Shelly’s Story – Cranes & Colors Corn Roast Canoe Trip, September 2013
Looking for a fall canoeing adventure, Shelly landed on CanoeSki’s South Saskatchewan River Cranes & Colors corn roast canoe trip. She is taken with the beauty and tranquility of the river valley in its fall splendour, and the abundant birds and wildlife that frequent the valley in autumn. She adds that the campfire roasted corn was the best she’s ever tasted!
A South Saskatchewan River Canoe Trip Full of Amazing Fall Sights & Sounds
By Shelly McGrath
This past summer I had decided that I would like to experience canoeing. I joined the recreation division of the Saskatoon Canoe Club in May and then was able to do a two-day trip with friends in Prince Albert National Park on the Hanging Hearts Lakes. As the beautiful season of fall was approaching I had a longing to do another canoe adventure before our long Saskatchewan winter would be upon us, and that is when I found CanoeSki’s interesting and informative website. After exploring the site and the many intriguing options, I emailed Cliff and he advised me of the Cranes and Colors day trip that he would be guiding.
The mid-September morning when our group met, the air was cool, but you could tell it was going to be a beautiful and sunny fall day. Cliff had the canoes loaded and the supplies all packed into his van when we arrived, and so our only job was to get seated in the van and be ready for a full day of adventure!
We headed to our launching spot on the South Saskatchewan River south of Pike Lake, with our only stop being at a small, road-side market garden, to pick up the fresh corn for our lunch-time corn roast. We all eagerly helped unload the canoes and gear and then Cliff gave us a quick paddling tutorial. He decided that each of the couples would begin paddling together and so that left me to go with the “instructor”. Cliff decided that the best place for me to learn would be in the stern and he was so “right”!! He was actually very helpful and patient, I might add, as I tried to differentiate in my mind the simple paddling techniques and strokes that we had just learned.
Having the swift current and light wind on our backs enabled us to have plenty of time to enjoy the amazing sights and sounds of the day. We saw huge flocks of snow geese that Cliff was able to capture with his camera as they made flight, and he also sighted a flock of high-flying cranes, informing us that it is often their “guttural-like” calls that helps to distinguish them from other birds in flight. As we meandered along the river, we were treated to a picturesque sighting of a deer standing knee-deep in the river, appearing to be enjoying the natural beauty surrounding us as much as we were.
After a little over an hour of paddling, Cliff directed us to the shoreline where the grassy clearing above would be the perfect place for our designated lunch spot. We helped carry the coolers and corn up the embankment and Lynn, another paddler and I volunteered to craft some “smokie” roasting sticks from willow branches hidden in the small bluff of trees nearby. In the meantime a fire had already been started and was in the process of dying down, ideally creating the perfect coals for roasting the corn, that was pre-soaked and then carefully wrapped in foil.
While we rested and visited, Cliff laid out a beautiful and delicious spread of fresh vegetables and dip, cheese, pickles, and potato salad, and we soaked in the beauty and tranquility of the setting. We were also unfortunately entertained by a group of over-zealous men with giant and noisy toys (air boats, I believe they are called) who were in the process of getting their machines stuck and then unstuck in the far sandbar. It felt good to know that when we were ready to depart on the rest of our journey, it would only be a matter of placing our canoes in the water and simply paddling away on our own accord!
The corn was cooked to perfection and was truly the best that I have ever tasted – in fact, so delicious that I opted for a second cob rather than a smokie and bun that the rest of the crew were enjoying!
After exploring and examining some of the native plants and berries that were nearby, we were ready to continue on the rest of our paddling excursion. Again we were treated to the sounds of migrating geese, and the beautiful sight of trees in the distance beginning to change into their fall shades of colour. Cliff skillfully guided us through the sand bars (and I was relieved to know that this time he was in charge of the steering) so I could focus on improving my paddling strokes. We were glad to know that the increasing wind was on our back and along with the quick current, all that was required of us was to enjoy the sunshine and beauty of this gorgeous Fall Day.
We arrived at the Berry Barn where our van was waiting to be loaded. Each of us helped to sponge down the canoes and load up the van. We also managed to convince a passerby to take some photos of our group of newly formed friends. As we drove back towards the city, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for so many things – for the beauty that each of the seasons brings to our prairie landscape; for the birds and wildlife that are allowed to freely live and roam in our river valley; and for people like Cliff who appreciate all of this and make it possible for any of us to experience it. Thank-you!
To read other fascinating trip stories go to Canoeing Tales of Discovery