Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Boundary, Part I

I took the boys to Wild Waves today.  I can tell you that we were all tired, even at the beginning.  We keep these boys going.  I just don't want them to get through the summer and say that they didn't do anything.  Well, actually, I have heard them say that they didn't do anything at the end of a busy summer, but it's not for lack of trying. 

But we had a relaxing day, though it was hot and sunny.  We played in the wave pool and the lazy river.  That was it.  Still, it was hot.  And sunny.  Did I ever tell you that I'm not a big fan of hot and sunny?  Hot and sunny can be a problem.  It was a problem on a canoe trip Mike and I took in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota a long while back. 

I know I promised to tell you that story, one I'm not excited about telling because of what I became for those few days.  Sometimes, it's an eye-opener to see what you're capable of doing.  I suppose I need to do it.  You need to know that weakness and malevolence can go hand in hand. 

We had lived in Washington state for just a year or so.  It must have been 1991, since Mike and I weren't married yet.  My company had organized a rafting trip for its employees.  Do you remember when companies used to do that?  I was so excited.  The rock and roll of the Wenatchee river made me giddy.  That was how we met Wynne, the owner of the rafting company. 

Oh, I don't want to tell you this story.  Not really. No.

Mike and I were planning a canoe trip to Minnesota with our friends from Connecticut.  Somehow, Wynne ended up going on this trip.  It was my fault, really.  I got excited and told her how we were going and how we'd planned a big group and when she expressed an interest, I said she should come.  I was still new to this area and I thought I was making a deeper friendship than the coworkers I already had.  Wynne was a compatriot, a river rat. 

So, when we went to Minnesota, Wynne went along.  We met our friend Harold there and Mike had asked Suzanne to come along.  Suzanne was hip and beautiful.  I wasn't all that happy about Suzanne coming since she'd dated Mike at the beginning of our relationship.  Remember when I told you about that?  Unfortunately, Suzanne was an old friend and no amount of jealousy would change that.  But Suzanne planned to bring her boyfriend, Nathan.  Go Nathan!  Suddenly, Suzanne didn't seem overwhelmingly beautiful and popular any more.  I could be friends with her if she brought her boyfriend. 

Now, when Mike asked, Suzanne said that Nathan had done plenty of canoeing though he'd never been on a canoe trip.  Mike and Harold planned a route of about eight to ten miles a day with no more than two miles of portages.  I remember them counting out how many we'd have and guessing that six or seven might drive us batty.  Early on, 'load and unload the boat' became the trip motto, since one of the first days required six short portages. 

We already had our dog Indiana by then, but hadn't been sure how she'd do since she was so young, so we boarded her for that trip.  It was a shame too.  That first night, camping on a rock, we found that the mice and chipmunks were fearless, staring at us then waiting until we were distracted or turned around before leaping into our food pack.  I had never seen such impudent rodents, clinging to a Ziploc bag of food as we dumped out the pack and tried to rid it of it's livestock.  Mike actually made a sling shot and hit one with a pebble and it still tried to go back for our food.  Indiana loved hunting rodents and would have been a great guard dog for our food.  She could have fixed that, but we had other problems. 

Oh, I'm going off track.  It really was an interesting development, having to guard our food as we cooked, but that isn't really what I wanted to tell you about.  What I intended to tell you was that despite the new Katadyn filter we had brought, the lake water, after it was filtered, still tasted like sludge.  Sometimes there is no getting past that.  You just have to drink what's there.

So there they are, Suzanne, a bit less experienced than we were, and Nathan, who, it turned out, was completely overwhelmed.  The days were hot and sunny and I had to make myself drink that icky water and even so, I didn't pee until we made camp.  Even drinking a couple of quarts a day, I was barely stopping to pee.  Nathan, who had to be shown the best way to hold a paddle, was sweating profusely.  He was one of those guys who still had his baby fat in his late twenties.  Even on that first day, Nathan was struggling to paddle the canoe, struggling with the heat, and resisting that awful water. 

After an hour or so on that first day, Mike asked Nathan to switch to the bow of the canoe so that Suzanne could steer a little better from the back, but she barely fared better at managing a J-stroke, the stroke you need from the stern of the canoe to stop it from going in circles.  It was a bit of an improvement though.  They could stay with the group this way.  The problem with that was that with tiny Suzanne in the back, though their gear helped to ballast the canoe, they were plowing nose down through the water.  Suzanne insisted that they stay in the canoe together instead of switching canoes.  It was pride, I think, or maybe love, though they're divorced now.  They were just not keeping up with the rest of us.  Wynne was in a canoe with Harold who, surprisingly, got along pretty well with each other.  Mike and I were in the third canoe.  The problem with our pace was that we were going to be paddling until sunset and, though we had a permit for the trip, there was a race for each campsite. 

On the second day, Nathan continued to struggle.  I could see that he felt humiliated at being stuck in the bow of the canoe and I heard him arguing, whining really, to Suzanne.  He didn't like the taste of the water.  It was gross.

Oh, I can't tell you all of this story tonight.  It's a relief actually.  I haven't gotten to the yucky part.  Do you know what's going to happen?  I'll bet you already know that poor Nathan is going to be the victim, don't you? 

You're right.  Poor Nathan.  When I come back, I'll tell you about how the canoe got wedged lengthwise between two rocks.  Oh man, that was a trick. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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