Ladybirds & Hazel
The third of my goals was spending time alone and sharing my passion for outdoor adventures with the three granddaughters that I have lost too early. I have to admit that as I negotiated the river and the campsites I didn't have much opportunity to think of anything other than the task at hand. One exception to this occurred during the day that I spent waiting for the wind and rain to abate so that I could safely continue on my way down the river. As I sat on the pail that I used as a seat while I cooked my supper a ladybird appeared close to my foot and slowly travelled towards the edge of my tent where it disappeared into the grass. If you look closely at the Hazel's Heroes logo below you will begin to see the significance of the ladybird appearing when I was probably at the lowest point of my physical and emotional energy.
The ladybird flying across the top of the logo was not a graphic randomly chosen to add to the interest of the design. The ladybird is there because Hazel's mum, Gill, feels that when a ladybird arrives in her presence it is a sign that Hazel is there with her. In my case the arrival of the ladybird gave me comfort although I was not sure why. Later, when I thought about my ladybird, I felt a sense of frustration because I felt I should understand the significance of the ladybird's visit but I didn't. Now when I look back at the events that followed it make this cynical, old man think that Hazel was with me and was letting me know that everything was going to work out. That same evening the Alberta Fish & Wildlife boat came by and the two officers chatted with me and gave me advice about the next stretch of the river. Then, the next morning, as I packed up my tent I discovered one section of a tent pole had cracked and the tent could not be depended upon for future use.
That day when I found that a possible boat ramp was not useable because the bank had been eroded leaving a steep, 2m vertical bank to the vehicle access above and when I had paddled further downstream to find a campsite, Marc, one of the Fish & Wildlife officers, and an RCMP officer walked in to where I was camped to check up on me. They confirmed what I had been told by the people fishing at the unusable boat ramp that there was a suitable place to get off the river and load the canoe on the van and the equipment in the van at Metis Crossing only a short distance away. The final paddle to Metis Crossing was short and made even easier by perfect paddling weather and a steady wind coming from behind helping me along. Added to this Andrew, the friend who had volunteered to pick me up, had left Jasper at 11:00am while I was still on the river assuming I would be waiting for him when he arrived. When I reached Metis Crossing I was fortunate to arrive at just the right time to meet a staff member who provided me with access to their cultural centre and a welcome supply of food and drink.
Were all of these events just coincidences? Probably, but I think Hazel was close by with the ladybird and she was trying to tell me that everything would be OK and it was alright for me to accept that I should end my adventure at Metis Crossing.
As you can see from the title for this post the success of my goal to raise donations for the organizations that support mothers who have lost infant children is questionable. In my naivety I thought the enormity of the challenge that I had set myself as a 78 year old would attract a large following, perhaps even going viral. It seems that didn't happen. The result has been a trickle of donations that were received and linked to Hazel's Heroes. Perhaps more donations are on the way from people who are still following this blog. If I were to set a dollar value for the goal I would like to achieve it would be $100.000 and, at the moment, it seems donations so far have reached approximately 1% of that goal. So, with the optimism of an old fool, I will provide the information giving instructions for how to donate and hope that 99,000 donors will all donate $1.00 to either Hazel's Heroes or the Lullaby Trust.
Donating from Canada and the UK
Donations to either Hazel's Heroes or SIDS Calgary can be made in several ways.
Donations for the UK
For those who have no connection to my family or to Canada I have arranged a connection with The Lullaby Trust, an organization whose purpose is:
For those who wanted to gamble and donate an amount for every kilometre that I travelled, an independent source, Mike Donnelly, measured the distance as 422.6km. More about Mike when I post a review of all aspects of my North Saskatchewan River travels.
Success and Failure
When I decided to do this trip I had four goals that I wanted to achieve:
Added to the TV interviews there were articles in both of the two local Jasper newspapers. The independent paper, The Local, reported my efforts in three articles; one before I started, another while I was on the river and a final summary once I was back in Jasper. You can read all three of these articles by clicking on the image below and you will be taken to the Local website where digital copies of the newspaper and recent articles are available.
All of this exposure through the media and the fact that two mothers reached out to Gill after becoming aware of her society gives me the feeling that I succeeded in achieving my goal of raising awareness about the issues surrounding the loss of a baby.
That's enough for this post. My next posts will look at my other goals to see if I feel I was successful or not. Stay tuned for my assessment of my fund raising goal.
Day Eighteen - Return Home
While I was paddling down to Metis Crossing Jenny contacted Andrew, our friend, and told him that I should be arriving at the Crossing sometime in the early afternoon. She told him that there was no guarantee that I would reach my proposed destination that day and he could wait until the next day to pick me up but he insisted on leaving right away. As it turned out his decision was the right one because he arrived at the cultural centre around 4:00pm. As I had arrived at 2:00pm I spent 2 hours either inside the Cultural Gathering Centre or out on the deck in front relaxing and eating and drinking the food I had been given. When Andrew arrived we were able to drive the van down to the river side to within 15m of where I had pulled the canoe up onto the shore. Between the two of us we carried all of my gear up from the canoe to just behind the van and then we loaded it into the van with our only concern being that it should all fit. Finally we carried the canoe up the bank and loaded it onto the roof rack and then at around 6:00pm we set off on the drive back to Jasper. We arrived back in Jasper at 1:00am and I was safely home.
