This spring, my dad brought his canoe to Grantsville.
He, like me, loves a little adventure and thought a canoe trip on the
Little Kanawha River would be fantastic. Unfortunately, every time he
comes to visit, it rains. The poor man is yet to set foot in the boat,
but Andy and I have had a few chances, and I recently had two visitors
who were up to the challenge.
I would like to confess that I really didn’t know it
would be quite the challenge that it was, and neither did they. The good
news is that, sometimes, a canoe/gondola ride can be just what your soul
needs for that S.O.S. feeling to float away.
Allow me to digress a bit. When Andy and I were canoeing
down the Little Kanawha, the wind was at our backs, the smell of
honeysuckle filled the air, and the sun warmed my bare feet. It was like
we were kids again. No worries, no deadlines, and no place to go--we
As we floated along, children played in the shallow
waters splashing and laughing. We passed a group of boys swinging from a
barge rope. We had left our adult world and entered the domain of
summertime, a place for children. I leaned back and drank in the moment.
When Tim and Mellody set sail on the canoe trip with me,
things were a little different. If you are an individual that has spent
some time on the river in the summer, you probably know what I’m talking
about. It is difficult to “set sail” in three inches of water.
Mellody Walburn, Tim Busch and Maricia Mlynek.
We started with a challenge. Instead of going down
river, we decided to canoe upstream and float back home. I had one of
the most difficult jobs as I was in charge of morale and entertainment.
Being the middle man looks easy, because there is no paddling, but that
is untrue. I had to make sure my fellow sailors were focused and having
fun. That is a great deal of work.
We took off on our journey at 1 p.m. It was a gorgeous
day. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. We weren’t concerned
about anything. Mellody lives in Florida and was delighted with a river
free of alligators. Tim lives near Washington, D.C., and was excited
about being in the country. I was thrilled with time to be with friends.
All went smoothly, except for the times we had to get
out and walk. That really is an activity one doesn’t normally associate
with a canoe ride. By the time we turned around to go home, Tim had
mastered the art of pulling the canoe through the shallows, and the
women were allowed to stay in the boat most of the time. He had also
taken on the role of gondolier, as he was able to stand and row the
canoe while singing. I believe if he weren’t a history teacher, a career
on a gondola may suit him well.
Mellody was also a trooper. She paddled and sang along.
Not even the ominous clouds and rain dampened our spirits. We trudged
on, taking note of the heron, buzzards, and baby ducks. We saw no one
else on the river or the banks. It could be that others were not willing
to risk the thunderstorm, but we were unafraid and un-deterred. Our
travel time was four hours. We survived the portage, rain, and peaceful
Life can be like a canoe ride. There are times you have
to get out and carry the boat, there are times you have to hunker down
and hit the rocks, and there are times you sail through placid, smooth
waters. In the end, all that matters is who you have with you in the
boat. I had two beloved friends, and we enjoyed the journey immensely. I
would set sail with them anytime.
I alone could write a column about family vacations that
would rival any of the National Lampoon movies. When we took a trip, you
better believe that something wild was going to occur. The fact that
most of our trips included two or three other families adds another
element of craziness. Most of our journeys included eight adults, a
dozen kids, and hundreds of miles.
If you have a S.O.S. story, send it to The Calhoun
Chronicle, P.O. Box 400, Grantsville, WV 26147, or email to