fitness · kayak

Return to kayaking: paddling and learning things

As many of you readers know, I bought myself a new-to-me kayak in honor of my 60th birthday in April. It’s a used (but in beautiful condition) Epic GPS Ultra– 12 ‘ 11″ (3.3 meters), weighing 27 lbs (12 1/4 kg)!

In case you missed it: me, sitting on top of my kayak (on dry land).

This weekend marked my debut outing with my very first boat. Seasoned kayaker and good friend Janet met me at the boat ramp on the Concord River. But first I had to load the boat on top of the car by myself. ACK!

I had taken pictures of all the places the boat was tied down when Janet and I had previously loaded it on my car. We used foam blocks and straps tying the blocks to the car and the boat to the blocks. Also there was a bow line, connected under the hood of my car. This was the setup I was to reproduce.

tl:dr version: it wasn’t pretty, but it happened. I managed (with three phone calls to Janet) to load the boat and get it to the launch intact. I had loaded it backwards (stern to the front), which made Janet smile. Thing #1 learned- always load the kayak with the bow facing front. It’s apparently a kayaker superstition, which I’m happy to respect.

Unloading the boat was easy, as was getting it to the launch– did I mention it only weighs 27 lbs? Then comes a hard-for-me part: getting in (and then out of) the boat. I have always had a hard time getting in and out of kayaks without a lot of help (even with help, honestly). It totally stresses me out. I’ve tipped over so many times, it’s no longer surprises anyone who paddles with me. For you kayakers out there, I’m the queen of the shallow-water wet exit and solo rescue…

Yes, there are loads of techniques for getting in and out of kayaks, and I’ve had 1) a lot of instruction; 2) a lot of experience kayaking off and on over more than a decade; and 3) a lot of help and tips from friends. And still it feels scary and embarrassing.

Which leads me to thing #2 learned: getting in and out of my boat is something I can practice, both on grass and in the water. After all, I have my own boat now– why not play around with ways to deal with this so that I can avoid throwing a conniption fit every time I go paddling?

I did some googling (as one does), and discovered I’m not the only person who has trouble getting in and out of a kayak. One site suggests that, if the water is warm enough, just tip over and roll out of the boat (which in fact I did– twice– during our paddling outing). It worked fine, other than getting me wet. But, as Janet reminded me, kayaking is a water sport… Still, it would be nice to have drier options.

Once we got on the water though, the fun began.

We paddled easily down the river, chatting and looking at the many birds. We even saw a happy yellow lab fetching sticks in the water. I was getting used to steering this boat, which has no rudder or skeg, and also is flat on the bottom (as opposed to angled in a v-shape). Also I was getting used to paddling again after a hiatus of at least 3 years (wow). Which gets me to thing #3 re-learned: I love being on the water in a kayak! I hadn’t actually forgotten, but I had been away from it for a long time. It’s so great to be back! I’ve already made plans to kayak with some friends next weekend, and will keep it up this summer.

But of course there’s still the issue of loading the boat on my car and unloading it. Twice. All by myself. Enter thing #4 learned: there are some super-cool gadgety kayak carriers out there for every price point and preference. Janet recommended, and I ordered an inflatable roof rack that will carry my boat easily, and has built-in D rings for tying my boat to the rack and tying the rack to my car. It was delivered just as I had loaded the boat onto my car using foam blocks (a fine low-cost way, but this is much better). I took the package with me, and Janet and I tried it out for my boat’s trip back home.

Inflatable roof rack secured to inside of car, with boat tied to rack. Handy and dandy.

It is easy-peasy to use, inexpensive and simple to store. Perfect.

As we were able to depart, Janet told me that she keeps a notebook to log her paddling trips, noting location, distance, conditions, etc. But she also writes about things she’s learned or needs to learn based on that trip. She suggested I do the same. I like this idea. So, for the last thing, #5, I close with: note my experiences and what I learned from them, and what I can change or add or subtract for next time. This will prepare me for future trips and help me enjoy paddling even more. I’m down with that.

