The desire for summer activities must be hitting me particularly hard lately, because last weekend my boyfriend, Bryce, and I decided to take a canoe ride down the river.
It was 50 degrees out, the snow was melting and it was sunny and beautiful. It sounded like a great idea. Both of us are experienced canoeists, and at some point I think the desire to go outside overwhelmed any thoughts of why canoeing down the river in March could be a bad idea.
The first step (which was also a brutal reminder of the season) was to dig the canoe out of its snowdrift. Perhaps this was an omen. The snow had drifted around the canoe and was at our knees (or over) despite any recent melting. It took a good 20 minutes, but the canoe was freed from its winter slumber.
We packed our cell phones in waterproof cases, brought a camera in its waterproof case, suited up in life jackets and put the canoe in the water.
Things were going well as we made our way down the Pine River from a little ways downriver of the Crosslake dam. We caught photos of deer crossing the river, ducks and a great blue heron.
We passed the canoe landing, which is right about where the river gets a little dicey. I won’t call it rough, because the “rapids” in that area can hardly be labeled class one. The water’s only about knee deep.
Rocks are a hazard, though, and they can be difficult to see. Identifying the rocks by the waves is an acquired skill.
But mistakes happen, and happen they did. The bow of the canoe got hung up on a rock, and the current swung the stern around so the canoe aligned perpendicular to the flow of the water.
The current pulled the side of the canoe downward, and if I remember right the water came within a couple inches of filling the canoe. But we recovered control and kept going.
I’ll mention that while that sounds very exciting, the water (though cold) was not more than waist deep, and probably closer to knee deep. Tipping would have been a bummer, but most likely not a true danger given the air temperature and ability to stand in the water.
And then something worse happened. Paddling a little too furiously, and in water too shallow for my manly paddling muscles, my paddle struck a rock and broke in half, right where the shaft meets the blade.
This is the point in the story where the phrase “up a creek without a paddle” really hit home. How had we not brought a spare paddle?
Bryce paddled us into shore where we contemplated our next step. We decided to see if we could get back up to where the river goes under County Road 114. From there, we could leave the canoe, walk back and drive to pick up the canoe.
We made our way to the bridge through a mixture of struggled maneuvering in the canoe and portaging.
We prepared for the hour-long walk back. Then Bryce remembered a public area with an overturned canoe we’d seen on our way down. We walked there with the canoe, where we found below the canoe a paddle, which we borrowed. It cut our commute time in half at least.
Once we got back, we drove the canoe paddle to where it belonged, returning it unharmed (I made a mental note of my own personal strength, which I remembered to bear in mind with the stranger’s paddle). I would like to thank the person who unknowingly saved our day, or at least, saved us from a long walk.
It might seem like a bad idea to take a river canoe ride in March, but at some point I think that all adventure is made by the willing suspension of the level of danger one could encounter, and the decision to go for it anyway; a calculated risk. I could debate how dangerous of a situation we really got into, but at any rate, it was an eventful Saturday afternoon exploring our own back yard.