Saturday, August 6, 2016

Canoeing on the Humber

So I have managed to cross off another Toronto tradition on my to-do list.  (I didn't shepherd the family around Toronto neighbourhoods as much as I wanted this summer, but we might still do a bit in Sept. and Oct. (particularly if allergens are a bit lower in the fall).  I did take my son to Dusk Dances in Withrow Park this summer and then to Shakespeare in High Park last summer.  And we did the zoo and Casa Loma and even the CN Tower (all in 2014 right after we moved to Toronto).  I think the main remaining items are to check out the Scarborough Bluffs and to take them to Carabana, perhaps next summer.  And perhaps go back to the zoo one more time before the pandas leave in 2018 or so.)

Actually, I never canoed or kayaked on the Humber River before today, but it looked pretty fun and some others in my office had gone.  The Humber is a fairly slow-flowing river, though it runs into Lake Ontario, and the folks renting out the canoes were very clear that we couldn't go past the next bridge (the Queensway).

I honestly wasn't sure how it was going to go, since I haven't been in a canoe since probably 1990, and the kids had never canoed at all.  I told them they would have to not fuss, and listen to directions, and in particular not flail about if they happened to get splashed with a bit of water.  Of course, it is one thing to promise beforehand, and another thing to live up to those promises over a 2 hour trip, but I am pleased to say that the trip went smoothly.  If anything, it went much more smoothly than I had any right to expect.

The trip sort of got off on the wrong foot, as we left 10 minutes later than I had planned (I had forgotten my phone, and I figured I really needed one in case there was an emergency.)  Also, the buses were a bit slower than normal due to Taste of the Danforth.  And of course, we didn't have any air conditioning in the subway car once we finally got onto the subway.  So it was a long, long, long ride out to Old Mill station.  I think the further west I've ever gone on the subway was High Park a couple of times.  (I did manage to get some batteries for my daughter's camera at the station, and I'm glad I did.  The first two photos are my photos, and all the rest are hers.  She did a fair bit of paddling, but we left it up to her to rest and take photos when she wanted to.  Many of her pictures came out really well, especially the ducks and the egret!)

We got there about 5 minutes late, and then walked over to the Old Mill to use "the facilities," since they didn't even have a Porto-potty at the canoe rental site.  I took the delays calmly (for once...), since there was no immediate goal in sight other than to enjoy a day of canoeing. The trip did get off to an awkward start as I had to instruct my son how to paddle, while trying to remember myself the basic mechanics of steering.  The current pushed us right back onto a really muddy shore, and it took several tries to get relaunched.  Then we hit a patch of unbelievably shallow water, where the canoe was literally dragging across the river bed and we had to push through the gravel with our paddles.  That was not fun at all, and I came fairly close to bailing on the trip.  Fortunately, this was only a few hundred metres and then the river opened up.  I think this affected the canoes a bit more than the kayaks, though others had noted it.  It just has not rained nearly enough this season, and the last big rain we had basically skipped the west end.

There were certainly a few times I thought we might tip, but we did not.  We got about 2/3 of the way down the river to the Queensway, when I decided we really ought to turn around.  We did not explore any of the side ponds or marshes, but we might do that next year, assuming the kids are a bit stronger paddlers and we get there on time.  We executed a pretty decent turn and came back.  We had one awkward moment where we were trying to avoid some goofy kayakers and the canoe started turning in the current, but we recovered.  It was still a hard slog back through the shallow section, but we landed safely.  (I don't think the kids even got their feet wet.)  We returned the canoe with 10 minutes to spare.  Both the kids enjoyed it, and I think we will try to go next summer as well.  Maybe I'll even see about signing them up for canoe camp, though probably the best lessons are out on the Toronto Islands, and I just can't see myself getting organized enough to do that, but maybe they can do one of the Harbourfront camps that integrates a bit of canoeing into the programming.

It was another long ride home, but at least the subway car was cooler, and it always seems to go faster when you are heading home for some reason.  I got them some outrageously expensive ice cream at Taste of the Danforth, we stopped off at the library and got a few more books for them to read, and then we walked the rest of the way home (since the Pape bus was still diverting down Jones).  We were all pretty exhausted from the day, but it was worth it...

Ok, enough chit chat, here are my daughter's photos of our trip down the Humber (starting from #3).

We rented the yellow canoe

Geese crossing

Geese and ducks chilling

The white egret

After "the turn," heading back

The unexplored inlet

What's up, duck?

Nearing "the finish line"

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