Readers, what have you had to remind yourselves about or relearn when coming back to a sport you were away from? Has it been fun? How have you dealt with the stresses and changes? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · kayak

Not-very-wordy Wednesday: Catherine buys a kayak!

I’ve been saying for several years I was going to buy a kayak. I’ve even mentioned it in blog posts. Like these:

Well, on Monday I DID IT!

I BOUGHT A KAYAK. Take a look:

My new-to-me boat, in its lightweight glory. It's white with red paint on bow and stern.
My new-to-me boat, in its lightweight glory.

Say hello to a gently-used Epic GPX Ultra kayak. It’s 12′ 11″ (363 cm) long, and weighs 27 lbs (12.24 kg). That is super-duper-light! This means I can load, unload and carry my boat all by myself, without any help at all. That was the main sticking point for buying a kayak– sea kayaks weigh on average 50 lbs (22.6 kg) or more, and are 14–17 feet long (426–518 cm) which makes them awkward and unwieldy for moving around. This baby is light, maneuverable, and apparently built for speed. I’m so happy we found each other!

Me, sitting carefully behind the cockpit of my new-to-me boat, waving at all of you.

This kayak is not, however, built for serious ocean conditions; it’s fine in calmer coastal waters, but not for playing in big seas, ocean rocks, or for surfing. That’s okay– I’m looking for mellow scenic paddles in fresh and saltwater. If I decide to do multi-day or big-water trips, I can rent or borrow something for that purpose. But until then, I’m not going to need a bigger boat…

It was easy (for my friend Janet) to load the kayak on my car. And it was easy for me to unload it at my house. Here it is, sitting jauntily on top, not bothering anyone:

My new kayak, home in my driveway, waiting for me to unload it. Which I did with relative ease.

Now, all that remains is for me to take it out on water (likely one of the rivers near my house). I’m waiting for a little bit warmer weather and for classes to be over, both of which should happen soon. Of course you’ll all be the first to read all about that first outing, so stay tuned.

Readers, have you taken the plunge into really committing to gear or to a sport or to activity classes lately? Was it hard to do? Did you feel a sense of relief? How is it going now? I’d love to hear from you.

boats · cycling · fitness · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 3, The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Old chain of rocks bridge

What we did: Bikeway to Old Chain of Rocks Bike and Pedestrian bridge to Missouri from the Alton Marina in Alton, Illinois. About 50 km. It’s our third day of boats and biking. It’s also day 1 of #30DaysOfBiking.

What we loved: The view of the Mississippi River from the Bikeway perched above the levee. Also, the pedestrian/bike only bridge to Missouri.

What’s the scoop on the bridge?

“Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the more interesting bridges in America. It’s hard to forget a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long bridge more than 60 feet above the mighty Mississippi. For more than three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers driving Route 66.

The bridge’s colorful name came from a 17-mile shoal, or series of rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks beginning just north of St. Louis. Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the 1960s, the Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks. That’s why you can’t see them today. Back in 1929, at the time of the construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen.”

Read more here.

Also, Chouteau Island was pretty terrific.

“A series of three islands – Chouteau, Gabaret, and Mosenthein – is uniquely situated in the Mississippi River just minutes north of downtown St. Louis. These islands are collectively known as Chouteau Island. The 10-mile length of Mississippi River that borders Chouteau Island to the west is the only natural stretch of river without barge traffic between St. Paul and New Orleans. This section of river is a very high-quality habitat, but also at high risk. Chouteau Island is one of the few locations in the St. Louis Region with direct public access to the Mississippi River for recreation.

Combined, all these islands provide wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and flood storage on over 5,500 acres. This site has a fulcrum of historic river infrastructure – a one-of-kind 1-mile pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River managed by Great Rivers Greenway. The pedestrian bridge connects Illinoiss and Missouri’s system of trails. All these opportunities are positioned in the middle of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.”

Chouteau Island

There were also lots of geeky engineering conversations about floods, managing river levels, waterways, etc.

