My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, October 7, 2011

Here's To You, Hulin

While my children were small, I did not get to do much in the outdoors.My husband did not enjoy gardening, camping, hiking, biking, birding or canoeing while I lived to do all of  it. He enjoyed doing the same things and going to the same places over and over, while I always wanted new experiences. Finally, after eighteen years of waiting for a tomorrow that seldom came, I joined the local Sierra club and began going on trips with them.

Within a few years, I was very active in the club, leading trips and serving in various offices, and even editing the local newsletter. Soon I was attending state meetings and going on trips offered by other clubs within Louisiana. Then a man named Hulin Robert organized a trip leader's workshop in the Kisatchee National Forest in central Louisiana. One of my friends from north Louisiana had been good friends with him when she and her family used to go on trips with him in south  Louisiana. She described how much fun he was and how he was a wonderful father to his seven children who he was raising after his divorce. We attended the workshop together, and she introduced me to him.

I found him to be a fun person to be around, and a great leader.  He was a very important part of the state Sierra Club and the south Louisiana clubs and had led national trips for the Sierra Club. He was also active in the south Louisiana paddling club, the Bayou Haystackers.  But the best thing about him was that he had two solo canoes.

Over the next few years I would see him several times a year at state Sierra Club meetings or on trips. Then  I heard he had broken up with a girl friend and knew he would have an extra canoe so I invited him to come early to the next state meeting - a campout - and go paddling in the morning before breakfast, followed by a breakfast I'd cook.  And I made sure he would bring both canoes and lend me one.

That trip was the first scores of trips I've done with him, in canoes and kayaks. But I've also biked, skied, hiked, and camped - car, backpacking, and out of a canoe or kayak with him. We spent sixteen lovely days together canoeing in the Boundary Waters. He came with me to my daughter's wedding in Rome, Italy so we could also tour some of the places he had fought in WWII. When I finally got my own flat water solo canoe, I wanted to do my first trip in it with him. We did a three hour paddle that turned into an exhausting eight hour adventure because a tornado had taken down lots of trees and caused log jams over several miles.

I credit him with making me a better paddler. When we paddled in his solo canoes, I struggled to keep up with him and spent hours modeling my stroke after his. Then when I got my own canoe, I got in front and wasn't paying attention.  After several minutes of paddling in my zone, I noticed he wasn't behind me.  I pulled up and waited and finally paddled back around a bend or two and found him.  Then I realized, that he had always had me paddle his slowest canoe. But that was great for perfecting my paddling stroke and getting it efficient.  He took up kayaking a few years after I did.

He and I both became canoe instructors. One of  fondest memories is of him helping me to teach my inner city outdoor club kids to canoe during a weekend camping trip. . When we got to the part where the kids were going to have to dump out of their canoes and then rescue themselves, one boy was terrified. He said, "I'm not going into that dirty water".  Hulin, said, OK, son, you don't have to do it if you don't want to. A few minutes later that kid and his partner inadvertently dumped.  This was followed by hysterical laughter from the dumpees.  Then the same kid was ready to jump  off the dock  and swim in that same dirty (tannin -stained) water as soon as the canoe lesson was over.

He also is a fabulous cook who often invents new recipes. And he is the most technological eighty-seven year old I know. He did his banking on-line way before most people, uses Facebook, and has lots of technical equipment including GPS's for car trips and outdoor personal travel. He added my phone to a signal booster he got so he could use his cell phone from his house. And, after he retired from the oil distribution business, he trained as a massage therapist and ended up working at Frankos, one of the top health clubs in the country.  He also managed the other therapists. And I've been the recipient of some wonderful massages.

He has remained active since his second retirement. . He did his last MS 150 for his eightieth birthday and skied for his eighty-seventh birthday. He still travels all over the country to visit his children and friends. And he shared his love and respect for the earth with his children and hordes of boy scouts and hundreds of people wanting to learn outdoor skills. . He has thousands of stories to tell and can describe, in detail, canoe routes throughout Louisiana, Missippi, and Florida. Ditto for hiking and biking trails.

So here's to you,  Hulin, a great friend, outdoors-man, cook and mentor. I'm  trying to grow up to be just like you.  And I hope I'll get to play with you for many more years.

Paddling on my catered Thanksgiving camping trip on the Neches River, 2000

Fueling up for a trip in the Atachfalaya Swamp to Buffalo Cove, Jan 2002

Us paddling together on the Buffalo Cove trip, January, 2002

Rest time on a paddling/camping trip in Big Lagoon State Park, Florida, July, 2003

Cooking in Camp at Big Lagoon State Park, July, 2003
Paddling with a Greenland paddle in Florida, November, 2003

Walking in front of the Piti Palace in Florence, Italy, March 2004

Nap time at Lake Fosse Point State Park on an Easter camping/paddling trip, 2004

In Coyell Bay, December, 2004
Hulin with granddaughter on New Year's paddle, Jan, 2004

Hulin with  granddaughter, Renee, and two birthday cakes from Bayou Haystackers Paddling Club on New Year's Day, 2004

Hulin on a ski trip for his 87th birthday