduled for 6 p.m. the wind was a bit strong.  The balloons had not launched by 7 pm and we got off the water.  Remember the launches are weather/wind dependent. 

The more I have gotten into kayaking the more I seek different experiences.  As I look to see different things from my kayak I also find myself making sure that safety is my top priority.   For years I have wanted to kayak in a river when hot air balloons were taking off and hoped that I would get to see the beautiful balloons dip down into the water.  I had seen photos of such experiences, but of course there is nothing like seeing it in person.   Locally (well somewhat local for me!) we have the Great Falls Baloon Festival in Lewiston Auburn.  You can click here to access their website.  The balloons launch from a park adjacent to the Androscoggin River.  I have only attended the festival one other time, a couple of years ago.  I went with the intention of paddling, but it was a year where the water levels were high and I was nervous to put in, especially because it was not a river with which I had any familiarity.  That year I chose to not observe from my kayak, but did stay and watch the balloons from shore.  It was beautiful and made me want, even more, to experience it from the water.

As people who are familiar with my blog know, I prefer very slow moving rivers and prefer to paddle when waters are calm.  So the idea of paddling in a river in which the movement of the water was easily visible was a bit intimidating.  I encourage people to paddle within their skillset.  If it makes you nervous, take that into consideration.  If there are places where I am not confident I worry that my nerves could lead to stupid mistakes, which, when kayaking, could be big mistakes, dangerous mistakes.  So, it is important to reduce risks as much as possible.  For the two trips described below I made sure to consider safety and my concerns before participating.  For the balloon trip, I had decided it would be important to paddle the part of the Androscoggin I would be paddling on for the balloon festival BEFORE the day of the day of the event.  I knew that I would be in awe of the balloons and wanted to have some familiarity with the river so that I would know when I could safely stop and take pictures.  (I am VERY glad I made that choice! I would encourage other people to do the same if this is a place/adventure you think you want to do.)   For the Full Moon Paddle, I went with a group of people.  Sebago Trails Paddling (Click that link for their website) is a small business located in Windham Maine.  They rent and sell paddling equipment and are great people, just really great people.  In addition to the store, the owner, Bill Allen, runs a Meetup group called Windham/Raymond Paddling Club.  (Visit to find the group.)  Bill organizes trips and invites anyone to come.  If people don't have their own equipment, they can rent it from Bill.  It is a GREAT way to test equipment and get a feel for the sport before investing money into it.  I love the idea of paddling later into the day and am envious of posts I see on social media where people are paddling at night, but I get easily disoriented at night, especially when there is no light pollution.  So, going with a group of people is very helpful.  Plus, paddling people are good people in my opinion, so getting a chance to socialize a bit with other people who enjoy this kind of activity is always fun!

So, before striking out on an adventure, especially one with which you have little to no experience, make sure to really take into account, the safety aspects of the trip and plan accordingly.  I think, at the very least, having a paddling partner when going to new places or trying something new is wise!

Ok, enough of the safety talk... here are some pics, and some narratives about them!  Enjoy!

This is a photo of the launch that is behind Gritty McDuff's in Auburn.  There is no parking at the launch, so you need to find parking elsewhere.  I failed to take a photo of the launch last time, so here it is! 

 I was in my kayak on the river at this time.  I could see that the balloons were starting to inflate.  (I thought they took off at 6 a.m., so I was on the water by 5:45, but they weren't in the air until 6:15 or 6:30 or so. )  

There were a lot of feathers in the water... and I happened to capture this reflection... 

A wider angle of the park where balloons were inflating... 

There were some other paddlers on the water as the sun was rising.  We were all hoping for some great views, and were not disappointed! 


A view of the sun coming up as the balloons fill up...

 The first balloon is on the move!

What I did not know, because of not having done this before, was that the balloons go in whichever direction the wind is blowing.  (Seems obvious, right?)  So, as soon as the firs balloon started to go down river, I should have started paddling in that direction.  (Would have seen more dip into the water, but it all worked out fine!)  

Just to give you some perspective of the balloons coming up from my kayak.  

 Going over the bridge...

Love the colors on this balloon! 

