Extreme Canoeing

It will be fine! I kept telling myself, as the weather reports showed rain, wind, and temperatures in the low 20’s forecast for our weekend canoeing adventure on the Roanoke River. 

I focused instead on what we would eat. My friend Mike doesn’t eat wheat, so shared dinners would have to avoid my camping go-to’s of cous cous and pasta. Instead I planned risotto, polenta, and tacos. All four of us like meat (particularly the homegrown happy sort), so that figured heavily into my menu. Vegetables, always a must for me, could be pickled, dehydrated or pre-cooked. We were taking a cooler (cause you can do that when you canoe camp) so I could bring along my braised collards, roasted cherry tomatoes, and sweet potato tapenade.

When we got to the put in we met up with my soon-to-be-new-friend Captain Heber who rented us canoes, and ran shuttle. It was sunny, but cold and windy, and he seemed a little worried about us city folk. He urged us to check in regularly and let him know how we were doing. In his camouflage pants and muck boots “Hebe” stood on the bank taking pictures as we shoved off, and one couldn’t help but wonder if these were going to end up as “last spotted” pictures.

It didn’t take us long to break out the whiskey as we paddled toward the quickly setting sun. Suddenly we all felt a bit warmer, and the wide rooted Cypress trees seemed to lean in protectively.


Arriving at our first tent platform we got situated and I started making risotto. Barry sliced smoked sausage from his last trip to Louisiana, we broke out the whiskey again, and began cooking homegrown dried shiitakes in water to make risotto stock. I added rice, braised collards, and smoked sausage, to the mushrooms cooking it all until the rice was just tender. A generous amount of good parmesan cheese made the texture nice and creamy.


We washed down that risotto with still more whisky and slept well the first night. Next morning we awoke to sunshine and all was well. We stopped for lunch at the historic “Cypress Grill” right on the river for fried herring and got to chat with locals who could remember when they were 10 cents apiece.

That afternoon at our next tent platform we broke out olives, cheese, sliced apples, sausage and a bit more whiskey in appreciation of the sunshine. Still hungry, after a day of paddling we plotted the best way to make the tacos. Mike would fry the coffee marinated steak he brought over the fire while I grilled the tortillas and melted cheese on the campstove. This worked out perfectly and we topped our tacos with chili garlic sauce, jalapeño pickled cabbage, and cilantro lime coleslaw.

Full of warm food and whisky we got in tents just in time for the rain to begin. It rained all night long and was still raining as dawn broke. I shivered as we packed up our wet gear and got in canoes for another day of paddling. 


It rained all day. It wasn’t so bad, until we discovered we had put a huge dent in the whisky supply already, and wouldn’t have enough to keep us warm that night. I called “Hebe” for advice. He said he couldn’t tell us what to do, but he could tell us there was a really great oyster bar in town if we wanted to spend one less night soaking wet. This was cause for celebration, so we went ahead and finished the whiskey. 

The kind Captain came and picked us up and took us to the Sunnyside Oyster Bar in Williamston NC. We ordered loads of oysters, shrimp, and broccoli for me. I’m not sure why, maybe because we looked so damp, we were given the royal treatment at Sunnyside, with a tour of the kitchen and an autographed menu. We hardly missed having the polenta with cured pork, roasted cherry tomatoes, and sweet potato tapenade I had planned for our last night out. Reid and I ate that when we got home the next day, warm and dry.