71/365 Without A Paddle

I was standing in the woods of the Adirondacks, trying to find a good tree to pee behind, and wondering what kind of trip I had gotten myself into. My brother had flipped his kayak over rapids, while my friend Karl and I barely made it through ourselves in a canoe. After rescuing his kayak from the water we pulled our gear onto land, and looked at each other going, “now what?” Scott had lost his paddle and we were only fifteen minutes into our journey on the Hudson River. The phrase, “up shit creek without a paddle” has never been more true, or literal.

As you can tell, I have returned from the trip very much alive but not without some minimal trauma, and a slight sun burn. As you may recall from my earlier post I had some reservations on taking part in this camping adventure. When I told my friends where I would be for the weekend they all reacted in a similar way, “I didn’t know you’re an outdoors type of person.” At first I felt a little defensive, how could people not see me as the completely unrealistic models for LL Bean campaigns? But after sitting in the silence of a forest for half a day and watching my brother go into a near hypothermic state I got it, I actually hate the outdoors.

Alright, well hate is a strong word but it isn’t necessarily my scene. I think I would still choose a day at the beach over the forest any time. After setting up camp I found the woods to actually be kind of a lonely place. From our camp site we could still hear cars from across the river going by on the highway, and it felt like living in two separate worlds right next to each other. You could see people going on their way, but you were stuck in the trees, engulfed in darkness, and paranoid that at any moment a bear was going to appear and attack you. I’m happy to report that for the entire weekend I saw zero bears, but the repellant remained close at hand for the entire trip.

Our comedy of errors did not end with the first act. Once we lost the paddle to the kayak it seemed obvious we were going to have to change our plan, but what we lost in river time we made up for in alcohol. It seemed to be the only way to deal with the issue of extra weight in the canoe and the realization that our original plan was going out the window. If the scare of the day, and paranoia of bears wasn’t enough to kill the vibe then the cold definitely finished it off. During the day it was in the 60s but after the sun dropped I was wearing about every item of clothing I brought with me, and that still wasn’t enough as I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag trying to remember what warm felt like.

Eventually we got the kayak transferred back to the truck and constructed a shorter trip on the river where we wouldn’t have to carry as much gear so Scott could fit, and it paid off. Because on Saturday we found this tiny island to camp on, and as eerie as it feels to be the only people on a piece of land, it also felt kind amazing. In the middle it was a field and no matter what direction you were looking in you could see mountains and trees stretching on forever.

My time is usually filled with a lot of noise and traffic and even though in the beginning the silence left me unsettled, I began to appreciate it more. I felt pretty lucky to be standing there taking in all that nature. Between the chaos of Scott’s kayak, our tent breaking, and a million small things the trip could have easily been written off as a disaster. And for many years to come it will certainly be told that way, but after all I’m glad I went. And maybe, just maybe I’m crazy enough to try it again some time.

Day Seventy-One


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