Its not the State Fair or kids going back to school or even the calendar on my wall that reminds me that the summer paddling season is coming to a close. What does it for me is waking up at 6:00 am to darkness. And on a family Labor Day picnic barely being able to discern the flying bags in a Cornhole game because it was, what 8:45? So goes the swing of the retreating sun’s double bit axe. A tiny sliver of my brain nostalgically anticipates crisp fall mornings, skiing untracked snow, and the pop of the woodstove, but a much bigger lump of my brain is yelling. “Stop sun, Stop!” or pushing me to find someway to visit New Zealand or Chile in December.
Since the days when I clothespinned playing cards to the wheels of my bike for that throaty roar, I have always planned more for the summer than I accomplish. Let me bemoan first. I did not do a 10-day Hunters Island August canoe trip in Quetico. I am sick about this. Quetico in August is sublime, and that route, magical. My plan to paddle major segments of the Mississippi with Dick Pula consisted of only one jaunt from St Cloud to Elk River (but it was fast!). My hope to develop a tandem freestyle canoe routine with Sue Plankis fell woefully short of expectations. Back in April when I thought, “I can get up every morning at 5:00 am and get out on the water.” proved overly optimistic. I know there was some other stuff too, but many were so outlandish, I have already forgotten those dreams.
I did co-lead two spring Boundary Waters Bird Ecology trips which were very fun and paradoxically were the best weather of a paddling season plagued by rain and cold. And more: three runs down Minnehaha Creek always with good friends and this year a fun squeeze under bridge decks. Several Wednesday night freestyle practise sessions on Metro lakes with Dan Cooke and the gang, a wild and wooly 3-week Alaskan arctic canoe expedition with a tough crew on a swollen Noatak River, fun photography and fitness challenge trips in the BWCA and some good times in canoes, (kayaks!!! and even SUPs!!!!) on Laclavon with the fam.
Before I oil the gunwales and pack away the PFDs I still have a solo BWCA trip to check out a lodge option for next year’s bird ecology trips and BWCA bushcraft and paddling classes with Dan Cooke in October.
But the carefree summer days are over, at least until February when I can pretend it is summer and chase the sun down the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, one of my favorite canoe trips anywhere.
Between October and February, I am going to write my third book: The Biography of Merlyn Carter, an uncommon bushpilot.
HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU-