• Happy Birthday, Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)!

Fears while paddling or on canoe trips

Joined
Nov 30, 2017
Messages
521
Reaction score
198
Now that I have read all these fears, makes me want to rethink my tripping plans. Just kidding...

In no particular order I am afraid of:

As a solo woman, it has always seemed to me that men would be about the most dangerous thing out there for me. Not so much in real wilderness, but on those rivers where guys, usually in motor boats, can get together and drink beer and do stupid things.

Long, cold lake crossings. Wind and waves.

Polar bears and grizzly bears.

Hypothermia

Getting lost.

I deal with most of these fears by being incredibly OCD about safety.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
59
Reaction score
15
Location
Duluth, MN
Erica, I would guess you are right about men being the biggest danger to a solo woman, sadly. I am afraid enough of polar bears and grizzly bears that I'm only going to solo in black bear country (though Paddling Pitt's photos make me reconsider that notion daily). Can anyone point me to a map of Canada that shows summer range of polar and grizzly bears?
 
Joined
Aug 21, 2018
Messages
1,315
Reaction score
1,101
Location
Preeceville, Saskatchewan Canada
tomo,

Polar Bears are generally not too far from the coast in summer, or winter. The following includes a generalized map of grizzly bear distribution in Canada in summer.


Although attacks by grizzly bears can happen, they are very rare. Attacks by black bears also occur rarely. I don’t know the exact statistics regarding fatality by grizzly bears in summer in Canada, but I’m sure it’s in the low single digits. Probably less than murders in your home of Duluth, and certainly less than your home state of Minnesota. If you want to paddle in Canada, please do so. And you will, almost certainly incur much less risk than almost every other activity that you enjoy! If I thought my life was in danger more by paddling in Canada in summer, than by hanging out at night on the streets of major metropolitan areas, then my canoeing career would never even have begun.
 
Joined
Dec 25, 2017
Messages
458
Reaction score
204
Location
Hogtown
James Raffan wrote a book about the Timiskaming disaster.

Deep Waters: Courage, Character and the Lake Timiskaming Canoeing Tragedy


He also has a small booklet called
Wilderness Crisis Management which is available as a free download.


He uses the Temiskaming disaster where 12 young paddlers drowned in 1978 as the example to explain the "lemon principle" although I don't think he actually mentions lemons.

Here, Les Stroud (Survivorman) tells his version of the lemon story.

 
Joined
Aug 1, 2011
Messages
526
Reaction score
151
Location
Ontario
Polar bears and grizzly bears.

I deal with most of these fears by being incredibly OCD about safety.
I've never been overly concerned about grizzlys, cautious yes but "concerned" no. I've only had one incident involving them and it was on the Athabasca decades ago- a griz followed us from the far bank for a full day, disappearing in the night, a local bear expert said it was probably protecting it's territory and just making sure we stayed off his side. That bear never tried crossing towards us, even in the shallower, braided sections, and we just continued on, "staying in our lane" for the next day or so. Even our morning bacon fryup didn't entice him to cross.
Every other griz I've seen wanted nothing to do with us, I suspect because it was taught at a very early age that humans are a top predator too-- with a very long reach. as proof of that reach our guide had a 12g shotgun loaded with a rubber slug followed by some nice 1 1/4oz lead in the next shell. he said he's only ever needed the rubber slug once, and never needed to fire the slugs
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2011
Messages
526
Reaction score
151
Location
Ontario
Erica, I would guess you are right about men being the biggest danger to a solo woman, sadly. I am afraid enough of polar bears and grizzly bears that I'm only going to solo in black bear country (though Paddling Pitt's photos make me reconsider that notion daily). Can anyone point me to a map of Canada that shows summer range of polar and grizzly bears?
according to this article, bears carry far less risk of attack than even the family dog (Fatal dog attacks in the United States cause the deaths of about 30 to 50 people in the US each year- wikipedia) A report published in Nature "found that only 24 people were killed by grizzlies in all of North America between 2000 and 2015, or 1.6 people per year" https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44341-w#Sec2
there is a very good breakdown of territories here- https://geology.com/stories/13/bear-areas/
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2014
Messages
3,513
Reaction score
709
Location
NW Iowa
according to this article, bears carry far less risk of attack than even the family dog (Fatal dog attacks in the United States cause the deaths of about 30 to 50 people in the US each year- wikipedia) A report published in Nature "found that only 24 people were killed by grizzlies in all of North America between 2000 and 2015, or 1.6 people per year" https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44341-w#Sec2
there is a very good breakdown of territories here- https://geology.com/stories/13/bear-areas/
I'm cautious in Grizzly country and can get a little worried but not overly so. I don't spend a lot of time in such places (because there aren't many of those places) but I'm sure my worries would diminish with more time spent in their proximity.

