Saturday, April 12, 2014

Arguments Against Going On a Canoe Trip

The other day Mike and I got an email from the wife of a friend of ours. Now, you might say that she is our friend too, but in all honesty, we don't know her very well.

She has decided to take her family on a four day/three night canoe trip outfitted for all equipment and food in the Boundary waters. We've been on lots of canoe trips with her husband, but not once with her. This trip, I think, is an homage to him. We haven't even seen either of them in the past eight years.

A lot can happen in eight years.

She wants to know if we want to go with them on this adventure.

My first thought was to jump up and down and say, 'A canoe trip! A canoe trip!' In that time, Mike sent an email saying it sounded interesting and that he would talk to me. He asked if the kids were going and said that Nick might be more interested if there are going to be other kids on the trip.

Her response was that if she had to go, then the kids had to go too.

At that point, my brakes screeched and I came to a complete stop with traffic swerving all around me. Well, not in real life, but it felt that way.

Do I want to be on a canoe trip with a middle-aged woman who doesn't want to be there? Do I want to drag Nick on that trip?

See, Mike and I are trying to stand on the edge of a dime here. Nick had fun paddling the canoe two years ago on Lake Diablo, but when I asked him, he said that his primary memory was that he was sick to his stomach and wanted to go home but couldn't. That doesn't sound like warm and fuzzies to me. I loved camping when I was a kid. No one had to drag me out. No one tried to make me like it. I just did. My memories of camping, any kind of camping, were of an overarching joy run through with being in a wet bathing suit all day. Heaven.

The worst thing we can do to Nick's love of canoeing is to make him go when he's not sure yet that he wants to go on another trek. He's a teenager. This will make or break it for him for life. How many times have you heard that story? The parents love a sport. The kid grows to hate it.

Plus, pushing Nick into this trip could result in resentful-teenager syndrome. Those symptoms can make a vacation a misery for everyone. If we're going anywhere, Nick has to want to go. Add to that a middle-aged woman and two other kids who don't want to be there and well ... Would you want to go on that trip?

Tonight, I told Mike that we also need to think of this from a safety standpoint. I've been on these trips before. Once we had a single guy who didn't want to be in a canoe and it ruined the experience for all of us. It was a big mess and could have been dangerous for the guy. He didn't like the taste of the water, so he wouldn't eat or drink. At some point, he really was sick. When he left the group, we were deflated. I remember having very little fun on that trip. And that was just one guy out of six.

So with this group, we would have three adults who wanted to be out there paddling a canoe for four days and sleeping on the ground for three nights. We're more fragile than we were, but I think we could still handle it. Add a woman our age who doesn't want to be there and I have no idea if she's even paddled a canoe. Still, that combination could work if we were nice to her. Now add three kids to the equation, thirteen, eleven, and nine years old, none of whom want to be there. You have a recipe for disaster, don't you think?

We'd have to have at least three canoes. I can't carry a canoe by myself any more, so unless our friend's wife can carry a canoe by herself, we'd only have two people who could manage all of the canoes for portages. I could manage a sixty pound pack fifteen years ago, but can I still? How much can the kids carry? Nick could manage a thirty pound pack, right? What about the other two? Kids don't seem to build real muscles until they're almost Nick's age and he's just beginning to get strong. So, portages could be a raving bitch.

That's just portages. How about paddling? Each experienced adult would have to be paired up with a kid, right? Could Nick manage a canoe with an unknown eleven-year old boy? I would be reluctant to set him up that way. We know that we have three middle-aged people who can paddle well and a boy with some experience but not what I'd call a lot. Add three more people and then what?

I see a lot that can go wildly wrong here. I've been to the Boundary waters before. High winds can blow water over the bow of the boat. I've been on that big lake with wild wind, dashing rain, waves coming over the gunnels, and lightning strikes in the distance.We had five experienced adults and three kids on that trip. When conditions became extreme, we ended up shortening the trip. Nick was having an uncontrolled allergic reaction to mosquito bites and the two other kids were cold and wet for too long. There is a lot of stress in knowing that everyone you hold dear is in this canoe. We were younger and healthier then too. Throw in man with a heart condition and a woman who is, for all intents and purposes, a diabetic? Whew!

I am not an adrenaline junkie. I love canoeing. I really do. I love the ache of paddling all day in the sun. I love the sense of strength in surviving in difficult weather. But I'm not ready to throw the safety of my whole family into a story with so many unknowns. I'm not even willing to risk that Nick will hate canoe trekking forever because of another foul experience.

I said as much to Mike tonight. He was quiet as he listened to me rant. Yes, I ranted against going on a canoe trip. I suppose I'll listen to his opinion about the whole thing tomorrow. If anyone can convince me that it will work, Mike can.  I wonder if he'll try.

Thank you for listening, jules

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