Any favorite writings on the experience of canoeing?

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Have you written anything(non technical) or read anything lately (in regards to this thing we love)that moved you?

I'm working on a little canoe lifestyle project (slow down!) to promote living simpler more enjoyable lifestyles and I'd like to read anything you can offer up. I've got plenty of my own ideas but would enjoy others thoughts/perspectives
 
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I've read a few books about the outdoors that I enjoyed that had a paddling component, but I guess the best one that was just about canoeing is The Complete Wilderness Paddler by John Rugge and James West Davidson. Basically, a humorous commentary/trip report about 4 guys who planned a wilderness river trip in the 70s.

I like a lot of the old-timey authors, 1890s-1930s... Nessmuk's "Woodcraft and Camping" is a classic. Warren Miller wrote a book about paddling the Adirondacks with his wife (Old Forge up into Saranac, I think). I think it was called "Camping Out". Dillon Wallace's "Packing and Portaging" is pretty neat, from a historical perspective. I also liked Robert K. Pinkerton's "The Canoe: It's Selection, Use, and Care", again as a historical thing. Parts of Stewart Edward White's "The Forest" deal with canoeing in Canada. Thoreau's "Canoeing in the Wilderness" is an interesting trip report of an early voyage in Maine. I like Edward Breck's "Way of the Woods" too, and iirc, it has a small section on canoeing, though I may be confusing it with SE White. All of these latter books are public domain and available for download through Google, Open Library, etc.
 
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Here's something from my journal I wrote about 3 years ago after moving to the upper midwest.

I spent some time this weekend paddling around the “canoe country” as it’s known to quite a few. It extends from north central Wisconsin, across the U.P. and famously into and across the border of Minnesota and Canada. Some of this is the most dense areas of lakes in the world and it seems like you can puddle jump and portage anywhere you may want to go. I’m developing a real love for the canoe country in the 7 and a half years I’ve been here, and it’s a love that started as a teenager reading about the Voyageurs and their connection with the land and waters where they made their living. It extended to the writings of ‘ol Sig Olsen, the journals of McKenzie and the history of the people who inhabited the region. Helping it along were the many trips in my life to the boreal forests and waters of Maine, Algonquin Provincial Park, and places like Lady Evelyn Smoothwater just to mention a few.

The waters hold a special place with me. It combines all that I love. The perfect balance of land, water, pack and paddle. It’s a blend of powerful sensations. The curve of a perfect J-stroke in a semi conscious cadence of the Voyageurs of long ago. The wake of a hungry smallmouth bass in the misty awakening of a lake early in the morning. The smell of the crisp, clean lake air as well as the tannic aroma of marsh and seepage. The craggy, hard shoreline of an ancient coniferous forest against the background of soft pines. The transition of means in which to move about the back country from water to portage trail with your canoe on your shoulders. Frosty mornings that sting the fingertips. The head raising curiosity of a feeding moose. The smell of the campfire warming the cast iron in anticipation of the next hearty meal. The sounds of nuthatches scurrying up and down the tree trunks as chickadees look on curiously. That warming first sip of coffee made over a fire while staring out over a sunrise. The wildlife, beavers, loons, deer and eagles going about their business of preparing for the changes of the seasons. The soul stirring, ever changing painting in progress, right before your eyes, of sunsets ablaze against the earthy colors of forest and rock. It’s all there.

Like the setting sky against the hard earth, there is contrast, but only there do you find balance as well. For every hour spent gliding silently across the liquid glass, mesmerized by the stillness and solitude, there is fury in the wind and raw power in the gales. It churns at the landscape darkened by angry skies. It is a thankful paddler who gets where he wants to be early. There are days that the skies are a brilliant electric blue, and with such a clearness that it leaves you feeling good to just be alive, alert, aware and moving with the tempo of the surroundings. The next day, however, can see the blackest of storms race in on top of you with much fury and pound down on you unmercifully, forbidding you passage. Within this commotion, within this struggle of the forces in which you seek solitude and peace, you try to find the balance. Some days it’s easier to find than others. It’s what keeps us going back. With a full pack, paddle in hand and a sturdy craft, be it canoe or kayak, it’s as good a place as any to spend quality time in the backcountry.

I’ll keep going back to these places, for every lake and river has a soul. I know this because I’ve spent much time looking deep into them. I’ve seen their temperament and felt their pulse. And whether it was at ease or whether it was quickened by circumstances, they have felt mine too. It is this kinship, with not only the water, but with all things wild that keep me coming back. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.
 
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Lorax that is absolutely beautiful- thanks for sharing!!

Seeker- thanks for the tips, I'll look them up!
 
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Thanks. I'm glad somebody enjoyed it. Here's another one from the journal I did on a weekend outing.


