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Looking over the 2005 trip log I’m surprised to find that we didn’t have a Tuckahoe trip in ’05, so the last outing there would have been the infamous Tree Hugger trip of 2004, featuring a partial Brian immersion before he even got into his canoe and many deciduous embraces between the Squatters and the local tree population as we paddled through the Adkins Arboretum holdings. Accent on “holding”.
The creek was significantly more open this trip, in the sense that a lot of the overhanging sweeper branches showed evidence of having been trimmed back and those that remained were winter-bare of leaves. With or without leaves I liked it to old, more passage-obscured way; it felt more intimate and more challenging. Luckily it’s like a bad haircut, it’ll grow back.
Not that there wasn’t some challenge involved even now. Although get out and drag around type strainers were few there were sufficient limbo logs, speed bump logs and compacted slalom mazes to keep things interesting.
Passing under, over and around woody peril is definitely a learned paddling skill; sizing up the situation and deciding if there is enough room and where and how to squeeze under a log, deciding it’s possible to start paddling hard far enough back to build up some speed and bump over (I do like plastic boats for swamping), choosing between portaging around on land (how easy is it to get out of the boat, carry around, and get back in) or stepping out on the log and hauling the boat over like some half-assed aquatic Wallenda Brother with the river as safety net. Even how fast to head into an obstruction can be a puzzle; slow enough to be able to stop, backpaddle and turn 180 degrees while sticking the stern back in some miniscule opening and then paddle out (or, sometimes, even further into especially dense constructions).
After a long day of this the riskier maneuvers become more attractive. Hmmm, is that protruding stick flexible enough to pinball off the bow into a hard right turn towards the opening and still maintain some speed to cross the eddy on the other side? Let’s try. Splash, oops, guess not. I love that stuff.
Our float had barely begun when we came to the first of these, a sizable crossriver log with a bare trickle of water flowing over a small U-shaped low section. Rather then paddle hard and try to slide over. Steve elected to ease the bow up and step out on the log. Of course, when Steve disembarked so did his dog passenger Ela. Steve got both feet atop the log, stood up and immediately plunged off the downstream side -- the chin deep downstream side.
Somethingmumblesomething, he quite nimbly clambered back atop and took two steps before falling off the other side. Ela, watching this from a safe patch of dry ground unsurprisingly became disinterested in reboarding the canoe. Yes, Chocolate labs are smart dogs.
I admit a certain old-swamper satisfaction in following the now saturated Steve over this obstacle with a hard sprint, lean back, lean forward and clean slide over. Steve’s way was more entertaining though, even if he didn’t want to wear my “spare” set of clothes.
Soon enough we came to the first portage-around riverblocker. Easily done, although when Steve carried around and called “OK, Ela, we need to get back in” he received the canine equivalent of “What do you mean we?”
That first blockage was the only river wide obstacle necessitating a true portage, as the remaining 5 miles where passable with some strategic approach planning.
If planning isn’t your style there are alternatives. C2g’s preferred style involves using the paddle as a fulcrum-like battering ram, resulting in a nicely homemade Nashwaak-style stick having a future as a rare two-piece take-apart single blade.
C2g did have the added challenge of paddling The Boat Of My Choice. TBOMC is a new Duckhead tradition in which I generously promise to provide you with a specific boat off my racks and personally feel I am fulfilling at least the spirit of that promise by putting you in, oh, say, a Radisson, or some girly boat like a Ladybug.
It is, at least, a method to assure that all of the boats on my rack get wet occasionally. Think of it as your contribution of the happiness of some forlorn and too long un-paddled canoe.
So, c2g, how was that Curtis? Topher proved it was poleable, and you finally got to answer “No” when, on arriving home, your daughter’s first words were the usual “Did you fall in today Dad?”
The Wilhelm brothers each demonstrated an un-Germanically lackadaisical limbo approach on the same low log. Maybe Germans don’t limbo. Steve led off the Wilhelm-way, (say it with a touch German accent “Vilhelm Vay” and a touch of surly inflection) electing to lay his paddle across his lap before bending double to squeeze below. Becoming stuck halfway under by the back of his PFD he asked Topher for a push through, only to become even more helplessly wedged. When Steve, now stuffed immobile under the tree, folded like a taco around his paddle, urgently requested a freeing yank back upstream. Topher took the time to repeat his favorite Duckhead motto “We hardly ever leave a man behind” and paused for a few seconds with feigned deliberation. Just food for thought, Steve.
Brother Tom, showing how genetics affect familial behavior, followed suit in much the same way, although his obstacle to bending over in the middle wasn’t a paddle in his gut but his gut in his middle. (Happy Birthday Bro).
Tom did have the added challenge standing tall throughout the day amidst Mobey “the Pole-Biter’s” antics. The game of “Oh, look, he is waving a nice big stick for me, I’ll bite it each time as it goes by” explains why Harry Rock doesn’t bring his dog.
The exciting game of Pole biting was briefly interrupted by some "Molly-esque" tennis ball chasing. In the Molly version of this game the ball is briefly balanced on the gunwale and allowed to fall either into the boat or into the water. If the ball falls into the canoe it is Molly’s to retrieve and rebalance, into the water and the trailing paddler is expected to become fetcher. Molly WILL train you to fetch the ball no matter how much you resist.
In Mobey’s version of this game he doesn’t just allow the ball to drop off the gunwale, he literally flings the ball off to the side with a flip of his head, often into some spot perilous for me to retrieve. I suspect Tom has been training him to do that. Come to think of it I’ve also seen Tom rolling around in fresh scat, so perhaps he trained Mobey to do that too.
Thomas, it does my heart good to see Mobey pup enjoying himself so on a canoe trip; it bodes well for him as an eager to go canoeing companion. I especially enjoyed the times he chomped down on an overhanging limb to suddenly bring the canoe to a stop. Good dog Mobey, good dog.
And where in the day’s retelling is Topher. Poling of course. Poling, poling, poling; it’s all poling all the time. “That would make a nice poling boat”, “This is a good poling creek”, “Hey little girl, wanna see my pole”. It’s like being in the presence of a newly minted Jesus Freak.
And where in the day’s retelling is Krousmon? He’s there, reminding me of paddling companions like Brian and Joel. Quietly, competently there, navigating 17 feet of sea kayak down a small, twisty creek with ease.
If we didn’t wear him out with our blazing Duckhead speed of one mile per hour, frequent muckle-ups, dissolute behavior and descent into decadence (“descending into decadence”: another Duckhead motto, as well as the very first descriptor in the official McCrea clan history) I’m hoping to see more of him.
Our trips aren’t always like that Krousmon. Oh heck, who am I kidding; they pretty much are.
Topher’s photos of the day: http://community.webshots.com/album/547994795TGnquO
Bent Shaft Canoe Paddles
Canoe / Kayak Anchors
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer