Wild at Heart
May 22, 2017
By Ashley Kate Kesler
Class of 2017
Mike Meintzschel dubbed her the oldest-youngest participant. Mike's led instructional kayaking workshops for the Outdoor Recreation Center for more than 15 years and recent excursions included a particularly facinating participant.
In her 80's, Ms. Lee Willis keeps her heart and mind young through an active lifestyle and upbeat personality. Mike admires Lee, saying, “She manages to deal with aspects of aging with no compromise to living her life to the fullest. More importantly, she has encouraged many women in her circle to give kayaking a try.”
Mike shared a unique story that perfectly describes the spontaneity that accompanies these trips, as well as Lee’s adventurous nature:
Last year after a full day of driving and paddling on one of Outdoor Rec's Cape Hatteras sea kayak trips, we decided to take a late-night walk on the beach. Without hesitation and in the pitch-black, Lee decided to go for a swim to soothe the body with cool Atlantic water. She asked for volunteers but there were no immediate takers from the younger, college-aged group. That wasn't going to stop Lee. I followed her in, since it is my responsibility to keep everyone safe and because the waves looked a bit big for her 5-foot petite frame. We swam, jumped and dove through the waves. And Guess what? On this particular night, we were rewarded with a spectacle known as phosphorescence. Every-time we splashed we were rewarded by thousands of points of sparkling light emanating from our hair and finger tips. With each step, a large circle of light would radiate from our feet along the ocean sand. Without Lee’s infectious curiousity, we would’ve missed this rare treat.
If you live in Virginia, love the outdoors and have not tried kayaking, you’re missing out! Not sure how to start? Check out the Outdoor Recreation Center for equipment rentals and workshops led by trained professionals like Mike, that will have you paddling safely, with confidence, on the water in no time.
“Paddling or any other sport is a lifelong act of learning and practice,” Mike says. “If you come back for a second or third lesson as Lee has, the focus expands on traveling to more remote and unique paddling areas like the Scenic River Trip along the James River and the 3-Day, Outer Banks Kayak Adventure. I can't help but be inspired by Lee and hope that in my 80's, I can still enjoy myself to such a high degree, to be kid-like in heart and mind, to push aside the effects of time and age on my body.”