‘Bucket List’ trip

Published 10:37 am Saturday, April 17, 2010

Call it a “bucket list” adventure.

For four days and three nights, a pair of daring young men from the local area tested their nerves…and patience…during a canoe trip down the Roanoke River.

Charles Cloe, 23, and Brandon Harrison, 20, both of Aulander, launched a 14-foot fiberglass craft on March 29 from the wildlife landing in Weldon. Four days and 128 winding river miles later, the duo ended their brave excursion in Plymouth.

Along the way were plenty of chills, a few spills, and even some dull moments for the two members of the Millennium Volunteer Fire Department.

“I have been wanting to do this for a while…a bucket list item, so to speak,” Cloe said. “All I needed was someone to take the trip with me.”

That someone turned out to be Harrison.

“Charles brought it up one day while we were talking,” Harrison recalled. “I’m a bit of a daredevil so I figured, what the heck, let’s try it.”

And with that the trip was on.

Both men admitted to having canoeing experience, more so in Cloe’s case.

“I’ve messed around with them a lot,” said Cloe, a 2006 Bertie High School graduate who has been employed for the past two and one-half years as a Rescue Technician with the Roanoke Valley Rescue Squad. He also holds Unit 1 certification in swift water rescue.

Harrison, a 2008 Hertford County High School graduate that plans to enroll later this year in Basic Law Enforcement Training, also admits to previous canoeing experience….“but never a trip of this length.”

Both men said the trip was challenging. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to either as they had researched the trip on the NC Paddle Trails website, finding the Roanoke River listed as “Moderate/Difficult” under the level of difficulty and “Intermediate/Expert” as far as the skill level is concerned.

“I figured with the water level being as high as it was, due to all the water being released from the dams on the river, we would be able to drift along more with the current,” Cloe said. “But that wasn’t the case. We actually had to paddle more than we originally thought. All that water just widens the river and actually slows down the current.”

“It was a physical workout,” added Harrison, referencing the amount of paddling required.

As far as the trip itself, both admitted it was somewhat stressful at times.

“There were a few occasions where we misjudged the distance to our pre-planned overnight camping spots and wound-up having the paddle in the dark…that was interesting,” Cloe said, adding that they used a head lamp to light the way at night.

“All in all, the trip had its ups and downs,” Harrison noted.

Other than each other’s company, the trip was a lonely one. The two said they didn’t see any other canoe enthusiasts making the same trip.

“There were a few boats with people fishing, but they were the only humans we saw along the way,” Cloe said.

“Maybe we should have taken a long a radio for some entertainment,” Harrison stated.

As far as gear was concerned, the canoe was packed. The two took along tarps, sleeping bags, a first aid kit, five gallons of fresh water, food (noodles, potatoes, oatmeal, marshmallows and Pop Tarts), a small propane cooking stove, two umbrellas, battery chargers and two, 12-volt marine batteries (charged by an onboard solar panel).

“I got so hungry at one stage of the paddling that I just grabbed a package of noodles, poured in the seasoning, shook it up and ate it right out of the bag,” Harrison admitted.

Cloe said he ate more marshmallows…“to get the oatmeal taste out of my mouth.”

The weather didn’t cooperate early as it rained most of the day on Monday and into early Tuesday morning. The rest of the trip was marked by warm, sunny days and clear, cool nights.

At night, the duo slept at camping sites built by the Roanoke River Partners organization. They devised a “cocoon-style” sleeping arrangement – using ropes to attach each end of their individual sleeping bags to trees in order to form a hammock, thus eliminating contact with bugs, insects, etc on the ground.

On night one of the trip (Monday, March 29), they camped near the U.S. 258 bridge. Night number two (Tuesday, March 30) was spent near the Lewiston area while Wednesday night (March 30) was spent at the Indian Woods boat landing (Bertie County).

The trip ended at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday (April 1) in Plymouth. Their first stop on dry land was McDonalds for burgers, fries and two large Dr. Peppers.

Would they dare to repeat the trip sometimes in the future?

“Sure,” answered Cloe, “but maybe the next time we’ll do it with kayaks instead of a canoe.”