Interesting Camping Hacks

June 6th, 2013

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Summer is such a busy time! I came across this page of Camping Hacks and thought I would share it. Some are completely impractical for canoe or kakak trips, but several are usable, such as the tin-can bread, the toilet paper holder, the pre-made coffee bags and the tic tac boxes for spices. And if someone can tell us what’s in Mountain Dew that makes it GLOW like that, that would be great! (Crazy!)

41 Camping Hacks

We are busy getting ready for some canoe lessons for a Girl Guide group next week! It is going to be a lot of fun!

Remember, we don’t offer scheduled guided trips, but if you have a few people who want to go with you, call us and we’ll get you all set up for your self-guided trip (day trip or overnight trip). There are SO many options and great places to go! A few times a year, we may be able to come along and guide your trip, so call us soon if that’s what you are interested in.

Tiny Cabin on a Rock

March 15th, 2013

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Just had to take a minute and share a unique getaway in a river! From cbc.ca, there is a tiny one-room cabin perched on a rock in the River Drina in Serbia.

Tiny House in the Drina River in Serbia

River Drina, Serbia, small house on water

Of course, this has me thinking…. any rocks I know of, big enough for a hideout of my own? 🙂

Thank you, CBC! 🙂 Original article is here.

How to Use a Map

March 2nd, 2013

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I thought it might be useful to take some time to explain how maps work.

The Earth is divided into sections, using lines that run North-South and lines that run East-West. The size of each section depends on the scale, such as 1:250,000 or 1:50,000. The larger the second number in that ratio, the more “zoomed out” the map is. If you think about it, 1:1 would be a life size drawing, so the bigger the ratio, the more of “real life” is represented on the piece of paper that makes up the map.

These more-or-less rectangular sections are grouped into 4 x 4 grids. Canada is divided up into large numbered sections, with numbers increasing from East to West and North to South. For example, Saskatchewan is essentially 72, 73 and 74, Alberta is 82, 83 and 84, and BC is 92, 93 and 94, with the larger number being farther north. Within each, the land is further subdivided into 16 sections (in a 4 x 4 grid) and given letters as names. Again, each lettered sections at the scale of 1:250,000 are divided into 16 maps (4 x 4 grid) that are numbered.

See how “D C B A” goes across the bottom? Letter A is in the lower right corner of section 83 in the map above — the letters zig zag their way through the grid, from A to P. The numbering within each section, 1 to 16, is in the same manner.

So, now you can see how to track down which map you need for a given area. Look at this one:

See the Peace River squiggling its way from the lower left corner to the upper right? On this map, it comes on the scene in D4 as little blue line. Suppose, however, that you want to start your trip at Notikewin Provincial Park — that’s the green blob in section F which the river flows past. You will need to get maps for 84-F (1:250,000) or for more detail, F3 and F6 (1:50,000). I can give you a tip: for the Peace River, you don’t really need the 1:50,000 scale, which is a good thing, because if you did, you’d need a LOT of maps. The 1:250,000 scale work well enough. For the Hay or Chinchaga rivers, you’ll want the 1:50,000 scale. For my own use, I open the maps in my computer and crop out the parts I don’t need and then get them printed on 11″ x 17″ paper. They work great this way!

Now, to find a specific spot on the Earth, you need coordinates. Latitude and longitude is the old way of doing it, and the numbers increase from East – West and South – North. To remember how it works for longitude (East-West coordinate), a good way to think of it is that’s the direction that the sun moves across the Earth — it rises in the Maritime provinces before it gets to the prairies. As for latitude, the higher North you go, the bigger the number. You can use degrees, seconds and minutes, or simply decimal degrees (such as 54.43532 N) for both coords.

There is another coordinate system, however. In that one, called UTM (for Universal Transverse Mercator), the East-West coordinate increase is reversed; this one gets bigger from West to East, like when you read a book from left to right. The other coordinate still gets bigger as you go North. Here, the coords actually translate into metres on the Earth, and they are called “Northing” and “Easting.”

Look at a 1:250,000 topo map like the Canadian Government makes available (a portion above). The UTM coords are indicated in light blue letters and grid lines and the Latitude/Longitude is in black along the sides of the map. Lat and Long have no grid lines spanning the map.

