This past weekend the boys and I took to the muddy banks of the North Saskatchewan for our annual canoe trip. Two days of swearing, sunburns, pelican shit, beef jerky, and good old fashioned male bonding. We started at Goldbar Park in Edmonton and traveled approximately 80 clicks north of the city – just north of Ft. Saskatchewan. It turned out to be a grueling trip, as all of us were mildly out of shape for such a long paddle.
There were three of us on the trip: Me and my good buddies Scott and Shayne, both of whom I’ve known since our boyhood days on the mean streets of Northeast Edmonton. Witness our unbridled manlihood:
Here’s Scott and Shayne gearing up for the big push (taken before each of them donned three gallons of sunscreen):
We figured that it would be best to flush the pipes before we left, so we hit the john. I was the only one able to park a trout, and I’m glad I did. Here’s my buddy Shayne, regretful that he couldn’t pinch one off:
Once on the water, things flowed smoothly. I was charged with the back position in the boat – the pilot. That also meant that I had to stare at Shayne’s bald fucking head for the entire day. His head haunted me like a demented clown with a skin bag over its face. I wanted to paint a happy face on his head and smack it.
Me, in my Tilley hat and Ray Bans, soaking up the vibe and not pulling my weight.
My buddy Scott was stationed at the nose of the boat. He took frequent breaks, oh about one every five minutes. I caught him on one of his beer and smoke breaks, this one occurring twelve minutes after launch. Shortly after this shot was snapped he said, “I think I need a rum and a Robaxacet.” Indeed. I think we all did.
We spent the night on a sandbar island in the middle of nowhere. Nobody around, save a pod of pelicans. That’s right. Pelicans. Huge fucking birds. And lots of ‘em. Before this trip, I had no idea that pelicans migrated here. Truly amazing birds. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good shots of them. The view, from the tip of our little island:
Scotty got a bad sunburn on every inch of his uncovered body. He was essentially paralyzed, and moaned whenever he moved. Upon our return his wife Trish made the obvious comment: “Burntback Mountain.” Scotty remained in good spirits, however:
Shayne received a sunburn of a lesser degree, but was still in pain. Shayne, saying “Holy fuck! Scotty looks like a red snowman!”
Three guys in one tent was a tad on the cramped side, but it went OK. All that paddling caused my arms to feel like they were on fire. I’m not sure how I actually lifted the camera to take this ridiculous shot:
We had a great time on our little island…despite the sunburns, nuclear muscles, and aching arms.
Off in the distance, the machines of industry marched on. We weren’t that far from civilization after all. An industrial sunset (NOW WITH PELICANS!!):
Twas a fine trip. One for the books. Of course, I could barely move on Monday, and contemplated scoring some morphine to help with my muscle pain. Much better now. And ready to go next year.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?