Wednesday, July 27, 2011

KNL Paddle Avondale

Finally I am connected to the Internet and the new home is somewhat in order. Between work and unpacking I have only managed 2 excursions on the water this past week. It'll be good to get sorted out and into a routine again to explore this amazing coast.

Alex McGruger of KNL had dropped me a line VIA facebook of a club paddle in Avondale; about an hour outside the city. I figured it would be great to meet a few more paddlers in the area. My wife had planned to paint my son's room that day so she dropped me off about a half hour early. The RV was in front of a beautiful old church on a public boat launch. Being the first day of the cod food fishery the wharf was buzzing with activity. I try to stay well out of the way when launching and found a perfect little spot in front of a old whaling ship rusting into the ocean.

Derek Smith arrived early and decided to launch from the same spot as me. We paddled up to meet the group and sign off on the waivers. Alex explained the route safety etc. Avondale is a very calm paddle and a few first time paddlers came out to join the group which was great to see.

I volunteered to stay in the back of the group and keep an eye on folks. One guy kept dropping back to look at me....little did I know Gerry Power was volunteering for the same job. We hung back and chatted finding out of course we knew similar people and both had a keen interest in "historic" paddle locations through research.

Stopping for lunch Alex told us about a copper mine from the early 1800's in the same cove we had stopped in. I was STOKED!!  There is little information I have found to date in regards to this mine, except it was still being mined by the Power family in 1921. The shaft runs strait in very far and a very strong flashlight is needed.

This jem is not marked and very easy to dismiss as another shallow cave that dot's Newfoundland's shorelines. I would suggest bringing a good pair of rubber boots to protect your dry suit in the flooded sections.

Coming out of the mine I could hear the other 11 kayakers laughing and shooting the breeze. These level 1 paddles are not so much about kayaking as just a social outing. It's something very new to this solo paddler; and I have to admit it was a nice change. And a great way to "network" for future trips.

Our paddle out to the headland after lunch was entertained by 3 minke whales feeding on caplin and surfacing very close. A few of us paddled ahead while many in the group remained inside the harbour as a couple of us went out and played in the calm swell going through a "gate". 

A great paddle with a great group.

Now settled in I will get back to getting these trips published again a few times a week. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

6 dead 7 alive. And a crazy day on New Gower

6 dead 7 alive. The drive across the island was dotted into moose grazing along the roadside and moose pieces from unfortunate moose and vehicles meeting.  Keeping an eye out for the moose  I couldn’t help but divert my attention to peek at my at my two boys fast asleep in the back. My wife finally asleep after I finally told her enough was enough with the house planning/ first college for the boys/ future vacations into space.

I had plenty of time to think and contemplate my decisions and huge luck to move back to Newfoundland. As a regular force soldier postings here are few and far between.  I had forgot just how precious this island was to me. While the road cut a path through the vast wilderness, it’s left nothing but dotted communities along it’s sides. No urban sprawl. Essentially a frontier path across a vast array of streams and forests. Aside from making the drive every year for 12 years now from other places in Canada; I always feel at home when I cross the isthmus into the vast barrens,glacier rocks, and thick blankets of fog.
Finally I was home.

A quick midday nap I awoke so refreshed that I threw my kayak on my shoulder and walked across my front garden to the bay. A steady south west wind pushed me out the harbour as the rain beaded on my hands. It felt surreal. Here I was home at last. 

Back to my normal haunts I was amazed at the amount of driftwood along the shore....I guess teenagers don’t have beach fires for social teenage activities like we use to. Some of the rocks had shifted into the sea from it’s losing battle against this harsh and beautiful climate; yet Hopeall head remains as it has been in my dreams.

Some of the largest expeditions I have ever done in my life had been centered on this one headland as a child. Pirate treasure certainly existed there in folklore and talk, my grandfather had found pieces of muskets there when he was a child. Add in a nice long hike for a 10 yr old with some good friends, I have a lot of great memories here.

I paddled to the front of Hopeall head to have a look for the whales that were making quite the show lately. A high angle paddle usually tires me out after a while; yet there I sat in front of the head feeling refreshed. Silence broken only by the call of 6 bald eagles and a slow surf pushing into the cliff. Licking my lips to taste the sea spray. This is where I belong.

