Whether you're a weekend warrior, sunset cruiser, or a far-going tripper, there's aspects of our paddling that we'd all like to do more, or less, of in the new year. Here are the five W's any paddler should consider heading into 2019.

Canoeing on Flagstaff Lake, Maine. Photo/ David Jackson

WHO: In 2019, who will your next trip partners be? Sometimes there's so much emphasis on places and distance, leisure or suffering, that the personal element is removed. Before a trip is planned, it's good to consider who around you might enjoy your next outing. If you're looking for a portage-laden river trip in northwestern Ontario, maybe your best buddy is due for some suffering. If it's campfires on islands with a sunset view and steaming coffee in the morning, your partner or family might enjoy the escape from the life hustle. For some, a trip on the water might be the best way to bring an old group of friends together. Maybe there needs to be no one at all, and you're due for some solace time on the land.

(More on an ode to solo paddling.)


Deep in the Canadian wild.

WHEN: It might seem obvious, but if you're needing to book time off and lock in dates with friends or yourself, considering a time frame is really important. Depending where you geographically plan to paddle, there's considerations to make. For instance, a trip in the north might be best planned in late summer to avoid bugs and capitalize on the warmest possible lakes. Same applies for the south where a paddle in the early fall might mean longer, cooler nights away from the midsummer sun. Perhaps you're dreaming of a river trip and the question is that of peak water, or low water — because there's no greater burden then showing up to a river that's gone dry for the season, or flooded too high after spring’s melt. If all you're really looking to do in the 2019 paddling season is cruise the sunsets more often, then maybe you'll make a plan on how to access the water as quick as possible when the night is right. (More on inspired expedition planning.)


C&K’s Dave Shively in the depths of the Black Canyon of the Colorado, mere miles from the hustle of Las Vegas.

WHERE: There's so many rivers, lakes, and coastlines that our hulls can travel, it's sometimes hard to choose where to spend our time and resources paddling. A few things to consider for the new year are where you've been, what you know, and what your ultimate goal might be. Are you looking to be on freshwater or saltwater? Rivers, lakes, or both? Remote or roadside? Wildlife or pubs? Designated campsites or remote shorelines? One day or one month? For instance, a day-trip down the Black Canyon of the Colorado, outside of Las Vegas, might be the perfect off-season trip with the family. But for others, one month on Lake Superior's north shore, finding secret saunas and the challenges of the worlds largest freshwater lake, might be too alluring.

(Read more on extending your paddling trips.)


Sometimes getting there is half the battle – or adventure. On the second night of driving, the northern lights came out just hours short of Cross Lake and the banks of the Nelson River (see more from the expedition).

WHAT: Though gear should never be the sole factor when considering a trip, it's important to remember that the gear you own versus the gear you might need could be the difference between your next trip. For a sunset cruiser, a boat and roof racks might be sufficient. A wilderness paddler, on the other hand, might have a heady list of gear requirements, vehicle shuttles, and float planes that are a barrier to their trip. So remember to consider as you dream: What do I need to pull this trip off?

(Check out this year’s Expedition 101 series covering gear essentials.)


David Jackson on the north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario.

WHY: From non-paddlers, the question of why someone embarks on a paddling trip is often asked. As the year closes out, it might be time to ask yourself this question. Why do paddlers allocate holidays, spend time pouring over maps, and rise early to stay out late? The answer is simple: Paddling is a path to joy and fulfillment in life. After a long day on the water, the sunset feels so rewarding. When the weather outside is beautiful and you've spent all day in the office, a sunset cruise in a favorite waterway creates a certain ambivalence to the trials of daily life. As 2018 comes to close and 2019 begins, spend a minute to rejoice in the journeys had and the moments you've come to cherish. Remember the fog at sunrise, hear the crackling fires, relive those moments spent gliding through beautiful environments our paddles and boats have taken us. Then plan your next trip, because soon, another year will have passed.


Last year, C&K Contributing Photographer David Jackson canoed 2/3 of the way across Canada while photo-documenting the efforts of repeat cross-Canada voyageur Mike Ranta. Then he paddled solo from Lake Superior’s north shore back home to the Ottawa Valley. Check out more of Jackson’s canoe tips and correspondence with a searing look into how paddlers protested at Standing Rock, a photo essay of Canada’s oldest canoe manufacturer, his recent ode to solo canoe travel, and coverage from 2014’s Waterfall World Championship.