Whitewater Canoeing with Wild Women Expeditions (Part One)

Before Wild Women Expeditions’ whitewater canoe clinic in June, I’d spent eight whole days in a canoe.  Granted they were intensive:

– In the middle of November 2012 (which included my wedding anniversary and my 35th birthday), I learned how to canoe properly and instruct canoeing at the same time.  Thank you, Jill Baxter.

– At the end of April, I experienced just a taste of canoeing in moving water on the Ottawa River.  It didn’t mean anything to me at the time.  I didn’t fully understand why we were performing the maneuvers we were.  If only I knew then what I know now because there was one spot my stern partner and I could totally nail.

I had absolutely no confidence in the stern after those eight days.  Fast forward six weeks after the Ottawa River trip and I found myself in the stern encouraging my awesome bow partner Susan down a set of Class I rapids on the Lower Madawaska River.  How did I get here?

My fellow Toronto-based Wild Woman passenger Barbara and I arrived at the Paddler Co-op in Palmer Rapids, Ontario after overshooting the unassuming driveway by more than a kilometer.  We pulled into the dusky campsite, the sounds of my wheels muffled by a thick layer of needles on the ground, and immediately were greeted by WWE guide Jenny Martindale. What an absolute pleasure to connect with her and later, Natasha.  I’d only “met” them weeks earlier over Facebook.

Barbara and I introduced ourselves to the other women participating in the clinic and quickly pitched our tents so we wouldn’t have to in the dark. Every woman who was already set up offered to help make the work go faster.  In no time eight of us including the WWE guides sat around two wooden picnic tables beneath a hand-stitched bug net, sharing brownies.  We talked about the Wild Women philosophy as well as each of our motivations for participating in this weekend.

The guides clearly loved Wild Women Expeditions, canoeing, and the experience of sharing both with us.  Two women planned to use the weekend as their warm-up for their rapidly approaching Nahanni canoe adventure with WWE. Three women were repeat Wild Women, looking to build canoe and trip confidence, hoping to understand how to navigate rapids rather than blinding bombing down them or portaging them.  And then there was me.  I’d been working for WWE part-time for about six weeks, providing some of the company’s social media and market research.  Ostensibly I was there to learn more about the company and to take photos.  Personally I needed to build up my own confidence on moving water and I very much wanted to understand why certain moves were required.

Feeling like we were on the same page as to what we wanted from the weekend and as though we had a general sense as to what would occur over the next two days, we decided to hit the hay in order to be functional in the morning.  I fell asleep snuggled in my sleeping bag listening to the sounds of our last two women joining our group late and a group of teens horsing around and finally settling down for the night.  I couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

For more information on Wild Women Expeditions’ adventures, check them out at: https://wildwomenexpeditions.com/.

Read Part Two here.

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