Thursday, July 31, 2014

First Paddle

On a Saturday in early May Andrew and I paddled from town back home. Along the MacIntyre Creek confluence we ran into swans. Around the corner we stopped at Ben's camp and snoozed in the sun after failing to make much of a dent in The Guardian crossword. And then onwards.

We put in by the boat launch downtown, after dragging the canoe over 100 metres of ice to the river's edge. Even there the ice was still about 50 cm thick so it made a nice, if somewhat wet and slippery dock. The float was beautiful, sunny, warm and with a slight south wind.

Passing by the old dock piles indicates how much the river drops over the winter. It is a good time to see where the sandbars have moved over the past year.

Along the way we pass the site of the World War II oil refinery and oil storage yard. Remediation of the soil and the placement of metal casing is supposed to prevent any further migration of old petroleum waste into the river.

The water is low. Sandbars and rocks, all still thickly armored with sheets of ice, towering out of the water. At last snow, we pulled into shore, and listened to the dripping melt and the tinkling of the stream meandering under the ice sheet, peaceful and zen like. 

Around the corner we see the complete beaver lodge, even down to the winter entry tunnel which is now a couple of hands above the water line. Nearby, another flock of swans.

At Takhini confluence we paddled against the current along the left bank, the usual sweepers well above our heads, but large blocks of ice filled the channel. We were able to navigate amongst them but as one or two slid under the canoe, they heaved us unevenly upwards as the ice didn't want to sink any further. The wallowing of the canoe was uncomfortable in the dark grey green water full of sharp edged blocks - swimming would be no fun. As we attempted to pull out of the last eddy for the charge up towards the bridge the current and ice grabbed the canoe and we spun back down stream. A quick recovery, we regained the eddy and decided that the danger of exiting the river over the ice hanger was less than getting whacked by the ice flow. And we were out and, like the start, we dragged the canoe over  a couple of hundred metres of ice to the launch and home.

The Big Box Store

Earlier this spring I visited Winnipeg, a southern Canadian city. One aspect of a Northerner trip south is the desire to see stores, big stores with lots of stuff in them. We used to pack an empty suitcase down to haul back "treasures" but now we limit ourselves to an annual renewal of our maple syrup cache. Still, I couldn't resist the lure of an expedition to a big box store.

In the old fashioned downtown department store, laid out in the familiar prairie survey grid, you went directly to the "department" which had your pants or hardware. The big box store is different. Entering the store requires sophisticated route finding skills. The store map, vague blobs floating on white, doesn't tell you where to go, rather it outlines your Quest. After passing through the one way gate there is no return. You can only go onwards.

First you must pass through the awesome hall of rooms. A maze of Nordic dining suites, kitchen cabinetry and living rooms demand your attention and lure you from your quest. Maybe what I'm looking for is in one of these rooms. While I meet no monsters neither do I find my treasure.

Passages are packed with towering stacks of menacing upholstery, each piece tempting me to touch, to lie, to sleep, perhaps forever.

Onward into the chamber of children's toys. On first approach they appear innocent if numerous. However as I pass by their convolutions induce vertigo and I am drawn into their spell.

While fighting off their spell I am accosted by a triad of wheelie trucks clearly bent on my demise. Happily their inability to leap from the shelf allows me to escape their clutches and I move onward, lost in the cornucopia of fantastical domesticity.

Next, I fell into the quicksand pit of utensils. Hordes of neon noodle rakes, spatuelae, ladles, spoons, knives and whisks barred my way. I panicked and ran.

A new vista opened. With relief I noted the square grid pattern, my old navigation skills might still help me. I looked at awe at how the many wonders I'd viewed in the upper world of the Quest were now compressed into neat flat cardboard boxes. Here at last there was order, the chaos of plenty captured and controlled.

But rounding the last corner I saw the exit before me. There was but one final gauntlet of special items, sales pieces and the last chance hot dog stand to run through. Clutching the soon to be mine Jansjo "Uses LEDs, which consumes up to 80% less energy and last 20 times longer" lamp, I bounded to the counter, presented my magic plastic card and made a break for the crisp spring air outside.