TIMELINE: Somewhere down the crazy Otter

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9:16 a.m. – Paddle board/Twitter expert Darryl Smart, photographer Bethanie Wood and videographer Jeff Tribe launch in the shadow of Otterville’s Treffry Mill following vehicular arrangement, passenger pickup, acquisition of second canoe paddle and bug juice. Air temperature roughly 14 Celsius, water feels considerably cooler, upon near immediate realization walking/dragging boats will be significant part of expedition.

9:49 a.m. – Familiar frustrated golfer’s term with similar phonetic start as ‘Fore’/scenic foot/cart bridges indicate we are passing through Otter Creek Golf Club. Ample opportunity to salvage souvenir golf balls along shoreline, creekbed.

10:04 a.m. – Man down! Man down! Smart comes to grief on seventh submerged barrier, gracefully entering the refreshing waters of the Otter. Graciously, a still-semi-submerged Smart guides our canoe through the trickiest section.

10:17 a.m. – Wood breaks out healthy snack. Apparently bananas whose serial number begins with 9 and are five digits long are organic – who knew?

10:54 a.m. – Trio of paddlers pass silently underneath bridge along Cornell Road, on Otterville’s southwest extremity. Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) Canada film crew not present today.

11:24 a.m. – Illusions we are ‘making good time,’ shattered by presence of major deadfall. Smart’s overland reconnaissance up a vertical bank reveals no portage option exists, crew allowed to practice ‘balance precariously on parallel logs while ignoring biting horsefly’ technique of cross-creek barrier busting.

12:12 p.m. – Crew passes underneath impressive, if abandoned railway bridge. ‘MOJO’ Smart takes opportunity to tweet one of several instagrams.

12:20 p.m. – Trio stops for lunch just past gravel roadway bridge nestled in a scenic valley along Middletown line. Extra five minutes of morning preparation time for peanut butter/honey sandwiches well worthwhile. Wood shatters established tradition of healthy, balanced snacking with cheese crunchits option. Idyllic vistas prior to bridge hampered somewhat by presence of discarded tires, household appliance and computer monitor. Perhaps contributors might consider spending a couple of bucks to properly dispose of them, rather than ruining beautiful natural scene?

12:43 p.m. – Turkey vulture takes interest in the proceedings, soaring hopefully above our three-member party as we paddle on through most pleasant portion of journey, deeper, placid and ‘portageless and paddleable’ water. Other wildlife sightings include kingfishers, great blue herons, wild turkeys and variety of insect life, ranging through dragonflies, the odd mosquito and the odd thousand horseflies.

1:11/1:18 p.m. – Following abortive manned attempt that leaves Wood only slightly damaged, crew illustrates versatility in barrier busting, forcing vacated craft under freshly-fallen evergreen tree, and over solid 12-inch trunk, respectively. Expertise in the ‘beat the crap out of everything in the way with a busted off branch and force the boats through the resultant hole’ manoeuvre also perfected.

1:35 – Wood’s significant arachnophobia surfaces dramatically, following deposit during passage through barrier including pine boughs.

“Spiders everywhere,” she shrieked, “Oh my gosh, they’re all over me.

“Oh crap, a really big one,” Wood added moments later, frantically extending her left leg over the canoe’s prow and shaking it violently. “Get off – get off!”

Eight-legged swimmers comfortably in the rearview mirror, comparative calm returns.

1:53 p.m. – Passage by the gator log, named by us, because well, it does look remarkably like a gator. Crew agrees Otter may have it share of shallows, rocks, fallen trees, mosquitoes and horseflies, but at least no poison snakes or anything that might view a human as dinner. ‘Get over it,’ we agree.

2:09 p.m. – Coffeeless coffee break aboard a log above the Otter’s gently flowing waters. Brief moment to celebrate journey and for Smart to tweet again before final calm paddle to conclusion.

2:35 p.m.-3:05 p.m. – Well, we were horribly wrong. Full half-hour of dragging boats through evil section of rocky shallows, exiting/entering, baling with inadequate converted water bottle. Of all the things that sucked butt on the trip, this half-hour was king. ‘Where the dickens is Rock’s Mills?’ or words to that effect, one might have heard mused aloud.

3:14 p.m. – Canoe suffers serious side damage as guy in the back (Tribe) fails to steer around semi-submerged log during final comparative roller-coaster ride through former Rock’s Mills dam reservoir. Bigger water, bigger rocks, bigger danger of ankle injury while wading/dragging – and bigger use of ‘badder’ words.

3:29 p.m. – Taking on water while padding with one hand/baling with the other, canoe team gratefully joins Smart on gravel bed at site of former dam, six hours-plus from launch. A chance to empty canoe of soaked gear, considerable puddle of water, celebrate surviving journey on what has become a beautiful sunny day.

3:47 p.m. – Extraction crew (Joel McKie) helps load up craft/crew at north-west side of bridge over Rock’s Mill Road. ‘Victory Doritos’ cracked and shared. Life is unquestionably good.


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