The still waters of the Mount Desert Narrows resembled an infinity pool. The endless sea of blue was broken up only by the wooded Thomas Island and a pair of isles, the Twinnies. The peaks of Mount Desert Island rose low on the distant horizon.
Mark Hundhammer dipped his orange paddle into the water, breaking the mirrored view. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, but only four or five small craft were visible on the water besides our two kayaks.
Hundhammer, who works as a seasonal assistant manager at Cadillac Mountain Sports in Ellsworth, sat in a blue and white Current Designs Vision 140 kayak, which navigated around fishing boats and lobster buoys with precision. This light and fast kayak moved smoothly and deftly as a ballet dancer.
My Jackson Journey 14 kayak dutifully followed in Hundhammer’s path. Although heavier, the Jackson Journey is more stable and suitable for a greater variety of conditions. It’s usually Hundhammer’s go-to craft.
Two days earlier, Hundhammer had explained such differences to more than a dozen folks who dropped Ellsworth’s Harbor Park & Marina between 5 and 7 p.m. to check out and try out various models of kayaks stand-up paddleboards on the Union River. Cadillac Mountain Sports holds free demos on Thursday nights through the summer. The Ellsworth store sells both kayaks and paddleboards.
“The main thing for them is to make sure they get a chance to sample boats, test them and get a feel for how they are,” Hundhammer explained while people closely examined the colorful array of draft.
Hundhammer lines up about 20 different makes and models on the grass leading to the dock. Some of the kayaks include Advanced Elements, an inflatable kayak; the Piranha, a new Danish fiberglass kayak; and the Prodigy, a camp boat that Hundhammer says is a regular bestseller.
After signing a few safety forms and strapping on life jackets, customers are welcome to paddle around in a confined area to find their best fit. Participants range from recreational to competitive paddlers.
“Some people like a more maneuverable boat, a little faster boat; some people want a boat that’s more stable,” he said. “It just kind of depends on the characteristics that they’re looking for.”
Growing up in San Francisco, Hundhammer sailed, bodysurfed, rafted, canoed and water-skied before moving to Maine over 25 years ago. Sea kayaking seemed a natural pastime to take up for this water guy. The sport has carried him across the United States and into Canada. One day, he still hopes to be able to do some paddling in Alaska.
In the off-season in Maine, Hundhammer teaches anatomy and physiology at Husson University in Bangor. He also works part time for Cadillac Mountain Sports.
In his spare time, the outdoorsman can be found exploring the diverse places to kayak in the Downeast region including the Union River and Jordan River that runs between the towns of Trenton and Lamoine. Both are tidal rivers that lead to Mount Desert Narrows, a channel separating Mount Desert Island from the mainland.
Putting into the Jordan River, Hundhammer arranged to meet at the public boat launch ramp behind the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. He finds some of his favorite places are right in his backyard.
“It’s just kind of a really versatile paddling environment,” he noted. “You can have it be a recreational environment where you’re on a quiet pond or cove, or you can be full-on, pretty hardcore.”
After paddling down and out of the Jordan River, Hundhammer took in the view.
“This is as good a place as any to kayak,” he said, gazing at the Mount Desert Island mountains looming in the distance. “It really has everything.”