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What People See In Canoeing - What people FEEL in Canoeing
What People See In Canoeing - What people FEEL in Canoeing
by Shamus Penn

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Before I ever tried canoeing, I used to see my neighbors going canoeing, and wondered why they would want to be in a canoe. The thought of canoeing never occurred to me when I was younger because I had no friends who paddled canoes or kayaks.

Recently, my buddy Bob asked me what was so unusual about paddling canoes and kayaks. Bob didn't care about canoeing as a leisure activity and outwardly had no intentions of learning what it was all about. As I explained to Bob the finer points of canoeing, he just wasn't getting it, or maybe I wasn't painting the appropriate picture. So with only one alternative remaining to convert Bob's views on canoeing, I invited him out for a few hours of canoeing downward the local creek, in central Pennsylvania.

It was a Saturday afternoon in late June. And it wasn't the ideal conditions for introducing a newbie to canoeing. The water level was a little low, and the temperature was going to get a little higher than normal. So for this short expedition, I selected to paddle the top section of the water trail from Glen Hope to Madera. There was hastiness in our launch into the creek. To my surprise the air was cool that morning and there was plenty of shade over the creek, and the water level was high enough that I felt certain Bob would appreciate the six hour trip. And, this river was Bob's neck of the woods too, and I knew he'd be interested in a variety of of the local history I could tell him on the way down the river. I was also hoping we would catch some fish to help entertain Bob, and possibly that would convert Bob to become a canoeist.

Several hours into the canoe trip we were met with some river obstacles. They were mainly rocks and fallen trees that required a little bit of technical paddling that I thought would impress Bob, but it didn't. He wanted nothing to do with it. But later on that day, Bob was impressed with the grassy fields and farmland we paddled by. It's one of my favorite river locations; a place to pull over and enjoy the scenery, but Bob did asses the camping possibilities, and said how the ground was too wet for camping, and too close to the creek for a good nights sleep. I showed Bob the remains of the old Lions Club swimming area, and I told him the story of the accidential drowning that eventually led to the closing of this swimming area back in the 1960s. He didn't look like he cared much, and only commented on how hot and humid it was getting. We then paddled on to the location where I would occasionally camp overnight. Again, Bob wasn't impressed, and mentioned that it didn't look very comfortable for camping and, it was on a hillside.

All in all, the trip was a good one. Bob caught three trout and I caught two. We fried the fish over a small fire and had a few cold beers to go along. We paddled on to shore and loaded up. He remained very quite during the entire car ride, almost like he was assessing the entire trip with a fine tooth comb. I didn't want to bother him questions or meaningless banter. I knew I'd never see Bob in a canoe again.

A few weeks later, we had higher water and I decided to do the same canoe trip with two friends, Alan and Amy. I really didn't want to do the indentical "Bob" trip, but I knew we might only have a few more weeks of paddling then the water levels would begin to drop on all the rivers in the area, so I decided to go. On that second canoe trip, while launching, I saw another canoe launch just minutes ahead of me. They weren't paddling too fast, and I thought I'd pass them up quickly. It was my friend Bob.

Surprised to see him, I asked him frankly what changed his mind. He said, with a smile on his face, "The whole time we were on the water, I had this feeling of freedom, but I didn't realize it until we got back into shore, packed up the car, and headed home."

Wilderness canoeing is now Bob's new passion. He has a bunch of canoes, all for different styles of paddling. In fact, Bob is opening his own canoe and kayak dealership here in central PA.

I think he got serious about canoeing.


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