Fort Edmonton This Weekend!

July 21st, 2015

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This weekend at Fort Edmonton Park, Teresa is pleased to be going to the Lads on the River weekend! She will be available for one-on-one chats about the York boat expedition she captained, and if you’d like her to sign your book, she’d be happy to!

You’ll find her at the “Ask an Expert” table all day, and if you can, try to come by 1:00 pm, so you can see the York boat arriving on the river! It’s pretty neat, if we may say so, to see Yorkmen pulling on the oars, and the steersman making his/her moves to angle the boat in!

We’d love to see you there!

One more thing: we’ve had quite a few people ask about the paddling guide for the Peace River. It is available here, at GeoTourism Canada’s website, but if you have additional questions, feel free to send us an email!

Making Campfire Pastry

March 1st, 2015

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When you’re camping, don’t you just love a nice, sweet dessert? I sure do. If you’re ever looking for an alternative to s’mores, try this new, delicious dessert I discovered last summer!

Campfire Pastry — Apple Danish! — Using a Pie Iron

Have you ever used a pie iron to make grilled cheese over the camp fire? There is hardly anything more delicious! (I’m a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches!) Hmmm, perhaps even more delicious is dessert — how about pastry made in a pie iron!?!

Ingredients:
2 apples
a pinch of sugar or tiny bit of maple syrup
butter, oil or margarine (whatever you prefer)
1 roll of Pillsbury Croissants (8 croissants makes 4 pastries)

Equipment needed:
pie iron
frying pan
spoon

Directions:
Start by chopping two apples into small pieces, similar to the preparation for an apple pie. Put the pieces in a frying pan and add a little water and whatever you like for sweetener. I also had some wonderful juniper berries, so I added them for extra flavour. You could also add cinnamon, or use another fruit. You might not use all the filling, but it’s better to have a little too much. If your apple is really big, one might be enough…

Put the frying pan on your camp fire or camp stove and cook the apples a bit until they are soft.
Meanwhile, get a good campfire going and get your pie iron ready. Warm it up a bit and cover the insides of both halves with butter or oil.

When the apples are ready, take them off the fire. Open the package of croissants (using a spoon), and carefully unroll it a little and break one triangle off the roll. If you have a clean cutting board, it might come in handy now, but I just used my hands. 🙂 pie iron pastry-1
Fold the triangle into a 4-sided shape, somewhat like a kite. pie iron pastry-2pie iron pastry-3
Place it in one side of the pie iron.
Repeat the process for the other side of the pie iron.
pie iron pastry-4
Spoon a little bit of the apple filling on one side. pie iron pastry-5
Carefully position the pie iron and close it. If the two halves don’t line up perfectly, don’t worry. The pastry will e-x-p-a-n-d-! pie iron pastry-6
Place the iron on/near your camp fire and turn it over occasionally to cook both sides. Of course, this part is tricky — it’s hard to know when your pastry is done. Our pastries took about 7 minutes, but your fire may be hotter. If there is any doubt, take the pie iron out. It is quick and easy to check, and wouldn’t you rather do that instead of burning your pastry!?!? pie iron pastry-7

When it’s done, pop it out onto a plate and enjoy! Be careful — it will be super-hot at first, so give it a chance to cool. Repeat until you have no more pastry!
Enjoy!

Hello everyone! Summer’s long gone, but spring-like winter days — we’ve had so many this winter! — make me think of paddling! And seeing this today was just the inspiration I needed to get back to blogging!

extend-a-truck

What a great solution to that problem many of us have had of trying to transport a canoe using a pick-up truck! It is up to 4′ wide, which is MORE than wide enough for any canoe, especially considering that they taper at the ends. And it even comes with its own long-load flag! 🙂 Here’s the link for more info: Canadian Tire – Extend-a-Truck

I think we can all agree, this is not the best way (below)! 🙂

notthebestway

I mean, it works, but we can do better, eh? 🙂

Any do-it-yourselfers out there? Here are a few ideas that work just as well and you’ll have the pleasure of knowing you made it yourself.

Bridgman's canoe rack
Made from PVC

wooden canoe rack
Made from wood. It’s difficult to see how it attaches to the truck…

Metal canoe rack
Made from metal!

