The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. –Lynn Noel
My first river was the Upper Delaware, in the Pocono Mountains in 1976. I was a teenager at Girl Scout camp and I fell in love with paddling right away. Memories of the river come floating back – blue skies, dark green hills, drifting quietly down the calm sections. The fun of running the rapids – Mongaup, the Eel Trap, Skinner’s Falls – and the frustration when we hit a rock or got stuck. Grey misty afternoons, and the one bright morning when the early sun bedazzled us with a myriad of sparkling diamonds on the river’s surface. I lived in canoes for four wonderful summers and paddling has coursed through my veins ever since. (The photo above was taken at an overnight campsite along the Delaware in 1978 with a Kodak Instamatic camera. Gotta love that ‘70s film look!)
Don started paddling in the 90s, on Darby Creek in a folding kayak. “I think that first time out in my folding kayak was a lot of fun and a big relief once I realized that my watercraft floated! Pine Barrens river trips came later… and I might have thought how peaceful and quiet it was and how isolated the spot was though it was all so near a major metropolitan area.”
Robb just started paddling recently, and his first kayak trip, to a rain-swollen Batsto River, left him cold. Being separated from your boat and stuck in a tree can do that. “[My first river] was Batsto and I remember being in a tree because of Don’s advice.” Later trips have gone more smoothly than that first experience, and Don and I are crossing our fingers that Robb comes to enjoy the sport as much as we do.
Don’s the only one with a kayak (an inflatable one, no less) so he coaxed Robb into the purchase of his own small inflatable boat called the Firefly. The Firefly took her maiden voyage on a cloudy and cool day at Marsh Creek Lake; she and her captain were a sight to behold. Once the boat was ready, that is.
Napoleon at Waterloo, in his snazzy new vest.
Are you sure this thing will float?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.
The boat goes faster if you stick out your tongue.
Boys and their bitty blow-up tub toys. For some reason Don wears a rain hat when he paddles, no matter what the weather.
One week later, the sun was out and the heat nigh unbearable. Nonetheless, the guys were back at it on Darby Creek in Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.
Darby Creek is tidal, and the water level varies greatly. This is the boat launch near high tide. At low tide it’s all mud flats.
Don tells Robb where to go. As always.
Trash is a constant problem along Darby Creek, and it all washes downstream to Heinz NWR. Every April there’s a watershed-wide cleanup, but by September, that’s just a distant memory. Please, folks, put your trash in trash cans. Better yet, recycle it!
The synchronicity of the paddle strokes is frightening. Click on the image to get a closer look.
Oh, the power in the stroke. The concentration on the face. The wake behind the boat. No question, Captain Robb is a stud.
You may be wondering why I have been left behind on dry land. It’s not all that uncommon. Actually, I have my eye on a hard-shell kayak, and hope to test paddle it sometime soon. Never let it be said that I rushed into any decision impulsively.
For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…
Around the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.
Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing. – Henry David Thoreau