O ld age is slowing creeping up on me. I don’t necessarily consider 50 to be old, but I think I’m long enough in the tooth to be making a list of things to do before I kick the bucket.
Or Maybe Better Put, Adding Things To The Bucket List I Started Many Years Ago. As a boy I wanted to skim a perfect stone, Tarzan on a rope swing, discover dinosaur bones, light a fire without matches and paddle a canoe.
In high school, I added wilder things to the bucket, like playing the drums, seeing KISS in concert, skinny dipping, getting past first base, canoeing down a wild river.
As a young man, I wanted to work a job where I was outdoors more than indoors. I Wanted To Save Wilderness, Get Past Third Base, Canoe Down An Even Wilder River. Wild, I learned along the way, is a sliding scale.
The thing about buckets is you put a whole bunch of things in them and then forget about it for a while. If you’re lucky, as you go you cross off a bunch of stuff. I’ve done most of those early things and even more in the hustle bustle of everyday life, I didn’t take the time to include.
Kevin Callan has paddled Bill Mason’s canoe
I’ve portaged across the front lawn at Parliament Hill and was forced off by the RCMP due to having a “vessel of too much magnitude.” I’ve chatted with great musicians Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Grapes of Wrath’s Kevin Kane and Jann Arden about the simplicity of canoe trips. I’ve chewed the fat with legendary scribblers like Farley Mowat, James Raffan, Margaret Atwood, Pierre Burton and Red Green.
At one point I became a published author. The dream was to write a book. Nobody puts 17 books on a bucket list. Add a regular column in Paddling Magazine and life looks well lived. The best part, however, is I’ve paddled more than 60 days a year for over 30 years.
Writing this piece, I realized how fulfilling my life seems, even to me. And it is. But my imagination is again filling the bucket before reaching my Golden Girls era.
I’m Not Talking About The Typical Bucket List Places To Paddle, Like The Nahanni. My dreams aren’t necessarily places I’ve never paddled before. Sure, I’d add to the list bodies of water such as the Florida Everglades, Great Slave Lake, the Winisk or Moisie rivers in a heartbeat. But my priority is to revisit lifelong favorites in my province of Ontario.
I’d like to return to Woodland Caribou’s Artery Lake, the upper stretch of Missinaibi River, Killarney’s Great Mountain Lake, the northern shore of Lake Nipigeon, and, believe it or not, Algonquin Provincial Park’s Meanest Link route, an excruciating 385-kilometer circular route connecting the four Algonquin Park stores and named after the notoriously gruff founder, Bill Swift Sr.
I’d Also Like To Build A Canoe And Ink A Portage Sign On My Chest, Forearm Or Maybe My Buttock. I’ve always wanted to carve a wooden spoon, go solo for more than two months, play the penny whistle around the campfire, sit amongst a pack of wolves and howl with them, catch a brook trout with a homemade fly, and have a cup of tea with the highest ranked First Nations elder to thank him or her for sharing the best mode of transport into these wild areas.
Last, but not least—I’ll have you know I did make it past first base a time or two—I regret never yet making love in a canoe. While I can’t imagine the actual physical act being all that comfortable, the celebration of being a true Canadian, according to author Pierre Burton, makes sense on a bucket list.
The Canoe Is Definitely The Canadian Icon
Doin’ it in a volumous jacuzzi in central Ontario’s posh cottage country would be interesting, a hay field in the middle of prairie Saskatchewan would be noteworthy, and on a king-size bed at the Chateau Frontenac in old Quebec City may be impressive. But none of them are as stately Canadian or as high on my new bucket list as making love in a canoe.
Kevin Callan is the author of 17 books, including the bestselling The Happy Camper. Butt End first appeared in Canoeroots magazine 16 years ago.