LilBlue's kayak rack
A great idea — more sreamlined — for kayaks (or a very short canoe)

Now, to be fair, you can transport a canoe directly on the roof of a truck, sans rack, if you strap it down right. Start by putting foam blocks (such as these) or a pool noodle (or a piece of a pool noodle) on the roof, to protect the paint. Lift the canoe up there — two relatively tall, strong people can hoist it from one side, or start at the back and “slide” the canoe up. Once it’s up there, adjust the position of the foam if necessary, and then start strapping. Run one near the front of the cab, and one near the back. This will work the best if you have a crew/super crew/extended cab. Then, add one or two straps from the nose of the canoe to an anchor point below the front bumper, and the other end to an anchor point below the back bumper (see photo below to see what an anchor point looks like) or inside the box (if your canoe is short)!
anchor point

On our Nissan Pathfinder, we strap the canoe directly to the roof racks, which are *perfect* for this. That’s why we bought the Pathfinder! A lot of SUV’s have the racks running from the windshield to the back window, which is the exact WRONG orientation for transporting a canoe. If you are buying a new vehicle, look for racks that run from the passenger to driver’s side — perpendicular to the direction of travel. 🙂

The best way to attach canoe to the roof

This is how we do it! We run the straps from one side to the other, over the canoe, and we usually use some very nice NRS straps that use a sort of buckle instead of a ratchet — this prevents the ratchet from bumping against the canoe during transport. One our canoe trailer, we use ratchet straps. 🙂

Join us for Paddle the Peace, in Peace River, AB this weekend! We’ll be doing lessons on Saturday and a big group paddle on Sunday. For more information, check out the Facebook page here.

There are three options for how long to go on the river. The longest starts from Peace Valley Guest Ranch, but unfortunately, that portion is all booked up. The next longest starts from the Shaftesbury Ferry and the shortest part is from Strong Creek — a great paddle for a young family with little kids! A lovely brunch at Strong Creek is included in the registration. You should come!

Paddle the Peace is put on by the County of Northern Lights, Northern Sunrise County, the Town of Peace River, and the M.D. of Peace. Call 780-836-3348 to register today! Or tomorrow! After that, registration is closed! 🙂

Don't forget to wear a PFD!

Don’t forget to wear a PFD!

Canoe tent in Grouard-sm

We are excited to announce that Flow North will be operating out of a new base this summer! We will be located in beautiful Grouard, Alberta, on the western end of the Lesser Slave Lake.

Grouard is about 33 km from High Prairie; go west on Hwy 2 and then turn at Hwy 750, when you see the large blue signs for Hilliard’s Bay Provincial Park. From Edmonton, head North to Slave Lake, then drive West on Hwy 2 for about 100 km and watch for the large blue sign.

After driving on Hwy 750 for about 15 km, you’ll see the lake and drive across a low-level bridge across the channel.

Our base will be at Ferguson’s Market, a large blue metal building on the right side of the highway as you approach Grouard, less than a kilometre after the bridge.

We’ll be offering canoe and kayak rentals as before (all safety equipment included) but we are also working hard on offering half-day trips on the York boat! We have some details to work out, but for now we can say:
– the tours will start from the bridge and go into Buffalo Bay
– the morning tour will run from 10 AM – 1 PM
– the afternoon tour will go from 2 – 5 PM
– the boat can also be reserved for whole day tours if desired.
– the boat can accommodate a maximum of 7 rowers (adults and large teenagers) and 3 children, but tours can run with a minimum of 4 rowers.

Check back on our website for more details as we fill them in. Please note that as a result of this move, we will not be offering canoe rentals or parties in the High Level area.

Grouard Area paddling map

Flow North has been involved in Paddle the Peace from its beginnings, and we’re really pleased to report that Paddle the Peace has won an award! It was nominated for the Growing Rural Tourism Award, along with some very stiff competition. The finalists for the award were the Edmonton Regional Tourism Group, Alberta Southwest and Paddle the Peace.

Big congratulations are in order for everyone involved in Paddle the Peace!

For those who aren’t familiar with Paddle the Peace, it’s a paddling festival that was started in 2010 as a partnership between GeoTourism Canada and several municipalities and counties along the river. The current partners are (in no particular order):
– Town of Peace River
– County of Northern Lights
– Northern Sunrise County
– M.D. of Peace
– Mighty Peace Country.
Corporate sponsors:
– Shell Canada Peace River
– Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.
Grant funders:
– Travel Alberta
– Peace Regional Economic Development Alliance (PREDA).

The events of Paddle the Peace include an instruction day where I teach canoeing basics, a “junior” component to give some kids a chance to learn to canoe, and of course, the big paddling day on the Peace River, which includes:
– shuttle service to the river
– safety briefing on the way to the river
– volunteers at the start and end points to help people get in, get out and carry their boats (if needed)
– paramedics on board the Peace River Fire Department’s boat
– a grab bag of goodies, plus draws and other prizes
– a full brunch put on at Strong Creek Park (see photo below)!

