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August 17-18

Introductory Kayak Class

On Saturday, Emma, Shannon, and Jenna met at my house at 9:00 ready to go paddling.  The clouds were looming, but they all sported excited smiles anyway.  I outfitted everyone into boats and gear.  They all seemed it hilarious that the colors of the PFD's, other accessories and the boats clashed outrageously.  Punchesakut Lake was our destination for the day. 

 

At the beginning of each lesson I usually get my students to tip the boat over and prove that they can successfully complete a wet exit.  The weather was slightly cool, and so was the response when I suggested it, so we skipped that part and went right into learning the strokes.  The morning went by fairly quickly and smoothly without any major events.  Even though I kept insisting that the boats are not designed to track in a straight line Emma seemed determined to prove me wrong.

We chowed down on lunch, normally I pack a rather healthful lunch....  Earlier after a soccer match the girls were headed off to the pub and I suggested that maybe a low cal alternative may be better.  The looks I got from that suggestion dictated the lunch I made of creamy cucumber pitas, peanut butter cookies, cheesecake, and chocolate cookies.  I did manage to seek in a carrot salad,  though I am not sure if they only ate the salad to be polite.   I think Emma kept looking in the cooler for a big red steak...

After lunch, we paddled down the lake to check out a marshy channel.  I like to use this section to help paddlers with their front stroke.  The sides of the channel are slimy and covered in swampy vegetation forcing the paddler to stay in the channel clear of any icky slime.  I suggested that one of the girls lead the way since it is a very unique experience going into what seems to be unchartered territory.  I let out too many suspicious giggles though, and they seemed quite skeptical at this prospect.  Reluctantly they agreed to take turns leading the group through the marsh.  I could hear them ask each other several times for confirmation, whether or not I was still accompanying them.  Everyone seemed able to keep themselves off the sides for the most part.  Halfway down the channel we came across a beaver dam.  The girls got a pre-mature lesson in boofing, a technique usually reserved for more advanced waterfalls.  Everyone managed to cross it without getting into the murky water.  We had it a little easier on the way back after Shannon plowed a path through the dam for everyone.

 

We headed back to the beach with plans for learning to roll.  With great timing the sun came out and made the water seem much more inviting, gone were those replies I received in the morning about entering the water.  We started with T-Rescues until Jenna neglected to rescue Shannon as her boat bounced off Shannon's during the rescue, we quickly got an unexpected demonstration of the wet exit.  Way to go Shannon!  The rolling lesson was quite successful considering the brief amount of time we spent on it.  Jenna developed into a rolling machine with Shannon and Emma getting quite close to completing one.

On Sunday Jenna and Shannon arrived again at 9:00.  More gear was brought out of the garage to accommodate the river session.  A few more comments were made about  the addition of more clashing colors, whoever though girls who work in the bush would care?  We headed out for the Gravelle Ferry Bridge up the Hydraulic Road.  This was the intended take-out.  I had planned to put in on the Beaver Mouth but upon I arriving I decided to carry on further up the Hydraulic Road.  Later we discovered this was a very good move on my part.  We parked and hauled the boats down a little skid road aligned with 3 metre tall Devil's Club.  I always promise a little adventure on my trips, you just never know if it will be on the water or not. 

 

 

The water was a beautiful green color, moving swiftly but gently.  We headed out, the girls had no trouble working with the fast currents.  They headed for every wave on the water, sometimes sideswiping each other trying to be the first on the wave.  Adding the other section gave them a good warm up for the infamous ledge drop that loomed on the river just after the Beaver Mouth.  By the time we got there they were in good form.  Both of them paddled right through the biggest waves without trouble but Shannon decided to get a better look at the boils after the wave train.  She exited her boat, was able to grab the back of mine just in time to do a barrel roll over a rock that was in her way.  Jenna pulled off a great paddle rescue.  Later we floated through a cool narrow canyon, where Shannon was able to rustle up some hooting and hollering from some local fishing boys. 

