Wawa (Naturally Superior) to North Bay

August 25th – September 18th

After hanging out at Naturally Superior for a few days, Gabrielle and Pascal headed south on the east shore of Lake Superior to Lake Superior Provincial Park.  The plan was to take their time, just  enjoy hanging out on the lake and see the sights since Pascal had rushed by them when he had originally paddled by in June.  Even though the boat was heavier with an extra person and gear, Pascal was so happy to have a close friend for company.  The novelty of paddling alone was starting to wear thin.  Plus he was suffering from a sore shoulder which was not improving despite specific exercises and anti-inflammatories.  So having another paddler on board was a bonus.  They bought some fish along the way which was a nice addition to their dehydrated food.

After saying good-bye to Lake Superior they spent a day in Sault Ste Marie where they picked up some supplies at the Post Office (warm clothes for Gabrielle since it was a lot colder than she thought it would be in the evenings and at night) and treated them selves to some real food (not dehydrated!).  Then they paddled off again but on Lake Huron.

In fact food became a main topic of conversation and finding good food, lots of it, became a goal for the duo.  Pascal remembered having a yummy dinner at the restaurant at the Lakeview Motel in Blind River on May 28th when he first  headed off solo.  So the pair headed off for there where had lunch  which consisted of fish and chips, a few sundaes and another dessert.  It was excellent but heavy so they spent the rest of the day in Blind river, just to digest and rest.  Their next goal was to try the fish and chips at Hebert’s in Killarney, Wild Ravens Adventure’s favourite pick….  According to Gabrielle and Pascal, Lakeview is winning the taste test so far.

The path led them up the French River, against the current, something Pascal had been dreading from his experience paddling downstream in high waters in May.  Despite all the portages (the did 6 on one day) all went well.  They took 2 days off about half way up the river just to enjoy a lovely campsite they had found (and to make up for not being able to get a ride to a party in Gatineau they really had wanted to go to).  Once onto Lake Nipissing, there was very little wind so they did some large crossings across bays very easily and quickly and reached North Bay by early afternoon on September 18th.  Their goal was to find an “all you can eat” restaurant which they finally did at JT Sushi on Lakeshore Drive.  They also bought lots of fresh food for the remainder of the trip.  Looks like dehydrated for is no longer on the menu.  They were really lucky to get a lift to the Mattawa River but both their cell phones died that evening so they spent the next day in North Bay getting those fixed.  Luckily for Pascal it was just a cable that needed replacing but Gabrielle’s phone had got too much water in it so she had to wait to get home to get it dried out or fixed.

But from here on in it was downhill, woops, downstream all the way to Ottawa with a few portages around rapids on the Mattawa River and a few rapids but mainly hydro dams on the Ottawa River.  The end is in sight!

 

 

 

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GRAND PORTAGE TO NATURALLY SUPERIOR IN WAWA

August 6th to August 21st

After hanging out with Brandon Seitz (he had helped Pascal get off the Pigeon River in June) in Grand Portage for the day, Pascal headed off again on Lake Superior.  He decided he would take his time since the Lake was one of his favourite places and he just wanted to enjoy it.  The weather was really good when he got to Pie Island so decided to do the crossing to the southern tip of Sleeping Giant in the dark of the late evening, thus avoiding having to go to Thunder Bay which he really didn’t want to do.  The next day was windy so he hung out with a group of paddlers that were tripping on the lake for over a month.  He met several other paddlers along the way including a German couple who gave him a lake trout to eat.  Pascal was really impressed with the man who had paddled the MacKenzie and the Slave rivers when he was 19 years of age, about 30 years ago and who also wrote a 600 page book on the wilderness.  Pascal also reported a forest fire which he saw was growing in size. He also met Nancy Yanaki by Battle Island near Terrace Bay who generously gave him some fresh fish.

On August 15th Pascal met up with Traci Lynn Martin who is trying to set a world record of the longest trip on a surf ski in one year.  Her website is: justaroudthepointe.com Because Pascal is having problems with his right shoulder, probably a supraspinatus tendonitis, OW!, she lent him a double paddle which seemed to help a bit.  Originally Pascal was afraid of slowing her down since she had to average about 52 kms a day to meet her goal but she preferred the company to the distance.  So they supported each other and paddled together for almost 6 days, all the way to Naturally Superior, just outside of Wawa.  Pascal couldn’t wait to get there to meet up with some of the people he had met on the first section of his trip but especially because his friend Vagabond (Gabrielle Roberge) was meeting him there the next day.  The plan is she will paddle with him for the next 2 to 3 weeks or so, probably to North Bay.  It will be so nice to have the company of a good friend who is also an experienced paddler and hopefully it will give his shoulder a bit of a break.

Fort Frances to Grand Portage

 

July 28th to August 5th

After spending another delightful time with the Langevin family, Pascal headed off again on Rainy Lake towards the boundary waters of Voyageur Park and Quetico Provincial Park. He supplemented his diet with fresh fish he caught while paddling. He tried to connect again with the warden Janice Matichuk in Quetico but missed her by an hour.  However he did meet up with a group of about 30 girls with their guides that had just spent over 30 days paddling in Quetico Provincial Park :- )  Overall these past 9 days were quite uneventful with one exception.

