We had several objectives during this trip:
1 • Test the river!
Since we are planning to leave early May next year, so for this expedition, we choose to leave on May 15. We were curious to see the speed of the river at this time of year and the quality of the banks for campsites! Unfortunately, we have more or less found the answer to the first question ... For eight of the10 days, we faced headwind so strong that we had trouble going forward even if we were heading downstream! On the first day, the wind was blowing so hard that we had to get out of the canoe and walk on shore until we got out of the wind corridor. After a few days of headwind, we began to wonder if we would be able to make it in 10 days. We paddled hard, very hard and we finally made it. We really appreciated the wonderful tailwind we had for the last day and a half on the water... Regarding the North Saskatchewan River banks, we were pleasantly surprised and reassured by the amount of potential camping sites. We had very nice sites and managed to make campfires every night except one (thanks to the beavers for all the wood). We also realized that it is not worth trying to plan ahead for sites and that keeping approximately between 1 and 2 hours/day to search for a site is the most efficient way to find good sites.
2 • Testing equipment!
An important objective of this expedition was to evaluate different equipment and find out the amount of equipment that will fit into a 17 foot canoe!
17 feet canoe
We just bought a 17 feet canoe (Prospector Royalex lite) but we borrowed the "Lucy Startburst canoe" which is part of the equipment that MEC staff can borrow. We decided to take "Lucy" because it is very well equipped (unlike ours which is unequipped for now) and it comes with a beautiful spray skirt that covers the entire boat! Problem... it is for two paddlers and we had a 4 years old little guy with us! So we left the spray skirt at home, but we are convinced to buy one for our boat with an additional hole to fit an extra paddler! The skirt would protect us and our equipment in wet weather or in intense headwinds! ;) We also realized that "Lucy" turns way more easily than our prospector and thus our canoe should be more efficient.
Another big challenge is to find out the most ingenious way and economical way to cook our food? Should we carry white gas and a stove for 4 months of camping? Will we cook on a fire every night? Luckily, we found a gem, the Biolite. It is probably our greatest discovery yet! We tried it for 10 days and loved it. We actually cooked all our meals on it, rain or shine! It is a wood stove that can also recharge devices by USB which is fed by the heat of the fire! However, unlike a fire the Biolite takes much less wood and it is also very compact. Have a look on www.biolitestove.com. We also had a propane stove but never use it!
One of our favorite gizmos we found is Goal Zero portable solar panel (see http://goalzero.ca/Portable-Solar-Power/Complete-Power-Kits/Sherpa-50-Recharger-Kit-with-Inverter)! Well it was a success, two small solar panels placed on the boat during the day allows us to recharge a big sturdy battery that we can use to charge our iPhone, GPS, camera battery, head lamp, etc! We were pleased and surprised how useful it was. We were able to find the most efficacious to recharge the Sherpa 50 during the day in the canoe!
Camera and tripod
We also tested our new camera Olympus OM-D EM1 with a nice lens kit, an external microphone and a tripod to capture and share images and videos of our great adventure. We also tested an action camera the CONTOUR but for our trip, we will probably get either a Virb from Garmin or a Go Pro! These cameras will allow us to take great pictures and videos of our journey! This documentary will be produced in collaboration with our friend Mike Quigley the man behind Quigley.tv. Mike gave us lots of advices and offered to edit the video of our documentary after our trip. We're pretty excited to work with Mike on this project because he is so creative and talented! Thanks a lot Mike for all the help so far. Mike is currently working on editing a short film of our 10 days trip which will be posted on our website soon. We are also planning to shoot a documentary of our great journey and submitting it to the Banff mountain film festival!
We tried a tent for 3 during this trip: the Volt 3 from MEC. We were pleased with the size of the tent and its vestibules but we might continue shopping for other tents that will be more wind resistant. During a very windy evening we saw the tent move a lot and it did not inspire us confidence! But it is still a very good tent and a good choice.
3 • Testing Mali in a canoe
It was also the first long canoe trip for our son Mali! He was a real champ, staying 8 hours a day in the boat, almost without whining ... ;) He even managed to take a nap every day and even slept through a class 2 rapid! On the last day, he sat in front of the canoe and was so proud that he paddle almost all day. He even learned different paddling strokes, which made us really proud parents!
4 • Test our motivation
Mother Nature gave us beautiful conditions to test our motivation : headwinds, cold, rain, hail, thunder, heat, what a beautiful mix! The headwind did not make life easy for us. It was a good reminder that we also need to prepare physically for this trip! Our arms were pretty tired and sore at the end of the 10 days (in fact after 5 days of headwind we were pretty tired!). So the plan for this summer is to go paddling the North Saskatchewan river upstream as training. Despite these physical challenges, we really enjoyed this trip and we are more determined than ever to take on the challenge next summer. On this trip, we also had the chance to meet Mike Ranta who is crossing Canada in a canoe alone with his dog. He wants to inspire young people to pursue their dreams and also raise money for the Youth initiative of his village in Atikokan Ontario (see http://www.atikokanyouth.org if you want to encourage him!). This meeting really inspired and motivated us for next year!
So, we are now back home and will continue to prepare for our next year adventure. We will soon put more details about different events we will be attending in the next few months to promote our trip!
See you soon