What we loved less: Okay, I’ll fess up it’s mostly me who was bothered by this–gravel! A pretty significant gravel section. With some mud and puddles! My bike got dirty but mostly I’m nervous of falling if my skinny road bike tires get caught in gravel.

Also, it was cold (if sunny). We saw only one cyclist out there today and my sense is that it’s too cold for locals to be out riding.

Overall, this is a pretty great area for cycling if you’re a fan of bike paths and rivers.

Various photos of our ride
boats · cycling · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 2, The Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail

It was the third day of our trip but the second day of biking.

(Our second day in Illinois was cold, wet, and windy. We spent the afternoon in the National Great Rivers Museum and I finished a wonderful collection of short stories, Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah.)

The weather wasn’t warm–see forecast above–but we were keen to ride anyway.

For our route we chose the Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail. “The paved path travels 12.2 miles between the villages of Glen Carbon and Marine and hooks into a 130-mile network of interconnected trails that MCT has been creating since 1993. The trail is named for a former mayor of Glen Carbon, Illinois; the city originally built the trail on the disused corridor of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1991. Illinois Central was one of three railroads that passed through the coal-rich community from nearby St. Louis, Missouri. In 2012 the village transferred trail ownership to Madison County Transit, which upgraded and extended it.”

All told we rode about 40 km and Sarah says only about 10 km of that was into the wind, across an open field! Once again that was on the way home. The sections through the woods were pretty nice and sheltered and I imagine, in the summer, riders would appreciate the shade too. Jeff and I had cold toes–I should have brought shoe covers–but Sarah made the sensible choice of wool cycling socks and she was fine.

Just after we were done and had all the bikes back on the rack the heavens opened and it started to pour rain. Perfect timing.

boats · cycling · fitness · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 1, The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail

Sam and Sarah at the start of the trail in Alton

The first plan was to meet Jeff and Escapade in the Florida Keys with bikes in December. Thanks to Canada’s pandemic travel advisory–essential travel only–that didn’t happen.

Our back up plan was Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes recreation area. But given the river levels Jeff decided to sprint north.

And so we ended up meeting here–on the Mississippi River, in Alton, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis.

Bikes on boat

It’s not much warmer than home but the roads are definitely clear of snow and all the trees are in flower. With highs predicted to be in the mid-teens, it looked like fine weather for riding.

Escapade, the boat

Now that the US border is as open as it ever is, we popped the bikes on the bike rack on the back of the Subaru and headed southwest. Guelph, Ontario to Alton, Illinois is about 11 hours of driving.

On our first day of riding we opted for the The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail. From the trail website, “The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail is completely paved and takes cyclists through the towns of Elsah and Grafton for a relaxing and beautiful National Scenic Byway ride.” It’s about half a separated bike path that runs parallel to the main road and half bike line with a rumble strip divider between cars and bikes. We saw no other bikes, just the occasional dog walker.

It was the perfect distance for a bike ride for lunch, 50 km out and back, with catfish fritters for lunch in the middle. The route followed the Mississippi out of Alton, past the historic town of Elsah, and ended in Grafton for lunch. Our favorite bit of the ride was the close up view of the of the riverside bluffs. See photos below!

Sarah and I have been riding indoors all winter on Zwift and while there are many differences between riding virtually and IRL the one that was most striking was wind. (Jeff? He just maintains a base level of fitness that allows him to not ride regularly and then hop back on the bike whenever he wants. Jealous!)

We had a tailwind heading out which can be a dangerous thing. You know when you’re pedaling easily and chatting and notice your speed is over 30 km/hr, that makes for a slog into the wind on the way home. Thanks Sarah for doing the bulk of the work!

It felt good to be riding outside again.

boats · holiday fitness · holidays

Summer camp for grown ups?

Summer camp for adults where we stay in our cabins and read all day and then in the evenings we sit around the fire and talk about our books and eat smores.

Yes!

But then I realized that my ideal summer camp for adults would also have long bike rides, swimming, and yoga. Maybe some canoes and kayaks on the dock for playing in the lake.

