How My Canoe Life Began

I cannot say what it was that first made canoeing such a fun thing for me, nor can I say when I made the transition from recreational canoeist to canoe tripper. What I do know is how it all started.

One summer during my teenage years, out of the blue, my parents brought home a couple of canoes. We had always camped and fished growing up, but it was always from an aluminum boat with a motor on the back. This human powered boating was completely different. On our first camping trip with the canoes, being the younger one, I was relegated to sitting in the middle of the canoe as my older twin brothers paddled us about. I thought I was destined to never paddle a canoe as they refused to give me a chance. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, as it were.

When I was a kid Saturday and Sunday mornings were for watching cartoons, but at some point, I was too old for that and it became the prime time for fishing shows. After spending years learning tips and tricks and some locations to be a successful fisherman, one day I started thinking about a new fishing boat with a big motor so I could go fishing, but, being of limited funds, I went from looking at fully loaded bass boats to a 14 foot aluminum with a 9.9 on the back and eventually to a canoe. As I look back now, I wonder if I really downgraded from a big boat or if I actually up graded and just did not know it at the time.

When I realized I had to forget the big boat and go with a canoe, I went searching for something that I could throw on the car and take camping, something that would enable us to get out on the water and toss out a line. Maybe we could even do a bit of exploring around the lakes and rivers and get into those spots other fishermen could not. After a few camping trips with my girlfriend (now my wife of nearly 30 years) and our dog, we found that we really enjoyed the canoe and the freedom it gave us to explore at our own pace. The fact that it was quieter than a motor boat and allowed us to see some wildlife we may not have otherwise seen was a definite benefit. Our first moose from the canoe was awesome!

Moose from the canoe in Algonquin Park


Somewhere along the way I had found a copy of the Algonquin Park Canoe Route map, and it piqued my interest. Interior camping sounded like a lot of fun, so I sat down, checked out the map and decided I would try a trip. I loaded up the gear and canoe and off I went to seek adventure on Lake Opeongo for a weekend. What I learned on that trip was car camping gear was not necessarily the best gear for canoe tripping and that I really enjoyed being away from the car camping sites. There was just something about being in a canoe by yourself and not having to conform to anyone’s plans but your own.

Yes, my first backcountry trip was a solo trip with a loaded down canoe on a lake that has the reputation of throwing temper tantrums. I learned a lot from that trip, and I think that is one of the reasons I like to give new trippers help when they ask for it (and sometimes, when the situation calls for it, I give advice they need to be safe out there, even if not asked for). I am glad I took the chance and got out there even though I look back now and wonder what I was thinking.

This one trip led to many others, with friends, family and people I had met online on Algonquin Park chat boards. Every canoe trip was an adventure into a new part of the Park and new experiences. I slowly picked up tips and new ways to make tripping easier and bought new gear designed for canoe tripping. The one piece of gear that did not change was the 90 pound flat bottomed fibreglass canoe which was eventually named “HMC Chase Adventure”. I chose the name because every time I went into the interior, I was chasing a new adventure, a new experience, and new freedoms. I never knew what I was going to find on each trip, so it was indeed an adventure. The “HMC” stood for “His Majesty’s Canoe”.

The big green beastie on a canoe rest along a portage


After many years of portaging the green beastie up and down various portages in the Park, and more than a couple comments about its weight, it finally came to a point where I decided that maybe I should look at getting a solo canoe that would fit me and my gear and, on occasion, a furry 4 legged canine companion. I looked around and eventually came across a new light weight solo canoe from Swift Canoe & Kayak, called the Osprey. This new canoe meant I had just gone down from 90 pounds to 36 pounds and boy, what a difference. Now I would be able to carry my canoe and a loaded backpack in one trip down the portage, making tripping long distances that much faster.

Swift Osprey in the Canadian Rockies


After many years of tripping and chasing adventures through many waterways, I had found that I was slowly changing my idea of canoe tripping and the reason why I did it. Canoe tripping was not so much to chase the adventures as it was to nourish my soul and to feed my spirit.  After a while I decided that this new canoe should be named “Spirit of My Soul”, for after many years of tripping, I found that nothing feeds the spirit of my soul like a good canoe trip and as I get older, I find that my spirit needs more feeding. Getting on the water in my canoe and just taking my time going from one lake to another, from one campsite to the next, watching the shorelines pass by slowly gives me what I need.

Spirit of My Soul


It seems so long ago now that we tied the big green beastie to the top of the car for the first time and many things in our lives have changed since then, including the love of the canoe and what it brings to us. We were a young couple just starting out back then, and since that time we have added a couple kids, we are now on our third canoe dog, have added another canoe to the family, and have tried many new pieces of gear along the way.

As I look back, I can only imagine the experiences we would have missed out on if we had bought the aluminum motor boat those many years ago. There are many positive things in our lives that can be connected to the canoe and canoe tripping, and I am sure many more days of paddling lay in our future.

~ Sean Rowley

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