Paddling North: Day Nine and Ten

We left Whitecourt yesterday with the help of Carol (our bus driver) and Greg. They helped move our gear to the launch and then went down to the last spur to wave as we left town. We ran the spur corner well and we able to spot Carol and Greg as they wished us well.

Soon after, we turned the corner and saw this eagle perched on a log in the middle of the river. It was the first of many we would see. We called it Eagle Day.

The current was swift and we made easy progress making 50 kilometres in time to set up camp and batten down everything before a thunderstorm hit. It mostly missed us but did serve up some good sky bowling with a few strikes.

After not sleeping too well the night before in Whitecourt because of nearby road construction, we dropped off deeply last night to the river’s lullaby.

We woke to an invasion. The bugs above were on our tent and in our canoe by the hundreds. They seemed to be moulting or shedding their skins. The remaining exoskeletons were quite sticky and hard to remove from the tent poles, barrel straps, and from every nook and cranny in the canoe. We cleaned out the entire canoe but they kept crawling up our legs and up to our heads all day. Harmless but annoying.

We had both headwinds and tailwinds today because the river was very braided and seem to enjoy meandering. On one promising stretch of tailwind, we started working on our sailing techniques. We finished the day in Fort Assiniboine where they have the World’s Largest Wagon Wheel and Pick Axe. Fort Assiniboine was once the site of the second largest fort in Western Canada.

With ten days invested in the expedition, Ware beyond settling in, full immersion is more likely. Our camp routines are now efficient enough to yield time for reading, harmonica playing, and nature study. Progress down river is measured in paddle strokes, kilometres, and geese. Today, we were treated to visits by two otters, four deer, and six large white birds we still need to identify (swans, geese, pelicans? Long white necks, darker heads, but a body smaller than a goose).

Almost 400 km done, only 3000 to go. It’s funny though, we don’t really think about that much-mostly we get through the water and day in front of us.

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