Monday, May 19, 2008

Torch River 2008

My wife, our eldest daughter, & I went up to the Torch River again for the third year in a row, this time with a group from the Saskatoon Canoe Club. Last year we had snow the day before, highs of about 10C and muddy roads, impassable for our Honda Accord. This year things were looking better. The forecast for this weekend was excellent with highs of 22C and nothing but sunshine for the foreseeable future. With lots of hats and sun protection packed, we were prepared for a beautiful two days of paddling this small river. In the morning before leaving PA we woke to gray skies and an altered forecast.

The gravel and dirt roads in to the river were quite the contrast to last year's mud. Clouds of dust billowed behind the train of vehicles. As we neared the put-in just a few small drops were falling from the sky. We were on the water a few minutes after noon and within a couple of minutes the rain began. The rain was light but steady through the entire paddle and the temperatures dropped throughout the afternoon.
Nonetheless, the paddle was good. The "North Loop" of the Torch River is scenic, though we perhaps didn't revel in it the same way we might have had it been a bit warmer and drier. There are a few sections of riffles and class 1 rapids, and one good section of rapids right where a creek flows in from the north. It was at this section of rapids that I was unable to avoid one large wave. Knowing we were going to hit it, I decided to hit it straight and punch through. My wife, on the other hand, had her own ideas and did her best to counteract my efforts. Unfortunately, our daughter was sitting on the floor at the bow with an umbrella over her. The umbrella did not protect her from the wave as it poured over the bow, but it did compromise my wife's ability to paddle through the rapid. The added weight of having the girl in the bow would certainly have made matters worse, causing the bow to plunge deeper into the standing wave. She was not too happy about that particular bit of excitement. Once safely below the set of rapids we went to shore and our daughter donned a dry set of clothing (special thanks to Sheri for her help).

We finished the afternoon without further mishap, though the drizzle continued. Just as we arrived at the day's take-out, the drizzle tapered off to a mist, perhaps even stopping and the sun nearly peaked through the thinned clouds. However, this was just a tease and the drizzle returned. My wife & I decided to head back to PA that evening as we were running out of dry clothes for our daughter and the lining of her rain jacket was wet. If we had good weather for the next day, we would have been OK, but we didn't trust the forecast (which predicted better weather). We also had some concern about getting out on the muddy roads after any further rainfall, especially after Jay had already gotten his van stuck about 12 feet after leaving the take-out. As it turned out, our decision was good. Last night it rained all night in Prince Albert (about 100 km from the Torch River) and today was wet and cool (10-11C through most of the afternoon). I suspect that a couple of those that did stay might have had similar troubles on the road, though each of the vehicles that remained (a Toyota 4-Runner, a Dodge 3/4-ton 4x4, a full-size chev van) was much more capable than our small station wagon.

The participants in this year's excursion to the Torch River include Mark, Robin, Arlene, Jimmy, Ellen, Jay, Sheri, Larry and family, Steve, Martin, Heather, and a few others.

Check Mark's blog for a story and photos.

Some photos from the day, taken by my wife:

Our daughter takes a break from fishing and finds a spot to rest in the bow. Unfortunately, it proved to be a rather wet spot.

Jay & Sheri loving the rain.

Wet dog, wet Bryan.