Jenna tried to live up to her reputation as a rolling machine, managing a roll out in the middle of the river with the most unusual technique that I have seen, quite amazing really.  Right after Shannon's third swim we approached the takeout and basked in the sun.      

 

 

 

May 18 - 19, 2002

Quesnel Lake Canoe Trip

Janice and I met on Friday night to organize the meals for the weekend.  We drove to Likely on Saturday morning.  Along the way I told Janice about Likely, how quiet and scenic the little town was.  When we arrived the main street was packed!  I had never seen things so busy and bustling.  There was a parade, fishing derby and a ball tournament.  We changed plans for our departure position and decided to drive north on the logging roads and head toward Abbot Creek Campground. 

We pulled up to the shore and started loading gear onto the beach.  We started examining the pile and wondered how we would be able cram all of it into the canoe and still have room left over to sit.  We managed to fit it all in the canoe, then we pushed off. 

The shores of Quesnel Lake are lined with beautiful pebble beaches.  Soon we passed a rocky island, we thought it may be fun to camp on the island, but we could not find a decent camping spot.  We continued on exploring the beaches, the bird life and incoming streams.  A pair of Merganser's played tag with us throughout the afternoon letting us get almost close enough for a picture each time, before flying off ahead of us.    

Later we found the perfect beach.  There were remnants of an old fire ring so we decided to have a fire later in the evening.   The beach was covered in perfectly shaped  rocks for skipping on the water.  We wandered down the beach after a Mexican Fiesta dinner and built our own little Inukshuks to mark our way home from the beach. 

The night was thankfully uneventful, as we both slept with bear spray close at hand.  The morning was gorgeous.  We had a wonderful pancake breakfast and then packed things up.  As we canoed back, we noticed a motor boat zooming towards, I told Janice not to look at him, keep paddling and look straight ahead.  We did not want to encourage any motorized boats.  Then when he reached us, it turned out it was a conservation officer.  So reluctantly we agreed to talk to him. 

The weather stayed nice, so nice that we both ended up with sun burnt cheeks, we were prepared for snow, hail, freezing temperatures, everything but sunshine.  We headed back to the beach with the car and had lunch.  It was a great end to a great weekend.   

 

 

June 23-24,  2001

On Saturday morning we packed a ton of gear into the vehicles and headed out for a special climbing trip in Terrace.  A Mother and Daughter Climbing Weekend.  We picked up the soon to be climbers in Smithers and headed to Terrace.  I even had my own Mother along to assist me.  All together we had three Mother and Daughter teams.  As usual the weather was terrible.  En route I told everyone that next time they would have to come to Quesnel to rock climb as we have much warmer and more reliable weather than stormy Northern British Columbia. 

When we arrived we pulled out the gear and practiced tying basic climbing knots on flat ground.  The weather was cool but we were surrounded by a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. 

Once everyone was comfortable on the flat ground we headed for the rocky trail.  We practiced a little more on the trail, before finally heading to the rock wall.  There was no hesitation when I asked for volunteers to come and help set up the anchors.  The daughters were all anxiously awaiting the descent on rappel.

With both my Mother and I belaying everyone was able to try many climbs.   The weather forecast was not very good for the Sunday, so I kept everyone on the rock until they could climb no more.  It paid off because once we returned to the camp site, it started to rain.  After the tents were set up and dinner was finished it was still raining.  We all agreed that the sound of rain on the tents is pleasant to fall asleep to in the evening. The next morning it was still raining, but everyone was exhausted from the previous climbs.  We had to cancel Sundays climbing but everyone was eager to come down to Quesnel next year and make it an annual event.   I think the new climbers were also eager to try out climbing were it is warm so they won't have to wear their winter jackets! 

