Day 3: Perfect camp locations under ancient cottonwood trees:
“Mist was rising from the river as I prepared breakfast of French toast with real maple syrup.
On the river by 8:30 with gusting winds unfortunately coming out of the North, so we had a big day ahead of us. A lone coyote was spotted hunting beside the river just after we passed the boundary to CFB Suffield, the military reserve, and 5 mule deer were counted as we paddled. The day’s wildlife highlight, however, was an eyrie with 5 almost fully grown Prairie Falcons. One of the adults passed overhead nicely giving us a look at his black armpits, a diagnostic feature.
The clouds built all day, and several were showering off in the distance, but we never got any rain. And the meandering river gave us periodic breaks from the relentless North wind. When it was time to make camp, thick sandbar willows prevented any easy access to what appeared to be good riparian forest. Finally we came across a lovely grove of cottonwoods, and upon inspection, Baltimore oriole and House wren songs greeted us. Every landing on shore meant finding rocks, in order to avoid the fine, gummy mud which threatened to suck off our boots at every step! The bentonite soil deposited at the shoreline turns in to “gumbo” and is a nasty, messy challenge!
Our tent sat perfectly under an old cottonwood, and our kitchen area was beside another gnarled tree that must be one of the 300 year old trees our guide book talks about. We had a command view to the river, and our camp was somewhat protected from the persistent wind.
I climbed to the height of land behind our camp, and found a small chunk of fossil wood and some superb sandstone boulders festooned with red lichen. 4 buck mule deer in velvet were spooked by my surprise appearance on the ridge above where they rested, and later I spotted a doe.
Kilometres today: 33 (73 km canoed out of a total 166 km to our end point), we dubbed this camp ‘Ancient Cottonwood Camp.'”