Larry Wood is right where he wants to be … doing what he loves to do.
Wood, 62, who was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, retired in 1986 after 27 years of service. For the past 11 years he’s been a canoeing enthusiast and a member of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club.
“I got into canoeing when we moved to the Northwest,” said Wood. “I bought my first canoe in Seattle, joined the local club and started getting involved in various clinics.
“This area is heaven for (canoeists) and kayakers. We travel down rivers in northern Idaho, western Montana and the southeast corner of British Columbia.”
Also, the Coeur d’Alene River, one of the longest undammed rivers in the country, and the Little Spokane River offer SCKC members excitement in their own backyard.
For those who have the time, Wood recommends taking a ride down the Coeur d’Alene River from Clark Fork to Lake Coeur d’Alene. There are two or three campgrounds and some undeveloped areas where people can camp on their way down and spectacular scenery is commonplace.
There is also a variety of water available to area canoeists. Depending on canoeists’ moods, they can enjoy flat water, moving water or white water trips.
Wood has a special fondness for the thrills of white water canoeing.
“As long as you know your limits, white water can be a lot of fun,” he said. “They rate the rivers on a scale of 1-6, with 1’s being the safest and 6’s for those who have a death wish. Around here, we have mostly 1’s and 2’s and that’s pretty much the level I’m comfortable with.”
Wood took a three-month class at Fairchild and built a cedar wood-strip canoe for calm water trips. He owns a general-purpose, two-person canoe for flat water and some white water. He also has a tandem canoe and a solo canoe that are used for white water.
Wood’s love for canoeing has rubbed off on his family.
“My wife saw how much I was enjoying myself and decided she’d give it a try. She has a fear of the water, though, so she stays away from white water.
“I took my 13-year-old grandson down the St. Regis River and across Lookout Pass in Montana. That’s a pretty active river and we had a lot of fun.”
Wood is out on a river somewhere at least once a week.
“I enjoy the solitude, whether it’s by myself or with a group,” he said. “I like the camaraderie and the scenery. We’re out there paddling from March to November, and the rivers change with the seasons so there’s always something new to see. It’s nice to get away from town and there are so many isolated rivers to choose from so you never get bored.”
Wood and fellow SCKC member Robbie Castleberry have been involved in setting up the annual Spokane River Canoe Classic the past several years. It wasn’t until last year they actually had the time to take part in the race.
“I talked Larry into riding with me in a racing canoe, which was something he hadn’t done before,” Castleberry said. “I told him that whatever you do (in her boat), don’t lean. Well, we got into a situation where Larry felt he had to lean and boom, over we went. It was hilarious.
“Larry is a lot of fun. He’s the kind of guy who loves the outdoors, loves canoeing and loves to share it with you. And he’s such a good sport that he’s agreed to have a go at it with me again in this year’s race. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make it without getting wet.”
Wood, who also puts on clinics for the club, said the SCKC has more than 75 trips planned this year.
“The sport is getting more popular every year,” he said. “The Spokane River Canoe Classic is designed to attract more families because there’s a race for every (canoeist), no matter what their skill level.”
This year’s renewal is June 15. Beginners are welcome and early registration is recommended.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Canoe Classic Date: June 15 Place: Corbin Park, Post Falls Time: 9:30 a.m. Registration: 8-9 a.m. Cost: $10 per paddler Citizens race: 7 miles, Corbin Park to Harvard Road bridge in Spokane Valley Relay race: 16 miles, Corbin Park to Plantes Ferry Park in Spokane Valley Marathon: 16 miles, Corbin Park to Plantes Ferry Park Info: Robbie Castleberry, 624-8384; Cory Brewer, 838-4224