Read on , Dale

Posted by Robert N Pruden on Sep 20, 2005

Your idea has been tried, tested and deemed effective sport. My variation involves water though but it works well on regular toboggan hills, too!

The following is an old trip report I posted at the Guillemot site years ago:

I had a tough time deciding where to paddle today. I originally thought about launching at Wabuman Lake, an hours drive west of Edmonton. As I was on my way out, I decided that I really didn't want to waste so much time driving out to the lake since we now get so few daylight hours. I made a stop at Tim's, picked up a coffee and apple fritter and drove off to find a launch site along the river. While I was driving around trying to make a decision I was thawing my neo-gloves out using the heating vents. I also realized that I forgot my neo-booties in the basement where I was keeping them clean and dry. There they remained while I wore my running shoes. Unfortunately, the running shoes made for a very tight fit in the cockpit.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would find myself at one of my usual put-in sites: Whitemud. That is the site where I performed my very interesting yakboggan launch last year. It is where I hope to introduce Ken Sutherland to the idea while he is in town next week.

There were a few people wandering the area as I drive in. Whitemud is a popular riverside park where you can easily launch a canoe or kayak, fish or simply hike along the many green miles of river valley. Two people were enjoying the view from their vehicle while another couple was slowly heading towards the trails. The trail-couple noticeably slowed their intentions when they saw me drive up. By the time they got to the trailhead I had the kayak down and they knew a launch was inevitable, so they lingered to watch me launch. They were in for a surprise, something I'm sure they've never seen before.

The river conditions were semi-clear with a lot of slushy pack ice in the main current. Air temperatures were at about -3 C with clear warmish sunny skies. It was a perfect day for a river paddle. I could have sworn a few times that I felt a warm summeresque air current sweep across the river. I revelled in those while I had them. On the sections of river sheltered from direct sunlight by tall evergreens it was noticeably cooler; that's where I pulled on the sheepskin hat with flaps down.

I dragged the VJ about half way down the hill towards the river and prepped her for the run. Not much to do here, just put the paddle together, don the spray skirt, gloves on, hatches tightened, carefully lower the duff onto the seat while holdign the VJ in place, verrrrrrry slowly and without sudden moves manipulate the spray skirt around the coaming, tuck it in tight on the sides then shove off carefully using the paddle to hold a steady course. As I passed the trailhead folks they were watching me. I called out that it was a beeyewtiful day for a snow launch, to which they heartily agreed, now understanding what I meant.

The VJ plowed down through the snow, not much left but enough, and skewered the icy bank at the waters edge. It jumped over the edge to dig deeply into the current before bobbing up and lurching sharply downstream. I leaned the VJ sharply to starboard to let the current slap against the hull without sweeping overtop of the decks. Once I could feel the entirety of the VJ in the water I leaned wildly to port and turned hard to aim the yak upstream. I had to make the turn quickly because any river ice colliding with the bow would drive it back downstream. The launch was successful, I was dry and the VJ was heading sunward. Yeah! Does it get any better? Well, yeah, it does, I could be paddling with Malcolm to Purto Rico. Oh well, at least I'm still out there doing what I'm doing.

The paddle upstream was very uneventful. The ice floe was variable ranging from slushy lilies to large thick slabs of ice that wouldn't break under the weight of the VJ. On this section of river, at this time of year, there is no one near the river. The trails on the southside of the river are not frequented by many people and the north banks are a hundred feet of loose slag that few will tread along. I did see quite a few beautiful ice formations. These were large loosely packed pin-cushion-like balls displaying elongated needle-like structures. They were weird structures that I have never seen before. I hd trouble imagining how they were able to form in hte manner they did. As I looked across the floating ice I could see millions of sparkles of sunshine reflecting off the varigated ice formations. They reminded me of the way bright light refracts and scatters through a high quality diamond. The river was quiet except for the hissing movements of ice against ice. I stopped paddling so I could focus my senses on the sights and sounds. I felt peace of mind and heart, floating with the current, not a worry to think about, I left those at home today.

After a time I paddled around and headed downstream. I shot overtop of large ice slabs with ease, power stroking just before the cockpit passed over the trailing edge and using a far reaching bow pull-stroke to yank the VJ off the leading edge of the ice. I basically motored along downstream until I reached my turn around point at the Groat Bridge, which is also at my usual put-in site, the Magpie Launch. I swerved around a bridge pylon and came to rest in its lee. Once the VJ was stationed against the pylon, I drank deeply of my water and idly looked around. In short order I entered the current and made my way upstream.

