Sunday, November 25, 2007

Breaking the Ice

It's a cold Sunday morning, maybe only a degree or so above zero, but we're here on The Gorge for a paddle into Portage Inlet.

Toques and gloves are in order today as we get ourselves ready. It's a large crew today: Karl, Stephanie, Bernie, Paula, Louise and myself.

We're launching at the the top end of The Gorge (#1) and paddling in Portage Inlet. At the far end of the Inlet (#2), we're going to head up Craigflower Creek. We've heard that the creek can be paddled up under the Trans-Canada Highway and up in behind Victoria General Hospital (#3). We're going to find out for ourselves.

No sooner did we start than we saw something cool. This homeowener has recently installed a bank of photovoltaic solar cells. That's the way of the future, we've got to get off the grid.

As we rounded the first point, Paula was ahead of us. Suddenly, she started whooping and shouting. "Ice!" she cried. Ahead of us, the Inlet had a thin sheen of ice on top. Paula had barrelled into it and soon the rest of us were into the icefield. Six little ice breakers.
Paddling Through the Ice 3

The ice was very thin, maybe 5mm if that, although there seemed to be the occasional section that was a little thicker. What an odd sensation to paddle through ice. We often joke about the water getting thicker when we paddle, but this water was solid! One expects to hear a splash when one's paddle hits the water, but all we heard was a crunch.
Stroke. Crunch. Stroke. Crunch.
We were also scaring all the birds away. Our six kayaks plowing through ice were making quite a racket as we cracked the ice around us, sending flocks of birds hundreds of metres away into frenzied flight. No doubt they thought the demons of hell were almost upon them.
Paddling through the Ice 2

We knew it was cold, but we never thought we'd be out breaking the ice. Karl figured that there must be a small layer of fresh water on top of the saltier Inlet water.

We found a lot of ice fields in the Inlet, and I'd guess that we spent about a third of our time in the Inlet paddling through ice.

We turned into Craigflower Creek and headed up. As you can see, we found some ice here. too.

We crossed under Helmcken Road.

This was a beautiful and quiet little river. Although we were sneaking through subdivisions, it was very easy to imagine that we were in the backwoods somewhere. There was one tricky spot, as a fallen tree had blocked most of the river. But there was a small channel, and Karl gave it a try.

It was tricky, but he made it.

Louise made it through, too.

Soon, we reached the Trans-Canada Highway. Here, the creek entered a tunnel.
Into the Tunnel

Ooooh, it's pretty scary, eh kids?

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As we left the tunnel, we discovered that there were a lot of rocks in the water here, so we had to be careful. We made it through, but it took a little maneuvering.

The navigable portion of the creek ended just beyond the tunnel and the rocks. Bernie got out to see if we could go any further, but this was pretty much the end of the line.

So there was nothing to do but turn around and head back through the tunnel. There was a bit of a bottle-neck as we entered....
In The Tunnel

...but it was a perfect time to practice some doo-wop.
Head For the Light

We ended up singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The Tokens have nothing to worry about.
In The Tunnel
In The Tunnel

Back in the light of day, we had to get past that fallen log again.

Karl and I were lagging behind the others when he pointed to his right. "Hey, is that a hawk in the tree?"

And there he was, a small hawk that didn't seem the least bit worried about or interested in us.

Then we were back in the Inlet and paddling though the ice.

And eventually, all good things must come to an end.

John's pictures are here.


  1. What a paddle report! ICE!!! :D Looks like everyone's feeling so adventurous! Did you get in there thanks to a super high tide or something? The pictures of the hawk came out great - that new camera of yours is fantastic.

    In other news, I went to the pool practice that night and met a guy named Kevin who turned me on to his inuk paddle design videos on Youtube. A little something to watch along with the Pacific Horizons Trailer . Goes well with a hot coffee and a rainy day.

  2. It was nearly high tide, I don't remember if it was a super high tide or not. I also assume that with the rainy fall weather, the water level would be higher than it was in the summer when we were last here.
    I'm quite pleased with the new camera. It's not quite as flexible with its settings as I would like, but when it turns out pictures like those hawk pictures, who am I to complain? You can see that the sun and sky were very bright and when I took the pictures of the hawk, it was in shade and basically a black silhouette -- I couldn't see any markings on it. Then I got home and played with the pictures and -- holy crap! -- look at that little guy!
    Thanks for the Pacific Horizons link -- that looks like a great DVD!