The multitude of orange lines everywhere are gravel roads and they delineate sections, such as farmers use. The grey fat lines (and corresponding grey letters using R and Tp) indicate townships and sometimes county boundaries, but that’s a whole other geography lesson!

So, if you had to figure out where you were, you could read your coords off a GPS and then find them on the map by seeing where the two numbers cross. You might be thinking “but my GPS display will show me where I am.” That is true, however, when you are in the wilderness, you may find your GPS unit to be surprisingly non-useful — it will show you nothing if there are no roads or labelled features in its database. Wilderness = big empty space. This, of course, is not true! Wilderness = trees, creeks, wetlands, more trees, shrubs, hills, valleys, ponds, and so on.

Of course, the beauty of topo maps is seeing the slopes (topography). This gives you heads-up as to where the highest banks along the river will be, and where creeks flow in. Just a couple other notes: green areas are undeveloped (crown land) and designated parks. White land is, essentially, land that is owned by someone (farm land around here). Blue is obviously water, and marshy areas or wetlands have little, well, marshy symbols! Black dotted lines are usually cutlines and/or seismic lines, but can also be pipelines or quad/skidoo trails.

There is an abundance of information portrayed on a map once you know how to read it! Aren’t maps great!?

For more about the National Topographic System of Canada, go here.

Tips for Expeditions

February 12th, 2013

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In the spirit of sharing, inspired by Derek Sivers, the amazing guy who started CD Baby and made it into a phenomenal success, I thought I’d share some paddling tips I’ve learned over the years. The ones below are for expeditions in particular.

Give yourself more time, not less. Whenever there’s question of how long it might take to paddle a certain stretch of a river, always plan for more time instead of less. Bring extra food. Then, if you’re using a SPOT device, your pick-up person will see you’re running a little behind and pick you up later.

You don’t need all the fancy gear. A quick-dry shirt and pants that dry fast are about all I would say you need as far as particular clothes. You don’t need expensive wool long johns — they are $100+ in some stores! — any old pair will do. Boring old rubber boots, whatever water socks or sandals you like. It’s one of the best hobbies for not needing a lot of specialized gear. I hate to say it, but MEC and similar places make you think you need to spend hundreds on clothes, but you don’t. At all. The only exception to this, I’m afraid to say, is a good quality bug jacket and hat!

Bring extra socks. When you’re cold and wet, nothing feels better than a clean, dry pair of socks. And they are so small, it’s easy to pack a few extra pairs. Along those lines, always have two pairs of footwear, such as sandals and rubber boots, or running shoes and boots. Try to keep one dry at all times, so you have can have happy, warm feet in camp.

Follow along on your maps. Always keep track of where you are. You never know when you will need to go for help. It can be tricky on bendy rivers, but you have to find a way to do it. GPS units are great too, but don’t assume yours has any good databases showing the rivers — check first. You can always use your GPS to confirm your location by looking at your current coordinates. If you don’t know how to read a map, learn (I’ll do a post on this another time)! It is also a very good idea to know the wilderness rating of the river you are going on.

Wear some type of footwear at all times. It can seem so fun and fancy-free to be barefoot in your canoe, but if something should happen and you get separated from your boat, you might need to walk out. Doing so barefoot would be a thousand times harder than even the skimpiest sandals (running shoes, even better).

Take along some fire starter. You can’t always assume there will be dry tinder readily available. Have some paper, fire starter-sticks, or whatever you find to work best and, of course, matches. If you need a fire in a hurry, this will speed things up a lot. Double bag it in ziplock bags.

Don’t forget about fresh food. For shorter trips, you’d be surprised what food will keep. Fresh cucumbers or tomatoes are so tasty! Mind you, food always tastes better when you’re on a trip. I don’t know if it’s the outdoor air, the exercise, or the river flowing by, but supper in camp is always the best. Don’t you agree? 🙂

2012 in Review

December 31st, 2012

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Happy New Year! As we look back on 2012, we wanted to share some things that we’re very pleased about and some things we are looking forward to in 2013.

York Boat Expedition

Crew of the York Boat Expedition on Peace River, Canada
Hooray for another successful York Boat expedition! Along with Jae Penner of Peace Valley Woodcraft and everyone at GeoTourism Canada, we are so pleased with how the trip went this year. Stay tuned for plans for 2013! We are working with all the partners and past crew members to formulate the best plan for offering both long and short trips on the boat. It is such an amazing experience, we are looking forward to sharing it with more people. If you are interested in being a partner, please contact us without delay!

Canoe Camps

We once again offered several successful canoe camps, including a very special one for the students of the tiny country school, Dr. Mary Jackson School. The students and principal were such a joy to work with! Thanks so much for making that canoe camp so rewarding! This canoe camp was actually “Paddle the Peace Junior” (read more about Paddle the Peace below).

Memorable Trips


The three-day trip with the Junior Forest Rangers of Sustainable Resources Development was once again, a very memorable trip. We thoroughly appreciated each young man’s positive attitude and the excellent leadership displayed by the two staff, Mike and Rob. You guys are such great examples (and also very cool)! 🙂

Paddle the Peace

We once again partnered with the County of Northern Lights, Northern Sunrise County, the Town of Peace River, GeoTourism Canada, Mighty Peace Tourist Association, the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation to offer Paddle the Peace in Peace River, AB. Weather for the day was perfect and we all agreed that the August date worked better than the June date we had tried in 2011 (it was cancelled that year due to high water levels). Flow North offered canoe lessons for adults — which were completely sold-out — as well as helping with the safety briefing and other logistics on the day of the event. We’d really like to thank Teresa Tupper from the County of Northern Lights for all her hard work!

Presentations

Teresa was pleased to do a 1+ hour presentation at the Peace River Museum and Archives this year. She spoke about her solo paddling, sublime experiences on the river, and how surviving a thunderstorm outdoors with no shelter changed her life. Everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her slides and storytelling.

Teresa and Cheryll also gave a presentation to two lively grade two classes from Florence Macdougall School in High Level. The kids loved seeing pictures of the York boat and touching the HBC coat, but I think what they remember most is the taste of bannock and dried moose meat they got to try!

In 2013…

As mentioned, we are working on the exact details of our York boat offerings for 2013. We know you need to plan in advance, so we’ll be releasing the plan soon!

We will once again be offering trip guiding to interested groups — please contact us well in advance so we can discuss where you would like to go and what we can do to make your trip extra-special.

We are still happy to offer our drop-off and pick-up service for those paddling long distances. 🙂 Making use of your vehicle is the most economical way, but even if we use ours, it’s not as expensive as you might think. Contact us for more info!

Best wishes for 2013 and beyond!

You can expect the Peace River to be running unusually high this year. You can thank BC Hydro for releasing water from the Williston Reservoir, due to higher than normal snow melt in the mountains and rainfall in BC. You can read the original press release below, and check out those numbers! Those are some serious water flows. With the river running high, be extra careful when you get in or out of your boat, make sure you camp nice and high off the water, and as always, respect the river.

Here is the latest river level chart for the Peace River at the town of Peace River.

You can check the latest river levels and other important current info on our Current Conditions page.

The following is from BC Hydro’s Press Release:

Spill scheduled at W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon Dams

June 29th, 2012

June 25, 2012

Hudson’s Hope – The first prolonged release of water in a decade is scheduled to start Tuesday, June 26 from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Peace Canyon Dam near Hudson’s Hope. The two facilities will continue to generate power during this time.

The spill may continue, uninterrupted, until mid-August, dependent upon inflows into Williston Reservoir. BC Hydro’s Peace River facilities are designed to spill; it is considered to be a normal operation during the infrequent periods of excess inflows and water supply.

By spilling earlier, before Williston Reservoir is full, BC Hydro can release a smaller volume of water, minimizing the likelihood of a larger spill later on in the season. A spill of this size is not expected to cause flooding. Communities downstream of Peace Canyon Dam have been notified and should the spill operation change, BC Hydro will continue to keep communities informed. A similar spill was last observed in 2002.