Since this is my ideal summer camp there aren’t a lot of hikes. I can’t walk very far with my knees that need replacing.

There’s also a hot tub at this camp.

Sarah chimes in that we need a hammock for reading and naps.

Hammock hanging at our campsite

And a BBQ.

Lots of non alcoholic beverages and amazing vegan and vegetarian food.

But definitely yes to fires, talk about books, and smores.

Marshmallows roasting over the fire

What goes on at your favourite summer camp?

boats · competition · fitness · race report · racing · sailing

Sam and Sarah Race in Snipe Nationals

Last weekend I did something brand new. And I had fun. And I will definitely do it again.

Sarah and I raced our Snipe, a 15 1/2 foot dinghy, in the Canadian National Snipe Championships. It was two days of racing over Saturday and Sunday based at our home club, the Guelph Community Boating Club, on Guelph Lake.

We had one goal, and one goal only, and that goal was to not slow down the racing. The next race doesn’t start until the last boat finishes and sometimes, earlier in the season, we were far enough behind that people had to wait. But not this time. We weren’t even last every race and often we were right in the mix with the other boats, having to worry about right of way rules and the like. Starboard! (That’s a thing you can yell when you’re on starboard tack and have right of way. Other boats need to move.)

We also had the perfect amount of wind. Yes, gusty. We have enough weight to be able to deal with that by getting up on high side and hiking. But also not dead calm which can be a bit of an issue this time of year.

What else to love? The community. One of the things I like best about Snipe racing is the range of ages of people racing the boats. Best guess? 12 to 70, but with a fair number of teenagers. There’s a perfect mix, for me, of community and fun and competition.

Our strengths? We got better over time and I think we’ve got lots of endurance and stamina. Thanks bike riding! We’re also good at paying attention and concentrating.

Our weaknesses? We need more time in the boat. We have to go out and deliberately practice mark roundings.

For me, I’ve been getting better moving around in the boat. With my severely arthritic knee, it’s taken a bit work but I am getting there.

After two days in the boat we both felt incredibly beat up, after a fair bit of crashing around. Both days we came home, grabbed food, and fell hard and fast asleep. That was a lot of work and concentration. Zzzzz!

So next year, and we will race again in the Nationals next year, we’ll practice and we’ll also break out our race sails. It was fun to be close enough to the fast boats to think that with work we can actually be competitive.

Here’s hoping that next year pandemic restrictions remain eased and we can actually get out and sail earlier in the season. Fun times!

And here’s some photos! Thanks to the lovely volunteers for taking them.

fit at mid-life · fitness · fun · kayak · winter

Dani Donders Has All The Fun: An Interview

Dani Donders is a kayak enthusiast and kicksledder who works for the federal government and lives in Manotick, Ontario with her family.

She is also an excellent role model for how to maximize your fun.

Dani and I have never actually met but we’ve known each other online since our kids were young and we both enjoy trying new things…but only on our own terms.

I have long enjoyed her writing and her photography and I love experiencing her various hobbies from afar. In the past few years, Dani has gotten into two activities that have especially intrigued me – kayaking and kicksledding- and I wanted to know more about them. I thought that the Fit is a Feminist Issue readers would enjoy hearing about them, too.

Thanks for the great interview, Dani!

Small confession: I didn’t know that a kicksled was called a kicksled and my interview questions originally called it a ‘winter slide thingy’ but now I know that it is either called a kicksled or a spark. Yes, I could have left that out of this post but then you wouldn’t get to grin a little at my expense…what’s the fun in that?

A person in a purple winter jacket and black pants stands on a kicksled on a snow-covered winter trail.
There’s Dani, having all the winter fun! Image description: Dani is facing the camera and smiling while standing on her kicksled on a snow-covered path with trees in the background. She has long dark hair and she s wearing a purple jacket, a multi-coloured scarf, and black pants. Her sled is made of a light wood but the treads are black.

