canoeing

2011 in Review

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Every year, I like to do a summary of how the year went, what was good, what was bad and what I’m looking forward to. So here goes!

The Fire Department

I have been really active on the fire department, particularly in the winter and fall (paddling off-season). I’ve literally lost count of how many calls I’ve been on, but it’s a lot! I’ve been to MVCs, building fires, a great mock-accident at the High School, a few fire alarms and medical assist calls. I spent nine hours on the roof of Extra Foods for a fundraiser, and yes, I can add that to the list of Weird and Unusual Places I Have Peed (that will have to be another post)! I’ve helped out with some fire hall tours — I always have fun with the little people. I’m not a newbie any more; we had eleven new recruits start in fall, so I have actually been giving some advice and help to them, both in the hall and on calls. I’m in that netherland between newbie and experienced firefighter. I’ve gone to lots of training, and I now know enough to be dangerous! Seriously, I have learned a lot, but there is still so much more to know. I started taking the Emergency Medical Responder course, but unfortunately had to drop out. It was a good course, and it covered a lot more than I expected. Even though I only did about a third of it, I’m glad I went — now on medical calls, I have a much better idea of what the EMRs and EMTs are doing, and I can help out more. I’m getting fairly good at a few simple tasks, but I am still challenged on virtually every call, which is why I joined the department in the first place! Never a dull moment — and that’s what’s life’s all about! | Fire Dept posts |

Personal Life

I’ve got to say, my personal life has been great this year. I’ve been surrounded by friends, and even when I was stressed about deadlines and completing the York boat on time (photos here), I still had people around me, notably my friend Michelle’s parents in Calgary, who gave me a place to stay for two weeks, fed me, and were so amazingly generous and kind. My relationship with my husband has been great, and we’ve been connecting better all the time. I enjoy our late-night pillow talk; we just chat about whatever has been on our minds. When I am stressed, I can tell him about it and we figure out something that will help. I am so loved by friends and family, sometimes it just amazes me… I am so full of gratitude and appreciation!

Business Success

Flow North had a great year! After doing the Paddling the Peace River guide for GeoTourism Canada, I was hired to run the York boat project, and then I got to be the Captain of the boat on the big, 18-day expedition. It was fantastic! I couldn’t have asked for a better crew, although at times, looking for a crew stressed me out the most. In the end, it worked out so incredibly well, one could only say I was blessed. I’ve got 5 more best friends than I had before the month of June. Beyond the York boat, I got to run a couple of canoe camps, several canoe parties, expeditions, and had lots of fun at our weekly “Family Canoe Nights” as well. What a *great* summer we had! It didn’t hurt that, as usual, we had the nicest summer weather of the province, and perhaps even in all of Canada! Not much rain, lots of sun!
canoeing on the Chinchaga river

A Few Struggles

That’s not to say it was all sunshine and roses. There were a few struggles in the fall, with some bills from the summer piling up and expenses from the York boat not being paid. Things got a bit slim, but that’s what happens some times when you’re in business for yourself. We have exchanged time freedom for money freedom — we have plenty of the first and less of the second, whereas most people have very little time freedom, but more money to work with. We created a few websites in the fall, which was great. I’m really quite proud of what we did: Northern Express, Fox Haven Golf and Country Club, Patrick Cameron
Even though we have time freedom, I still felt the crunch of not enough a few times. I am still volunteering as the secretary of the Northern Lights Forest Education Society, which is developing new trails and busy with various other activities. I am also a board member of the Mackenzie Frontier Tourist Association, which has taken up a bit of time on web development and other duties (I’m not ready to share that website yet — it still needs a lot of work)! On the other hand, I stood up for myself when the workload was getting too big and said “I can’t keep doing this for free. Normally, I charge for this work.” There is always good in the bad!

The Coming Year

There are lots of changes a-coming, which I won’t go into right now. But my vision for the year includes:

    being more consistent in exercising
    planning our meals better so I feel more organized
    continuing to learn more about fire fighting
    getting a part-time job doing radio work, either dispatching or in air traffic services again (woo hoo!)
    expanding my business and being amazed at my success, yet again!
    doing lots of fun things with my husband and friends!
    being more carefree and playful (and helping my friend publish a book all about play!)

