Last summer I canoed down the Red Deer River from 3 mile bend to a campground almost all the way to Drumheller. It was an awesome adventure! Let me tell you about some of the highlights.
It all started when my friend Galloway from back in high school suggested we go on a wilderness hike. After talking about it we decided to hop into the canoe and see how far we could get in 2 days. So we loaded up the canoe with enough supplies and set out.
The first day we paddled at a very easy going pace. We tried paddling in tandem both facing down stream but decided the front guy should turn around so we could talk. Then we decided the front guy should just hang out and let the back guy paddle because it was awkward paddling backwards.
Even though we were only a few hours out of Red Deer we felt like we were really remote. There is no cell phone service in the river valley. We saw lots of wildlife. We saw an old car that had been pushed off the cliff. We saw the odd fisherman along the river. One thing we didn’t see was any fish! That’s right! The Mindful Fisherman didn’t bring a fishing rod. I thought about it but decided I just wanted to paddle. Looking back I will not make that mistake again. There were so many good fishing spots I seriously missed out!
Towards evening we started looking for an island to camp on. The conditions were it had to have a nice beach and lots of burnable driftwood. We would pass one that looked suitable and decide to try the next one down. Then the next one down was worse and we regretted not stopping.
Finally we found one that was ok. It had some wood but we didn’t bring a saw! This whole trip was a learning experience for us. There are a bunch of things we will bring next year when we do this again.
Camping on the island was really nice. The sound of the water and the stirring of the wind made for a very peaceful evening. We cooked our food over an open fire and talked about how this is what it must have been for our ancestors. I felt really connected to the land.
We laid a tarp down and slept in our sleeping bags. Even though it was the middle of the summer it got really cold at night. Air near flowing water is very cool. The night was uncomfortable and it wasn’t a pleasant sleep. There were bugs crawling on us! There were animals howling and waking us up! But it was good because I realized how pampered I am living modern comfort.
In the morning we ate scrambled eggs and set off again. It was a melancholic feeling seeing our campsite float away in the distance. As we rounded the bend we talked about how it was another day of our lives never coming back.
We passed an inukshuk and had to stop and make our own! After piling our rocks we had a christening ceremony. We sang and danced a little bit. Then we carried on down the river.
Floating down the river is analogous to life in so many ways. You never know what’s around the next bend. You never know what it would have been like to go around on the other side of an island. There are parts when its slow boring and parts that are rapid and dangerous. When the river is wide it is shallow. When its narrow its deep. There are parts when you can choose not to portage the canoe and end up upside down treading powerful current while all your gear is floating away.
We will both testify that there is a waterfall on the Red Deer River! From a distance a waterfall doesn’t look like much. But as you approach it you very quickly run out of time to change course. The river is unforgiving. We went over and capsized. The current was overwhelmingly strong! The water was really deep at the bottom! There were large rocks we only narrowly missed.
We managed to save most of our gear. I did however loose my favorite shirt! My iPhone was in a dry bag that floated and got caught along the shore. The canoe hung up on a boulder. Life jackets and helmets would have been a GREAT idea!
From that point on we had no more food. All the bread turned to mush and the milk spilled into the water. To make matters worse there were no clouds to block the sun and we started to really feel the UV rays. Picture 2 guys in a green canoe with towels tied over their heads. Add to that their steadily worsening demeanor and that’s was us!
We wanted to get all the way to Drumheller but started to realize that we would not make it at our slow pace. So we started paddling harder. For the rest of the afternoon we kept a very steady pace, calling out our strokes and switching sides when our arms got tired. Around every bend we expected to see Drumheller. Around every bend we saw the next river bend.
When we realized that we weren’t going to make it to Drumheller we stopped off at a campground and phoned for a ride. We were disappointed that we didn’t make it all the way but we were happy at the same time for what he accomplished.
As we waited for our ride we started planning our next trip! We will go all the way to lake Diefenbaker! We calculate it will take 10 days. There will be many things we will do different next time. For example:
-Bringing a water jug instead of individual bottles.
-Strapping things down so if the canoe flips everything will stay in it.
-More water proof bags.
-Some kind of hammock or raised bed.
-Helmets and life jackets.
Do you have any suggestions of things we should bring next time?
I could write an entire blog just on the thoughts and conversations we had. Maybe I will. Overall the experience was awesome! I am so glad that everything worked out the way it did. I am especially grateful for a great friend!