By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
The last week in August, I took an overnight trip to celebrate my 70th birthday (will the celebrations ever end?!) with my sisters, my cousin Carol, and my good friend Liss. I certainly don’t need more “stuff” as presents, just experiences.
This one was really special. We went canoeing on the Russian River in the heart of Sonoma County, Calif. My sister, Nancy, arranged for the canoe rentals on a beautiful, picture-perfect summer day. We had two canoes: Nancy and Carol in one and Liss and me in the other. My sister, Marcia, sat out the canoeing and instead spent time browsing in shops and bookstores in Healdsburg, where we stayed for the night.
Calling the Russian River at this time of year “lazy” is an understatement. Water levels are so low due to the ongoing drought that the lack of current and depth was startling. “Up a Lazy River,” a popular song written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and covered by over 60 singers, accurately describes our experience. Portage anyone?! Well, not exactly. We did have to get out and drag the canoe a few times because we got stuck on the bottom.
What was most special about this little river jaunt was the four of us being together in canoes, once again, after a more than 50-year hiatus. We had all learned to canoe as soon as we were big enough to hold paddles, probably at age 8, at our summer camp. Carol’s dad and our dad, who were brothers, built Michigama, a sports camp, in 1946 in West Branch, Mich.
We learned how to do most sports at camp in our formative years, and navigating on the lake and rivers was one of them. It was like riding a bike; you just don’t forget how to paddle, rudder, avoid overhanging trees (we did manage to tangle ourselves up in those!), and steer through some mild rapids.
When we all were campers at Camp Michigama back in the ’50s and’60s, we would go on overnight canoe trips, a common summer camp activity for many. As kids, our counselors collected our provisions, packed the gear, schlepped the canoes, and stuffed all of us in an old school bus, where we headed for either the Rifle River or the Au Sable.
It was a blast, except for the hand-to-hand combat with the mosquitos. For some reason, we slept in sleeping bags in the open air without tents. Sounds romantic with all the stars out? Not so much when it poured all night. Recounting canoe war stories was part of our excursions.
If you haven’t gone canoeing in a while, I highly recommend it. It was so peaceful, quiet, and beautiful on the water this time. We saw a doe and her fawn, Kingfishers darting around, Common Mergansers (a type of duck, for city folks), and some river trout. Our trip was about three hours of paddling. For a younger person, that would be a snap. I personally held up okay, but my trapezius muscles were screaming. These are my main muscles for my daily swimming routine so they get a frequent workout. Everyone else seemed to feel fine afterwards.
We stopped at a halfway point to have snacks on a small gravelly beach. Peanut butter and jelly, carrots, cucumbers, chips. Not very exciting. After returning home, I realized that canoe and boating trips, picnics, and hiking all need an overhaul for the hungry adventure seekers. We went to great lengths to relax, take in nature, experience a new environment. I would have preferred looking forward to a more inspiring nosh.
Today, let’s change it up. Try packing these deliciously filling Banana-Peanut Butter Trail Bars. They last for over a week in the fridge and freeze beautifully. I recommend freezing them, individually wrapped, and taking them on your trip right from the freezer. Add some grapes or clementines and a few raw veggies–no muss, no fuss.
Here at The Insider, we hope you take some time out to plan a peaceful, calming trip up a lazy river. Tell us what you packed for your snacks and don’t forget to try my gluten-free, sugar-free vegan trail bars!
Banana-Peanut Butter Trail Bars
Yield: 12-16 bars
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 c. crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c. chopped dates
1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. slivered almonds slices
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray an 8”-9” square baking pan. Line with parchment paper. Spray the paper. Reserve.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, put the mashed bananas, peanut butter, dates, pumpkin seeds, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Beat together using the paddle on medium. Blend in the oats, almonds, and chocolate chips.
Spread batter (it will be thick) evenly into the prepared pan. Smooth out with a rubber or offset spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Blend bananas, peanut butter, dates, pumpkin seeds, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.