I did two separate day trips over the last couple of weeks. The first one was a day paddle at Islet Lake, one of my favourite local lakes noted for its bird population. There are many species of bird there, many that I have photographed and many that I can hear but cannot see. The Islet Lake paddle was the first paddle of the new season for me. I got out later than usual because I have been repairing the VJ to get her ready for the third section of my big river trip. Last year I managed to crack the hull and one bulkhead when I jammed the kayak onto the edge of the river ice to test the strength of the ice. I finally got the repairs completed just two week ago.
The Islet Lake paddle did not provide me with anything interesting to report. It was very windy and that prevented me from really spending quality time with my new kayaking tool, my Canon Rebel Xti 10.5 Meg digital camera. I saw few birds but in the wind-protected coves, I did manage to get off a few good images. I have not downloaded any of the images onto Flickr so I cannot post a link to the new images. When I get back from my big river trip, I will get that done. This particular paddle lasted 5-hrs. I doddled around on the lake rather than use it to test my winter-softened musculature: hence the long period on the lake.
Two days ago I headed out to the river for what I hoped would be a muscle-reviving upstream run. The water level of the river was higher than normal. Prolonged rain storms in and around the North Saskatchewan Watershed have caused the river to raise steadily. Just today the river rose 1.3 meters in just two hours. The increase in flow that naturally occurs with higher water levels meant that the upstream paddle would be a bit of a struggle. Add to that a noticeably weakened physical state and the use of a new paddle, an Aqua Bound graphite shafted-plastic bladed beast and I ended up with more than my body was capable of handing.
I was a little nervous during the launch. Ever since getting this incredibly expensive new-fangled super high tech hearing aid that is NOT suitable for high humidity environments I have worried how it would be affected by river paddling. Turns out that it isnít a problemÖat least not so far. This hearing aid provides me with a lot of incentive not to get myself into risky uncertain situations while using it on the water. The launch went well enough and the repairs to the VJ held up. I was hoping to test the hex-Boron Nitride coating on the gravely banks of the river. Unfortunately, the water level was so high that all I really had access to was soft mud: I didnít see the point of messing with that.
Once the current grabbed the VJ I was immediately engaged in a 3-Ĺ hr struggle to paddle up to the Fort Edmonton York Boat, which is normally anchored near the shoreline beside the fort. Turned out that the boat was in storage so when I got to where it should have been I turned and headed for the put-in point.
There were quite a few people fishing along the banks during that day. Interestingly enough, it seemed as though the fish were hanging around the centre of the river today. Just as I was veering toward the centre of the river, a fish leapt out of the water right in front of the bow. The fish was no more than a foot long and didnít appear to be dinner sized. Most of the time that I was paddling upstream, I noticed that I was experiencing unusual levels of back pain, especially to the left side of my lower back. Since I ended my home renovation business, I have not done anything to keep my body strong. I began to notice increasing levels of body aches over the last few months. About half way along the upstream struggle, I developed a pinpoint sting of pain in my lower back. That, of course, has got me worried that I may have a tough time during my estimated 900-1500-kms of river/lake paddling.
The seat I use with the VJ is the Waters Dancing tractor-style S&Gíer. It has rarely given me trouble and does have a two-layer ĹĒ closed-cell foam lining. I think I will bring along some kind of foam back support that I can jam in behind my lower back just to be safe. I have also booked a pre-trip visit to the chiropractor to be certain that I donít have any nasty misaligned vertebrae. Iím jusí gonna hafta stop slouchiní on my chair at work.
I did get the final dabs of artwork completed today on the VJ. She now sports a big red Canadian maple leaf on the foredeck. I also added a blue Quebecois fleur-de-lis and the Metis infinity symbol deliberately on top of the maple leaf. Canada was explored and developed primarily by les voyageurs et les metis and they therefore have earned top spot on the deck. I am most definitely making a political statement for all to see. I am Canadian but I am also Metis. Les Quebecois are always respectful to folks who show off the fleur-de-lis. Yep, these days I am tending toward being more political. I am just waiting for someone with political interests to tie into my symbolic choices. I could use a soft front bumper on the keel of the VJ.
Robert N Pruden