Jun 30 2016

Why Pay to Play? Making the Case for Guided Trips

School Circle

Long‑time readers will know that I’ve had very little to say about commercial outfitters and guided trips. The explanation is simple: I’ve never used an outfitter’s services, and the last time I went on a group trip that I didn’t have a hand in organizing was back in my college days. In the main, this reflects my preference for “do‑it‑yourself” adventures. I’ve always considered planning a trip to be part of the fun. Researching a route, deciding on a menu, assembling a cadre of like‑minded paddlers (or not, as the case might be) — I don’t see any of these as chores. They’re pleasures in their own right. So why would I want to hand them over to someone else, who’d then charge me for the privilege?

Having broached the subject of cost, however, I can’t deny that cash flow has also played a role in shaping my attitudes. It’s been many years since I blithely billed clients a hundred bucks an hour for my time. (This was the going rate for stones‑and‑bones work, back in the day.) Now I’m lucky to clear that much in a week. To make a long story short, when I had the money to hire an outfitter, I didn’t have much free time to go paddling. And now that I have the time, I don’t have the money to pay someone to do what I can do for myself.

I’ll bet I’m not alone.

But there’s one more reason for my studied ignorance of commercial outfitting: As I’ve gotten older (and poorer), I’ve discovered the joys of getting to know my “home waters.” Why jet halfway round the world at great expense in order to spend two weeks gawping at someone else’s scenery, when there’s aqua incognita not 10 miles from my front door? And if that isn’t exotic enough, there are dozens of pocket wildernesses within an hour’s drive (or a three‑hour bike ride). Thoreau wrote that he’d “traveled a good deal in Concord,” implying, among other things, that despite having spent years exploring the fields, woodlands, and waters near his home, he was still learning new things about his neighborhood (and his neighbors) every time he put his foot over the threshold.

Me, too.

All of which being said, I’m not foolish enough to think I’m typical. There are plenty of canoeists and kayakers, hillwalkers and cyclists with both money and time, and plenty more whose home waters, roads, and hills are neither safe nor attractive. And there are other reasons — good reasons — why you, or someone close to you, might find a commercial trip or guided outing to be a very attractive option.

Let’s examine these. Or to put it another way, let’s see why doing it yourself might not be the best idea… Read more…


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Jun 23 2016

The Little Things That Mean So Much: My Go-To Go-Light Mess Kit

Better than a spork

I try to store and organize gear in such a way that it’s ready to be found and packed at a moment’s notice. This allows a quick getaway, which is important, because as we all know, every minute spent packing is a minute taken away from precious away time.

So far so good. But when the gear list for canoeing differs from the gear list for kayaking, and when the gear list for amphibious treks differs from both of those, then organization and packing get complicated. Clearly, if you enjoy many flavors of outdoor exploration, you can go quietly mad trying to sort gear for quick getaways while also maintaining a segregation between gear lists.

That’s why I’ve decided on a master gear list to suit all the types of no-octane trips I enjoy. This assures that I’ve got the basics with me no matter what the mode of travel. Extras are, well, extras. They can be tossed into packs and bags if there’s time and inclination. And if they’re forgotten? No biggie.

This is all leading to what is a mundane subject for some, but an important one for me. Because when meal time comes around, it’s a comfort to know that I’ve got a mess kit suitable for every trip… Read more…


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Jun 16 2016

You Just Bought a Boat. Now What?

As I made my way across the parking lot fronting the local Mallmart, I couldn’t help noticing that the fenced‑in “mitigation wetland” was filling up with plastic shopping bags. The watery trashscape didn’t tempt me to linger, but when I resumed my march, I walked right into a scene that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1950’s sitcom. Just ahead of me, two women were struggling to force a short kayak into the back of a van. And it looked like the kayak was winning.

It was obvious that the battle had been going on for some time. Both women were red‑faced and sweaty. One — I took her to be the owner of the new kayak — still managed to look happy. But the other — her brightly colored tabard identified her as a Mallmart “associate” — did not. I figured a third pair of hands wouldn’t go amiss. So I offered to help. Hearing this, the owner’s smile grew broader. Even the associate permitted herself a relieved sigh. And sure enough, the extra womanpower turned the tide. In less than a minute, the kayak was tucked safely inside the van.

The associate then returned to her till, while the new owner and I exchanged a few pleasantries. I learned that the kayak was destined for a waterfront camp. The owner figured her grandkids — she described them as “regular water‑rats” — would use it every day. She didn’t think she would, though. She’d never paddled a kayak. “And I wouldn’t know how to begin,” she added, almost as an afterthought.

I thought I heard a somewhat wistful note in her voice, so I presumed on our short acquaintance to the extent of suggesting she consider taking the non‑credit kayaking course offered by a nearby college. I’m happy to say my diffident suggestion was well received. But what about all the other new kayak owners who’ll be hitting the beaches in the months to come? They won’t all have a college on the doorstep. How can they gentle the climb up the learning curve?… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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