What? Star wars? Yoda it is...and Darth Vader too!

So pretty! 

This was my first view of seeing a balloon close to the water.  It was pretty cool to see a hot air balloon below a bridge!  

I was hoping Yoda and Darth would keep it peaceful... and they did!  

Just looking up... 

This may be my favorite photo... kayakers, bridge, and balloon!  

The balloons were so skilled at gently touching down.  As you can see there are grasses that are well above the surface of the water.  The river was LOW.  It was important to look for rocks and other obstacles.  The water, while low, was fast moving in some places and would push me along if I wasn't careful.  

I eventually managed to 'beach' myself, intentionally, in a place so I could take pictures and not worry about the current pushing me around.  It helped, a lot, to not have to worry as much about paddling and could just take it all in! 

An obligatory selfie!  I had to!  

The sun was SO bright!  

This balloon came down in a couple of spots, including this rock bed that was exposed because of the low water levels.  My friend (In the blue kayak) got so close to them!  


Liked the flame in this photo...

Up up and away! 

I really enjoyed the balloon festival!  I may go tonight, just because it would be cool to see the balloons at sunset!  

Now... onto the evening before... Thursday's full moon paddle.  (I will add that Bill added an extra element to this month's full moon adventure.  He asked folks to make a donation to the local food pantry, either cash or non perishables!  GREAT idea Bill!) 

Bill works with the staff at Dundee Park in Windham and arranged for us to remain at the park after it was closed.  Something so cool about these events is getting to see people help each other and seeing so many different people enjoying the sport!  On this night there were some people who were paddling for the first time (though I am not sure I can condone a night paddle as one's first experience...) and others who have paddled for a long time!  Bill organizes the trips, but clearly communicates personal safety is up to individual paddlers.  

If planning an evening/night paddle, remember Maine law requires some lights to make sure you can be seen by other boaters.  (I had joined one of the full moon paddles a couple summers ago on Sebago Lake and it was too busy for me.  There were big boats going fast, even after sunset. Make sure to have a headlamp and at least one other light source for safety!  Glow sticks are fun too!)    

Beautiful reflections as the sun was setting...

Of course I have to take some photos of a dragonfly!  

And a turtle!  (This guy was on a log behind an island.  Most paddlers stayed with the pack, but I did a little exploring.  I know...shocking!)  

Such a peaceful time of day to be on the water! 

 Here are some of the 40ish paddlers that joined!  The great part about an event like this is that you can socialize as much or as little as you want.  I got some time to talk with a few people, but also took some moments to quietly explore away from the group.

Water was very clear here.  

Some of Bill's staff members using SUPs!  (Yes, he rents those too!!)  

The clouds and their reflections were beautiful.  

Love how the trees became silhouettes as the light left... 


We sat for quite a while, awaiting the rise of the moon.  I kept my eye on the clouds and noticed one edge of a cloud was pretty bright and knew where the moon would be rising.  It took some time, but it made its appearance over some trees! 

It rose pretty quickly and had, at first a yellow hue to it.  So pretty! 

Love the clouds in front of the moon! 

The reflection on the water was also beautiful! 

What a beautiful experience.  
I really love kayaking, love experiencing life from the cockpit of my kayak.  
Events like these remind me how much others also enjoy it and I am glad to be part of the paddling community!  

Happy (and safe) Paddling!  

P.S.  On my facebook page, Mainekayakgirl, I had shared that I was going to go to the balloon festival.  Some people asked when I was going and I apologize for not giving concrete answers.  While I love paddling with people, I did not want to be responsible for other paddlers in a river I was not wicked familiar with... that has some faster moving water as well as obstacles under the water.  If you see me out and about as I paddle, I would LOVE for you to introduce yourself.  (Two loyal blog followers were at the Full Moon Paddle and I was so pleased to see them!)  And, I may try to organize some events, perhaps via the meetup group I mentioned above...

I am debating about organizing some paddling trips this fall, where I would post, on facebook and instagram, in advance of the trip to invite people, but not sure if there would be an interest.  
If you would like to join me on a paddle and think posting a trip here or on other social media would be something of interest, please let me know!  

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