The event organizers have been amazing at fundraising to keep costs down so that as many people as possible can join in. Last year, registration was a mere $10 per person or $25 for both days (instruction and paddling). What a deal!

The organizers of the event are so wonderful to work with! Their hard work and dedication are legendary — they even posted their cell phone numbers on the Facebook page so people with questions would be able to reach them. In 2013, the event was completely full — although the river had room for more boats, 🙂 the brunch and shuttles were full to capacity. So, I have to say a huge congratulations to the organizers for winning the Growing Rural Tourism Award! 🙂

Next year, Paddle the Peace will take place on Aug 16-17, 2014 in and around the town of Peace River. You should come! 🙂

I was so busy, I didn't have time to take many pics, but I did snap this one of the brunch!

I was so busy, I didn’t have time to take many pics, but I did snap this one of the brunch!

Unplanned Vacation in Valleyview

February 12th, 2014

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If you’ve seen us around Alberta, you undoubtedly noticed our larger-than-life logo on the side of our Nissan Pathfinder, which we love!

Promoting our business at the summer shopping event in  downtown High Level

Promoting our business at the summer shopping event in downtown High Level

If you noticed it a couple of weeks ago stopped on the side of Hwy 49 north of Valleyview, or parked in a mechanic’s yard in Valleyview, well, let me tell you about a little winter adventure we had!

We were on our way to Edmonton to visit family and pick up a shipment of York Boat Captain books from our Canadian printing company. All was going well until the cruise control spontaneously went off. Then the ABS light came on, and the emergency brake indicator was flashing. We made a quick call to a mechanically-inclined friend of ours who told us the likely cause — the alternator or the battery. He figured we could probably go for a half hour or so, so we continued on.
We weren’t that far out of Valleyview, and we thought we could make it… and we came close! Our beloved Pathfinder came to a rolling stop about 10 km north of town. Thankfully, we were near a driveway, so we pushed it the last 10 metres or so to get it safely off the road. We walked up the driveway, hoping someone was home.

The woman who lived there was so kind! She quickly agreed to drive us into town to a hotel, and on the way, she told us her daughter works for the best mechanic in town! Uncanny. We took the name and number of the place, along with her suggestion of a tow truck driver to call. She said, “just tell them you’re at Susie’s north of town, and he’ll know where that is!” Gotta love small towns!

The hotel we chose turned out to the nicest, cheapest hotel in Alberta, I’m sure. I mean, where else can you get a really nice room for $79/night! In the morning, Darren and I walked over to Napa Auto Parts to see about a battery. A lovely lady named Charlotte stared searching on her computer to see if they had the right kind. Unfortunately, they didn’t (I had never noticed how batteries come in so many sizes), and they couldn’t find one at nearby Napa stores either. Meanwhile, a fellow who worked there, Dean, took a battery off the shelf and started measuring it. He figured he could make it work — it was a slightly smaller than we needed — so he offered to drive Darren out to the Pathfinder and install the battery to get us into town. No tow truck needed!

Well, the manoeuvre worked. The battery was much too small and the terminals were reversed, so to hook it up, Darren and Dean had to put it on an angle. It did the trick though, so Darren drove the Pathfinder to the mechanic’s shop. Dean, the bearded sweetheart that he is, didn’t charge us for the use of the battery, and came back to Napa to get me. The mechanic, Ken, put our battery on the charger to check its condition.

The battery was taking a charge just fine, so after 10 minutes or so, they put it in our vehicle to drive it into one of their bays. Now, make no mistake — the mechanic shop, called “MacKENics” after the owner, Ken, was completely booked. Ken, taking pity on us I suppose, still managed to help us out and it was determined that our alternator was dead.

Such a small part, but without it, wheels don’t turn. So, I continued the search I had started with Charlotte to find a replacement. The Nissan dealer in Grande Prairie was able to locate one at a Napa warehouse in Edmonton, so Charlotte ordered it for us. Darren got the idea that maybe our belts should be replaced at the same time. Ken agreed, so the belts were also ordered, and all the parts would arrive the next day. The only problem was the next day was a Saturday, and the mechanic shop is closed on Saturdays.

Ken didn’t even skip a beat when we realized it. He just called one of his mechanics who was having a day off and asked him to come in. So, while Darren and I had a leisurely morning, a guy who was supposed to be lounging at home came in and fixed our Pathfinder for us! We walked over and got it and were underway shortly after noon.

