Paddling Exhilaration on the Churchill River
By Sheila Nykwist
There’s no better word to describe setting off on an adventure of the unknown than…exhilarating! And for me, a five-day paddling excursion in northern Saskatchewan was nothing close to what I’d ever experienced before. I’m more of a land-based recreation enthusiast. So the thought of relying on my non-existent canoeing skills to transport not only myself, but more importantly, food and camping gear to an island on the Churchill River…well, let’s just say, it was a scary thought!
Challenges are to be overcome however. More than that, embraced. And looking back, my adventure on CanoeSki’s Women and Waves trip is one of those exhilarating experiences that makes life great. I mean you have those nice trips to famous cities with incredible architecture, fancy cuisine and of course, shopping. But when you really want to stretch your inner strength, reconnect with nature and share a unique bond with like-minded women, this is the kind of trip to go for.
First, meet up with your group and CanoeSki guides in Saskatoon. And just to sweeten the deal, and possibly entice a few less-seasoned paddlers like myself, the staff includes a masseuse and a musician!
Then, stuff everything you need for a five-day canoe camping trip, including clothes, sleeping bag and don’t forget the mosquito repellent, into a large dry sac. Next day, drive north. Way north, until you get to Lac La Ronge Provincial Park where you’ll get your first lesson in paddling. Beginning with the most important skill – the rescue: how to flip over a canoe that has somehow managed to capsize in the water, and save the sopping occupants. Nothing like starting off easy! But really, what more do you need to know? Well, the J-stroke would be nice, but there’s time for that. Plenty of time…
Do you like mossy undergrowth, dense forests and starry skies when camping? Well, get ready for the best sleeps ever in a pristine natural environment. Not that you’ll want to sleep much because once you get in the groove of paddling, you won’t want to stop! Beautiful water dotted with islands for as far as the eye can see, soaring eagles overhead and the best part, little to no sign of civilization. You feel like you are now on a level playing field with some of the first Canadian explorers to the region. Well…maybe.
There’s so much to contemplate when your only distraction is the beauty that abounds. Magnificent sunrises, calling loons, rushing rapids, wild blueberries underfoot, the stillness of the night…and your fellow CanoeSki paddlers of course!
Yes. A time to get back to nature, to appreciate the simple things like waking up to dewy freshness, a refreshing swim in cool, clean water, delicious meals prepared over the fire, the healing hands of a professional masseuse, and singing with friends.
It may be less than a week spent a few miles away from home, but it’s amazing how nature can transport you to a completely different world. A world where time slows down, perspective changes and true appreciation is felt.
The paddle home may not provide the same exhilaration as at the start. But you will feel something else. (And I’m not talking about exhaustion, although there’s that too!) You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, a warm connection to kindred souls, and satisfaction knowing you’ve just experienced an adventure that you’ll remember fondly for the rest of your life…Paddling Exhilaration!
An All-Female Adventure on the Amazing Voyageur Waterway
By Jan Walker
My Women and Waves adventure with CanoeSki far outstripped any expectations – and mine are usually pretty high! To actually be paddling on the Churchill River, that amazing waterway of the voyageurs is so remarkable. An all-female adventure gave the trip a distinct dynamic.
Our guides Elizabeth and “Jazz Hands” Nicole were open and flexible to the group’s priorities. We chose to camp on a central island and canoe out each day, minimizing the time spent making camp and maximizing time on the water. We didn’t want to do a lot of portages as some of us are “getting up there a bit”. The guides let us make the choices, only offering expert advice when needed. Also on board was recording artist Melissa Nygren who is a ton of fun and a very talented singer/songwriter. Our massage therapist Ellen, also a skilled paddler and adventurer, was there for us at the end of the day.
The warm, pristine waters of OtterLake are glorious. Sunsets made me feel like I was somewhere in history – pressures of the modern world far away. The roar of RobertsonFalls was a thrill, but we were in no danger, our guides prepared us well ahead of the portage. Kids from a local camp were at the falls bodysurfing and helped land our canoes. Our fun-loving guides couldn’t resist jumping in with the kids to bodysurf down the waves. Anytime we passed fellow adventurers there were smiles, waves and greetings; power boats slowed and passed with courtesy.
Local people were so friendly. One general store owner didn’t sell coffee, but when we asked for it, offered to crank up the staff coffee pot again and again until our whole crew had a fix! Robertson’s Trading Post we visited in La Ronge was a blend of old and new. The lobster is in the freezer, right beside the bait minnows. Trapper’s supplies, including 25# buckets of lard, are piled high. It’s a different world and a fascinating one.
Whether you are mother and daughter, co-workers, school chums or your own special brand of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, the Women and Waves trip is a must. It’s a special opportunity to bond and grow, relax and enjoy the pristine wilderness or just hang out together. This is a trip you won’t forget!