emotional rescue: downriver canoe company.

downriver canoe company signI forget exactly when the tradition started. Brandy and I always go canoeing every summer when school lets out. Just us — no one else — so we can freely express all our pent up frustrations in an all-out whine-fest that no one else has to listen to. And if we happen to fling a “colorful” word here or there, it echoes through the trees and disappears under the roar of the river. We leave ten months of irritations in our wake. It’s cathartic. I bet the river holds thousands of secrets.

This year we had to multitask on our canoe day because everyone’s schedule was crazy. Brandy and I, plus like seventeen other people in our lives, both have June birthdays, so we decided to go canoeing in the morning and out to dinner with friends and loved ones in the evening.

What could possibly go wrong?

The day’s agenda forced us to get up early. I dropped my kids at the sitter and drove to New Market to meet Brandy. There we got into one car and headed to Downriver Canoe Company in Bentonville. (Wait. That’s not in Harrisonburg! No. But the river is everywhere at the same time, all the time. It transcends space and time, and who are we to question quantum physics? So there.)

Once there, cooler in tow, phones and Triscuits in waterproof bags, sunscreen sufficiently slathered, we got fitted for our life vests (a.k.a., canoe seat cushions) and delivered by a friendly employee upriver.

man carrying canoeWe began our 7-mile, 4-hour float back down. {Lots and lots of whiney conversation permanently deleted by the river. You’ll have to use your imagination.} After a couple hours of venting, and after we made it past this (tiny) section of rapids that makes Brandy nervous, we pulled over on the bank to stretch and have a snack. Then Brandy told me about a game she and our friend Todd invented called PBR Baseball. You fill a can with water and pitch it to your friend who hits it with a stick or a log or a tree branch. Okay, I thought. Why not? So I found myself a hefty stick and walked out to home plate in the swiftly flowing waters. The first can Brandy tossed I sliced clear in half. Then I had a few misses. Then she threw a perfect pitch and the can met my bat with a crack and I slaughtered that thing! Unfortunately, the can flew straight at Brandy and konked her on the head. In my slow-motion memory, the only defensive maneuver I saw her make was to tighten her grip on the iPhone, which captured this shot, just before impact:

woman standing in riverHorrified, I clumsily ran to her (on slippery river rocks, through swiftly flowing waters) while she yelled, “What just happened?!” and pointed at her head. Thankfully, she wasn’t bleeding. Just a small goose egg and what we’ve since deemed the PBR Concussion.

We cleaned up our trash, got back in the canoe, and continued our trek. The guide who dropped us off had told us about a bald eagle’s nest. We looked and looked and never saw the nest, but we saw the eagle, gracefully soaring, as one would expect, til he landed way up in the tippy top of a tree. It was a majestic moment, and I apologize to all the living creatures who had to hear me sing “God Bless America.”

We stopped again and saw this unusual butterfly.

butterflyIt seemed aggravated that we were there. It was clearly feeding on some little buggers that burrowed tiny holes in the sand. And quite frankly, it didn’t look like your typical Virginia butterfly. We decided it must be an invader from afar, named it the Global Death Butterfly, and got back in the canoe.

We came to a fork in the river that led to a shady, tree-lined area. We both were like, “Oooooo, it looks cute in there!” and we paddled in. It was a bit narrow and we sort of drifted into a large tree, and like some scene from Middle Earth or something, about twenty spiders rained down on Brandy’s PBR concussion head. Then there was squealing and jumping and stomping and more phone clutching and near boat flipping. And we got the heck out of there and back to the serenity of the wide open river.

We were maybe half a mile from the end when we stopped for another break. By now it was pretty hot and it felt good to submerge myself into the cool water. That is, until I realized we’d stopped in some kind of mayfly breeding ground. When I stood up, I was dotted from my hips to my neck in little bitty baby bugs. I felt bad squishing them in the process of getting them off of me, but ew.

And so we finally arrived at the end. We parked the canoe on the river bank (they come down and get it for you), and walked back up to the car. We learned a few things. 1) The river is like a big eraser, and we all need that from time to time. 2) Stand farther away from the pitcher when playing PBR Baseball. Helmets are also advised. 3) Don’t wander into a narrow area just because it looks “cute.” Raccoons are cute, too, but they will mess you up, girl. 4) Bald eagles and Global Death Butterflies really exist. We saw both.

green canoeBy the way, we made it to dinner on time.

Thank you, River, for squishy mud between our toes, for exotic animals and mild injuries, for a much-needed emotional massage, and for your timeless voice that silences everything else. See you again soon.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

5 thoughts on “emotional rescue: downriver canoe company.

  1. This is too funny – my son and I took a similar trip with 4 moms and about 6 kids (I have forgotten exactly how many) when he graduated from middle school. Our adventure included really low/slow river conditions due to lack of rain so what should have been a 3-4 hour trip became a 6-8 hr. trip. There was a wolf spider, a thunder and lightening storm (which entailed squatting in a soybean field in order to stay away from the water and trees), and some “quicksand” in the river bottom that swallowed one of my flip flops. As I recall, he got an “A” grade when he wrote an essay about it entitled “The Worst Day of my Life”. Even though my son does not seem too keen on taking another canoe trip, I’d never turn down a day on the water – bring on the adventure!

    • that’s too funny :) Last year, Brandy’s flip flops got sucked in, too (or maybe they were mine??) and in the process of retrieving them, the muck somehow also ate her shorts. We never did find them, lol

  2. Pingback: ding dang delicious: local chop and grill house. | i love my burg.

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