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Bending Branches

Paddling the Web

By Kevin Callan

I'm forty-four years old, which means I should be timid towards things like Text Messaging, Face Books, Bloggers and Yahooing or Googling. I'm characterized as a Generation X, not Y. I grew up without the aid of an ATM machine, didn't have a credit card in high school, was amazed at using a calculator rather then a slide ruler in math class and believed what most politicians didn't fib when they gave a speech on TV.

What I'm getting at is that a person of my cohort should have a dislike for planning a camping trip with the aid of a computer. I should be horrified at the very idea that the number one complaint nowadays campground owners are receiving from their clientele is that they can't hook up to the web directly at their site. Before the Internet, research on possible routes was gathered by mailing out letters to government agencies or phoning up other trippers who had gone before me. Other tid-bits of information, like new camp gadgets available and food recipes, were gathered from books at the public library or through magazine and newsletter subscriptions. The entire process would take months. Now you just surf the web and you have everything you ever wanted in a matter of minutes.

Truth be known, I did have a problem with the new wave of technology; that was until my students at the college I have taught at for close to twenty years giggled at me fumbling through my lectures. I knew to teach them anything I had to switch gears and keep with the times, even stay ahead of them if I possibly could. Now its second nature to surf for information. Prior to a trip I'll Google, read Blogs, and Text Message my trip partners. I haven't mailed out a letter in years.

You have to admit that the world-wide web had become one of the best sources to gather information and advice on where to go, what to pack, and even who to go with. On-line date sites specifically directed towards finding someone compatible both in a canoe and in the bedroom are on the rise. And oddly enough, so are sites dedicated towards solo trippers who like sharing with others their hatred towards traveling with other people.

Yes, we are living in a totally different world then the age of postage stamps and friendly government officials sending you free up-to-date information. But rather then criticize the change and rant about the lack of ethics behind the technological revolution, I suggest you revel in it. Take full advantage of that nerdy guy in his basement who's spent countless hours logging information on his computer website instead of enjoying the outdoors, and allowing you gratuitously to cut and paste it in seconds.

Of course, it's important to note that, similar to print in books and magazines, don't believe everything you read on the Web; and don't let it be your own source of information (I still visit the library on a weekly bases). I also have one strict rule set aside for myself: when I'm prepared to go out, the computer technology that got me there stays home. Maybe it is my age, but the day a campground offers free hook-up to the web like a hotel chain does, is the day I stop making a reservation at that campground.

Oh, and by the way, check out my new web site and Blog on That's right - I have a web site... and a Blog. I never thought I'd see the day...

My Top 6 favorite sites
(or at least the ones I check-out when I'm supposed to be working)
An obvious choice I know, but before I wrote this column it was on my "favorite" list. Best part about it is its an all-purpose site for canoeing and hiking trips, tips and general information. The chat forum is huge but my preferred section are the articles and monthly columns written by outdoors writers (including yours truly).
No, this is not a boring site. The Public Broadcasting System's home page has some stunning videos placed on-line, expedition journals and audio/video podcasts.
Similar site to but Canadian based. But since everyone in the world seems to want to paddle in Canada, then it fits a lot larger audience.
Fantastic first-person accounts of canoe trips in Northern Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. This one is major addictive.
Yes, you can check out the weather where you're about to travel. But that's not all the Weather Channel online provides. It gives you ideas on outdoor destinations, safety tips for dealing with nasty weather, and free customized wireless phone weather reports to check out while out on the trail.
This site is geared towards adventurers - mostly paddlers - who like to travel alone. It has things other sites have: gear reviews, outdoor tips, related links, trip accounts. But it also has a chat forum which is usually full the members discussing the displeasures of traveling with other people. The odd thing is the banter is shared with other people. Shouldn't a true solo site have only one viewer?


Kevin Callan is the author of eight books including "The Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors." He is a recipient of the National Magazine Award and a regularly featured speaker at North America's largest paddling events.

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