CLOSING IN ON NEW YEAR’S

This time of year is one that can make, or break a person! Demands are everywhere and the stress levels can reach breaking point unless you take a moment to sit back and unwind and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
 
It’s fun to look back and see what you accomplished over the year and compare this to the goals you wanted to reach.
 
January saw me drive to London, in a snow storm, to buy a white water canoe as running rapids was on my list. April 1st saw me in the river (and I do mean IN) followed by another run on my birthday, and then again with a band of crazies for the end of the month.
 
May brought me to a white water weekend at Palmer Rapids with Paddler Co-op, and I still laugh today when I think of Melissa saying that fun water level was around 60 to 65 cms. When I asked what current levels were at she replied, “About 292!”.
 
There were several attempts to get trips put together but something called life seemed to get in the way! As a result several day paddles hit the books and some new places were found. Any regrets….not a one! I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason.
 
I wanted to do a big river this year and while neither are the Missinaibi or Dumoine, I was very happy to paddle the Mattawa River and delighted to return to the French River, both as key heritage waterways.
 
The fleet changed over the year and this year we expanded to 10 canoes. I was happy to assist with a paddling for cancer cause and I’m thrilled to say I will return for the 2018 event. Personally, I challenged myself more this year and feel that I’ve grown in my skills sets and confidence.
 
So while the year isn’t closed off as yet, I have to mention a highlight for 2017 in that I paddled on December 9th in a snow fall and did manage to encounter some ice. So all in all, this year has given me the earliest and the latest I’ve been on the water and included some new routes to explore.  Thanks to everyone who was a part in helping, joining in. or providing that pat on the back for encouragement….it was very well received and I’m grateful.
This year has been considered a big success so now is the time to start planning on making 2018 an even better year.  Think I’ll write everything down over a Scotch while sitting in my hot tent in Algonquin Park on a snowy New Year’s Eve.

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WONDERFUL WINTER PADDLING

December 9th in the face of yet more snow north of us what other choice did we have? Canoeing? ABSOLUTELY!!!

Jay Naismith rolled up early this morning with his signature Sawyer for soloing….see how smoothly that sounds… and switched it onto the trailer where the Expedition from Composite Creations sat waiting to get out of the gate. More on this jewel later!!!

I don’t know how many of you have winter canoed or winter canoe camped but there’s a few added features to consider such as snow, ice, snow covered firewood, loosing weight by falling out of the canoe and freezing your arse off, so some added precautions were warranted such as a sleeping bag, ground mat, and a tarp as well as the cooking department and food…..just in case. Off we went to the secret location only to find copious quantities of snow and the road closed! DUM DA DUM DUM! As a highly skilled and professional driver I skillfully executed a 3 point turn with the trailer on……. No I didn’t! I backed in the laneway right at the closure and turned around.

Our first target launch only had about 40 feet of “I’m not going anywhere” ice out to the open water so we passed on that and found a spot to safely park a short distance from the river. The piece of gear that made me most pleased to have was my dry suit from Mythic Gear. This was a no “dry suit – no trip” for me! I’m also pleased to state that I successfully portaged the canoe and 2 relatively light packs for quite a distance…by using my throw-bag line and towing her over the freshly fallen snow. Ok, it was downhill so I won’t say how many times I stopped on the way back.

There’s such a rush I feel when your gear is stowed and you bend over to get in and give the canoe that shove to get into the river. Today was even more special as I’d, actually, we had never done this before. This late in the season, this much snow, (which was still falling), plus there was ice everywhere. The first major laugh of the day was at Jay’s expense as he made a perfect turn and back paddle right under an overhanging conifer and enjoyed one of the longest snow showers I’ve ever seen. Definitely not the last laugh of the day.

The only sound was the kiss of the water to the hulls of the canoes and the swish of paddle shafts carving the way. I swear, you could hear the snow flakes hitting the packs! Jay knew the route and lead the way around the first point towards our first portage of the trip and what a sight! Likely a half kilometre of solid snow covered ice. With private property lining either shore towards the dam it was time for Plan B. Off we went upstream after playing in the ice for a while. Honest to God, I’ve never seen anything like it…..fascinating! Some areas you could see the ice starting to form and other areas you just knew not to test. Well, with the exception of one! Jay seemed to veer, by will into the ice packs and one area I followed trying to capture a photo. That’s when my canoe stopped….and I mean stopped almost dead! I didn’t get the shot but I was able to back up a bit and take another attempt to free myself from the ice which did not break. The canoe came up on the ice and pushed the whole sheet like a hydro foil.

