It was that difficult in-between season in the Niseko area. Late November, where the snow had started to fall, but still not enough to guarantee a good base for backcountry skiing. I’d invited myself over to Chris’s cabin for the weekend, and we’d kicked around ideas of skiing some not-yet-open ski areas, or going for a mountain bike ride…but the ski areas were still thin on the ground in terms of snow, but the gravel roads around the place were already too deep with snow for cycling.
Canoeing it was then. For us, it’d be the maiden voyage for a canoe we’d purchased second hand in early summer. It’s an old fiberglass 16-foot lake boat with a prominent keel – perfect for this lower section of the Shiribetsu River.
The original plan had been to paddle all the way to the ocean. But we were starting late in the day – almost at noon. Plus, when I drove the car to the sea to drop it at the planned take-out spot, it was blowing a gale. Plans changed quick, and I drove till the wind stopped blowing – only about 6km downstream from where I’d left Chris with the boat. It would have to do though – it would be dark by 4:30pm, and the day was getting on. I cycled the 6km back to the put-in location, and we got on our way.
The only great excitement for us on the water was sending my drone up for some photos. It’s always exciting flying a drone from a canoe, especially the DJI ones with a ‘return to home’ function. The drone records the GPS coordinates where it was launched from, and as a safety feature will fly back and land at that location if the battery gets too low. The issue with this lovely feature – when launching from a canoe – is that of course the launch location is a watery grave for a returning drone, unless the canoeist is back at that location. More challenging for the downriver canoeist is that there’s no chance of returning to the launch location, because you’re always heading downstream.
Suffice it to say, we got our shots, and were happy to get the drone back into the canoe before any automated drowning happened – mainly thanks to Chris’s careful upstream paddling and keeping the canoe straight while I reached out to grab the drone.
Despite the gale that was blowing 15km away at the coast, this section was mirror-calm for the most part for us. The hour or so of gentle paddling went by quick, and we were at the take-out point with the car before we knew it.