W4 – Prince Albert events!

Did not have time to post pictures in our two last stops, I went to tell them about the 24hr café

Cow's head and ... for the pirates

that kindly welcomed me and allowed me to recharge our portable battery, but found the guys on the river paddling away without me after an encounter with a strange individual under the bridge who was disturbed and throwing our gear into the water. More scare than hurt, as Hugo put it who was the one staying with the boat, “the guy was deranged”. But I was told to pack up my gear and ‘get the hell out of here’. So you did not get the pictures posted on the blog and I did not finish to recharge my battery packs. Leaving quickly I forgot an adaptor in the wall which makes it more difficult to recharge the equipment.

But they did get groceries and BEER, the essential component of any stop. A beer per man is the end of the day saying. Seems to be the national drink in Canada even if alcool in general is out of price, at least for a french man.

Out of town at end of day we went to a portage/delicate passage three kilometers below that Denis, a kind retired ex policeman helped us scout out (he felt really bad about the encounter Hugo had), and passed the canoe by rope through the narrow passage between rocks. We had water up to our waist and though it went well, Hugo lost his paddle. He had poorly secured it and it fell while we passed the canoe. Though we looked for it for almost an hour, the current was swift and the paddle stays just at the water level so it’s hard to see … we did not find it and could not tell if it was ahead or behind. The paddle heaven is hopefully going to recycle this one to some good use. We still had one spare so Hugo uses that one.

This is the occasion to THANK the couple who manufacture TEAL paddles. They gave us one each to our specific sizes and two spares. These are light, strong and just right for the paddling we are doing. In 20 days we have probably put these paddles through more work than a normal canoe traveler would do in 10 years and though we have used the paddle tip at times (instead of the handle!) to push off or hold the canoe, they are barely marked from this mistreament. We hope to see the folks from teal at the end of our journey as they mentionned that they might join us for a few days.

So out of Prince Albert where we saw a lot of “first nation” (we used to call them native indians) people seem to hang around lost, Dana saw two bare breasted women fighting, I saw some quite drunk, and you see folks obviously poor, lost and without purpose in life. Saskatchewan is a province where there are apparently more first nation people than settlers and apparently this could mean that in a futur election the first nation people could capture the votes. From what I hear, the first nations have their own corrupted leaders and this could lead to a difficult situation. The local folks clearly have their views on the first nation people and racism is not far away. A real problem for Canada to deal with. We are warned that all the way to the great lakes we will find this situation and should be on our guards in Cumberland House, the Pas, and other communities until at least past Winipeg lake.

Meanwhile we found a nice sandy island campsite, and the next morning were off in great weather. The days are hot and suntan lotion is required, but the nights are still producing frosts. The edge of the river no longer has ice but we still see some in nooks and cranies and each day we keep saying this is the last while each day we find another block somewhere on the shore. Spring is however clearly sprouting everywhere and we sense summer approching.

The river is once again with rapids which we ride happily and benefit from the current carrying us at up to 12km per hour, with paddling our best speed has been 17km per hour for a short burst of time. All was going well until we reached a spot on the river where they had tried to build a dam. You see half the dam started and then the river passes by. Well we were overconfident and though I warned that I thought I saw rocks in these rapids, we ran them as if there were no rocks and when we hit a nice round brown huge rock which tilted the canoe so it began to take water, no one was prepared. As I was being ejected from the canoe as the rock hit next to me, I saw that if I tried to stay in the canoe I would then make it tilt so it would be submerged, so instead I jumped in the river which righted the canoe and they were able to bring it back to shore. But the river is really cold and the current very strong, I scrapped my feet on rocks and then tried to swim to the left bank where the canoe was. But the current was too strong and I was tirering myself out, so I shouted to them I was ok and let myself float downstream. I kept telling myself not to panic, of course I did not have my life jacket on, and I put myself on my back to float to recuperate my breath and rest enough to have the energy to resume going to shore. Meanwhile they had gootten the canoe to shore and emptied and Njal tried to swim to me with an extra life jacket but the current was too strong for him and he took at least 10 min to get out of the water. I told him that many drownings come from people wanting to help but not having either the strength or the right equipment and then themselves getting into trouble. However I appreciated the gesture and thought behind it. Meanwhile I floated down stream and having caught my breath started swimming to the other bank without fighting the current. A few hundred meters and I finaly reached the muddy shore. There I stripped and let the sun warm me as I was shivering and cold. Happily the adrenalin in these cases gives you super human strength, but I’m glad to be a strong swimmer to be able to write these lines. This goes to show that you should never be over confident in a canoe.

Eating some of Dan's excellent jerky

Once the guys recuperated me with the empty canoe and got me back to shore I insisted on stopping for the rest of the day in spite of it being 3pm only. We were all shook up and needed to pause for the rest of the day and recuperate. I didn’t realize how much until I woke up the next morning at dawn and was hurting everywhere from the over stress of swimming for my life.

As we head for the meeting with the South Saskatchuan river, the river banks once again look like they did 3 weeks ago with high banks and spruce trees. We seem to leave the plains and when we indeeed meet the South fork, the two huge rivers melt into each other to form a single river with just a bit more speed to the current. We are told the fishing is good and we see more and more of them on the banks.