 

 

June 2, 2001

It had been raining all week - actually  - all month and it was cold. Errin from Wild Chickadee Adventures was coming up to check out routes on the granite in Terrace BC for potential areas for her clients and Terrace is noted for cloudy, rainy days. For her it was a six hour drive without stops to my house in Telkwa. We then would drive a further two hours to Terrace. From there we would be travelling to Chist Creek first and then later that afternoon to Copper Mountain. So if it continued to pour and the rock was wet, our climbing would be interesting at best. Sadly soggy with lots of sliding at worst (if she could make me get out of the car).

The forecast was for cloudy and only 40% chance of showers so we braved it. We dragged ourselves out of bed at 6:00 am and were on the road shortly after. Bags of chips, cans of juice and the back seat of the car jammed with climbing gear and we were ready to go. We were well provisioned and happy to be on the road ready for adventure. The weather was holding so far. That is, until we were driving along the logging road to Chist Creek. Big pelting raindrops were descending. We were here now - should at least look at the routes. Fortunately the rain stopped. The clouds were still menacing but it wasn't raining.

We walked around the entire outcrop of rock. There were some bolts and hangers signifying various routes. The Terrace Climbing club utilizes the area so it can be busy on nice weekends. Nobody was here now.  Only the chalk handprints showing off the holds proved that people had been in the area. It reminded me of Anasazi pictographs I had seen in Arizona.

 We spent some time organizing ourselves, equipment and choosing the anchor spot. Eventually we were ready and did a climb. The route we picked had a nasty habit of not allowing the rope to hang straight.  After I had climbed up and onto a ledge, Errin pointed out that if I wanted to fall I would have a bit of a pendulum swing. We climbed up and down on this route a couple of times and then decided that we should try out Copper Mountain. I would love to go back to this area and try some of the other routes. They were graded 5.7 - 5.10. There were also some small overhangs low to the ground that would be fun to practice.

Errin wasn't sure where the rock routes were on Copper Mountain. By this time it was also 2:00 pm and time for lunch! So we made a diversion into Terrace. First stop was the Vahalla Pure store where the guys there gave us good directions and a little map to the "Candy Box". Next we stopped at Dom Diego and had two delicious lunches. The southwestern flavours made me think maybe I had been transported after all to Arizona. A look outside at the foreboding clouds and chilly June day made me remember that I was in northern BC. We were wearing fleece to climb in (jackets and mitts to belay).

The directions read: go up the big hill in Thornhill, turn at the pub, follow it to the golf course, park and walk until the power line then turn left for 3 power poles. Sounded easy. Easy, that is until we got to the golf course parking lot. We could see the power line way off in the distance. But the path to them led through the main links. We were going to be killed. We thought about wearing our helmets but it didn't appear too crowded on the fairways. We didn't look like your average golfer either.

Eventually we found our rocks right where we were told they would be. However, there was also a small road leading down to a gravel pit nestled in the residential area that would have saved us time and chance of being knocked senseless by golf balls. Did I mention the rifle range?

Anyway, there were some erratic boulders the size of small sheds scattered about that were obvious favourite spots for bouldering, decorated by handprints and graffiti. There were also some very rustic campspots surrounding the boulders. Cedars protected the campsites.

We climbed up to the ledges where there were some bolted routes. We quickly threw some anchors on and rapped down. This area is very sheltered from wind and rain. The clouds were still swirling around and it was a hurricane on top but it wasn't raining. There was a lot of drainage seeping through the rock. It was wet enough to make some of the first steps challenging.

The climbing here was really fun. There was a lot of variation to practice techniques and the routes are not very hard. The rating was 5.6 - 5.8 as you work along the wall left to right. The routes are approximately 25 feet long - just high enough to feel like you have worked a route but low enough to try out different moves and feel completely comfortable. This was a no fear climbing area. Because the wall is protected by other rocks, the exposure is very limited. This makes climbing really enjoyable for a novice.

