Kayak Trip Lake Miniwanka

Quick Summary

Distance: aprox 2km
Time Taken: 1.5 hrs
Cool points:
Conditions: Cool temperature, no wind
Date of paddle:01-Dec-2002
partners: None

Miniwanka Trip Map

"Map is Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved." map from the website http://toporama.cits.rncan.gc.ca/toporama_en.html

How to get to the Set in point

Ramble on about the paddle

Well this is my first paddle in my new kayak. This is also only my second time paddleing in a sea kayak. I've spent the last year or so building a hybrid stitch and glue / Cedar Strip kayak. It is an odd year this year being warm so late, and I am at the point where I the kayak may be paddled (it's not quite done yet). Yesterday I just finished building a foot brace, the final component for my kayak. It's time to get this puppy wet.

I really wanted to go with some one, just in case something went wrong. I was hoping to run a stretch of the local river. However I could not find anyone to join me. I'm not going to try a new boat on the river first thing, especially with the lack of expernce in a kayak. There is not much in the way of lakes around Calgary, anything local is shallow, and frozen. However a friend was hiking last week, and he told me that lake Kananaskis was open.

Now it is December, how could a lake not be frozen... I procrastinated all of the morning away. I tried calling a few friends, no luck getting anyone to go out. Not even to go for a walk, around the lake (while I paddle, or before/after a paddle). At noon I call Banff park services and ask if they know if the lake is frozen yet. The fellow on the other side tells me no, two days prior, it was open, except the secluded bays, in the shallows. He assumes I want to go skating, and tells me I'll have to wait for it to freeze up. I tell him that I'm interested in kayaking, he indicates I should be able to get good access to the water. That's it, I'm off. A final call to Richard to give him a second chance to join me, but I'm doomed to go for a solo run.

I felt odd driving down the highway with a kayak strapped to the top of the car, on the first of December, that just does not seem right. I'm on the road late, it is around 1:00 when I leave the house, it will be around 2:30 when I get to the water. (yes I drive the speed limit now-a-days). The trip up is beautiful, it is bright an sunny, my car is warm (I better fix that heater soon). the sun is a bit low, and the lake is in the mountains, it will be dark by 5:00. It will be a short paddle.

I ask the park attendent at the tool both if she knows whether or not the lake is open. She does not know, but says she hopes I brought my skates just in case. That does not sound to hopeful

I took the first two pictures just before set in, one with the kayak on the car (1/2 way strapped up), and one just before setting out. As you can see the lake is wide open, there is no ice to be seen anywhere, little snow for that matter either. After a year of building this kayak, I'm very excited to try it out.

This is the first time I've got into my kayak in the water. This water has almost no ice on it, but trust me I really do not wish to go swimming, or even get my feet wet, it is cold. My new kayak, and all these rocks!! I do a balancing act trying to get in to the cockpit from sitting on the back of the deck. I've done this 6 or so times as I was trying out my seat. However that was on dry land, and it was easy each time. This time, with my PFD on, and my jacket, I keep cathing the seat and twisting it 90 Degrees from where it is supposed to sit. Hmm, all this shifting and fussing around, it took about 3 entry attempts before I could get it right. One side of my kayak is up on the beach by about 2 ft, so that is holding me fairly steady. No anymoreworries about the first scratch, the first launch put a few in right from the start.

Thats it, I'm in the water, I'm floating, the kayak is not filling with water. It is a beautiful day. Life is good. Lake Miniwanka is a fairly long lake, I'm just here to tool around a bit, I'll not have time to see most of it. I start off to the east, the sun is at my back. I stay close to shore, the water is clear, with a green tint to it, It looks like I can see the bottom at about 10-20 feet or so.

My paddle stroke needs improvement that is for sure, I definately could not have looked all that gracefull as I started out. Putting the blade in at the wrong angle, having it slice through the water. The frist time I did that it was a bit worry some, a flash of fear, as the boat leaned a bit. However this kayak is supprisingly stable, In short order, maybe 5 minutes I felt very secure in it. However there was no wind or waves worth mentioning, so that helped.

I set off, staying close to shore, I'm still fiddling with my stroke, seeing how it effects the course of the kayak. It seems I'm stronger on the right side push. The kayak wants to turn left a bit more than right after each stroke. I'm comming up to a second launch pad, about 30m from where I startd off. I can see the bottom of the lake. I'm moving fairly fast, in my mind. Suddenly it seems like I'm moving way to fast. The second launch pad goes sliding under me, there is a drop of the concrete wall that I go over. Another flash of fear, and I going to hit bottom... nope, not even close. It is 3 feet down, but the water is clear enough that it could have been 3 iches, in the flash of time it took to go over it.

My stroke is better, I'm still having to correct my course to the right every now and again, but I've not put the paddel in so wrong, that it felt like it would through me off balance.

