It might be a one-of-a-kind piece of handcrafted art, or one of countless mass-produced models. New or used, pristine or weathered from equal parts use and abuse, it doesn’t matter—once in the water, the canoe cradles paddlers in living history, the memory of the voyageurs forever urging their strokes forward. Every year, countless anglers and hunters strike out in canoes in search of adventure. How different are they from La Vérendrye or the Nor’Westers? Pays d’en Haut is still out there, with worn portage paths beckoning.
Dawn and dusk are magical times to be in a canoe, when the worlds of light and dark collide. Hunting and fishing are at their peak, and the wise paddler is ready with searching ears and gentle, soundless strokes. Whether its silently drifting a backwater listening for a bull’s angry reply or reaching the shallows where walleye skulk, it’s all somehow better in a canoe. Some might argue a canoe isn’t the best platform for casting a lure or wingshooting a duck, but like paddling, such pursuits come easily to experienced outdoorsfolk. And a spill is a stern lesson not soon forgotten, either.
A canoe makes you concentrate and encourages silence. With your elbows at the water’s edge, and something new to see every 100 yards amid the quiet of the north woods, words seem pretty weak. A fever soon grips you, a desire to push ever onward, searching for the next stretch of water to paddle. A canoe pulls you as much as you paddle, and the limits are, well, there are no real limits. So, in this year of celebration, make some time to go for a paddle. When you’re in a canoe, after all, all the world slips away, and you are truly Canadian.
New Brunswick contributor Cary Rideout has spent many a day paddling in pursuit of fin, flesh and fur.