Ice is Out – Kayak is In

Part 2

So, continuing on from the last post, this is part 2 of my kayaking adventure that took place on May 6th.  If you haven’t seen part 1 yet, you should go back and read that one first.

As I mentioned in the first part, after I had checked out the islands, I decided to head towards the river that went to Quimby Lake.  I had paddled that river before in mid-summer, but never in spring.  I didn’t have any specific intention when I started to head up river, except to go as far as I felt like going, or could go.

There was a lot of runoff from the melting ice and snow, and I knew that the river would likely be higher and faster than it was when I had paddled it during the summer months.

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I made my way across the glassy lake in the direction of where the river came into Esten Lake.

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When I paddle, I don’t like to paddle with the intention of ‘getting somewhere’. I paddle to enjoy the whole experience, which means I focus on what’s in front of me right now.

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I quite often look for familiar landmarks to guide me, such as an interesting looking dead tree, or a significant rock.

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Here is what I was looking for this time. It’s a partially submerged duck hunting blind, and I had seen it the last time I was here, although it was buried in reeds and bull rushes in mid-summer.

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Here’s a closer look at it. The hunters would crouch inside this thing, and peer out the small windows. It has trap doors just above the windows so that the hunters can quickly stand up to take the shot.

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The entrance to the river is very difficult to see. You won’t see it until you are right on top of it. It’s right across there where my kayak is pointed.

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One tip off that the river is near is that the water gets real shallow at the entrance to the river.

When I got into the river a bit, it was clear that this river was much higher and wider than it was when I had paddled it last time. In fact, I couldn’t believe how much it had swollen.

The river was very wide in places and then there were places where the river narrowed because of higher ground, and those places had rushing water. After I entered the river, I was paddling against the current all the time. Sometimes it was a very slow current but, in the narrower sections, it was almost overwhelming.

I was getting a bit warm by this time, and I was looking for a place where I could get out and get some of my warmer morning clothes off.

I only stopped here for a few minutes, and then I continued upstream, where I ran into some significant resistance. In fact, I still don’t know how I made it past some of that fast running water, but I just dug in and persevered.

There was no time, or opportunity, for taking pictures as I was desperately fighting the current to continue upstream, but you will see more of that on the way back down.

I saw many different types of ducks on the water everywhere today. They usually took off long before I was within camera range, but I did manage to catch a few with my big camera, which has a very long range lens.

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Of course, the males are the good-looking ones. I guess one can’t argue that nature knows best right?

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Here’s a female looking for a friend.

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Looks like this guy is already taken.

So, I had made it quite far up the river, and I had a feeling that the section of the river right at Quimby Lake might be very fast flowing but I decided to give it a try anyways. It turned out that it wasn’t as fast as some of the parts I had already made it through, so Quimby was mine.

Of course I was getting hungry by now, and I wanted to eat the strawberry muffin I had brought with me, along with a bottle of orange juice. At first I considered heading for a beach that me and my son had camped on last year, but instead I headed for a long spit of land that stuck out into the middle of Quimby Lake. I didn’t want to paddle all the way to that beach and find out that it was under water, like all the other beaches.

After about ten minutes for lunch, I mounted up again and set course back to the river, from whence I came.

Right at the mouth of the river I remember there being a long and fairly wide rocky beach here, because me and my brother had stopped here the last time we came up this way. However, that rocky beach was nowhere to be seen today.

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Glancing back at Quimby Lake I see a familiar leaning tree on the shoreline.

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The river doesn’t look like it’s flowing here, but it is.

I was going to try and video the fast spots on my way back down the river, but I found that it was hard to steer the kayak with the camera in my hands.

Eventually, I got the idea to hang the camera around my neck, and just let it sit on the front of my PFD, which would allow me to use my hands to steer. But, before I got to any more fast water, I came to this;

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This is one of the biggest beaver dams I’ve ever seen. The difference in water level from where I was paddling was somewhere between three and four feet. That dam is holding back a lot of water.

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Looking down from the top of the beaver dam to the kayak.

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Working my way back out to the river.

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And away we go again.

I headed back into the flow, taking me down river towards Esten Lake, where I’d paddled up from earlier. I knew that there was still some fast water between here and Esten, and I wanted to try and video some of it on the way down.

This is where I came up with the brilliant idea of hanging the camera around my neck, so that I could still paddle and steer the kayak. Let’s see how that worked out.

So, as you can see, it was certainly easier than it was when I was going up river. Not exactly white water, I know, but how many people do you know that can paddle up white water?

Here’s another short video going down the river past a partial beaver dam. It wasn’t all that fast here, because the river was quite wide, but you’d be surprised how much effort it takes to paddle up against even this kind of flow.

Anyway, it was a much easier ride back down the river than it was going up, and even the wind was at my back, so all the natural gods were on my side today.

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I made it back out to Esten Lake in fine form, and well rested for the rest of the paddle back to the launch area.

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Even after that long paddle, I wasn’t really feeling all that tired. I remember when I paddled Elliot Lake last fall, which was a 20km paddle, I was done in by the time I got back. My arms were yelling at me to stop paddling. But, today, I felt just fine, and I wasn’t heading for the barn doors on the homeward paddle. I just took my time, and enjoyed the scenery.

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Of course, the wind had picked up a bit, and the water wasn’t like glass anymore, but it wasn’t all that rough either.

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I paddled on the opposite shoreline on the way back, just for a change of scenery.

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I did see a couple of small aluminum fishing boats on the way back, but I was able to steer well clear of them.

So, there ya have it. My record breaking paddle, 27kms long. Not too shabby for an old goat like me. I do have to get in shape for these young whipper snappers coming up soon to do a 5 day paddling/portaging trip with me. Don’t wanna look like I’m all used up or anything like that 🙂

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