What drew you to kicksledding and kayaking? Now that they are part of your regular routine, what do you enjoy about them?


I live on an island in the Rideau River and have pined for a canoe for the 10+ years we lived here, but for some reason I thought I had to get one that I could cram all three kids and both adults into – which would have been very expensive. Now that the kids are older, I felt comfortable buying a kayak and taking the time to go out on my own, away from the family. I’ve always been drawn to water, though. I’ve rented kayaks and canoes and even peddle boats and always loved them. I only wish I’d bought one years ago.


The kicksledding was more random. My friend Annie got one for Christmas, and I loved the idea of it. I’m afraid of falling, so I don’t really like skiing or skating, but I loved the fact that I wasn’t strapped to the kicksled – if I felt it was out of control or going too fast, I could just hop off. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but from the moment I tried it, I loved it. I absolutely love zooming down an icy trail, hugging the edge of being in control. It’s very exhilarating, while being quite safe!

I might have a bit of an obsessive personality, so for both kayaking and the spark, I didn’t just do it once or twice a month. I go out on long adventures on the sled (a 10 km run is my favourite length) and I have paddled more than 300 km so far this year in my kayak. Winter or summer, I’m out doing my favourite activity at least once a week but usually several times each week.

What sorts of physical activities did you do before getting into kayaking, etc?


I had a gym membership, and did hot yoga, but I did not do a lot of outdoor activities. I would say I struggled against being sedentary and am not a very “athletic” person. When I started kayaking last summer and then kicksledding last winter and started spending hours each weekend outdoors, I’d jokingly say, “why didn’t anyone tell me outside was so awesome?” This new-found outdoorsiness is very uncharacteristic for me.

How do your current sport activities contribute to your life?


Especially during the pandemic, both kayaking and kicksledding were enormous stress relievers, and while I go solo most of the time, both lent themselves well to social distancing so were a key form of socializing during the pandemic. What I didn’t expect was how empowering they would be. There’s something that makes me feel like a badass when I can lift my own kayak on top of my car and tie it down and then undo it all and get my kayak in the water by myself. I am actually afraid a lot of the time when I’m kayaking – I don’t like deep water, or seaweed, or bugs, or wide open spaces, and spend a lot of the time when I’m paddling talking myself out of being scared. So that’s empowering, too.


I’ve also gotten enormous peace of mind and stress relief from being physically active. This level of activity is unprecedented in my life. I was a regular but unenthusiastic attendee in the weight room of the local gym, and I did enjoy weekly yoga, but the idea of spending hours outside sweating in -30C temperatures is definitely new for a girl who always considered herself clumsy and unathletic. And it’s made me love my body, for all its softness and pudge, because it’s proven amazingly strong and capable. I used to get aching knees and hips from walking anything more than 5 km, but I can easily paddle 15 km or kicksled 10 km across ice on a winter morning. I would have never imagined I’d be capable of doing that, and I’m really proud of my middle aged body for showing up, if not a little late to the game.

If someone you knew wanted to take up kayaking or kicksledding, how would you advise them to get started?


Both sports have relatively low barriers to entry in that they’re pretty easy to just hop in or on and go. In both cases, there was a cost of about $400 for equipment. I’d recommend anyone who is thinking about it go ahead and get started – one of my only regrets is that I waited as long as I did to get a kayak. Both kayaks and kicksleds are often available locally for rent if someone wanted to try it out before plunking down an impulsive $400 each time like I did. I’m just happy it worked out – both the kayak and the kicksled would have made awkward, expensive paperweights if I happened to not love them as much as I did.

The front of a blue kayak sits on calm water. There is a blue thermos and a half-eaten cookie sitting on the top of a small zippered compartment.
And here’s evidence of some of Dani’s spring fun. She and I share a ‘bring a snack’ philosophy. Image description: The front of Dani’s blue kayak from her perspective. In the foreground is a blue thermos and a chocolate covered cookie with a bite out of it resting on the zippered flap of the kayak’s storage compartment. Beyond the kayak, there is calm water and leafless trees. The trees are reflected in the water.