I continue following the shore, it turns to the left, I follow it, as I am still a bit nervous about being to far out and having to swim to shore. There are lots of people around today, I see them along the paths, they are far enough away that the just watch me glide by. I'm starting to enjoy the paddle now, as I'm feeling quite confortable. To bad it was not an allday event. Here I take another picture of accross the bay that I decide would be a good destination given the short amout of time I have. I set the camera on the deck of the kayak when taking this picture... did not like the result but here it is.

I continue along the sore for a bit, past a summer time floating pier. It has had the portion connecting it to the land removed. I'm tempted to dock, and walk around on it, just cause I can. But the urge is suppressed, that fear of swimming today helps. After this I decide to cross the bay, strait accross. Far enough that swimming in the cold would be dangerous. (I'm sure I've mentioned that I hate being cold). The crossing goes well enough, there is a slight wind out here, this is makeing my turn to the right considerably worse. I'm turning in to the wind, there is a term for this, I think it is called weather cocking, or possibly lee-cocking, or some such thing. It can be fixed by trimming the load in the boat...

I'm accross, safe and sound. I should point out, that I'm in the midst of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Normally I'd be inclined to go on about that. But I'm figuring out the kayaking stuff right now. If the trip was longer, I'd pay more attention to the sceanery.

I'm now traveling strait South, along the shore. Lake miniwanka is a damed (sp?) lake, that meaning a lake that is man made by using a dam, not the biblical meaning. One day I'll learn to spell. Anyways, I'm not kayaking south, or rather a bit south east along the shore. Eventualy the shore line takes a hard turn to the East. I turn the corner, again I have a bit of a fright of hitting the bottom. This time pretty far from help. This must have been a ridge before the lake was damed. The rocks below me climb up out of the depths, I'm trying to slow down, but I'm over the shallow spot, in the blink of an eye, I can not see the botom. I wonder how big of a cliff it is i that I have just floated over. the top edge was nice and sharp, I'm sure it would have left a good gouge in my kayak if I'd have hit. I snap a picture of the edge of the land. You can see that there is no dirt or growth on the side near the shore. From the waves, and water level changes. The rocks under the surface for the lake are just as rugged and sharp. also a few pictures from just behind the point back to the starting place.1

Looking from here further east the lake goes on for a long ways. However It gets late, I've been taking my time, and figure I should turn around. I start heading back, but decide I'd like to give the legs a bit of a stretch. I pull in, No sever cramps, or pains, of course it's only been 45 minutes, but I'm happy about that. My kayak does not fit me well I made a bit of an error in shaping my deck. It is to short/narrow at the point where my knees are. Another inch in deck hight there would make a world of difference. Still as I said, I do not have any cramps or the like. My ankles are a bit 'numb' but not all that bad. At the beach I'd like to explore a bit, but do not have the time. I snap some pictures of the kayak on the beach.

Well the short but nice streatch is over, back into my kayak. This time I do not cross the bay directly, but rather follow the shore. Eventually I come to the 'end' of the bay. It is a river flowing into the lake. The River is frozen over. It is slow moving (which strikes me as odd in the mountains) but there is a current, by the time I get my camera out of the zip lock bag for a picture I've drived back about 15 meteres. I snap two quick pics, one of the river, complete with a trail bridge over it, and one just off to my left. Here there is a bit of ice that showes the level of the lake earlier, when it did freeze up a bit. The water is now down about a foot, I thought it looked neet, the sheet of Ice sticking strait out into the air, complete with an old stump, down on the edge of what must have been part way up the cliff when the tree grew there.

I'm definately starting to relax now, not consentrating on the kayak so much as the surroundings now. I can feel some stress flowing out of me as I head for the launch point. near the floating pier, there is an older couple out for a walk. Waves are shared, as I float past. The setting sun light is just hitting the point where I turned around, I decide to try another picture.

Heading back, I decide to go between a rock and the shore on, yet another small point. This time I'm ready for the sudden rising up of the depths. I'm going slow, a quick prod with the paddel shows the water is about 10 inches deep. It would probable be big trouble in the waves, but I just glide over. I'm inside a small bay, there is a pick-nic/camping area here.

Another 10 minutes of paddling and I'm back at the lauch ramp. I wince as I grind up to shore, I finally hit bottom, a big rock just under the water, that I could not see because of the glare of the sun, or maybe just not paying attention.

It is still quite nice out, a bit cooler, I'm warm, exept my hands are a bit chilled. I do not really notice untill I have to tie down the kayak. Makeing knots with cold hands is a bit un-confortable, but a small price to pay for a afternoon out of the city. It make for a good weekend.

Well that was my first kayak trip out in my brand new kayak. Was it worth a year of my free time to build it... I think so. I hope to get many more trips in next summer.

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Copyright Myrl Tanton 2004


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