It’s hard to believe it’s actually 2011. Not long ago, it was weird to write “2010” on things, instead of “200_” and now 2010 is gone. What a year! Here are a few highlights from my life!
No more Flight Service. I worked my last day for Nav Canada on December 31, 2009. Only a few times in 2010 did I miss it… and I don’t regret the decision I made to strike out on my own. I don’t hold any bad feelings towards Nav Can, so all in all, it was a great experience! I would even consider going back… In all honesty, I sometimes miss telling people “I’m like an air traffic controller.” But I do not miss the shift work! Or getting up at 6 am to go to work when it’s -30 C in a snowstorm! But those were good times too, in their own way! Always an adventure!
Starting my own business. Starting Flow North Paddling Company was a huge highlight of 2010, and a heck of a lot of work! I loved setting things up, working on the website, ordering business cards, getting a new vehicle and then getting it covered in lettering. I’m having a lot of fun being my own boss, although it has its challenges too. There’s nobody pushing me to get out of bed early to go to work, except me! Then again, I have to live with the pushy part of myself (which usually kicks in at 8 pm or so) that wants to get this-or-that task finished…
Paddling the Peace River. I was so very blessed to paddle about 800 km of the Peace River, 430 km of that in a solo kayak, on my own in the wilderness. It was a challenge and a journey, but most of all, a blessing to be able to do it. It took 19 days, and if I worked for someone else, I would not have had that much time off! It was “research” but it was also a sort of quest. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I found it! Peace, serenity, focus and clarity.
Joining the volunteer fire department. In the fall, I signed up for the volunteer fire department in my town. It has been another challenging and awesome experience. The people are great, I enjoy learning all kinds of new things, and I have made many new friends! I feel really well-suited to the work and enjoyed my first calls (what a day that was)! It gets my heart pounding, and hey, isn’t that what life is about?!?
Writing a paddling guide. Using a completely different skill set — researching, scouring through details, graphic designing, and writing — I have been creating a comprehensive paddling guide for the Peace River. It will be available online in the spring, through GeoTourism Canada’s website. They are paying me to write it, to make it available for free for all of you! I’ve enjoyed it, on the whole, although at times, it’s been challenging too. It’ll be great when it’s done! It’s been a priority for the last couple of months, so I’ll be glad to be done and have time for other things!
Almost finishing my book. In January 2010, I found an illustrator for my book. I started working on the finishing steps. Then, spring came and I got too busy with the paddling business to work on anything else. I took a little time in August to work on my book, and the paddling business slumped. I refocused, and the business came back a little. It’s amazing how one’s focus affects success! I had a friend do some editing for me… and when winter returned and the canoes and kayaks were put to bed, I resumed the formatting and other finishing work. I’m so close to finishing I can smell it. Hopefully by the end of next week!
Hmmm… it would seem like the theme of this year was challenges! Maybe it’s the theme for my life… in any case, I’m ready for another year, whatever it will bring! Book success! Canoe trips! Making more new friends! More writing! I know, I’m a week late, but let’s raise a glass to 2011!
Hi everyone! You are my best supporters, my blog readers! So, I wanted to let you know that I am unveiling two presentations about my paddling experiences this summer. If you know of an event looking for a speaker, please have the organizer contact me using the comments form below. Comments are not published until I approve them, so I will not publish any requests. As for everyone else… What do you think of my idea? Would you like to hear about my trips? Would you find it interesting? Leave comments!
800 Kilometers on the River — Insights from my Summer of Wilderness Paddling
Join outdoor enthusiast and owner of Flow North Paddling Company, Teresa Griffith as she shares the challenges and triumphs of canoeing and kayaking over 800 km on the beautiful Peace River. In total, she paddled for nineteen days — ten days solo, nine days with a canoe partner — steeped in the beauty of the wilderness river. She overcame shoulder trouble, thunderstorms, shallow water, strong wind and waves throughout her journey. She spent seven continuous days alone on the water, with only herself and her kayak, and she wasn’t the same when she finished. She shares inspiration which came to her on that portion of the trip, when time stood still and every paddle stroke was a meditation.
