AS SIMPLE As THAT - 100 days of canoeing in and around Digby County

Jonathan Riley
Published on December 19, 2016

Digby is a great place for canoeing.

The water is everywhere – endless connected yet secluded backcountry lakes, stillwaters and snaky streams; the Annapolis Basin with its sheltered spots behind Bear Island, in the Big Joggin, in the Racquette, under the wharf.

There’s St. Mary’s Bay and there’s the big rivers: Bear River and Sissiboo.

This year I decided I was going to make the most of living in this paddler’s paradise by canoeing 100 days in 2016.

I started Jan. 1 – it has been a tradition of mine the last few years, not to jump in the freezing cold water like all those lunatics in Sandy Cove, but instead to go canoeing and take pictures of the fun.

Open but icy winter

The winter was really open and I was canoeing in the backcountry of Annapolis County in March. By some standards it was a titch early – we had to break through a quarter inch of ice on the paddle in. It all melted the Saturday, our camp day, when he had nowhere to go. And of course Sunday when we went to leave, the lakes all froze in again.

April, May and June were the big fishing months this year – I was on the water a lot but I’m not going to tell you here in a newspaper article where all I paddled off to – sorry.

March 25, Eleven Mile Lake, Annapolis County

©Jonathan Riley

Hot dry summer

Once the fire ban and then backwoods travel ban came on this summer, I spent a fair bit of time on the Bay of Fundy. I never saw so many flat arse came days, one after the other.

One particularly hot and sunny Sunday without a breath of wind, I paddled all the way from Culloden wharf to Gullivers and back.

I climbed into a sea cave in Culloden in the morning and six hours later I was able to paddle right in. I have hiked that shore, and I’ve been by it on fishing boats and Zodiacs before, but I can tell you it looks some different from a 16-foot canoe.

October and the best paddling of 2016

October was the busy canoeing month for me this year. I took the first two weeks off and went canoeing: in Annapolis, Queens and Shelburne Counties.

But the best three days, and this is saying a lot, the best three days all year were the last three days of my vacation back on the upper reaches of the Sissiboo River.

I canoed in alone from Lake Joli to Cranberry Lake on the Friday. Cranberry Brook, above the beaver dams, is lined with hackmatack – glowing yellow and absolutely gorgeous in the fall.

I paddled through ponds carpeted with red maple leaves.

The last morning on Rocky Daniels I awoke to a misty mirror of a lake – drifting around its convoluted shoreline that morning, in awe of the bright fall colours reflected in the dark still water, I knew I was right where I belonged.

That morning to me was the perfect answer to those good questions I hear all the time: why 100? Why push yourself? Why so much?

Oct. 16, Rocky Daniels

©Jonathan Riley

Oh to see it all

Because you just can’t know which of the 365 days in a year are going to be so knockout gorgeous, so gob smackingly wonderful.

Every day you get out there, you improve your chances of being there for the big show.

By now, you may have heard I’ve resigned from the Digby Courier and have taken a job, with the same company, working on the Truro Daily News up in Colchester County.

I will be moving away on Jan. 1 but many many things about this wonderful county will draw me back – the people, my many good friends and the lobster and scallops.

But also the lakes. You’d think, paddling 100 days I’d have seen it all. But I haven’t.

You may also remember that years ago, I decided I would work at paddling every lake in Digby County – at least in the Municipality of the District of Digby.

Well I’m only a little over half way to that goal – I’ve paddled 57 of them – and I estimate there is just over 100 lakes; probably another 50 to go.

I’ll be back.