My name is Winona Walker and my adventure with kayaking is a blessing.
It all started 3 years ago. I am from a small town in Alabama named Jasper. I grew up in Cordova, Alabama which is 7 miles away. I was 52 when I decided to start living instead of existing.
Two great young brothers inspired me to wake up. These two wonderful brothers graduated from my hometown of Cordova. They went out into this world and were living life to the fullest. Their favorite thing to do was to spend time together fishing. One was a bass player for a band called the Velcro Pygmies, and the other was a restaurant manager. They were extremely close and family meant everything to them.
Three years ago, they took a fishing trip on the Tennessee River. Life changed that day. An accident happened and both brothers perished and gained their wings.
It was such a devastating loss for the community and their parents. It took some time to find the brothers (Jacob and Jeremiah Sanders), with a long search for many days and weeks. Every day that passed, prayers were being sent that they could and would be found.
Once found the healing began.The sadness that everyone felt was tangible. It was heartbreaking. I had many thoughts about my own life and how I was just existing. Going to work and paying bills, just doing what had to be done. Day after day, this is the way I lived.
Until I realized that Jacob and Jeremiah had left this world doing something they loved to do.Being with each other....LIVING Life. In those thoughts, I decided that I was going to start living my life and find my own inner happiness.
Around my area, kayaking hadn't really taken off yet with popularity. I thought it was a great idea to get off the couch, do some research and see if I might be able to start doing it. I was overweight (180 pounds at 5'0) and 52 years old. I led a sedate lifestyle and enjoyed peace and quiet. I was scared I might fail. I stood up and decided if those two young men got out there and did what made them happy, and left this world happy, then I needed to face my fears and go for it.
I bought my first kayak two weeks later. I bought my PFD and other accessories for the water. I purchased my roof rack and crossbars, learned to put them on and was set. I loaded my kayak on top of my jeep alone and after a few tries, got it down to a science. I got bumps and bruises with lots of sore muscles, but it was worth it. This chunky woman was determined to be in nature and find the calmness and peace of mind that she needed.Kayaking, from that day forward has given me happiness.
As a single 55 year old now, it lets me reflect on life and all I have gone through. Many of those things may have broken other people down, but kayaking keeps me grounded. It is humbling to see all of creation while floating peacefully. I am re-centered after every outing. Kayaking relieves the stresses of my job as I have many responsibilities. It helps keep me moving and the health benefits are great.
I now weigh around 125 pounds, and day by day I get more toned. I breathe better, feel better and I am a brighter person. I see a brighter future instead of waiting for my last days. I have introduced kayaking to my friends and now they love going too!!!! I love my time kayaking alone or with friends. The most important thing that happens to me when I take "Tranquility" on the water is this....
I remember the two souls that opened my eyes, and through their passing, showed me life is meant to be lived, not wasted. Fears are something to overcome. I embraced life and I am so thankful that I have. Through kayaking....I found freedom.
We have one life.
I take nothing for granted and I am thankful every day that I live. I have found inner peace and have enjoyed so many moments on the water in my kayak. I love nature and I feel I’m part of it when I’m in it. When I go alone, I find me. If I had one thing to offer anyone with troubles of any kind it would be this....
Be courageous, get out in this world and find what makes you...YOU happy. Do not stop yourself out of fear. Live life while you are blessed to have one.
My world changed when two great young men left this world. They didn't know this older woman was changed because they left, but they became my inspiration to live a better and more fulfilled life. I am forever thankful and I hope that I can motivate as many people as I can to start kayaking and start LIVING.
Winona Walker | Jasper, Alabama
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When it comes to being outdoors and enjoying life, the mid-Atlantic region has it all! Centered between the more tropical southeastern states and the cooler, more varied seasons of the north, this area offers dozens of excellent paddling sites for all skill levels.
OK, so you’ve got your kayak, your sleeping bag, a tent and some bug spray. And you’re looking to go camping along a river for a couple of days. The key? Pack light and take only what you truly need. Remember that every ounce you pack is weight you’ll be moving as you paddle. Plan to conserve energy where and how you can.