800 Kilometers on the River — Lessons in Independence
Join outdoor enthusiast and owner of Flow North Paddling Company, Teresa Griffith as she shares the challenges and triumphs of canoeing and kayaking over 800 km on the beautiful Peace River. In total, she paddled for nineteen days — ten days solo, nine days with a canoe partner — steeped in the beauty of the wilderness river. She overcame shoulder trouble, thunderstorms, shallow water, strong wind and waves throughout her journey. She spent seven continuous days alone on the water, with only herself and her kayak, and she wasn’t the same when she finished.
A dynamic speaker, Teresa gives an outline of her past experiences which led her to make this journey. She reviews her trip preparation and practical aspects of the journey. She also shares inspiration and insight which came to her on the solo portion of the trip, when time stood still and every paddle stroke was a meditation. Sitting out a severe thunderstorm on the river’s muddy bank, nowhere to hide, wisdom and poetry surfaced from somewhere deep within. You’ll be encouraged, uplifted, and inspired to stretch yourself beyond what you thought possible.
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:
Well, I took Saturday, Sunday and Monday to finish the big trip on the Peace River I started in July, from Peace River (the town) to Fort Vermilion. I started at Tompkins landing, just a few metres from where I had finished about 5 weeks before. One major difference this time was that I didn’t have to dodge (or be aware of the comings and goings of) the ferry. The water level is so low, the ferry is anchored on the east side and not running at all. This means that all vehicle traffic has to drive to La Crete and Fort Vermilion the long way, through High Level. I definitely noticed the increased road traffic across the Vermilion bridge… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The trip went really well! It’s about 136 km, and I didn’t push myself the first day, going only 34 km. Remember, my goal in the original trip was 50 km/day, which I held to, which would have meant a slightly shorter leg of only 43 km on the third day. This isn’t how it went, though! I did 34 on the first day, as I said, 49 on the second day, and 53 on the third. Whew!
I had nice weather on all days, and generally felt like I was really picking up from where I’d left off. Except that it was a bit cooler now. I had almost all the same equipment, except I added a collapsible bucket but forgot to bring a facecloth or towel, which meant I didn’t really need the bucket! I really missed the facecloth and towel, and I’m not sure how I forgot them. I was a little less strict about my list, since much of the stuff was still packed in dry bags and simply had to be reclosed. Obviously I had to pack clothes again, and I brought a few more items — a wool sweater for example, which I wore on the morning of the third day. I hadn’t packed warm gloves, which I also wished for, since it was a little breezy and cool on the evening of the second day.
I found some really unique spots to camp this time, so I was very happy about that. The first night, for example, I camped beside a dirt-quad trail, thinking it probably never got used. Nope. I had 5 horses and one quad pass by me, twice. Once on the way down to the water and again on the way back. I thought I might get trampled by one horse who was very skittish. It seemed she could smell me, but since I was in my tent (I went to bed early that night), she couldn’t see me, and instead only saw an odd blue cube (what would a tent look like to a horse?)! So I popped my head out and said “hi” but this didn’t calm her much! Now I was a disembodied head sticking out of an odd blue cube!
I knew this trip would be less remote than other sections I’d done, but this was more company that I’d expected!
The second night I had no visitors at all, as I was much farther from any roads or trails. I took a chance down a narrow channel between an island and the shore and found a great little spot, albeit a bit lacking in wind protection. I learned patience while I sat and held up a thick drybag as a windbreak for the cookstove — and yes, a watched pot will eventually boil! Supper was very tasty that night, perhaps because I was a little more tired. As I breezed by Atlas Landing on the second day, I think the people fishing and relaxing there must have wondered about me… I didn’t stop, just came very close, took a GPS point, said “hi…. yes, I’m on my way to Fort… I’ll arrive tomorrow. Have a nice day!”
