Schrodinger’s Canoe

The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not reality. – Erwin Schrödinger

Jordan stood looking over the falls. Ten feet below he saw his canoe broken and swirling in the waters of the Temagami River. The caned seat bobbed into view, along with the splintered gunwale and the upturned hull. His next thought was how he would get home. It was a July day at the end of the first summer solo trip.

Moments before he had been in the water, holding himself back against the river. The sluice dragging him ever closer to the precipice while he held onto the canoe half filled with water. The water was cool, but not cold this time of year; a refreshing break from the July heat. He was within an arm’s length of shore when the thought occurred to him that he should have tied the canoe to a tree before beginning the rescue. As the canoe nosed the edge of the falls, pulling him with it, he let go and scrambled up on shore.

Previous to this, he attempted to free the canoe from the boulder in the river. With the maple sapling under the prow of the submerged canoe and a river rock as a fulcrum, he pushed down. An electric thrill coursed through his body as the canoe jolted forward. In the next instant the canoe bounced up, then down, pinning his leg against the gravel bottom. He freed himself and saw that he was bleeding from the abrasions on his leg. It occurred to him that he should have been upstream, out of the path of canoe when it released from the rock.

A short while before this, he waded into the stream and gathered the gear that had been ejected into the water when the canoe capsized. He then untied the canoe packs and carried them to safety to the shore. He took stock of what he had lost; a hat, a pair of sunglasses, and a GPS. Everything else was accounted for; his food, his tent and sleeping bag. The topo map and compass were tied to a waterproof enclosure on the thwart of the canoe. After he had carried his gear to the far shore, he attempted to lift the canoe off the rock, but it was held firmly by the force of the rushing water. He climbed back on shore to look for something he could use to pry the canoe off the rock.

Before this, Jordan walked along the shore and watched as the river gained speed toward a set of falls. His canoe bounced along the current tied to a rope he held firmly. He let the rope out as needed in order to miss obstacles in the stream. The shoreline was rocky and at one point he stumbled, catching his sandal on a rock. He lost control of the canoe for an instant and the stern drifted dangerously into the rushing water. He worked to regain control by pulling on the rope, coaxing the rear of the canoe back toward the shore. The canoe gathered speed and momentum and was soon cross-ways in the current.  The rope burned through his gloved hands.  He let go and watched as the loaded canoe shot out into the middle of the river toward the falls. It rolled over leisurely and came to rest on a boulder in the hip-deep water.

Sometime before this Jordan was standing on the bank of the river. He traced the set of rapids outlined on the map. At the end of the rapids was a falls. The trip had been a good one. He had been able to run the previous sets of rapids without incident. Soon he would reach the end of the river and the journey. He would be heading home, driving south into the city. He had a choice to make; by all accounts, an easy one. He could float his loaded canoe along a rocky shoreline and lift it and his gear down the embankment alongside the falls. Or, with a little more time and effort he could take the safer option – carrying his gear and canoe over the portage trail in two trips.

Before this, it was a warm day near the end of the first solo canoe trip of the summer. The day was ripe with possibilities.

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