Canoeing on a crystal-clear high mountain lake in July is a good place to find oneself. Colorado rocks in the summer. Especially under a sky so blue it turns everything blue – even the pine trees, and even your husband’s face.
Good for the soul on any day, really.
My husband and I embarked on our three-hour tour on one of those July days. We loaded the canoe in the truck, packed a bottle of wine, a sack of Smartfood and two red solo cups — all to sustain us as we conquered the mighty shores of Joe Wright Reservoir, a lake favored by fisherpersons. I’m not one of them, but my husband is.
The mission on this day was simple: He was to fly fish. I was to row.
After we launched the boat, loaded with our supplies, we paddled around the lake – or, rather, I paddled around the lake. He cast his line and gave me instructions on how to navigate the canoe to the areas most likely to have the highest concentration of trout, a location just outside of where we were at all times. His canoe micro-management was annoying, but I let it slide since it was such a beautiful day.
“Use the paddle to turn, Amy. Pull it toward you. There ya go. You’re doing a good job. Whoop, I think I caught a big one.”
He caught a lot of fish that day. He released them all since we have a no-kill policy while I’m rowing. It was a good day. I paddled and sipped wine while he hunted fish and played the role of canoe captain.
And then, at a certain golden moment, the incident occurred. The great fish hook infarction. I, the paddle lady, felt something in my cheek and it hurt – a sort of tugging sensation. What in the hell would feel like that? Was it a bee? Oh. Wait. Yes. Got it. My husband hooked me. He landed his fly hook smack in my mid-cheek. Stunned, I screamed and politely requested he remove it. (Ok, maybe not that politely, and maybe not those exact words).
He lunged forward from the back of the canoe, yanked the hook out of my cheek. Ah, Freedom. As he backed into his seat, doing that very straight canoe walk thing he taught me 10,000 times, I felt the boat get a little rowdy and — bam. The boat capsized in the middle of the lake.
Did I mention this was a high mountain lake with water so cold people have been known to die from exposure? Ok, well, nonetheless, we were in it. So was my red solo cup — and the cooler and everything else. We created our own debris field. I saw a single paddle float by, but couldn’t quite reach it. And also a sack of almonds floated on past.
After we capsized, my husband, who is a true gentleman, grabbed me in the water and asked if I was ok. I replied, “Yes. I’m perfectly fine.”
Then he spoke these words, which will haunt my dreams forever: “Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to swim under the canoe and flip it over. I learned this in Boy Scouts. Swim under and flip. Let’s do it.”
Hasn’t it been a while since he was in Boy Scouts? My frozen brain asked me, internally.
So, I responded, “Fuck you. I am not swimming under a canoe. See you on shore.” And thus, I made my way to shore – waterlogged hiking boots and all. He eventually made it, too, hauling the still-unflipped canoe anchored to his head.
Many lessons were had on this day. If you’re on a body of water, always wear a life vest. This is important. If you need to swim to shore in an urgent situation, let go of your sunglasses and your hat and, if necessary, let go of your boat.
Most importantly, if your husband asks you to swim under and then flip a canoe a mile from shore in an icy lake, based on Boy Scout teachings from 40 years ago, tell him to fuck off and save yourself.
It was scary, but to be honest, I’ve always wanted a pierced cheek. So it all worked out just fine.