Apr 12 2016
In and ideal world, we’d all live within an easy stroll of some lively river or white‑sand beach. But ours is not an ideal world. There aren’t enough lively rivers and white‑sand beaches to go round. The upshot? Would-be canoeists and kayakers must take to the road. Once upon a time, recreational paddlers could put their boats on a train and travel in comfort to the station nearest their destination, where a buckboard or cart could be hired to take them to the put-in. This is how Nessmuk and MacGregor accomplished their celebrated voyages. But in our wisdom, we Americans turned our backs on trains long ago, and by now we’ve ripped up many of the tracks that once led to rural hamlets — in a wonderfully ironic twist, some of the rights‑of‑way have subsequently become “multi‑use” trails — opting instead for the carefree life of easy motoring.
To be sure, a few “amphibious” paddlers have bucked the trend toward universal automobility, hauling their bagged boats and gear around behind their bicycles. This isn’t likely to become the next new big thing, however, not least because our highway engineers make few concessions to the safety of cyclists — and hills make no concessions at all to legs atrophied by long hours spent in the driver’s seat. In other words, for most canoeists and kayakers now hoping to light out for the Territory, it’s Hobson’s choice: get in a car or stay at home. This can pose problems. Even today, when many households boast a car for every family member over the age of sixteen, we need those cars for everyday transportation. After all, we are driven to succeed. Or else we drive ourselves. We drive to work, drive to class, drive to the HyperMart… We drive the kids to school (and then to soccer), the dogs to the vet, and the boss to the annual meeting (along with her whiteboards, spring water six‑pack, and sound system). We haul sack after sack of groceries home from the store and scores of two‑by‑fours back from the lumber yard.
In short, our cars reflect the demands of everyday life. There’s little space left in them for the hundred and one items of gear needed on even a short backcountry trip. So when we want to drive to a river or lake, we first have to pack all our gear into the car and load our boat(s) onto the roof. That takes time. A lot of time. It’s not uncommon to spend more time packing and unpacking, loading and unloading, and driving to and from the put‑in than you spend on the water. Which helps to explain why, after the initial novelty wears off, some weekend trips seem more trouble than they’re worth.
There are many ways to address this problem, of course. Careful planning and efficient stowage can cut down dramatically on the time lost to packing and unpacking. Or you can buy a second home on the water. (And hope that it’s not washed away in the next 1000‑year flood.) Or you can get a “boat car”… Read more…
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