Wilderness where you find it.


Not all trips can be epic. Not all trips should be.
There’s times when, to escape the hectic pace of everyday existence, one must take to the trails and waters to clear away the cobwebs of life. Escape, for just a little while even measured in hours away from schedules, repetition and yes even responsibilities is a necessity. A necessity the call of the outdoors answers quite well.

I’m here paddling a chain of lakes and rivers and had a wonderful day. I wish it could be a seamless string of multiple days somewhere more remote but that’s not possible right now. So I do the next best thing. I’m here for a weekend of paddling and right now, the world seems alright.

There were motorboats out today on the bigger lakes. Quite surprisingly, they all were very accepting and courteous to me as a human powered small craft. Most slowed to a little wake and most if not all gave a wave of acceptance. I gladly wave back with a big smile. They are doing their thing and I’m doing mine. I will cross two of these lakes and settle into camp here at a small site along a river that sees little if any traffic due to it ending at a small dam.
I find myself disheartened that I can’t be paddling where I want to be right now. I feel cheated that I can’t stay out for a week or two. I feel I could do without the cabins and summer homes I’ve passed along the way. I don’t feel like listening to the powerboats. I spend my time after dinner thinking about all I wish this little weekend trip could be.

As I gather wood for a fire and settle into camp, I notice it must be everyone else’s dinner time also. The din of the motorboats has faded and I have to try hard to hear one in the very far off distance. Then I think to myself, “Why are you so pissed off?” I sit down to think about what I actually DO have right here, right now in the moment.

Today I bumped and popped my royalex canoe over stumps to explore a little backwater area right off the main channel and found some incredible fishing. Deep in the bowels of this haven I found bass the size of footballs eager to take a rubber swamp frog. I got looks from the locals (turtles) saying “What are you doing back here?” No motorboat can make it back here. The lake of lily pads, fish, birds and wildlife was huge and hidden from the world. In here was the wilderness where you find it. I just had to open my eyes to it and allow myself to embrace it. Just like the turtles allowed me into their little realm. They didn’t seem to mind the intrusion too much. Neither did the eagle, the ducks or the fish.
I’ve found it many other places of tranquility in my travels. Devil’s Hole. The headwaters of Pocono Lake Preserve. Flyfishing on the Lehigh River for fat trout all spring and summer long with a tent down at the head of Francis Walter Dam. I had never seen another person there. It’s like heaven and only an hour hike in. Many of the lakes and river here in northern WI where I’ve had otters playing right off my bow, or turtles swim up to check out my canoe, or following playful raccoons that are just as curious of me as I am of them along a bank until we decide we both have better things to do. Clouds of mayfly hatches sending trout into a water boiling frenzy in the UP that are so amazing, I forgot all about even casting a fly as I watched in amazement. Walking along the coast of Lake Michigan at night right outside of town and catching a light colored burst of the northern lights overlooked by so many had they taken the time to really look. Overnight hikes to Kettle Moraine to hang a hammock and listen to the owls, coyotes, cows and sandhill cranes. A very strange combination, but it works. There are so many more special little places I can think of.
It’s wilderness where I find it because although it doesn’t make a big impression, it can provide a few wonderful little moments or when sitting around a nice fire at night when the day is done, it can take me back to far away places and good times.

Anyway, as I sit here all alone, I’m looking west to a sunset. Not the most spectacular of sunsets, not the most breath taking view I’ve ever seen, but between the sunset and a loon that just called out it reminded me to love where I’m at right now and find those little moments that hold you over to the big ones.
I’ve got my dog. I’ve got my canoe. I’m fed, comfortable and I smile at my dog snoozing by my feet. Once the fire’s up, she’s set for the evening in her spot, curled up close to the heat. I’ve got a sunset and you know what? The bugs aren’t too terrible tonight.

This is the life!
 
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Hi Soh, You might want to check out that forum "Books" and within it there's a thread "What are you reading?" There's all kind of stuff, a good bit that touches on canoeing.

Rob
 
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Thanks for the heads up OM!

Another winner Lorax- in fact just an hour in the early morning on a local lake, while the rest of the world is sleeping is enough to remind me that loving right now is a good place to be :)
 
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Also, if anyone feels like penning a few words(or many) on what the canoe experience does, is doing or has done for them, I'm most eager to hear.
 
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Lorax, your magnificent prose gave me chills. Absolutely beautiful awareness and expression. Please let us know when your book is published.
 
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Thanks!
I've thought about it, Potterdave. I have random outdoor ramblings scribbles all over. Even a few from the many weekends on the Delaware by you. A wonderful underutilized river except for the day trippers with wonderful free campsites and great scenery. I live in WI now but still have a home in NE PA.
 