The third day was the toughie. Not just because it was the farthest, and not even the slowest current, but somehow it was the toughest. I think my body was getting very tired and I was fighting a cold. I ate a Mars bar for energy at one point and immediately felt my throat get sore — not a good sign! I tried to stay hydrated, but I think I got a little dehydrated too. You really have to be very careful about this! Although I found Gatorade helpful in the first part of my trip, I think the sugar wasn’t helping my impending sore throat. I have found that sugary and fizzy drinks give me a sore throat even when I’m not overdoing it by paddling 53 km in one day! I was also surprised by how tired I was since I even paddled 60 km one day on the first trip (mind you, I was pretty toast after that).
The scenery along this reach is lovely as always. Many of the islands show more erosion than deposition, which was interesting. They had steep cliffs showing layers instead of the long, gradual slopes. The water level was so low, there were sand bars showing — really, it was the river bed — beside some of these steep cliffs. It was weird to see! I mean, a long, gradual slope just shows more when the water is low! But when it’s a cliff, it makes an “L” shape, and you can see the base of the “L!” So besides discovering all the shallow spots, sand bars, and gravel bars, I even got to see the actual river bed.
The BEST part about paddling at this time of year is the birds! I saw — no exaggerating — over 1000 sandhill cranes fly over me, and about 200 Canada geese migrating. I scared no less than 1000 Canada geese on the shores near Blumenort, but they didn’t start migrating. They just made a big ruckus, honking away, then flew around in circles or flew a little ways behind me and settled back again on the beach. I guess they weren’t quite ready for their Big Trip. Overall, I bet I scared 2000 geese from along the shores (even though I never got very close)! By the way, the photo at left is Sandhill cranes, who fly very high and make wonderful “cooo cooo” noises that sound like they are gargling at the same time. Sometimes you can only hear them and can’t find them, they’re so high and so small. They’re very large birds, and quite a sight to see in large numbers! A friend and I saw a few hundred in a field about 2 weeks ago, and that was amazing too!
At long last, I saw the bridge that crosses the river, a lovely sight indeed. And truck after truck crossing it (remember, the ferry’s not running). I hope more than a few drivers looked out their windows, saw me and thought “man, that looks relaxing! I need a vacation!” I like to work hard, but I’m very much in favour of vacations! Perhaps instead they thought “geez, that person looks tired! She’s hardly paddling at all!” Um, ya, well, you would be too! I got a little extra wind (so to speak) after the bridge and paddled the glassy water to the welcome sign. How many villages do you know that have a welcome sign on their river? Then just a couple more km to the dock and I was done!
That’s all to report for now! I am still planning on doing the upstream reach of the Peace, from Hudson’s Hope (or thereabouts) to the town of Peace River. That’s about 375 km, which I was going to do in 7 days, but I might stretch it out a bit. The days are getting noticeably shorter (the sun sets at 9:15 pm now) and I think I’d like to try a more moderate pace of 30 km/day, with more time for exploring and campfire building! So, that’ll add up to about 805 km on the Peace — not quite half its length, actually. In case you think I’m
b) nuts, or
let me explain that I’m not just doing this to
a) be able to brag about how far I went this summer on my arms (the geese have me beat!), or
b) to have the most incredible core muscles ever (you should see me twist)!
