By 2013 I was approaching the limits of new places to explore within cycling distance of our home, mainly the Nose Creek watershed and Nose Hill park. I even made a few interesting discoveries on some urban cycling explorations such as a unique geodesic house in the midst of typical cookie-cutter homes in our neighborhood.
While I still enjoy revisiting these places often, I decided it was time to expand the concentric circle of exploration to another level. Which meant I needed to use the car on occasion to explore more cycling, hiking and paddling destinations. In this post I’ll highlight some paddling explorations in 2013.
After finally purchasing a canoe (17 ft Grumman – the “family station wagon”) in Fall of 2012, I was determined to explore some of the local waterways. I joined a local canoe club and immediately found myself practicing whitewater paddling strokes with a seasoned club member. I devoured books on paddling. I bargain hunted on Kijiji for used gear. My wife found high quality paddling shoes at bargain prices, a welcome upgrade from wool socks in sandals. I spent time practicing paddling strokes on a nearby irrigation canal and small pond.
Learning to navigate Class I rapids on the Bow River within the City limits was a good place to start.
But I soon discovered the challenge of learning whitewater paddling in a Grumman and a rotating cast of tandem partners. Getting out regularly with my wife without the kids was not realistic (did not want to be learning whitewater with kids in the boat). So I started looking for a solo whitewater boat.
I tried out several tandem and solo boats at the club house on the canal, including tandems: Esquif Prospecteur and Esquif Canyon; and solo boats: Dagger Ovation II and Esquif Zephyr. This gave me a sense of what to look for. We had a bit of a challenge handling the Canyon — and the Zephyr was brutal on my knees. Both boats were too advanced for us beginners, but fun to try out.
While we liked the Propecteur, we decided our Grumman would handle our tandem paddling needs for now. I liked the Dagger Ovation II, but wanted a larger boat with room to pack gear for short overnight trips. My criteria also included a boat light enough that I could load and unload on my own and a relatively stable boat good for a beginner on Class I to II whitewater but also reasonably OK on flatwater.
I lucked out when I quickly found the perfect used boat on Kijiji — a 14.5 ft long Mad River Freedom Solo with Royalex hull and outfitted with large flotation bags, see specs here. The dimensions were nearly identical to a Mohawk Odyssey, which was the boat recommended to me by a club member.
After briefly practicing my strokes and eddy turns with the new boat on the canal, I eagerly joined an out-of-town paddle on the Bow River with the club. Finally after so many long years my paddling dreams were coming to fruition. I was in paddling heaven!
Just before the water levels were too low I made it out on an evening paddle on Nose Creek with a club member. This was another long-time dream-come-true, as I cycled beside the creek on my daily commute, eagerly anticipating the day I would paddle it. I also made it out on another paddle on the Bow at higher water levels within City limits on the August long weekend, my first paddle on the Bow in town after the major 2013 flood (largest flood of this scale since 1930s).
Later in the summer I managed to organize my own trip with some family members on the Bow River through the Rockies. We initially considered hiring a guide, but I managed to find enough information to be confident to navigate it on my own.
Then, just when I thought I wouldn’t manage to get out on any more trips in this year, I managed to meet up with a paddling club from Edmonton to paddle the Bow through the mountains one more time (different reach than previous). I was hoping the fall colours would be out, but it was too early for that. Even so, it was a spectacular day.
Far beyond my initial expectations, I managed to fit in about a dozen practice sessions and day trip outings in 2013. Day trips were mostly on the Bow River plus one evening paddle on Nose Creek and a family outing with friend on Ghost Resevoir. The stars did not align for any overnight trips to happen, but I was more than happy with the explosion of paddling opportunities this year.