As we drove to Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, I had a feeling that New Experience #26 could go one of two ways. We would either spend a leisurely afternoon paddling along a beautiful canal, or we would wind up bitten by mosquitoes, searching for missing paddles, and listening to each other whine about the unbearable heat wave we are experiencing.
I did everything I could to avoid the latter situations. I brought along bug spray, gave the kids a stern lecture about holding onto their paddles at all times, and packed lots of ice water for us to drink.
But still, the thought of a miserable afternoon still hung in the back of my brain.
We arrived at Griggstown Canoe Rental, and the kids were excited to get started. While I signed a waiver and set up the rental, the kids quickly donned life vests and chose their paddles. Their excitement was contagious, and I started to feel a little more optimistic about our experience.
As soon as we got into the canoe, the kids started paddling furiously. The only problem was that Leah was paddling in one direction, and Luke was paddling in the opposite direction. The canoe didn’t move at all. I used some muscle to move us away from the dock, and then decided to give a little lesson in paddling.
Looking back, I think a mini-lesson in paddling while still standing on the bank might have been a good idea. But, jumping in first and thinking about the logistics second seems to be my modus operandi.
Leah was using her paddle much like a broom. She skimmed the surface of the water, pushing it back three times and forward three times. It did nothing to propel the boat in any direction.
Luke leaned back and pulled the handle of the oar toward him, then leaned forward and pushed the handle of the oar away from him. He looked like he was rowing crew. I complimented him on his technique, and tried to explain that he was facing the wrong way for that method. He refused to believe me.
So, for the first half of the trip, I was paddling twice as hard than if I was canoeing on my own. I had to work against Luke and make up for Leah’s lack of exertion. I didn’t mind. It was good exercise, and I didn’t hear anyone whine about being tired or wanting to go home.
Eventually, the kids settled into a pattern of rowing that vaguely resembled paddling a canoe. We kept ourselves entertained by searching for turtles and were surprised to see at least 15 of them. We saw lots of birds, but no fish at all. The most interesting thing we saw were two small mammals on the bank. At first I thought they were weasels, but after looking online, I think they might have been minks!
We were nearly back to the dock when we passed a canoe with a family inside. The mother was in the front of the canoe, the father was at the back, and two children about the same age as my children were sitting on the floor in the middle.
Luke looked at the children, then looked back at me and said incredulously, “We could have been sitting down and relaxing this whole time?”
I laughed and told him it is more fun to be active participant than a passenger, but once again, I don’t think he believed me.
We hadn’t even returned our paddles when the kids asked if we could canoe again one day this summer. New Experience #26 was definitely a success. I’m so relieved that all my worrying was in vain!
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