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Unfulfilled Tripping Dreams?

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Preeceville, Saskatchewan Canada
Kathleen and I began canoeing and tripping fairly late in life. She was 38 and I was 42 for our first northern trip on the South Nahanni River, NWT, in 1990. Our last trip, in 2022 was 17 days on the Barren Grounds 300 km (200 miles) east of Yellowknife, NWT. It is January, the month that I have usually started planning our next canoeing adventure. Selecting the ideal destination. Ordering topographic maps. Assessing gear.

But not this January. Canoe tripping is over for Kathleen and me. She is now 71 and I am 76. In addition to our general decline in strength and stamina associated with aging, we now must endure other aches and pains. I have plantar fasciitis and peripheral neuropathy. Moreover the disks in the region of my lumbar vertebrae are deteriorating, such that even fairly short walks with our dog produce lower back pain.

But it’s ok. We had a very good run. We did what we wanted to do. And as we think about it, there are no specific canoe trips/rivers/lakes that remain unpaddled for us. We are completely satisfied, and look forward tp spending our summers with our dog and gardens. It’s time to more fully enjoy our property, and to explore more sedate cultural amenities, not only here in Saskatchewan, but throughout North America. We very much enjoyed our too short trip to Europe last summer and look forward to returning. We also intend to spend more time with family and friends.

Extended canoe trips brought us a lot of joy and satisfaction. But we are ready to move on. No regrets. No unfulfilled tripping dreams.

I’m wondering how other fellow paddlers have accepted or regretted the eventual end of an activity that we all have loved and pursued.
 
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Geetings Pitt,
A great topic. I am 73 with some health issues. I just did my last difficult rapids on the Klamath River in No CA last June in a drift boat. We are not as strong and not as brave as before. Now I plan to use the drift boat on some rivers that I used to paddle in a canoe. The DB is stable and roomy. It is easy to move around, bring furniture, dogs and not get so scared. I like it a lot.

I have paddled in a lot of different western states in the Lower 48, California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. But I never made it to the Barren Lands and never will. It seemed far and expensive when I was younger. It was hard to get long periods of time off work. I worked a lot in SE Alaska and did one hiking trip in AK over Chilkoot Pass. So reality starts to sink in. I will never go Dall sheep hunting either, like I always planned, but that is okay. The deer, elk and antelope hunts will have to suffice.
 
I will be 70 this year, I still have some unfulfilled tripping dreams and I haven't given up on the possibility of actually completing these trips.

Top of the list (in no particular order).

Kazan
Dubawnt
Swampy Bay

On those three I've done the research, created maps and figured out the logistics.

Then there is another "list" of destinations which are truly on the fantasy list for which I have minimal expectations will ever happen.
 
But I never made it to the Barren Lands and never will. It seemed far and expensive when I was younger. It was hard to get long periods of time off work.

Ditto, exactly, and I regret it. I should have done something in early retirement when I was still strong, but it just never seemed to work out.

At 79, my extended tripping days are likely over. I still have hopes of some base camping trips in the Dacks, and one last canoe hurrah of some sort in my boyhood canoe cradle in Maine. Mostly, I wish I could move to the southeastern U.S. where warm day trips are close and plentiful, but that is unlikely for complicated and difficult family reasons.

Long trips and destinations we're never my goal. I simply have always been in love with the physical, mental and spiritual joys that enflood me when I'm manipulating a canoe with a single blade. Or just floating around or along. When I can't even do that on a day trip, there will be no adequate substitute activity that I can foresee for my narrow and narrowing life.
 
I will be 70 this year, I still have some unfulfilled tripping dreams and I haven't given up on the possibility of actually completing these trips.

Top of the list (in no particular order).

Kazan
Dubawnt
Swampy Bay

On those three I've done the research, created maps and figured out the logistics.

Then there is another "list" of destinations which are truly on the fantasy list for which I have minimal expectations will ever happen.
Very impressive goals, recped. Hope you reach them!
 