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Hey All - I write a seasonal column for a statewide outdoor education association. While the essay below is not specifically about canoeing it came about because I was out paddling in a week long 18th century event. I hope it's worth your reading.

Take care and until next time...Be well.

snapper
Lake George Tactical

This past October found me at myfirst extended re-enactment event. Theannual Lake George Tactical pits theBritish army against the French and their Indian allies in a mutual quest tocontrol this glorious waterway. For ourpurposes the year was 1757 and, with some exceptions, it wasn’t a strain on themind to imagine oneself a part of the timeframe.

Under a blanket of darkness oursmall band of French milice enteredback into time. We launched our canoesonto a glass like surface, said a prayer and paddled to our first campsite. As we made our way the full Hunter’s mooncrested above the mountains and we continued on, journeying along the easternshore via nature’s light. All thepoints, islands and inlets were now silhouetted against the brightly lithorizon. The sounds of silence werebroken only by water droplets as they dripped from our paddles back to theirsource. With the Big Dipper overhead, weheaded north not knowing what we would find but realizing it would be revealedin time.

The next morning we met up with aunit of French Marines to search out the enemy. Our intelligence reported that the British were planning to march inalong the eastern shore.
To better our chances of makingcontact with our foes we turned southward along the same path, hoping to encounterthem as they traveled north. A shortdistance down the trail we discovered a rocky enclosure; a perfect and formidablenatural fortification. It was decidedthat the Marines would defend this lakeside palisade while establishing anambush point. Our duty was to continue on,scouting the trail ahead.

Approximately half a mile furtherwe arrived at a vantage point which gave us views of both lake and trail. Setting ourselves in amongst the fallentrees, rocky perches and earthen depressions, we disappeared from sight to allbut ourselves. With look-outs on allsides, we were positioned to observe any incoming troops be they marchingoverland or traveling by boat. It was atthis point that I began to feel a kinship with the citizen soldiers of thepast.

Nestling into a tree for itsprotective embrace, the sights and sounds of the forest crept into theforefront of my mind. The squawk of a screechingpulley reminded me that blue jays flew overhead. Autumn leaves, supported by unseen puffs ofair, floated lazily earthward in a trip they seemed reluctant to complete. Squirrels scurried between the oaks,collecting their winter cache of acorns, while scolding us for our presence. Concealed within this natural collage, we sat and waited for the British advance.

Before long, and withoutrealizing it, the intense concentration toward my surroundings drifted tothoughts of my wife, daughters and other personal matters. As a cool breeze penetrated its way into mycocoon of warmth, I shivered in understanding; this is what it must have beenlike for the men of long ago. While Iwas not an ocean away, or even in any real danger, feelings of homesicknesscrept into my consciousness and a sense of loneliness overwhelmed me. Although I was physically able to keep an eyeout for an invading army, personal thoughts of home infiltrated my mind instead,making it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. For a brief instance I felt the melancholythat must have overtaken each combatant at some time during
the war. It was these feelings of sadness, loss anddisconnection from place that connected me to their experience in a land farfrom home and loved ones.

As much as anything, this is whyI had come to Lake George. While honesty tells me I can never truly knowor understand what these men experienced, through my immersion in this event Iwas exposed, even briefly, to a glimpse into their lives. Once again the out-of-doors had proven itselfto be an important conduit to my continuing education and understanding.

Until next time, may all yourrambles lead you to new and exciting places…
 
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Thanks! Re-enacting 17th & 18th century events have given me a whole new avenue of paddling adventures to enjoy. I'm lucky because so much of the French & Indian War went on along the Mohawk River and up along Lake George & Lake Champlain; all wonderful places to paddle.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time...Be well.

snapper
 
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Thanks for that re-enactment essay Snapper, I really enjoyed that. We used to go to historical village type museums, where I'd simply regard it all as a static display. In recent years however, I've been engaging the costumed historical persons in conversation, and asking many questions. There's a profound depth of knowledge and personal understanding amongst many of them. In one school house, for example, an 1800's school teacher not only explained the curriculum to me, but also the physical day to day experiences he had learned while acting out his role. The materials and living conditions made for challenges for everyone. In his "real job", he was a teacher as well, and so it was a step back in time for the both of us. I often paddle quietly and wonder what it would be like a century or more, back in time. Your Lake George Tactical took me there. Thanks for that.
 
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central NYS - 10 miles from the Baseball Hall of F
Thanks all for your kind words regarding my Lake George essay. What I enjoy so much about the re-enacting I do is it gives me the opportunity to live (as much as possible) in the past. It's amazing how so many of the old skills are still valuable; especially for paddling and camping.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time...Be well.

snapper
 
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