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Survival of Summer
by Maricia Mlynek


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An Effort to Set Sail

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 were free.


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 waters.


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                               

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