Adventure Day Two

At Ian’s wedding reception, he will say, “Hey, Mom, remember that time we almost died but didn’t? Thanks for that.”

Today was supposed to be a bit of an adventure and boy howdy, did it deliver. We decided to go canoeing down the James River from the Alpine landing back to Wilderness Canoe Company where we parked and rented a canoe.


Ian was already nervous and excited before we even got in the van to ferry us to Alpine. He told me (and our driver) that he had farted out his nervousness just before getting in the van so he was ok.

We got in the canoe and took off just fine. Ian took his shoes off and I kicked my flip flops behind me. I tied the cooler to the canoe so it wouldn’t slosh around. We were ready.

The first two rapids were easy. But the third one we caught sideways and ended up capsizing the canoe. In the rapids.

My daddy taught us never to panic. I’m not sure how you teach someone not to panic but I need to sign Ian up for those classes. Everything and everyone went everywhere. Paddles. Shoes. The canoe. People. Water bottles. It was awful.

I had to keep the canoe from leaving us but I also had to save my kid and myself. While barefoot on hard rocks.

I grabbed Ian and dragged him into the shallows. We precariously walked to the edge. One of his shoes floated away and I couldn’t get to it. We almost lost one of the paddles too but Ian grabbed it.

Then I had to save the canoe. I untied the cooler and took it to the shore. It had my phone and our car keys and my blood meter. It was important.


By the time I got back to the canoe, it was perpendicular to the rapids and full to the brim with water. I dragged it as far as I could while Ian screamed bloody murder from the edge. “PLEASE MOMMY! JUST LEAVE THE CANOE! I’M SO SCARED!”

I’m forever grateful I upgraded to a waterproof iPhone X after our Jamaican water adventure in December. I walked to the edge and called for help.

I ended up texting with the canoe folks. I cannot say enough great things about them. We were in a very inaccessible part of the river. There were hardly any other boaters out. Our rescuer drove to the closest drop in upstream and canoed to us.

It took both him and me to get the canoe loose. And then he followed behind us the rest of the way in case we had trouble again.

Sure enough, another mile or so later, we got stuck on a rock. I yelled to Ian, “Don’t paddle! Don’t move!” He started to whimper again and desperately wanted me to wait for our rescuer to catch up. Our rescuer got within shouting distance and told me I’d have to get out and move the canoe then get back in. In the rapids. With a weeping 8 year old.

Back in the saddle, minus one shoe

Back in the saddle, minus one shoe

We did it. Ian stayed still. I rearranged the canoe. I got back in (it took me two tries and when I fell on the first try, Ian was not happy). We made it to the creek where they drop off tubers right as the tubing bus was arriving. They loaded our canoe and the rescue canoe on the trailer. We road back to our car.

Our hero, Dick Pickle

Our hero, Dick Pickle

Our rescuer’s name is Dick Pickle. Yes, really. I love him. He was totally calm, patient, and capable. He even told jokes to Ian on the ride back. “Hey Ian. You know how I can tell the trains been through not long ago? I can see its tracks!”

The good people at Wilderness Canoe Company, LLC are getting a hell of a thank you card. And five star reviews on every platform I can find.

My legs are covered in bruises and scrapes. Dick Pickle even had bacitracin in his bag for me. My feet are bruised from the rocks. I’m emotionally exhausted. My blood meter is waterlogged and probably won’t dry out til morning.

It was clear to me on the river just how much I’m all Ian has. The boy has very tangible fears of losing me forever. And I think he saw his nightmare coming true as I floated away from him on the James river. We talked about how it’s hard for both of us to only have one parent (and one strong/calm canoe wrestler) in our family.

Ian improved over the day. We went from “I don’t ever want to do this ever again! I want to leave right now!” to “I really really didn’t like that and it scared me and I wish I could stop thinking about the James river.” We even joked we would look for his shoe in our part of the river tomorrow once we got home.

But good grief. #notforwusses