Peter Lourie
 WRITING ABOUT A RIVER, Part 2 

In part 1, I spoke about research and preparation in order to write about a river. I talked about reading books and talking to people who know their watershed. Other methods of research in preparing for a river trip include fun things like learning what gear to take. 

On the Hudson River, I needed a long canoe for long distances and big water. On the Erie Canal I needed a shorter, faster, more tippy canoe. This was something I discovered as I began to learn about the waterway I'd chosen to travel and to write about. In preparation for my Mississippi trip this past September, I checked the internet and found all kinds of information, right here at Rivers of Life, for example. I also found two people who had canoed the entire river, and I contacted them via Email. Then we spoke on the phone. They gave me excellent advice, and I even hooked up with one of the Mississippi paddlers in New Orleans. He helped me with some photography, and he gave me some river facts I did not know before. 

Now the journey. 

PART #2 
Once I've prepared as best I can for a river trip; once I've read some articles and books about the river; once I've talked to as many river experts as I can locate, I am now more familiar with the watershed I'll be traveling in. I plan the trip as best I can, making an itineray of where I hope to be on any given day. (Even though some of these plans fall through, other opportunities appear out of nowhere.) And I am ready to embark. 

I often call the journey itself "research." An adventure down a river is learning, exploring,
investigating, isn't it? I take river books about the with me so I can learn things along the way. I talk to experts on the river banks. I stop in towns I didn't even know existed. Most importantly, though, I observe the river firsthand. No research is as good as firsthand observation. I smell the river, I see it, I hear it, and I can feel it in the rocking of the canoe in the waves. All of which I write down in my journal. 

Journals are ways of recording one's firsthand research. The river journal I keep will form the
basis of the book I will write when I get home 

My research on the expedition is intense. From the moment I wake at four or five in the morning to the moment I fall asleep after a long day of hard travel, I keep my eyes and ears open. I value curiosity, and I ask a ton of questions. Anything I learn that I think might be useful later, I write down in my journal. Or, more accurately, I speak into a microphone. 

These days I make my notes with a tape recorder. Notebooks, I have discovered, get awfully wet in the rain and the spray of whitewater. I have returned from river trips with notebooks I can not read. So a few years ago I started to use a micro-cassette recorder, which I store in a waterproof pouch around my neck. (Buying just the right pouch is part of my preparation for a journey.) 

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