My paddle treasure adventure in Canada, Langskib camp in Temagami, summer 2013, thanks to Hap and Andrea Wilson, the people and crew who organized The Paddle in the Park Contest.
Twenty minutes after we settled into a campsite on mainland where our August 2013 "Viking group" had been planning to paddle to, I started heading out trying to find a suitable amount of firewood. It was late afternoon, the sun behind the clouds was getting low, for once it had been a day without rain. With our six canoes, the few hours of paddle to arrive at the campsite were rather uneventful. I had gotten used to living in the present without a watch and to rely just on light. We had had so much rain this year, most of the time we didn't get to see the sun and by now we probably were all already smelling moldy! But nobody cared anymore and after alI, I was not wearing my French Lycée school uniform!
The campsite was quite large, and had two abandoned canoes leaning against a tree near the campfire. About a dozen yards behind that tree was a pile of rather large boulders.
Feeling somewhat lazy, I started searching for appropriate wood near the boulders. Wandering around them, I suddenly noticed a plastic bag. With an arm full of wood I grabbed the blue bag and had a glance at it's contents. To my surprise, the plastic bag contained… a blue paddle much too short for anyone to use.
I resigned myself to finding more firewood, while holding the paddle along with my wood. I was dying to look at the object more closely though but forced myself to wait. I was wondering if somehow had lost it or maybe just trashed it?! Either way I wanted to take it away to leave the place clean.
A little later a few of my friends noticed the paddle and one offered to bring it back to camp for me, as the paddle kept slipping out of my woodpile. Back to camp, I started to closely examine the paddle and noticed a slip of paper tied to it! The note explained what to do when it was found as... it was part of a contest! Imagine! "The Paddle In the Park Contest"... in parks across Ontario "created to remind people of the many rewards of getting outside,from our health and well being, to supporting parks and wild places."
It said that Hap Wilson had put it where I had found it in Temagami. It was a handcrafted "Badger" paddle and I understood later that six canoes paddles only had been put around three different canoeing areas in whole Ontario! I had no clue, and I didn't use clues that had been apparently given out very carefully around, including maps and access to information on a webpage - not that we had access to webpages in Temagami!
I wasn't even looking for the paddle and I stumbled upon it: I guess for once in my life I had been very lucky. How memorable would that become for me and Langskib? Ignorant about the contest, at first I had not even been excited about finding the paddle. I had just noticed it because I had felt bad that someone could have thrown some plastic in the scenery I happen to be in!
I was so joyful that it turned out to be a symbolic paddle of a contest that I felt it was a Christmas gift arriving a bit too soon. But I also felt a bit sorry about informed folks looking for that paddle probably for days... Later after talking with my two group leaders and my nine friends, I came to realize that my discovery was going to be symbolic of "the Langskib Vikings' journey" I was taking on my way to becoming an adult: far from home, discovering the outdoors and sharing with friends some amazing and unique moments in untouched nature. For me the meaning of the contest was from far exceeding it's purpose.
I listen to my intuition and took the decision to offer the paddle to Langskib and not to take it back home to Los Angeles - no matter how happy that would have made me. It belonged to Langskib and it would always be there. It would become even more of a reason to return to the beautiful place called Temagami in 2014, for my third trip! My whole group and I signed the paddle and Ryan took it back to Langskib. Victory!"