This blog is called ‘Fit is a Feminist Issue,’ how does the idea of fitness as a feminist issue resonate with you? What meaning does it have for you?


This gets back to the empowerment issue, I think. In both cases, kayaking and kicksledding are activities I do entirely for me, and largely by myself. As a mom to three kids, it’s empowering to carve that space for myself back into my life. I tend to go for excursions very early in the morning so it doesn’t interrupt our other family rhythms too much, but I’ve made taking the time to enjoy these activities a priority in our family routines. I think this teaches the family that it’s okay to do things for yourself, and that taking care of yourself is an act of love.

Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself, your activities, fitness, or feminism and fitness?


Kayaking is a pretty common sport, but the spark is very unusual and my friends all thought it was (might still think it is) pretty weird. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out that someone hasn’t stopped me to comment on it – usually with a smile in response to how much FUN I’m obviously having. So I’d also say don’t be afraid to follow your heart, even if other people think it’s a little unconventional.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a conventional gym again. Fitness used to be a chore that I did – going to the gym was important because I know exercise is a big part of a healthy life. What I didn’t realize was that when you find an activity that makes your heart soar, it’s not even remotely a chore. When I’m zooming down an icy trail or paddling up to a turtle sunning itself on a branch, I’m transported with joy and my muscles are just along for the ride. I haven’t been to a gym or done a yoga class in a year, but I’m in the best shape of my life. So whether it’s gardening or ultramarathons, don’t be afraid to try new things (even if you are on the far side of 50 like me) and don’t be afraid to follow an unconventional path.

****************************

See what I mean about Dani as a role model for fun?

Do you have a kayak or a kicksled or do you find your fitness fun in other activities?

kayak · Sat with Nat

Nat had a great time kayaking!

A couple weeks after arriving in McAdam my cousin Tina invited me to join her and some other women for an afternoon of kayaking on Wauklehegan Lake.

Tina and I have known each other our whole lives and have a long history of laughing a lot so I was thrilled to be invited.

The big day came and I was lucky to be able to borrow all the gear I needed from my mom from safety kit to personal flotation device to kayak and paddle. AMAZING!

At the dock I recognized a few women and chatted as everyone got gear in the water. Tina’s daughter Vanessa joined us. It was great to get to know her a bit. She’s a really cool human.

Natalie and Tina try to take a selfie on the shore. Vanessa successfully photobombs to great comedic effect.

The pace was laid back and the weather outstanding. There was a wide variety of watercraft: canoes, paddle board (go Vanessa!), two person kayaks, inflatable kayaks, and all models and sizes of recreational kayaks

We made our way up the lake to Sandy Beach, chatting, drinking, laughing and wondering at the splendor all around us.

At one moment we were surrounded by a school of palm sized white perch that were fining and jumping all around us. The water practically boiled from their efforts.

On the water, looking at Sandy Beach where dozens of brightly colored kayaks line the shore. Behind are women in swimwear sitting and standing in groups having a wonderful time.

Every event needs a commemorative tank top and beverage coozie. These were made by Jenni and super fun! Her brother is married to another of my cousins so it was great to see her again.

White text on a tie dyed background reads “girls trip cheaper than therapy 2021”

There was over 35 vessels all told and with that many folks you tend to cluster into smaller groups. Tina, Vanessa and I ended paddling with mother daughter teams, Kerri & Emily (who I think maybe we are related on my dad’s side?) as well as Fonda & Destiny. I met Fonda when I was very young, she’s the nearest and dearest friend of my other cousin Nicole. These relational things are so important, you’ll see why later.

Most of the folks are in this photo while others are taking photos for us. Thank you photographers! We are wearing our commemorative tank tops. I’m with my daughter for the moment Emily, laughing.

As we got back on the lake after libations some folks made a direct line back to the landing. It was so beautiful Tina suggested we take a circuitous route around a nearby island. We were joined by Lindsay who I had met at the beginning of the trip. (We never got to last names…this is important later) Kerri and Emily agreed to hang out for a bit before going to see other friends.