For those who cannot trip by canoe any more, there are still a few great adventures possible on the wild side but requiring little physical effort. My bucket list of these, includes the Dempster Highway, from Whitehorse or Dawson City to Tuktoyaktuk and return. As wild as being on the barrens. Also, a visit to Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the meanwhile, it will be a lighter canoe and a thicker mattress.
G.
 
Now that my portaging trips are a thing of the past, I have tried to find ways of still getting out there. Last summer was a bust, I had this plan to drive the Trans Labrador to Newfoundland but my health required me to stick close to home.
This year my plan is for a “fair well road trip” up thru Quebec, across northern Ontario, a base camp canoe trip on a lake near Memaquay, then back home via the north shore of Lake Superior and then stop to visit my oldest friends in the Ottawa Valley, then home. Gas and motel fees be dammed
After that I have plenty of small ponds and lakes to set up my small canvas tent on here in Maine.
I have no regrets.
 
I feel inspired reading through these posts. I am yet a young man of 38, with hopefully many trips yet to plan and take. I appreciate the words you all have shared, and the many stories you have written in these forums. They make me more cognizant of the inexorable passage of time and the importance of spending as much time as possible tripping with my son before he starts a life of his own.
 
I have regrets, no specific dreams unfulfilled, but I wish I had done more long trips. I’m also very greatful for what I have done and the experiences I’ve had.

To offset my regrets I feel very fortunate to have gotten myself a place on a lake and also some wood canvas canoes which greatly increased how often I paddle and how much in joy it.

If health reason happen to cut my tripping career short I’ll hopefully still be able to enjoy paddling.
 
I feel inspired reading through these posts. I am yet a young man of 38, with hopefully many trips yet to plan and take. I appreciate the words you all have shared, and the many stories you have written in these forums. They make me more cognizant of the inexorable passage of time and the importance of spending as much time as possible tripping with my son before he starts a life of his own.
Don't dally, I was only 45 when I had a massive heart attack that caused permanent damage to my heart and severely curtailed my trips, and when I was 55 I broke my back leaving me partially paralyzed, I've fought back from both but am now limited to day trips without portaging, or overnight trips with "sherpas"
Don't put things off for later if you can do them now, I was supposed to go to the Nahanni as a retirement trip, that won't ever happen now.
 
I have never felt the need to stray out of my area, and in fact, there are still several trips up here that I have not done, and am not sure if I will ever be able to do them now. I hope to do more this summer. When paddling and porting becomes a problem, there is still motorized travel, it's not a sin. A nice square stern canoe and a small motor can take you to many places. Up here, you could put in at the Ottertail and go over 40 k down the Ogoki river to Amy Falls. Likewise, on the Kapikotongwa river, you can put in at the bridge and motor around for over 50 k down river, in areas of first class fishing. Lots of big lakes to explore too.
 
there is still motorized travel, it's not a sin. A nice square stern canoe and a small motor can take you to many places.

Good point. There would also be options like trailering a small boat to a large lake like Reindeer. You could spend a whole summer exploring that lake without a portage and even be able to resupply at the few small towns/villages.

Alan
 
Kathleen and I began canoeing and tripping fairly late in life. She was 38 and I was 42 for our first northern trip

That's reassuring to hear how late you started and see how much you got done.

I have too many years left to have any unfulfilled dreams but I do often feel them slipping away. Not necessarily for physical reasons but simply because of where life is heading.

In my early mid-30's I started getting into canoe tripping and like most of my hobbies I let it consume me. For a few years that's all I cared about and I had some fantastic trips that have left me with a lot of great memories. But even at the time I was aware that my hobbies were fickle and that despite my plans to continue canoe tripping for the rest of my life I knew that one day I could wake up and the desire would be gone.

A combination of good and bad events converged and broke the monomania for canoe tripping. After a few years away from canoe tripping I made plans for long return trip but Covid put a halt to that and took the last of the wind from my sails.

That was Sadie's last chance to go North as age has caught up with her. She's still as game as ever for walk and small explorations but a hard canoe trip is out of the question for her and I'm not willing to leave her at home while I go for a long trip myself. So while she's still around that means no canoe trips for me.

