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Joel Arnold

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Member Since: May, 2010

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The Golden Dragon
by Tianna Xander

Dragons, desires, deceptions and disasterous magic. April needs a vacation from her truly bizarre life...  
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Blogs by Joel Arnold

120 Miles in a Canoe
6/27/2011 8:23:51 AM
I’m not really the adventuresome type. I love to travel, but prefer a hotel to a tent, a car to a bike. I really don’t have any desire to sky dive or bungee jump or get my nipples pierced on a drunken dare. But I did once take a 120-mile seven-day canoe trip down the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers in Wisconsin/Minnesota when I was fourteen years old. A friend of mine and his dad and uncle invited me along, and against my better judgment, I agreed to go.

I’d been canoeing before, but the longest trip I’d done was the Zumbro River outside of Rochester – a three or four hour jaunt that had none of the rapids that would curl (or straighten?) your short hairs, no Land of the Lost waterfalls into another dimension.

A large part of me that was afraid to go – afraid that I couldn’t handle the work of paddling for that distance, afraid that we’d capsize and become wedged in rocks beneath the river’s surface, afraid that I’d get eaten by...something.

But there was the bigger concern of disappointing my friend, so I agreed to go.

We did near twenty miles a day and camped at night, and that second day when I woke from a restless sleep on the not-so-soft ground, my arms and shoulders felt like they’d been filled with lead and pounded with a hammer. But eventually by the fourth day, my muscles grew used to the paddling, my body found its rhythm, and I was mentally in the canoeing zone.

Twenty miles a day is a long time spent on fairly calm waters, and the weather cooperated with us. There were a few rain showers, and we gladly accepted them as a change of pace. Rain brought its own atmosphere, its own smells, its own sounds. There was the sizzle on rain on the river, the patter of drops on our ponchos. But the best part of the rain was the respite it gave us from the deer flies.

Those were the hardest part of the trip, much harder than the endurance it took to paddle. And it wasn’t the biting, although that could be painful. What the deer flies brought with them was a challenge to maintain sanity as they endlessly buzzed around our heads. They’d dive close to our ears, and we’d swat and miss, and then they’d circle and dive and chuckle at our helplessness. I realize this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but this went on for hours every day, with only the aforementioned rain bringing relief. There were times when I’d lose my mind and swing at them with my paddle, forgetting that my friend was also in the canoe, nearly taking his head off in the process – but if knocking his head off would’ve stopped the buzzing, it might very well have been worth it.

But mostly...

Mostly the trip gave me a profound appreciation of nature – of the beauty and the stillness and those times of not-so-stillness, of the give and take of dipping a paddle in water, watching the cold river drip off the paddle’s glistening end...


Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said this: “What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other travel. Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.”

That single canoe trip had a large influence on my life. It changed how I looked at nature. It’s made its way into my writing – most directly into the canoe journey of the sisters in Northwoods Deep. Many of my memories of that trip made their way into that novel. The deer flies, certainly - the mosquitoes. But also the pull of the river and the new mysteries and wonders it brings around each and every bend.


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More Blogs by Joel Arnold
• The Sucking Suckathon of Suckiness - Monday, May 21, 2012
• Mississippi Pearls and a Car Biding Its Time on the Ice 'til Spring - Thursday, December 29, 2011
• One Decade, One Story - or how One Thing Leads to Another - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
• Racing Minnesota-style! - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
• This Here Minnesota Horror Author was a Big Old Scaredy-Cat - Thursday, December 22, 2011
• Jack the Blob Killer - Monday, December 19, 2011
• Death Rhythm - Tuesday, September 20, 2011
• More Writing What You Know - Monday, September 19, 2011
• How I Interpret 'Write What You Know' - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
• Blessings - or - What I write after having one too many... - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
•  120 Miles in a Canoe - Monday, June 27, 2011  
• On Stephen King - Thursday, June 23, 2011
• Why Horror? - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
• Zen & the Art of Swearing - Friday, June 10, 2011
• If Coffee Shops were Run by Airlines - Thursday, May 12, 2011
• Trying to Figure Out What Scares Me - Monday, March 21, 2011
• My Confession - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
• Going Indie with my novel Northwoods Deep - Friday, March 04, 2011
• How I Envision Conflict When Writing - Thursday, March 03, 2011
• Wall Drug - why it's one of my favorite places - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
• Jonesing for a Road Trip - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
• Snowmapocalyptopalooza - Tuesday, February 01, 2011
• How Do You Remember? - Thursday, January 20, 2011
• When your parents are librarians... - Tuesday, January 18, 2011
• The genesis of a novel - the first 6 days - Tuesday, January 04, 2011
• Searching for Truth - Characterization - Thursday, December 16, 2010
• Control - and a little more about Northwoods Deep - Monday, December 13, 2010
• Bukowski - Wednesday, December 08, 2010
• Flies, Flies, Spam, and Flies - Friday, December 03, 2010
• Naivete and the Young Writer - Thursday, December 02, 2010
• For Writers looking for some Adventure - Wednesday, December 01, 2010
• My usual rider for family/friend appearances - Tuesday, November 23, 2010
• Writing and Me - a dramatization - Wednesday, November 17, 2010
• Writing Tip o' the Day (now with vitamin C!) - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
• The Power of Music - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
• To All the Bookstores I've Loved Before - Monday, November 15, 2010
• The Care and Feeding of Writers - Sunday, November 14, 2010
• Rudiments - Thursday, November 11, 2010
• Writing Tip o' the Day - Wednesday, November 10, 2010
• Tragedy - now with 50% more pathos! - Tuesday, November 09, 2010
• Perspective - Monday, November 08, 2010
• The Daunting Dauntiness of Tweeting on Twitter - Saturday, November 06, 2010


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