Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Xmas

Hi folks,

Well I haven't really kept this up to day lately. There we're a few great adventures this fall. In September a group of us from the canoe club paddled from the Berry Barn back to Saskatoon. We stopped on a sand bar along the way, made a fire and cooked something to eat. It was sunny and warm with very little wind. All in all a great autumn day!
For our annual Thanksgiving canoe trip we rented a 25 foot voyageur canoe and paddled on the Churchill river. It was a great way to travel even in a blizzard on the first day.
Now that there's a bit more snow we can start thinking about winter adventures. Skiing, snowshoeing and camping.

here's wishing you all a Merry Xmas and a happy new year.

The earth is a great place!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Here's a couple more pics

Here's just a few more photos from the whitewater weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More Whitewater photos

Well, here are some more photos from our whitewater weekend in August. All of these photos were taken by Graham Parsons.

Well, here are some more photos from our whitewater weekend in August. All of these photos were taken by Graham Parsons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whitewater weekend

On August 14th, 7 of us from the Saskatoon Canoe Club met in Missinipe. Mark, Ellen, Russ, Graham, Valery, Kathy and Anne Marie. The next morning we loaded our boats and pushed off from the Devil Lake boat launch. We had come to enjoy good friendship, hot sun, warm water and of course the rapids. We spent the next 4 days playing hard in the Barker lake area, spending a lot of time at Surf City, Carla's Rapid. For some it was an opportunity to learn new skills like side surfing and others honed and perfected the skills that they already had. A group of us had been in the area in '07 and the water level was maybe 6 to 8 inches higher this year. The days were extremely hot, reaching 30 degrees and in the evenings the humidity would rise. Everyone had fun in the water and swimming down Surf City was a popular pass time even if it wasn't always on purpose. The group rented an Esquif Vertige X from Churchill River Outfitters, which was fully outfitted with floatation bags, thigh straps and three saddles. It was great to have on hand for everyone to try out. I tried to roll it but the solo saddle wasn't set up for someone my height and so as soon as I was inverted under water I promptly fell out. On the second last night we decided to have a sauna. Valery had brought back, from Russia, a Russian Bania. After heating 7-9 rocks on the fire for 3-4 hours we erected the sauna, piled the rocks in the middle and dripped water over them to create the steam. The bania, which was designed specifically for camping worked great. It was pretty well air tight and didn't allow the heat to escape and kept out the cool drafts. After spending about 30-40 minutes inside the rocks had lost most of their heat and so it was time to jump in the lake. In Russia, it is tradition to have tea after a suana so we grabbed a mug of tea and floated around in the lake drinking tea. It's not easy trying to swim and keep your mug above water.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Missinipe in High Resolution

Google Earth has finally updated the Missinipe and Barker Lake area image. It is now in high resolution. it's not the best image and it's taken in early winter but it's in high res.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bear encounters

Here's my latest encounter on the wild side. This past summer while on my extended canoe trip, It was morning and I was in my camp packing and preparing to start my day of paddling when I heard some noise down at the waters edge. I grabbed my camera and a bear banger and sure enough there was a bear walking up the path. When he caught wind of me he took off into the woods about 25 yards and circled back in for another look. he walked straight towards me and stopped only 4 (about 12 feet) paces from me. I took some pics then said to the bear in a calm voice, "that's close enough, it's time for you to leave" and I shot off the bear banger. The bear took off like a shot and could be heard running through the forest like a cannon ball. After he was gone I started to shake from the adrenaline, I had never been that close to a wild bear before. I didn't at any time feel threatened. This experience is one that I will cherish for a long time. To meet a wild animal in his environment is truly a great experience. Everything was stripped away, all the walls that society has built between the wild and ourselves to keep us from really appreciating the natural world were gone. All that was left was just me and the bear.

Friday, June 13, 2008

2 more sleeps

It all comes down to this. A mountain of gear, waiting to be loaded into the canoe. All the planning and preparation has now come to an end, I'm packed and ready to hit the road tomorrow morning. Ellen is picking me up in the morning and we are going to drive to La Ronge and will spend the night in the Nut Point camp ground. I will push off Sunday morning, though I'm not sure what time. The food was the main concern in that I was worried that it wouldn't all fit into the two barrels. As it turns out, it all fit easily with a bit of space to spare. I learned a good deal from my last big trip in '06. This year, 95% of everything is dried goods or dehydrated. This really saves on space and some weight. Click here to see a sample menu.

Well, I hope everyone has a great summer on and off the water.

I look forward to seeing you all in September.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

4 Days!

4 days until I hit the water!

The last few days have been busy. I'd like to extend a special thanks to everyone that came out to my "See Ya Later" Party at O'shea's pub. It was a great time! The beers kept flowing and I think everyone had a good time. Thanks again.

I decided to make a semi-water resistant battery charger for my AA batteries. I used a small lexan pelican case and drilled a hole in the front cover to accomodate a 12 volt socket which I epoxied in place. On the inside I used a strip of self adhesive velcro to secure the charger in place so that it wouldn't rattle around in the case. The charger was wired to the 12 volt socket. This set up will allow me to run the extension cord from the solar panel, on the deck, threw the hatch zipper to the charger case which will be kept under the deck and hopefully it will stay dry.

I spent a good portion of the day today packaging down the mountain of food that is required for 70 days on the water. To keep the food items safe and dry I will store them in Eureka barrels. Each food item is also bagged in a plastic freezer bag (to keep it dry) then bagged again in a nylon sack to protect it from punctures. An example of my menu can be viewed on my website .

As usual I rented a satellite phone from Key Communications in Winnipeg. It arrived today on the bus. Now that I have the sat phone I was able to kit out my pelican case. this year instead of lugging 2 or more pelican cases accross the portage trails I decided to purchase a new case that would be big enough to contain most of the essential electronics. I bought a Pelican case model 1450. It will contain my camera, sat. phone, batteries, GPS, solar panel, mini tri-pod, filters for the camera and miscellaneous cords and wires.

I've been lucky enough this time around, I've had a good deal of media coverage, for this trip. On June 28th an article will run in the Saskatoon, Sunday Sun. On June 12th an article will run in the P.A. Herald and when I get to La Ronge on Saturday, I'll meet with the editor of the La Ronge Northerner for an interview. I'm not sure when this article will run. I'll also be heard on the air waves this summer on Blue Sky. CBC's Radio one's noon hour show.

Tuesday June 13th
Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday June 24th
Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday July 8th
Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday July 22nd
Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday August 5th
Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday August 19th
Between 12 - 1 pm

Friday, June 6, 2008

9 days!

Only 9 more days until the adventure begins. Yesterday evening I went to the pharmacy to stalk up my first aid kit. I bought antibiotics to control infections, T3's for more serious pain control, ibuprofen and acetaminophen for general aches and pains and some emla. Emla is a topical cream that will numb the skin. This will be used for emergencies where I have to sew myself back together. I also have sterile sutures, just in case. Oh yeah, and lots of bandages.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

15 days and counting

I can't believe it, only 15 days left until it's time to hit the water. This weekend I outfitted the boat with a spray deck that I made ,as well as a set of D-ring anchors and the chine bag that I made. I had thought more than once about making my own spray deck for the canoe and after a negative experience with a deck manufacturer I decided to give it a try. It was a huge learning curve but after some trial and error or many errors I finally came up with something that I was happy with. Because the canoe isn't a standard shape that meant that nothing on the deck would be a standard shape either. In the photo the skirting around the cockpit is rolled up and secured out of the way. I also added attachment points for my map case and solar panel, which I use to recharge my batteries while on extended canoe trips. A pocket was also added for a spare paddle.

Now that the boat and spray deck are finished I can turn my attention to the many small details I have yet to complete for the trip.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It is painted!

Just a brief update on the boat. It is now painted. Martin and I applied the paint on Saturday evening, the day before we left for the Torch River. I was hoping to paddle it on the Torch but the paint would not have been curred. This evening before I went to the boathouse I stopped by the boat shop and bolted in the seat and thwarts.

Martin brought it down to the boathouse and took it for a paddle in the wind. It got his approval. When I was finished with the orientation it was my turn to take it out on the water. The boat paddles very nice, it tracks well and turns fairly well for a 17 foot boat. It is also very stable.

Rain & Mud

Most people choose to go to a cabin or visit relatives on the May long weekend but not us. We choose to paddle all day in the rain, then spend the evening sitting around a mud hole and call it good fun. And that pretty much describes how this years annual canoe trip on the Torch River went.

On Sunday the day started nice with very little wind and overcast. People from all over came together on the banks of the river to enjoy a day of paddling on one of southern Saskatchewan's best kept secrets. The Torch River. The wet weather had washed out the road but luckily at this point the river was mere meters from the road. It should have been a sign of things to come when the rain started to come down the moment we got on. Many of use hadn't paddled this section of the river, known as the Northern Loop. We all laughed when Steve jokingly said that we had to be getting near the end because the rain was beginning to let up. And sure enough, the very moment we pulled our boats from the water it stopped raining.

The northern loop is a very picturesque area with lots of forest to make you feel like you are on a wilderness river. And I guess it is fairly remote because you can't get a cell phone signal here as we were to find out. Just at the tip of the loop three creeks join the torch. This area has some great rapids and high banks making for an interesting place to stop. If is wasn't so wet and a bit cold. Thanks Larry for bringing us to such a nice spot.
Some people even went for a bit of an unintentional swim.

The rain quit just long enough to get a camp set up and a few tarp put up to cook under, then it started to come down again. A few of the crew were only with us for the day and had to leave to go back to the city. With all the rain that day some were a bit concerned about the trail from the camp to the road. As Jay found out, driving through the mud hole at the beginning of the trail wasn't the best idea.
But after we pulled him out and he was on his way the rest of us settled in and made supper. Now the mud hole that jay was stuck in also happens to be very near and dear to our hearts. It is there every year and it just seems to be an inviting place to build our camp fire. Add to it the grassy area along the side for seating and you've got a great place to sit and spend the evening visiting.
Now we didn't know it at the time but the people that had left that evening had a hell of a time with the roads. One person (who will remain nameless) even got stuck again and reported to have pulled over 30 lbs of mud from the engine compartment of his van. It continued to rain all night and didn't quit until around 9:30 the next morning when Robin and I decided to take his big 4X4 and check out the roads. Well we knew it wasn't going to be the best of times when even the 4x4 almost didn't make it up the hill and almost slid into the ditch on a number of occasions. If Robins truck troubles there was no way the 2 wheel drive van was going to make it up the hill. This is when we tried to call for help and discovered that cell phones are useless in this area. The decision was made to stay put for a while to see if the sun would come out and dry up the roads. We could have walked to find a farmer with a tractor but as we would find out later, it would have been a long walk to the nearest farm. So again we made a fire in our favorite mud hole and sat around for most of the day waiting for the road to dry. The sun did eventually show itself but what really helped the situation was the wind that came up and finally, after some debate, at 3:30 we decided to try our luck and get out. The roads had dried enough to allow the van to pass but watching in the mirror, I could see the van fishtailing back and forth in the mud.

Even though the second day was a write off in terms of paddling I think most everyone still had a good time.

Paddling in the rain and sitting around the mud hole!

The to do list

Oh man! There's only 26 days until I leave for the Hudson bay and I've got a ton of stuff left to do.

1. Finish the Boat (it's pretty well done, I just have to put it together)
2. Finish the spraydeck for the boat
3. Continue dehydrating food
4. Arrange a place to ship my food parcel to in Leaf Rapids
5. Arrange a pick up when I get to the coast
6. Book my seat on the train back from Churchill
And the list goes on and on with a bunch of smaller items.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The countdown is on!

30 Days! It seems surreal that in a month I'll be leaving on my trip to the coast. All the money, effort and planning is starting to come together into what will be a great adventure. It is time to start preparing myself mentally and physically. This spring has been very busy and I haven't had the time to get on the water and paddle as much as I would have liked but I am going canoing this evening and hope to paddle on a regular basis until I leave. Mental preparation is far more important than physical. Even though there may be calm waters and the sun on my face it is still possible to be in a bad place if I'm constantly thinking about the loneliness. One of the ways that I prepare is to use visualization techniques. It is very easy to over romantisize the trip and to convince myself that it is going to be sunny and warm every day. I visualize myself paddling along the shoe, alone, or in camp under my tarp cooking a hot meal in the rain. Throughout the trip, controlling my fears and mind is key. On a wet and cold day, instead of just wanting to go home I take comfort in knowing that I will have a warm fire at the end of the day to boost my spirit or a warm and dry sleeping bag.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's time to paint

Well after a bit of a break from the boat building, actually I've been waiting for the paint to arrive. But I guess it's going to be another 4-5 weeks before it arrives so I'll just paint the hull red. Last night I lightly sanded the wood deck plates, gunwales, thwarts and seat and applied the first coat of varnish. I'll apply 3 more coats with a light sanding in between. Tonight I'll finish priming the inside and give it a coat of paint.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Close encounters of the K9 kind

My buddy and I were up in the Fort a la corne forest doing some hiking. I'm not sure what caught my attention but I turned in time to see out of the corner of my eye a white blur followed by 3 dark blurs coming through the forest towards Reg and I. At fist I thought it was a pack of coyotes making their way through to woods but it dawned on my that these animals were much too large to be coyotes. It was a pack of wolves coming in on us. The lead wolf was a magnificent looking animal with a thick white coat. If it weren't for his white coat I wouldn't have seen them coming because the darker ones simply looked like shadows moving through the forest. As they neared, they split up and started to surround us. I don't know which thought entered my head first, grab my knife or grab my camera. It was at that point that Reg and I started to shout at them. We shouted and took a few steps forward as a show of assertiveness. When the pack finally stopped, turned and retreated, they were only 4 yards from where were stood! 12 feet! But they didn't retreat far. Aside from the the four that came in on use there were 2 or 3 more in a small ravine maybe 100 yards from us. We could hear the two groups howling and yipping to one another. Reg happened to have his coyote call so we set up near a tree and tried to call them back in. We waited for a while but the light was fading and I didn't like the idea of making my way out in the dark with these very large animals in the area. It was an amazing encounter! I have never felt more privileged in the woods as I did on that day.

At no point did I feel afraid or threatened. There was no wind so they couldn't smell us. I think what happened was they heard us walking and thought we were deer. When they finally realized that we were not deer they retreated. It just occurred to me that there may have been some pups near buy and they were testing us / protecting the pups. Though I don't know when wolves give birth.

We also saw a small heard of elk, a bunch of ruffed grouse and some really big bear tracks in the mud. All in all it was a great day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lake Water Level II

Sunday was a great day, it was sunny, warm and only a slight breeze. It was a perfect day to take a Paddle Canada certified Lake Water Level II canoing course. There are 6 or 7 of us taking the course and almost double that many canoes. Bill Morris was there with his swift canoes, there was also an Esquif, Madriver and an Old Town which is nice because in an afternoon a person can paddle many different makes and models of boats.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just for you Bryan!

On April 25 the forecast for the following day called for 15 - 20 cm of snow and a discussion went back and forth all day, via email, weather to cancel the much anticipated canoe trip or to take our chances and go any way. Finally after much debate common sense prevailed. The next morning found me sweeping the snow and ice from the boat that I had loaded on the car the night before. Steve, Bryan, Jimmy and myself piled into Steve's van with two canoes on top and Jimmy's kayak wedge between him and I inside.
The view from the window as we passed through the Nesbitt Forest could have passed for an X-mas card. Snow lay on the ground and trees 12 inches deep and questions of our sanity started to surface. But Steve assured us that he had got up early and installed the snow tires on the van! We might get stuck in mud but we were at least ready for the snow.
When we arrived at the bridge over the Garden River we were surprised that the snow had completely disappeared and that the river was completely flooded! Even the fields were under water. At least there wasn't going to be a lack of water! Soon after we arrived at the put in Doug, a fellow from Prince Albert, arrived and after introductions he and Steve shuttled the vehicles to the take out. When they returned we got down to some serious paddling.
Doug and Jimmy would paddle their whitewater kayaks, Steve and Bryan would paddle Steve's prospector and I paddled a solo guide. I didn't know too much about this river. I knew it was small, even smaller than Eagle Creek and I had some concerns that it would be too tight for a 16 foot prospector. As it turned out, the river was about two boat lengths wide, perfect!
In the 5 or 6 km's from the bridge, where you put in, to the North Sask. River the Garden River drops over 90 feet! For those of you who paddle rivers will know that this can mean only one thing, a steep, fast river with lots of rapids and features. The Garden River certainly doesn't disappoint. The entire run is basically one long stretch of rapids with a few short, quiet sections to relax on. There are a bunch of waves for surfing, some large eddies to practice eddy turns and a ton of small eddies along the shoreline. In my opinion, this river is similar to the Torch river but much smaller. About half as wide and twice as steep. The rapids are similar however I would not recommend this river for novice paddlers. There are many bends in the river and around almost ever bend is a sweeper on the outside. Couple that with the swift current and a rooky paddler could easily find themselves in trouble. We paddled this river at flood levels so a lot of the rapids were washed out. The kayakers in the group would like to see the water higher and the canoeists would like to see it lower. At lower water this would a very technical river with literally hundreds of rocks to maneuver through.
We did have one mishap on the river. As I came around a bend I could see that, just ahead Bryan was standing in the water up to his waist next to the upturned boat. This struck me as a bit odd. Now I'm certainly no expert when it comes to paddling but I'm pretty sure that standing in ice cold water isn't what's meant when we say "run the river". When I pulled into the eddy behind them, after laughing my ass off I checked to make sure they were alright. Apparently they had the tilt wrong and when they entered the eddy, the eddy current caught the side of the boat and over they went. Now they will tell you that it was over quickly and gracefully but I'm pretty certain they held to the time honor tradition of grabbing the gunwales. Hell even Bill Mason did it! After they emptied their boat and some good natured ribbing we were on our way.
The rest of the day went without incident. Along the lower sections there are some pretty bony rapids that I sure wouldn't want to tip in! Some of the waves were large and came in over the gunwales, landing in my lap! Luckily the sun had come out and helped to keep us warm.

The take out is a very nice gravel beach on the North Sask. River. You end up paddling right out onto the big river, the beach is right at the mouth of the garden river. Over all I'd have to say that the Garden River is one of the nicest rivers we have in southern Sask. And possibly my new favorite.

I made a chine bag

It may seem as though I’ve forgotten about my blog but I asure you, I haven’t. My latest project is a chine bag. There are lots of times that I’ve wished that my binoculars were handier to get to than digging through a dry bag. Now I’m not sure where I’ve seen this idea before but a chine bag is a water resistant bag that attaches to the inside hull of the boat. For those of you that don’t know what a chine is. Where the side of the boat curves to meet the bottom. That curved area s known as the chine.
I started out by sewing a 2" strips of 18 oz. pvc coated nylon to either side of a YKK water proof zipper. I then used contact cement to bond the finished zipper assembly to the underside of a 22 X 17 " panel. I had cut out an 1/8 inch slot for the zipper to slide along. I then turned my attention to the ends. I wanted a neat finished end, something more than just flattening and bonding the two sides together.
From MDF I made a male and female form. Here you can see the pvc nylon was laid over the female form then heated with a heat gun to soften the material. I then pressed the male form in place. While pulling the material tight to avoid overlapping creases I stapled the fabric to the back side of the male form.
After the piece had cooled I applied a generous amount of contact cement to the outer edge of the piece. As well as the corresponding edge of the main body panel. After waiting 4 minutes I carefully pressed the two pieces together. Forming a nice rounded end.
After assembling the other end the same way I pulled out the staples and the wooden form, turned the whole thing inside out and trimmed the excess off. I then turned it right side out and glued the seam that closes off the back and seals the bag together. Buckles where attached and a anchor pad was created by sewing a piece of nylon webbing to a pvc circle. This anchor will be cemented to the inside of the hull to provide an attachment point for the bag.