As the chaos of current events continues to swirl, 15-year-old Lila Oast, of Bloomsburg, finds her escape in a kayak.
"It's like the real world disappears and all you're focused on is catching fish," she said.
Lila, the daughter of professional YouTube kayak angler John Oast, was introduced to paddling at a young age.
"I have been kayaking my whole life -- I've basically been raised around the water," she said. "I enjoy the freedom it gives you when you explore the waters. You get to enjoy seeing a lot of wildlife. We've seen eagles, a mink or two, fish, foxes, groundhogs and that sort of thing."
Lila spends much of her kayaking time on the Susquehanna River, but has expanded her paddling list to waterways in Virginia and beyond -- as far south as Florida -- thanks to joining the kayaking angling circuit and promoting equipment sponsored by NuCanoe.
"I get to see new places and use their gear while in the water," she said, adding that it has been a fun way to bond with her father. "It is a lot of fun going on road trips while hanging out, seeing new places and trying some new foods."
One of those adventures got her up close and personal with a curious raccoon.
"We were taking a short break and walking in the woods, and the raccoon came up from behind us," she said. "I was eating popcorn and it snatched some out of my hand."
Kayaking, she admitted, is a very safe activity if you take the necessary precautions, such as "wearing your lifejacket and carrying a safety whistle."
While many of the sights while kayaking are exciting and positive, she admits that an increasing amount of trash has been concerning to her.
"We have seen a lot of garbage on the river -- it's almost becoming normal to see that much litter," she said.
Lila's goals moving forward is to keep enjoying her time paddling, catching big fish and hopefully go to college with opportunities that have come from her kayaking experiences.
"It is a lot of fun, and can really take you places," she said. "You get to reconnect with nature while disconnecting with things like your phone. It really is a lot of fun, and I recommend giving it a chance!"
Listen to Lila's interview in the newest episode of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Podcast:
Help other young people experience the therapeutic and recreational opportunities of kayaking by contributing to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association's #GivingTuesday campaign.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.
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