Solo Canoe Trip: Alone in the Wilderness

Canoe sales and rentals have increased dramatically in the last couple of months. It seems heading out with a canoe and fishing gear is a great way to escape the COVID craziness. There’s also a lot more people wanting to go out alone. After all, it definitely defines social distancing.

I just got back from a solo canoe trip (with my dog being my only companion). I paddled across Killarney Provincial Park to celebrate the town turning 200 years old and that my first book—titled “Killarney”—was published 30 years ago this past month. Check out the video; it includes a fresh lake trout dinner on night one.

I canoe solo a lot. Some may judge me as being anti-social. The truth is, I quite enjoy the company of others. I hang out with a variety of friends and especially take pleasure in meeting new and interesting people. But for reasons I can’t seem to explain, there are times I’d rather be alone. And the longer, the better. (My Killarney trip was unfortunately cut short when I threw my back out on day three.)

Varying Types of Aloneness

There are varying types of aloneness. Some prefer only an hour or two of quiet time; others got for the hermit stage, never wishing to see another human being as long as they live. I’m somewhere in between. A good dose twice a year would suffice, added on to those daily early-morning walks to the park with the dog. What I’m talking about is a solid camping trip, alone for five days—or more.

Why not just three days? Well, because no matter who you are and how comfortable you are out there, the first night alone in the tent, you’re terrified. Believe me, a chipmunk walking past your tent will sound like a bear to you. By day five, though, you’re so exhausted from worrying about bears each night, you care less about them each night. And by day ten, the thought of a bear breaking through the flimsy nylon tent doesn’t even cross your mind; after all, if one hasn’t gotten you yet, there’s little to worry about. More notably, however, you’ve finally become comfortable with your surroundings, and seeing a bear might actually become a highlight of the trip, not a terrifying experience.

Isn’t It Dangerous?

But is it dangerous travelling by oneself? The answer to this concern is yes and no. Yes, it is dangerous—or consequentially more dangerous because you’re travelling in a seemingly chaotic place without a safety net. If something were to go wrong, you’d be on your own to get yourself out. However, when you’re travelling alone, you are so phobic about something bad happening that safety becomes a top priority and an injury rarely happens. Travelling in groups, you have a false sense of security and the chance of an accident is greatly heightened. For example, I broke my foot after blindly jumping into the water while on a canoe trip with a friend. He carried me out to safety and commented after the event that I was lucky not to be travelling solo at the time. My response to him was that if I were alone, I would never have foolishly jumped into the water the way I did.

You’re going to need a bit of previous experience to survive on your own. What defines experience is knowledge obtained by bloopers while with a group. And learning from your stupidity.

The Closest You’re Going to Get to True Wilderness

What’s so good about travelling solo? Well, for starters you can eat what you want and when you want, and travel wherever and for however long you like. Basically, you can do whatever you wish. Planning the trip is even quicker and easier. Your senses are more alive than ever before when you’re alone. And life itself becomes, well, much more meaningful. You also have plenty of time on your hands to be a deep thinker, to study the complexities of nature and be soulful of your natural surroundings But ultimately, true wilderness is defined as a place no humans exist and being there alone is the closest you’re going to get to that definition.

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