Canoe Lessons Learned
Posted on March 22, 2019
Not all adventures go as planned. In fact, if they all went as planned, I think the sense of adventure could be lost. Part of the thrill of getting out and exploring is that you just never know what might happen. Sometimes, the unexpected things that happen are good: you meet new people who become lifelong friends; you discover a town off the beaten track that you absolutely love. Sometimes, they’re not so good. I had one such experience a couple years ago.
It was mid-September and I wanted to get out on the water one more time before I gave up on summer. So, while the hubby was at work, and the kiddos were at school, I loaded my canoe into the back of my car and headed to a little beach on Crooked Lake, not too far from my home. The weather was amazing: the sun was shining, summer temperatures were still holding on, and there was no wind at all, which meant the lake was as smooth as glass. My favorite conditions for a solo canoe outing.
I like to stick pretty close to the shore when I’m paddling alone. It helps me avoid any undesired close-encounters with speedboats, and if I should happen to tip over, the water is shallower near the shore, and it’s a shorter swim to safety. I passed some kids swimming, a couple groups chilling on pontoon boats, a fisherman, and a mama swan with her little ones. It was so calm and peaceful, as I paddled along, I decided to cut across the lake to Oden Island. According to google maps, the route I chose was about a mile. I was halfway across, right smack in the middle of open water, when my situation changed – and it changed very quickly.
Clouds rolled in, blotting out the sun. The gentle breeze became a gusty wind out of the south, blowing against my every paddle stroke. The lake surface was no longer glassy and smooth. It wasn’t long before I had waves crashing over the side of my canoe and I could feel fear rising in my chest. It was time to call it; I needed to get myself back to the safety of land. I gave up on making it to Oden Island, and instead, turned my canoe to the northern shore of Crooked Lake. At first, I intended to paddle along the shoreline, all the way back to the beach, and my car. But paddling in conditions like that is hard work and I was tiring fast. So I decided to beach my canoe and walk back to the car.
Beaching a canoe along the northern shore of Crooked Lake is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Because the shoreline is mostly private property, and almost all the property owners have lined their waterfront with rocks to prevent erosion. Big rocks. The waves that were already causing me so much trouble, were violently crashing into those rocks. I didn’t want to end up crashing into the rocks too. My only hope was a tiny little township park, tucked in between two of the houses, which had a sandy opening in the rocks, about six feet wide. I dug deep and fought hard against the wind and the waves. I was so relieved when I finally reached the park and pulled the canoe up onto the grass.
Now what? The canoe was here in Oden, and the car was at the beach in Conway. I considered calling my husband for help, but I was embarrassed that I got myself into this situation and didn’t want him to know. So I went with the only other option I could think of: leave the canoe here, and hope no one steals it in the time it takes me to walk back to the car and come back for it. I didn’t think it was really that far, and thought I’d be back fairly quickly. Ha! Three miles, and an hour later, I made it back to my canoe. Three miles! I power-walked those three miles in flip-flops and ended up with the biggest blisters I’ve ever seen. Seriously, each foot had a blister about three inches in diameter, and I couldn’t walk properly for a week. Ouch!
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell
So what did I learn from this experience? First, always check the weather forecast. Don’t just assume that beautiful sunny weather is going to STAY beautiful sunny weather. Weather in Michigan is fickle. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait 5 minutes. It’ll change.” Second, always have good walking shoes (and socks!) with you, even if you don’t plan on using them.
I can look back at this “adventure” and laugh about it now. What kind of mis-adventures have you had? Share in the comments. And make sure to follow me to see more of my experiences! Social media links are at the top!