Monday, October 6, 2014

Run Down Sluice Falls by Fishing Boat

I saw this on facebook this morning. It is a local fishing guide running down the Sluice Falls channel and avoiding the 1 km portage I've slogged over a few times. It was great to see the rapids from this perspective.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to Survive after a Paddling Accident

This has also been posted on Bryan's other blog at

Last week while packing for the annual NSE canoe trip I was contacted by Global Saskatoon to comment on how to survive after a mishap on a paddling trip. In addition to being a paddling instructor, I am the Paddle Canada representative for Saskatchewan, and am a co-author of the AdventureSmart paddling safety awareness program called PaddleSmart.

The interview follows on the recent tragic death of David Dice along the Churchill River, a section that NSE paddled in 2010. I do not know the details of what happened, but according to news reports David was found below Needle Falls on Kinosaskaw Lake. Shortly after David was found by fishermen, his wife Enid Dice was found upriver somewhere along Needle Rapids. She had been there without supplies for 8 days. The reports don't offer much for details, though they do mention she had a fire going (it will make your life easier to have some reliable means of starting a fire on your life jacket or in a pocket, and redundancy is good!). The Dices are very experienced outdoorspeople and paddlers, and David's early death is a loss to the paddling community. My condolences go out to all of those grieving David's death.

A few more details were reported via CBC:
One of the first people to speak to Enid after the ordeal was Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, who was also one of the last people to see the couple before they set out on their trip.
He says he learned, from Enid, that the couple's canoe capsized as they were navigating a set of rapids on the lake known as Needle Falls*.
They were separated and Enid swam to shore with her husband's backpack that had a sleeping bag and an emergency fire-starting kit. There was no food, however.
*I wonder if this statement as reported is correct. It seems more likely that they were running Needle Rapids (C2+ to C3), about 2.25 km above the falls, or the outlet from Sandfly lake (C3), a further 1 km above Needle Rapids. It seems unlikely that they would have been running the falls (C5), but the earlier sets of rapids are manageable for the canoeist with skills in rapids. This also makes sense since Enid had no gear other than what she swam to shore with and was separated from her husband who was reportedly found on Kinosaskaw Lake in the eddy below the falls. Were the capsize to actually have occurred at the falls, she would have been mere meters from her late husband, the overturned canoe and much of the gear including the SPOT. 

A map of the region:

Open this map full screen.

Aerial view of the rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake. We portaged these.

Class 3 rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake.

Uppermost portion of Needle Rapids from the spot where we scouted the set. This is the river left channel. 

Jay & Rod scouting Needle Rapids. 

David & Enid's Blog: David and Enid's Travels

Here are some items you should consider having with you, or on you, whenever you head out paddling. Most of these items can be fit into a small pouch that can be attached to the life jacket or contained in a pocket. These items are described as "The Essentials Plus" in the PaddleSmart program:
  • Transport Canada Required Items:
    1. Life jacket
    2. Whistle
    3. Throw bag
    4. Bailer
    5. Waterproof flashlight
  • Other Essential Items:
    1. Fire making kit
    2. Signalling device (e.g. whistle, signal mirror)
    3. Extra food and water
    4. Extra clothing
    5. Navigation & communication devices
    6. First aid
    7. Emergency blanket or shelter
    8. Knife
    9. Sun protection
In the pocket of my PFD I have a small pouch that in the video linked above has had the contents spread out. The contents include a signal mirror, granola bar, fishing line, snare wire, ~20' of thin cord, orange bandana, emergency blanket, lighter, & fire starter. In the canoe or kayak I also almost always have extra clothing, rain gear, some form of shelter (tarp &/or a bothy bag), extra food, water (though we can usually drink our water from the lake), first aid kit, more lighters, matches and fire starting stuff. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beef Jerky

Time is running out before our 2014 NSE trip (this year it's Surf City on the Churchill River near Missinipe, SK) and I still have to pack and get everything ready. On my "To-Do" list is smoking & drying the jerky for our trip. On Sunday I bought 2 round roasts (5 lbs of meat in total?), sliced them up and marinated them in a homemade teryaki sauce with jerky cure. This evening (Tuesday) they will go into the smoker using this smoke schedule from the Bradley Smoker website:

  1. Dry at 140°F without smoke until the meat is dry (~ 1 hour)
  2. Smoke at 160°F for 2-3 hours
  3. Dry at 175°F until done - about 3 hours.
The sauce I used was gleaned and modified from a couple of different websites and spiced up some, but basically went something like this:
  • 1 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine (since I didn't have any rice wine or whatever was called for)
  • a couple tablespoons of fresh ginger
  • a fair bit of honey to sweeten the mixture to taste - maybe 1/4 cup or more
  • minced garlic
  • onion powder
  • cayenne
  • ground pepper
  • chili flakes
The sauce was heated to dissolve the honey, then cooled in the freezer before use. Just prior to marinating the meat with the sauce, I added an appropriate amount of cure based on the instructions (just shy of 2 tsp).