So, let me make a huge shout out to Susie, Charlotte and Dean at Napa, Ken at MacKenics, everyone at the Horizon Inn, and Ryan at the Grande Prairie Nissan dealership. Thank you so much for getting us back on the road! We actually enjoyed out little unexpected vacation in Valleyview. 🙂

howtoshitinthewoods_cover

Kathleen Meyer’s book How to Shit in the Woods is a classic — a masterpiece — for a reason! I came across this book at my local library and had to give it a read. Although it was never on my specific list of books to read, I instantly knew I had to get it. Written in the 80’s and first printed in 1989, it’s a great resource for anyone who spends time in the woods, on the river, or on the trail.

Meyer takes a pleasantly-irreverent look at our ugliest — and smelliest — of creations. In the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, she explains how the book had to wait from its first idea until the word shit could be used more easily in print. She explains at length her choice of the word, comparing numerous terms: crap, bowel movement, poop, Number Two, etc.

How to Shit in the Woods is full of excellent information on the need to poop carefully, techniques for sitting and squatting, suggestions on the best locales for relieving oneself, and the dangers of giardia and raw sewage. She discusses water filters, toilet paper alternatives, and importantly, how, where and why to dig a single-use hole.

Although I am no newbie when it comes to living in the wilderness, even I learned several new things about the need to pack it out in many environments. I am most familiar, of course, with the Boreal forest, and had not given much thought to hiking in the desert, rock climbing in soilless areas, or the extreme problem that can arise when too many people use too small an area. I did not know that paddlers using the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon had to pack all human waste out, due to the volume of people using the river and the sensitive environment. I am not sure if this still applies — the book is over 20 years old — but it makes good sense. I can imagine this regulation being applied to parts of Canada, such as the Kilarney Park in Ontario, where campgrounds are full each and every weekend and even reserved a year in advance (it’s hard for me to imagine… true wilderness is so accessible for me). This book is a huge reminder to Leave No Trace, and that includes leave no shit.

I love Meyer’s writing style! She is verbose, descriptive and a phenomenal spinner-of-phrases. Let me quote a small sample, as she explains what to do when there’s no toilet paper:

Before picking be sure to examine leaves carefully; they can sometimes be sticky (as though covered by a thin layer of syrup), scabrous (having a rasp-like surface), annoyingly prickly owing to small bristles and barbs, or, more seriously, hispidulous (covered with sharp hairs stiff enough to penetrate the skin). Stay away from reeds, bamboo, and some grasses — in effect, slicing leaves — that can cause agonizing wounds like paper cuts. With a little care you’ll learn which ones to avoid and be on your way to becoming a connoisseur of fine leaves.
– Kathleen Meyer in How to Shit in the Woods

Humourous stories sprinkled throughout, Meyer has found the perfect balance between levity and instruction. On page 8, she tells the story of one very unlucky hunter.

Coming upon a log beneath a spreading tree, Edwin propped up his rifle and quickly slipped off his poncho, sliding the suspenders from his shoulders. Whistling now, he sat and shat. But when he turned to bury it, not a thing was there. In total disbelief, poor Edwin peered over the log once more but still found nothing. It began to rain, and the pleasant vision of camp beckoned. Preparing to leave, he yanked up his poncho and hefted his gun. To warm his ears, he pulled up his hood. And there it was on top of his head, melting in the rain like so much ice cream left in the sun.
Poor Edwin will not soon forget this day; he walked seven miles before coming across enough water to get cleaned up. Though I fear he was in no humor to be thinking much beyond himself, we can only hope he did not wash directly in the stream. It’s important to use a bucket to haul wash water well above the high water line of spring run off, to keep pollutants from entering waterways. But I digress, and this topic is covered thoroughly in the next chapter. For now, back to techniques.
– Kathleen Meyer in How to Shit in the Woods

In case you never read this book, let me review what I found to be the most pertinent points, especially for river trekkers. As Meyer says, it is essential that you do any of your business, especially the solid type, above the high-water line of the river you are paddling. It is best to go away from paths or trails and dig a hole 6-8″ deep where you will bury your deposit. If you are in a pack-it-out situation, because of a lack of soil, heavily used area, or for winter excursions, you need only go away from camp for privacy and do your pooping in a bag or other container. If it’s cold out, you can even do it in a tent! Make sure to pack out your TP if there is any question whether it will biodegrade properly, even when buried with your waste.

