On Saturday August 1st, I put my kayak up on my truck and headed to Outdoors Oriented http://outdoorsoriented.com to meet my friends Andrea and Kim. We had made plans to go for a paddle today at the Welland Recreational Canal http://www.canalcorp.ca/site/home, but after checking the weather forecast, I needed to make a tough decision. Do I risk paddling with new paddlers in 33km gusts in what people have called ‘a wind tunnel’ in an area I’ve never paddled, or, do I play it safe and go to one of my favourite places to paddle…. Black Creek?
I ran into some friends last night who told me they’d just paddled the Welland Recreational Canal during the day and it got very windy and they had a really tough paddle back. I wanted this to be a really fun relaxing day for my friends and I, so it was easy to make a choice, even though I really wanted to go to a new place, but sometimes, you don’t get what you want! I had to choose Black Creek and make the safest call for the weather that was forecast.
I purchased Jamie Bingham’s Book from Outdoors Oriented. I have the 3rd edition and it is fantastic. It has every cool paddling spot in Niagara listed, how to get there, maps, descriptions of what to expect, ratings on the ease or difficulty of each paddle, etc. etc. If you like to paddle in Niagara, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book! http://outdoorsoriented.com/collections/camping/products/paddling-niagara-guidebook
With the switch made, I copied a few maps from the book at my home office, put them in the car to give to the girls, and then headed to Outdoors Oriented to meet them there!
Unfortunately, my lovely friends do not own their own kayaks… yet (lol)! … so they each rented one from Outdoors Oriented, my favourite place to get gear for my adventures! As Kim has not paddled before, I had Jamie (owner-outdoors oriented) email her to find out some stats about her to figure out which boat would be most suitable for her. Andrea, has been wanting a kayak for a while and knew exactly what she wanted so she was all set.
A cool thing about Outdoors Oriented is that if you rent a boat with them, and then proceed to purchase one in the future, your rental cost is put towards the purchase of your boat. Super good deal, I think! Here is a link to the boat rental rates http://outdoorsoriented.com/pages/rentals
The staff at Outdoors are great and they helped the girls get their boats, their accessories and showed them how to put them on their vehicles so they would know how to take them off when we got to the Creek and then put them back on when we were ready to head back to St. Catharines.
And then…. we were on our way!!!! Kayak procession en route! WOOHOO!
Getting to the put in for Black Creek in Fort Erie, ON, is pretty easy. You take the QEW towards Fort Erie, exit at Netherby Road, turn left and at the end of the street you will find the parking lot. You put your boat in at the launch and head to your right and under the bridge into Black Creek. From there it’s a calm quiet journey where you are viewing cottages, homes, wildlife, huge trees, brown waters, a golf course, and who knows what else you’ll see?
Once you are in the creek, it feels like you are entering a majestic place. Suddenly, time feels like it stands still, you hear birds chirping, animals scurrying around and there is a general calmness in the water. It is one of my favourite places to paddle thus far and the only thing I dislike about Black Creek is that you can’t swim in it. Well, I’m sure you could, but I would definitely not do it voluntarily!
For the first part of the creek, you find some open spaces and then cottages or homes that back onto the creek. Most of them are impressive and lovely to look at while paddling down a quiet body of water on a beautiful hot August day.
Eventually the cottages and homes spread out further and further until they are only on one side, then eventually disappear!
After that, you will come up to another bridge and will pass under the highway. It’s a bit noisy here with traffic but shortly after you are back into peaceful tranquility once again!
Kim and I collected a bit of garbage we found on the Creek. Being a new paddler she wasn’t sure if she could maneuver the boat to get to it, but she did and she succeeded!!! Another photo for #CleanUpOurParks… see post http://wp.me/p6r4RK-2o for details!
Once you pass under the QEW, the areas on either side of the creek are less residential and full of greenery. The views here, with the amazing lighting from Mother Nature, made for some wonderful photos!
As we paddled on, the clouds were becoming much thicker, more colourful and various shades of grey, but not quite fifty! lol.
We kept our eyes on the horizon looking for what we least wanted right now, lightening. The winds had fluctuated all day, but this time when they picked up, there was cool air in the breeze. We checked our clocks and discovered it was already 230. We had doddled along barely paddling, chatting and catching up, but we had come quite a ways regardless. The boats needed to be back to Outdoors Oriented by closing time, and with the weather turning, we decided it was time to start heading back.