The rest of my week has been torn between lawyers and getting introduced into my new job. Still awaiting my household items I have also been living out of a suitcase while my children stay at nan and Pop's house. Yesterday a real freaky weird thing happened that I feel I have to pass on.

The way things happened yesterday and it's almost erie outcome is akin to" the power of (Deity) email chain letters" I get from people sometimes. Yet this story is very true.

I don't shop. I don't go to stores without a detailed plan of what I need, and do it as quickly as possible. I don't bother to stop and look at things that I have no need for, or plan to purchase. So as me and my wife strolled up New Gower street in St.Johns it was totally out of character for us to look into the little store windows window shopping. As we passed an antique store a old desk caught my wife's eye; and for some weird totally out of character reason we went in and looked around. And again against every known normal action of us both...... we decided to check out the second floor.

On our way down from the second floor behind a wine case owned by Joey Smallwood ......I spotted something that made the hair on my neck stand up.
A painting of a famous ship the bluenose. The painter really knew his ships, every detail of the rigging displayed. No doubt from a long line of shipbuilders and salior I guessed.....well not really guessed.

I picked up the painting  looking for the painters name; although I already knew. As a child I remember my pop Harold Rowe painting in his little room off the back of the living room. He would give these to family who just got married and were moving into their first matrimonial home. Explaining the story to the man downstairs to the cashier and to curious onlookers who were amazed with the story, around this piece of folk art.  Listed for 300 dollars I walked out of the store with it for 75$ thanks to a very nice antique collector.

I was honestly shaking as I walked to my car with my pops painting in hand. Curious passers by glanced in interest in my large framed painting. Many family members called or texted me amazed at the crazy coincidence and weird circumstances. Regardless of how,who, what happened...

Thanks Pop for the housewarming gift.

You wouldnt believe how much I appericiate it.

It's made some things I've been questioning clear.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goodbye to the Ottawa river. Newfoundland here I come.

My time in the Ottawa valley has come to a close. While I have traveled and got to know this portion of my river very well, I of course have regrets about my last two weeks here; and its real lack of kayaking. however having to effectuate a move of 3000km takes quiet a bit of planning, and my wife and I are honestly exhausted as I write up this post.

In between random required moving timings, I spent a bit of time at my launch. The wind howled in yesterday morning over the laurentians; tempting every bone in my body to be the worst husband ever and go out. My wife actually suggested I do just that and head out for a hour or so. I honestly didn't want to tempt myself with just an hour.

Two of my whiskey 16's were packed into the roof of the moving truck in the afternoon. I honestly cringed to think what the gel coat will look like once in Newfoundland. (My wife just told me they were padded in good)

Maybe being use to a plastic boat, I watched one young guy drop my blue kayak from shoulder height with a cringe. My wife begged me not to look/ yell....reminding me that it was all covered if any damage occurred. I cringed again as he hit it off the side door a few times.

I spent the evening with my wife tidying up the home to be signed over in the morning. At sunset I was forced to go use the porta potties at the launch as we had just finished cleaning the bathroom. I have to admit I sat for a few extra minutes in my car to take in one more Ottawa river sunset. My last.
As I left my kayak launch for the last time my eyes caught the name of this very expensive boat which hasn't moved all year. Earlier I had watched 214 tagged items of mine get loaded onto a truck bound for Newfoundland. Here in my car were my real true bare necessities. My uniform, a couple pairs of clothes, bankcard, briefcase, drysuits, kayaks, mountain bike, and of course my family. It really made me question my need for 214 tagged items in my life.
My wife got all teary eyed as we drove past our home one last time. And honestly I had a lump in my throat as well. This has been our home through loss and gain within our life's. A life we have shared in this house for 4 years together as a family. 

As the truck pulled away bound for the shores of the Avalon peninsula I gave my wife a big hug and thanked her for 4 more years sharing life here. We leave behind some very close friends who I will miss beyond words. We talked about our future on the way off base for the last time.

