Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gently Down the Stream, Then Gently Back Up Again

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gently Down the Stream, Then Gently Back Up Again

Article excerpt

Canoeing on a pond, or around a lake, is a logistically simple pastime. But it's a different story when my husband and I prepare for our annual bobble down a lazy local river. Every summer, I must scratch my head anew as I review our shuttling protocol.

After caravaning the 40-mile drive to the river in two vehicles, we drop off the canoe at Point A (the "put-in"). Then Ken motors our minivan, which carries the canoe rack, downriver to Point B (the "take-out"). I follow in our "shuttle" car. Upon our arrival, he hops in with me to return to Point A, where we launch our boat and begin our float.

Some 10 river miles and several hours later, we load the boat onto the minivan and drive back upriver to reclaim the shuttle car. Then I follow Ken home.

Our system really isn't so complicated; it's just cumbersome to describe. Sometimes, when puzzling it through, I'll get Ken confused, too, and we sound like Abbott and Costello trying to figure out who's on first.

Drawing the route and sequencing the steps on paper helps, once we clarify which squiggly line is the river, which is the (roughly) parallel road, and which end is north.

Once our itinerary is fixed in our minds, our execution is still prone to pitfalls. No error is so ignominious to an eager canoeist as parking the canoe vehicle downstream, then driving the shuttle car back to the preplanted canoe, only to find oneself literally up the creek without a paddle, having left those helpful appurtenances in the Point-B vehicle.

One summer, when Ken and I were in footrace trim, we streamlined our procedure by planting the canoe, driving downriver together, parking the minivan, then running the eight road miles back to Point A.

Jogging along, we savored the prospect of pushing off in the canoe, shedding socks and shoes, and dangling tired toes in cool water.

Not only would our float seem the sweeter for this exercise stint, but also since we'd only brought one vehicle, we'd have no pesky Point-A car to reclaim at day's end.

But upon sliding the canoe into the shallows that day, ready to relax and float gently down the stream, it struck us: Where was the thermos of lemonade, the picnic lunch that we'd packed? …

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