I was hoping to lose 4 inches from my waist on the canoe trip and have more toned arms, but hey, that takes time, right? My arms are stronger though. I ought to canoe 35 miles every weekend. That would sure do it, wouldn't it?
The trip. First of all, God was so gracious and good to give us gorgeous, sunny clear weather. Forget the hazy, heavy air of a many summer days in PA. We had crisp skies, fluffy clouds and a nice breeze. That was a wonderful gift. The sun was blazing though and I missed a few spots with sunscreen! We are also so thankful that no one was injured. There were a few bumps of course, but we were all safe. The Allegheny River was pretty lazy, and we had pockets of faster currents which added momentary thrill and rocking. Fellow Pittsburghers will all be happy to know that it wasn't until we were halfway through the first day's journey that I realized that this was indeed the same Allegheny river that flows through Pittsburgh. The dots just hadn't connected until then. I really am smart though other times.
Sadly, I have no pictures. I wasn't comfortable taking my camera on the canoe or leaving it unattended all day at the vans, and we forgot to take our small point and shoot digital camera that could have been transported more safely in a ziploc bag. So instead, I have included other wildlife pictures, such as a beaver.
We canoed for about three and a half hours the first day and put out for the night around 5:30. We got back in around 1o am Saturday and finished the trip around 3:30. Ryan and I actually got home around 7:30. We had about 9 hours total of canoing, which was a little more than initially expected, and the youth were troopers to keep on paddling without knowledge of how long it would be until they'd have rest. While we wanted them to learn and grow and be stretched, we also wanted them to have a good time.
On Friday evening, setting up camp took a little while, and we barely got the tents up before it was dark because of a couple delays, one of which is way too confusing to explain, but it had to do with car keys. We also had to walk about a mile to [and from] the vehicles holding our equipment. We had some time to kill before we could set up camp, and there was a trail which is part of Rails to Trails running through the area, and we explored a long, old train tunnel. What used to be tracks is now a trail, and we walked this trial to the cars near the face of the tunnel. While exploring the tunnel, it was a very eerie to walk toward complete blackness and have light behind you. Step by step, the darkness slowly increased so much you could almost feel and hear it. It was strange.
The campsite? Rustic. A hole had to be dug for the bathroom.
As far as canoing was concerned, we were generally not far off schedule over the two days, but looking back, I can see how there was nearly constant work all weekend outside of canoing. Between walking to the vans, waiting for keys, taking two trips back with equipment, digging the bathroom hole, preparing dinner, setting up camp and more, it was a lot to do by bedtime. Again, the youth were great sports and helped out with no complaints. I think I would personally prefer a more established campground area with bathrooms and near by parking for the vehicles holding equipment. We had an awesome, loud thunderstorm around 2 am and thankfully, only one tent leaked water (not ours, hehe). Ryan and I each slept better than we anticipated though we were quite achy.
As far as adventuresome situations, Ryan and I had a little rescue mission when two 14 year olds tipped their canoe and couldn't get back in. We'll call them E and T. The canoe was nicely filled with water, and I had the smart idea to have T get back in and try to row. "Just try it" and sure enough, it started sinking when he got in. We quickly tipped it back over as dreadful images of a sunken canoe filled my head, and we ended up rowing them the riverbank. E held on to both canoes and felt quite "stretched" at times to stay connected to bring the water-laden canoe along to the bank.
At the very end of the trip, T was on the other side of the river as he approached the canoe center where we were getting out, and the current was decent enough nearly drag him downstream and keep him from crossing the river. He hurriedly stroked upstream to at least remain somewhat stationary while Ryan and two chaperones canoed out to him to catch and bring him in. They had no choice but to go downstream some, and they hiked their canoes back up through mud and sludge. Ryan and another chaperone ended up doing an army crawl in order to make progress! Needless to say, they were tired.
All in all, the trip was worthwhile. We appreciated having experienced adults along, and I know the youth had fun. I wouldn't really call it "fun" for us, but Ryan and I learned quite a bit about canoing and camping, and we really enjoyed doing that together.