Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nice Day For a Swim!

I went up to PA with a group of three friends today to run the Garden River, a small runoff river which flows into the North Saskatchewan River. Here in Saskatoon it snowed overnight last night, but we decided to head North anyway. Along the highway there was up to 8 inches of wet snow, but beyond Duck Lake the snow tapered off and by the time we reached Prince Albert there was none. We had arranged to meet a local kayaker, Doug, at the put-in and he joined us for the day's paddle. Our crew consisted of me & Steve in a tandem canoe, Mark paddling a solo canoe, with Jimmy and Doug in whitewater kayaks.

It was cloudy when we started but shortly afterwards the clouds started to break up and by the time we finished, it was full sun.
There was a lot of good whitewater on this short stretch of river. There were a few small surf waves to play with as well as some big waves to ensure I got periodically doused as we ran through. The river is small and winding with many trees overhanging the river and quite a few sweepers, though none were particularly dangerous. Our only mishap of the day happened about half way down when Steve & I, focused on avoiding a tree overhanging the river, slipped across a sharp eddy line. The resulting change in water direction under the canoe gave the boat a sharp twist which we were ill-prepared for and we were very quickly dumped. The water was shallow and our self-rescue basically involved us just standing up and stepping to shore. That water was COLD! A couple degrees above freezing at most and it left me breathless. That is the first time I've experienced the effects of a sudden dumping in very cold water and I was surprised (but not at all panicked) by my inability to take anything other than a shallow breath. Unfortunately, I was not wearing a wet suit (or even better a dry suit like Jimmy was wearing), even though I bought one this week for just such a purpose. It seems I left it at home. I had multiple layers of clothes with me so I threw back on a couple of the layers I had stripped off earlier and paddled out the rest of the afternoon like that. The thick wool socks I wore inside my paddling booties were not entirely effective in keeping my feet warm and they were pretty thoroughly chilled by the time we were done. Also, after my dumping I took off the "Atlas" rubberized gloves I had been wearing and replaced them with some neoprene gloves from Cdn Tire. I must remember that these latter gloves suck when wet; I was much better off with my original gloves (interesting - a quick google search found the same gloves sold as "sailing gloves", I get mine at Peavey Mart for a couple bucks/pair and I'm pretty sure they don't sell a lot of sailing stuff).

I just realised Mark beat me to posting on his blog so I suggest you check out his posting for pictures and his account of this beautiful and fun little river. Mark's unusual title for this post is a reference to my complaint to him that many of his posts receive the same title preventing me from readily distinguishing them when using the rss feed to check for updates.

One thing Mark doesn't mention is the unusual and interesting effects of the ice clinging to the overhanging branches about a foot off the water. They were created when the water was running a foot or two above where it currently is and ice collects on the branches. With the dropped water level, many of these bell shaped ice sculptures are suspended over the water. We were just passing a particularly spectacular display when the aforementioned mishap occurred.