Paddling the Don

While Erin was off running her half marathon I was venturing down the Don. The Don Valley River that is. In a canoe! And who says this blog is all about yoga and running!?

With my life jacket, splash plants, sun glasses, and way too many layers of clothes on, I was very excited. I haven’t canoed in… ummm come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I was in a canoe! Okay, that’s a little scary.

Paddle the Don was another event I jumped at the opportunity to do when work sent out a message looking for paddlers (see, Bullfrog is a very fit organization!). I also convinced Cecilley (my work/running buddy extraordinaire) to join me. I was going to need a canoeing buddy if I was going to do this and I wanted it to be her. I totally assumed Cecilley knew how to canoe. As did everyone from Toronto and Region Conservation as experience apparently wasn’t required. At least no one ask me if I ever canoed before. Should I be worried? How hard could it be if “Experience Not Required” was the tag line.

Me, ready to paddle!

So Sunday morning after my Dad reassured me canoeing will be fun — he and Anne made a surprise-but-not-really-a-complete-surprise visit over the weekend as part of their travels from coast to coast to bring Anne and her stuff home for the summer. I saw them off, then jumped in a cab to pick up Cecilley. We arrived at Ernest Thompson Seton Park just as the sun was starting to get hot, were we met Tom and his daughter (the other half of our corporate team). We were then assigned a canoe, life jackets, whistles (we had to be safe) and escorted to the river!

Then the fun started. I totally forgot this would be moving water, as my canoeing expertise were lake style canoeing. But thanks to country style roots and closeness to nature, I had no doubt my canoeing techniques wouldn’t have completely disappeared. At least, I was sure hoping they hadn’t. Cecilley and I moved quite fast and the moving water was a little more than I bargained for. They opened the dam to make sure the water would be moving and the river would be full. Well, it was. I vowed to be the steerer and sat in the back because Cecilley also couldn’t recall the last time she sat in a canoe. This may not have been best of plans after all. Here were two experienced — within 10 years — canoers getting ready to paddle unknown territory, this can’t be good. Ummm, how shall I say this? Cecilley and I did see the city (and the river) in a whole new light. That was the selling point for me to see parts of Toronto in a way you normally can’t even if you wanted to. Plus when would I ever paddle anywhere in Toronto? The Island doesn’t count.

After a few bumps along the way, a couple 360 turns mid-paddle, three portages to get out and carry our canoe around the insane breaks in the river (this may have been worse then spinning in circles and heading down the river backwards — which both Cecilley and I did at one point — those canoes are heavy!), we made it to land. We made it to land and be didn’t fall out. Thank goodness for that! As lovely as the Don Valley River was the list of things we found floating around maybe longer then the paddle ride itself. There is something romantic about the Don River, but sad at the same time.

Cecilley and I after paddling! There was a face painter at the BBQ, we couldn't resist.

This will not be my last canoeing experience in the city now that I’m fully practiced — Erin and I have lots of summer fitness plans to make — but I sure feel more Torontonian after Sunday now that I can say I paddled the Don. And the fact I walked the city with paint on my face.