Performance Anxiety for Paddlers

Grand River to Lake Erie Canoe Trip — Part 3

Covered bridge at Harpersfield Dam

Covered bridge at Harpersfield Dam

Canoeing is not a spectator sport. When it is, it’s inevitably a disaster.

That became abundantly clear on this trip. While portaging the Harpersfield Dam, I scouted the river from the bridge, spotting what appeared to be a good downstream V. (An indication of an unobstructed path through a rocky course on the river.)

The view from the bridge at what looked like a good downstream V.

The view from the bridge at what looked like a good downstream V.

With both banks of the river lined with anglers, I guided my canoe into the V — only to find a three-foot sheer drop at the end of it. This hadn’t been visible from the bridge. I had to jump out of my canoe, drag it to the bank, guide it into a chute, plop myself into the boat and let the current take it through the chute.

A touching scene at Harpersfield Dam. I could easily imagine Coco romping along the river.

A touching scene at Harpersfield Dam. I could easily imagine Coco romping along the river.

That part wasn’t graceful either as the boat rocked while settling into the chute, taking on water.

From there on, the day was uneventful, and there were no spectators. Until I was ready to land at my campsite at Riverview Park. A fisherman on the opposite bank watched as I stepped from my canoe, slipped in the mud and fell on my ass.

I followed through with a well-honed maneuver from my “cabrewing” days — rolling sideways onto the bank. It’s an effective maneuver, but not very graceful.

There are days like that on the river. Regardless of how experienced or skilled you are.

Later in the trip, while en route to my Baker Road Park campsite, I came perilously close to capsizing. I narrowly averted disaster after getting swept into a downed tree. I jumped out of my swamped canoe, dragged it to a gravel bar and dumped out the water. Fortunately, the water hadn’t penetrated any of my dry bags.

I needed a bath and clean clothes anyway.

There were no spectators for that incident. But, just before it happened, I was thinking how cool it would be to record paddling scenes on a GoPro. Definitely one for the blooper reel.

Old railroad trestle in Painesville. All but one section is choked with logs and debris, typical of obstacles on that stretch of the river.

Old railroad trestle in Painesville. All but one section is choked with logs and debris, typical of obstacles on that stretch of the river.

Later in the trip I redeemed myself. It was Saturday when I paddled through Painesville on the last leg of my 40-mile journey. The banks were lined with anglers, hundreds of them. This is the most challenging stretch of the Grand River because of old dams and partially submerged industrial debris. I wended my way through it all, gracefully side-slipping obstacle after obstacle, sometimes leaning the fully loaded canoe on edge to slip through narrow passageways.

Sometimes things go too well and you expect your bubble to burst at any moment. As I prepared to land on the Lake Erie shore at the end of the day, I was tempted to yell to the people on the beach, “Don’t look!”

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Performance Anxiety for Paddlers

  1. Thanks for setting up a way to share your writing, Irv. I’ve been reading your work since Columbus. It’s delightful to see you freed from writing for a living, now writing what is important to you. Each story is a little jewel and the photos are so beautiful.

    Like

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