Andrew left Jasper at 11:00am on his mission to pick me up. He drove both ways and after approximately 10 hours of driving and 14 hours in total he successfully got me home. I have to thank him for the effort he made to start his preparations for the trip at 10:00am and for the great help he provided to get me home with no delay after I pulled in off the river.
I spent the last night sleeping in my bivvy sack because I wasn't sure my tent would stay up with the broken pole. I went to bed around 10:00pm, shortly after Marc and the RCMP officer had left me. Just as I was in my sleeping bag it started to rain and later a thunderstorm passed by with lots of lightning. It rained all night and it was still raining when my alarm went off at 6:00am. Eventually it changed to a sprinkle and I was able to get my breakfast and dry my bivvy sack, sleeping bag and Therm-a-Rest mattress and pack everything away ready to set off.
The paddle from the campsite to the boat landing at Metis Crossing was probably the easiest day of the whole trip. The wind was behind me helping me on my way and the weather was comfortable with a mix of sun and cloud. Because the paddling was so much easier I was finally able to take a photo of the river in front of me. As you can see, the river is very wide and the flow is slow. I made really made good time and I arrived at Metis Crossing shortly after 2:00pm. As I was walking up from the river I was met by a small group who were being shown around the site by the administrator of the site and she told me to go up to the cultural centre where I would get better cell phone reception and she would come by and and make sure I was looked after.
She wasn't kidding. When she returned and let me into the building she provided me with loads of very welcome food and a cup of coffee and I was also able to have my first real clean up for eighteen days. You don't know how grateful I was.
On this day the weather seemed more favourable to taking off onto the river again. Thank goodness for that as I am not sure I could have spent another day sitting in the tent. However, as I was packing away the tent I heard an ominous crack and that was my weak tent pole finally breaking. Not a good sign for the remainder of the trip so I feel that I will have to leave the river and finish this trip. Certainly not how I had wanted to finish. I was aware of two possible exit points which the Fish and Wildlife officers had suggested the previous day. My first plan was to look for a suitable ramp at Waskatanau but when I reached that point I couldn't find a suitable place to pull off the river near a road until a reasonable camping spot for the night. You will see my location on the Spot locator that I unfortunately labelled Day Sixteen cont. At this point I was visited by one of the Fish and Wildlife officers I had met the previous day, Mark Foisey and an RCMP officer. They were very helpful and they told me where I could paddle to the next day which would be a convenient place to be picked up, a place called Metis Crossing. Apparently it would be approximately two hours from where I was.
Day Sixteen cont
Day Sixteen cont.
Towards the late afternoon the rain started to end and then I heard a powerboat on the river. I hailed to the occupants who happened to be a couple of Fish and Wildlife officers. We discussed a couple of options of where there are possible boat ramps near a road where I might consider landing and unloading the canoe so that I could be met by a truck or van. One of the suggestions to be considered near Two Hills were Brosseau or Davernay. These are 4 or 5 days away from where I am at present. I think I might plan to exit the river at that point and sadly finish early. Following my meeting with these men I decided to go for a short walk as I saw a small trail and I needed some exercise. Following the trail about 100 yards from where I was camped, I discovered a small campsite that had been used by someone else fairly recently.
That was the excitement for day sixteen. Now hopefully tomorrow will bring great improvement in the weather and I will be able to get going on the river once again.
This day ended up being a non-river day because of the incredible winds. My experience the previous day was pretty scary and dangerous. Yesterday the wind was so strong that it pushed me across to the right bank and all I could do was try to avoid the hazards. After scraping and bumping beside and over branches, logs and rocks, the next problem was the water discharge from one of the many petrochemical plants along this stretch of river.
There was no way i was going to be able to fight the wind and get by the discharge so I pulled in, ate my lunch and waited until the wind had subsided enough for me to safely pass by. Eventually I was able to maneuver out from the bank and paddle again. This whole episode was quite dangerous so I have decided not to paddle again until the wind abates to a reasonable level. Safety first!! I also began to realise that overnight the water level had begun to rise a little. Stones that were visible when I had pulled into my camp spot had now disappeared under water. This was obviously a little concerning to me and I had to find a way to anchor the canoe so it did not float away on me if the water kept rising. Hence my next two pictures.
This is my kitchen, a little different from what I'm used to but it works.
So ended Day Fifteen. No new Spot message for this day as I never moved from my campsite but hopefully the wind will drop for tomorrow and I can continue on my way downstream. Achieving my original goal of Cumberland House in Saskatchewan is becoming less likely the way things are going but maybe getting through Alberta may be an achievable goal for my 28 days!
These sponsors helped to make my canoe trip possible.
You can help me to achieve my goals for this trip in a number of ways: