On a fine summer day, in the not too distant past, some of the ARC family ventured out to the impressive James River State Park with an armada of canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle-boards. The James River State Park is another excellent VA state park with a Livery Store and shuttle service. The available floats are 8, 6 and 2 miles respectively. We elected for the 2 mile, Canoe Landing to Dixon Landing, float as it was deemed the best distance for some of the kids involved. This would be my 9 month old baby daughter's first time on the water.
The posse of paddlers included: ARC owner- Bob Taylor and wife Martha, ARC manager- Tom Detrick and wife Sarah plus children, Longwood University Associate Director of Campus Recreation- Gus Hemmer and wife Elise plus children, my wife Harriet, my child and myself, Brian Vincent a.k.a. Vince - new ARC employee.
This was my first time on the James River as most of my boating experience was either coastal or up in the wilds of West Virginia. The James is a special place and that was evident from the put in. I instantly looked over at Bob, as he paddled the LiquidLogic Coupe, and remarked that I could definitely get used to the subtle beauty of this river.
I was paddling a Blue Hole Prowler, from our used canoe rack, loaded down with my wife and daughter. My wife is, by far, a better paddler than I, having followed in her father's (Bob "no shuttle" Taylor) footsteps from an early age, but she had acquiesced and lovingly "let" me sit stern. It did not last long.
About midway down the 2 mile stretch there is a tiny rapid followed by a small beach. That piece of sand is a great place to stop for lunch, watch people surf or sit in the rapid and enjoy the scenery.
After the river side respite, my wife booted me out of the canoe and opted for the steering of her mother, Martha. I took over paddling Martha's boat, the Native Watercraft Manta Ray 11. I found the seat to be plush and the handling to be sharp. It was an excellent paddle, despite my bumbling flip when I lost my grip on the GoPro camera I had brought along, proving to my wife that I was indeed a boating liability :) . It was quite an embarrassing incident when paddling with such experienced folk. I blamed it entirely on the camera rig I had created. I had mounted the GoPro on the end of an extendable painters pole and set it to snap shots every 2 seconds, giving me the ability to take pictures from unique angles. I got some great shots.
Tom, ARC head honcho, and his family paddled the Appalachian canoe and I must say, I fell in love with that boat. Gus and his family had an armada all their own, composed of the equally impressive Mad River Explorer, NRS Big Earl paddle board, and the Dagger Axiom.
The Detrick and Hemmer kids gleefully attacked the little surf wave, practicing their whitewater paddling. It always brings me great hope and happiness to watch exuberant young folks find joy in the outdoors.
Before shoving off from the beach, Bob had gotten into a conversation with three individuals who had paddled up. At one point, they recognized that Bob was in fact the owner of Appomattox River Company and great unsolicited testimonials sprung forth from their mouths. Bob sat and talked to them long after everyone had paddled away, genuinely listening to their story and ruminating on great river days. As I sat right off shore watching him say goodbye, I thought about how fortunate we were here at ARC, to share in the quality wilderness fun of so many friends and families across this country. We waved one last time and then paddled to catch Harriet, my daughter Martha Lucy and the elder Martha as they piloted the canoe down the river, three generations of pretty ladies.
As we approached my daughter stood at the bow of the boat, waving like the queen of her own parade, and I smiled the content grin of one who has realized a life truth. These small moments with family and friends, laughing into the wild outdoors, create that transcendent collage of experiences that designate a life well lived. We who recreate are the lucky ones.