I threw my drybags, PFD, and assorted other paddling and camping gear in my car just as a hint of light was beginning to illuminate the sky that Saturday morning. Soon, I was on Rt. 80, cruising east. I was bound for the Delaware River, where I was meeting up with a group of canoeists for a two-day trip down the watery border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The blinding morning sun and cloudless sky promised a beautiful day ahead. I was the first to show up at the meeting point on the New Jersey side of the river, but was soon followed by one canoe-topped vehicle after another. I was happily reunited with a couple paddling friends I hadn’t seen in years—Harold and Dennis (aka “Cowboy”), who greeted me with surprise and an enormous hug. I also met several new faces—Jack, Joe, Bruce, Tony Baroni, Kevin, and my fellow female, Loretta. Then of course, there was Jeff, one of my best friends and my tandem canoe partner for the weekend. More greetings were exchanged, introductions were made, and then we caravanned to the take-out. After reorganizing and rearranging, we all squeezed into a few of the cars and drove to the put-in at Dingman’s Ferry.
Finally on the water, we steadily, yet leisurely, paddled along, enjoying the warmth and sunshine. It was one of the first times this year I could get away without wearing a jacket, the first day it really felt like spring.
Lunch and a few hours of paddling later, we were at our campsite for the night. After unloading the boats, figuring out how to set up the tent that Jeff hadn’t used in too long, and slipping out of our wet river shoes in favor of dry footwear, the beers were cracked open and the hunk of sinfully-delicious extra sharp white cheddar cheese was passed around. Laughter ensued as the friendly group of paddlers bantered back and forth, lightheartedly ragging on each other.
Happy hour turned into dinner prep, which, more than anything else, contrasted the different types of campers on the trip. There was Jeff with his little Esbit stove and pot, homemade out of a corn can, cooking up some instant rice. Then there was Cowboy, pulling fresh veggies, hamburgers, and and every sort of seasoning and condiment you could think of out of his cooler. He proceeded to cook a meal fancier than most of the ones I make at home, to the envy of the rest of us. Somehow, I charmed him into giving me one of his extra burgers to compliment my slightly-less-exciting instant rice dish.
The sun went down, the air got colder, and we all moved closer to the fire. The brandy and whiskey made their rounds, fueling the stories that followed. Though I was having a blast, the lack of sleep in the nights leading up to the trip began to catch up with me as I settled in next to the fire. Soon, the notion of crawling into my sleeping bag became awfully appealing, so I bid my goodnights early and crawled into the tent.
I slept like a rock, snuggled and warm in my fluffy down bag. Morning brought clouds and talk of afternoon rain, but after the perfect weather the previous day, none of us could complain. Cowboy repeated the same routine for breakfast as he did for dinner, while I nibbled on a granola bar and sipped instant coffee.
We put the canoes back in the water by late morning after leisurely packing up camp, and contrary to the weather forecast, the clouds began to part, revealing the same sun and warmth that graced us with their presence the day before. The morning paddle gave us a few rapids and a fun side hike to visit a waterfall near the river.
After lunch, the wind kicked in. Suddenly, we were paddling as hard as we could, but felt like we were going nowhere. The wind blew so hard that it created waves in the river that moved upstream. Jeff and I both were grateful to be in a tandem canoe, with two of us to paddle the boat against the gusts. The rest of the afternoon consisted of a lot of hard work to keep the boat moving forward, but, it was beautiful and sunny, it wasn’t raining, and we were out on the river. Life was still great.
Late afternoon meant the take-out at Worthington State Forest, saying goodbye to my weekend companions, and another long car ride home with the window down and the sun in my eyes. Perfectly timed, the drizzle began when I was almost back to State College, and a rainbow welcomed me home.
Another fantastic weekend in the books.