Jan 14 2017
Sporting literature — if the work of hacks like me warrants so grandiloquent a name — is full of hearty types who rise before dawn to tempt trout in remote mountain pools or run challenging drops while the morning mist still lies close upon the water. These prodigies’ boundless enthusiasm seldom, if ever, flags. They never wish to lie long abed of a morning, and they’re insufferably animated at breakfast, chattering on cheerily about the rapids and portages to come, even as a torrential rain beats a relentless tattoo against the kitchen tarp.
To be sure, real life seldom comes up to the standard required by the best books. In my experience, most groups of paddlers contain early risers and habitual sluggards in just about equal measure. And relations between the two camps aren’t always cordial. The early risers regard the sluggards as lazy layabouts, and they do what they can to encourage their slothful companions to reform: splitting wood for the breakfast fire with unnecessary ostentation, whistling tunelessly while arranging the kindling, and banging pots together with enough force to dent all but the cast‑iron skillet. I’ve even known tents to be struck while their occupants were still sleeping soundly — right up until the moment when they woke with a start to find themselves wrapped in winding sheets of clammy nylon.
The sluggards retaliate in kind, of course. Late in the evening, after the early risers have retired to their tents, their resentful comrades — those same long‑suffering and much‑reviled layabouts who suffered at the early risers’ hands before sunup — are now seized with a sudden, manic energy. Sometimes they organize sing‑alongs around the guttering flames of the dying fire. At other times they plod heavily about camp on various nocturnal errands (checking the boats, adjusting the bear bag, attending to nature’s last call), invariably contriving to trip over the guylines of the early risers’ tents every so often, and occasionally even bringing one down in the process. Needless to say, the sluggards’ apologies are as numerous as they are earnest, loud, and extended, and they’re often accompanied by helpful suggestions as to how the early risers might improve their tents’ pitch in future.
It saddens me to report that these suggestions are almost never received in the intended spirit. No good deed goes unpunished nowadays, it seems.
And where do I fit into all this? I am, I confess, a sluggard by nature. But I hasten to add in my defense that I am a reformed sluggard. I have long since accepted the early risers’ claim of moral superiority, and I have forever renounced my shameful and sedentary ways. In other words, I have become an early riser myself, albeit a reluctant one. Where once I sipped the waters of Lethe, strong coffee is my tipple now.
There is an element of hypocrisy in this, I admit. Though I struggle up before the sun, with bleary eye and staggering gait, I long to return to the cozy warmth of my sleeping bag. Yet this remains a secret failing. I do not confess my weakness to anyone. Indeed, I habitually lord it over Farwell. He was once honest and virtuous, an early riser and a True Believer in the gospel of the dawn. But he has lapsed in his faith and left the one true path, I fear forever. Were he permitted to do so, I believe he would sleep on quite contentedly till noon.
I’m sure I’ve no need to add that I never allow him to act on his unseemly inclinations. Indeed, I work tirelessly to keep him safe from the sin of sloth. But does he ever thank me for my dedication and concern? He does not.
No one should need reasons to walk in the ways of righteousness, of course. But weak‑willed backsliders often require convincing. So, for Farwell’s benefit (and for anyone else who is tempted to waste the best hours of the day in sullen slumber), I’ll outline the case for rising early… Read more…
A word of warning: Don’t be surprised if a link takes you to a page that doesn’t have the title shown below — or anything remotely like it, for that matter. Our original titles, along with our bylines and datelines, were stripped out when Paddling.net moved house to Paddling.com. We hope that things will soon be put back in their proper places, but in the meantime, if you need help locating a missing link or favorite column, start HERE, where you’ll find comprehensive chronological and topical indexes to our articles.
- “Smoothing It: Secrets of a Happy Camper”
- “Breaking Away: The Art of Breaking Camp”
- “In Good Company: One for All, and All for One?”
Published in incomplete form at Paddling.com on 9 July 2013
Questions? Comments? Just click here!