Apr 11 2017

The Secret of Solo Shuttling: Use a Bike! by Tamia Nelson

Solo paddlers and couples who travel in the same boat often discover that the hardest part of a trip is getting themselves back to the put-in. Luckily, there’s a handy gadget that can make the job much easier. It’s called the bicycle. Tamia thinks this is a wheely good idea, and after you’ve read her latest column, you may think so, too.

Back in the days when canoes carried freight on many North American waterways, rivermen often had to go against the flow. But I doubt they ever learned to love the rigors of upstream travel. It was all in a day’s work, to be sure, but it certainly wasn’t fun. Which is why today’s recreational paddlers are no more eager to “climb the river” at the end of a trip than downhill skiers would be to sidestep and herringbone back up the mountain after each run. Of course, ski areas have long since done away with any need for such retrograde exertions. But there are few T-bars or chairlifts on rivers, so paddlers wanting an easy way back to the put-in must turn instead to that beast of all burdens: the family car.

Car shuttles are so commonplace nowadays as to require little description. But they’re a comparatively modern innovation. As recently as 1956, Lawrence Grinnell felt it necessary to devote several paragraphs in Canoeable Waterways of New York State and Vicinity to a detailed explanation of what he called “the private motor ‘planting’ system.” Notwithstanding the clumsy tag, Grinnell’s idea caught on, and for good reason: It works well. At least it does for parties of paddlers with several vehicles at their disposal and a group member who has the instincts and natural authority of a regimental military transport officer (or alternatively, a complaisant, non-paddling “shuttle bunny”). And if neither of these alternatives obtains, many outfitters are willing to step into the breach—for a price. You can also attempt to hire someone local to do the honors. Enquire at the Griner Brothers Garage first.

In other words, today’s paddlers are spoiled for choice. Nonetheless, there will always be a few independent, penurious souls who prefer to do it all themselves, yet who find car shuttles burdensome or impossible—if they have only one car at their disposal, say—and who don’t want to spend the better part of every day on the river struggling against the current. Fortunately for them, there is another way. It’s sweatier than a conventional shuttle, and it’s not without risk, but it works. And all you need to do is get on your bike… Read more…

Over the Hills -- (C) Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.com on April 11, 2017


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