Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 18: Meandering

While some industries might prefer rivers to be stuck in a rut, rivers, like people, prefer the freedom to explore their opportunities. Chief among the methods a river employs is the "meander" which works like this.

A river acquires somewhere some slight bend or crook. Now as water goes through the turn the faster water is not so easily swayed from its purpose as is the slower water, water tends to be faster towards the outside of the turn. Faster water erodes the earth faster than the slow water, so it tends to cut towards the outside of the turn. Contrarly, slow water is more likely to drop the sediment it is carrying, on the inside of the turn. So the turn gets more and more exaggerated, pushing into a loop towards the outside.

Eventually, the river gets so twisted in on itself that it cuts through the loop entirely, leaving an oxbow lake.

I was still feeling crummy from the previous day, and decided to race into Saskatchewan, zooming in on my GPS as the border got closer and closer. To no purpose, of course, I could see from my map that the river here forms a huge meander, looping into Saskatchewan for a few miles, before looping back into Alberta, and then finally returning once and for all to Saskatchewan.

I did not keenly monitor my progress back into Alberta.

The wind picked up and the river got choppy. I pulled aside onto an island to wait it out. The island was gorgeous, I thought, probably tended. It was the most perfect island to have the property of existing on that portion of the river. I looked over and saw a motorboat moored by a home a mile away. I imagined the wife of the house packing the boat with gardening supplies every weekend and straightening out the island so she could maintain the perfect view from her bay window.

Now, don't get me wrong, these were wild, native plants on the island, just very tastefully arranged.

I cooked up a meal from one of my cans and sat down to eat it as the wind sandblasted my face. I remembered that I hadn't cooked up any hot meals at all, yesterday. I felt a bit better.
The wind died down a bit and I decided not to stay on that family's picture island. But it was not long after setting out that the water got choppy again. But it was almost fun, fighting against wind and wave. Sometimes I had the upper hand, making slow progress downriver. And sometimes it did, battering me against the logs on shore. But yesterday there was no wind at all, and not even a storm at night to relieve my boredom.

I crossed into Saskatchewan for the final time and spent awhile trying to scope out a good campsite, on a place my map named Ebenau Island. The channel that used to separate the island from the right shore has silted up, however, and so it is an island no more. Finally I found where the pelicans were hiding out, on a rocky sandy beach. As the pelicans reluctantly moved on to their second best spot, a great double rainbow filled the sky.

It did storm that night, but I was securely tucked away in my tent under some good old trees, finally feeling happy about my trip again.

Day 18 ended: 50*54.326N, 109*58.362W

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