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.

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