Travis Byers enjoys kayaking so much that he piloted one to his wedding.
He watched the lunar eclipse from one a few years ago and has slid down ski slopes in Colorado in another. He’s made a point to kayak every month for the past six years.
“My daughter bought me a kayak for Father’s Day one year, and I fell in love,” Byers said.
In the past decade, he’s kayaked all over the United States as well as Mexico and Grand Turk. A kayak is essential for every vacation, just in case he finds a place to take it out.
He finds himself at peace on the water.
“The scenery changes, the wildlife changes, the water level, the colors,” he said. “It’s just great to get out there and get the fresh air with friends or by yourself.”
Fourteen kayaks fill the garage of the 36-year-old Ogallala resident, with some for sea outings, others for whitewater excursions and basic ones for fun outings with friends. Tandem kayaks have allowed the blended family, he and wife Kim and children Lucas and Nevaeh, to go out together. The kids are about ready for their own.
Thankfully, it’s not an expensive hobby.
Big-box stores sell kayaks for a few hundred dollars, Byers said, but the costs can go up to a few thousand. A paddle, life jacket, whistle and bailing device also are needed.
As an instructor, safety is paramount.
“The whistle is to notify motorboats, someone who may hit you or someone needing help,” Byers said. “I would never go out without a life jacket.”
Byers, a service manager at an automobile dealership, is never without his cell phone, either. He enjoys taking photographs of everything he sees, and he’s learned from hard-earned experience to buy a waterproof version.
Bighorn sheep in South Dakota have been his coolest find. In the winter, he likes to go to Lake Ogallala to watch the eagles. He’s spotted deer, turkeys and otters and discovered beaver lodges.
“There are so many subjects to take pictures of it’s kind of hard not to,” he said.
The Dismal River is his favorite place to kayak in Nebraska, followed by the Niobrara River and Lake McConaughy. He shares his adventures on his AlwaysKayak Facebook page.
The Dismal is the most secluded, Byers said, even more remote then the backcountry of Colorado.
Most of his trips down the Niobrara are in the offseason, away from the summer crowds. A winter outing allowed him to get shots of the ice cliffs along the river.
“It’s something I got to witness that very few people are going to get to see,” he said. “I love it.”