Day 1: Launch
We were in no rush. But after sorting and packing for half a week, we had to get all the gear on the river. With two canoes, two dogs, and our gear loaded, my Dad (Bruce), Logan and I headed down to Pavan park in Lethbridge, AB. Our plan was to make it to “The Forks”, as the local fishermen refer to it; the confluence of the Oldman River and the Bow River that forms the South Saskatchewan River. We suspected we may not to make it there, instead getting picked up at one of the three bridges on the way.
We pushed off the banks of Pavan Park onto the Oldman River after 4pm. We were aware of a looming thunderstorm but the skies had cleared by the time we started our 6-day river trip.
Dad in one canoe with the Stubbs Family Toller “Aida”, and I in the another with Deke.
Weather was pleasant through the 3.5 hr float. We enjoyed a warm and calm first day on the river with a lot of fish-loving birds. More Great Blue Heron sightings than usual. The first was a breeding pair and their juvenile. I was surprised how close we could get without them flushing.
There were plenty of Common Mergansers, they are extraordinary at running across the water without every lifting up. Dad spotted a number of Mule Deer, and I had my eyes up high looking for raptors. Golden and Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks. There was a lot of activity on the shore, shore birds I was not close enough to ID, the typical Cliff
Swallow groups, and one Yellow Bellied Marmot that had made his home in the cliffs.
The river is low, it has definitely taken an effort to avoid gravel bars and slumping remnants.
We found our first camp spot on a large island east of the Hwy 845 bridge. We arrived at 730pm but were not prepared to work too hard. So we set camp and lit a fire (using the tumble weed trick) and put cooking off for a few hours to enjoy the site.
The flowing river and stogies kept us distracted from the task at hand while thunderstorms creeped over the coulee tips. Dad attempted to get the naptha stove running when he realised the seal in the tank was broken. So fully pressurized and before being hooked up to the stove a steady stream of naptha gas sprang from the tip on the tank. Realizing he was effectively spraying the kitchen set-up with naptha gas he turned to re-direct the stream; having apparently forgotten that behind him was the open flame of our fire pit. Luckily, the stream of flammable liquid never reached the open flame and we were able to remedy the situation before too long.
Coyotes howled with their pups, the pups never sounding quite as graceful. The dogs were stirred up for a little while but settled down before too long.
By 10 o’clock we decided we should cook supper, we would be out of light soon and the storm clouds that we originally thought would miss us were suddenly approaching. The steak was on the grill over the fire and the spuds were beside in the cast iron pan when the rain hit. It was a mad scramble to get the important things to shelter. The dogs were in the vestibule wondering why we were running around camp in the rain.
So wet, cold and hungry (but not uncomfortable) we clambered in the tent to wait out the rain. Although short lived, our steaks were rinsed of their marinade and the potatoes were now a soup dish.
It didn’t take much to get the fire going and everything cooking again. We ate at 11pm with the smell of rain and under a stormy night sky.
It had been an exciting first evening and to top it off, I found my favourite headlamp in the tent wall pocket that I had ‘lost’ 2 years before.