The upstream ride was more difficult as the ice was jamming against bottlenecks created by shore ice and ice stuck on gravel bars. I had to cross the main ice floe in order to get to open water. The ice was packed in fairly tightly so it was a rush to get through. I had to jam the paddle through the ice then make a hasty stroke in order to have something to pull against. That done, I reached the open water and paddled with more relaxed strokes as I enjoyed the scenery at shore.

Tall evergreens mixed with leafless aspen, birch, manitoba maple and others as the sun shone brightly through the trees. The sun was beginning to set and tinged the snow ladden trees with its reddened hues. The color variation ranged from whites to grays, browns to purples and the sun-draped reds of the waning evening. I saw no people strolling along the south bank but the north bank had its usual compliment of runners, walkers and lookie-loos. The northfolk are the ones that always seem to whip out their cameras to snap off a few when they see me. The northfolk are also the ones who have the best view of the entire river.

As I paddled in the area of the Mayfair Pedestrian bridge I noticed a very unusual ice formation that sat atop a sandbar I know well. It was in the shape of a sea turtle shell except that it had these weird spiked around the edges. It looked like some kind of prehistoric remanent of a gargantuan beak billed danger. The icy spikes formed as the water dripped off the top of the ice and disolved the edges in this weird way. Sadly, I forgot my digital camera in the car today so I couldn't take a picture of it. I know it will be gone next time I head out. The river is never the same once the ice forms.

Further upstream I hit the familiar waters of the rowing club. Their docks are now retracted high ashore. Huge ice formations as flat and smooth as a hockey rink have formed where the docks were. I had a really strong desire to crash the kayak through the ice but was running out of daylight so I left it for when Ken gets here. That should be fun.

Once past the rowing club locale I began paddling past the Laurier Park boat launch. There, sitting about six feet from the edge of the water, I spied three plastic grocery bags. They were obviously full of something. Remembering the body I found wrapped in plastic during my river trip, I decided to leave good enough alone and paddled along my way to the put-out, which was just a few hundred meters upstream.

Well, you know me, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I decided to check out the bags because they really were out of place where they were tossed. I figured that if they were body parts that some maniac murderer tried to be rid of then I should find them. *sigh* I steered the bow around, aimed it for the vicinity of the bags and gave four very sudden hard pulls to get up speed to ram the VJ upon the ice. She rammed the edge nicely, bobbed up and over before falling flat on very thick shore ice that was probably frozen to the ground. I palmed my way to the bags and prodded the first oen I came to. I felt heavy and I got this grossed out sinking feeling that my story was about to delve into the macabre. I pulled the open end of the bag toward my line of sight and peered into the cache.

MAJOR RELIEF! Remember two of my earlier trip reports where I reported on the Hindu death rituals being practiced using hte North Saskatchewan River? Well, I guess three Hindus must have died recently because all three bags contained the offerings Hindus toss into the river. I found a link that explains why the offerings are "fed" to the river, you should find this interesting.

With respect for the Hindus who tried to launch thier offerings into the river, I carefully grabbed each bag and tossed them into the main current of the open water, away from the floating ice. The bags floated away, one after the other just as I had tossed them in. Once done, I launched the VJ back into the water and made my way upstream to the put-out at Whitemud Park. Once I neared the spot where I yakbogganed down into the river, I aimed the bow at the same place and increased my stroke speed and power to ram the VJ through the floating ice and up and over the ice ledge back onto solid ground, or ice as it was to be found.

I was happy to be off the river but not happy to have to stop. I wanted more paddling but I was getting cold. It always seems that at a turn-around point I get suddenly colder and want to be off the water more quickly. My neo-gloves are thinner with wear and tear, so I know it isn't just my imagination causing me to feel colder but I'm willing to bet my mind is playing games with my body at some point. I suppose I have a little hypochondriac in me after all.

As I lugged the VJ up the hill to load her onto the car, a older lady hopped out of her car to ask me where I came from. She was watching the river but didn't see me paddle up. The hill blocked her view. She spoke of early memories of paddling kayaks that were hurtful to sit in. I suggested they were plastic tubs to which she nodded approval. She admired the beauty of the VJ's construction and I enjoyed myself while explaining how I build her. She noticed me shivering a little so she begged my pardon and let me get on with loading the VJ onto the car so I could get going. She said I made her day by stopping to chat with her about a sport she loves so much. Perfect way to end the day: making someone else happy. I left her with smiles as my own smiles stretched across my face while I climbed on top of the car to get the VJ tied down snug.

Time to get home to a hot shower and a home cooked meal. It's Sunday dinner today. Perfect!

Robert N Pruden

In Response to: Re: Winter Weather Coming by Dale in Michigan on Sep 19, 2005



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