After dropping my paddle a second time I decided I must be tired. The Catalyst is a pretty paddle, and moves around the water just as well as the laminate wood and almost invisible fiberglass coating would make you hope. I had bought it just the day before and hadn’t quite embedded the balance point in muscle memory. Set it down across the gunnels with the blade too far outboard, and it slips into the river quickly and quietly as an otter. This is why you have a spare paddle stuffed under the float bag, to chase down the alpha paddle. And this is why canoe tripping is swell, with camping kit tied under the seat you can stop miles shy of your destination when circumstances and discretion demand it.
The next morning I woke early, having fell asleep before dark, and sought to shake off fear and sore obligues. I had done this trip before was the irony, at least the same key whitewater sections, and back when I knew far less about moving water and how to run it. That I was in a weeks old (to me), decades old (to the world) solo canoe that was twitchy as anything explained the trepidation, as did (after the fact) the previous trip being at a much lower level, and the two swims I took the previous day. The first had been innocuous, the sort of tip you can only do in a canoe, leveraging forward over a melon sized rock into knee deep water. The second had been more actively confidence sapping, not because I had flipped in front of a big family group, but because I had though my balance, screaming into an eddy to cut around a sharp turn, had been good.
That second morning I knew I was running tight, something self evidently more self defeating than even in other obvious examples, like skiing steep sticky snow or pushing a bike around a rocky switchback. I loosened up a bit after the first two Bear Creek rapids, specifically after staying upright in both, only to tip out (again) in the third, a wreck memory served as almost identical to the one over a decade before. Pried against a hidden rock, my reactions and timing will need to get much more precise to avoid that sort of thing. Thought it required continued focus, after that one I was able to let myself go a bit, making the several official rapids and seemingly endless secondary rapids and riffles without a flip or a particularly close call. I ended the day thrilled with the immersion, and woke the next day to the sort of soreness only novelty brings.