Can We Do This?

There is no reason that any person with a bit of common sense cannot organize a successful canoe trip. There is noreason that any person with an average fitness level and basic paddling skills cannot participate in one. Canoe trips are a wonderful activity for anyone ranging in age from six to one hundred.

We may have preconceived notions about how difficult, dangerous or expensive canoe tripping is. Fortunately, these notions usually far exceed the reality of what skills are required to go on a trip. We do not have to be expert paddlers or highly skilled whitewater enthusiasts. We do not have to invest thousands of dollars into exotic canoes and specialized outdoor gear.

What then do we need?

First, we need at least some paddling ability. A canoe trip is probably not the place for anyone to learn to paddle. Spend some time out on your local lakes and rivers after work or on weekends. Take a paddling course at your local canoe club. As you spend time in your canoe, you will become more comfortable with how it handles. As you gain confidence in handling a canoe, your chances of having a safe, enjoyable trip increase.

Second, we need some basic equipment. Some of it is specialized, and specific to canoe tripping. This does not mean that we have to get a second mortgage and run out to buy all of this equipment. Canoes can be rented or borrowed, and most other equipment can be scrounged if you do not already own it. Once you put out the word that you are a novice and that you are planning a trip, you will probably be surprised at the offers of canoes, tents and equipment that suddenly arise. Canoeists are generally a friendly, sharing and helpful bunch - if they are not using their gear on a particular weekend, they will probably be happy to lend it to you. Along with the gear, you will probably get loads of helpful advice.

Another thing we do need is a desire to paddle in the wilderness and a realistic expectation of what we will encounter while we are out on our trip. Canoeing should never result in constant adversity or hardship - if it does, it most likely means that we didn't do a good enough job on our planning, or brought inappropriate gear with us. On the other hand, we have to be the type of people who are willing to give up a few of the creature comforts we're used to. We have to realize that during our trips we will be working hard. We will come back with dirty clothes, and everything we own will smell like smoke. We will use an upturned canoe as a food preparation table and our bathroom facilities will be "rustic" at best. We may find that we are shivering as we roll out of our sleeping bags in the morning to put on the coffee, and our arms, shoulders and backs will ache by the end of the day.

On the plus side, we will spend time immersed in magnificent scenery, we will enjoy the company of good friends and we will have an opportunity to observe plants and wildlife from a newer, closer perspective. The concerns of the 9 to 5 grind at the office will fade from our minds with every paddle stroke. Nobody can worry about that unfinished paperwork as they watch the sun begin to rise over a mist-shrouded lake. Do these things seem like adequate payback for abandoning the comforts of city life? If they do, then you're probably going to have a great time on your trip. If not, no problem...canoe tripping isn't for everyone.

The final thing that we need is a certain amount of experience. If we don't have the degree of experience which will allow us to make quick, confident decisions and judgment calls, we should consider inviting an experienced paddler to accompany us for the first few times we go out on trips. Spending three days with an experienced canoe tripper will teach us more than any hundred books that we could read.