Keystone Sojourns specializes in local and Canadian canoe trips
Dave McQuaid, 58, was just a teenager when he made his first trip to Canada and learned how to paddle a canoe.
He's been hooked ever since.
For the past six years, McQuaid and his wife, Ruth Ann, have operated Keystone Sojourns, a canoe and kayak rental, sales and guiding business based in Ellwood City.
Locally, they offer rentals and shuttle services for trips on the Beaver River and Conoquenessing and Slippery Rock creek watersheds and also offer instruction for families, Scout troops, church, youth and other groups.
“I kind of like the Beaver River at the moment because there's been an immature bald eagle looking for a mate,” McQuaid said.
“I can usually find him and cruise around and check him out. I like paddling Slippery Rock, that's real nice. It depends what I'm doing. If I'm taking people out, then I like to take them to Moraine (State Park) and paddle the back cove (of Lake Arthur) and show them some things.”
McQuaid's passion still remains up north.
Keystone Sojourns takes groups to paddle and camp in Canada with generally no more than seven in a group for a more intimate experience and for a price that usually comes in around $850 per person.
They are planning a week-long trip in late September and still have openings.
“Algonquin Provincial Park, if you've never been, you should go,” McQuaid said.
“It's the crown jewel of the Canadian park system, from the northern section where the white tail deer are to the southern section where the wolves are. You can hear the wolves howling at night.”
McQuaid also takes more advanced paddlers to Temagami, in northeastern Ontario, where he says you can spend an entire week and not see another soul.
Back closer to home, McQuaid also likes leading a game of “dead fish polo” on Lake Arthur.
The games aren't formally scheduled, McQuaid said, but a group of paddlers meets most Monday evenings at McDanel's boat launch and a game will generally break out at some point.
The “dead fish” is actually a sponge, and the object is to pick the sponge out of the water with a paddle and land it in someone else's boat to knock that person out of the game. The last boat wins, and McQuaid said if a game lasts 15 or 20 minutes, it's gone long.
“Whenever I do groups, through church or Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, the lesson always ends with a game because usually the kids are afraid to fall in (the water),” McQuaid said.
“But it's fun falling in the water. So we'll teach them how to paddle, switch from boat to boat and front to back on the water. Then we play a game of dead fish polo, and these kids who were afraid of falling in are now standing up, knocking paddles out of the way and sooner or later someone will fall in.
“And then we'll teach them how to do a rescue.”
For more information about Keystone Sojourns sales, rentals or outings, call 724-713-2093 or visit www.keystonesojourns.com.