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COLUMN: Father Time shows up on reporter's canoe trip

Paddling and portaging lake system near Parry Sound, Bob Bruton says his 'arms and shoulders felt like they would fall off' after 19 kilometres in one day
BarrieToday reporter Bob Bruton is shown during a recent canoe trip.

There’s nothing like trying to relive a bit of our youth to remind us of our age.

So, for part of one day, during my last week of vacation, I got into a canoe and paddled a lake system just south of Parry Sound, which is nearly in northern Ontario.

Along with my pal, we went about 19 kilometres (lake and portage) from roughly 9:30 a.m until 3:30 p.m., stopping for lunch and a few relatively short portages. (He carried the canoe.)

Man, was I sore halfway through our little canoe trip. My arms and shoulders felt like they would fall off.

Granted, it had been a while since I’d been in a vessel and gone any distance. That would have been eight or nine years ago, in a sea kayak on Georgian Bay, near Killarney and the French River.

But I trained for that, practising my kayak skills (such as they were), building up my shoulder muscles (ditto) and understanding you really need to screw up to tip a fully loaded 17-foot kayak.

Yes, I was sore after that five-day trip, and mostly from sleeping on rocks not even my trusted air mattress could soften, but it was a good kind of sore.

Not so much during or after the recent canoe trip.

It’s not like I don’t exercise or don’t work out to stay in shape for such endeavours.

It’s just that some time ago, my shoulders told me “enough, already!”

Like when my right elbow told me it would no longer snap those throws from shortstop to first base, even in recreational ball games.

Felt like a shark was biting my elbow every time I made that throw, so I stopped.

I felt a little like that during and after our canoe trip.

It’s not that I’m in terrible shape. I’m not. But I’m also not in good enough shape to not canoe for nearly a decade and then just go 19 kilometres in one day.

Come to think of it, I didn’t do much of that in my prime, which was admittedly some time ago.

For more than 20 years, let’s say between 1985 and 2008 or so, my pal and I went on canoe trips every summer.

The French River, Temagami, the Spanish River, the mighty Magnetawan, the White River — you name it in northern Ontario, we paddled it (or so we told one and all), sometimes for a week, sometimes for just an over-nighter, depending on whatever else was going on in our lives.

But we went. It was important to go, just to remind ourselves again there was something beyond working a job to earn a living, driving a car to get around, walking on sidewalks and asphalt, or on manicured trails through little woodlots, and cooking in or on an electric oven.

Important to remind ourselves we didn’t know what was around the next bend in the river, if the portage trail was still there, if we could find a campsite that would hold our tent and us, and if our luck would hold and the wildlife would leave us alone (usually just making a racket kept them away — that and not leaving food around).

But that was then and this is now, as the saying goes.

So, my reward for acting like a much younger man was sore shoulders during and after the canoe trip.

We still got to where we were going, and back, but there was just a physical price to pay, which was steeper than expected.

Will I learn? Probably not. Guys just don’t seem to learn after a certain age.

Just like I won’t learn about trying to play pick-up hockey this winter, if anybody needs an old goalie.

Time marches on, despite my best efforts.

Bob Bruton covers city hall for BarrieToday. Council takes most of the summer off, which leaves him time to do things that remind him not everything is like it once was, all those years ago.