We stopped climbing at 9:00 pm. (love northern evenings). The sun was trying to shine, the wind had dropped and we just had to make it back through the golf course alive. But that would be another adventure.

 

March 2001

The message read: “ A bus will pick you up at the corner in Imbert at 8:45 am tomorrow.” I was standing in the Codetel office in Luperon, Dominican Republic, a “sleepy fishing village of  20,000 people.” (Lonely Planet). What corner? Wouldn’t Imbert have more than 1 corner? How do I know   which bus to take? Would the bus driver just recognize me and pull over? I had just finished a marathon sail on our 37’ CSY sloop to get to Luperon on time to meet up with Errin of Wild Chickadee Adventures to go for white water kayaking in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.

We had planned on doing this trip together for many months. Ted and I had sailed our boat from Florida; Errin and Graham flew in. Franz Lang of Franz Aventuras owned the Ranch and kayaks we will be using. Along with Errin, we also would have Dag as a river guide.

We decided that we would not worry about how we would get there or even if we would get there. After 3 months on the boat we were looking forward to do some exploring. We would eventually find Jarabacoa, the mountain town, where the Rafting Ranch was located. The mountains in this area rise to 11,400 feet and are famous for the waterfalls cascading down from the peaks. Franz’s Aventuras included rafting, canyoning, horseback riding as well as kayaking. 

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Our journey began the next morning. After finding a babysitter for Victoria, our sailboat, we piled our whitewater gear and tourist clothes in a couple of backpacks and were off. A friend came by at 6:30 am with his dinghy to take us from the boat to the wharf. We walked up the streets of Luperon to the square where all the gua guas hung out waiting for fares (minivans that act as a public bus. They usually leave Luperon every 20 minutes or so). After much hand waving, yelling in broken Spanish and English, and finally been herded along, we were squeezed in a car along with a few other people headed for Imbert. This was the gua gua for the day. 

The road to Imbert from Luperon is a twisty, curvy road dipping through various villages and through an agricultural landscape. The hills were limestone formations shaping the farming techniques. Primarily the fields were sugar cane but each village had a variety of livestock, vegetables and fruit. As we zipped by we saw one unfortunate pig meet his end on the side of the road to become BBQ pork for the day’s meals.

 When we arrived at Imbert, a Dominican fellow came by and told us to stand in a certain place and the bus will pick us up there. He had no other words of English so we couldn’t ask him any questions such as “how do you know where we are going?” However, this was truly the only corner of Imbert. There were buses (large greyhound types to smaller local conveyances), gua guas, cars, motorcycles (motor conchos – 10 pesos for a few kilometers of travel) and horses. We still felt trepidation as to what bus would pick us up. A bus stopped nearby at precisely 8:45 but all local people were jammed inside. This didn’t seem quite right. Sure enough, a big tourist type bus came along, stopped right in front of us and the driver waved us in. Tourists were packed inside all having a good time, guides were hanging out the door and pictures of rafting decorated the side of the bus. This must be it. 

Errin was waiting for us as we got off the bus at the Rancho. We sneaked in a lunch along with the tourist rafters and then quietly left to go don our gay apparel. The promise of a Grade 2 mostly float trip down a lazy tropical river sounded like a lot of fun to me. We loaded up the Toyota with boats and a rubber ducky for Ted (inflatable kayak). Freddy, an anthropologist from Missouri, was also coming along, as well as Graham and Dag. Graham, Errin, Dag and Franz had spent the week exploring many rivers in the area. Some were first descents. One was the  first and only descent as the river is already dammed and the reservoir ready to be filled.

The put in was just below one of the most popular waterfalls, Salto Jimenoa. Guards with machine guns patrolled the area but the river was clear and warmish (compared to northern BC rivers) and although there were a couple of boulders, everything looked serene. Except… I really couldn’t see where the river went after this nice pool. Boulders seemed to completely block the whole course of the river.

