Laugh of the Mohicans

Blame Fred Varner for this photo of some of my canoe partners from the early days. Probably taken in the late ’70s or early ’80s

Blame Fred Varner for this photo of some of my canoeing buddies from the early days. It probably was taken in the late ’70s or early ’80s

In honor of throwback Thursday, I’ll post an old photo from one of our Mohican River canoe trips.

As I begin my 35th year of canoeing, I look back with fondness on the days when we could muster three dozen people for a canoe trip.

These days, if I want to organize a canoe trip, I throw my gear in the ol’ Canoebaru, strap a canoe onto the roof and head out. No need to call anyone; they won’t come anymore.

Over the years, they gradually dropped out. For some, it was too much work — setting up camp, breaking down, setting up again, portaging, etc. For others, it was a matter of priorities. Such as drinking. Or starting a family.

Not that they couldn’t bring the kids along on canoe trips — if only to fetch them a beer from the cooler now and then.

Some people just plain outgrew canoeing. Not me. There’s something magical about heading downstream with a boat full of gear and not a care in the world, and that feeling never faded. If anything, it’s grown stronger.

I tried recruiting younger people for canoe trips, but that didn’t work out. It got to be too much like baby-sitting — cleaning up after them, telling them not to deface trees, making sure they doused their campfires completely, explaining why they had to bury their poop and on and on. I barred one couple from future trips after they wandered from our campsite onto a nearby railroad trestle and lied next to the tracks while a train sped by. They thought it was exhilarating. The engineer didn’t. Nor did the Holmes County Sheriff’s deputies who visited our campsite later that evening.

Frankly, I miss the laughter, the camaraderie and good times of those weekends on the river. But not as much as I enjoy the peaceful solitude and being able to set my own pace on a canoe trip.

Some nights, when I’m sitting alone in front of the campfire, I can hear my friends’ laughter echoing through the river valley. And I raise a beer to them.

Five years ago, someone told me he could see me doing this well into my 80s. So can I.





4 thoughts on “Laugh of the Mohicans

  1. Before you resign yourself to be a Brontë “Heathcliff” (or as the kids say, “forever alone guy”), we did have the trip last fall with the Backpacking group, and that was so popular we have agreed that we will try to do another canoe trip sometime.
    What you experience seems to be the way all older men drop friendships as they age. Health issues keep us sitting in front of the TV (or computer). Lazybones syndrome? Cranky old coot disease? If you spent a lifetime in an office, physical health issues are a normal result.
    I would say something about the irony that retirement gives you the time to have adventures with your buds, just as they drop out of the willingness or ability to do them any more. Maybe tragedy is the better word.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, that is my ray of hope, finding kindred spirits, as was the case last fall. Great trip, great company and would definitely do it again.
    Yes, it is tragic in a way. But, as that trip demonstrated, you can have the best of both worlds. I had the companionship of responsible intelligent outdoorsmen for the first half of the trip and my solitude for the solo portion.


  3. You can always suggest a date there in Ohio might be surprised at who shows up, or come my way and we will hop a float plane and take my 18 foot raft out for a week or so…..


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