We beat Charles to the park. We’d never beaten Charles to the park.
We’d only been coming to Wednesday Evening Paddles for a few months and we were early this time, September 21, 2016, the last paddle of the nominal summer. Ringette had kicked off already, and I knew this would be be my last paddle of the season.
Eveline and I had brought the blue Scott canoe, thinking it would be nice to give Adventure a break. With the likelihood of taking the downstream route, I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk Adventure’s exterior in the shallows at the put in. She had enough scratches already waiting until next spring for me to fill before we launch her again. We hadn’t paddled the Scott canoe much since I finished work on Adventure so it was a good opportunity now, fresh off our recent ELA trip, to compare handling. Adventure seemed smoother, sleeker somehow. The Scott felt more stable in her unloaded configuration.
We didn’t have to wait long for Charles. He suggested paddling the downstream route since it was rare for water levels to be high enough in the fall to follow this course. Eveline and I put in on a mud flat on the river bank. It gave us easy access, but dragged a lot of mud into the canoe. The river was still on the low side and our paddles reached the river bottom quite easily until we rounded the first bend.
It had been nice throughout the summer to have a lot of paddlers out on Wednesdays. It really gave the evenings a community feeling with opportunity for lots of diverse conversation. Tonight it was just two canoes – us in the Scott and Charles in his trusty Kevlar 49 with royal blue bottom. The difference is striking, but it made the night seem very peaceful, relaxing.
Around the third or fourth bend, we saw a large blue heron standing motionlessly on the river bank. As we came within twenty or so feet of it, it spread its giant wings and flew off over the river. It became a game of chase! The bird swooped away majestically and we paddled toward its new perch. After a few rounds of cat-and-mouse we saw it with its mate perched in a tree along the riverside. They both allowed us to approach and take their photograph. As we passed them, they flew on again, this time in the other direction.
The Great Blue Heron perched over the La Salle
Two Herons congregate at the river's bend
Having had our brush with the local fauna for the evening, we settled into the routine of paddling along, taking in the landscape and the season changing around us. The poplar, ash, oak and elm had started to show their fall foliage and the grasses and local crops had begun to brown.
A young bald eagle lies in wait
As we rounded a bend near the end of our route a bald eagle soared out of the trees above us. On the port side, the forest opened to a farmer’s field where we spotted deer bounding through the crops. And in the distance, just before the next bend in the river, two towering birds of prey watched us from the boughs that overhang the river. The two young bald eagles let us approach for a photo op, before taking flight and leaving us alone again to take it all in.
We turned around shortly after, and made our way back to the put-in.
Wednesday Evening Paddles
Throughout the paddling season, Paddle Manitoba hosts our Wednesday evening paddles on the La Salle River leaving from La Barrier Park promptly at 6:30pm in May, August and September; 7:00pm in June and July . Charles Burchill leads the evenings as an instructor, guide, and generally good guy.
Wednesday Evening Paddles make for a lovely outing with many possibilities. It’s a midweek vacation from the hustle and bustle, and a surprising escape into semi-wilderness less than 10 minutes from the city's edge.
Wednesday paddles are best when there are quite a few of us, and we can engage in meeting other paddlers, growing community and sharing in many conversations and stories. Everyone is welcome - members or not.
No canoe? No problem. Watch the Paddle Manitoba website for opportunities to book a seat in one of our Paddle Manitoba canoes.
Wednesday Evening Paddle Collage - by Charles Burchill