 “Mom, I think you should practise going through this small rapid first”, instructed Errin. I didn’t think I really wanted to. It looked a little challenging to get acclimatized with first thing. But as all good mothers do I finally relented and went. In which case, I got a better look at what was ahead. This really didn’t look like a class 2 float to me. However, with that said, the water was warm, low volume and the flow was slow. This enabled me, a novice kayaker, to really go through some bouldery sections with fairly steep gradients and have a lot of fun doing it.

 The trip down was challenging. I could never fully relax and I had to actually steer my kayak sharply around boulders, lean into boulders and do a lot of bracing. Various flat sections of the river had ladies washing clothes, a variety of farm animals getting a midday sip and lots of kids having fun. The kids would jump on the back of your kayak and propel you through the nearest rapid and then jump off. Ready or not you were going through! In retrospect, it was probably one of the parts I enjoyed the most. At the time it was seemed really scary.

 Eventually, we were almost to a take out spot. Freddie had to catch a plane in Santo Domingo about 4 hours away. Perhaps it was over confidence, perhaps I was getting tired, perhaps because I thought the end was near I relaxed my fear, probably all the factors combined but along came a little stretch of river that would be the hardest I had ever done and I wanted to run it. I had to ferry river right and make four very sharp turns in succession then go down a steep gradient that was pretty rocky. Ferried ok, turn 1, turn 2, turn 3, (Hey, I’m really kayaking!) turn 4 and I got squished up against a rock and before I could lean into it and pivot, I turned over. So upside down and backwards I was going through the rocky gradient. I waited for a bit, tried to turn up (my roll is nonexistent), I tried to bail, tried to heave myself up (no paddle by this time) caught a mouthful of air, felt some banging on various exposed body parts, grabbed another mouthful of air and thought “well there’s enough people here to give me AR when I finally surface – that is if someone rescues me” – but finally the spray skirt came off. The pool was deep, I lost the kayak and swam over to Ted’s rubber ducky. Hanging off the side of his boat, finally breathing, I looked around and wondered why everyone was wet and out of their boats.

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 Dag had tried to rescue me but turned over and because of the rocks, exited. Errin had tried to rescue Dag and did what I had done by flipping in the same spot after being pinned against the rock and was able to get out before too many rocks down. Graham had been photographing the carnage but decided that I was probably unconscious and a bleeding pulp by now, did a swan dive into the pool, grabbed the boat and righted it. (The timing must have coincided with the same moment I had been able to get the spray deck off). Only Ted was dry and laughing. Freddie looked aghast. But everyone was ok. I was worried about the amount of river water I had drank.

 Soon after, crawling through a viaduct with the boats and down some more gently rapids, Freddie and I got out. Dag, Errin, Ted and Graham continued on through a group of the more difficult rapids that lay ahead. Freddie and I drank a small bottle of rum together – to kill the germs of the river – hopped in Franz’s truck (with Franz driving) and had a lovely drive down to pick everyone else up.

 The end of the day was spent at Hotel California and later at Dag’s favorite restaurant where we rehashed the day’s adventure. The food was exquisite, cheap and the setting elegant. By this time my bruises and various aches and pains had made themselves known. I felt like a truck had run me over. But as Errin quotes her favourite paddler “ If you don’t feel like you’ve been paddling, you haven’t been paddling.” I had been paddling!

 But now I had a kayaking story to tell. I hadn’t died or even got maimed but had stretched my limits. I was eating wonderful food in an exotic location, had an interesting hotel room, was meeting fabulous people and was having a wonderful adventure. What else could I have wanted from a wild chickadee?

