Who knows you might meet a girl that's on the make,

If you get out and circulate . . .

Norman Greenbaum

songwriter

We didn't think what we were doing was wrong.

The problem is that if you don't get going till after noon on a spring Sunday it's pretty hard to find some heart-stopping adventure in Washington. It was my partner's idea to shoot the raging wates of Rock Creek, swollen [WORD ILLEGIBLE] spring runoff and loaded with effluent from heaven knows what-all.

We loaded his fiberglass flatwater canoe on the roof rack and started up Rock Creek Parkway at the Kennedy Center. As we drove north we grew more and more optimistic.

"Good flow," we agreed as we swept by the Georgetown chute, Calvert Falls and the Zoo Riffles.

"Great scenery," we nodded as we noted comely lasses flitting and frolicking on the greening banks.

"Uh oh," we conceded when we hit the Tilden Street light and saw ahead the cascades of high water tumbling over the Peirce Mill dam. "Better think about a portage."

Portage is a dirty word to flatwater addicts, and besides, neither of us knew how to get the cumbersome thing on our heads in proper canoeist fashion. We settled on a Peirce Mill put-in.

We parked, hoisted the canoe off the roof and trundled it down on the steam's edge, looking grand and adventurous in hip waders and sunglasses. The park was full of happy spring celebrants who nodded admiringly as we walked past.

The creek looked a little less auspicious once we were in, and the issue of swamping soon was discarded. It was more a question of floating. We would not be needing our life jackets in the gray, ankle-deep water. Would we make it to the Potomac, and if so when? And why? And what then?

These and other searing questions were quickly forgotten as we pushed off into Peirce Mill Rapids and felt the bow of the fragile craft swing downstream and the stern scrape along the pebbles until it, too, was waterborne.

But briefly. We spent as much time poling off the sandy flats as we did paddling through the channels.

It was a whoop nonetheless as we ducked under footbridges, waved at the startled kiddies and even scared up a pair of fearless mallards, which took off in quacking fury five feet off the bow.

It didn't last. No more than a quarter-mile into our adventure we caught the eyes of a two Park Policemen on foot patrol.

They beckoned wearily. We scraped over to the bank.

"Hate to ruin your fun," said one, "but you can't canoe here."

"Why not?" we asked angrily.

"We don't make the rules, we just enforce them," said the bigger of the pair. "If you have any questions, call the office. But nobody is allowed in this water, in boats, on foot, wading, fishing or any other way."

So we pulled the canoe up the steep bank, sat it down and sat ourselves down in it to dully survey our sorry state.

It's then that we discovered it's not what you do but what you look like you do that counts. One by one the wonderful happy spring people brought their bicycles and dogs and kids to screeching halts and came over to find out what these wacky canoeists were doing.

"What are you doing?" they asked.

"We're sitting here on our canoe because the nasty policemen won't let us play in their smelly stream," we answered.

They oohed and aahed and consoled us and before we knew it they were taking our pictures and introducing us to their sisters. We met more girls in a half-hour than we had all winter.

Next weekend we're taking our canoe to the DuPont Circle fountain.