Today we decided to take the boys on their first canoe trip. The dad showed them pictures of people canoeing and they were very excited about the idea. We made the hour-plus drive to the river. We parked and put on our sunscreen and they still seemed very excited, although a bit more subdued because of all of the people around us. We picked out our life jackets and oars and got on the bus that would take us to our drop point.
They both loved the bus ride, although I felt it was a bit unsafe, as the driver left the bus doors open and then proceeded to careen around corners on dirt roads. We were sitting in the front two seats and so it felt very unsafe. The other unsafe issue that really concerned me was that they did not offer any smaller life jackets for kids. It was one size fits all. These were the bright orange U-shaped jackets that fit over your head, lay on your chest and there is a strap that wraps around your chest/back or, in the kid's case, their waist/back. There was no strap that went between their legs, like most kid's jackets have. They should really advertise that you should bring your own if you have kids.
We got off the bus, walked the short distance to the river, put life jackets on the kids and loaded them into the canoe. This is pretty much when their excitement came to an end. They were not very into after that. We did not go far before stopping to let them play in the water. They especially liked throwing rocks into the water. That was their favorite thing. So, after playing for a little while, we put a bunch of rocks into the canoe and started off again. They were sharing a seat in the middle of the canoe and they both enjoyed throwing the rocks out. But, unfortunately, that didn't last long.
We hit a couple of shallow spots where the bottom of the canoe rubbed against the rocks in the river bed, making a loud noise (and of course it also did this every time we loaded them up to push off again, after having stopped to play). Neither of the boys liked this and Ben was especially scared by the loud noise. Just after we took off again, after stopping to play, both boys started crying and that lasted for 5 or 10 minutes. After that, Nick stopped crying but Ben kept crying by himself. They wanted us to turn around and go back and, Ben especially, kept saying this over and over, through his loud crying. We tried, over and over, to explain in many different, simple ways that we could not go back and had to keep going if we wanted to eventually get home. Nick seemed to get this and even got annoyed with Ben's continued crying after a while but Ben continued to call for a turn around pretty much the whole way.
The canoe outfitters offer a 6 mile trip and a 12 mile trip. We opted for the 6 mile trip. Ben pretty much cried for at least 5 of the 6 miles. We ended up making another stop so they could once again get out and play, although I was concerned that we would not be able to get them back into the canoe. They again really enjoyed playing in the water and throwing rocks. Nick even enjoyed sitting down in the water and letting the current push him a little. When it was time to take off again, Ben started crying before he got back into the canoe and continued to cry, off and on (mostly on) the rest of the way. At one point, he started asking me (over and over again) if we were almost there. After his having asked this twice and having a bad reaction when I said not yet, I realized I just needed to answer yes, we are almost there, every time he asked. It made him feel much better. I think he just needed to have some hope. As it turned out, we were closer to the pick up point than we thought so we really were almost there. As soon as the boys were out of the canoe and walking towards the little bus, I heard Ben saying something about riding the bus and he was once again in a very happy mood and clearly excited about getting to ride the bus again.
We changed clothes and found a place to eat (Pizza Hut - wow, I can't remember the last time I ate at a Pizza Hut) that also had a room with a few video games, including two that were like driving a car. They both had the best time playing on these and pretending they were driving to Home Depot and to the grocery store. They would run over to us and ask what we wanted from Home Depot or from the grocery store and then they would run back and pretend to drive there. It was great because they were very hungry and this kept them busy until our pizza was ready.
After we arrived home, both boys spent a good amount of time pretending they were in a canoe and swimming and all that and then they did more of this when they took their bath.
They really had a great time before and after. It was the canoeing part they didn't really enjoy so much. They both let us know they do not want to do that again. I'm sure when they are old enough to paddle the canoe, they will love it. At this age, they would have been very happy to just hang out at the river, play in the water and throw rocks. Next time we'll just have to take some lawn chairs, find some shade near the water and sit and watch them play.