Canoes and campfires are the setting for the best stories ever. I have always been fascinated by a good story and jealous of a good storyteller. Any river runner will attest to the importance of a deep bag of rumors and the connection to the culture these stories have.
Paddling a boat takes only a little bit of concentration that becomes second nature in a matter of, well, seconds. From then on out everyone in the boat is an audience. The best river guides are the best because they are the best story tellers and when you are in their boat you are at their mercy. They set the mood for a trip and from then on out your trip if wild, bizarre, funny, epic or strange enough may too become the stuff etched in river lore.
The more outrageous the adventure the better but in my short river paddling carrier I have managed to run from cocaine dealers in Mexico with loaded 5 gallon jugs of drinking water, shuttle wildland fire crews across the river while clients watched the canyon walls go up in flames, emptied groovers, found hidden hot springs, endured epic night sloggs, and pulled campers into boats only to throw them back out again. Sadly though it has been years since I loaded up for a multi-day river ramble and almost as many since I even put on a PFD.
Over a recent weekend though, my best friend Julie and I dipped our paddles on a four mile float through the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. The trip was not obscure or wild or in any way and didn’t turn epic. We just floated through the afternoon shade and told stories. The quite swirl of water puts you back in that certain state of mind from which those stories came. A day on the water connects to such a different side of life that it reminded me all over that any day with a paddle is a story worth sharing. It was just enough to get some paddling back in my system but more than enough to make me wonder where the next big story will come from.