Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

© 1996-2015 Max Lent Communications




Moonlight Canoeing On Canadice Lake

Return to Canoe Stories

©1996 Max Lent

June 13, 1995

I'm writing this account almost two months and two canoe trips after this evening. The detail of my descriptions will suffer as a result of the lapse, but one event makes this trip worthy of recounting.

We had guests on the lake this evening. Gordon Goodman joined us in his kayak and Judy Levy joined us in our canoe.

Arriving only minutes apart we met Gordon by the water's edge as he was preparing to take his ocean kayak off the roof of his minivan. His kayak was a pleasure for the eyes in its sleekness and clean lines. Our trusty 16' Old Towne Penobscot canoe looked huge and barge-like next to the kayak. We helped each other unload and launch our craft.

The water level of the lake was at least 3 feet lower than we had remembered from our last outing. A spring draught required that the City of Rochester partially drain the lake over time to provide drinking water to city residents.

Gordon had announced to me earlier that he had recently become a father of a baby girl. As we paddled across the lake to the western shore, I asked Gordon to share his news with Judy. His announcement was odd in that it lacked the enthusiasm usually apparent in new parents. He mentioned diapering the baby and other tasks associated with fatherhood, but something didn't sound right. Judy noticed it too, but didn't comment.

Following our usual path, we paddled southward along the western shore. Gordon and his kayak looked graceful as he paddled sometimes close and sometimes far off from us.

We waited for the moonrise floating and chatting near the south end of the lake. We recounted other trips to the lake and other moonrises to Gordon. Not thinking that our enthusiasm for other trips might be very boring to Gordon we rambled on like converts to a exotic religion. Gordon tolerated our yacking very well, or so it seems in retrospect.

Gordon's mood was different than ours. Judy, Tina, and I were preparing ourselves unconsciously for the unofficial, but semi-religous experience of the moonrise. We became serious and almost entranced as we waited for the moon to appear. Gordon was more cheerful and almost silly. Were it not for Gordon's prescience we might not have ever realized that we experiencing any particular mood at all. It usually seemed as though we were not doing much of anything when the moon rose. Unknown to us, we had established a ritual of being quiet, respectful, and watchful. Gordon's good cheer disrupted our trance just enough to let us become aware of our being overly intense.

When the moon rose, I offered Gordon our cellular phone so that he could call his housemate Gunhilde. Unfortunately, the cellular phone could not make a connection. We were to far away from a transmission tower.

Cookies were passed around. We shared chocolate chip cookies. Gordon shared cookies from his neighborhood deli. We talked about the moonrise, scenery, and our lives. Gradually Gordon adapted to our mood and we lightened up a little. We searched the darkening sky for the first planets or stars to appear.

About half an hour after moonrise we started paddling back to our put in. Gordon, again, paddled close and then far from us. We discussed the art of finding the boat launch in the dark and retold the story of Judy being convinced, on a previous trip, that we had been lost.


Back at the boat launch, we followed our ritual of getting the canoe, and Gordon's kayak out of the water and onto the tops of our vehicles. We stowed our gear in our trunk and were about to say our good-byes when Tina I and closed both of doors to our car, locking them. We were locked out. My keys were in the car. The cellular phone was in the car. We were stuck. Even Judy was stuck. She couldn't go home with Gordon because her purse and keys were safely locked in our car.

We tried to figure out a way breaking into our car without damaging it. The lock pulls on the doors were smooth, making them impossible to pull up with a coat hanger or string. This is an excellent feature that prevents thieves from easily gaining entrance to the car. However, it also meant that we were really stuck.

About the time we were realizing that we were securely locked out, two men in an old pick up truck drove into the boat launch area. They saw our predicament, but didn't offer to help. They were, it appeared, preoccupied with getting drunk and smoking.

Gordon suggested that he drive us to the nearest town where we could look for help. By now, it was about 11 p.m. and I had remembered that the last town we had driven through was closed up tight at dusk. I asked Gordon to drive us north along the shore of the lake to a house that had lights on. My plan was to call AAA and have them unlock our car for us. We drove by a couple of houses there were all dark. The last house on the road still had several lights on, so I directed Gordon to drive into their driveway and let me out.

I was anxious about waking up someone's dogs, walking to their front porch in the middle of the night and asking for help. It had crossed my mind that folks in these parts might shoot first and ask questions later. After all, this house might be the house of the gun owner who often disturbed our trips to the lake. I did wake the dog. More lights in the house came on. On the porch, an injured cat was nursing its wounds. It looked like it had fought with a raccoon or fox and lost. I rang the doorbell and a man came to the door. I explained our problem and asked that he call AAA for us. Instead, he invited me in and let me use his phone. AAA said that they would send someone right out. When AAA asked me for the number I was calling from, I asked my host, who said that I didn't need tell them his phone number. The limit of his kindness was his giving out his phone number. The host's wife came into the living room and was very interested in our plight. She asked if we were all right and if there was anything else they could do to help. I thanked them for their kindness and help and left.

Gordon drove us back to our car. We told him to go home before Gunhilde became worried about his whereabouts. He was uncomfortable about leaving the three of us in the dark for feat that the AAA tow truck might not be able to find us. Only by being insistent were we able to persuade him to leave. We did have some reservations, but they weren't about being stuck at the boat launch. If we felt we were abandoned, we would just break one of the windows of our car and get in and drive home. The real worry was the two men in the pickup truck. They were still drinking, still smoking, and still being mysterious.

We waved goodbye to Gordon and watched his taillights disappear into the distance. We laughed about the fact that we had a canoe paddle, but were still up a creek. We stood in the moonlight laughing at the silliness of our situation for less than half an hour before the AAA tow truck arrived.

The tow truck operator was cordial and efficient. He got out his tools and instruction manual on opening locked cars. His tools alone were not enough to do the job. I had to be a third hand to him to enable him to carefully pull up the lock post. Even this only took less than half an hour. The two mysterious men in the pickup truck continued to drink watch us without saying a word. The total elapsed time between our locking ourselves out of our car and being on our way home was less than an hour. No harm was done and we had a great story to tell. We had an adventure and lived to tell about it.

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