Friends from Germany Join us in July
Two different groups of friends from Germany paddled with us and it was a blast!
Sandra and Marco Zabel joined us for a couple of weeks at the beginning of July. They got to experience the flooding on the Assiniboine R. and the large numbers of mosquitoes that seem to especially favour foreign blood. Setting up the bug tent became a necessary evening ritual. They developed a specific set of canoeing skills during our flood adventures through the fields and trees. Who knew to expect small rapids when the river was flowing over dykes!
Sascha Tueck and Sebastian Burdack joined us for a week in mid-July. Sascha has paddled with us before on the South Saskatchewan R. in Alberta. This was Sebastian’s first paddling trip. They got the benefit of fewer bugs, but paddled through some really intense heat. We averaged a speed of 9-10 km/hr on the swollen river.
Flooding on the Assiniboine R.
Once again, it has been a difficult summer for farmers along the Assiniboine R. in Manitoba. We had heard some information on the news, but seeing it firsthand really helped us understand the impact of the flooding on both the farmers and the landscape. There were times we paddled directly through fields because the river was flowing straight across the oxbows (bends). This often means we were weaving our way throw openings in the trees to find our way back to the main channel.
The water level was so high that we had to be wary of approaching bridges. In the picture below, we just managed to get underneath the bridge by crouching into the bottom of the canoe. We actually had to portage around a bridge further downstream because we couldn’t fit underneath it. Imagine!
At night we tie Taq to the corner loop of our tent where he has access to the cover of the vestibule while allowing him the ability to alert us if any animals come into camp. We have tried a Eureka tent this year, as Sierra Designs have discontinued the model of tent with the optimal vestibule fly on it.
A feral cat decided to climb a tree next to us one night. Taq’s over-enthusiastic lunge at it actually tore a corner completely off the Eureka tent. Geoff could stick his arm out the gaping hole left behind. This had never happened in the 4 years we used Sierra Designs…
Taq is almost 7 years old. It seems that as he ages, he is less able to handle the heat. We tried to get him swimming in the water as much as possible, however, it takes a lot of coaxing these days. We are grateful to Dave and Sharra Hinton for letting him sprawl on the cool floor of their basement in Winnipeg for a couple of weeks during the heat of the summer. This is the first time he’s missed part of the trip.
Pregnant Pam got Poison Ivy
Yes – we know what poison ivy looks like, however, Taq does not. Our theory is that he may have rubbed the plant on one of his many tours through the bush around camp and inadvertently transferred the oils to Geoff and I. We are very thankful that Jude didn’t get it. Geoff had a couple of itchy spots on his body that cleared up eventually. I had a severe reaction to it that went systemic throughout my body – swollen joints, headache, some nausea, with patches of poison ivy showing up on different parts of my body daily. At one point it had spread to over 50% of my body and I was scratching in my sleep. The picture taken above shows it in the early stage on my leg. It was spreading by the hour and nothing seemed to slow it down.
A doctor in the emergency room at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg finally helped get it under control by getting me into a dermatologist the next day. After a 10 day dose of medication, a cream, and daily cool oatmeal baths (thank you once again to Dave and Sharra Hinton), it finally subsided.
Jude took the summer in stride. He spent the majority of the time in the canoe lining up his cars and trucks. It was terribly exciting for him to see some of the abandoned vehicles along the river – he’d exclaim “cars don’t belong in the river!”
Sand continues to be his favourite medium to camp on, but somersaults in grass are a close second.
Bike Portage from the Red River to the Winnipeg River
In order to completely avoid Lake Winnipeg and the multiple dams on the lower Winnipeg River, we decided to portage the canoe from Lockport, MB on the Red River to Pointe du Bois on the Winnipeg River. David Hinton and Geoff rigged up a 2×4 hitch to hook the canoe to, then they attached a toddler seat to the back of the other bike for Jude to ride in.
Traffic on the highways was busy; we are grateful to Bob (Geoff’s Dad) for following us in the safety vehicle.
Wildlife Caught on Camera
This seems to have been the summer of the Great Blue Heron (picture in the next 2 shots). They are quite private and tend to be elusive once we get within range for a picture.
The red squirrel pictured last was a cheeky fellow who decided to help himself to food in the campground garbage can. Jude found this immensely entertaining.
We passed through many different landscapes this summer:
This summer we paddled the Qu’Appelle River, Assiniboine River, and the Winnipeg River. While the Qu’Appelle and Assiniboine Rivers pass through a great deal of farmland – clay banks are the norm with the odd gravel bars and sand beach; the Winnipeg River brought us back to the rocky Canadian Shield.
Where do we go from here?
Now that we have finally crossed Manitoba, we are turning our attention to choosing a route for our final season of paddling next year. Mini paddler #2 will be joining us in November of this year, so we will be planning our route from the French River, ON to the East coast accordingly. We will send out an update once we have combed the maps and decided on a plan for 2013.