So, most of the time, I am excited and eagerly anticipating the year to come. When I’m not? When I get caught up in the business of life and my to-do list. Nothing new there! Stay tuned for more adventures!

More Adventures

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Since the York boat expedition ended, I’ve been having lots of adventures, although none as publicized as that one was! My honey and I went on a 4-day trip on the Hay River, which was awesome! Later, I went on a 2-day trip on the Chinchaga with a good friend of mine, and last week, I guided a 3-day trip on the Peace River. I taught my first introductory session for kayaks today too! So, I’ve been canoeing on overnight trips a total of 9 days, and sometimes, frankly, I just have to pinch myself. This is my job?!?! Man, I am the luckiest son-of-a- !

Today, we tried out our sailing canoe! Darren did all the rigging and took it out first, while I was kayaking, and figured out how to steer and turn and all that! When I was done, he took me across the lake, which was awesome! We actually had the boat tilting enough that I had to lean, which was exciting and a little scary, but in a good way. It was very cool. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of it, but I’ll leave you with a pic of the boat on land. Extra-special thanks to Uncle Keith for giving it to us! We love it!

And here’s a few from the Hay River and Chinchaga River trips!

A neat spot on the Hay River where a loop of the river has been closed off, creating an oxbow lake.
Lovely scenery along the Hay River
One of many Canada geese we saw.
Looking towards the Chinchaga River from our campsite
The bank is eroding out from under an old cabin along the Chinchaga River.

Back from the River…

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Well, I’m back from my last long canoe trip! I went with a friend of mine (and her adorable dog) from Sept 14 to 22, from Hudson’s Hope, BC to Peace River, AB (about 375 km). We had a great time! I’ve blogged all about it on my company blog here, so rather than copy and paste, I’ll redirect you: http://flownorth.ca/blog/

Just a few nice pics, because I can’t resist:

Peace River Expedition

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Well, I am really starting to get ready for — and excited about — the Peace River Expedition I am leaving on next week.  I plan to paddle from the town of Peace River to the hamlet of Fort Vemilion, about 430 km downstream.  Perhaps a map would help?

I am really looking forward to it, although I am also wishing I could do the Chinchaga at the same time. We’ve had quite a bit of rain, so it looks like water levels are almost perfect. This is from looking at the water level monitoring done by the Alberta government (here). If you think it’s quite a ways, you’re right. I am giving myself 10 days to paddle it, because along the way I will be exploring and scouting for good campsites, interesting geology, and making lots of notes along the way.  :) And taking lots of pictures, which I promise to post here later on! And, yes, I am planning to paddle it alone, but if someone wants to join me, let me know ASAP! I’m not against the idea, I just realize that it’s quite a lot of time (when most people only have 2 or 3 weeks vacation). I’m planning on starting on July 6th.

The bridge near Fort Vermilion... when I see this, I'll almost be done!! :)

When I get back, I expect to hit the ground running (after showering and soaking in the hot tub!), as High Level is hosting the Little League Baseball tournament, so there will be lots of extra people in town looking for fun things to do!  :) I will have an insert in the coach’s package, so everyone will know about the canoeing opportunities!

Sorry if this post seems a little hurried… I can’t find the time for frequent posting here these days (you may have noticed) with the business to run and all!  :)  You can see what I have been up to on the Flow North website here and here and here.

A Day of Lasts

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Today is a day of lasts. It’s the last day of 2009. It’s my last day working for Nav Canada. I cleaned out my locker about a week ago, and my mailbox today. Tomorrow, or early next week, my email account will be deleted. There will be no traces that I ever worked there, actually. I took my honey jar (for my tea, of course) and my special sea salt. It feels a little weird, knowing that I’m off the schedule, and all the work I went through 4 years ago is not paying off any more.

I decided to apply to Nav Canada for several reasons: to see if I could make it in, to move back to western Canada, and because I thought it would be something I’d enjoy. I was right on all counts! I scored high enough on the aptitude test to get a call back within about a week. When I finished the training in Cornwall, I got posted to High Level, Alberta — not exactly close to my family, but at least it was driving distance. And I have certainly enjoyed it! I have been challenged, stretched, and stimulated. I learned to listen quickly, processing information and forming a mental picture much quicker than I thought I ever could. I accomplished my goal! I was one of the elite, working for Nav Canada in the air traffic system. I got to talk to pilots and watch planes and helicopters land and take off every day! What better job could there be!?

