By Russ Hodgins
Please note that before you venture out on the ice, make sure it is safe!
Many years ago, we did a canoe trip from Craven to Pasqua Lake and learned firsthand how this river brings a whole new meaning to the word “meander”. A mile as the crow flies can translate into an hour of paddling. Canoe season is over and while I have ventured out onto the river ice a few times, it has never been for any distance. A windy Saturday changed that and convinced me to drop down over the bank for a winter “canoe trip”. A bonus was the minimal snow cover, making for better travelling and much easier to spot bad spots in the ice. The current is strongest on the outside of curves, meaning that will be where the ice is thinnest. As we hugged the inside corners, the tracks showed us coyotes also follow this pattern for the most part. In their case, it probably had more to do with it being the shortest route while my inspiration came from the desire to stay dry.
A cloudy day shortly became sunny with a much appreciated rise in temperature, which necessitated placing my jacket and gloves into my pack. St. Marks church in the distance.
A short time later, our dog gave a few “what the heck is that” barks as she rounded a bend ahead of me. I sped up to find out what unknown creature had her so hesitant, to find a cow moose which had just crossed the river and was climbing up the bank. I was able to get a few photos before it ambled off in no great hurry and was happy that our dog showed such wise restraint with an animal that size.
As the afternoon drew to a close, we were treated to a beautiful Saskatchewan sunset.
To save some time with darkness approaching, I cut up onto the bank and took a few shortcuts, bypassing large loops of the river which almost circled back to the same point. I have to say, the portages are much easier on this winter “canoe trip”.
The trip back had us back up on the road as we went by St. Marks church, now just a dark silhouette as night set in.
The river ice allowed us the chance to see the valley from a different perspective but it is a trip that has to be timed correctly to match the ice conditions. The cold weather and lack of snowfall at the time meant the ice was thicker and at any point when in doubt, we cut up onto the bank and detoured past the spot. It was an afternoon of adventure on the winding Qu’Appelle River.