First Things

The Voyage of Discovery Begins!

Photo by Greg Mellang

By Tamia Nelson
Scenic Photo

What's that, you say? You want to paddle your own canoe or kayak? Your friends keep showing you snaps from their latest paddling holidays? You find slick catalogs in your mailbox, each page loaded with color photos of gorgeous guys and gals in kayaks, all having an insanely great time slicing through towering waves? Or maybe you can't take your eyes off the calendar picture over your desk? You know the one I mean. A green canoe on a glassy lake. Mom in the bow. Dad in the stern. Junior, Sis, and Spot in the middle. And everyone's smiling.

Wherever your fancy takes you, chances are good that sooner or later you'll start day-dreaming, sort of putting yourself in the picture, as it were. Then you'll see yourself gliding across calm lakes on warm summer days. Kayaking through lush rain forests. Paddling down a remote mountain river, its icy water milky with glacial silt. Or maybe just hanging out on a nearby beaver pond with a fishing rod.

You think it really doesn't get any better than this, don't you?

And you're right! Canoes and kayaks are magical craft. They embody designs that are older than the written word. And they can take you almost anywhere you might want to go. Long before the Interstate Highway System, long before the transcontinental railroad, people were criss-crossing the North American continent in canoes. Still further back in time, centuries before John Cabot first sighted the rocky headland now called Cape Dégrat, Inuit hunters and fishermen plied Arctic waters in kayaks, living on the bounty of the icy seas. Descendents of their skin-and-frame craft have even crossed oceans.

Is that all? No. There's more. Much more. Water, sun, and wind. The cry of the curlew and the bark of the seal. Even in busy, big-city harbors, canoeists and kayakers are never far from the natural world. And you don't need to paddle across the continent to enjoy the thrill of discovery. Every farm pond is a universe waiting to be explored.

Is this too good to be true? Maybe. A little. It's easy to be led astray by a pretty picture. And it's easy to let others paint you into their dreams. After all, there are weeks when the sun never shines and the rain never stops. There are mosquitos in the world, too—to say nothing of blackflies and ticks. Not every waterway is Golden Pond.

Right. But don't be discouraged. When I write about the joy of paddling, you don't have to take my word for it. In fact, I don't want you to.

Instead, why not embark on your own voyage of discovery? If you haven't already done so, talk with folks you know who canoe and kayak. Get some elementary instruction and rent or borrow a boat for a couple of hours. Then take the boat out onto a quiet pond, on a nice warm, sunny day. Wear a life jacket. Go with a friend or three. Bring a picnic lunch and a pair of waterproof binoculars. Have fun, in short. Discover the pleasures of canoeing and kayaking for yourself, at your own pace. Paint your own picture. Dream your own dreams. That's always the best way.

Once you've tried it, you'll be surprised how easy it is. Before you know it, your voyage of discovery will begin. It'll be yours and yours alone, of course, but we'll be right there with you when you need us—every stroke of the way, if you want. We're all in the same boat, aren't we? 'Nuff said.

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