Grand Beach – Part 2

As the day warmed up, more and more people gathered on the beach. Far out on the lake boat traffic increased. After lunch and a rest I went back out onto the lake and paddled along the shoreline to the north. As the temperature rose the wind switched until it was blowing off the beach and into the lake. At one point I watched a young couple in a rented canoe launch from the beach and head west out into the lake. Both paddlers were very awkward as they zig zagged into deeper water. The boy at the back was about 17 years old while the girl in the front was a few years younger. 

The beach was slowly filling up with more swimmers and sun tanners and I was considering hauling my canoe out and heading home home. At some point I realized I could no longer see the pair of young canoeist on the lake. Since the wind  and waves had decreased considerably, I stood up in the middle of the canoe in order to see farther out on the water.  In the distance, almost out of  sight I could see about four or five boats but no canoe between us. Luckily I saw the heads of two people in the water, holding onto the upside down canoe.

Because of the waves, no one on the beach nor boaters farther out on the lake noticed the two people in trouble. I quickly sat down in the canoe and started paddling further offshore. At first I was unable to see the heads in the water but they were directly west of me so I eventually got close enough to spot them clearly.

When I reached the canoe the boy was scared and did not know what to do. The girl was terrified and crying and had trouble swimming. Their life jackets were floating in the water nearby. The canoe was upside down with only a small portion of the bottom showing as both people in the water were holding on to it is keep their heads above the waves.

At first they seemed relived to see me, but when I tried to give them instructions as to what to do, they ignored me. I had to shout at them to listen to what I was saying or I was going to leave them and go back to the beach.

I got the boy to grab one side of my canoe in the middle. I had a harder time to get the girl to let go of the upside down canoe and grab my canoe on the side opposite to the boy. I instructed the boy to hold down his side of the canoe while I helped the girl climb into the other side.  We shipped a little water but soon the girl was sitting in the bottom of my canoe and starting to calm down and not look so terrified.

The boy could swim enough to follow my instructions and we soon had the nose of the upside canoe pointed at a right angle to the side of my canoe. With the help of the boy in the  water I raised his canoe nose until it sat on the edge of my canoe. From there the two of us dragged the upside down canoe onto and across my canoe until it was completely out of the water and balanced across the sides of my canoe. During this time the girl sat paralyzed the the bow of my canoe.

After the water had drained out of their canoe I rolled it upright and then slid it back into the lake.  Once it was positioned alongside my canoe, I held one side firmly while the boy climbed into it from the far side. When the boy was out of the water I told him to calm down and rest while I padded my canoe around the scene of the accident and picked up the two life jackets and two paddles as they slowly blew away. As each item got within reach I had the girl lift them out of the water.  When she was so occupied she seemed to accept that she was now safe and calmed down even more.

When all the items had been collected I paddled back to the boy’s canoe and gave him a life jacket and a paddle.  I made sure they each put on the life jackets. The young woman was having trouble with her life jacket so I just sat and patiently waited until she finished tying it on. It was then that I turned around and saw the other canoeist determinedly paddling his canoe out further into the lake?

I quickly realized that without his passenger as ballist, he was unable to control the canoe and the wind from offshore was blowing him further out into the lake. He was trying to turn the canoe around but the harder and faster he paddle the further west he went.

I had to yell at him to stop paddling but he was so traumatized by the entire situation that he just ignored me or failed to hear me. I ended up having to paddle as fast as I  could until we pulled alongside and I used my paddle to knock his paddle out of his hands.  As we sat there with the two canoes bobbing up and down, all three of us were breathless and highly agitated.

Eventually I had the girl grab the nose rope of his canoe and we dragged it around until it faced the beach. I followed him to the beach and each time he started to lose control I would paddle along side and force his canoe to point towards the beach. When we got closer to shore I noticed about a hundred silent people were standing and watching our activities.

As the young man ran his canoe up onto the beach he was so embarrassed by all the attention he was almost in tears.  I helped the girl out of my canoe and she stormed up the beach glaring at him with disgust. I hauled my canoe to my vehicle and tied it down for the trip home.

The last I saw of the other so called canoeist, was him dragging his canoe all the way back down the beach to the rental shack, no doubt telling himself he would never go canoeing again. On the drive home I realized that in all the excitement neither of the rescued parties ever thanked me.