We delight in the scenery while we paddle rythmically almost as if breathing without being conscious of the effort. Our hands and backs feel it though in the evening and it has taken us a couple of days to get the stress of our near capsizing out of our systems.

The guys keep really pushing to force their way down stream and make kilometers. I am surprized that they cannot see that working with the weather, working with the flow of things is much better than trying to force your way through. We wake up at 5 and get on the water at 7 and paddle t’ill 7pm and still Hugo or Dana will suggest that we do a night paddle. I can’t seem to get them to understand that we have many kilometers to go and that pacing ourselves, not overstressing, not trying to reach the limits is both safer and a means to get farther. Indeed, when we do over exert ourselves then all need to recuperate and we loose time. But I’m on a trip with 4 in their late 20s and they exult in doing things the hard way.

Finaly we reached our first portage. At the end of the river, it becomes a lake with lots of wood floating on the surface and finaly ends up in a dam managed by Saskpower. We reach the most reasonable spot to portage and the guys go to meet the people at the plant. Half an hour later two 4 wheel drive truck & van with behind the truck a huge trailer arrive with our guys. We load everything on to the vehicules and they drive us to town where we stock up on food and then they deliver us to a landing below the dam where we have a quick lunch and take off again. Just over 2 hours and a long portage that we didn’t have to do. Intelligent thinking from SaskPower, help the few canoes that show up, get them on their way and insure there are no security issues. Apparently Mike who came through a couple of days ago got the same help. Colin & Jack were really friendly, talking about the 1400 cubic meters per second the dam realeases through it’s turbines, making us visit their small town living off farming and the power dam. A big thank you to them.

So we started at dawn, had a fabulous portage, and trecked down the river all the way to Tobin Lake where we met a bunch of a dozen joly guys who had rented a houseboat to celebrate for the weekend the fact that one of the buddies was getting married. They offered us hamburgers, drinks and even if a little drunk by 5pm were really friendly. But we pushed on against a sudden wind slowing us down by half of our effort and with white caps on the lake until we reached Tobin Resort where I insisted we stop. Hugo has hurt himself getting out of the boat when Dana jumped out and almost capsized it. They have this strange way of landing by butting the canoe up on the shore. I would never do this, I would slide it side ways and then get out without ever butting the canoe, but apparently this is the way it’s done in Canada. Any how, Hugo was furious and seems to have hurt his hip in the maneuver. We’ll see how he feels waking up today. Dana, who slept next to the canoe at night while we put up the tent in the back of the hotel, woke us at midnight to pull the canoe out of the doc landing due to too much wind, is coming in and out of the building obviously frustrated at not being on the water paddling. He is telling me that we should be out making time against the wind. “3 or 4 km is better than none” … I remind him that if we go out in the present wind we must hug the shore adding another 30% to our journey while if we wait for the wind to die down we can cross the Tobin Lake and reduce our journey thus recuperate what we cannot paddle right now. Besides, I have pointed out to him that people are quite tired and that recuperation time is good since it makes us more performant … something drives these young men and going with the flow of nature and natural conditions seems not yet to be part of their approach to life. Hard times ahead for them. My only concern is really to insure we are not over doing it so we dont get into dangerous situations. Capsizing in the middle of Tobin Lake is not really my cup of tea. I gess it is part of being raised in over secured environments and being sure that by just making a bit more effort we can pull through … but I guess I was like them at their age. The elite raises fearless individuals who achieve great things … or fail and are just waste material of society. But even if the ratio is 1 to 100, the 1 represents gains for the society that are worth it … as long as we are in a consumer/power driven society. The old debate between Jefferson and Hamilton, where Jefferson argued that the intelligence of the mass superseeds the elite while Hamilton argued that the elite was required to lead the masses.

Tobin Lake resort is a nice place, landing docks, a bar, a diner, some lodging for people coming fishing or having a weekend place to come to. People come here to fish, hunt and generally take advantage of a lake in full wilderness. Bryan and his daughter run the Shorebird Inn, good food, and luxury, for $5 per person a warm shower. I took both a bath and a shower and it’s wonderful to feel human once again. I offered a shower to Dana as he would otherwise have refused, but his skin is in poor condition and I convinced him that it was a good thing to do. He was touching this morning as he said ‘I prefered a shower to another beer’. We even got to see the Stanley Cup playoff (hokey championship) with Boston winning the Eastern round to face in the final the Vancouver team.


Had an Email from Bruce Fountain, Dana’s father, who really suggests that this blog should be with content from all of the team, as much as I agree and have tried to get the others to write, it seems I’m the only one with Peter able to put word down. Hope you understand.

Had a really franck conversation with Dana this morning as he pines to go on the water against the wind, and explained to him my vision on working with the environmental conditions (weather, wind, currents, …) and managing the human ressources of the 5 team members including himself who apparently is reaching his limits having been operated in the past from a hernia. He says he fully agrees, I illustrated with the Tobin Lake crossing which we have to do.

We are supposed to have Internet here, but I learned they are switching from a satelitte to land line ADSL and have not yet connected it. So I won’t post this and load up the pictures just yet … but met Gary in the ShoreBird Inn who said he had ADSL at home and that if … then … well you’ll see.

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