Smart Paddling

     A couple of days ago I took my kids, my nieces, and a cousin on the Seagull River Nature Trail.  It was a windy day so we had decided to hike instead of go for a paddle.  When we got to the end of the Trail where the river opens up into Seagull Lake there was a family of five preparing to head out onto the lake. 

     The dad and oldest boy were in one canoe while the mom and the two youngest children were in the other canoe.  They started paddling into the wind and before long the mom’s canoe and it’s passengers started drifting away in

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the wrong direction.  I became concerned because none of them were wearing life vests and the waves just kept hitting her canoe on it’s side threatening to tip them over.  Meanwhile, the dad and his son were yelling, "Come this way!"  "Over here."  "Paddle over this direction."  My immediate thought was, "Duh.  I think if they had any control over the canoe then they would be able to paddle to you, obviously they don’t."

     I told my niece to be ready to run back to the Trail’s End Campground and call 9-1-1 because I thought for sure they were going to capsize in the waves.  While they continued to be pushed around in the waves the dad and son continued to yell to them and I couldn’t control myself from saying something.  I yelled over to them and said, "I think if they could paddle to you then they would."  They chose to ignore me and then I said,  "At least you could make the kids wear their life vests."  Again, they chose to ignore me.  Finally the mom and her canoe started to drift out of sight and the father and son started to yell, "Stay there, stop!"  

     Finally the dad and son started paddling in her direction and that was the last we saw of them.  My kids and nieces were somewhat shocked.  "Do you think they are ok?"  "Do you think they tipped?"  "How come they weren’t wearing their life jackets?" 

     My reply was, "I really don’t know."  Then I proceeded to ask them questions about the incident, like, "Do you think those kids are going to want to go canoeing again?"  "Would you be scared to be in a canoe that wasn’t under control?"  "Do you think the mom is going to yell at the dad?" 

     I like to think my kids and nieces are smart and they may be, but they also have grown up at the end of the Gunflint Trail and know the dangers of paddling in cold water and high winds.  They know Mike and I have had to pull hypothermic people from the Boundary Waters and they know life jackets can save lives. 

     The kids paddling with their parents didn’t know any better and trusted their parents to protect them.  I applaud these parents for taking their kids canoeing and into the Boundary Waters.  I think all kids should have the opportunity to get into the great outdoors and go camping but as adults it is our responsibility to keep them safe while they are doing this.  It’s our job to make sure their time in the wilderness is enjoyable so they will want to come back and do it again.  There are so many beneficial things kids learn while out in the woods and to take that away from them wouldn’t be fair.

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     Please be fair to the kids in your life.  Take them out camping, get them into canoes, and keep yourself and your kids safe while you are doing it.