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Up a Lake with Three Paddles

P6190125I’ve always loved canoeing.  We spent our summers at Bear Lake paddling around in a black and yellow striped canoe my grandpa pulled out of the Garden City dump and resurrected for our entertainment.  We called it the tippy canoe because, no matter how careful we were and how balanced we became, that craft capsized at the smallest hint of a wave.  Still, getting wet was the point of getting in the canoe.

Recently I was invited on a canoe trip to the Wind Rivers.  Since we retired the tippy canoe years (OK, decades) ago, I price checked canoe rentals in Salt Lake and Pinedale and discovered that the U’s Outdoor Recreation Program had the best deal in the Intermountain West. 

The day arrived to pick up the canoe and head north.  I consider myself a somewhat tough chick, but I have to admit relief when I learned that part of the package of renting from Outdoor Rec included the staff there heaving the canoe onto my truck and securing it with straps.  Phew.  I could still look tough and not have to make a fool of myself. 

Another part of the package is life vests and not two, but three paddles (you never know what could happen and you don’t want to be caught up the creek with only one paddle).  They sized our jackets, I signed my initials, and we were off after only twenty minutes.  I learned that the Outdoor Rec program would be replacing their canoes with new ones and would be having a sale next April.  Nostalgic images of me and my brothers in the tippy canoe floated through my mind while I envisioned us grown, in a new canoe, paddling happily through the silky waters of a Uinta lake.  I’d have to get me one when they go on sale. 

Six hours and much dinking around later we arrived at the boat ramp.  My best friend had flown in from California to join in the adventure and being the tough chicks we considered ourselves, we were also relieved that my brother had come at the last minute and he could haul the canoe off the truck for us. 

Does it matter how you pack the canoe we asked?  Probably not.  Just throw it all in there and let’s shove off.  Once we got our gear, dog and ourselves in the boat, we floated happily in the bay, waiting for my brother.  Ah, serenity.  The sun slanted along our faces, tickling the ripples on the water.  The only sound was the lake lapping against the canoe. 

Our two red dry bags swelled from the middle of the boat like festering blisters or a hump-backed banana.  We started to paddle.  I remembered how we would glide through the waters at Bear Lake in the tippy canoe and anticipated the familiar sensation.  Yet, we paddled right, then left, then right, zigzagging our way over the first half-mile of the four-mile lake.  Why aren’t we going straight?  Stop back paddling!  Paddle harder, don’t paddle so hard, you’re doing it wrong, just be Zen about it, who on EARTH would think paddling four miles into a camp is a good idea?  What if we tip over?  I have to go to the bathroom!  The dog is whining.  The dog is drinking the lake water.  We’re going to tip.  Why did we think this was a fun idea?Taun & Cara in canoe

On and on we cross-stitched the lake, paddling probably twelve miles in indirect distance, until finally, finally, after two bladder-filled, sweat-soaked hours, we were greeting by our friends who had arrived early to set up camp.  They escorted us to shore and helped us with our gear.

Wow, you really packed the canoe wrong, our friend said.  And why’d you put the dog in the front?  No wonder it took you so long to get here.

We were exonerated.  Tough chicks that we were, it wasn’t our paddling, but our packing that held us back. 

Two days later, we consulted our friend on packing the canoe and set forth into the lake.  Our return trip was smooth.  We slid through the water, this time talking about things other than the pain of paddling, and before we knew it, we were back at the boat ramp where my brother helped heave the canoe back onto the truck and strap it down.

Fun?  Yes.  Will I be purchasing one of those canoes?  Well, with the Outdoor Rec so close and affordable, why sacrifice my own storage space at home when I can have soon-to-be new canoes at my access?  And anyway, who would help me get the canoe on the truck, tough chick that I am?