I also purchased the family business and this means it's much harder for me to take off work for a few days, let alone a few weeks. I'm hopeful that over the next few years I'll be able to guide the business to the point where it can run without me for an extended period of time and then I can revisit those trips I always wanted to complete. But when that time comes who knows what other interests might be competing for my attention.

Alan
 
Another good thing about going to the drift boat is that they readily can take an outboard. I have a Tohstsu 6 hp long shaft on it for lakes and long flat run outs on rivers. It is not a planing hull and maxes out around 6-7 knots.

Now I have some plans for some boat camping trips on major lakes. Lake Roosevelt is 180 miles long behind Grand Coulee Dam. Trinity Lake in California is a large lake with boat in campsites. As we get older the trick seems to be to keep going out there, just making the goals realistic. Being on the water is its own reward.

My camping gear keeps getting lighter. I don't bring large coolers. One small one or maybe 2 small ones for long trips. Kitchen keeps getting smaller. Nothing heavy allowed.
 
I've got some unfinished business. I tripped a lot in my late teens and through my twenties. When we had kids the long trips tapered off for the better part of a decade. Now that those buggers are teenages (almost 19 and 16), I want to get back to extended wilderness trips. Managed a 24 day solo in 2022. Would like to get out with my kids for whatever canoeing they're willing to do, would love another long river trip with my wife, and to tackle some long solos. Basically, I'm looking to canoe as much as possible, with long trips preferred.
 
Very melancholy ending to your post, Glenn.

Melancholy would be an improvement. Facing the facts of old life, all my family other than my non-canoeing wife are dead, estranged or far away. Same with former friends, neighbors and paddling companions: dead or moved away from expensive Connecticut, mostly south. But those facts are just part of the normal flow of the river of life, and a lifetime of solitary canoeing has helped me simply to accept and go with this altered flow.

I never made efforts to make or save money and, to my now somewhat old age regret, succeeded in those non-efforts.

Regret is actually too strong a word for my inability to arrange a Canadian wilderness trip; I just sort of wish I had. I'm grateful for all the shorter trips I've taken all over North America all my life, often alone, and that I can still paddle. I'm also grateful for the unexpected burden of administering this site, and it is a burden, because it keeps me in touch with canoeists all over the world.

I do regret the loss of physical strength and energy that interferes with my remaining outdoor activities such as canoeing.

All my canoeing memories are crystal clear and positive, whereas I can barely recall the endless "emergencies" and "important meetings" of my professional life.
 
This is a difficult topic. I appreciate the comments by others. I spent my whole life trading in experiences rather than money. I have been acutely aware of what I call the rocking chair test. I wanted to age and by able to sit there and watch the moon rise with no regrets about the things I should have done. Sometimes working in the field got in the way of recreating far away, but the I spent a large part of my life outdoors and worked in every western State except Montana.

"Sometimes I couldn't believe I was getting paid, and sometimes they couldn't pay me enough." Ppine
 
It's hard not to read your OP Pitt and feel discouraged, but I'll try. Yes, one type of adventure may be fading, but many more may be waiting.
Sorry if that sounds patronizing but I really do believe it. So should you. Aside from twerking (imagine the possibilities!) the old paddle and portage trips, there remain portage-free and fully guided trips. Short or long they're out there. You may have to customize them to fit. That's not new to you. And you have the advantage of living in the heartland of much canoe history. There's more to it than tumping 180 lb loads over grueling portages. How about an overland trip with the dogs? Top the canoe too if you're in the mood. While we're all focused on canoe trips, remember this, not all history is told from the perspective from the side of a gunnel. Find it. Explore it. Treasure it.
I wish you both happy hunting. Slow and easy. Soft and good. Be in touch.
 
I also purchased the family business and this means it's much harder for me to take off work for a few days, let alone a few weeks.
Wait till I get you married off to one of the G Town beauties with the complete family and the sketchy ex's. Then you will be bale to completely absolve yourself from canoe tripping, lol.
 
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