JESSE COOMBS IS TELLING ME WHAT HE DID LAST SUMMER. “Imagine a 14-hour jungle portage with 90 pounds of gear and multiple rappels over un-runable 100-foot, 300-foot and 600-foot falls,” the expedition paddler says, describing just one of the four days he spent last August in Mexico’s Barranca de Piaxtla, potentially the deepest river canyon in North America.
“So you’re starting to see what I mean about all the sanding?” says Ron Pellinen, my wooden canoe-building mentor, when I walk into his shop on a brisk March morning in Northern Ontario. Perched on an office chair in his workshop garage, Pellinen has just cut the power to the orbital sander he was using to smooth the contours of a thwart, one of the ash crosspieces that adds strength and structure to a canoe.
Camera. Energy bar. Eye drops. Deflated beach ball. Film canister filled with a “mystery item.” Somewhere in the large pocket of my PFD is the goal of all this rummaging around: a simple tube of lip balm. Sometimes I wonder if my PFD is like a “manbag” where I bring something for every conceivable situation and can’t find any of it when I actually need it.
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