NATURE NUGGETS: THE RIVER BLUES BY SALLY BAIR

It’s not every day a mom has the chance to paddle down a river with her son and live to tell about it. ♥ She did and here’s her (my) story:

Over She Goes 

My son, Jarl, an outdoorsy young man, thought it would be cool to treat her 40-something mom to a trip down the Upper Cloquet River in northern Minnesota. To avoid the crowds during Minnesota’s early-May fishing opener, he chose the weekend prior for our adventure.

And what an adventure! Being the proverbial dictator-mom, I insisted he have a life jacket. I had mine already packed. With great reluctance, he bought a cheap one and off we went.

Neither of us pay too much attention to weather, so the cold, dreary, and rainy weekend didn’t stop us from enjoying the trip. No mosquitoes, no people. We reveled in the quiet peacefulness of the river. But we hadn’t planned on it being so wild. Spring runoff brought the low-lying areas to flood level. All we saw was forests of hardwoods and pines waist-deep in cold water. My exuberant feelings began to war with ones of hesitancy. But … too late to go back. The rushing river would be too strong for us to retreat upstream.

Like warriors now, we paddled on. Actually, we did little paddling as the swift current pulled us ever downward toward our destination. Downward. That’s the key word here. As the terrain dropped, we encountered one rapids after another. Good thing I’d come prepared with a river map that showed the river’s curves and portages and rapids classifications.

A Class II ahead. Ordinarily, not a danger for novices such as myself. And to make sure, we stopped to scout out the rapids from above along a portage trail. “Piece of cake,” my son assured me.

Ha! Both excited and terrified, I let him persuade me it would be fun. You know the ending of my story, don’t you? Yup, our canoe swamped and over we went. Like two jet planes taking off with G-force power.

We learned some lessons during our trip.

Always wear a lifejacket. Jarl’s cheapie was missing a tie so he had to hang onto it while saving himself, but he had it.

Listen to your mom. She knows best. He could have drowned without that jacket.

Check out the conditions before you proceed. If we’d have known about the river’s rage, we wouldn’t have gone. Or … would we?

Always take a portage, labor intensive or not. After our wipeout, we did trek our gear and canoe around the rest of the rapids.

Pray like the daylight beforehand. I did, and we survived. For that we give thanks to God, our protector.