16 Babies in a Canoe

I go on a lot of paddle trips. Most of these trips involve at least a canoe full of beer, lots of talk about the possibility of hot single women randomly showing up along our backcountry paddle route, opening beers with paddles, hatchets, or any other object that will allow us to drink from sometime before breakfast, to whenever shit gets weird late at night. We travel slow, drink a lot, and generally like to take the day as it comes.

So when I told my paddling buddies I was taking my four-year-old daughter on a weeklong, guided, alcohol-free trip with an organized group from Florida, everyone said I was crazy.

Crazy or not, I was thrilled at the idea of spending the next week with my girl. My daughter’s idea of a good time is putting her 6,000 babies and stuffed animals to bed over and over again, but I was hoping if we packed enough babies and pretended the tent was a princess castle, she would go along with the fun for a week.

Enough babies turned out to be 16. Sixteen babies take up a lot of room in a canoe, but you gotta keep a princess happy. In order to keep me in the same good spirits, I brilliantly devised a plan to bring lots of alcohol on an alcohol-free trip. I layered the bottom of my cooler with as many beers and bottles of bourbon as I could fit. I then put a white trash bag on top of the contraband, and to conceal the good stuff, lots of juice boxes, gummies and other very non-threatening kids snacks were thrown on top.

With the babies in place and the booze securely hidden, the trip seemed to be primed for success—until I showed up to meet the group at the campground. It was a place along the highway full of trailers and old people. My daughter and I settled into our tent to play with babies.

When I got up to pee in the middle of the night, I wondered why there was so much commotion. I soon realized it was because old people wake up before dark to pack their gear, and then they hit the water at the ass crack of dawn. We were prodded along all day by the back safety boater as if watching an episode of The Golden Girls depended on it. There wasn’t even time for me to sneak beer. When I snuck a gulp of bourbon after dark, I felt like I was sneaking booze out of my parents’ liquor cabinet.

The next morning, I learned that my daughter couldn’t poop. I have never been so delighted. It meant we got to leave the trip early so I could take her to the doctor. After a long wait with a terrified little girl, my $200 only got me a diagnosis of constipation. No shit, I said to to the nurse.

Ultimately, all I needed was a suppository. However, getting said suppository into the butt of one terrified little girl was the challenge of my life. After hours of bribing, screaming, and pleading we finally had success.

“Do you know what brave means?” I asked afterward.

“It’s when you a get a cookie or stuffed animal for doing something,” she said. I thought that was close enough.

The best part about her pooping success was that it enabled us to take the paddle trip that I really wanted to take. As my daughter and I pushed off down the Suwanee River, I was ecstatic to crack a well-deserved beer and spend the next three days paddling, playing babies, drawing pictures, playing constant ‘I Spy’, and spending the kind of quality time with your kid that you can only get outdoors.

“Daddy, I love you so much,” she said at the end of our trip. “You take me on so many adventures.”

Places to Go, Things to See: