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.