It's important to remember what Hazel's Heroes and Hazel's Helper are all about. Many of you who have followed this blog from the beginning will know why I embark on these extended adventures but I will explain again for those who have recently started to follow my posts.
After my infant granddaughter, Hazel, died suddenly in her sleep her parents, Gill and Gareth, had to struggle through the trauma and grief caused by her death with no one who really understood. After suffering through a dark period and experiencing the lack of easily accessible and meaningful support that she needed, Gill decided to do something about it. She created Hazel's Heroes, an organisation to provide support to mothers who have lost an infant child and to raise awareness about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Sydrome) and SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death). She became active in SIDS Calgary (https://sidscalgary.ca) an organisation that is "committed to providing support to families, representing the interests of parents, educating healthcare professionals as well as the public, and raising funds for SIDS research." Gill also wanted to provide the support that she found lacking after Hazel died so she made it her goal to establish a retreat for mothers so that they could spend some time with others who shared a similar loss. With her focus and energy she has been able to fund and organize three successful retreats at a beautiful Kananaskis mountain resort.
"Whatever the circumstances of the death, or the age of their grandchild, grandparents often say the hardest part is observing the pain and intense grief of their son or daughter while feeling helpless, useless and impotent." (Child Bereavement UK) This observation was true for me when Hazel died. I didn't know what to provide or how to provide what Gareth and Gill needed as they struggled with their devastating loss. It was only when Gill started Hazel's Heroes that I realized how I could actively help to support her and at the same time find a way to work through my own grief. I decided to take action by becoming Hazel's Helper, a plan that would meet four goals: to help raise awareness about SIDS and SUID, to raise money to help Gill make her retreats a reality, to come to terms with Hazel's death, and to share my passion for outdoor adventure with Hazel. As a result I have been on an annual adventure with Hazel since 2017. This blog is intended to share with you the journeys that we have done and if you scroll down to the start in 2017 you can share them too.
The Bowron Lake Circuit
A scaleable version of this map is available at:
The Bowron Lake Circuit is a canoe/kayak route that I first attempted in 2012. I started my paddle at the end of May in a kayak that I had just bought and in which I had minimum experience. Once I was on Issac Lake, the long lake that runs from the northwest to the southeast, I was assaulted by winds blowing directly against me. At one point I was paddling hard and I looked at my GPS and my speed was zero. Not only that, but significant waves had developed which I was comfortable paddling through as long as I was close to shore but I was not confident that I could safely turn round and head back to a campsite to wait out the wind. As a result I kept paddling to the next campsite and eventually after camping a couple of times I reached the end of the lake. But I was exhausted so I had to ask the park rangers to get me out before I ventured past the end of the lake into an area where I would be putting myself at greater risk and help would be more difficult to get.
I don't like to fail so this year, 2019, I returned with a canoe and a companion, Keith Marsh.
Do you remember Johnathon, the dad with his family that I met on the river earlier? When we were paddling along we talked about my trip and how I had organized everything and I described how I had bought the canoe and how much it had cost and how I wanted to sell it after I had finished. Well, shortly afterwards he sent me an email and said he would like to buy the canoe. After some brief negotiations we agreed on a price and that he would collect the canoe once I had finished. Eventually I suggested he might like to pick it up at Teddington because that would much more convenient than driving across London to pick it up at Tony’s house. He agreed so here he is with me with the canoe loaded onto the roof of his Mercedes ready to drive back to his home. With the transfer of cash from his hand to my pocket the transaction was completed to everyone’s satisfaction. All that was left to do was enjoy a celebratory meal with Jenny’s UK family. From left to right – Christine, Tony’s wife; Nancy, Christine’s mother; me; Tony, Jenny’s brother; Christopher, Tony’s son and my fellow paddler; Richard, Tony’s younger son. So the trip was complete and it was time for me to return to Jasper.
After a good day of paddling we arrived at Teddington in the mid-afternoon. We went through the lock and turned up towards the weir where I knew there was a public boat launch. We unloaded the canoe and waited for Tony to arrive and meet with us so that we could put the equipment into his car.
