Cliff Jacobson, a retired environmental science teacher from River Falls, Wis., is a prolific writer, paddler and camper. When he’s not taking grand trips like a recent outing on the Rio Grande straddling Texas and Mexico, he’s presenting on such topics. He’ll again be at long-running paddle sports expo, Canoecopia, on March 9-11 in Madison.


“Shoot Like a Girl,” by Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, is my most recent read. I couldn’t put it down. I have two brilliant, extremely capable daughters (an attorney and a screenwriter) which, like MJ, had to fight hard to achieve success. I found myself constantly rooting for MJ — and women’s equality.


I’m not heavy into social media. I’d rather be canoeing and camping. But I do follow posts and write-ups of paddling feats and long-haul expeditions.


I have a soft spot for British TV shows: I have watched every episode of “Downton Abbey,” “Foyle’s War” and, now, “Victoria.” I think the latter is my favorite, largely because Queen Vickie was one spunky (tiny) woman who placed her country above personal wealth and adoration. Regrettably, team sports (football, basketball, etc.) bore me. I like doing things, not watching things. When I taught school (environmental science and biology) my students would ask me why I didn’t like sports. “But I do,” said I. I love canoeing and camping and precision target rifle shooting. My students just didn’t consider these sports.


I do love music, and when I was younger I played guitar in a dance band, string bass in the school orchestra and tuba in the marching band. Mostly, I prefer classical music by the old masters. But I’m no slave to tunes. I listen to Pandora on my cellphone when I travel, but I’ not a guy who buys tunes. My wife, Susie, has a million (well, maybe 8,000) songs on her iPod and I can always borrow from her.


We just returned from canoeing (solo canoes) the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border. It was our third trip down this river. Regrettably, we had to cut it short because our longtime friend Darrell Foss had serious problems (several capsizes) in the rapids. There are some big ones on the RioG. Darrell has had Alzheimer’s for about five years now, but until this trip it was never a concern. Darrell has fought, and continues to fight, this condition hard (medication, mental exercises, etc.), but this year it advanced to where he could no longer canoe rapids.

Shortly after Darrell’s last capsize, we found a beautiful campsite in Santa Elena Canyon. We stayed two days, ate well, drank hot-buttered rum, took photographs, and shared the beauty and wonder of the canyon and our last canoe trip together. Yes, it was a long drive from Viking land to Texas. But we had a ball and we wouldn’t have missed it for a minute.

The end will eventually come to us all, so consider yourself lucky if your last trip will be with good friends who care deeply about you.