I went canoeing on Saturday. It wasn’t anything epic or grand. It was just a small ride along a local creek. My plan for this year is to do several of these a month.
I bought the canoe in 1994. It was my first big purchase post college when I had a “Real Job”. Five years ago I was dragging my canoe out for another trip and my Mom was standing behind me and she said “You’ve had that canoe for a while”. I said “Hey – second longest relationship!”. She scowled in my general direction. The longest is a blue gore-tex REI Jacket. It’s been back in style three times in the last 22 years.
Back in 1987 (maybe 86) my friend Danny bought a canoe. It was a 17 foot Kennebec (Old Town) and the first thing we did 15 minutes after buying it was throw it in a lake. 15 minutes after sitting in the lake I tipped the canoe over accidentally. I was hooked
In 1988 we started the first of several labor day camping trips centered around canoes. I had never been camping. So I rushed to buy a sleeping bag. We gathered together 5 or 6 canoes. In total we had something like 6 canoes, 6 adults, and 5 kids. We were going to be gone for 3 days. Being 15 or 16 there wasn’t much I was adding to the trip except piloting a canoe full of food and camping gear.
We had maps. We had food. We had tarps. We had sleeping bags. We had Water Filters. Camping Stoves. Lanterns. We had stuff. A lot of stuff.
The plan was simple. We take 11 people and 6 canoes and all the gear and we canoe the Conasauga River from the mountains to my friend’s farm. I want to say it was something like 30 road miles from one spot to another I could measure it in 2016 using a “computer” but the memory is so much better these days.
We had it all planned out. Except for water. No one had bothered actually checking rainfall amounts for the days previous to the trip. Except It rains in the North Georgia Mountains almost everyday….why worry.
The truck and the canoe trailer pulled off down the exceedingly dusty road. We filled up the canoes with our stuff and noticed they weren’t floating. They were just sort of sitting there. On the bottom of the river. Which we were standing in…..up to our ankles. It’s ’88. No cell phones. “Eh – it will be deeper around the bend”
We found a deep spot and floated for maybe 25 feet before we had to walk. I had never been on a camping trip in a canoe…actually nothing this organized. So I thought this was the way it was supposed to be… We walked a lot that trip. I think we walked more than we floated. At some point we camped. We couldn’t find a flat spot so we camped on something that looked like a small bluff. We cooked. Most of the food slid out of the pots since everything was mostly vertical. We would form a portage line and pass canoes up the line and over the rocks. Canoes are heavy when loaded with stuff.
One kid started sneaking rocks into his canoe – yes at that moment he decided to start a rock collection. Kevin was never quite right. It kept getting harder and harder for Danny to get his canoe pushed down the trail…I mean river. When Danny found the rocks he dumped the collection out. One of the guys was bored and took a dump in my canoe and waited to see how long it would take me to figure it out. For the record 1 hour. I would pour whatever water I could find into another persons canoe. Maybe a rock. There were no women on this trip by the way.
The next day things were easier. We still walked but the 30 some odd mile canoe trip was starting to turn into a 15 mile canoe hike. Talk turned to “when can we find a phone”. We found one. One house at a bridge let us use their phone and we called for an “extraction”. Two hours later we were at the end spot soundly defeated. We cooked the rest of the food. Drank the rest of the water. We called it done – but the glorious start to a new annual canoe trip. Those lasted for 3 or 4 years. Then we all got old, busy, and married.
I hate that I haven’t done more canoeing trips. A couple of health freakouts has put me back in a canoe, back on a bike, and going on a hike whenever I can. Mostly the freakout is “I’m old”. It happens every year.
I ran into Danny about two weeks ago. I ran into his brother a few weeks previous. Last time I saw Danny’s Uncle was at a Funeral. One of the kids that went on the trip passed away three years ago unexpectedly.
A lot of things change but I still have the canoe and still get out. My current plan is to be buried in it if at all possible. Possibly cremated and worked into the hull in some way.