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!
Day Fourteen cont.
I am going to try to attach some videos so you can see the problems I am having with the wind. This may take some time because it will be trial and error.
This will give you some idea of the intensity of the wind I have been experiencing on this journey.
I was certainly worried that the tent was going to take off.
Canoeing down the river you see many interesting things. Today there were petrochemical plants as I went along. Also on one gravel bed I saw four pelicans, unfortunately I didn't dare trying to take a picture because i had to keep the canoe steered in the right direction of the wind. One appeared to be building a nest. Then there was Terwillegar dog park with plenty of dogs running in and out of the water. What I also noticed was the number of dog balls floating down the river around here. Obviously the retrievers were not doing their jobs!
Well I have been on the go now for almost two weeks and I had anticipated to be a lot further down the river than I am. My admiration for David Thompson has grown incredibly over this trip. He paddled this river so many times and achieved so much and I am sure he and his men encountered many adversities on each trip. For me the wind has been the worst, constantly blowing in different directions which has made steering the canoe extremely difficult and at one point today I had to pull into the shore and wait for a while today for fear of being overturned. But I'll start my showing you my breakfast today - oatmeal with blueberries or perhaps better described as blueberries with oatmeal!! My fresh blueberries needed to be used, This should stave off any scurvy!! I hadn't realised how many chemical plants there were along this stretch of the river but there are definitely a lot. I will try posting one of them to the blog. With the strong winds I was being pushed towards this bank so I pulled over to wait it out for a while. See the effluent from the plant.
It had poured with rain overnight and so it took a while to pack everything this morning as I needed to dry out the tent and sleeping bag before loading. Eventually I was ready to go and set off down the river again. I had never realised how many petrochemical plants there were along this stretch of the river. Needless to say, the wind was a factor again today and so I had to keep a close eye to make sure that the boat was not turned around and I did not start travelling backwards. Today I found myself another island to camp for the night and this one had an easy access which I found very pleasant but it still takes time to unload everything in the canoe. This is where having two people in the canoe would make a huge difference. Below you can see a picture of my campsite, much flatter than my previous ones but hopefully the water level doesn't rise too much overnight!
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