Canoeing on the Neuse, and a Talent for Misprediction

Standing in a swiftly moving river with water up to my waist, one hand gripping the fallen tree that capsized us and the other clinging to my canoe to keep it from being swept downstream, I learned something important about myself. I’m always wrong about the things I dread.

Let me back up a bit from that capsized moment, so y’all won’t think I’m crazy. 😉

If I’ve got something on the To Do list I’m sure will be a mother-bear to do, or there’s an event on the calender that’s keeping me up at night with dreaded anticipation, what actually happens is sure to be a reverse of what I’m expecting. And the Neuse Canoe trip was no different!

We signed up for the trip in July, as consolation that my hubby and I didn’t get in to the Intro to Sailing class we wanted to take. As a trade it was only meh. The sailing class would have been something new for me, and I absolutely adore having new experiences! It’s like…my love of dark chocolate, clean ocean air, and the glow of reading a great book before a warm fire, all rolled in to one. Every time I have a new experience, I can feel my soul growing.

So trading in the sailing trip with just my hubby for a canoe trip–I’ve done lots of kayaking and canoeing–with our daughter along wasn’t blowing me away. Worse, as we got closer to the trip our daughter got bitten by a bunch of super mean ants (thirty bites on one leg!) and had a flare up of her POTS symptoms in response. Then my hubby and I got plowed with work, and started feeling tired and haggard. As we approached the Saturday of the venture, I looked into the cancellation policy, but found we couldn’t back out without losing our money.

The night before, I grumbled all evening as I prepped the stuff we’d need and found that I’d thrown out our old water shoes, and didn’t have half the other stuff on their list. The worst was that I was expecting the day to leave me exhausted psychologically as well as physically tired. Because, the truth is, sometimes it’s hard to be uber patient with my sweet but complicated teen, and being trapped in a canoe for three hours while she couldn’t paddle effectively and wasn’t happy about that sounded like about as much fun as sticking my foot behind the wheel of a car while it rolled slowly backwards.

We arrived at the put in site and immediately hit a snag.

Our put in place, complete with a full-size tree overhanging the dam.

The canoes were big and heavy, so it would take two reasonably sturdy people paddling in order for us to get them down the river. And, given that there was a bit of rapids in our course, the staff running the thing wouldn’t let our daughter sit in the middle of the canoe. What were we going to do? She’d been popping joints out (thanks to her EDS) and definitely wouldn’t be able to help with the paddling, but just one of us alone wouldn’t be able to manage it, either. We’re slightly experienced, but nowhere near that good.

We explained our daughter’s health challenges, and tried to persuade them to let us be three to our canoe. Thankfully the staff suggested a better alternative. Their most experienced guide–a young dad with lots of energy and experience–would buddy with our daughter, removing the need for her to paddle. I was so grateful! Our daughter was even more thrilled, since she gets heartily sick of being attached at the hip to her parents.

As we headed off things were looking up. The weather was amazing, the sky blue, and the river gorgeous. My hubby and I enjoyed showing off how well we work as a team, and chatted with our fellow paddlers while our daughter bonded with the other kids. We navigated several stretches of faster moving water without a snag, and then huddled the canoes before heading into the rapids.

One guide went downstream with a rescue rope, and stood on the rocks so she could haul in anybody who went overboard. Then we made sure everything was strapped down, and headed in. Just as my hubby and I were about to take our turn, another guide said how she wasn’t worried about us, because we seemed so experienced and had navigated everything with ease!

As a writer, that should have caught my attention. Everybody knows a comment like that dooms the character to failure!

Sure enough, as we rounded one twist in the rapids we didn’t quite clear a fallen tree. The river was pulling the front of the canoe down the stream, and the end–where I sat–wasn’t around the branches yet. As we came up over those branches I leaned out just a smidge more than I should have, and that’s all it took for the lip of the canoe to dip into the water and the river to come rushing in!

Now I know what you’re supposed to do–stick your toes up, sit back on your life jacket, and make sure you’re heading feet first down the river, while you wait for the chance to get out or grab a life line and be hauled out. Instead, my hubby and I both scrambled to stand up and grabbed hold of our canoe. Luckily there was decent footing on the bottom of the river there, and we had the tree to grab on to.

A long bailing session later–the canoe was completely full of water–we were back in and upright and once again pretending we were pros. But here’s the thing: I’ve never capsized in a stream before! Never gone through rapids in a canoe, either, though I have in an inner tube. Standing mid-stream like that, hanging on to my canoe, was such a rush! Not an entirely pleasant one in the moment–though it did make me laugh–but afterward I was so thrilled! I seriously chuckled all through the rest the trip.

I was wrong about that trip, from beginning to end. It will stand out in my mind as one of those lovely, pleasant times. I’m grateful to the staff, who wisely refused to compromise and didn’t let our daughter triple up with us, and glad for a day of restoration and beauty on the water. Most of all I’m grateful for the insight that came to me as we drove home. Even the experiences I most dread, knowing they will be a disappointment or a chore, can bring a happy memory and a soul-enlarging new experience!


What about you? Do you find your predictions for things are generally accurate, or do you share my talent for misprediction?

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