Paddling as a means to an end

I learned to ride a bike when I was five years old and I’ve been riding every since. So I’ve been riding as long as 62 years. I’m lucky to live in Colorado where I have beautiful scenery to look at while I ride, but I’d like to ride even if I lived in central Ohio. In fact I did like to ride when I lived in central Ohio.
For me paddling is different. Yes, I like to paddle and did some paddling in some pretty un-scenic places, but for me paddling is more a means to an end. Typically, the most scenic part of any region is a river corridor. Lake country, like the Boundary Waters, has it’s own quiet beauty. I paddle for the same reason I backpack. To see beautiful places while having a wilderness experience. Paddling has the advantage of not having to carry all my camping gear on my back. And, with a canoe, I can carry luxuries that I wouldn’t be able to take backpacking.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a multiday paddling trip. Stuff happens. I hope to do one again, before I’m too old.


Amen SOTconvert, I hear what you’re saying and know what you mean. But, and perhaps its just a matter semantics, but for me bicycling has been a means to an end. I used to bike a lot, and can’t say it was a bad experience or anything… but I did most of my riding on gravel or rural blacktop roads in Illinois (not much different than central Ohio, I’d think) and it was always to get to school, or to work, or a friend’s house in some small midwestern town. A means to an end. Eternally surrounded by corn. I usually had to be wherever that end was at some particular time, so to a schedule. There always seemed to be cars whizzing by, too close. Too many sharp edges and hard surfaces.

I agree completely , though, paddling is different. I think of it as and end in and of itself. Somehow, for me, there’s a detachment from all that on the water. I can paddle 100 ft. from an expressway overpass I just drove over to get to the water and somehow all that speed and honking and lane changing, the flashing lights are somehow almost humorous from even that small distance, though five minutes earlier I was up there myself, raising my blood pressure. Detachment - even in those less than scenic conditions.
There’s a timelessness about paddling. The feel of a wave passing under the keel and the wind is something exactly like that Native Americans, or voyageurs, or timber cruisers, traders, our ancestors might have felt 10,000 or 100 or 10 years ago. There’s something primal about it, like a human racial memory. And that’s even in town.
The swallows cavorting over the river at dusk when camping on an island, stoking a small cooking fire, the quiet conversation with a friend or two over the embers, the laughter, the stars - all that has been a typical part of standard human experience for as long as humans have been human. Its like coming home to where we belong once again.
Yeah, I too love the feel of the glide following a paddle stroke, maybe catching a little lift on a following wave, the spin of hitting an eddy just right, dodging a rock, bouncing over or skirting a standing wave, the kinetics of it all - there’s an exhilaration there, and that too is primal but mostly, for me at least, (and I think as you are saying) its more about where the paddling takes us. To a place of timeless beauty. To a place where we can feel the pulse and flow of the land.
Even paddling through old towns past the derelict loading docks where barges, or before them steam boats, loaded and unloaded has a feeling of floating through time. Camping on an island at the edge of a barge channel one feels the pulse of the land, even if it isn’t anything like wilderness. We paddle the same paths as countless thousands of others before us.
Heck, I even like the shuttles, bouncing down some road to an obscure landing with the dew fresh on the trees or the stops at some bar & grill in some town that I may never see again after loading up… even the often beautiful places I happen upon if I miss a turn and have to find the way back… I love it all. (Well, except maybe paddling through the back yard of some McMansion or golf course or evading speed boats… That I can live without.) I think most of us do - its what brings us together. And thank you for reminding…
I’ve never felt anything like that biking though, admittedly, biking has its satisfactions also.


I was speaking strictly about my personal feelings about the two sports, not an inherent difference.
I’m sure there are lots of people that enjoy the physical act of paddling more than cycling, but for me, personally, cycling is more about the riding it’s self and paddling is more about where it takes me.

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I would categorize myself as a bicycle person who likes to paddle some. I would paddle a lot more if I lived on the water. I can start enjoying my bike in a few minutes. Getting a kayak to and from a body of water is a lot of work. Luckily there’s a pool in my back yard so rolling and bracing for fun happens a lot… usually right after a bike ride.

Biking with people gets competitive at times so it’s a better fitness tool. The kayak has been more laid back. Both are nice for being out trying to identify birds.

The pinnacle of paddling,
as a means to end,
is a pinnacle of pushy water
that drops in horseshoe bend.

And everyone I guess should know
to hang with horseshoes openside down,
takes one’s last shout in a well of doubt
on runout with luck to drown.

And so gettin’ where your going,
might mean no pleasure in the end to harp.
But as we twirl our paddle ends remain in doubt,
or so it does still for Jessie Sharp.

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Paddling is what ever you want it to be.

I think of rivers as the heart of the country. They have a rhythm and a heart beat. They have fish and critters. You can’t get lost. The best way to travel. You never run out of water. Many are surprisingly quiet and have no people around at all. Nothing better than an overnight trip of at least 4 days.