I actually have really good reasons! They are
a) to have first-hand knowledge of the river so that when you rent a boat from us, we can really tell you what to expect, where you might like to camp, and some neat spots to explore, and
b) to write a Paddling the Peace guide for GeoTourism Canada (which you’ll all be able to download for free next spring), and
c) to write another book about all that I’ve learned on these long solo trips. (here’s my first book)
So there you have it. I am not nuts. I eat nuts. Then again, you are what you eat… 😉
Since returning from 7 days of wilderness paddling, I’ve had a slight identity crisis. I have a few mental images of myself that don’t quite match up to the mirror! I paddled through some very hot weather, and in my mind’s eye, my hair had been bleached by the sun to the point of being white-blonde. And when my hair blew across my face, that’s what colour it was. So that’s the image I had. I also had some pretty awesome experiences that made me feel like an absolute goddess… bathing in the river, drying in the sun on a sandy beach… magical. I was like a mermaid. So now I feel like, uh, I was a goddess sort of in the past. Now I’m just me again. Kinda makes me sad. So, I just have to remember that experience and know that I really am magical!
Then, because of all the paddling, lifting, and the 11-km sprint at the end, I felt like the HULK! I mean, I built some serious muscles! However… when I looked in the mirror, I really didn’t look any different! I felt like I had such pipes! But I look the same as before. Although today I noticed my shoulders in my peripheral vision — so maybe I have a few new muscles. And my abs… I noticed them today, too.
I was a magical pixie with gorgeous blonde hair, adventurous and free… and at times, all I want to do is return to that world.
As a magical pixie, I seem to have lost some of my businesswoman-liness. I feel shy and don’t feel like doing any promotion — marketing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At the canoe races on the weekend, I actually had a little trouble talking to people — that’s new for me! I feel very introverted, and I used to be pretty balanced between the two extremes (introversion and extroversion). Or, at least, I was an introvert who had figured out how to act extroverted. Now, I don’t feel like acting whatsoever — I am fully into being my genuine self, no pretenses. Which is a good thing, right? Not something we are usually able to do! But I seem to have lost some social skills as well. So, are social skills just us acting, playing roles? I guess so! And I’m out of practice, and it’s not coming back to me all that quickly either.
Overall, I guess you could say I haven’t quite emerged from my journey within.
I thought I might be overly serious when I returned, like I had really grown up. I figured after 8 days of being super-responsible (which I was), facing survival on my own abilities (which I did), and being completely independent (ditto), I might be somewhat annoyed by the mundane. This is true in some respects, but I have also connected to my inner child, I think. During the trip, I certainly saw things through new eyes. I sang while I paddled — silly songs, fun songs, made-up songs. “Hey little bird, hey little bird, flying with your big wings. Hey little bird, hey little bird, flying so high…” I looked at the wildflowers, greeted the sun and clouds, and adopted a great child-like wonder of nature. Now that I am back, that has slipped — but I’ve been indoors a lot more now, which was very, very hard to get used to after living outside for 24/7. I hated it. Being inside isn’t natural! Working on a computer isn’t natural! I couldn’t even touch it for a whole day after I returned. I also noticed humming sounds in the house that I had never noticed before, and the neighbour’s lawn mower was unbearably loud, almost painful. I guess my senses were heightened, and now they have to desensitize again.
So that’s a little of where I’m at. I am sure that I’ll return to normal again, probably… although I had some extremely spiritual experiences too, that I think have changed me. More on that another time. Hope you enjoyed these few pictures — I have so many good ones! I may have to start using flickr and share them that way. But I already have Panoramio, so I guess I’ll use that… I’ll let you know where to find them once I upload them!
Well, yesterday afternoon at about 3:00 pm, I finished my paddle. I kayaked by myself all the way from Peace River, AB to Tompkin’s Landing (where the ferry crosses highway 697). I sprinted the last hour (about 11 km) because I saw a thunderstorm approaching and didn’t want to get caught in it. Here are a few stats for ya!
- – My GPS says 305 km paddled, but it was tracking while I walked around a bit too, so it’s probably about 295 km paddled or so.
– My GPS says I spent about 40 hrs 49 min moving and 20 hrs 28 min stopped. But of course it doesn’t account for time it’s turned off (at night, and at some stopovers).
– My gear weighed 86 lbs (39 kg).
– My kayak (a Prijon Kodiak) weighs 62 lbs (28 kg).