I do however dislike statistics like the one quoted above. Certainly death by Grizzly is going to be very low and one of the reasons is that so few people come into contact with them, especially in comparison to family dogs. Dogs might kill more people per year but if you factor in the number of close contacts between people and dogs and people and grizzlys I'm guessing things would look a little different.

Kind of like the low risk of being struck by lightning. That number takes into account all the people. But most of the people have the sense to come in out of the rain and are safely inside a building or vehicle. The odds will go up considerably if you decide to climb a mountain during a thunderstorm. Knowing the odds of being struck are 1 in 500,000 probably wouldn't do much to make you feel safe on exposed rock with lighting crashing all around, and rightly so.

As for personal fears while tripping my biggest is some sort of debilitating injury or sickness that leaves me incapacitated. Being sick or injured and struggling to either complete the trip or at least reach a spot that's accessible for rescue has a certain romance to it and the memory of discomfort and pain would be replaced with pride and nostalgia with time. But laying on your back in agony without the ability to paddle, walk, make camp, break camp, or even cook has no romance attached to it whatsoever. I think it's the feeling of helplessness that I most fear.

Alan
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,881
Reaction score
1,077
Location
Connecticut
Certainly death by Grizzly is going to be very low and one of the reasons is that so few people come into contact with them, especially in comparison to family dogs. Dogs might kill more people per year but if you factor in the number of close contacts between people and dogs and people and grizzlys I'm guessing things would look a little different.

Excellent point.

Along those lines, I suspect the average person in the world is highly statistically unlikely to lose or break a canoe paddle or be afraid of doing so.
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2012
Messages
320
Reaction score
46
Location
Illinois
My first thought on this topic was that my fears subsided once I got the car parked at the put-in. Then I remembered Bailey Bay on a Quetico exit. Not many have escaped scary times on that crossing. Rapids are no fear for me as I take every portage. As Bob B said, little animals make a lot of noise. Knowing that I still will shout and listen for big footfalls running away or TOWARDS me. Frying my fish in the vestibule as an afternoon storm raged and the ground heaving as the trees swayed above. On my knuckles and toes as a violent thunderstorm cell passed over happened too many times and never got easier. My first bear walking by three feet from my toes and just outside the screen of my tent in full moonlight kept me awake for only a short time.
 
Joined
Nov 30, 2017
Messages
521
Reaction score
198
I am fairly well versed in the actual danger of bear attacks. The topic was “fears.” Didnt say the fears had to be reasonable.

I fear bear attacks far in excess of the actual danger. It probably goes back to the ancient fear of being prey.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
59
Reaction score
15
Location
Duluth, MN
My fear is unreasonable given the statistics for sure. I've backpacked in Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP and have paddled once on the barrens, so I've spent some time in grizzly country. In thinking of paddling solo, my worry in going to grizzly/polar bear county is that my fear would hinder my enjoyment too much. But man, I'd love to paddle every Hudson Bay river I could...if it weren't for those damn polar bears. :)
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2018
Messages
454
Reaction score
262
Location
Maine
I always expect a bear encounter so I am quite vigilant about keeping a clean camp, but honestly I think I fear Moose more than bears especially during the rut. Those "Chipmunk / Red Squirrel Bears" can make quite a bit of noise at night time. My number one fear is and always will be that my vehicle remains in the same condition as when I left it. These days catalytic converters and whatever else are stolen frequently. Luckily I have not had any issues to date and I am thankful for that. Moving forward I will happily pay a sporting camp or lodge (Like I did with my last trip - Spruce Lodge / Downeast Maine) to host my vehicle where the chances of the vehicle remaining safe increase with great percentages. Overall, I strongly believe that tripping solo intrinsically forces all that solo trip to be more cautious and calculated. However, on my Allagash Lake Loop trip I took a nasty digger lining up Caucomgomoc Stream which ultimately changed my entire trip plans. The knees are not as flexible as they used to be and in this case my left knee received an extra stretch in the wrong direction. I was not disabled but more uncomfortable and this prevented me from doing the Mud Pond Carry which I really wanted to do for some strange reason.
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
1,616
Reaction score
858
Location
Anchorage Alaska / Pocono Mts.
James Raffan wrote a book about the Timiskaming disaster.