The spill is a result of BC Hydro’s need to manage high system reservoir levels brought on by higher than average snowpacks and recent rainfall throughout the B.C. Interior. The inflow forecast for Williston is currently 125 per cent of normal for the remaining runoff season.

BC Hydro is expected to spill between 570 and 1,415 cubic metres per second (m³/s), (20,000 to 50,000 cubic feet per second) of water at both dams. Including the water used by the generating units, total discharge downstream of Peace Canyon Dam is expected to be between 2,150 and 3,000 m3/s (75,000 and 105,000 cfs). By comparison, the maximum normal discharge from Peace Canyon Dam is 1,982 m3/s.

BC Hydro may change the total downstream discharge, or end the spill without notice. For everyone’s safety, the public is reminded that they must stay well away from the spillway structures of either facility and may not stop on the W.A.C. Bennett Dam crest road to view the spill. Safe locations for public viewing of the spills are at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre, or the Peace Canyon Dam Visitor Centre. Both facilities are open daily except Tuesdays through the Labour Day weekend.

Original post located at:
http://www.el.bchydro.com/mediabulletins/bulletin/system_facilities/spill_scheduled_at_wac_bennett_and_peace_canyon_dams

News for June

June 19th, 2012

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Another successful York Boat trip is concluded! I am so pleased to have been a part of it again this year, and once again, it was a fantastic experience. Rowing is such a nice way to travel the Peace River and sailing is even better! Pictures to come!

If you are interested in participating in a York boat trip, you’re in luck! There are still two spots available on a three-day trip in July. Although much shorter than the one we just completed, I am sure it will prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Contact Jason at GeoTourism Canada for more details. Act now to get one of those last spots!

Canoe Lessons for Adults: Flow North will be offering some adult canoe lessons through Chinchaga Adult Learning. So far, we have a full day of lessons planned for Saturday, July 28. Lessons will run from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm and cost $50 per person. Call 780-926-5625 to sign up!

Canoe Camp for Kids: In partnership with the town of High Level, we are once again offering a two-day Canoe Camp for kids aged 10 – 15. It is a day camp (kids go home at the end of the day) which takes place at Footner Lake, with all transportation provided. Contact the town at 780-926-2201 to sign your child up for this camp. There are limited spots, so call soon!

Trips this summer: Many people ask us what trips we have planned this summer! Well, we don’t operate like other outfitters – we don’t schedule a bunch of trips and then make you plan your schedule around us. If you want to go on a trip and you have a group of 4 or more people, give us a call and we’ll talk about what you have in mind! If you have a group that is interested in just going for a day, you can also have a Canoe Party.

York Boat Expedition 2012

June 8th, 2012

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The York boat expedition for 2012 is underway! Flow North is not as fully-involved as last year, but we are still very excited to see the boat in the water. GeoTourism Canada is recreating the expedition we did last year, from Fort Dunvegan to Fort Vermilion, on the Peace River. And I, Teresa (Flow North’s owner/operator) will be on it!
Because of a canoe camp we did for the Dr. Mary Jackson School from Keg River a few days ago, I couldn’t do the whole trip, but I am joining them at Notikewin Provincial Park for the second half of the trip.
This is a wonderful, unique boat! So, if you would like to come see it and chat with the crew, here are your options:
– Notikewin Provincial Park today (June 8) or tomorrow (June 9) morning
– Tompkins Landing/La Crete Ferry Campground on Monday, June 11 (aprx 3 pm on)
– Wall’s Landing on June 12, afternoon/evening (ask someone from LaCrete for directions)
– Fort Vermilion on Friday, June 15, afternoon
Sorry we can’t give more exact times for our arrivals, but it’s hard to say exactly when we will arrive and I hate to promise something we can’t deliver on.
Hope to see you there!

Note: Contact us if you are interested in having a Canoe camp (2 days of canoe lessons) for a group you lead. We are also doing some adult canoe education, open to the public: Sat, July 28 near High Level and Sat, Aug 18 in conjunction with Paddle the Peace in Peace River, AB.

Teresa was the faithful captain of the trip. She started out as manager of the project and graduated to captain. She was able to keep the crew in line (which was easy) and got to make all the big decisions (which was hard).

