I have been paddling canoes, on and off, for nearly my entire life. It has become my primary passion in the last five years.
June 26 is National Canoe Day in Canada. On this day, paddling enthusiasts from across the country will honour an icon in Canadian history by taking to the water in their canoes and other paddle-powered crafts.
The Canadian Canoe Museum founded National Canoe Day to encourage participation in paddle sports in Canada, engage new paddlers and reach across generational and cultural divides to introduce the canoe to those who haven’t had the opportunity to experience a piece of our national heritage.
The canoe was named one of the Seven Wonders of Canada in a CBC Radio feature in 2007. It is as Canadian as the beaver, the maple leaf and hockey.
I was lucky to get introduced to canoeing when I was kid. I can remember going with my grandfather, Gord, in his canoe to paddle a massive beaver pond on his property in Sundridge.
I loved seeing the bottom of the pond and touching lily pads as we gently carved a path around beavers and herons and ducks. I now enjoy introducing my kids to canoeing.
As I grew up, one thing that never changed in me was my love for the canoe. In the summers at my aunt and uncle’s camp, I loved getting out for a solo paddle through a nearby swamp and try my hand at fishing — I never really cared for motorboats.
In high school, I took the outdoor education class because it ended with a three-day canoe trip down the French River. It was easily the highlight of my high school experience.
Getting eaten alive by black flies in May, rolling over monstrous rapids and smashing off rocks at full speed is forever etched in my mind.
For a few years after college, I got away from paddling — worst mistake of my life.
The last few years have been a blessing. My wife and I managed to scrape together enough cash to buy a brand new canoe last year so we no longer have to use rented canoes or ones that leak.
Another great aspect of the canoe is that it really gives you a sense of Canadian pride. Our canoe, made by Souris River, is a company located in northern Ontario. Our paddles were made by Redtail Paddles, another Ontario company.
When I take the boat out for a trip, I can’t help but keep my head high, with a wide smile on my face. I spent more than 200 hours in my canoe last year. I hope to break that number this year. I can’t get enough. I use my canoe to go on fishing excursions in remote regions of Ontario, and for family vacations at Lake Superior.
My canoe and paddle have brought me to some of the most exotic places in the world, in my opinion — rugged and remote Canadian wilderness. The moments, like seeing grazing moose to golden eagles dive-bombing fish off the surface of a lake, are always the rewards of using your own power to propel a boat.
I know there are many ways to get around a lake or river. I picked the canoe because of my sense of adventure. To me, there is nothing better than finding a small creek and travelling up it to the point where you can’t paddle anymore.
Then you get out and portage through the wilderness, blazing a trail to find an unspoiled lake — one which isn’t choked up with motorboats, jet skis and shorelines littered with fancy camps and cottages.
I think the canoe keeps you more connected to nature. You can’t help but respect nature when you’re that close to it. My family has been close enough to loons to see them swim under our canoe chasing fish. Beavers have surfaced mere inches away from my canoe before letting out a surprised snort and letting loose with the classic tail slap.
I’ve gone to places that I know few others have ever been. It is truly a mesmerizing experience when you’re away from civilization and all you can hear is the slice of your paddle cutting through clear blue water.
I’ve done trips over a week where I have paddled and portaged to 10 different lakes. At the end of them, I can barley lift my arms to put the canoe on the roof racks. I’m totally drained, both physically and mentally, usually covered head-to-toe in bug bites, cuts, bruises and sun-burnt skin. And you know what?
I still have that wide smile planted on my face that I had on the day I left.
Canoeing recharges my soul and lifts my spirits in ways nothing else can. There are countless ways to celebrate National Canoe Day. Get a canoe and just go.
Scott Haddow has been writing about sports in Greater Sudbury for the past 10 years.
Posted by Vivian Scinto