Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paddle Care

If you use a wooden Greenland style paddle, made either by yourself or someone else, do it a big favour and give it some care every now and then. What that means is giving it a light body rub with some fine sandpaper. Check its tips for cuticle repair. Again you can use sandpaper for this task. When you're done, do a final rub down with a cloth.

The next step is to apply body oil. In most cases this means tung oil. Some people have a favourite brand, but in my case I use whatever the local store carries. I use a cloth to liberally slop the oil on and rub it in a bit. The paddles then get to rest while the oil soaks in and dries. If it's been a while since you last did this, consider repeating the last few steps. Your paddle will love you for it!

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ottawa River Weekend

There's a sweet spot on the Ottawa River west of the city of Ottawa. It's a spot above Arnprior where the river narrows and divides into several channels and bays. The current and the wildlife conspire to make for some very pleasant paddling.

While there recently, even the weekend didn't produce many boaters. Mostly it was a few fishers and some locals heading out to some quiet spot, perhaps to a sandy beach or a quiet bay to spend the day. Geese were gathering and trying out their wings for the coming journey south. A baby black bear frolicked in the woods along the shore and then tried it's swimming skills in a current rip between two islands. A brilliant red flower in a secluded bay turned out to be a Cardinal Flower, poisonous it turns out from root to flower. Pretty all the same.

Sadly we had no money for refreshments in Portage, but the barman was kind. Cokes were on the house, but we declined his offer. It wasn't easy to finally head back to camp at the end of the day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lake Groton, Vermont

I had the chance today of paddling with a relatively new paddling group. It's called 'Sea Kayak Vermont!' and is slowly gaining more members as it becomes more well known. It's a low key, highly enthusiastic group of paddling folks who like to get out and explore some of the bigger and smaller lakes in Vermont. Today we had a look at Lake Groton located in the State Forest of the same name. We put in at Boulder Beach on the eastern shore, but there's also public access on the west side of the lake as well.

While it's definitely cottage country for large parts of the shore, there are some wilder sections, especially at the south end. There's a long stretch of shoreline cordoned off to allow the local loons to nest in seclusion. As if in return, they can be found everywhere on the lake often letting paddlers come up quite close to them, which is a rare treat on most lakes.

Just west of the dam at the south end is a little boulder strewn creek leading into a boggy area built by some beavers. Their dam is only about 10 inches high at the moment, but it has allowed a whole new area of marsh to exist behind it. They graciously constructed a turn-around pond just below the dam for us to retreat back out onto the main lake without having to back all the way out.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of Vermont's lakes in the coming months!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sandbanks Provincial Park, Ontario

On the recent holiday weekend some friends and I went to Sandbanks Provincial Park for a little paddle. Hoping for some serious surf action, I took along my paddling helmet. Well, it was dead calm, but at least warm and sunny. We paddled along the park beach, but the more interesting paddle turned out to the the little stream which connects East Lake to Lake Ontario.

The park end of the stream is full of wildlife including birds and turtles. I have paddled up to basking turtles many times, bu this was the first time one allowed me this close before sliding into the water. I got so close to the fellow in the photo that it allowed me give it a little pat on the back. It then grudgingly slid off the log and went into the water. I guess it wasn't happy with me ruining it's afternoon nap...

When we got down to the outlet of the stream, we suddenly ran out of water. The stream disappeared into the shoreline sandbar forcing us to exercise our portaging skills for a few meters. It appears the previous days of wave action had

Kayak Summer Warm-up

 Look to your right...
Look to your left...

Everywhere you look, paddlers are getting ready for another summer of paddling! Some are thinking about getting out evenings after work, some look forward to day paddles on the weekend and others are planning longer multi-day trips into the back-country.

No matter what your plans are, good paddlers are looking at their boats, their equipment and their skill levels. All need to be reviewed, checked and prepared to get the most out of the paddling days ahead.

To get ready, I went to Ontario Sea Kayak Center's Kayakpalooza last weekend. The event was the perfect way to warm-up and prepare by getting out on the water with some instructors who put us through a series of exercises to practice the safety aspects and the various other skills which together help us get the most out of the coming summer. Not only was the instruction well done, the chance to get together with a large group of like minded kayakers was a great kick-off to the season.

Happy, safe paddling everyone!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Paddling in Arizona

When many paddlers think of Arizona as a paddling destination, the only river that readily comes to mind is the mighty Colorado, yet there are other places which offer much. One such river is the Salt River Canyon below the Roosevelt Lake reservoir. This river is a popular destination for weekenders in the Phoenix area looking for something wet and cool on their time off. While I didn't paddle the river, I did check it out and will return some day to sample its offerings.

The upper parts nearest the dam feature smooth water between rounded hills of assorted desert plants and terrain (see the top photo). There are sandy beaches on which to camp and plenty of cliffs and so on to delight almost any paddler.

Now here's the thing. Getting to the dam can be a challenge. The 30 mile road into the mountains is un-paved and mostly single track. On a good day it's only mildly rutted and wash-boarded. On a bad day, I recommend stopping in Tortilla Flats, the end of the pavement and enjoying something cold at the bar. You won't be sorry you did. The place is really something else...

If you make it to the put-in, you'll really enjoy the paddle. As the river drops, the hills rise, in places dramatically with vertical cliff faces towering high above the water. The other good news is, as far as I know, there's no need to book ahead, no camping fees and none of the crowded conditions one faces on the Colorado. I can't wait...!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Voyage to the Pingualuit Crater

Have a look at the red line on the map above and imagine a fabulous canoe trip stretching across the wilderness of northern Quebec, Canada. While playing on Google Earth the other day I came across a series of photographs and realized that a group of adventurers must have made this trip in the past few years. Their goals were twofold, at the very least. First they appear to have wanted to cross the Ungava Peninsula as the area is called, and second, they wanted to do it on their own power. Lastly, they wanted to visit the large impact crater known as Pingualuit Crater. The photos reveal they succeeded! As it turns out, once leaving the Payne River, their starting point on the east coast, their route followed the Vachon River nearly to the Pingualuit area. After their visit, they found the Puvirnituq River and followed its wandering route to the village on the west coast of the same name.

I invite you to open Google Earth, check to see that 'photos' is enabled and then follow their path beginning in the east and then from photo to photo to see what a marvelous trip it must have been. My red line is an approximation of the route taken, but once you've begun following the photos up the Vachon River, you'll easily find the remaining photos which lead you the rest of the way. Follow their route, look at all the photos! You won't be disappointed!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Between Birds And A Hard Place

The ckayaker staff is back at work after a healthy holiday break. While there isn't a lot to report on the kayaking front given the almost total lack of open water at this time of year, there are some things of interest nonetheless. Here's an example...

In the photo above you'll notice a couple of Evening Grosbeaks. Not so many years ago, these birds were a common winter sight along roadsides and at household feeders around where I live. They would appear in flocks of twenty or more, males and females together and provide a dash of colour on the winter snow. Then a few years ago, they all but disappeared. Some years none were seen. Other years you might see two or three flit by and disappear almost as quickly as they had come.

This winter they're back. Not in the numbers of years gone by, but today, for example, there were perhaps a dozen or so in the trees around the feeder. They came and went all morning as they have done several times in late December and early January. Does it mean they've given up their wandering and returned for good?

Sadly, no. We've just got lucky. Over all their numbers are far fewer today than in the past. I've heard a variety of suggestions about why this is so, but I don't think the definitive answer is in. Whatever the reason, it doesn't paint a healthy picture. The environment is changing and squeezing these lovely birds into a hard place where their existence is threatened. I wish it wasn't so.