Devon to Edmonton by kayak

On July 16, 2008 we climbed Mt Fuji, Japan’s most famous peak. Yesterday, exactly ten years later to the day, we kayaked the North Saskatchewan River from Devon, Alberta to Edmonton, which turned out to be a much easier challenge. Much easier, in fact, than we had expected it to be.

According to the Edmonton Canoe website which offers all day excursions, the 33.6 km paddle would take “five to six leisurely hours.” Maybe in canoe. Maybe if you just floated and didn’t paddle. Maybe, but not in our kayak!

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At exactly 10:00 AM, with the help of our daughter-in-law who dropped us off and delivered the vehicle to our end point, we launched the kayak at Devon’s Voyageur Park and headed down river. We usually paddle quite vigorously, but expecting this to be a longer trip than any we’d done before, we reminded ourselves to set a leisurely pace. After all, the river would do some of the work for us. In fact, even if we stopped paddling altogether, we’d eventually reach our destination!

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The day was perfect, hot and sunny with a gentle breeze to keep us comfortable. We aren’t white water kayakers. This stretch of the North Saskatchewan flows steadily, but there are no rapids to contend with. Though there was the occasional small eddy, for the most part the water was very calm. With few other boaters on the river, it was very peaceful and we spotted a couple of deer as well as a bald eagle, though not close enough to get pictures.

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An hour after setting off, we broke for a snack and drifted by the Blackhawk Golf Club on our left. Forty minutes later, we passed the Windermere Golf and Country Club on our right and one of the golfers hailed us with a hearty “Ahoy!” We’d been told that this course was located at approximately our half way point. Already? How could that be?

Sure enough, we’d been paddling less than two hours when the Anthony Henday bridge came into view and it was exactly noon when we passed under it! We hadn’t even stopped for lunch yet and we were already entering Edmonton!

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We found a spot along the riverbank of Terwillegar Park where we could pull ashore for lunch and a rest before finishing our journey.

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When we spotted two replica York boats at anchor we knew that we were passing Fort Edmonton. Imagine taking one of those all the way to Hudson Bay with a heavy load of furs!

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Around the next bend we saw the Whitemud bridge and knew that our destination, the Sir Wilfred Laurier Park boat launch, was just beyond it. We pulled the kayak out of the water at 2:00 PM. The anticipated 5 or 6 hour trip took us only 4. Considering the fact that we spent 45 minutes on shore over lunch, it wasn’t any longer and was actually an easier paddle than last week’s jaunt on the Battle River!

I’m sure that we’ll never climb Mt Fuji again, but I definitely want to do another trip on the North Saskatchewan! I’d like the next one to be longer though.

 

 

 

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#13 Haunted Lakes

Sometimes we travel long distances to see new sights when there are hidden gems right on our own doorsteps. Though they’re only about an hour and a half from home, I’d never heard of Haunted Lakes until I started looking for new places to golf and kayak.

According to legend, the natives of the plains had been in the habit of pitching their teepees on the eastern shore of the larger of the two small lakes. Once, in midwinter, seven braves camped there overnight and when they woke the next morning, they spotted the head and antlers of a magnificent buck that was caught in the ice on the other side of the lake. They hastened across the ice to claim their prize, but as soon as they started to chop the ice around the antlers, the mighty beast, still very much alive, broke free and smashing a passageway before him, swam straight to shore and disappeared into the woods. All seven braves were drowned and it is claimed that their spirits still haunt the lake. Supposedly, every winter when the lake is frozen over, a huge fissure appears along the exact path that the deer traveled to shore.

Not being even slightly superstitious, I thought it was pretty funny when I phoned ahead to reserve a camp spot and was told that we would be in site #13! It was actually the perfect spot for us as we were able to launch the kayak directly from our campsite.

I absolutely loved the picturesque Haunted Lakes golf course!

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Never before have I had to tee off with a freight train thundering overhead!

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After playing 18 holes our first day there, we kayaked the perimeter of the lake in the evening. Though it was bigger than it appeared from the campsite, it took just a little over an hour. Later, as we sat outside the trailer doing our devotions and enjoying the evening air, Richard glanced up and noticed what looked to him like the hand of God hovering over the water!

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Our first day at Haunted Lakes was so perfect that we  hoped to repeat it the next day, but after 16 holes of golf, we were driven off the course by thunder rumbling overhead and rain beginning to fall. We spent the remainder of the day hunkered down in the trailer listening to the rain on the roof and watching the wind churn up the lake. Considering how dry it’s been here in central Alberta, we weren’t terribly disappointed, but I look forward to returning again some day and hopefully enjoying more sunshine!

