Jessie Raymond: Nice canoe trip down memory lane

Twenty-nine years ago, on one of our first dates, Mark took me canoeing. This was before we discovered our favorite pastime as a couple: staying home. We were always off doing things back then, but only because we didn’t know better.

Blinded by infatuation, I can only recall a few specifics of that evening. I haven’t forgotten, for instance, that it was June in Salisbury and we hadn’t brought insect repellent. (If you recall, in 1992 Addison County had two recorded cases of hikers — and one of a cow — being carried off by swarms of mosquitoes.)

The tone of our future relationship was set before we even got into the canoe. My façade of being ladylike and graceful shattered when I lost my footing on the bank while waving away a cloud of gnats. I slid down to the water’s edge on my behind, cursing loudly as the seat of my white shorts skidded through the mud. And if Mark had been acting chivalrous, that ended when, rather than reaching out to help me up, he collapsed in laughter in the grass.

For a couple of years, we used the canoe now and then, but over time, work and family obligations took priority. Eventually we got sick of mowing around it in the backyard, so we gave it to one of our teenage nephews.

Early this summer, however, we started reminiscing about those canoe outings. (The mud! The mosquitoes! What fun!) So one afternoon we borrowed a couple of kayaks and took them to that same spot in Salisbury. We loved it.

My favorite part was watching Mark try to get out of his kayak. He did manage it in the end and did not, as I had hoped, lose his balance and plop backward into the creek like Jacques Cousteau flipping over the edge of the Calypso. But it was still a suspenseful and entertaining few minutes.

We decided to start shopping for a pair of kayaks or a canoe. I went online daily to scan the classifieds. I avoided descriptions like “nimble hull designed for attacking aggressive rapids,” instead looking for words like “stable” and “cup holder.”

But every time I found something that would work for us, the sellers would tell me they had just sold it.

We looked at new boats, too, but not with enthusiasm. It was one thing to spend a little money on a hobby. It was another to make a significant investment in it, knowing that our rekindled interest in freshwater recreation might only last a weekend or two. As relaxing as it is to paddle around on the lake, nothing beats sitting on the couch, where your hands are free for snacking and your feet don’t get wet.

A few weeks ago, we were having dinner with another couple and mentioned that we were on the lookout for something to take on the water.

“A friend of mine has a canoe he wants to get rid of,” the husband said. “It’s not the greatest, but he’ll let you have it for nothing.”

Well, well, well. That was on the low end of our price range.

“In fact,” he went on, “I think he got it from your nephew.”

Indeed, it was Mark’s old canoe, and a week later it was delivered to our yard, complete with the original paddles. It was faded and banged up and a little the worse for wear, but that’s our brand these days. We were thrilled to have it back.

Sunday morning before breakfast, we took it out to the Rattling Bridge in Weybridge and put in just above the Huntington Falls dam. 

In many ways, it was like old times, with me up front trying to get comfortable and Mark in back yelling at me to stop tipping the boat.

The morning was cloudy and cool but beautiful. We saw ducks, kingfishers and herons. The water was so calm that at one point we had the simultaneous absurd thought that a hippopotamus might erupt out of the muddy depths and charge at us with its giant maw agape. (We were being silly, of course; there are no hippos in that section of the creek.)

Unlike past adventures, I didn’t ruin my shorts on the muddy bank, Mark had no trouble getting back on dry land and we remembered to bring insect repellent. In fact, other than a brief earwigs-in-the-boat freakout on my part, the ride was uneventful.

Somehow, we had a good time anyway.

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