When Rylea texted me asking if I was free for a week in May, I thought they had come so far in such a short time that they'd be making Winnipeg. It turns out they wanted a stand-in paddler to keep their trip less off-track than with only two paddlers while Claire attended a wedding as a maid-of-honour. My initial reaction was that of reluctance. I'm not an avid paddler and have mostly only ever camped at campsites with the exception of a week-long summer camp canoe trip on Lake Nutimik when I was a boy and a one-nighter Hansen Creek to Frances Lake where my buddy and I forgot our sleeping bags and spent a cold night awake by a dying fire. But I knew they had been planning and preparing for years, had over a month of experience to work out some early trip kinks and that I'd be looked after. I knew they'd be well equipped and pending work allowing me the time off on short notice, I agreed.
I caught a ride out with Claire's parents to meet them at Highway 19 and the Qu'Appelle River in Saskatchewan. They came into view after a grueling portage from Diefenbaker Lake but were in good spirits. After a brief reunion, I subbed in and we launched back into the Qu'Appelle. Almost immediately after the first turn in the river, we encountered the rustle of rushing water and made for the riverbank where Kendra hopped out to scout ahead to see if Wheezy could handle the drop. A weir with a five foot drop and metal spikes awaited us so we had to portage. My first portage with them went incredibly smooth. As I had assumed, they had their system worked out: Unzip the skirt, pass the bags up from the canoe on to shore, lift the canoe out, portage, re-pack and shove off. The rest of my first day on the water was calm and sunny with a slight breeze and felt good but it was only a half day of paddling after a comfortable sleep at home.
First Camp (Water Filtration Set Up On Paddles)
We set out early the next day on a windier day but got a good full day of paddling in. I'm thankful that they organized paddling by: paddle one side for 30 minutes, switch, 30 minutes on the other side and break (raspberry!). Once one part of your shoulders, hands and back start to feel sore; you switch and allow it to rest. By the end of the day I was ready for sleep. The sky was ominous but looked like it would pass. While waiting for dinner to cook, I watched an ant-hill make preparations to be rained on. I found it interesting and said "I think we're going to get rained on" and was met with laughter: "Kevin, turn around.", the storm that looked li