It’s been a while since we were last paddling, but having moved up to Peace River in Northern Alberta we could not resist the annual Paddle The Peace. This is an event that started a few years ago and is a wonderful opportunity to get out on the river and share a paddling experience with everyone from seasoned veterans of the paddling scene, to those who have never paddled before.
We signed up early and invited a couple (Ahto and Anna) whom we have become friends with since they arrived in Peace River and who have never been paddling before. It would be a great opportunity for them to taste the art and for us to enjoy a day on the river with friends which is not something as a couple we have been able to do before.
The date for the event was August 18th – a Sunday – and on the Saturday I brought the packed canoe out of our storage room, much to Tallak’s delight. I had wondered how he would react and his excitement was contagious. I had been looking forward to the day and with Tallak not being able to sit still whilst I moved everything out of our small storage room the excitement grew.
It wasn’t very practical to unpack and prep the canoe in our 3rd level apartment so I took it to the maintenance shop at the Sawridge Inn hotel where we work and built it on my own, taking almost an hour to do so. Having had the canoe packed away for so long after a journey that somewhat bent the gunwales and other aluminium rods it was a challenge to put up. The ‘marriage counselor’ as I now affectionately call it rewarded me with its clean lines and robustness even now after our epic journey in 2012. Our one nad only hole-patch along with our many preventative reinforcement strips have held snug and tight with no lifting or curling at the edges. It is evident that the repair was done in the bush as there is a ring of sand around the patch from the windy island we were camping on at the time, but I think this has actually helped bond the vinyl to patches to the skin.
The morning of the 18th proved to be cool but promising and we were at the maintenance shop just after 7am to collect the boat. It was quickly strapped to the top of the car and we were soon driving along Shaftesbury Trail; a twisting, scenic road following the contours of the river bank down to Shaftesbury Ferry, the drop-off point for most boats hitting the river that day and about 25mins from the town. We dropped off the boat and put on the splashdeck, marking our canoe with a small length of pink tape indicating we were with the Paddle The Peace group as there were a number of individuals on the river for the event also but travelling independently. We then drove back to the town of Peace River to meet Ahto and Anna at Kinsmen Park by the boat-launch to register for the event. We signed the waivers and were given water bottles, a length of rope and whistle, as well as a small pack containing information, numerous small items and a map of the route.
We were the only ones taking a dog and as such we waited until last to get in one of the two buses waiting to take the large group back to Shaftesbury Ferry to begin the day proper. After a small brief we headed to the put-in where we had a longer safety brief before we made final preparations to the canoe and waited for our friends to collect the double-kayak they had rented from Flow North, the company providing the kayaks and canoes for the event, as well as having provided the training on Saturday at some small local lakes for those who wanted it. We followed them into the water and were soon on our way.
The river was fast, the weather hot and the sun shining. We paddled to the halfway point of Strong Creek Park where the pulp mill in Peace River had sponsored the event with a brunch for those participating. After filling up we carried on with Tallak in the middle of the canoe. On the Expedition last year Tallak had very little space for maneuver stuffed in the bow or stern and on this occasion he loved it, travelling in the middle of the boat with all the space he could want. He was well received by all who saw him. We paddled on and had a break on a sandy island just before the town. With plenty of time left in the day and Tallak still burning with excitement for the paddling we released the beast on the sand and enjoyed watching him play a while.
The remainder of the journey was short and for the most part we drifted, chatting about the river and area and the talk inevitably turned to future trips on the water as it always seems to do.
After arriving at the destination in the town there was a throng of people having finished, watching paddlers arrived and waiting for those yet to finish. We spoke at length with people as we packed up the canoe but were hurried as a storm approached bringing strong winds and rain. We had finished not a minute too soon nor a moment too late. It was unfortunate that we did not have more time to speak with fellow paddlers but I did make sure I completed a small questionnaire about the day. I look forward to next years’ Paddle The Peace, it was a great day.