Thank you for all of the wonderful e-mails and notes of support – we really appreciate them. We look forward to getting back out there next year. Have a great winter everyone!
- Dave & Sharra Hinton and family continue to help us a great deal on our quest to finally cross Manitoba. While resupplying and managing logistics, we’ve practically moved into their home. They have welcomed us with open arms – including our friends from Germany who paddled with us for 3+ weeks in July. Dave & Sharra found room for all of us amid a visit from their family at the same time – at one point there were 14 of us sleeping in their home. We had a blast! We greatly appreciate the hours of driving and logistics they did for us in addition to the countless delicious meals they shared with us. A big thank you for looking after Taq during the weeks of intense heat in July.
- During our bike portage from Lockport on the Red River to Pointe du Bois on the Winnipeg R., Geoff’s dad, Bob, was a huge help. He flew out from Ontario to drive the support vehicle and shuttle us to and from Dave and Sharra’s house in Winnipeg. Jude really enjoyed hanging out with his Grandpa in the Toyota.
- Thank you to Joel who stored our canoe at his farm while we picked up Marco and Sandra from Winnipeg.
- Tannis & Blake McFarlane-Kelly of Rocanville, SK, stored our Toyota and trailer on their farm while we paddled to Brandon, MB. They live in a beautiful spot next to the Qu’Appelle River.
- Bill gave us a ride in his Chevy truck from Tannis & Blake’s to the bridge where we launched our canoes.
- Aryn Bewer gave us permission to camp in his field along the Assiniboine R. He made everyone’s day by bringing us cold beer and gatorade after a scorching hot day of relentless sunshine. Jude was thrilled to ride in his truck for a tour of his farm.
- Gerry and Shirley Joynt didn’t miss a beat when we knocked on their door asking to fill up our water jugs; before we knew it, we were enjoying cold iced tea and learning a great deal about the effect of flooding on local farmers. They graciously allowed us to pitch our tents in the shade of their farmyard for the night – bringing us cold watermelon to snack on while we set-up. Delicious!
- Al & Ruth Nickel of Brandon, MB, have a beautiful yard that gradually meets the Assiniboine R. We are thankful they allowed us to store our gear and canoes in their yard. In addition, Ruth helped us call a taxi that would fit 5 of us, gear, and Taq! We enjoyed the refreshing drinks of water while we waited.
- The staff of Portage La Prairie General Hospital were very friendly and helpful. Even though he was busy and I wasn’t in for anything baby-related, I especially appreciated one of the nurses using the doppler to let me hear our baby’s heartbeat. It was a special moment and meant a lot.
- George Dayton of St. Francois Xavier, MB, allowed us to pitch our tents on his shady lawn. We were drawn to his place by his grassy boat launch that minimized dealing with slippery, wet, clay banks.
- Geoff’s Aunt, Mirleen Kittle, made us feel very welcome in her home along the Red River. We enjoyed delicious steaks, veggies, and plenty of cold drinks in addition to visiting with her children Tim, Bev, Terry and many of the interesting folks living in the neighbourhood. Jude enjoyed playing with Bev’s daughter, Toomi (sp?) who is close to his age.
- Thank you to Mirleen’s neighbour, Art, who let us use his dock to launch and store our canoe in his yard.
- MaryAnn and Jerry Grewinski stored our bikes and canoe at their house on our way to the Winnipeg R. Jude enjoyed the treats, playing with their toys, and petting their dogs.
- We are grateful to Chris Cooper for allowing us to park our Toyota and trailer at his cottage in Kenora, ON. It made the logistics of arriving in Kenora a great deal more manageable.
- Kyle Quinn helped us carry our packs and gear from the truck to the waterside.
- An unplanned stop at Pine Island Lodge on the Winnipeg R. turned out to be a lot of fun. We had a great visit with Tim Wood, “Smartie”, Dave Darsch, and Eric Beaudry. This visit provided something for everyone: a much-needed can of Raid for Taq to get the biting flies that were driving him crazy in the canoe, cold drinks (beer/coke), and cheesies, pretzels, and twizzlers for Jude.
- Doug Minor shared a cold beer with Geoff while sharing some of the history of his family island on the Winnipeg R.
- A thunderstorm loomed over us as we set to work on the final 4 km stretch to Kenora from Keewatin, ON. We were paddling hard when a cheer erupted from the deck of a house, high above the lake. We waved and continued on feeling boosted by the unexpected support. It was becoming clear that we weren’t going to be able to make it to Kenora before the storm hit. One of the lovely people who had cheered had run ahead to a dock around the corner to invite us to their house for dinner and a place to stay. We greatly enjoyed meeting Kim & Gord Sweeney, Tannis & Stewart, and Jody and Woody. Their invitation was perfectly timed, as the skies opened up soon after we’d unloaded the canoe on their dock. We watched the storm from the protection of a covered porch while feasting on ribs, salad, and homemade pie.