As for techniques, you can sit back over a log, rock, or simply squat. Hold on to a tree for stability as you squat, and in all cases, don’t put your hood up if you don’t see the pile! Peeing is infinitely simpler for men and complicated for women. Suffice it to say, practice makes perfect, and if all else fails, ladies, pee in a container and pour it out.

No matter how remote you may be, you can no longer assume the water you are drinking is clean. Giardia is extremely prevalent in water throughout North America, and indeed around the world. In fact, beavers are not the only culprits for spreading this nasty parasite — humans can be carriers and depositing solid waste too close to a waterway can spread it to that source — another good reason to always shit up high.

One other short-but-important point, from Meyer: “… we are capable of spreading odd, new diseases as fast as we take vacations. What animal other than Homo sapiens can swallow rogani gosht in India or Kalya e Khass in South Africa and shit it into the Colorado countryside?” When the customs people ask you if you’ve been to or will be visiting a farm, this is what they are concerned about — passing dirt from one place to another on your shoes and infecting the Canadian countryside. For this reason, it’s good practice to clean your shoes (and other gear) thoroughly when you travel and go to/from a rural area or the wilderness.

How to Shit in the Woods is a great book, and it has inspired me — maybe my next book will be Strange and Unusual Places I Have Peed. I could tell a story or two, which I do in York Boat Captain, but there are lots of other tales to tell! 🙂

Ideas for Tarp Structures

September 24th, 2013

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I came across this old-school infographic and thought it might be useful! There are some very elaborate uses for tarps here, but you never know when you might want or need to make one!

Paddle the Peace Weekend

August 22nd, 2013

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Last weekend was an action-packed adventure weekend for us here at Flow North. We thought we would share the highlights of our trip to the town of Peace River for three busy days.

Thursday night: York Boat Captain Book Launch

I held my first official book launch for York Boat Captain – 18 Life-Changing Days on the Peace River with the help of the wonderful people over at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre. It went very well, as I expected, and it was a pleasure to chat with everyone, answer questions about the book and the boat, and see some old friends. (Blog posts here and here.)

Friday, Aug 16: Peace River Extreme Adventures Camp

As a part of the Paddle the Peace event, I teach canoeing for youth — a program we call Paddle the Peace Junior. Last year, the tiny rural school of Keg River benefitted from the program, and this year, it was offered for the youth of Peace River through the town of Peace River’s Extreme Adventures summer camp. We had an instruction day in July, which went very well, and this was the second one. Thanks to everyone at the town who made this possible — the kids all had a great time and learned canoeing skills, safety and even a little teamwork.

Saturday, Aug 17: Canoe Instruction

Paddle the Peace is actually a 2-day event for us; the first day is canoe lessons for adults. In order to accommodate more people, we have one group in the morning (lunch is provided) and another group in the afternoon (supper provided). We had such great people, in canoes and kayaks, who toughed it out despite the wind and waves on the lake! We reviewed canoe strokes, steering, teamwork, stability, getting in and out, and plenty of safety items, including a quick on-the-grass demonstration of the T-Rescue — a great way to help canoeists who have flipped.

shadows of canoes

I love seeing the shadows of all the boats loaded on our vehicle and trailer.

Paddle the Peace: the Main Event! Sunday, Aug 18

As in years past, Flow North helps out by making canoes, kayaks and equipment available to people who need them! If a family didn’t have enough paddles, we lent them one. We lent PFDs to a mom for her kids. I always give the safety briefing on the bus before everyone goes out on the water, and with such a large group — about 100 paddlers! — I reminded everyone that it’s Sunday morning, so relax and be patient while others are boarding their boats. The whole process actually went very smoothly, as we staggered the departure of the two morning shuttles a little to eliminate a bottleneck of boats and people on the Shaftesbury shore.
A highlight of the day was the brunch at Strong Creek, provided by DMI, which allowed us to eat, chat and get to know one another. I think everyone agreed it was time well spent. On the whole, the day went remarkably well and nearly finished without any rain — just a downpour at the very end! My only regret: we were too busy to take pictures! Go to the Facebook page to see some posted there.

Looking down on the brunch tent and happy paddlers...

Looking down on the brunch tent and happy paddlers…

Let me not forget to thank everyone who worked so hard — over 20 volunteers — and funders who made the event possible. 🙂
– Shell Canada Peace River
– Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd. (DMI)
– Travel Alberta
– Peace Regional Economic Development Alliance (PREDA)

Municipalities:
– County of Northern Lights
– Northern Sunrise County
– MD of Peace
– Town of Peace River