When the Budd Car pulled out of the Sudbury rail station bound for Biscotasing and beyond–two hours late with seven canoes and about 20 people aboard–I smiled, waved, and cried.
When the two-car “train” pulled up, I relished the scene involving uniformed rail personnel and fleece-and-nylon clad adventurers hauling each red or blue, river-scratched, plastic canoe aboard and sliding the boats along the seat backs to roost in the car.
It was like a page out of a Pierre Berton chronicle of a Canadian frontier town. Steeped in nostalgia, my thoughts turned to my beloved, departed grandpa, a railway enthusiast, who always had a soft spot for these self-propelled diesel rail cars.
When my husband and children boarded the second car, along with the rest of the passengers, I didn’t relish that so much.
The lump in my throat gave way as the loud diesel hiss signaled their departure and they began to roll out of sight.
I’m tougher than this. After all, it’s just a canoe trip, my logical side explained. But logic wasn’t carrying the day.
But my life is on that train! Argued the tender, sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden half of me. That was the side that won the battle.
It was the start of my-family-minus-me canoe trip on the Spanish River from The Forks to Agnew Lake Lodge. It’s a five-day trip involving about 100 km of paddling and some portaging.
To say that I’m not fond of camping is an understatement, but whitewater paddling is something I’m willing to suppress my inner princess for–well, that and being with my girls on their first wilderness trip.
Logistics is what separates me from them. I can’t go because I’m not a good enough paddler to pilot the second canoe we’d need, and I’m not strong enough to help carry two canoes on portages. One of these limitations is in my power to address and the other is not. I can improve my paddling skills, but my lower back is a capricious asshole. If I hurt myself out there, I’d be a huge liability. My 12-year-old is as strong as I am, but without the biomechanical shenanigans.
So, I’m standing on that platform, after a 4 a.m. reveille and seven hours of driving-waiting-driving-waiting, with another six hours of driving ahead of me, crying over being left behind and gripped by overwhelming fear of what might happen “out there”.
The anxiety I fight so hard to keep at bay, overwhelms me when I’m fatigued, swamping my perspective of what constitutes real risk and what’s simply perceived risk. I don’t want to be that anxiety-ridden parent who freaks out over the remotest possibility of danger, but sometimes I am:
- My elder daughter has asthma, as well as an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts. My husband has a heart condition and asthma. My younger daughter is just 10 years old! I can’t believe I agreed to this trip!
- I’m not sure if 6 epi-pens are enough, well because you never know and you know what, that’s not enough! They should be carrying more!
- What if Oli gets sick out there?! How will they cope?
The reality is:
- I should have ordered more epi-pens, but no one in their party is packing peanuts or peanut butter.
- Penny and Oli have their asthma medication.
- There’s another family going with them, so the ratio of adults to kids is reasonable.
- They will be far from on their own out there, judging by the number of paddlers booked on that train.
- The most dangerous thing they will do–that we do–is drive. Highways are dangerous places.
On this day, I’m the careless one. I drove too long on too little sleep.