May 2, 2001

Lower Cottonwood River

    Wednesday was the first run I did this year on the Cottonwood.  Graham lost a rolling war in the pool, 2 hand rolls to each of my paddle rolls so he joined me.  We left the boats at the put in by the Miner's Cabin then parked the truck at the takeout close to Abau Creek.  We attempted to bike up to the put in though we walked the part with the steep switch backs to avoid any lactic acid build up.  I hid my bike in the bushes near the put in.  It seemed that I went to a lot more trouble to hide my bike then the spot we had left our boats on the river bank out in the open.  I reasoned with Graham that people may be attracted to shiny objects like a bike but anyone in their right would not be interested in dousing themselves in the river this early in the year.  The water was at a medium level, probably 1 on the gage.  The put in wave was fun as long as you could keep your hands out of the water.  I did not wear my new fleece lined rubber gloves because I forgot to stretch the gaskets out before hand.  After wearing the gloves for a few moments my hands would lose all their circulation.  What a choice I had, numb hands or numb hands.  After we completely used up the wave we heading down.  Graham was trying out his new boat its virgin river trip.  He quickly noticed that it was not like his old boat as a little hole gave him a bit of a spanking.  The look on his face after rolling up in the frigid water was plenty for me to decide that I was going to avoid the little hole.  The chute was a flush, though there were a few fun boils in the current below.  After the bridge we floated the rest of the way to the truck.  There were few eddies or waves because of the water level.  Overgrown branches and slumping trees were a bit of a hazard on river left for the remainder of the river so we stayed out in the middle channel.  The water level created a nice back eddy at the take out though it was not as deep as I thought when we both grounded on the mucky bottom.  We loaded the boats and headed to the put in to pick up the bikes.  I jumped out and collected some Red Osier Dogwood while Graham went to find the bikes. Then we headed home.         

 

May 12, 2001

We had a rather late start as we drove out to the Cariboo Mountains chomping on homemade pizza.  We were headed out to the head waters of the Bowron River.  It flows out of Bowron Lake, a part of the famous Bowron Lake Provincial Park.  We dropped off the truck at the take out which was also as far as the road goes.  We hopped on our bikes and headed back to the lake.  Earlier as we went by the put in we had stashed our boats under the bridge.  Finally geared up and ready to go, we eased into the water.  As soon as we were in the water, we had to get out, as there was a fallen  tree across the width of the river.  Little did we know, this was not the first time that we would have to crawl out of our boats.   The flow of the Bowron is medium in volume and quite slow as there is not much gradient.  Probably if there was more current some of the trees would get flushed out.  Someone cut several logs out last year, though newly fallen trees have disguised the effort.  After the first 4 kilometres we were able to remain in our boats.  Throughout the rest of the float we were visited by a pair of common mergansers and many Canadian Geese. Also we enjoyed the views of the snow capped Cariboo Mountains.  The whole trip only took three hours but once it started raining we paddled hard to escape it and forgot about enjoying the birds and the scenery.   Next time we planned to bring lunch out on the water with us and take our time floating down the river.    

 

May 14, 2001

Pantage Creek is a bird watchers dream come true.   We saw so many ducks that we could not identify them.  Pantage creek is a gentle meandering waterway that winds its way through marshy feilds and wetlands.  We spotted Kingfishers, magpies, eagles, hawks, ospreys, and warblers just to name some of the other birds we saw, aside from the countless ducks and geese.  Also we spotted 5 beaver lodges.  Halfway down the trip we heard very moud munching sounds.  When we came around the bend in the creek we were facing two moose.  Unconcerned with what we were up to they turned around and casually wandered back into the willows.  Along the banks geese were protecting their nests, hiding their heads down low, similar to an ostrich.  There were a few places where we had to portage around old dilapitated wagon bridges.  At the take out we gave some horses quite a scare.  They seemed quite curious as we floated past them.  Then we decided to portage around two fences.   When we set foot on dry  ground, the horses ran in a panic.  As we crawled under the fence to get by the second fence another set of horses fled in a hurry, one jumping a fence nearly 7 feet high!  The rancher came out to see what the comotion was all about but luckily was not upset with the chaos we had created.  We put our boats back into the water, but not for long, the take out was only 30 feet away.