And in spring, when I had a chance, I chose to get out. I took an early departure package. Part of me was afraid of being transferred somewhere I didn’t want to live — it sounded very seriously like High Level FSS would close — and part of me saw the opportunity to take control of my life in a new way. I sat and thought about what I would like to do, if I could do anything at all and be paid for it. The answer was paddle. I love to canoe and kayak. So, I decided to start a canoe and kayak outfitting company, to make it possible for people to get out on the water — to spread the love! The love I have of paddling. :) I named my company Flow North Paddling Company, at flownorth.ca.

So, it’s a slightly melancholy time, but also a happy time. There’s a little stress, and I think I’ve already experienced the last time I go to the grocery store and buy whatever the heck I want! Without looking at the prices! I will be on a budget now… but I’m not worried. Not oblivious to the money situation, but not worried. :)

So, I’m looking forward to a lot more adventures in 2010… may you have many happy adventures in the coming year, too!

Trade Show Fun

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Well, the trade show was this past weekend, and we survived! It was actually quite fun, although the rush and stress leading up to it wasn’t exactly. There were a bunch of little details that needed to be done (and several that were optional to be done) in order to have our booth ready, and I have been working many days in a row. I even got a headache, in part from all the work and not enough sleep. But, my chiropractor got me all into shape, so I am feeling better!

It was an interesting exercise in people-watching. I’m sure they were watching me, too… We had our big sign with the logo attached to a kayak paddle, and another one sitting on a small table, with large text saying what we are about. It seemed pretty straightforward to me! Some people, when they saw our booth, got a confused look on their faces, like they were thinking Trade Show 2009“I’ve never heard about this before!” So, I would say “if you haven’t heard of us, it’s because we’re new!” That seemed to clear it up. It’s such a small town, everyone kind of knows everyone, and certainly knows all the businesses around. :) So, that was one response.

Another one was a rapid “oh, you’ll never get me in a boat, I hate water” or “I’m terrified of water, so count me out.” Interesting. Now, kayaks have a reputation for being tippy, and many people are nervous about getting in them – or getting stuck in one! – but these people weren’t even open to the suggestion. If we had been talking about dinghys or flat-bottom boats, the response would have been the same. Too bad – they are letting their fear rule them and take away their fun! I wonder what other fears they are letting rule them…?

Another response was “I’m too old for that!” We didn’t hear that one a lot, mainly because High Level’s population is so young, and there weren’t many old people there!! And then we got to chatting with a white-haired fellow, who wanted to buy a kayak paddle just like the one we have. I said I could look into it and call him back. As we talked about other outdoor sports, he said he was passionate about cross-country skiing, which I also do. I confessed that I can’t “skate” ski – he said he just learned a little while ago, when he was 66! Wow! He was so funny, gesturing to Darren, saying “he’s too young to learn that!” :)

Trade Show 2009-2And the most common thing I noticed about people was how much they looked down. We had a few maps on our table, which was between us and the people visiting us, and people would invariably stare down at the table. Were our maps that interesting? They were nice, detailed topo maps of the rivers around here, but I think it was more about shyness or not knowing where to look…poor eye contact… did I have egg on my face? I don’t think so!  :)

We met so many nice people, and saw many friends who said “I didn’t know you were doing this!!” It was a great time, and a nice relief to be done it! Still lots to do, to finish the business plan and work out many details! But, the website’s done – flownorth.ca – and at least some of the other stuff can wait!

