We headed down to Big Lake near St. Albert to give it a try. Our GPS had a great deal of difficulty finding us an exact boat launch location so we ended up launching in a muddy patch of reeds next to an RV park!
The boat is not a big one, but I was pretty sure we could all fit. What I didn't account for was knapsacks of snacks and water, leg-stretching room for the paddlers, and a small dog who just couldn't be left behind. Domino decided that the best seat on the boat was standing in my lap, and he planted himself there, nose to the wind, quivering with excitement and a bit of anxiety.
Another thing I had neglected to recall was that Rz has never been on a boat before! As we inched our way past the muddy banks of the Sturgeon River, he and Kia decided that they would much rather be safely onshore. It didn't help that we were probably a bit overloaded and the edges of the boat were only inches from the grey-green water.
We weren't heading back now, so J and I kept reassuring them that we were all going to be just fine, and that even if we overturned, the water was only about thigh deep and we could just wade to shore. I reminded Kia of her desire to be on The Amazing Race, and that this was surely minor compared to any of those challenges! We finally got our paddling groove and pointed into the sluggish current, headed for the big lake just ahead.
Domino got more and more excited, his moist black noise alive with new, watery smells and the suppressed anxiety of the younger members of his family. Suddenly he took the leap, landing too far from the boat for us to reach out and grab him without capsizing. Because we know so little about his younger days in Mexico, we always speculate about what sorts of things he has experienced. Well, experience or instinct, we don't know, but he turns out to be a fantastic little swimmer!
Even against the current, his sleek little head held high out of the water, his big brown eyes wide with determination, he managed to keep up with the boat, and come back near enough that J reached out and lifted him out by the collar. Then he did what any dog would do, he shook himself semi-dry and drenched everyone next to him. He then gingerly made his way up to the front of the boat to shiver on my lap for the rest of the trip! Thankfully, he didn't make any more heroic swimming attempts but the kids were thrilled to find out that our little web-toed beast is indeed an enthusiastic swimmer!
We didn't go too far, due to our cramped paddling space and our desire to make Rz's first canoe ride a positive one. All the way back, Rz repeated in a whispered undertone: "Don't worry? Almost there... Don't worry?" After dropping us off, J and Ry headed back for another go at the water and I took Rz and Kia up for snacks in the playground in the RV park.
Now that I wasn't juggling a dog, a paddle, and a wobbly boatload behind me, I was anxious to pull out the camera and get some photos of our little adventure. I should have been quicker, because the only photo I got of them on the boat was this one.
But the sky was blue and the late-summer wind was warm, so I took some pictures of the kids at the playground instead.
I think we will all look back on this day with fondness. Later at home, I asked Rz, "Did you like the boat? Wasn't that fun?" He responds solemnly the same way every time I ask, "...and sca-wy!"