Floating down the river


A canoe is a simple means of transportation. Not much to the whole thing. A front and back, and two seats. Add to that a paddle, perhaps another person, a small cooler for a few refreshments, and you're ready to take off. The only real decision is, to where?

Over the years, I have had two destinations involved in most of my canoeing. For probably 15 years, our family went to Missouri to canoe down the Current River. The group that went could number upwards of 20-30 people. Holy cow, what a time. We took day trips, averaging probably 15-20 miles. The campground would bus us to the start, and pick us up at the finish. The only real equipment included suntan lotion, water guns, and one cooler in each canoe. The coolers held an assortment of things, mainly beer. You could always tell who the deer hunters were, they always brought deer sausage. My contribution was M & Ms and peanuts. Each couple specialized in something. There was no losing weight on these trips.

We camped in the canoe rental campground. It wasn't fancy, but adequate. It looked like a small city going up with 15-20 tents being pitched all at once, with a canopy over the cooking area. The campground had restrooms with showers, and sold ice, which is an essential commodity in the heat of summer. Oh, for a dollar for every bag of ice we went through in 15 years. Meals were made together, the best being breakfast. Scrambled eggs, with mushrooms, peppers, and onions, fried potatoes, with mushrooms, peppers, and onions, toast, bacon, and coffee. The menu never varied. It was not a heart friendly concoction. But boy, was it good. I could tell story after story regarding these trips, but it would be rather incriminating. Suffice it to say, it was quite a time. We stopped going when my brother-in-law died, who pretty much organized the trips and was the main cook. It just wouldn't have been the same.

My other canoeing adventure involved a whole different canoeing experience. The Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Ely. A good place to be in the summer, so long as the mosquitoes don't carry you away. Sort of how I envision Heaven, minus the mosquitoes. A beautiful town, introduced to me by Charles Kuralt on his TV series “On The Road.” My son and I, and a couple of other guys, decided to see what it was like. Seven days in the wild. And wild it is. You pack what you need for seven days into your canoe and head out, plotting your course on a map. You portage your canoe from lake to lake. In the boundary waters, they say there are 10,000 of them, spanning northern Minnesota into Canada. Each day, you set up camp, which involves pitching the tent, making a fire to cook and sit around, and looking at the most awesome stars you have ever seen. There are no lights to interfere.

It is a difficult trip, but a great one. I would recommend it for anyone wanting to experience the wilderness in its most primitive state. You might see one other canoe in seven days. It is humbling to face nature without any of the modem conveniences. There is no quick way out if you get hurt, although cell phones have made that a little less scary now. (There were none when we went).

My son and I had a good time, although there was some arguing over our canoeing skills. When we got back, which involved a day of canoeing in a driving rain, I allowed him to have his first official beer with us, which was kind of a right-of-passage for him. He definitely earned it, because he had to bear a lot of the load. I was completely spent. The beer sure tasted good. We kept it on ice in the car, just for the occasion.

I like canoeing. It is something my wife and I have been involved with our entire married life. I've always said a couple that can canoe together will stay together. For us, that seems to have been the case. We've weathered some storms and many a tipped canoe. But with a little work, you can always right it. Then you are right back at it, floating on down the river.