Sunday, July 3, 2011

Paddling the Hay River

I went on a canoe trip today on the Hay River near my house. Tessa, Lily and I put the canoe in at the bridge about 1/2 mile away and expected to paddle downstream for a couple of hours to the second bridge where we left her car. We had a gorgeous morning for the trip--temps in the 70's, clear sky, gentle breeze. And the scenery was out of this world! Of course, no camera with us but I took these pix from the bridge where we started. We could smell the scent of the pines in the air along with other clean outdoorsy fragrances. The paddling was so easy, all I had to do was simply guide the canoe around the gentle curves. We saw wildlife! Boy, did we! Over the course of the trip, we spotted 2 otter and 1 beaver, several ducks and 2 that acted like they were wounded to lure us away from their ducklings, 4 sightings of bald eagles (twice they flew right over our heads!), 4 fawns and 5 adult white tail deer. There were lots of birds in the trees making all sorts of noise calling to each other, and we were surrounded by the most beautiful black-winged and blue bodied damselflies. A totally beautiful start to our trip. We paddled along until we came to the first bridge and we all agreed that we should have left the car at that bridge, but we didn't so, we journeyed onward to the second bridge.

That's when the nightmare began. The breeze died down and was replaced by hot sun. Deer flies descended on us in droves and replaced the gentle little damselflies. The deer flies seemed to be attracted to the combined scents of bug spray and sun block. Tessa and Lily had it worse than me since I'd neglected to put on the sunblock. If you don't know about deer flies, they like to live in the shade and they bite! Hard! And they can draw blood! Fortunately, they move slowly and are easy to slap and kill, (sorry, PETA) but not when you're paddling a canoe! Then we began to come across giant trees fallen over the river, blocking our way. We had to crouch down and go under, or do some pretty fancy paddling to go around them, and in one case, Tessa and I had to get out and push the canoe under the tree trunk with Lily in it, lying flat on her stomach. And we discovered that the bottom of the river was either about 6 feet of mucky goop that sucked at our sandals and generally hampered everything, OR in the really shallow places, it was all rocks and we grounded ourselves more than once and had to get out and pull the canoe off the gravel bars. It seemed that this river wanted to really make our lives hell and it became more curvy and twisty as we went on and that meant that I was constantly steering and trying to keep to the deepest channel, and that was very hard work!

All we could think about was getting to the second bridge where the car was. And when would we get there???? I kept telling myself that each stroke of the paddle meant we were closer to the end, and FINALLY, we saw the second bridge! Yea!!!! We pulled up to the bank and Tessa stepped out--into even deeper muck! She managed to make her way up the very steep bank and there was the car! On the other side of the river than where we were! What to do? I crossed my fingers and hoped the water was shallow enough and I started pulling the canoe, with Lily in it, across to the other side and we made it, with me only getting wet to my thighs, thank goodness.

Now, all three of us are tired and sore, and I have a very red sunburned nose, but we are happy we went on this adventure to see some of Mother Nature that we have only glimpsed as we cross the bridges in the car. The trip that was supposed to be a couple of hours--turned out to be 4 1/2 hours!

Would I do it again? You bet! But only to the first bridge. ;) And with a camera.


  1. What a trip! We call those flies March flies in australia, and yes they do bite...but as you say are slow and easy to swat. glad you got to the bridge and home safely.

  2. Sounds like you had a fun time despite the obstacles! I bet Lily loved it! - Jo