Our first spring paddling trip, and of course the excitement starts about three days before (when you have finally made your
decision on when and where you are going). First thing you do is check the
weather (of course it really does not matter), and then you change your winter sleeping bags
to your summer ones, get all your gear ( love doing this of course) out and
organized ready to go. Oh and of course the little one has organized her
menu for us for the weekend. Yummy!
Charge up our batteries, the cameras I mean, so
they are in order and ready for any wild life movies or pictures we might have
the opportunity to see. Check list always starts: paddles, PFD's, knee
pads, etc, etc., have we forgotten anything? Compass, maps, headlamps,
temperature gauge, matches, rain gear (just in case), tevas or hiking boots,
extra socks, of yeh tent, poles, stakes, yips am I forgetting anything?
We are off to Walkerton Ontario, our starting point
for our two day trip. A nice gentle way to get more rust out
from our winter layover. Our trip up the Credit just got us excited about
this trip. On our drive north we enjoy the country and the farm
communities and thoughts of how enjoyable it must be to live in these small
Our put-in in Walkerton is a small park beside the
Saugeen River; you can unload and then park your car there. We have done the
Saugeen a number of times and the car has been safe and sound when we got back
to it. The water in early spring can be very high; we are a bit late
(from ice break up) but the water is still high and moving fast (this means a
little paddling and a lot more steering). We load up and make sure the
Kicking Frog is balanced properly- it makes for easier paddling, I mean better
steering ya hoo!
Right away you feel like you are in the wilds of Ontario; we daydream and talk as we move in the fast current. And we know
we are only a kilometer or so away from the roads but to us it does not matter-
we are free and alone. We approach several sets of rapids, just enough of
a rush to make sure you have watched the "V" in the water (the right way to go
through) and also to have the canoe in the right position when going through the
rapids. Sideways does not work because the canoe can take on lots of water
and even turn over.
One turn in the river and the noise of Canada Geese
starts. The honking by each pair is loud and scary; you do not know what
they might do. We know they are nesting at this time of year, as most
birds do, so we are cautious not to get too close to disrupt them. The number of pairs of geese
is incredible, perhaps 50 pairs. We see many turkey vultures soaring in the wind, and I am sure eyeing us, in case we
make a bad
move through a set of rapids,-- but we fool them.
The best parts of our trips are enjoying the wildlife. A real treat
for the little one is all the kingfishers, and the one that surprises us
(actually scares us) is, as we paddle by the river bank Kathleen says,
"Watch a kingfisher will fly out of one of the holes". As soon
as she finishes saying this, one flies out right at us and then swerves
away. I have to check my undies after that. But what joy to see these,
as well as blue jays, pairs of mallards, bufflehead ducks, swallows, a lonely
cormorant, robins, a
huge ground hog sunning itself on a rock and a swiftly swimming muskrat. And of course a cow on the bank of the river staring at us like we
are a couple of--well who knows what, as we paddle by staring back at it.
We stop on a sandy bank, have some fluids and
treats, and enjoy the sun out of the wind. We contemplate our time, solve a few of the worlds problems and set off again for our camp site.
About 5 hours after our trip began, we arrive at the McBeath Conservation
Area. A great spot to stop and camp. A local group of
enthusiasts have donated their time and efforts to keep this area clean for
anyone who wants to enjoy it for an overnight stay or just for a day. We
Once in camp the little one sets up her kitchen, and
I say HER kitchen. Gets the stove going with some hot soup and hot
chocolate. A nice way to start your overnight when you are tired and just
getting off of the water. Of course I am busy setting up our sleeping
quarters. This is MY job. A little humour here of course, 'cause she
won't let me into HER kitchen.
Then something happens that always concerns
us. A group of kayakers, 6 boats-7 people arrive just after our set up and
snack. No spray skirts, all inexperienced, 4 of them their first time, all
of them are soaking wet from paddling with no protection from the spray of the
paddles. And 2 of them flip getting out of the boat while landing. Of course all of them
have cotton jeans and t-shirts on.
Cotton can be very dangerous in cold weather and wind- it takes a lot of body
heat and energy, plus a long time to dry the cold wet jeans. And of course the
temperature is falling quickly; it is 6:15, getting dark, 2 degrees C,
with a very
strong wind. Makes for scary thoughts about hypothermia, and dehydration
(no visible water bottles). Kathleen offers them hot chocolate and with
chattering teeth it is readily accepted with thanks. They move down from
us, light a fire and try to get as warm as they can in the short time they have
at the site. They say as they leave they are going to put out at Paisley,
which is another hour for them. We wish them good luck and safe
paddling. There is always a lesson in all that we experience- we hope they
have learned, because I know we certainly have from watching what had happened.
I hope the turkey vultures don't get another meal!
Another great evening with the little one, supper, a
little wine, desert, hot chocolate, nice fire, sharing your day's excitement and
having a wonderful conversation with the one you love. And let's not forget
the night's sound sleep that you just do not get in the city.
Breakfast comes early- blueberry pancakes, real maple syrup, crisp bacon,
great coffee, (my responsibility), breaking camp, loading up and
setting off for the last few kms. We arrive in Paisley all refreshed and
feeling good about our trip. We go to the local outfitters for a
shuttle ride back to the car. I usually hitch hike back but Kathleen said
to give something to the community; she is always right- the people were
courteous and friendly and we highly recommend a visit with them if your in the
Can hardly wait for our next adventure,
David and Kathleen