Are you into type 2 fun? Plan your holidays to be filled with epic moments, rushing water, high summits, long days and far distances? Typically these are are preferred weekends away, we try to plan some kind of adventure with every getaway. Well this one weekend in particular we may have jumped a little to far into the deep end in terms of adventures and Im pretty sure everything that could have gone wrong did. We are very fortunate we can laugh about the weekend now and no one was seriously injured or harmed and we were able to take away very valuable lessons.
It all started with a booter…
Like many people when the pandemic hit, people created bucket lists for adventures close to home. We took this opportunity to explore as much as Saskatchewan as possible and at the top of our list was a canoe trip to Northern Saskatchewan. Our friends are avid paddlers and we wanted to do a trip with them, so together we decided we would head up to the Churchill River and check out Nistowiak Falls. We severely underestimated the lack of skills me and my partner have and the amount the change of the water levels had on the route. In 2020, The churchill River had record breaking water levels.
We started the trip up North after work and spent the first night at our friend’s cabin at Emma Lake so we could get away early the next morning and have a bit shorter of a day. We spent the night repacking our gear and making sure we had enough and removed any extras or doubles we had amongst us. We organized the food and made sure there was plenty of snacks and yummy food to enjoy at camp. There was laughter and excitement amongst us as we got ready for our adventure. The next morning we got up early and headed out. We arrived at the boot launch area late morning and began to unload. The water was high so we parked up a ways and began carrying our stuff to the water’s edge. On one of the trips, my husband took a step and sunk mid thigh into the wet sand and upon pulling out his leg he had lost his shoe. So we had to dig out his buried shoe and was luckily enough to find it. At this time, a local drove by, rolled down his window and chuckled “Hah You got a booter” and continued on his. Well me and my friend found this entertaining, my husband was struggling to see the comedy in this.
Our boats are finally loaded and we are ready. My husband and myself head out first, we zigged and zagged as we tried to figure out our rhythm but we very excited to be heading out on this canoe trip. The beginning of the trip was perfect, the scenery was amazing, the pictographs along the rocks were cool to check out, we were starting to find some moments of flow in our strokes. As we approached Stanley Rapids we pulled off to shore to portage through that section. The Portage was super short and it allowed for us to get in a quick snack before heading out again. Its was a beautiful day outside, the sun was shining, winds were calm, in this moment life was good.
As we approached Frog narrows, my husband and myself made the poor decision to try go paddle through instead of using the portage and walking through the challenging section. We started off doing alright, we were moving in the right direction, we were moving quickly with the water. Then we took in a little water, then a little more and before we knew it our canoe was flipped and we started floating downstream. Our friends had already safely made it down and were waiting for us after the section. We knew not to let go of our boat, so we continued holding on as we floated down until our friends paddled over to us. We were pretty close to shore so we made the decision to get to shore to get back in and get our stuff loaded back into the canoe. Luckily the water was warm, and we still had lots of daylight left. The shoreline wasn’t a great spot to stop so after we loaded up, we canoed across from where we were to a little island which had a camp spot. We knew it was important to get into dry clothes asap to avoid getting a chill, even though it was sunny out we knew we needed dry clothes on. Once we got to the island we were only a few kilometres away from our intended camp spot and made the decision to carry on as our current spot was pretty open and didn’t offer a ton of protection if the wind picked up.
Ahh, we made it! it felt so good to be on solid ground for the evening, things couldn’t get worst then that, right? Some of our belongings got wet from being in the water for an extended period so our first priority was getting a line set up to hang up our stuff and allow it to dry. We got the rest of camp set up and started a warm toasty fire. The spot over looked the water and thick boreal forest surrounded us, this was exactly why Northern Saskatchewan was on my bucket list. As the evening continued on we decided to test out luck fishing, we decided we were gonna stay on shore and fish from there and our friends decided to head out on their canoe. Only because it adds to the list of things that went wrong, in the mist of fishing on shore, my husband was casting and snagged his hook on a small bush behind him and before realizing he casted out into the water, however his line snapped and the tip of his fishing rod went floating through the air. Luckily fishing rods float and our friends were able to retrieve it for us.
Night time was getting close and our friends began to head back to shore. They got to shore and my one friend made her way out of the canoe, when all of a sudden her husband exclaims “I got a fish, I think its a big one.” He was still in the canoe at this point, so we decide that he will reel it in and we will get the net ready. Well we weren’t excepting this fish to be quite so big, so after attempting a few times to reel this fish and get it into the net, we determined we needed to get him out of the canoe and bring the fish in this way. Between the rocky shoreline, and the wet moss finding secure footing was a struggle. A few slips into the water, we finally got this fish to shore. It was starting to get dark at this point. This may sound like a made up fish story of this massive fish and huge struggle to get it in, but I couldn’t even make this story up.
The rest of the evening was spent in front of the fire enjoying the best company. We made plans for the morning and headed off to bed.
After day one adventures, we were ready for a new day. We were excited to go check out Nistowiak Falls and spend the day fishing. We got up early, spent some time fishing along shore then prepared a pancake breakfast. We were off to a great start. We were soaking up a few extra moments of the view, when all of a sudden an explosion goes off behind us. We jump up, and turn behind us to see a momma and baby bear at our friends tent, the momma ran and the baby took off up the tree. Still confused of what made the noise, we venture towards the tent. And a wiff of the once fresh air was saturated with bear spray. While the momma bear was heading towards the tent she accidentally step on a can of bear spray, spraying her and the gear in the area. This was the straw that broke the camels back. We were heading home. We decided the boys were gonna pack up the gear that was affected by the bear spray and the girls would deal with the rest of camp to hopefully prevent getting bear spray on anything else. It took awhile to clean up but we finally got our canoes loaded and we were ready to take off. To our surprise, the bears were along the shore on the other side of some trees and didn’t get scared off. We made a quick detour to the Nistokwaik Falls to check them out. If you haven’t made it there yet, highly recommend adding it to your bucket list, but I’ll let you decide on the best way to get there.
On the way home, my husbands hands began to burn. They seemed to be getting worse as we continued to paddle. But we remained focused on getting back to the truck. This time we knew our limits better and opted to portage the fast moving water sections. As we approached the end of the route, we had one last narrowing to go through with no option to portage, the water was moving quicker and we were against the current. We made it to the very end of it, but between the lack of our skills and the speed of the water we couldn’t seem to get pass the mouth. We paddled and paddled, there was a boat across on shore, laughing at our struggles. We knew if we could make it a little further we would be out of the worse of it, and we would be able to attach the canoes together but until that point we knew we couldn’t stop. It was beginning to rain now. Exhausted, wet and drained from the adventure we arrive at shore, in the middle of a fishing derby with tons of boats watching as we paddled through. Im sure we looked like a sight for sore eyes. But we did it! 24 hours truck to truck we were heading back to Emma Lake with one quick call to 811 to find out what to do when you come in contact with bear spray,
Things we learnt
- Know your limits
- Carry a personal satellite device incase of emergency- both couples purchased one after this trip
- When things go wrong, know ways to minimize the risks of more serious outcomes. Know first aid, Ways to prevent hypothermia, etc.
- Avoid going to the washroom after handling anything with bear spray on it.
- If you get bear spray on your hands, washing your hands with cooking oil helps with the burning.
- If things don’t go as planned and you experience a trip filled with errors, take two years and you may be able to look back on it and laugh