Reta Boychuck (@reta.sends) and crew paddle Medicine Hat and surrounding areas.
Reta Boychuck (@reta.sends) is the owner of Canadian River SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board), a SRT Instructor at Raven Rescue, and a River SUP Instructor Trainer, and she visited Medicine Hat to embark on a few outdoor adventures, including the South Saskatchewan River.
She and her friends loaded up to take in the Southeast Alberta city for three days and indulge in craft beer made by three breweries included in the Highway 3 Ale Trail.
"I called the crew, Aleasha, Andre, and their rad boys, Ashley, and Amanda. We loaded up our rigs, our convoy crew, and started the smooth drive to Elkwater, Alberta with curiosity, paddle gear, fishing gear, and some bikes,” says Reta. “We had no expectations, except to take in adventure and drink some quality coffee and beer.”
A beautiful drive through the rolling prairie hills, farm lands, and windmills, they dropped into Elkwater in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with beautiful lakes, massive trees, and comfortable camping. With the peace and quiet they’ve been dreaming of, as Reta described, they unhooked and moved in to relax for the evening.
Having large trees between sites made it feel they were alone with nature. The adults unpacked and relaxed, while the two high-energy, teenage brothers biked laps on the jump trail just behind their campsite. A peaceful state as they settled in and planned for their adventure for the morning.
Day one started with loading up the stand up paddle boards (SUP’s), rafts, and tubes, with a breakfast stop at 12-34 Cafe & Pub.
“Their selection was amazing. I ordered my go to cafe mocha with a brownie. Amanda loved the breakfast pizza, describing the crust as a garlicky bite of fluffy heaven and even took a second slice for the road. With caffeine and food, the crew was ready to roll.”
Arriving at Medicine Hat in the morning, they all carefully embarked on the South Saskatchewan River. Having a group of all ages, the goal was to minimize the shuttle time to maximize the fun, by utilizing the various parking lots and River access points at Police Point Park.
“Earlier in our visit, we heard the story of how Medicine Hat got its name and about the ‘breathing hole’ at the Visitor Information Centre. It was a must that we paddled to see that spot,” says Reta.
Below the cliffs, there is the confluence of Bullshead Creek and South Saskatchewan just above Strathcona Island Park. They could only imagine the mixing of currents near the Island is likely where the ‘breathing hole’, the place of the Great Spirit, was in the story of how Medicine Hat got its name.
“Paddling below these massive cliffs makes you feel small. The mellow flow made it effortless for us to stay safe, while playing and splashing around,” says Reta.
Their chosen paddle route from the top of Police Point Park to downstream Police Point park is about 3.5 kilometres.
After lunch at Medicine Hat Brewing Company on the beautiful and cozy patio, with cheesy pizzas, hearty burgers, and fresh salads, the afternoon was spent stocking up the cooler with brews from the Highway 3 Ale Trail breweries, Medicine Hat Brewing Company, Hell’s Basement Brewery, and Travois Ale Works.
Dinner to go was from Grit City Distillery. The signature dill pickle pizza and some custom spirits made it back to the camper. Reta’s favourite being the coconut gin.
“Our evening back at camp was filled with delicious food before each group had their own adventure. The brothers Kerrian and Aiden headed for a mini golf competition. Aleasha, Andre, Amanda, and I enjoyed the peace and quiet in the campground reading guide books and maps for our next adventure. As the sun began to set, everyone came back to camp to unwind and share their tales.”
A need to see the 5:30a.m. sunset on Wednesday morning, and then venture off fishing, woke Reta, Andre, and Aiden. Reta prepared the day before and called her Dad to know which hook she needed for a Large Northern Pike.
“It was time to see if being the daughter of ‘Jack Fish Larry’ would pay off. I trolled, casted, and jigged. I think the fact I was talking the entire time might have scared the fish away, but I’ll be back,” says the avid paddler. “Being the only ones on the lake, it was peaceful and still allowed us to see every ripple as we paddled to find the perfect spot.”
While on Elkwater lake, they were surrounded by calm water, with steep cliff banks on the far shores and fishing bays tucked along the eastern banks, accessible by trails or paddle boards. The air slowly warmed them up as the sun popped over the tree, and heated up their feet and hands with its welcomed presence.
Returning to the camp, Reta woke the rest of the crew up to the aromatic smells of Medicine Hat-roasted coffee from Poolhouse Cafe & Roastery. After a morning mug of caffeine and house-made breakfast from Station Coffee Company, they all gathered and packed everything up to continue their adventure on the road.
Photography by Ashley Voykin