The Art of Planning a Big Trip
Part 1: Anticipation
by Farwell Forrest
I'm writing this in mid-February, yet when I look out the window to
my right I can see open water in the channel. I'd better explain, I
suppose. I live on a reservoir, one of many impoundments along what the
local power company once proudly boasted was "the best dammed little
river in the world." Deep below the surface of the ersatz lakes created
by the company's dams, however, there's the winding channel of that
And the old river still runs free. The ice above its former bed is
the first to break up in the spring, and even in high summer a canoeist
going "down north" can rely on a boost from the current of the hidden
river's unseen flow.
Well, it may be mid-February, but it looks a lot like spring out my
window. The secret river is showing anyone who cares to see that it's
still alive. Its channel is open, and the water in it is running fast
toward the St. Lawrence. Spring is in the air.
It's time to think about the year's Big Trips. This needn't require
much thought. We live in an age of instant gratificationor, at any
rate, most of us in what we optimistically call the "developed world"
do. If you have a credit card and a phone, you can get almost anything
you want in less time than it takes me to tell about it. Even a Big
You know what I mean. You're sitting at your desk in Cubicle 27B.
You've got a week-long vacation coming up. You want to go paddling.
It's -20°F outside. No problem. Pick up the phone, dial
1-888-GOTODAY and five minutes later you're booked on a flight to
Belize, with a sea kayak waiting for you at the hotel and a week's worth
of food packed and ready to go.
It wasn't always like this. Big trips used to require long months of
planning. Boring? Not really. Not at all, in fact. The anticipation and
the planning were part of the fun. For some of us, they still are.
Our numbers are steadily shrinking, however, and while I'm often
amazed at the technical skills of today's paddlers, I'm also impressed
by how few of them can read a mapor a river, come to that. We're
all relying more and more on "experts" these days, even to pre-test and
package our wilderness experiences for us. You want a paddling holiday
that will take you exactly 73.25 miles and involve no more than 2.75
miles of portaging, with a 90% probability that nighttime temperatures
will never drop below 50°F? One that will take you right to the
haunts of state-record walleye, Boone and Crockett caribou, or the
elusive Wilson's warbler? No problem. The friendly folks at
1-888-GOTODAY and their computers will be happy to oblige. For a price,
This is efficient, to be sure, and for many of us, it's the only way.
Whether you're a plastic surgeon, an insurance agent or a cleaner, time
is money. Vacations come all too seldom, and they often come at
unpredictable intervals. It's 1-888-GOTODAY or nothing at all.
Outfitters, guide services and trip-packagers exist for a reason. Many
busy people want their assistance, and they're both willing and able to
pay for it. Othersfolks new to paddling, for
exampleneed the help of more experienced mentors to get
started. If they don't have paddling friends, or if there isn't a
paddling club nearby, then 1-888-GOTODAY is their only hope. The
alternative is the Laz-E-Boyor golf. Both these fates are too
horrible to contemplate.
Still, there are quite a lot of people whose time isn't quite so
valuable. Teachers and students, for example, and others with long
vacations that come at fixed times. Retired folk. Self-employed
contractors with seasonal businesses. Writers and graphic artists.
Then, too, there are some of us who actually enjoy the process of
finding things out for ourselves. Making plans. Even being surprised.
You already know I'm one of these odd birdsand I'm hoping I'm not
alone. In the next five articles, Tamia and I will take you through the
process of planning a Big Trip. The fun can begin long before you
drop your boat in the water. There's real pleasure in anticipation.
Let's see if we can't discover it together.
© Verloren Hoop Productions 1999
That's it for now. Tamia will be here next week. In the
meantime, we'd like to hear from you. Send your comments and questions
to us at email@example.com. (No attachments, audio clips or family snaps, please!) I won't promise that we'll answer each letter, but I
can promise that we'll read every oneand we will. 'Nuff said.