I doubt they ever forgot their trip to Grand Beach.

Bow River Valley – exit

Gravel bar & cut tree

As I stood on the gravel bar I realized I could use the tree that was lying across part of the river at the south end. I had to wade into the river to reach the tree but the water was only about a foot deep.  I saw the possibility of crawling on the tree to the west shore but many branches were blocking my way. I soon got my axe from the nose of the canoe, were it had been safely wedged in and survived the roll over.

I started to cut the branches off and then noticed that with each branch I removed the tree started to lift itself out of the water.  It was then then I decided to cut off the top ten feet of the tree that was heavy with branches. Once the top weight was gone the tree rose about a foot above the surface of the rushing current.

In the photo above, looking south, the gravel bar is in the lower left hand corner of the picture. The top of the tree is lying in the water at the south end of the gravel bar. The main part of the tree is obvious from the cut off end, and lacking most of the braches on the top side.  In retrospect, if  I had not made it to the gravel bar, the current would have swept me into the tangled web of half sunken trees on the right and I may not have survived.

Once my bridge to the shore was ready, I attached a long rope to the canoe which I moved across the reef to the west side.  While canoeing I wear leather canoe shoes. I had removed them while wading on the reef but once I got to solid land I would need my boots to travel. The boots had been wrapped in the tent and survived in a dry condition so I hung then around my neck to cross the tree bridge.

Once across the rushing current I soon had my boots on and then walked upstream and pulled the canoe across so it was clear of trees and branches.  With the canoe and all my gear safely on shore I decided that I needed to find my paddles, which had obviously been swept down stream.

Canoe in backwater #26

As I walked along the bank of the river I watched carefully for the paddles and hoped they might have snagged somewhere on the river bank. Eventually I managed to  find and recover one on the near shore.  Paddle in hand I continued walking and as I came around and bend in the river, I looked ahead and saw a huge log jam blocking the river.

The logs blocked the entire river from side to side and were piled at least ten feet above the surface of the river. Many were sticking up in the air at all angles. All the logs were larger than a telephone pole. The end were sawed off so at some time loggers cut the trees and sent them down the river, no doubt to the town of Banff.  Obviously a log jam occurred and these hundred or more trees piled up to block the river.

I spent about half an hour inspecting this tangled mess.  All the water was rushing under the logs and came out about thirty feet downstream in a white mass of boiling water. Had I not dumped my canoe when I did I would have come around the corner with almost no chance to paddle to the shore.  The canoe and I would at best been crushed against the log jam, and unable to get free.  At worse we would have been swept under the dam and pinned. We would have simply disappeared, never to be found.

It was at this time I felt much better about having dumped my canoe. I had no trouble convincing my self the canoe trip had ended, as I could see nothing but more uprooted trees all along the route past the log jam.

The next task was to recover my canoe and camping equipment. My only option left was to climb the mountain side up to the highway.  I left all my gear and struggled up to the highway and then hiked about ten miles into town.  After a hot supper and a good night sleep I returned to where I had left the canoe.

Canoe from high above #28

This the view of the canoe from half way up the mountain slope, sitting in a quiet backwater, far removed from the rapids.  Once down with the canoe I used the long rope that was tied to the nose. I ran the upper half of the rope around a tree up the slope.

When I walked back down to the canoe I dragged it up hill and at the same time pulled on the rope, which also prevented the canoe sliding back down the 45 degree mountain side. Once the canoe was up to the first tree I repeated the rope trick with another higher tree. It was slow going because the canoe contained all the tent and equipment.

After a couple of hours the canoe was up on the highway and soon tied to the roof of the car.

When ever I was asked about this canoe trip I rarely gave all the details. But as the years went by I could not help but think of things that happened that should have caused me to quit or give up.  Some might have quit when the canoe got stuck on the rock in the first five minutes. I had waited too long to canoe this river and I was determined to try.  It was certainly the adventure of a lifetime and gives me much pleasure when I think about it.

Canoe on the mountain #29

This is the last photo taken when the canoe was about half way up the mountain.  I managed to get three or four more years of  use out of the damaged canoe, before I had to cremate it.   In all, I wore out three canoes in my lifetime.