– I weigh 130 lbs (59 kg).
– Therefore, my arms and core body transported 278 lbs (126 kg) approx 300 km! (The current did help!) And I also lugged that 148 lb (67 kg) kayak up the shore repeatedly!
– I spent 6.5 days and 6 nights on the river.
– My average was 46 km per day. I aimed to do 50.
– I sat on shore through 2 thunderstorms, with nothing but a raincoat for protection! (That’s also why I didn’t make 50 km every day.)
– I used 1 bear-proof container, 6 dry bags, 1 mesh bag, and about 30 ziplock bags!
– Of the 6 times I camped in the wilderness, 4 times were completely away from people (more than 20 km). The 2nd night I camped at Sunny Valley with a farm and cottages nearby, and the last night I camped on a new friend’s yard (wonderful Metis man I just met).
– I did all this with no rifle, only a can of bear spray, but I didn’t see any bears. I don’t think I could have kept a gun dry anyway….
– I didn’t lose or break a single item I brought along. I think I only had to hunt for something once (I wasn’t sure where my hair elastic was).
– I had 1 bath, 2 “washcloth baths,” and washed my hair 3 times.
– I saw deer, moose, elk, wolf, various bird and beaver tracks. I saw actual deer, including some fawns, elk (one calf), beavers, bald eagles, other eagles/hawks. No wolves or bears.
– I heard all sorts of interesting sounds and birds that I wish I could identify! I’m pretty sure I heard an elk calling — it’s like a moo with a question mark!
I’ll post pics soon — I haven’t downloaded them all yet, as I suspect I might not have enough memory left on my computer to handle them all. I’ll have to clean it up a bit and delete some old stuff! There was some truly unbelievable, beautiful scenery… and I hope my much-zoomed photos of the elk cow and calf turned out! You can check out the progress map Darren made for me here.
Tidbits of wisdom from the water:
– You can’t check if something is dry with wet hands!
– Don’t make fun of a small cumulonimbus cloud, saying it’s “cute.”
– One stroke at a time, you get there.
– Every stroke counts. If you can make a little thing you do over and over again more effective, it adds up fast!
– Wind does not have to stop you — it may slow you down, but progress is progress.
– If you’re passing somewhere you may never be again, stop and explore!
Some other revelations:
One day, I was hunting through my clothes to find my a shirt to wear. I came across my long-sleeved purple striped shirt and said “yay! I love my purple striped shirt! I’ll wear that!” And I realized that I don’t say “yay!” about many of my clothes. So, I am getting rid of the ones that I don’t absolutely love.
I have way too much STUFF! I lived great for a whole week on 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 2 pairs of undies, 1 set of PJ’s, and minimal other stuff. Why do I have all that stuff at home!?!?
I spent 2 whole days in very meditative paddling, partly because my shoulder was sore so I had to pay close attention to make sure I wouldn’t hurt it or pull a muscle. It was so enlivening! Now, I find I am doing everything more meditatively. In fact, even just walking around making camp was meditative in a way, because I had to watch every step, make sure I wouldn’t twist an ankle on a rock, or put something down in such a way that would allow it to fall over and roll into the water. Or thinking about where to put each and every thing my hand touched — because if I put it down in a bad place, it could get muddy, wrecked, lost, or simply be too far for when I needed to reach for it. So my every action became a meditation.
Initially, I had an attitude of independence and exploration. Later on, I had a feeling of harmony with nature (not independence or separation or being apart from nature) and discovery. In this sense, discovery is more “let’s see what’s out there” and exploration is more “let’s find stuff and claim territory” (more ego).
There are so many more things I learned/realized…. some will be whole blog posts of their own! But it’s getting late and I was going to go to bed early, so I’d better get to it! And I plan to paddle the last 130 km soon (from Tompkin’s to Fort Vermilion)! It will take about 3 days — let me know if you want to join me! I wouldn’t mind company!
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.
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.