I Remember Dad: The Delaware River Canoe Trips

By Richard Mabey Jr.

 

From the Summer of 1967, when I graduated from Chapel Hill School, till the Summer of 1971, when I graduated from Boonton High School, my dad and I braved the week-long canoe trip with Boy Scout Troop 170. It was a true adventure.

 

We would begin the big week-long canoe trip in Hancock, New York and canoe down all the way to Phillipsburg, New Jersey. The Delaware is a wide river. Long stretches of it will bring inner peace and harmony to the hearts of those who canoe down this magical stream. Yet there are areas of this ever-flowing river that will bring fear and terror into the very core of the heart of the individual canoeing its torturous and fast-flowing rapids. The classic example is that of Skinner’s Falls.

 

Skinner’s Falls is about a quarter of a mile long. The unforgiving rapids are filled with white water that will inevitably splash buckets of water into the sojourner’s canoe. It takes steadfast focus and concentration to avoid the many rocks and boulders that abound beneath and above the water’s surface.

 

The hills and mountains that look down upon the Delaware create a most eerie and haunting feeling. The quiet of the river will soothe a person’s soul. From time to time, a canoe traveler will see a hawk or even an eagle, flying high above in the blue sky. It brings a most victorious feeling to the one inside his or her canoe.

 

During the day, inside our canoe, Dad and I would talk about all so very much. Dad would talk about his work. First and foremost, he loved to tell the tales of the many times he drove his flat-bed, 18-wheeler up to Maine or New Hampshire to bring New York City its tall and monumental Christmas tree.

 

I would often talk to Dad about my fears and anxieties of going to college. I was an honor roll student, but I deeply feared if I would be able to keep up with the fast pace of college work, term papers and exams. Dad would always assure me that I was a serious student and if I kept my nose to the grindstone, I would do well in college.

 

Sometimes I look back at those magical and wonderful canoe trips, when I was a boy coming of age, when I traversed the many miles of the old Delaware River. I dearly cherish those enchanting canoe trips. It gave me the golden opportunity to come to know my father, as a hard-working and humble man who had dedicated his life to the principles and ideals of the scouting movement.

 

Today, at 67, in memory I return to the beloved Delaware River. In dreams, I can once again float down the calm and serene portions of the river, kneeling in front of the long canoe with the heart-warming comfort that my beloved father is in the back of the canoe.

 

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please put on the subject line: My Life Publications.

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