Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Canoeing the Croix with Kids

Max and I on Little Falls on the St. Croix

A couple weeks ago I spent six days on Spednick Lake and the St. Croix River, which run betweeen Maine's eastern border and New Brunswick. It was a wonderful trip, the third year in a row that I've done a multi-day trip with kids and another adult, Tim Woodworth. My son, Max, and his friend Paul (Tim's son) were 11 years old this year, so they began at age 9. This year we brought along Paul's sister Fran, age 8, for the first time.

It is an absolute joy watching these kids gain paddling skills and the sense of accomplishment that comes with them. The boys have become quite competent paddlers -- far better than most adults I see on the water -- and Max and I make a good team. Maneuvering in Class II, we're in good sync (generally), and there are few criticisms or recriminations when mistakes occur.

It is a time for us to play together, to talk about anything with no interruptions other than the occasional stretch of whitewater that requires our attention, or to remain silent and simply enjoy the notion that we are working together, doing something that we both love.

When we camp, the kids set up their own tent and keep themselves fully occupied with what they find at hand -- skipping stones, making up games -- they seem to miss their Nintendos not at all. Sleeping in tents is becoming natural to them, and they're getting into a good habit of making and breaking camp without too much prodding (some exceptions apply). More competence, more self-reliance. Tim and I do essentially all the cooking still, but the kids do most of the meal cleanup, again with less prodding as time goes by.

By the way, Max took his first canoe trip at the age of three weeks. His Mom wasn't too pleased, but I thought it would be good to start him early. Looks like I got it right for a change!

Two years ago, toward the end of the first year's trip, also on the St. Croix (year two was on the Allagash), Max asked me if we could do it again every year. What a thing to fill a father's heart!

The photo at the top of the post was taken by a woman whose name I don't know. She kindly offered to shoot us going down Little Falls on our official trip camera.

The photo below shows Fran and me on an extraordinarily windy day on Spednick Lake. It was taken by her father, Tim Woodworth. With my control hand so high, I'm using very bad form. Later on, I got the hang of using torso rotation to put more power into paddling


  1. Hey Bob,

    I'm a student at Davidson College and am currently in the process of putting together a proposal for the Watson Fellowship. I'm interested in studying several indigenous boats and the culture and history surrounding each boat. I was hoping to get your opinion about certain places and boats and the feasibility of studying them. My email is

    I really enjoy your blog!


  2. Hi fans. I'll respond to Laura privately. Anyone else who knows more than me (most of you), please do the same if you can give her a hand. Thanks,