My parents and their friends, the Snyders, have gone canoeing off and on since the seventies, usually in very nice wilderness areas where you can enjoy Deliverance-esque isolation, without the whole rape and murder bit. Or the banjos.
I’ve gone along twice before and had a lot of fun, in part because it was always someone else who tipped over / ripped a hole in their canoe that was successfully patched with duct tape / wrapped their canoe around a rock.
So Steven and I join my parents in Baton Rouge, where we pack up enough gear for four nights on the river and set off through the Dirty South, bound for Pennsylvania and the Allegheny River. Newly-christened Dennis the Penguin of course comes along.
We join up with the Snyder crowd (my parents’ friends Ron and Marsha plus two of Ron’s brothers and members of their families) at the outfitter’s in scenic Tionesta, PA. It promptly starts raining, sending us all under a questionably-stable tarp structure.
The structure on the right is a teepee and that’s the top of a miniature lighthouse peeking over the tarp. Apparently some guy donated money to build a museum on an island, but his dad really liked lighthouses and so a condition of the donation was that this lighthouse be built. On a river. In rural Pennsylvania.
Now, when I say “enough gear,” for us that’s a very reasonable two-Subarus-full. Tents, sleeping bags, stove, food, ice chest, even some fold-up chairs and an air mattress for my parents, now that they’ve reached that age where they feel justified in indulging themselves with a bit of extra comfort while out in nature.
Not so for the Snyders. They bring everything. Everything. Giant tents, giant ice chests, folding chairs, folding tables, stoves, grills, a port-o-potty with its own tent… seriously everything but the kitchen sink. Plus, a 20-foot canoe to hold it all (normal canoes are 17 feet long—theirs is a “touring” canoe). The outfitters always find us extremely amusing: “How long are you going to be out there?”
In total, we were twelve people, five canoes, two kayaks, one penguin, and a metric assload of gear.
We set off bright and early Tuesday afternoon and then had to hurry 16 miles down a rather calm river (we could’ve walked most of the way, it was so shallow) to make it to the first National-Forest-Service-owned island to camp.
Now, the islands we camped on were perfectly nice (if occasionally muddy and/or lumpy) wilderness-ish areas. The banks of the river were a different story. On that first stretch we passed towns, bridge construction (there was an actual detour on the river), countless summer homes with lawnmower-obsessed residents, and, yes, an oil refinery.
Naturally, we stopped and took pictures (and also to bail water out of the canoes after the only good-sized standing waves we hit the entire trip).
So we did lazy 7 or 8 mile days for the rest of the trip, built campfires, ate, played in the river, spied on the river’s residents (who were usually burning things or mowing their lawns), and battled mosquitos. I also kicked some ass in various cardgames.
Oh, and if you were Steven, you inexplicably climbed trees.
He also jumped out of the canoe in the middle of the river once, but those pictures are on the disposable waterproof camera, which hasn’t been brought in for processing yet.
All in all, it was an interesting trip, despite the somewhat suburban redneck aura of the river. Because, really, who flies a Confederate flag in Pennsylvania?
On the way back to Louisiana, we stopped in Columbus to visit one of my mom’s sisters and some of Steven’s family, too. It was nice to see family, but all my pictures are of cats because my aunt has four and Steven’s uncle has ten or eleven.
Then, finally, there were the roadside attractions on the drive back down:
Boobie Bungalow. God bless America.