Adventures, they come in all shapes and sizes and locations. Recently a river trip provided adventures and metaphorical thoughts. How’s that for excitement?!

For most of the summer, my partner and I have cycled the bike  paths in and around the city. Many of the paths take us near the river and we often commented on how we would like to canoe the river, see it from that perspective.  Recently we did just that.  Perspective is everything, The trip I came to see as a perfect metaphor of life.

While both of us have canoeing experience, mine was almost exclusively on lakes. He had river experience, but not on shallow rivers like this one. Since we didn’t know what might be in store, I did what anyone does these days. I went on the internet to search out any information I could find. I wanted to know where could we put in, were there rapids, places we had to portage and where could we get back out? I found some information, some being the operative word. There was a lot that wasn’t covered. There were links to check water levels and river flow, but not much else.

Undeterred, we decided to “go for it”.

Rapids and Rocks, Adventures Oh My

Since we didn’t have much information about the layout of the river and what to expect I tried to pack wisely. Sealed plastic bags for any food, cell phone, and extra clothing. Old shoes I didn’t mind getting wet and drinking water.

We put into the river close to where we live. There was a small set of rapids around the first bend, our first surprise. We got through them okay, although my heart rate definitely went up.

We enjoyed the view and early on saw some deer along the river and some turtles sunning on the rocks. Ducks and geese swam near by. It was a beautiful fall day, the leaves in all their fall glory and calm waters. Bliss.

With no experience on this river and no map to guide us, we could only deal with each set of rapids as they appeared. Sometimes it was easy to see the best route, where the water was a little deeper and you were less likely to be dodging rocks. Other times, it was less sure and where it started out okay, became a rock field. Did we hit rocks? Oh yes we did. I could see them coming, and we dodged them the best we could, but sometimes it was too late. Sometimes we grazed the sides, others we went over and yes, sometimes  we rode up the rocks. There’s nothing like that sound, scraping, grinding across the bottom of your canoe, surrounded by water, to feel just a little sick.

Adventures in Skill Development and Some Helpful Hints

Adventures, while having them, are not quite as fun as the stories told later. Getting off the rocks meant developing some new skills. This included lurching back and forth in our seats to move the canoe. All the while being careful to balance so we didn’t tip. We also used the paddles against the rocks around us and the bottom of the river. We had to work together and communicate to get us moving again. It worked, but there was some effort and not a little swearing from time to time!

As we traveled along, we saw a few people on the banks. At one point, close to the old dam, we were unsure whether to go left or right. It was a veritable “minefield” of rocks. We started down the left and a couple of men helpfully told us that others were taking the route on the right. We appreciated the information.

Further down the river, we could see a couple of people in kayaks. Fellow travelers!  We hoped to catch up to them, thinking they might have information about the river, rapids and a place we could get out.  So far, we’d only seen one place and that wasn’t too far from our start point.

Eventually we caught up to them and yes, they had traveled the river before. Unfortunately we were in for a longer trip than planned. The city did not have too many access points and the last one had been miles back.  Disappointing, but we made the best of it and shared the river with them awhile, enjoying their company.

Serendipity and Metaphorical Thoughts

Finally, we found our spot and brought the canoe out. The only challenge left was how to get back into the city. We have few friends and they were busy. We considered our options and happily met a fisherman just packing up who agreed to take my partner back into the city with him. Ah, serendipity.

As I awaited his return, enjoying some of the food I had packed, and watching the river flow by, I thought about how much our trip is like life. You set a goal and try to prepare as much as you can. You enjoy the calm waters and appreciate what you have. When life gets tricky, hands you some challenges, it’s best not to panic. Keep calm, and carry on as the t-shirt says.

There will be people you meet along the way, who will help you in that moment, never to be seen again. Others might be travelling some of the distance with you, and provide companionship and information. You enjoy and appreciate what they have to offer and what you can offer them. When the time comes you say your goodbyes and continue your individual journeys.

The destination was never clear, but it didn’t prevent us from setting out on the journey. We planned to the best of our abilities, enjoyed the beauty around us and worked together throughout. Some of it was scary, with the real potential of damaging the boat or being tossed in the water. Thankfully, neither of those things happened. As we traveled along, we became more confident and better at deciding which course of action to take, what direction to aim for.

Life is like that, don’t you think? Set your course, prepare, enjoy the journey, don’t panic when things aren’t going as planned and trust that whatever comes your way, you can handle.

Life is an adventure, as long as you keep opening to new experiences. What have you been up to? Leave a comment and share your adventures.

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