.......And then informed her her about my kayaking plans for Wednesday in Newfoundland.

I hope you follow along with my new exploration of the Avalon peninsula.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best meal ever on a paddling trip.

Anything tastes better when served "al fresco." Best meal ever on a kayaking trip for me....

I'm a noodles or dehydrated minced meat with dehydrated veggies type of guy. However when you have a chef as a paddling buddy... always some good meals!

If you ever find yourself in St.Johns Newfoundland check out Robert's new restaurant Simplicity cafe &brasserie 

Feel free to share your favorite meal ever in the bush/camping/ paddling. You can upload a photo on the facebook group or leave a description below in the comments.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Father and son

I helped clean up our house as the movers are on their way tomorrow to do a pre-pack. My oldest was climbing on/in/over new furniture we had delivered; but hadn't put together yet. My 2 year old trying to ride a new  exercise bike that somehow ended up in the living room...I grabbed all the furniture and everything went into the basement.We were going to leave it all upstairs as it will be packed in the truck next week; however with two boys this wasn't gonna work!! I could tell Caleb was bored out of his tree's being stuck in the house all day while we did "moving stuff". I asked him if he wanted to go kayaking with me. "Kayak camping?" he replied. I said no not today but how about finding some rocks to jump off into deep water?

I'm Caleb John and I approve this message!

At the launch he was really showing how big he is getting. This being his first time out kayaking with me this year he was grabbing kit and carefully placing it next to the kayak. He went to grab my carbon fiber blade however I quickly said "no buddy Ill carry that one down!"

As soon as we pushed off he asked if he could paddle. I handed him down the paddle and off we went. Here his little stick arms were pushing us across the water at a pretty good pace! "Dad I forget how to turn." he said lookin up at me with a squished face; keeping the sun out of his eyes. I positioned his legs on top of mine and showed him how to edge a little and played along when I felt his thigh pressing on the kayak. He was edging and using excellent paddle strokes; my boy's a natural!

We headed for a little area just across the river on the Quebec side. A little beach not many people visit, as there are tons of rocks around and a bit of current keeping most motor boats out.

No sooner than his feet were out of the kayak he was headed for a rock to jump off off.

What better family vehicle can a father ask for with young children? We can get away from the 100m of beach the normal population uses during the summer; and get some one on one time with father and son. Not having worry about Sally's dog (who is always described by a shouting owner as "HE'S FRIENDLY" as he's jumping on my children. Or Johns arrogant wife cursing in front of the communities kids. People bug me.

In between laps and jumping off his rock he took time to play in the sand. "Daddy can you turn around?" he said posed with stick in hand and an idea on his face. "Sure" I replied as I strolled along the edge of the woods. 30 seconds later he was yelling for me to come see what he did. "I love my dad" written out in the sand.

Soon enough the little guy was shivering. After a million laps of the tiny beach the coolness of the water had his tiny frame in convulsions. Normally I don't have juice in our house. However I always bring along a treat like Gatorade when were out here. It's a certain way to make sure the little guy stays hydrated. (And he thinks its a great secret to keep from his mom!!) Not to mention the 4 granola bars loaded down with honey and chocolate.

We spend time exploring. but couldn't just walk off into the woods without a plan.............

The funny thing is my brain being mostly in a child like wonder most days; we get along great exploring. He's quite intent to check out the plants for bugs with me. We watched a beetle chew on some leaves which he and I both thought was pretty cool.

The macro world really kept us busy. He thought it was as hilarious as me that this bug was using one of it's 4 big eyes to look up at us! A great moment between us three.

The amazing eyes of my favorite insect the dragonfly. I honestly can watch these agile creatures for hours on end.

I've always had a fear of beetles for some strange reason. Now every time I see them I get a good look at em and appreciate their beauty, some of them are really pretty neat to look at. Time to time they still give me cold shivers (June bugs landing on the back of my neck for example) but I have to say the slight phobia is pretty well gone. Its funny how living in the moment can really help with small fears.

A rock was quickly claimed by "Sir Caleb Gilbert" as a designated treasure rock.

I took the treasure seeking time to find "treasures" left behind by others.

