I have a friend who loves to plan trips. The ratio of trips planned versus taken is probably 10:1. Whether remote expeditions in foreign countries or unlikely routes close to home, planning paddling dream trips is what he does for fun. There is always a route in the works with miles measured, logistics considered and maps spread out on the desk that they are eager to discuss. Occasionally, a trip comes out of it.

Turn your paddling fantasies into reality

There’s no right way to plan an adventure. The famous mountaineer and explorer Eric Shipton, whose journeys spanned the globe from the 1930s through to the early ‘70s, said, “Every good expedition can be planned on a bar napkin.”

a group of whitewater rafters go over some rapids
The price to make it a reality is time, effort, sacrifice and sweat. — Usain Bolt. | Feature photo: Rob Faubert

I have a group of friends who dispense with the napkin altogether and just go, planning be damned. Some are lucky if both a sprayskirt and helmet make it to the put-in, let alone a map or first aid kit. These folks tend to stick to local day-run adventures, but I have also seen the throw-all-the-stuff-in-a-garbage bag gong show on multiday trips.

Say what you will about the method; they do get out a lot.

And don’t forget the dreamers. Dreamers tend to have the longest and boldest list of rivers to run, with unbridled enthusiasm for each one. But the difference between a dream and a plan is substantial. Dreams don’t direct resources—it’s all ideas, emotion and potential, and often little action. Real trip planning is more like goal setting, focused on the specifics and being achievable, realistic and timely. Once a plan is in play, it directs attention, time and money, all with the intention of getting closer to the put-in.

Dreaming, planning and doing

I dream of paddling the Firth River in northern Yukon, during its brief Arctic summer window, or the Selway River in Idaho with its notoriously difficult permit lottery—but they are just dreams. I love the idea of both trips, but I’m not putting my name in the Selway permit draw and will never run the river unless I do. If either of those dream trips dropped in my lap, I would jump on them, but I’m not the one who will make them happen. Wow-worthy as they would be, I have some other plans.

The 100-mile upper Missinaibi River in northern Ontario is at the top of my list. I have the maps, collected beta on the raft-ability of the significant drops, roughed out the camp locations, and sorted the logistics. Of course, it helps that this river is only a day’s drive from my home. The next step is to carve out the time this summer or next. A float trip on the historic Hayes River in northern Manitoba is also planned, waiting for the right time to make it happen.

[ Read more: So You Want To Try Northern Paddling? ]

There are dreamers, planners and doers, and sometimes each of us needs to be a little of all three to get to the put-in. Waiting for dreams to drop into our laps or major plans to come together means a lot of unpaddled days and a lot of dream trips never realized. After all, a bar napkin is all it takes to make a trip happen. And for some, not even that.

This article was first published in the Early Summer 2022 issue of Paddling Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

The price to make it a reality is time, effort, sacrifice and sweat. — Usain Bolt. | Feature photo: Rob Faubert



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