We proceeded up river for quite some time until we decided it was time to turn tail and head for lunch. Along the way we had time to both talk and reflect on our own thoughts. I’m convinced this is one of the prime features of paddling.

So as a trip conclusion I offer that we had good weather as the snow added one of those wonderland moments and the location was superb for a first winter paddle. The equipment performed beyond expectation between the new canoe and the drysuit with being layered up. I wish our daughter had been with us as she is soooooo much better at photography than I. At the onset of The Canoe Collector, I said I wanted to try as many new things as I was able to within my comfort zone. I wasn’t comfortable leaving the house this morning but you know what? Gear is still packed and I may just go back tomorrow!!! There’s risk in every thing so ask the question, get the qualified answer, pick up the proper gear, and throw it against the wall.

Today was one of the best paddles I’ve ever had!

 

SO, WHAT’S IN YOUR COFFEE?

Phone calls made and plans arranged for the transition of summer tires to snows!

Unfortunately it was for the morning after a get together for a Leaf game at friends and every cotton pickin’ time we go to watch a game, the Leaf’s loose!  Streak unbroken.  2 – 1 Canucks!

Sunday morning and everything quiet with the exception of Izzy whose tail is playing “Wipeout” on the bookcase at 7:35 AM.  A quick scratch of Izzy’s neck and the thought flashes through my head….”Where in the heck is the wheel nut lock?”  Sneakers and pajamas have never been stylish but in the relative dark they served the purpose perfectly.

I did the secret agent clothing change and started rolling tires and carrying rims to the pick up and arrived at my appointment location with scant seconds to spare!  “Ya, that’s going to be $149.00……wait did you buy the tires here?  You did, oh well then we can save you some more money here!”

Truck in the shop and my stomach grumbling as I sip my coffee while walking across a pretty much empty parking lot.  I’m going to give her a call!  Ya, Sunday and I’m sure she’ll be reading her book!  “Hey Babe, want to join me at Starbucks for a coffee and a brekkie sammich?”  “That’s great, I’ll wait for you outside.”

What a glorious morning dawned upon us this day!  Bright sunshine and almost no wind with temperatures around 0’C.

I went into the Starbucks and read their menu board to get a head start on what I’d like.  The young lady was prompt and courteous to take my order but I explained I was waiting on my wife.  I returned outside and waited for Karin to arrive and when she did we entered the store and the Calley greeted us with a “So now the other half is here”.  She took our orders based on some recommendations and off we went to find a table. As we waited for our orders to be filled, Karin and I both commented on how the staff here acted as a whole!  The smile was always in place and each one behind the counter interacted with each other to get the orders out.  We sat and munched our breakfast and it kind of turned into one of those cherished “date” moments….you know, while getting your snow tires put on!

I’ve always been an equal opportunity kind of guy.  Do it wrong and I’ll tell ya!  Do it right, and I’ll tell ya as well!  So the traffic takes a lull and I’m up to the counter….”Which one of you ladies is the Manager?”  Both faces are riveted on my face!

I told them that Karin and I had been talking about our experience and that the crystal clear and genuine greeting from Calley was exceptional.  Recommendations were offered and explanations were given!  The entire staff operated behind the counter like a pro football team on the field and as a customer, it was a joy to watch the interaction.  Even when I asked who was the manager, Calley continued to smile in the face of not knowing what was coming!  Professional, confident, and the kind of front line staff that most companies just dream of having!

So who’s driving this bus, you ask?  Who is making all this customer satisfaction take place?  The young lady’s name is Tanya Monk!  Karin and I spoke with these two and what came forward was amazing!  One states that she gets worried when she hits her start time and it’s announced that there may be things not available to offer.  The other mentions that it’s a responsibility to function as a team and to have EVERY customer leave happy.  Really?  Without telling all, I’m just going to state that if you want to attend what I saw to be a perfectly functioning retail coffee/sandwich operation, you need to visit Starbucks at 103 Mapleview Drive West in Barrie.

I just call them as I see them, but this morning was a great morning, the sandwich was exactly what you said it would be, it was a blast having a date with my wife, and you two provided the avenue for it.

Thanks so much!!!