South Saskatchewan River Canoe Trip: Day 1

/South Saskatchewan River Canoe Trip: Day 1

South Saskatchewan River Canoe Trip: Day 1

Brian and his wife, Dee, recently returned from an 8-day canoe trip into some of the best hoodoo landscapes anywhere, on the South Saskatchewan River in southern Alberta.  Over the next week, we will post portions of Brian’s journal that he wrote each evening, on the river.  Enjoy! 

Day 1: On their first day they got ‘pummeled’ by hail:

“Above us stacked weird pillows of purple clouds, and behind us crept evil, black, wind-blown fingers. We had maybe 15 minutes to find a place where we could pull out and rapidly set up some kind of shelter.

We had left Medicine Hat 1.5 hours earlier under clear, calm conditions. Yellow warblers called from the river’s edge, and Warbling vireos from the forest.  Kingbirds, both Eastern and Western, lined the river, perched on prominent sticks, and Least flycatchers were non-stop “chebek’ing”.  Huge flocks of Ring-billed and California gulls rested on gravel bars, and Mourning doves called almost continually. Western Meadowlarks were occasionally heard as were Baltimore orioles.

Leaving the last houses behind us at 1.5 hours into the paddle, we looked to the west where a black amoeba cloud formation indicated we were about to get hit by a severe thunderstorm!

On a muddy bank, we scrambled to disgorge the canoe, rapidly carrying all our gear to higher ground.  Dee spread out our huge tarpaulin over the assembled gear, I tied the now empty canoe to a log, we used some 40 kg of water in our various jugs to hold everything down, and we got under the tarp and sitting on our chairs just when all hell broke loose!

Hail, some the size of marbles, pelted us, and combined with a ferocious wind, the rain came.  The noise under the tarpaulin was terrific. Somehow we stayed dry, holding our tarp down over our legs, the water sheeting off.  After an hour, the rain stopped.  I peered out to see solid blue sky to the west!

When the wind died sufficiently, we reloaded the canoe and headed downstream for another hour in the diminishing evening light.  More deer were spotted riverside.

We finally found a grove of trees that promised to catch the east sun in the morning.  To the sound of Common Nighthawks doing their buzzing breeding flights, we set up our camp.  After a beer and some sherry, while beaver paddled just offshore and kingbirds put on a dramatic display of song and flight, we enjoyed some Thai satay beef freeze-dried food. The setting sun cast a red light through our trees, illuminating the camp perfectly.”

Kilometres canoed today: 17 km. We dubbed this camp ‘Storm Camp.'”