Why Should you Join a Canoe Club

Nightmare on the Toms River


Personal Log: John Clayton 
Location: 15 Miles from the nearest human, on the Northern Branch of the mighty Toms River, Ocean County, New Jersey ( 20 miles from home ).

Real life castaways: Tracey, John and a 14 foot Discovery Canoe and a pocket 110 camera.


Some times in Life you bend over and just SHOVE your own head up your own butt. Figuratively speaking of course. Such was a day when I got this idiotic idea in my head to have my Father drop us off at Bowman Road in Jackson, NJ. It was to be a simple 3 hour canoe trip, ending at a local park where my Father was to meet with us. 30 minutes later, we knew that this trip was going to be the single most challenging adventure of our lives. Four years later and still nothing has come close to this exhausting battle to reach civilization.


It was late morning when we launched in what seemed like enough water to sail smoothly. More then 10 hours later we crawled from the muddy water bloody and beaten. With only a handful of photos and no water, we dragged our canoe as far as we could toward a single street lamp that seemed a mile away.


Back in the water and barely noon I knew that we were in trouble when I was dragging our canoe over the 5th portage only 40 minutes passed since launching. This portage was a 4 foot thick tree blocking any chance of passing under or around. I never saw such a monster deep in the wilderness like this beast. We climbed onto land, grabbed the canoe and pulled it around this tree. Both of us were in and out of the canoe more than 40 times over the 10 hours while we frantically searched for humanity. The only thing missing were the leeches and alligators. I would have ate a raw monkey for 20 foot of rope.


Tracey was a bloody mess from the millions of razor sharp briars we were towed through by swift currents. Just as soon as we started to move an unavoidable mass of needles tore us to shreds. You can't imaging the strength and momentum of a canoe and how briars can tear you to barbed wire. You had a choice of either ripping your eyes out or tearing your arms and legs to pieces. 


The hardest portage was a beaver dam 40 feet long and 12 foot high. Not only did we have to climb over it, but we had to pull the canoe over the dam with us. There is nothing that the Army does in boot camp that could prepare you for this. Mind you, I'm in sandals - leather and plastic toeless strap on shoes that fell off at least twenty times. Three times I had to dive under and pull a shoe from the mud. There would be no-way I could have continued with out both shoes, no matter how lame the shoes were. When I reached the top of the beaver dam, I wanted to plant a flag - Tracey shot me a look and we continued on.


When we finally crawled out of the swampy and stagnant pool of rotting moss, it had looked as if I "HAD BEATEN" Tracey with a wild cat. She was scratched by the trillions of briars which we crawled and climbed through for nearly 10 hours, nearly 4 hours mind you with nothing but starlight. Not even a hint of moon to help guide us. Eventually your battered body gives in to the pain. So many endorphins are surging everywhere throughout your body - pain is no longer the issue, getting home is. I'd eat another raw monkey for a cell phone. I NEVER leave home without one now.


We finally climbed out onto dry land at 11:45pm after canoeing 4 hours in the dark. Most of the 4 hours NOT even in the canoe - we were either pushing it, carrying it or dragging it under and over fallen trees and thru razor sharp briars. I never thought so many beaver dams could exist in such a small vein of a winding river. It was miserable.


We tried to drag the canoe with us, but the land we climbed onto was a large section of farm land which I can only describe as a mind field. Whole cars and trucks stuck half out of the ground in odd angles. Holes and gullies deep enough to stand our canoe up straight in. We finally just left the canoe there and limped our way to the distant farm house.


As a guy, the first thing I noticed was a beautiful young girl standing in the window on the second floor. She was busy talking on the phone and the rest of the house seemed lifeless. I knocked and the Farmer opened up. He wasn't sure what these to human like creatures, covered in mud and bloody were in need of, but he sure seemed interested. I explained our situation and he gave me his phone to call home. Mind you, my parents had expected to pick us up at the park nearly 5 hours prior and they already had the police looking for us. Mom, who worries way too easily was a wreck. She had us dead or strung up in a tree like Deliverance.


The Farmer's Daughter  Jennifer ( cool ) came out and offered us a ride to a place my Father could meet with us. Reluctantly, after covering her seat with a plastic bag, we climbed into the back seat of her new car and minutes later met up with my Father.


The next day, we drove back to the farm, picked up the canoe and left a thank you note with $20 in it for the Farmer's Daughter. Hopefully that was enough to get any mess out of her back seat. The canoe hasn't been used much since and we only go out on lakes now. I can honestly say that this trip was a disaster and we are both lucky to have made it out only bumped, bruised and bloody