In honor of it being Earth Day, today’s flashback takes us to 2007, when Bryan and I went on our first real kayaking outing together. It was beautiful! Kind of scary! And because I drank a whole lotta coffee before our 4-hour adventure, the excursion was not without plenty of stops to use nature’s toilet–the earth, of course.

(Originally written in 2007.)

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Do you know that until today I have never peed in the woods?

I’ve squatted before — in China — so I was prepared for the act, just not for the surroundings. Bryan and I were in the boonies of Burlington County, celebrating his 28th birthday with a surprise kayaking trip along the Batsto River. It’s a 4-hour journey through the Pinelands, so I knew ahead of time that would be urinating on God’s green earth. And several times, in fact.

But I digress. Let me start from the beginning. Ever since our little paddle experience a couple of months ago along the Maurice River in Cumberland County, Bryan has been obsessed with kayaks. As in, he wants one. So for his birthday, I booked this kayaking trip with this little canoe/kayak outfitter in Shamong Township. You drive to their headquarters, hop in their van, and they drive you through the woods to the launch site, where they give you your kayak, paddle, life vest, and a “goodbye, we’ll see you in 4 hours.” When you arrive at the endpoint, there’s someone there to drive you back to the headquarters.

For two people whose only kayaking experience had been a 30-minute “test drive” on a wide and straight river, we truly learned by trial and error this time around. The river we were on today was in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere. It was narrow, it was twisty. Fallen trees formed natural archways and road blocks. Our paddles got tangled in seaweed. The sun was so bright at times that you couldn’t see anything in your path and it felt like we were paddling into a big, black hole. We plowed into muddy banks, got wedged against submerged tree trunks, and scraped against low-hanging branches (and I have a scratched-up arm to prove it!).

We didn’t know the route, and we didn’t know precisely how long it would take us. The entire journey was an adventure into the Unknown, each turn a surprise. Every time we rounded a corner, I felt like I was entering a new mythical territory. The collapsed trees–and those near collapsing–looked like giant butresses, and sometimes I felt like I was a character in Lord of the Rings, Neverending Story, Narnia.

It was Quiet. Absolute seclusion. Whenever we took a break from paddling and just let the current carry us along, the absence of sound around us was chilling. And then when you dunked your paddle in the water again, the noise sounded like breaking glass.

We passed several small beaches, stopping for water, food, and bathroom breaks. I had to pee so badly on our first stop that when I finally did let loose, it was like that scene from Austin Powers where it. just. never. stops. The grass brushed up against my ass, and I feared spiders would get in my butt and start making a web.

Running to the "bathroom"

As far as scenery, it wasn’t spectacular. The changing of the leaves will probably start next week, so today was mostly fading green and lots and lots of pine trees. Sometimes the reflection of the clouds and trees in the water was pretty, and we did pass a few turtles. (One was doing yoga, I swear, maybe Warrior III? Its back leg was extended straight out behind him.) The few white lily pad flowers we saw were diamonds in the rough, and one beach we passed had some people on horseback mosying along. We couldn’t have asked for a better day weatherwise, though. I mean, the last day of September, almost 80 degrees, and perfectly sunny with a super-slight breeze.

Our final leg was through some marshy waters, and I got a little panicky here because it was all out in the open, as opposed to the tiny narrow wooded path we had been following. The area was so wide and expansive, and it was difficult to tell which way to go. I didn’t know where the endpoint was for sure, and, sure enough, we paddled right instead of left and ended up going totally out of our way before we got on course again. Seeing that “Canoe Landing” sign was a relief, and my hands, arms, shoulders, back, and chest screamed out, “Don’t you dare do any upper body work at the gym for the next 3 days, AT LEAST!”

Ain't no one gonna mess with a woman with a paddle.

I ate an apple during the return trip and it was the most wonderful fruit ever. It’s amazing how famished one gets while kayaking. Bryan and I rewarded ourselves with frappuccinos from Starbucks, and ohmigod the sugar and the cold and the sweet was deliiiiiiicious.

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