My Excuse For Not Cleaning Up a Public Land

Updated April 9, 2020

At a nearby state park, a regular three-mile hike also involved a solo canoeing experience.

This time, I went to the boat dock for the first time I have lived in the area and read the canoeing rules. The attendant at the dock asked, “Any questions?”

I asked, “Can a person ride alone?”

He said, “Yes.” Then he said, “It’s National Public Lands Day. If you volunteer to pick up trash, you can rent a canoe for free!”

I hesitated a little. “…Okay.”

I signed up as a “volunteer.” The attendant gave me a paddle and a life jacket. He said, “Here are some gloves…”

We got over to the canoe. “Have you paddled before?” asked the attendant.

I said, “No, not really. Certainly not by myself.”

He got into the canoe first and showed me the “J-stroke.” After he climbed out, I climbed in the canoe and was on my way. He told me to stay near the shore. I hope nobody saw me trying to paddle. When even a slight wind hit the canoe, I lost control, and the canoe spun in a circle.

When I came back to the boat dock, I told the attendant, and I smiled, “I saw a small ball and a plastic bottle. I couldn’t get to the ball; otherwise, I would have run into some shrubs. And then, by the time I saw the plastic bottle again, because of the current, I couldn’t get back to where I was a minute ago when I saw the plastic bottle.”

I was forgiven, and so I went paddling by myself on a clear and sunny day. My muscles ache now. I have to say: it is an entirely liberating experience to paddle a canoe alone.

Related Links:
Backpacking with Strangers : A Great Course for Prepping


Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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