Canoeing (Backwards) Down The Mohican River

We used our Harvest Hosts membership and to help us plan an interesting and adventurous Memorial Day weekend.  One of our stops was at Mohican Adventures, an extravaganza of fun outdoor stuff, including an Arial Park, go-karts, and a large canoe livery.  We decided to try a seven mile canoe trip because it sounded like an awesome family adventure. I envisioned us paddling down the river, in total control of our boat, smiling and enjoying the scenery.  Although traveling seven miles would be challenging, I believed it would be manageable.  I’ve never been in a canoe before (except during 6th grade camp, which was a long, long time ago), but I thought, “How hard can it be?”  Well…. 

Seven Truths About Canoeing Down The Mohican River

 #1 We were the only sober people in the river.

Ok, ok. Maybe that’s an exaggeration.  A more accurate number might be 25% of the people were sober.  The remaining 75% were feeling pretty happy, or were well on the way to Happy Land.

#2 We can’t paddle straight.

In fact, the boat turned around backwards so often (or we fought to keep it from turning around) that we wondered if we were sitting in it wrong. But, after further investigation, both sides looked exactly the same. Maybe it was a weight distribution issue? More likely, the problem was our lack of skills.

#3  We needed to take lessons from the drifters.

As hard as we paddled to get ahead and keep the boat from reversing, we ended up going the same speed as the “happy” people who drifted along the river in large packs.  They weren’t paddling at all. Seriously.

I kept telling my husband that we could learn a thing or two from them.  His response was, “PADDLE HARDER! LEFT! RIGHT! Let’s make some TIME!”  He was not buying into the whole “drifting and relaxing” thing.

#4 The person sitting in the front of the boat (me) does all of the work.

At least that’s how it felt at the time. To steer the boat, you have to paddle BACKWARDS on the opposite side of the way you want to turn. Isn’t that confusing?  Well, it was to me.  I can handle complex tasks in calm situations.  It helps to whisper instructions to myself, such as, “The oar goes on the opposite side of the turn…” over and over. However, when I was headed toward a fallen tree branch or a rock in the river, I got overwhelmed, forgot my instructions and crashed.  Then, of course, the current dragged us backward down the river.

#5  My kids aren’t happy canoers.

Originally, we rented tubes so the kids could drift along side of the boat.  But we spent all of our time waiting for them.  So, they held onto our boat, which ended up pulling us off course and then we spent all of our time trying to correct it.  After about 30 minutes, they were cold and scraped their stomachs/feet/knees too many times.  They grumpily climbed into the canoe.  They continued their grumpiness because the canoe ride was so long, they were tired, hot, uncomfortable, and they were convinced that we missed our rendezvous spot (I was a little worried about this, too).

#6 Canoeing is a popular social activity.

How did I not know this?  I’m not sure what we expected, but we weren’t prepared for the mass of humanity chugging down the river with us. Hundreds of canoes, inflatable huge rafts, kayaks and tubes from several different canoe liveries all made their way down the river at the same time. We were literally bouncing off one another. Groups of people also tied their rafts together and drifted in large packs, having lots of fun, oblivious to the fact that they were blocking the waterway.

Interestingly, the number of canoers began to thin out after the first couple of hours.  Where did they go?  Maybe they joined the people who stopped to take a break along the shore.  It was definitely a party atmosphere filled with happy, friendly people. After about three hours of canoeing fun in the sun, we came along one generous fella who offered us some Amish Cheese and a beer, right before we crashed into the shore and then drifted backwards (again).

#7 Seven miles equaled four hours of canoeing.

In our case, because my husband was clearly a Crew Captain in another life, we actively paddled for four straight hours.  It wasn’t easy… and after about three hours, it really wasn’t fun anymore. We were hot, tired, and we were getting worried that we somehow overshot our stopping point.  When we purchased our tickets, we believed it was going to be a 2 hour canoe ride.

When it was finally over, we felt proud that we completed something that was truly challenging.  I’d like to say we did high five’s and congratulated one another.  In reality, we ran as fast as we could to get on the bus so we could get back to Bessie The RV for some well deserved R &R.

Here are some things we will do differently the next time we sail down the river:

  • Watch a You Tube video on canoeing BEFORE we go.
  • Someone else can sit in the front of the canoe.  I’ll sit in the back and take pictures.
  • Opt for a faster river or a shorter ride.  One-two hours (or 2-4 miles) would probably be better for a family.
  • Maybe we’ll rent one of those big rafts and drift down the river. We’ll bring beer, some music, and a more relaxed vibe… or maybe I’ll see the Amish Cheese guy again and hitch a ride with him.  We’ll all end up at the same place at the same time anyways.


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  • Reply jamaddox May 28, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I was taught the person in the back steers using his oar like s boats rudder. However that only works if you have forward momentum

    • Reply Chris Hughes May 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Hi John!!! If the back person steers, is the front person responsible for the forward momentum? Either way, we’re just inept. No two ways about it! Ha!! 🙂

  • Reply Kerensa @DriveDiveDevour May 28, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    One of our first canoe experiences was a 20 mile overnight trip down the Delaware Water Gap. There was so much wind pushing against us the first day that we only made it about 5 miles (more than most, evidently) and I was seasick less than an hour in. The second day was smooth sailing.

    I usually sit in front with the camera while Brandon does the bulk of the paddling in the back. But you have to relay on your partner not to push you into alligators! I do suggest learning to relax and use the current to your advantage, it’s so much more pleasant.

  • Reply Glynis Valenti June 13, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Friends & I went camping/canoeing in Cook’s Forest (PA) in college. What a blast–but we were in college. I had to chuckle about the paddling furiously vs, drifting with the current & ending up at the same place visual. Kind of a metaphor. Lol.

  • Reply Harvest Hosts Giveaway & Fox Hollow Farms – CU On The Road August 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    […] This was my initial impression of lovely Fox Hollow Farms, where we parked our RV overnight using our Harvest Hosts membership. Located in Fredericktown, Ohio (which is 75 miles northeast of Columbus), we stayed at the farm as part of a fun weekend spent touring the Ohio State Reformatory (where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed) and floated backwards down the Mohican River. […]

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