Big, New Idea

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We are having the most amazing indian summer here right now, and I hate to be stuck at the computer – or at work, and of course I am working 10 days in a row! – because all I want to do is be outside! The leaves are starting to change colours, and it’s been so nice and warm (reaching 25 degrees C the last few days), Footner LakeI just feel like it’s the last chance of the year to enjoy summer! Darren and I went paddling on Sunday morning, which was awesome, but I would love to go every day.  :)

But no, I’m stuck at the keyboard, researching, writing, figuring, designing… And what have I been steadily working on for the last couple of weeks (hence not much blogging)? My paddling business! That’s right, I am starting my own business, which I’m naming Flow North Paddling Company. After deciding on the name, I designed the logo (see below) and I’m currently working on the webpage. My plan was to start this up next spring, but a couple of weeks ago I realized that it would be best to have a booth at the Trade Show to promote it now, even if everything’s not quite ready, just to let people know that I’ll be starting up in spring. But man, it’s been an accelerated path, trying to get everything done. Big sign ordered – check. Business cards being printed – check. Plan for the booth? Working on it…

So what made me want to start my own paddling company, you might be asking! I often hear people say that we have such nice rivers and great wilderness, but no one’s doing anything to promote it. Since I love paddling and think it would be awesome to be paid to do that, I decided to go for it. Through Flow North, you’ll be able to rent a canoe or kayak(s), go out on a river or lake for a day, or a week, and see the amazing scenery around here. Lots of wildlife, too, and not just bears! Everyone thinks of bears – usually in fear – but forgets the beavers, birds, geese, ducks, moose, deer, even elk and bison. I love paddling and just wanted to share that love and make it possible for people to get out there and enjoy the water. Local people can just rent the boat (and paddle, bailer, PFD if needed, and whistle) and put it on their own vehicle and go for the day, or I can meet tourists at a spot along a river with the boats and all the supplies they’ll need for a 2 week trip! I flow-north-logoget so excited thinking about it! I’m researching dried foods that taste yummy and are filling. I’m looking at maps and calculating distances on rivers. I’ve been contemplating marketing and practical things, like where I’ll store the boats. And I decided early on that I wouldn’t get into guided trips, because a) I don’t feel like an uber-qualified paddle master, and b) none of the water around here is particularly tricky, as long as you’ve been in a canoe or kayak before. If not, you can come a day early and get a quick course and away you go. I want to review safety things with people, but don’t feel I need to physically go with every group. Especially if I give each overnight group a SPOT GPS device! They are so cool! All you do is press the “I’m ok” button and it transmits to a satellite which relays the message to whoever you set up as your contacts, so your friends or family can track where you are. If you need help, you press “help” and if you need 9-1-1 rescue, there’s a button for that too. So, that makes me feel a LOT better about paddling in the middle of nowhere (just south of it, actually) and sending boat renters out onto these great wilderness rivers.

So I had it all pretty much figured out. Renting, outfitting, no guiding. And then, one day driving home from work, I had a real brainwave! Why not offer a buddy service to single women who want to paddle! I remember being single and wanting to do things… and sometimes trying to find someone to go along, and sometimes just going by myself because there was no one to go with. Usually, I would have preferred to have someone to go with, and for people who are nervous about being in the bush (in bear country), I can go along and offer support! I will make it clear I’m no fancy qualified guide, although I will take wilderness first aid and some other courses, but I’m willing and able to offer my experience paddling and camping, and company in general. Being in the bush by oneself is a little spooky, I know. So now I’m uber-excited about this business and the adventures that will follow! You know me, I’m all about the adventures!

To summarize, through my company, you’ll be able to:

  • rent a boat (for a day, or a few days, or a week or a few weeks)
  • get dropped off at the beginning and picked up at the end of your trip (important for river paddling!)
  • use a SPOT GPS to let others know where you are and, in the worst case scenario, if you need help
  • rent supplies like cooking stoves or tents if you need them
  • order meal supplies, packed and ready for your trip, with cooking instructions included! (And most of it will be homemade.)
  • take me along on a trip if you’re all alone and nervous about wilderness paddling! (Women only, sorry guys.)

Isn’t that great?!? I am so excited about it (perhaps you can tell!), and I know I’m really going to enjoy doing this! I have a few crazy ideas for marketing, and hope to connect with Europeans who want to explore Canada. More on that another time. But anyways, I’ll announce my webpage when it’s ready (should have something by Friday, in time for the Trade Show). Ack! I have a lot of work to do!

Please, even if you’ve never done so before, leave a comment and let me know what you think of my idea! I’m looking for input, ideas, feedback, whatever! Thanks!