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HomeNL-2014-04 Canoecopia

March, 2014
by Ken Anderson

Between March 3rd and March 9th I attended Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin, along with Bob Scaldino of HASK. It was at Bob’s suggestion that I give it a look and “boy” I’m glad he did.

Canoecopia is a paddling symposium that grew over the last 25 years from a paddler ’“meet and greet” at a local grocery store into a mix of a trade show and educational symposiums. Major canoe and kayak manufacturers were there along with various paddling organizations, several States, plus the US and Canadian park systems.

We attended seminars on cooking and camping techniques for paddlers (taught by Cliff Jacobson no less), tripping in the Boundary Waters, and medical care for injuries common to paddlers. There were even symposiums on paddling in France and the Mississippi. Door County was well represented.

A kayak roll presentation given by a Brit was the best explanation of the roll I’ve heard. He gave his talk, which he called “dry land rolling”, sitting in a kayak on a stage. I’m ready to spend the better part of a day sitting in a kayak on my front lawn practicing what he taught.

Symposiums about Isle Royale I found especially interesting because I’ve always wanted to go there. Park rangers talked about its wolf and moose populations, the awesome fishing, where to camp, and how to get there. It’s one of the least visited in the park system but the park with one of the highest percentage of returning visitors in the entire system.

The quantity of camping and paddling stuff at Canoecopia is stunning. Some of this stuff is old hat (but it comes with a 15% discount from retail if bought there) but some is new. For example, a titanium barbecue grill that folds into a small bag roughly twice the size of your hand. Or a tent styled a “tea house” for those “in a certain age group”.

An advantage of expo’s such as Canoecopia is the expertise you find there and the ideas they might offer. For example, I spoke with Dan, the owner of Cooke Custom Sewing, about a problem I have with my Bell Prodigy X. The Prodigy is a whitewater canoe which tends to nose into the base of a drop scooping water over the bow into the boat rendering the canoe hard to control. One solution is a skirt covering the bow and extending back to the paddler such that it keeps scooped water out of the boat. We talked with someone who once worked for Bell, owns a Prodigy X, and is willing to let Dan model a skirt on his Prodigy so I won’t have to worry about sending Dan incorrect measurements. The only way I could have resolved the problem with a high degree of confidence was through the conversation with them at Canoecopia.

I made two casual observations while there. First, a significant number of the attendees struck me as within the 40’s age group… with their grandkids in tow. They seem to marry and start families young. Second, paddling/camping/fishing seems generational; by that I mean they take their kids and grandkids back to where their parents took them when they were kids.

The Apostle Islands is popular with locals who speak of caves to paddle through, of camping on those islands, and of lighthouses to visit (by the way, the Park Service is looking for volunteers to man them during the summer months).

While I was there Lake Superior was 92% frozen including the paddling route to the Apostle Islands. According to the Park Service over 4,000 people a day were walking over the ice to the so-called ice caves on those islands. The walk is roughly 1 mile from the park’s parking lot but, because of the influx of ice walkers, people were parking their cars 7 miles from the full parking lot and walking past 7 miles of cars parked along the side of the road (for a total of 8 miles… one-way) just to see the caves. The ice, by the way, was 2 feet thick and deemed safe.

This year is out for me in terms of planning a summer trip to that area but 2015 is just around the corner. I suspect I’ll be going back.

The author, Ken Anderson