I spent twelve hours on Thanksgiving working on putting the St. Johns River trip together. No football. No parades. Well, subtract an hour for lunch. A month has been invested in planning already. It will take as long to plan the trip as to actually paddle it, but poring over maps, books, charts, and the internet is great fun too. It helps to take the bite out of the “Oh, woe is me. Sure wish I was on the water” syndrome.
Wilderness Canoeing by John W. Malo (Macmillan Co. NY) was published in 1971.
Some of the material is obviously dated, like the recommendation to use insect repellant with DDT. Or, when provisioning, using commercially prepared freeze-dried meals, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you should plan on food costs of $1.50 to $1.75 per person per day. I wish. In spite of these outdated items, there’s good traditional information you may not find in newer books. For the prudent canoe camper planning for traditional ways of doing things when his high-tech items pack up, learn how things used to be done before dry suits, GPS, Gore-Tex, etc. For example, we may be advised to take jerky. Malo takes you through the process of selecting appropriate cuts of beef, cutting, curing, tenderizing, and drying, making it possible to prepare your own jerky. He also explains how to make pemmican, an indispensable staple used by fur traders and canoe explorers. He then adds how to make pinole, an emergency food handed down from American Indians of the Southwest. Or, you can learn to prepare fish for smoke curing, or how to build and use a wanigan. Included was a graph for determining sunset and rise for any day of the year. If you want to know how much daylight remains to find a suitable site and make camp, but you don’t have an app for that, there’s the traditional (and proven) method. Extend the arms and turn the wrists and fingers in toward each other. Holding the horizontal fingers toward the sun with the back of the hand and little finger of one hand resting on the horizon, and with the fingers of second hand stacked on top of those already aligned with the horizon, count the number of fingers between the horizon and the lower limb of the sun. Each finger represents 15 minutes before sunset. Then you can add how to read a river, do a back ferry or forward ferry, portaging. etc.
I enjoy reading when I can steal the time. I’ve also found it the best way to educate myself. Why duplicate the damaged boats, lost gear, bruises, and fractures others have incurred when their experience can help me avoid the same mistakes? Besides learning, I just enjoy sharing other peoples adventures. Another, but more costly, approach is the visual method, hiring a guide or taking a formal class, like those offered by the American Canoe Association.