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HomeNL-2013-01 Confessions of a Trip Leader

Confessions of a Trip Leader
December, 2012
by Paul Woodcock 

The primary reason I joined the Houston Canoe Club was because it was difficult to set up a shuttle. I got tired of towing my pickup behind another and dropping it off at the take-out or using a bicycle for a shuttle, and after I joined I discovered the vast knowledge of the club members of places to paddle. I had been on a couple of day trips with the Sierra Club and did hook-up with the Dallas club for a trip down the Rio Grande.

When I first started leading trips there were no cell phones and I did not have internet access and that made the planning much harder than it is now. The first trip I lead or actually co-lead was a 400-mile trip across Canada on the Bloodvein River. It took about 9 months to get topo maps and plan meals. Dana Enos was the navigator and Mary Zaborowski did most of the phoning, I was the gear-head. Part of the planning included traveling to Canada and back. We were away from home for a couple of months. We posted the trip with HCC but had no takers, so the three musketeers drove up north and had a fantastic trip and we learned so much about planning a wilderness trip. We used an outfitter for the shuttle which included a hundred mile trip to the put-in at Red Lake and a ferry ride at the take-out at the Bloodvein reservation.

Canada   Kansas    Nebraska

When we got back Mary and I lead a few day trips and week long campouts before we planned the next big expedition. We were careful to be sure of the quality of put-ins and take-outs and usually did not lead a trip unless we were familiar with the area. I usually scouted the trips before they were posted. I hated answering the phone so Mary accepted that responsibility. Mary was an athletic trainer and I had wilderness first aid and the experience we had learned on the big Canadian trip gave us the confidence we could handle most emergencies. I had been turned down on a number of HCC trips because we had "not enough paddling experience", so that I vowed I would not turn down any adult who wanted to be on one of our trips. But I did go to great lengths to explain what a special Paul trip was. It would not be canceled for any reason except for dangerous flooding. This lead to trips in the snow, sleet and in some cases over 100-degree temperatures, and exploratory trips where I had never been on the section of the river. This lead to sometimes setting up camps with 6 or 7 ft high banks, portaging over log jams, extended trip hours and many mini-adventures. I am now barely able to take care of myself so I might have to be a little more selective on what trips I take and who goes, unless I have another club member to help with the responsibilities of a newbie on the river.

Arkansas   Texas

With the advent of cell phones and the internet it made trip leading much easier, but on the other expedition trips I did require that if anyone wanted to go on one we would have to take at least a one-week long trip to check out camping skills and gear. There is no room for mistakes when you area spending 6 weeks in the wilderness. We had to hire an outfitter for the plane fly-in because of Canadian rules, but the last two trips we did all the planning ourselves.

Health and age have put limitations on what trips I can take but I still would like to camp out of the canoe each month and do a couple of week-long trips this next year. It would be helpful to have a group of HCC paddlers to help in the decisions and planning. Our web site has listed all the responsibilities of a trip leader and paddlers and the different types of trips HCC sponsors. You can go to our web site to read them.
 It is a very simple process and if each paddler would lead just one trip this next year we would have more trips posted than any one person could paddle. This is the main purpose of the club and I can think of no place I would rather be than on the water in a canoe. 

the earth is my mother.
the sky is my father
the animals are my brothers
the canoe lets me get closer to them
   The author,
Paul Woodcock