Deep Waters: Courage, Character and the Lake Timiskaming Canoeing Tragedy


He also has a small booklet called
Wilderness Crisis Management which is available as a free download.


He uses the Temiskaming disaster where 12 young paddlers drowned in 1978 as the example to explain the "lemon principle" although I don't think he actually mentions lemons.

Here, Les Stroud (Survivorman) tells his version of the lemon story.

Yeah, I didn't hear him mention lemons either.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2019
Messages
119
Reaction score
55
Location
Michigan
Alan's last paragraph is a pretty good summery of my real fears. I am rarely worried while solo traveling but with groups I worry for the safety of the group and all the additional variable I can't control.

My irrational fears are two. During lighting storms in my tent I imagine a lighting striking my tent and the tent fabric melting on top of me. I know, that if, in the unlikely chance I was struck by lighting a melting tent won't matter. The second fear is a human who is preying on humans. Some sort of serial killer who is a smart premeditated predator. I know that a solo male in the middle of the forest is not the typical victim of murder but these are not rational fears.

The irrational fears have been there for years. The fears created more anxiety when I was younger and less experienced. After spending years of my life sleeping in tents the irrational fears are more of a passing thought but they are always there.
 
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
643
Reaction score
524
Location
The Hereford Zone along the Mason-Dixon Line
I am, for currently painful reasons, reminded of another concern on longer trips; having a tooth go bad. Loose a filling, bust a crown, crack a tooth. Not exactly a “Come rescue me” scenario, but there’s only so much Tylenol and ibuprofen can do.

Can’t get a dental appointment ‘til next week, so I got out the big group 1st aid kit and fetched the little vial of Anbesol and cue tips.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2014
Messages
3,513
Reaction score
709
Location
NW Iowa
I am, for currently painful reasons, reminded of another concern on longer trips; having a tooth go bad. Loose a filling, bust a crown, crack a tooth.
Yes, that's a good one. I've worried about that too. Before my last big trip I was at the dentist and talked to her about my upcoming trip in hopes she'd have something she could send along to help in that scenario. She didn't.

Alan
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2014
Messages
3,513
Reaction score
709
Location
NW Iowa
I was thinking about this again today and I think the biggest fear I have before a trip, the thing that can actually eat at me a little, is something happening to my dog Sadie. I don't mean something happening that causes her to die, but something happening that causes her serious injury but not death. A situation where I've got a dog that's in severe pain, possibly immobile, and my options are to treat her as best I can and try and get her out or to put her out of her misery. Not a fun thought but entirely possible. Wolf/lynx attack. A bad fall from. Partially crushed by the canoe dumping in the rapids. Eating something poisonous or otherwise becoming severely ill.

I'm thankful that all my fears/worries come before the trip. Once the trip begins I've got plenty keep my mind occupied on what needs to be done and all those other thoughts fade away.

Alan
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2011
Messages
526
Reaction score
151
Location
Ontario
I'm cautious in Grizzly country and can get a little worried but not overly so. I don't spend a lot of time in such places (because there aren't many of those places) but I'm sure my worries would diminish with more time spent in their proximity.

I do however dislike statistics like the one quoted above. Certainly death by Grizzly is going to be very low and one of the reasons is that so few people come into contact with them, especially in comparison to family dogs. Dogs might kill more people per year but if you factor in the number of close contacts between people and dogs and people and grizzlys I'm guessing things would look a little different.

Kind of like the low risk of being struck by lightning. That number takes into account all the people. But most of the people have the sense to come in out of the rain and are safely inside a building or vehicle. The odds will go up considerably if you decide to climb a mountain during a thunderstorm. Knowing the odds of being struck are 1 in 500,000 probably wouldn't do much to make you feel safe on exposed rock with lighting crashing all around, and rightly so.

As for personal fears while tripping my biggest is some sort of debilitating injury or sickness that leaves me incapacitated. Being sick or injured and struggling to either complete the trip or at least reach a spot that's accessible for rescue has a certain romance to it and the memory of discomfort and pain would be replaced with pride and nostalgia with time. But laying on your back in agony without the ability to paddle, walk, make camp, break camp, or even cook has no romance attached to it whatsoever. I think it's the feeling of helplessness that I most fear.

Alan
Nice.... I try to help disburse some of those fears, and you question the methodology...
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2011
Messages
526
Reaction score
151
Location
Ontario
dcloots, my mechanic solved the catalytic problem for me by welding a 1/4 x2" steel bar across the cat to the flanges on either end. now they need to cut the bar before they can even get at the pipes- a $20 job to protect a $1200 part...
 
Top