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I’m not sure how the caveat of traveling like it was the 1800s came to be part of the trip, except to say, I felt it would be cool to experience how men traveled the river once upon a time.
I’m not sure how the caveat of traveling like it was the 1800s came to be part of the trip, except to say, I felt it would be cool to experience how men traveled the river once upon a time. (Andrew Aughenbaugh photo)

For three days, I canoed the Monocacy River from beginning to end, 60 miles in length. She is my home river. She is where I go to escape.

The idea of such an adventure to float the entire Monocacy by myself drifted in my mind for many years. Making it possible is a result of dramatic life changes. These changes have come at a price. A price worth spending to find one's real self and being able to live the life one feels and knows God is directing them to live.

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My priorities have changed. No longer do I worry about the Joneses up the street. They can have all the possessions they want. I now strive for happiness through life experiences and not belongings.

I traveled down the Monocacy experiencing the adventure I once only dreamed. In the end, I reached a point of closure with my old life and fully emerged into a new life. For I now know one cannot be all things to everyone else. One needs to find and be true to one's self and who you are in God's eyes.

I ran the river solo. By myself, I paddled the 60 miles, fishing, photographing, reflecting on the past and pondering the future.

For sleeping and shelter arrangements, I used a single tarp and two wool blankets. For food, I took hard tack, known as pilot bread, venison jerky, and venison summer sausage, both of which I made from deer I shot, some potatoes, eggs, a block of cheese, beans, lard, apples, strawberry preserves, and tea.

All cooked over an open fire using a single cast iron skillet. I'm not sure how the caveat of traveling like it was the 1800s came to be part of the trip, except to say, I felt it would be cool to experience how men traveled the river once upon a time.

Saturday

The day was a good one. Starting at 7:30 a.m., I began my trek down the Monocacy. At 7 p.m., the fire cooked dinner of potatoes and venison. Twenty miles of river lay behind.

The morning started with adventure inside of the first two miles. At Starner Dam I attempted to run the by-pass chute and was unsuccessful. The canoe would not fit under the bridge. Stepping out of the boat to make the portage I got wet up to my waist.

The morning was filled with wildlife. Squirrels scampered bankside. Wood ducks, mallards and mergansers gave their best acting debut pretending to be injured, luring me away from their new born chicks. Twice during the day, deer crossed the river in my view.

The day floated by with miles of river behind. Memories came to mind with the miles; memories of past friends, past fishing and hunting trips and times when my children were young.

I walked the streets of Spain with Hemingway's characters in The Sun Also Rises until dark. Removing my reading glasses, I pulled the wool blanket tight to my chin and faded off to sleep. Shortly thereafter, I awoke to the brightest of a full moon and chattering teeth.

Not able to ignore the cold any longer, I climbed out from under the blanket and stoked the fire. It was "see your breath cold." I moved my bedding closer to the fire. Now wearing my winter wool hunting coat I brought just in case; I slept under my wool blanket cuddling the reborn fire.

The fire warmed my body. Closely I slept by its side. The flame would die. I would awake cold, add sticks to the flame and glance at the moon, tracking its movement across the sky and the passage of the night. This routine continued through the night.

Sunday

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The birds began to sing. Turkeys yelped across the river. Dove cooed. Morning had arrived. I loaded the fire with the remaining wood and soaked in the warmth. A nice cup of hot tea would be splendid at this point. Oh wait! I forgot the tea. Two cups of cold water before embarking down river had to suffice.

I needed nothing this night for I had warmth, water, and food. But the "want" list could have been long had I allowed it. The line between wants and needs is often blurred by our vision of other's haves and have nots.

I wanted tea. I had water. I wanted a warm, soft bed. I had the warmth of a fire. My prayers this morning centered on learning the difference between life's needs and wants and thankfulness for the sunny day yesterday and the one to come today. I pushed off into the river, beginning another day thankful for all I have.

To start the morning, I did not cook a meal. Instead, I cut strips of jerky and cheese, packed the canoe and continued the journey.

Twenty-five miles later I pull up onto a beach for the night. The sun is still high in the sky. Today's travel had been a good one. I was ready to set camp. This beach was bigger than last night's. It had amble firewood. To make up for last night's fire of twigs, I took out the hatchet and collected ample fuel for the fire. I broke a sweat in doing so, proving the old saying that fire wood warms the body twice.

Today's weather was perfect. The sun shined. The cool air held a light breeze; some times in my favor pushing me along, while at other times, I had to work against the wind. By day's end the wind had been with me more than against, a real blessing.

With each destination sought, there are unknown waters between the beginning and end. Conquering those long miles between is what makes the destination worth the toil. However, while destinations are often reached, the real reward lies within the experiences gathered along the journey.

Monday

I made it! I completed the three day journey traveling the Monocacy River from beginning to end. Right now I'm sitting in the grass against a large sycamore tree at the mouth of the Monocacy boat ramp waiting for my ride home. The boat ramp is a buzz of activity. I just sit and watch. They know nothing of the task I have just completed.

I have reached my destination. The long journey was grand. There is an old saying, "It's not in the destination, but in the journey."

But what is "it?"

It is the experiences gathered. It is the reward of accomplishment. It is the realization of self-worth. It is all this and more. One cannot take another's memories of past journeys. For it is those "its" that make us who we are.

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