My Paddle to the Sea by John Lane

My Paddle to the Sea chronicles a canoe trip by the author down the series of streams in South Carolina that begin close to Spartanburg and finish as the Santee River, which empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean.  The author manages this voyage with the help of two friends, who join him on different stretches of the trip.

Like Noah Adams did in Far Appalachia, Lane comments on local history as he connects to the living body that is the river – all of its beauty and danger rolled together.  The river, he discovers, tells new stories every new day, and somehow manages to keep its wildness amid development and encroachment.

Our voyagers start their trek in the early springtime of 2009, which unfortunately for them means a fair deluge of rain for the first few days.  The extra precipitation means more challenges, and the author reflects back on the tragedies of an earlier whitewater trip to Costa Rica as he and his friends navigate their way – through swamps and meanders, around dams – to the coast.

They encounter some fair weather, and lots of characters on the river, kindly and not.  There is more than one reference to Deliverance and they do meet some occasionally dicey acquaintances.  Lane’s canoe companions, particularly Venable, are worthy of a book themselves.

The author also muses over the ecology of this river system, and how its man-made modifications have changed the life and fortunes of those that live around it.

This book not a rapid page turner, but a meditation of a read.  It’s best savored slowly.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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