Rather than finish in the smoker, I pulled the jerky out after smoking and finished in the dehydrator. The smoker doesn't offer very even heat, getting hot along the back above the burner (some folks install a small fan which would be great in this application). Because the meat is thin it is prone to quickly overcooking in some areas along the back and I would have to counter this by frequently rotating the racks and meat. Since it was late (~11 pm), I decided to finish the drying process on the dehydrator, set to 160°F. I connected the dehydrator to a block heater timer so that it would dry for about 3 hours, be off for the rest of the night, then start up again in the morning to finish it off. I find that second drying step is helpful with a lot of foods - the moisture becomes "trapped" inside the dried outer parts, and takes a very long time to dry properly. By giving the food a bit of a break, the moisture moves outward and becomes more even through the product. Then, a short period of drying (~1 hour in this case) finishes off the product and ensures it is sufficiently dry all the way through.

Smoker set up and ready to go.

5 racks of jerky ready to start the drying step.
The finished product the next morning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kayak Asshole

This is pretty hilarious. Enjoy! Thanks to the Kayak Yak blog for sharing!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Inspiration for Rod

NSE member Rod often tells the story of falling a large tree in his back yard much to his neighbour's chagrin. Well, we think Rod will enjoy this precision tree-falling video.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CRCO Whitewater Festival

Northstar Expeditions had a great meeting in Bryan's back yard last night working on canoe outfitting and discussion various trip issues.

Here is a just-released fun video showing some of the awesomeness of the Churchill River Whitewater Festival. I keep missing it but the event is growing and just as cool as ever. NSE should plan to attend in 2015, maybe we could show those young whitewater punks a thing or two.

Whitewater Festival 2014 from McKinno on Vimeo.
Churchill River Canoe Outfitter's annual whitewater festival. Shot over the Canada Day Long Weekend at Surf City, Staircase Falls, Sluice Falls, The Shelf and Barker Island. A big thanks to CRCO for putting on the festival and to Canoe Kayak Saskatchewan for sending me!

Includes the song "The Walker" by Fitz and the Tantrums

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hey, I Re-Invented Something...

This one's for Rod, who comes up with something genius at least once a trip. And, unfortunately we have to let him know it's already been done.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Official Beer of NSE

Might as well stick with the beer theme. Though we've never had it, AC/DC Beer is now the official beer of Northstar Expeditions.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where to Go, 2013 Edition

We have 4 days, plus driving up the previous evening. Here are some options I've got rolling around in my brain and that I've been discussing with the group:
  • Option 1.1Upper Sturgeon-Weir River, from Pelican Narrows to Pawistik Lodge on the Hanson Lake Road (Hwy 106). Not very long (50 km), 3 portages around small falls and rapids, sections of swift water. Simple shuttle can probably be arranged via Pawistik Lodge or another area outfitter. I expect typical shield scenery. 
    • Option 1.2: Adding another 50 km to the above, paddling from Jan Lake Lodge to Pelican Narrows. Big water, lots of islands. 
  • Option 2Lower Sturgeon-Weir, from Denare Beach on Amisk Lake to Sturgeon Landing. Paddling off the shield on the lake onto limestone benches of the river with lots of fossils. Starting at Denare Beach, this is 30km of mostly open lake followed by 38 km of river. River is many small rapids with 2 larger rapids that can be portaged if needed. 
  • Option 3McLennan Lake area. Fish, new area. 
  • Option 4Surf City, Corner Rapids. Need I say more?
  • Option 5: Montreal River, Montreal Lake to Hwy 165 Bridge, 66 km. Continuing to Air Ronge brings total distance to 146 km.  Current flows are over 60 cubic m/s; we would want that to drop some, maybe to about 40. Considering this is a spring river, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run it in September. Never mind that it's been runnable in the fall probably 4 of the last 5 years. 
  • Option 6: Lac LaRonge by kayak. I need more big water kayak camping experience before I go for my Level 3 certification. LaRonge past Nut Point, Wadin Bay, Jay's uncle's cabin or just explore the islands. Head to Hunter Bay. 
Bryan's favourites, in order:
  1. Option 2 Lower S-W
  2. Option 5 Montreal R.
  3. Option 1.1 or 1.2
  4. Option 6 Lac La Ronge
  5. Option 4 Corner Rapids
  6. Option 5 McLennan Lake

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


For some reason I have a hankering to bike past the LBS and pick up a case of Boh.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Camp Coffee

This one's for Rod, who takes his coffee very seriously.

The refrain starting at about 1:43 is especially apt for Rod. I totally agree with him, but you don't wanna mess with a coffee-less Rod.

Kevin Callan put together this video about making camp coffee and is pretty much what we do on our trips, including the Littlebug Sr. stove. The video is pretty good, despite his sense of humour. ;)

Happy birthday, buddy.