About ten minutes into our return, we saw it! A bolt of lightening in front of us in behind the trees. No rain, no thunder, but the one thing we couldn’t ignore, lightening. What to do? We were out in the water and we had to get off of it ASAP!!!! To the right of us, a dock magically appreared. it wasn’t fancy but it was big enough for all three of our boats and it looked somewhat abandoned at the moment. I was quite sure that whomever owned it would rather have us use it for a short time than see any of us electrocuted ,so we made the call to dock our boats here and get out of the creek right away.
I was pretty impressed with my girls, Andrea has only paddled a kayak a handful of times and Kim has never kayaked. Getting out on a raised dock, to me, is a bit tricky still, so when they managed to do it, almost flawlessly, I was incredibly proud of them! I have a rope on my boat that I always leave tied on for situations like this so I tied up my boat, and we had to think hard on how to keep theirs from floating away. Our lifejackets have a closure that goes around your waist, so we used that and put it through the boats burgees and the rope on the dock. We got our bags out, although all waterproofed, still nice to keep them as dry as possible and then made sure we were all situated.
We grabbed one of the boat kits and got out the rope in it and then proceeded to tie up all 3 of the boats with it, intertwining the dock rope with our boat bungees. All set!
Then we heard a machine or motor of some sort and walked around the boat house that was blocking our view of the property we’d stopped at to find a man cutting a very large field of grass on a huge mower. I made some hand signals to advise him there was lightening and we just needed to sit here for a few minutes. He just smiled and waved at me! LOL.
We looked for our rain ponchos and I was happy to sit in it on the dock and watch the storm, but the man came and got us and told us to come and seek shelter in his barn. We were reluctant and then it started raining harder. He came back and said, just head over to that storage bin and pointed to it. We were hesitant at first but then it really started coming down, so in we went, to hunker down and wait out the storm in some sort of trailer or storage unit that had been made into a shed. It’s contents, an enormous lawn roller, a wood chipper and a plow attachment! If this guy was going to close the doors and lock us in here, he had some pretty good tools to create a best selling horror film, for sure!!!! We were all a bit nervous!! True Story!!!
We were still giddy we’d found shelter, but also anxious as to how long we’d have to wait and what we should do if it didn’t stop? None of us had any qualms about paddling in the rain, the only issue was safety and not being on the water in a lightening storm. We had some snacks and joked about our situation, as these girls always try and see the positive side of things. We made up hysterical stories about how we were going to end up murdered in this shed with all these crazy contraptions we were sitting on and beside and laughed until we cried as the rain poured on. It might have been one of the best times of the day and I enjoyed it immensely!
And then, after we’d been docked for about twenty minutes, the rain stopped, the sun came back out, and the day carried on, almost as if nothing happened. Except, we’d lost some time, time we couldn’t get back and time we needed to get the boats back to the store before they closed! Both girls had plans tonight and no place to store a boat, part of why you rent them I suppose, so if we didn’t get them back in time, we would have some serious problem solving to do!
We untied our boats, put our gear back in them and hit the water, paddling hard to get all the way back to our cars. There were still alot of dark clouds hovering around and I knew it was very likely we would get more rain and possibly more lightening. Hence, we kicked it up a notch and actually paddled non stop all the way back. My arms and shoulders are not very happy at this time, that’s for sure, but there is never anything wrong with working hard to accomplish a goal, and we did just that!
After about a half hour of straight paddling we saw the bridge to the river. YAY!!!! We kept going hard and made it to the cars shortly after and with a combined team effort, we got the girls boats on their cars and got them on their way to the store! I helped them and left my boat to the end as I didn’t need to return anything. After they left, I called the store to warn them of their possible late arrival. I was then told, they actually closed a half hour later, but the boat rentals are due back earlier so they can prepare them for the next use the next morning. WHEW! I was so relieved! I packed up and headed out, driving through a few torrential downpours on the way. Lucky, we’d gotten out of the water when we did!
I arrived at the store said goodbye to the girls and expressed my thanks for coming out for the day and then headed home to get some rest for my next adventure! Relieved and happy to have made it through this one, without any serious issues and that everyone was safe and sound, and extremely content, to boot! As I was writing this post, I also discovered there were some tornado warnings in the area! YIKES! Mother Nature was looking out for us today, for sure! Thanks Mother Nature!
I really hope you enjoyed my post! As usual, if you have any comments, advice, suggestions, etc, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me! I’d love to hear from you!
Happy hiking…. um paddling!
Camper Christina (Kayaker Christina today! )