– – – Part 3 in the Survival Gear Series – – –

Referring to our safety and survival gear list, let’s have a look at these two items:
– survival rations or protein bars
– extra water purification tablets

Let’s jump down to the food and water components: “survival rations or protein bars.” Basically, you should have food with you to provide needed calories while you wait to be found or facilitate your own rescue in some other way (such as walk out). Good survival food
– keeps for a long time
– provides lots of calories
– doesn’t take up too much space
– doesn’t create a lot of garbage (a good principal for all food for trips)
– isn’t overly smelly

This last one might not be obvious, but around here, if you were stuck in the bush overnight and cracked open a can of tuna or sardines to snack on, you’d likely become a snack for the wolves (or in summer, the bears)! Take something that isn’t quite so appealing to the wildlife. A good source of calories, although not particularly tasty, is bacon grease or butter. After all, the Voyageurs lived on pemmican, which is 50% fat and 50% dried meat and berries (when they didn’t have fresh meat or berries to eat).

As for water, it is very important not to become dehydrated while waiting for help to arrive. If you’re on a canoe or kayak trip, there’s bound to be water nearby, but do not drink untreated water from anywhere beavers or ducks swim. Beaver fever, properly known as giardia, is very serious — it will feel like the worst flu you’ve ever had. There is a slight risk of salmonella from water ducks swim in. For these reasons, make sure to bring some water treatment capsules in a waterproof container with you. We like Aquatabs) from MEC. They are super-easy to use. Simply add one tablet to a 1-litre water bottle (double it for particularly dirty/cloudy water) and let it sit for a half hour. If you have a mechanical water filter, it must be rated down to one micron in size and be properly maintained. You can also boil water to kill giardia — one minute of a full, rolling boil (2 minutes at altitudes above 2,000 m) — and then let the water cool.

Download our free Comprehensive Trip Packing List.

– – – Part 2 in the Survival Gear Series – – –

Referring to our safety and survival gear list:
– first aid kit
– extra band-aids
– first aid book
– signaling mirror
– matches in waterproof container
– fire starter sticks
– survival rations or protein bars
– extra water purification tablets
– reflective emergency blanket
– packet of salt
– cutting wire, pocket chainsaw, or folding survival saw
– multi-tool
– small bug spray bottle

Let’s look at the fifth and sixth items on that list: “matches in a waterproof container” and “fire starter sticks.” Basically, what you need to bring is some reliable method for starting a fire — creating a spark or flame — in a variety of conditions. Although starting a fire is not the first priority in survival situations — first is making or finding shelter — it is very high on the list of priorities. (You need to determine where your shelter will be before making a fire near it.) Fire can bring needed warmth, help you dry out wet clothing, help to signal search-and-rescue aircraft, keep wildlife away, and provide mental comfort as well.

Matches are one standard way of making fire, but there are other options:
– a lighter in a waterproof container (make sure it is full)
– strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container
– flint and knife
– magnesium bar, flint and knife

Whatever method you use, make sure you are familiar with its function. Many waterproof matches will only work when struck against a special material that is on the side of the box — if you take the matches out to put them in a waterproof container, make sure you put a few pieces of the box material in as well. A bar of magnesium may seem like a good idea, since magnesium burns hot and bright, but if it takes half an hour to shave enough of it to start a fire, you could get awfully cold in that time if you are wet.

Once you have a spark or small flame, the next crucial step is getting the flame to keep burning. Obviously, you are going to look for tinder — anything fine and dry in the environment around you — but if tinder is hard to find, it is ideal to bring some with you. Dryer lint burns very easily, and if soaked in petroleum jelly, it will burn for longer. Some people swear by steel wool. Birch bark is nature’s tinder, so gather small pieces in areas where it is abundant — ALWAYS from the ground, not from living trees. In an area with evergreens, the small, dry twigs that grow on the trunk will stay dry in even the heaviest rain. This is also a great place to make a shelter — just prop up some additional wood, boughs or a tarp on the windy side.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, we refer you to another of “Cryptic Cricket’s” videos, this one on magnesium fire starters.

Using a Magnesium Fire Starter and Steel

The next survival article will be on food and water, so stay tuned.

Download our free Comprehensive Trip Packing List.