So we toddled about for a few hours, chatting with people Tina knew on a jet ski, a couple who have this vessel made from two 14’ aluminum boats held together with a dock on top, to a fellow with a boat and an Adirondack chair bolted in for passengers.

They were lots of great conversations and laughs. I did get a bit sunburned. Oopsie!

When we finally decided our trip was over Lindsay kindly offered to give me and my kayak a lift home. When her beloved arrived with their truck I introduced myself, as I had been doing all day as few people knew me or recognized me. The man burst out laughing, it was another of my cousins, Jamie, who I didn’t recognize as it had been too long. Lindsay thought that was hilarious as she knew how I was related to her. I was the clueless one!

I was so thankful for a day of companionship and gentle movement, not for working out or getting to a destination.

It was a wonderful way to reconnect to old friends and make new ones. Thank you for the invite Tina!

boats · camping · canoe · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

When plans go awry, or a vacation in three parts!

My word of the year is flow. It’s a good thing. My July vacation was very planned, down to the last detail, in the way that long canoe trips need to be. Thanks Sarah, trip planner extraordinaire. It was going to be our longest canoe trip yet, 8 days in the woods, moving and traveling every day, but the world had other plans.

In the end our 8 day canoe trip turned into three mini vacations not one long canoe trip, but it all felt suitably vacation-like and restful once we got creative and went with the flow.

Part 1: Algonquin

Our trip began with a massive thunder and lightning storm so bad that we spent the first night sleeping on our inflatable mattress pad in the back of Sarah’s Subaru. We had a site on the first lake so it would be easy to get to but I hated the idea of starting with everything soaking wet.

So we were heading out on day 1–putting in at Magnetewan and paddling and portaging our way through Hambone, Ralph Bice, and staying the night on Little Trout. But en route we broke one of the canoe’s thwarts that provide stability to the boat. Given the rain and how wet everything was, our duct tape fix wasn’t going to hold. We talked about options but there was no good one other than coming out of the park and repairing the canoe. We couldn’t rely on meeting up with other paddlers with duct tape. Leaving the park was sad but it really felt there weren’t good options. Leaving was the adult, responsible thing to do.

It actually was strangely liberating to know we could sleep in the Subaru in a pinch. But in the course of doing that we punctured the mattress pad and so we ended up heading out with only a single sleeping pad purchased at the last minute from Algonquin Base Camp outfitters in Kearney. It was all they had.

We tried to rebook the trip so we could fix the canoe and the pad and go back in but there weren’t any available reservations. The good news was that we were heading back in with a tail wind. Sarah said it was a sign we were going the right way. We made it down the length of Ralph Bice Lake in a record 45 minutes. That’s a trip that can take hours going into the wind.

We had a lovely couple of days of paddling. And we learned that we can pack and carry enough food for an eight day trip. Next year, friends, next year.

Part 2: Massassauga Provincial Park

So once we knew we couldn’t get back into Algonquin, we headed home to Guelph to execute canoe repairs. But we were also still fully packed for canoe camping and viewed more canoe camping as the best possible Plan B. We bought a replacement inflatable lightweight mattress pad. This time we went high end and got the one that matches our Big Agnes Fly Creek tent.

Enter The Massassauga Provincial Park which had a couple of free nights available, on two different locations. There’s very little portaging at Massassauga. Our trip had none. It did have a very active beaver, excellent yoga rocks, terrific swimming, and a great spot for the hammock.

Part 3 Biking to Port Dover

We arrived home on Saturday with some holidays still to spare. I’ve always wanted to bike from Brantford to Port Dover on the trail and so we did, staying over at the Erie Beach Hotel in the middle of the 100 km round trip. Great trails, some paved sections, some chip and some packed gravel. All easily ridable on the gravel bikes. Sarah got to try out her new large under-the-seat bag and I put panniers on my bike. We left the Bob trailer behind this time. Next time I do it though, I hope there isn’t a heat wave.