And I found an unopened one for a reward!! (Currently still cooling in my fridge.)

"X marks the spot" I thought was worthy of a photo. As soon as I got behind the lens a very special treasure found its was into the shot by extended arm.

Arriving back at the launch 2 hours late for supper he looked up and asked if he can carry my carbon fiber paddle up.

"Sure buddy."

"Are we gonna be in trouble for being late daddy?"

"Were good son."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Needed comeuppance

(Picture found on weather network)

This week again was plagued by more lightning and more tornado's. This pic above shows where my house is and the kayak launch. No damage aside from a few limbs down around town....I was home and didn't even notice the small funnel cloud. This weather has really put me in a funk.

Earlier this week we also had a young member of my unit die suddenly while playing volleyball with his troop. I helped get the funeral prepared and help out the guy taking over my job. RIP Troy.

My wife and kids also left early in the week to spend as much time as possible with her family outside of Ottawa which leaves me here.....sitting. My drive to do anything was beyond low.

Thursday I managed to load my kayak on the roof....and finally after much mental infighting I managed to drive to the launch Friday. Even getting out of the car was painful. And luckily for me I had blown my ankle out on the way to the car. It throbbed and popped in and out as I sat there. Sharp pains radiated from my knee. I turned off the car and stared out at the water; resting my head on the steering wheel. I watched sweat beading on my arms in the midday heat. The feeling of wanting to paddle just wasn't there. The thought process of "what will I go check out today? "...vacant. I started the car put it in reverse.

Without moving I put it back into park and switched off. This feeling really reminded me of my warm sleeping bag and army bivysac...on the coldest day in the world....and it's raining...sideways. Years of army training kicked in. I've watched myself on many days through-out my career step out into the shittiest weather; as every piece of my heart and soul said "there is no fucking way I'm getting out of this cosy warm dry bivy bag"!!!!

Suddenly I was in my kayak.

The "crossing" is a short 2km from the launch to the island chain in the north. My head was on a swivel watching all the powerboats coming from every direction. I have honestly never seen so many powerboats on the river. Beer cans chucked into the water, and every boat equipped with a female screaming (must be a new feature as my powerboat didn't come with one). The water churned up so much it smelled like a swimming pool. Small rainbow coloured blotches of oil and gas floating on the surface. ........Oh winter how I miss thee.

Crossing over to the islands I quickly realised just how stressed out I was. How negative I was truly feeling. I paddled close to shore ignoring the roar of the at least 200 powerboats ripping back and forth around the river. Instead I focused on the  flora and fauna. The Iris on the shoreline, the fishing spider among the rocks. Pretending the waves from the boats crashing on shore nothing more than a nice chop on the river.

Strands of Newfoundland crossed into my reality teasing my senses; reminding me of home.

The rolling of boat wake along the granite, and the call of seagulls.

Its only then I realise what I have been doing all week.

I've been stuck in forward thinking and no longer living in the moment. I had let myself become disconnected from the now. I had become unhappy. I had become tired living in three places; the past the present and future. Normally I would enjoy the boat wake coming over my kayak, yet I was angry at these people for interfering with MY day. As I drifted behind the gull rock...... things became very clear to me.

Arriving late back at the takeout I was stopped by a military police cpl who informed me I had to remain at the marina till the fireworks were done. At first I felt the anger sweeping in again. Then....  I laughed at myself and thanked the young MP and backed up into the parking lot. Why was I getting angry over something  couldn't change? Anger even for that split second in my thoughts was nothing more than poison to my spirit. Poison over a small inconvenience.

In reality this "inconvenience" was what I needed. Even though I had recognised my forward thinking earlier during the paddle I had quickly fell into the trap again on the paddle back. Thinking of things that were pertinent to my move across Canada; that had to be completed once I got home. My fate was now sealed by a police checkpoint. I was forced into the moment; which was what I required.

So I sat on in gravel parking lot; dust sticking to my damp legs and shorts and took in the show. Its as if mother nature gave me a slap in the back of the head. A spiritual "time out" if you will. I couldn't help but smile......
And appreciate each moment.