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A Paddle Through the Past

Kayaking in New Brunswick

Written by Sarah Amend, Photos by Peter Amend

Growing up on the East Coast of Canada, my childhood revolved around water. Lakes, rivers, the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean were my playground. If my memory serves me correctly, I spent most of my days running and playing outside, coming home only for ‘supper’ as it's known on the east coast. In the summer we swam and splashed. In the winter we skated on the frozen surfaces of the river and lakes. The Maritime Provinces where I’m from include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and they are known for their natural beauty, rugged coastlines and extreme weather.

Packing Oru Kayak

Carrying Oru Kayak

I met Peter in 2010 and eventually moved to California to marry him. We decided it was a huge priority to visit home, back east, often. The first time I brought him home, we rented a canoe and paddled the river which runs by my family’s house. As I told him about growing up in the area, I started to recall memories I hadn't thought of in a long time. In particular, one canoe trip I took when I was 18 years old. I had paddled down river for three days, camping and cooking in the open along the river way. Peter and I started dreaming about how we could do the trip together. Now, due to the time constraints of travel, and our 8 month old baby who relies fully on me for nutrition, we decided to attempt the 3 day paddle in only one. It was a lofty goal, 22 miles in a day, but we decided that we and our Oru Kayaks were up for the challenge.

Flying home from California, our first challenge presented itself. The boats had been disassembled during flight by the airline and reassembled with duct tape and no apologies. We decided to continue with our plan regardless, so on a Monday morning in New Brunswick we got dropped off with our kayaks, snacks - because treats are the most important part of an adventure - and liters of water. After our goodbyes to our daughter, Juniper, and my mom, we were on our own to paddle.

Oru Kayak Beach LT

Oru Kayak Beach LT

Kayaking with a baby

From memory, I recalled my teenage adventure had started from a bridge in a little town called Apohoqui, so I found it on Google Maps and we were deposited there. Turns out my memory did not serve me correctly as there was no where *easy* to launch our boats from… oh well, challenge accepted. We built up our kayaks on what turned out to be someone’s front lawn, and after some friendly Canadian banter and story exchanging with the owner, we traipsed downhill through trees and foliage and started paddling.

River kayaking

The river we paddled is called the Kennebecasis, and it lazily meanders for 95 kilometers, roughly 59 miles, through southern New Brunswick. The name Kennebecasis is thought to be derived from the Mi'kmaq "Kenepekachiachk", meaning "little long bay place", and parts of the river actually feel as wide as a lake. It is populated by Osprey and Bald Eagles, and bordered by farmland dotted with happy cows. As we paddled, sometimes against some very strong wind, we watched the Bald Eagles soaring, and the Osprey tending to their nests.

River kayaking

Kayaking basics

Kayak camping

Kayak paddle strokes

Although we didn’t get to camp overnight alongside the river, or cook under the stars, we did get to experience this beautiful Canadian Riverway together, all 22 miles of it in one day. I love getting to share my homeland piece by piece with Peter, and now my baby girl, Juniper - it’s like sharing small parts of myself with them. And yes, we made it - after 7 straight hours of heavy paddling - with any advantage of downriver current made futile by the upriver wind. By hour six I thought I may need a wrist amputation when the trip was complete, but it turns out I survived! And as we kayaked closer to our end destination, I could see my Mom on the shoreline waving and holding up my precious 8 month old daughter Juniper. The best welcoming committee there ever could be! 

Kayaking with a baby

Kayaking basics