IMG_20180712_133842499_HDRSince this is supposed to be Fashion Friday, here’s a picture of me golfing on another course on our little trip. This is a typical golfing outfit for me. As long as the weather allows, I’ll be found on the course wearing shorts or a skort, a sleeveless golf shirt, a ball cap, and golf sandals. And yes, that’s a knee brace. According to one of my doctors, my knees are older than the rest of me! That’s a nice way of saying that they’re arthritic. I bought the brace mainly for hiking, but since 18 holes of golf (even with a cart) was beginning to cause discomfort, I decided to try it for golfing too and found it very comfortable.

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Strong arms at the ready?

I lift weights every winter to keep in shape, but this past winter I had a more specific goal to spur me on. I wanted to be able to paddle our kayak longer than I could last summer without feeling like my arms were going to fall off! In particular, I wanted to be able to do a five or six hour trip on the North Saskatchewan River this summer. I started lifting earlier in the fall than I usually do and I continued later into the spring. By the time I quit, just before my May 23 cancer treatment, I was lifting more than I had for several years!

No, we haven’t done that kayak trip yet, but over the past three days, I’ve tested out those arms and shoulders and I think I can do it! On Wednesday we played 18 holes of golf in our local seniors tournament. That’s not a big deal, but then on Thursday we paddled the kayak for more than three hours. Last year that would have been more than I could handle and I must admit that by the time we finished, my arms were sore. I went to bed that night wondering if I really could handle the long river trip, but when I woke up the soreness was gone and I golfed another 18 holes!

Thursday’s excursion took us back to the Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan  that meanders through central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. Starting at Big Knife Provincial Park, we paddled upstream for an hour an a half. The river moves slowly, so paddling against the flow isn’t as challenging as it might sound.

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Other than waterfowl, we didn’t see any wildlife, but we were both reminded of Psalm 50:10 when we saw the cows grazing on the grassy hills overlooking parts of the river. “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”

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Can you see the curious bovine faces peeking at us in this one?

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Holding the camera still enough in a moving kayak to get crisp photos with the zoom lens is virtually impossible, but I did manage to get this one of a very protective Mama duck and her offspring.

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We really weren’t very close, but she squawked and flapped about in quite a frenzy trying to warn us away from her lone duckling. I’m sure her poor heart was beating faster than any duck’s is meant to and I wished I could reassure her that we were no threat. As if scaring her once wasn’t enough, we met her again in exactly the same spot on our trip back down the river. This time Junior was hidden somewhere in the reeds, but once again she did her best to scare us away.

In spite of the fact that the Battle moves slowly, the trip downstream should have been a bit quicker, but we were bucking a stiff wind much of the way and it took a little longer than we expected. We were glad when the bright yellow buoy marking the location of the Big Knife boat launch came into view!

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There will be more kayaking and more golf before we tackle the North Saskatchewan, but campgrounds with decent wifi are few and far between, so it might be a little while before I can post again. Even this one took hours to put together!

 

Kayaking northern Canada’s lakes

I’m so glad we bought our kayak before embarking on this trip! Northern Canada has thousands of gorgeous lakes, many of them easily accessible by road.

Twin Lakes, Yukon

As we drove the Klondike Highway from Whitehorse to Dawson City, we followed the shoreline of Fox Lake for several kilometres. Noting that there was a government campground near the northern end of the lake, we determined to stop there on our way back. When we mentioned that plan to our brother-in-law, Grant, who has spent most of his life living in the Yukon, he suggested that we try the smaller Twin Lakes instead. It was excellent advice!

Smaller than Fox Lake, the western Twin, where we camped and paddled until I thought my arms were going to fall off, was so much fun to explore. As you can see in the view from the campground, there were many little islands to paddle around and hidden bays to discover.

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As we approached one of the little bays, I heard an enormous splash. We stopped and listened. A second splash followed, much too big to be a fish jumping. It had to be a beaver. Paddling ever so slowly and quietly toward the rippled water, we soon spotted a furry brown head just above the surface. Following at a distance, we watched the beaver until he used his flat tail to signal yet another warning and then slipped out of sight. Just around the next bend, we spotted his home.

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Boya Lake, BC

A few days later as we made our way down the Cassiar Highway in northern BC, we stopped to camp at Boya Lake Provincial Park. We lucked out, snagging the most beautiful site in the campground right on the lake front.

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Again, paddling this lake was every bit as interesting as Twin Lakes had been. Though we didn’t hear any loud splashes this time, we did spot another beaver. The colours of the crystal clear water, quite shallow in places, was absolutely beautiful!

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It was the ever changing view from our campsite that was most mesmerizing though. As evening settled in, the water became dead calm and the reflections amazing! I was constantly jumping up to take another photo! Here are just a couple of my favourites.

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If you decide to travel to the Yukon or northern BC and don’t mind camping without any services, I highly recommend government campgrounds. Located in beautiful spots like Twin Lakes and Boya Lake, they offer spacious treed sites and are meticulously maintained. At just $12/night, the Yukon campgrounds are a steal of a deal. BC parks aren’t far behind at only $20/night.

