An Uneasy Peace

Posted on June 15, 2013 under Storytelling with one comment

“Let’s go canoeing”, said one of my fellow teachers back in the spring of 1978.   I had never canoed before but was assured by just about everyone that the canoe ride down the  Peace River,  from the B.C. border to the Dunvegan Bridge, was a piece of cake.  With the long weekend in May approaching I decided to” take the plunge” with five of my teaching colleagues.  How prophetic that description turned out to be.

We were driven to the drop off area on a Friday after school.  Along with camping gear we were well stocked with food and drink.  Especially drink.

We pitched our tents on a warm evening, had some supper, sampled the supplies and went to bed, dreaming of conquering the Mighty Peace.

We were up at the crack of dawn.   After placing several cases of beer and just two loaves of bread into the first canoe, someone asked me, “What are you going to do with all that bread”?

As advertised, it couldn’t have been much easier.  Off we went and once we got the hang of steering the canoe, it was blissful.  For ten hours we coasted, occasionally lashing the canoes together.  We saw plenty of wildlife along the banks of the river.  They looked at us with disinterest.  They must have known we were teachers.

As the day drew to a close, we found a small island of tranquility, right in the middle of the river, which would be our home for the night.  We pitched our tents, ate a hearty supper, had a few drinks and howled at the moon appreciatively.  A slight breeze came up which kept the mosquitoes at bay.  By the time we settled in it was windy and there was a noticeable drop in temperature.

Part way through the night, we heard the pitter-patter of rain drops.  By daybreak there was a river of water running through our tents.  The mood of these voyageurs was slightly more sombre than it had been 24 hours previously.

We were cold, wet and a bit seedy as we packed up our belongings.  What lay ahead was the day from hell.  We expected it to be so and weren’t disappointed.  We battled a head wind all day.  We struggled for every inch of water.  A few of the canoes tipped when whitecaps crested.  It was a long, cold day of abject misery.

I thought of the pioneers, Radisson and Groseilliers.  They wouldn’t be whining.  I recalled Pauline Johnson’s classic poem, “The Song My Paddle Sings”.  My paddle was singing, “Get me the hell off this river”.

As we approached the Dunvegan Bridge, hail rained down from the heavens.  Like six drowned rats, we were rescued on the shore by friends who took us back to Fairview.  We were tired, cold and famished.  A feed of Chinese food at Jimmy Der’s Dragon Inn helped to revive our spirits.

At the end of the school year I took a trip to the West coast.  With my quest for adventure satisfied for the time being, I opted to take the ferry to Victoria.

And where’er your lot may be
Paddle your own canoe.

Sarah Bolton, 1853



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