This was an early morning. I got up at 6:00am and started to pack up as much of my gear as I could before going for breakfast at the food truck. I had to wait for some time because the two ladies were a little slow in getting out of bed. But it was worth the wait because I had a good breakfast and I bought two sandwiches for my lunch. I finished packing the canoe while I waited for Chris, our nephew, to arrive to join me on the trip from Chertsey to Teddington. He arrived just after 9:00am after a train trip from his flat in London. After he had finished his breakfast at the food trailer we set of on the last day of my River Thames adventure.
The most interesting part of this journey was passing by Hampton Court. Construction was originally started in 1515 for Cardinal Wolsey but in 1529 Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII to buy his way back into the king's grace. Additions and renovations were made by the Stuart kings and queens and half of the original buildings were lost in the renovations at the end of this period. Now it is protected as a Grade 1 listed building.
From the river you can only see the back of the palace, much like looking at the back garden - not very impressive.
With such a short distance to travel I arrived at the campsite with plenty of time to explore Chertsey. I started with lunch at the Bridge Hotel, a posh establishment with very mediocre food - a breakfast bagel and a glass of cider. From there I walked into the shopping area and explored a little. On my way back to the campground I came across a hair salon that was advertising a special for a haircut. I decided that, after so many days on the river, it would be nice to have my hair washed. So I went in and asked what it would cost to just have my hair washed. After much discussion and a call to their boss it was decided the young ladies could wash my hair for 5 pounds. That was fine with me so I relaxed in the chair while my hair wash washed - a pleasant interlude before I returned to my tent.
In the evening a food truck came to the campsite and offered meals to the campers. This was a regular occurrence so a permanent patio area was available to their customers. I ate my supper there and enjoyed a very good meal in the good company of some fellow campers.
This was my shortest day – just 1.5 miles. I had a lazy start with oatmeal for breakfast before starting on the river at 10:30am. I arrived at Chertsey lock around 1:00pm and paddled to the right bank below the lock and across the spillway from the weir. I could see the campsite at the top of the bank but I couldn’t see anywhere for me to tie up the canoe and have easy access to the campsite. So I tied the canoe next to the bank where there was a fallen tree with its trunk making a route up to the top of the bank. After struggling up to the top, fighting with stinging nettles, I was confronted by a fence around the camping field. I fought my way along the fence through more stinging nettles until I decided to climb over and find someone who could tell me where I should land my canoe. Of course, as soon as I was over the fence an employee came over and told me I should not have climbed over the fence. I explained my situation and he directed me to the backwater that gave easy access to the campground. The two pictures show the entrance to the backwater from the river and it leading up to the campsite at the end.
This was my longest day of paddling – I got on the river at 9:00am and paddled until 6:00pm covering a distance of 14.5 miles. Because I knew I had a long way to go I decided to eat my breakfast and lunch in the canoe as I paddled along. My delicious breakfast was four granola bars and my 5 star lunch was a can of cold baked beans and two slices of bread. I camped at Laleham Campsite which was across a road from the river bank which meant my canoe would not be secure from potential mischief. I solved this problem by hiding the canoe from sight in the rushes by the river bank. As you can see, I went by Windsor Castle on my way. I remembered from my youth that the castle was clearly visible across the meadows that you can see. I guess in 63 years the trees have grown up and my expected view was not there. Oh well, at least you can see some of the castle.
I stopped at this restaurant on the island by Boulters Lock and enjoyed a really good lunch in very posh surroundings. Good food. Good beer. Smoked salmon starter followed by a chicken burger. I tied up my canoe along the mooring you can see just in front of the restaurant. I camped at Amerden Campsite for the night and this was where I left my canoe. The campsite was a ¼ mile up the lane which started just past the end of the little hedge. The campsite owner provided me with a wagon to haul my equipment up to the campsite and then he came down to the river bank to help me pull the canoe up the bank to just behind the hedge to keep it out of sight.
I had another incident in this part of the river. River trips are very popular when you approach the London area and these tour boats are travelling up and down the river as you paddle along. I had stopped paddling to take a photograph and I drifted over to the middle of the river. A boat like this one came up behind me and gave me a blast on his horn to tell me to get out of the way. I should have been on the right side of the river and as he passed by me on my right the skipper let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of me. I reminded him that power vessels are expected to give way to non-power vessels but he let me know what he thought of that!
I'm a grandfather who lost an infant granddaughter and who wants to help Gillian, her mother, provide support for other grieving parents through Hazel's Heroes.