Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 13: What were they thinking?

As I came into Medicine Hat, I saw the Transcanada Highway cross over the river, and I saw some towering smokestacks to my right. Then I felt the wind change, grow bolder and colder. The waves picked up and my canoe was driven in any direction the wind chose, as the trees on shore bowed to the power of the wind. Using just my paddle and will, I was able to reach a shoreline and hold onto the vegetation there until it was safe to proceed.

It is strange in these windstorms, that they make the water feel much warmer than the land, because it does not draw away your body heat so quickly.

I parked the boat under the Transcanada in a region of pathways that was apparently closed for the summer. I rode into town on my folding bicycle, and ran my errands. The library, for internet. The bank, to pay my student fees and health premium. The grocery store, for food, and the hardware store to get supplies to make a few repairs to my equipment.

I also made many phone calls to friends and family.

When the day was done, I felt like I hadn't really seen the city. I would probably never see the town again, and here I had only done my errands and ridden around in places I could have seen in any city of that size.

So I decided to stop somewhere, so I could see the local attractions the next day. This presented some difficulties. If you are driving across the country, you have several different options as to where to stay. You can visit hotels of varying qualities, stay at a campground, or if you are really cheap, find some Walmart or other bigbox store and sleep in the parking lot.

When traveling by canoe your options are more limited. I had spent most of the day away from the boat and did not enjoy the feeling that nearly all my resources could disappear without a warning. So I wanted to sleep somewhere near the canoe. There is a campground in Medicine Hat, but they do not have riverside camping.

I also needed a place to stay so that in the morning I could float downstream to some point where I could still get into the city. My loaded wilderness canoe does not very much like trying to go upstream. So I would effectively need some place to camp inside of the city.

There are a few parks, but I'm not sure about the legal status of camping in city parks. I suppose, if I could have found a phone at this time, I could have called the police and asked them if they had any ideas.

I stopped to have dinner at a nice takeout point by a park apparently owned by the Lion's Club. It is at this point that a motorboat went by, back and forth on the river a few times. Now maybe they were just fishermen or something, but I imagined that I had caught their eye somehow, that they had suspicions I was up to no good or something. They parked the boat down the river, just the right distance where they might not be conspicuous, but could still keep their eyes on me.

I figured I couldn't stay in Lion's Park, so I took to the water and headed downstream, wondering where I would stay, and what this boat was up to. As I approached, they started the motor, and went upstream, again stopping in a place just within sight.

At this point, taking it personally, I became really frustrated. If they had a problem with me, why didn't they just come over to me and talk about it? I started thrashing at the water, paddling as hard as I could to try to get to them. But it was no use; the river current was too strong and I succeeded only in treading water, staying in one place.

Now, my eyes are no good at distance, so I got out my weak binoculars to try to look over this boat that seemed so threatening to me. And little sooner than I did, but the boat pulled away, up river, leaving me alone. I wonder if I had it wrong all along, if they weree the ones up to no good, hiding from me!

It began to rain and I still had no campsite. There was a very small island, but it was no good - pure mud and shrubs. A little further there was a little piece of land jutting out from underneath one of the cliffs. It was thoroughly inaccessible from land, may even be considered navigable waterway under the 'usual high water line" rule. i checked it out. There was a game trail running around the base, and just enough space on top of some weeds to pitch a tent. The sun came out, a rainbow appeared, and I saw two or three fishermen sitting in Police Point Park, directly across from me.

My location was probably one of the least conspicuous in the city. Bends in the river protected me from view of buildings both upstream and down, and my canoe and tent would be relatively small and hidden on this island of weeds but for those people across from me. I decided it didn't matter. I unpacked my stuff, set up my tent, and with a bow and tip of the hat to the people across the river, went in to bed.

But all night I wondered what they were thinking, and imagined I could just barely make out their voices, coming to me over the wind...

"...I know why he camped there..."

"...he looked at us!..."

"...I wonder what he's up to..."

"...he's on the run from the law..."

"...but the real question is..."

"...what is he thinking about us!"

Day 13 ended: 50*02.337N, 110*38.226W


docta said...

A message from Ethan: How are you
doing? I love seeing your pictures. i,m having a good summer!
i saw a play last night. ethan

Kevin Saff said...

Ethan: I hope you had a great half-birthday!