Paddling the Battle

Our new kayak’s maiden voyage on Sedgewick Lake yesterday afternoon just whetted our appetite for a longer paddle today. The Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan, meanders its way across central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. We headed for Burma Park, a small campground on the river about a 40 minute drive from here. The park itself is located on the south side of the river where the bank is too steep and unstable to access the water, but we found a perfect spot just across the river on the north side.

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We spent an hour paddling upstream enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the breeze which kept the mosquitos away. The only sound was our paddles in the water and an occasional bird call. Paddling steadily against the river’s flow, I was very thankful for the weights I lifted all winter!

When we decided it was time to turn back, we lifted our paddles out of the water, leaned back and let the river carry us for ten minutes while we enjoyed a snack and simply enjoyed the solitude. After that it was only fifteen minutes of easy paddling before the vehicle came into sight again.

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Though much of our kayaking will probably be done further from home when we’re on holiday, I also foresee many more hours paddling the Battle in our future.

Maiden voyage!

Well there she is; our brand new toy!

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After debating whether to buy two individual kayaks or a tandem, we decided on the two person variety for a couple of important reasons. The first one is ease of transport. It’s much simpler to strap one kayak to a roof rack than two and easier to carry one boat to water than two. Secondly, with a tandem kayak, one of us can take a grandchild out and introduce them to the sport. It also doesn’t hurt my feelings any to have the stronger paddler of the two of us in the boat with me instead of in a separate one!

Once we’d made that important decision, it was time to go shopping. The field was instantly narrowed significantly as tandem kayaks are much less common than single seaters. We first considered the Pelican Alliance 136T, available at Canadian Tire, but I wasn’t overly impressed. It was the plastic molded seats that concerned me the most. I didn’t think my bony butt would find that very comfortable especially on longer trips. We took a quick look at a sleek, shiny model at MEC, but it looked like the Lamborghini of the kayak world and was way beyond our price range. Then we saw the Pelican Unison 136T at Atmosphere and it was exactly what we wanted!

It’s made of RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene and is built to provide a high level of stability and great manoeuvrability and tracking. It’s an excellent recreational kayak that is also built for comfort. In addition to padded seats and seat backs, it also has adjustable footrests. For longer outings, it has plenty of space for gear including a quick lock hatch with a 60 L storage bag, a cockpit table with a 4 inch day hatch (perfect for carrying cell phones and other small items), bottle holders, and a bungee cord on the bow to carry extra belongings. At 67.4 lb, Richard and I can carry it and load it onto the vehicle quite easily.

We brought it home yesterday and took it for it’s maiden voyage this afternoon, a spin around the perimeter of Sedgewick Lake. It handled beautifully.

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Now the only question on beautiful days like today will be do we go golfing or kayaking? Today, we managed to do both!

On Sedgewick pond

Weather-wise, this might have been the nicest May long weekend in almost forever. The weekend, a Canadian holiday in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday, is the unofficial start of camping season. It’s often cold and rainy, but not this year. After playing a round of golf this afternoon, Richard and I headed out to Sedgewick Lake to try out the little kayak that we’re borrowing from our youngest son.

We used to own a canoe; a big, cumbersome and heavy canoe. A canoe that was perfect for a growing young family, but not for an older retired couple. It went to Vancouver with us last September when we took the Beatrice home and it now resides with our older son and his family. We want to replace it with a kayak, or maybe two. That’s why we’ve borrowed Nate’s little Escapade, to help us decide what we want before we go shopping.

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Sedgewick Lake, just 2 km north of our wee Alberta town, isn’t much more than a big pond, but it was an easy spot to get out on the water and take the kayak for a spin. The immediate and obvious advantage over our old canoe was the ease with which we could load it onto our SUV. In fact, Richard could easily do it by himself. Carrying the kayak from the parking lot down to the water was also simple. Again, Richard could have carried it by himself and, in fact, I might also be able to, but it was much easier for the two of us to simply grab the toggles on each end and carry it between us.

Since Nate’s is a single person kayak, we had to take turns today, but we love being out on the water together so our big decision is whether to buy two small kayaks or a tandem one that will carry both of us.

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We are not, and will never be, whitewater kayakers. I love peacefully gliding over quiet waters. Today, I as I paddled through the reeds near the water’s edge I watched red-winged blackbirds and stirred up a pair of Canada geese who seemed to think that they owned the lake. Protesting my presence, they flew out to the middle of the lake where they continued to honk their displeasure at being disturbed. They didn’t let me get anywhere near them, but I was able to paddle closer to the loons before they dipped below the water and came up somewhere else. Unfortunately, I haven’t perfected the art of keeping the kayak still enough to take good photos with the zoom lens. My bird photos all turned out blurry, but that’s okay. If the good weather holds, we’re probably going to go out again tomorrow! Maybe I’ll have better luck then.