Paul Clack kayaks almost daily on the waters of his native New England during the paddle season. We wanted to tell his story about his favorite local kayak spots, some unforgettable encounters with nature, and why he’s a solo paddler.
New England kayaker, Paul Clack
Paul’s first kayaking experience was as a teenager, with family and friends. From that first early morning paddle on glass-like water, he was hooked. After some years of renting kayaks, he bought his own in 2016.
Being a New Englander, Paul is fortunate to live close to LL Bean’s headquarters in Freeport, Maine. He headed there where the staff guided him in choosing the right kayak and paddle for the kind of paddling he wanted to do. He bought a 12-foot kayak and Aqua Bound’s Sting Ray Hybrid paddle.
Paul noted, “I had always rented, but owning a kayak is a whole other story—it’s like owning a pet! Where was I going to put this 12-foot piece of plastic?”
He’s been on the water ever since, especially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. When New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine closed their borders to out-of-staters in those early months, Paul, also an avid hiker, chose to focus on kayaking locally in his Boston area.
Favorite New England Kayak Spots
Paul’s favorite local kayaking spot is a small lake near him called Mystic Lake. After a 15-minute paddle across the lake, he heads upstream on a connecting river until he reaches the waterfall, then turns around and heads back.
Part of Paul’s daily Mystic Lake kayak route
He considers this his gym workout. He paddles hard on the way up, then relaxes on the way back downstream, taking the time to appreciate the natural beauty around him, taking the time to think. It’s a couple hours of paddling for him.
Paul’s other favorite kayaking spot is up in Vermont, where he was born and raised. Groton State Forest, in east central Vermont, comprises more than 26,000 acres of wilderness, including many pristine lakes.
Paul loves to take his kayak to one or more of the lakes in Groton and head to one of the remote campsites for a few nights. You can reserve a lean-to shelter, put up your campsite and enjoy. “There’s no cell phone service. You listen to the loons at night, go out kayaking the next morning when the water’s like glass. It’s a beautiful, beautiful spot. I highly recommend it! It’s my favorite all-around kayaking spot. If you can get Remote Site #2 on Kettle Pond, you’ll be the happiest person alive!”
Favorite Kayaking Stories
Paul’s two favorite kayaking stories were both close encounters with the natural world.
One day he was kayaking in Provincetown Harbor, at the tip of Cape Cod. It was at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns, so there were no boats on the water, no people renting kayaks. He was alone in the harbor.
Kayaking in Provincetown, MA harbor
On his way back from the lighthouse, he saw what looked like a flock of sea birds in the distance, on the water. As he paddled closer he realized they weren’t birds, but seals—20 or 25 of them. They were poking their heads out of the water, watching him as he got closer.
Paul shared, “It was so much fun! I was alone, but at the same time I didn’t feel alone. Sometimes nature does that when you’re out on your adventures—nature comes out to say hi. I’ve been very fortunate that way on a lot of my trips. It felt like more than nature…it felt like friends and family were coming out to say hi.
“One of them came up right next to the kayak, within a paddle length. It poked its head up and turned around and looked at me. I could hear it blow. It splashed and went back into the water. My heart rate was flying through the roof, but I was smiling really big!”
Paul encountered a raft of seals in Provincetown Harbor
Another of his favorite kayak stories was on one of his many trips on Mystic Lake. He was heading back downstream at his usual relaxed pace. As he looked to his right he saw a deer laying on the bank next to the river. “She just looked over at me like, ‘What is that?’ as this yellow and red boat came floating by. It was a great moment.”
Bucket List Kayak Trips
In 2016 Paul took his kayak and traveled across the United States alone for 30 days, touring some of the national parks. He stopped at Yellowstone and registered his kayak to paddle on Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-elevation lake in North America, with a surface area of 132 square miles.
He paddled out to an island in the middle of the lake. He recalls his experience: “I stood there and looked out at the most breathtaking views I’d ever seen from a kayak. The beautiful snowy-peaked mountains in the distance, the crystal clear water and just the beautiful landscape of Yellowstone.”
That trip gave him a love for the towering mountains of the west. Because Paul loves lake paddling and beautiful views, on the top of his Bucket List is Banff and the Canadian Rockies, with its turquoise lakes and stunning mountains.
Alaska is another top choice of where he’d like to kayak someday. “Somewhere with those big beautiful mountain views,” he said.
A sunset paddle in Groton State Forest, Vermont
On Being a Solo Kayaker
While he has kayaked with others occasionally, Paul prefers to kayak solo. He explains why:
“What really pushes me out on every kayak trip is that I was young when I lost both of my parents. I’ve been through a divorce. I’ve had everything happen in life you don’t want to have happen. I found myself alone.
“I waited a really long time for the right person to come in my life to do these things with, and I didn’t find it. I found that I can do this myself. I don’t want to sit around and wait for someone else to do the things I want to do.
“Anybody who goes out and does solo adventures knows there’s a lot of work involved. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love to kayak, but no one loves to put the kayak on the roof! But taking the responsibility and ownership to do it all, even if you don’t feel like you want to go that day—once you get on the water, you love it.
“I do what I do because I find it fulfilling, it’s satisfying.
“Anyone out there who feels they have something they’re stuck on in life, whether it’s grief, depression or whatever…and you’re waiting around for that person to take you out to explore, don’t wait for that. I want to push people on that. Don’t wait around. Life is short. Go play. Have a good time.”
Relaxed in Vermont!
Paul created his Instagram account primarily as a digital photo album for himself, to be able to go back and reminisce about favorite solo kayaking and hiking experiences. He’s made it a public page, though, to share with others, too. You can visit his Instagram page here.
(All photos courtesy of Paul Clack)
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