Pascal had difficulty with the access to the west-end portage at Saganaga Falls and got distracted when he lifted his boat out of the water.  His InReach satellite tracker fell off the canoe but he didn’t notice right away.  When he realized that he had dropped it, he looked for it for over an hour but to no avail.  So all day it looked like he had spent the day at the falls.  Luckily when he got to Granite Lake he met up with the group of girls he had met at the ranger station in Quetico.  They were very generous and lent him their satellite phone so he could phone home to explain what had happened.

The next day he high-tailed it to Gunflint Lodge where a few boxes of supplies were waiting for him.  There he had an opportunity to patch a few deep scratches on his boat.  He also got to meet up with some of the guys who he had befriended on his first time there, in particular Brandon and Joe.  Since his knee was still bothering him from his first trip over Grand Portage, he decided he would try to get a ride to the town of Grand Portage to avoid that section all together.  Fortunately for him, Brandon and Joe were very generous with their time and vehicle and drove him there Sunday night.

While he was at Gunflint Lodge, a miracle happened.  Someone found his InReach and texted Pascal’s parents to say they had found it and would deliver it to Gunflint!  Amazing!  It couldn’t have worked out any better than that.  Pascal still had his lucky star with him.  However, he never got to meet the person who found it so couldn’t thank them for their good deed.  THANK-YOU SO MUCH whoever you are.

The next day he met up again with Brandon from the Grand Portage National Monument.  Brandon had previously helped him on the Pigeon River when the water level was too high for him to paddle upstream in June.  He was invited to participate in the  Rendez-vous Days, an historical re-enactment of Voyageur times.  Pascal was really tempted to stay but the event didn’t start until five days later so he decided to paddle on after spending the day hanging out with Brandon.

Quetico Provincial Park and the boundary waters have been some of Pascal’s favourite places to date on his adventure.

 

Return journey – Kenora to Fort Frances

July 20th – July 27th

Even though it was not was what he had envisaged when he embarked on this journey in April, Pascal headed back down Lake of the Woods, retracing his steps as the Voyageurs would have done though they would have been laden with furs.

He was met with mostly sunny skies but up to 6 thunderstorms a day and strong head winds, a very different lake than when he paddled north towards Kenora.  He also had to paddle up the Rainy River, against the current, which was also more challenging.  For the first night on the river he was able to stay in a bunk house at a fishing lodge and the guys there cooked up some fish for him.  The next night he camped at Don’s where he was the recipient of  a lovely dinner, was able to take a shower and given a half dozen of hard boiled eggs to take with him, a nice change from the dried food he has mostly been eating for the past three months.  Pascal had to line sections of the Long Sault Rapids and the Manitou Rapids, finishing the day in Emo.  He was averaging over 40 kms per day despite paddling upstream so overall he was happy with his progress even though it was so much slower than when he had done it in the opposite direction.

Luckily for him the Langevin family had just returned from their holidays (with a couple of trophies Marie-Mai won at the international soapbox races) and again invited him to their home.  Patrick picked Pascal up a few kilometers from Fort Frances so he could make it to the post office and shops before they closed. Pascal wanted to buy some new fishing tackle because a few days beforehand he gave his to a couple who were canoeing towards Cumberland House.  He was very happy with his purchases and then was treated to a meal of what he says were the best ribs he’s ever had in his life.  After dinner the preparations began for the next leg of his journey, the boundary waters to Gunflint Lodge.

Decision-making in Kenora

July 17th – July 20th

About one month ago, several people in the paddling world had advised Pascal to avoid canoeing Lake Winnipeg for numerous reasons.  It tends to get very windy in late July and August and being a shallow lake is prone to large waves. Many paddlers have been wind-bound for several days, even for well over a week on this lake.  Some call Lake Winnipeg the most dangerous lake in Canada.  This lake is also known to be very polluted with E. coli and blue-green algae which also tend to flourish at this time of year making the water non-drinkable, even with a top of the line water filter.  It is also very remote with very little civilisation on the eastern shore of the south basin and even less on either shore of the north basin.  From the mouth of the Winnipeg River to Grand Rapids the shortest route would be a minimum of 525 km with very few opportunities for food drop offs.  Because Pascal’s canoe is an 18′ tandem boat and because his goal was to make it to Inuvik, several experienced paddlers advised him to avoid this section of the route he had planned, especially since he is paddling solo.

With all this information in hand, Pascal disappointedly agreed to avoid lake Winnipeg.  With the help of a few paddlers from Winnipeg and that of Jay Morrison, a plan was being put in place to transport Pascal from Lac du Bonnet on the Winnipeg River to Winnipeg where he would then take the train to The Pas to continue his journey.

Then all kinds of new information came to light when Pascal was completing Lake of the Woods and arriving in Kenora.  Jennifer and Pierre, avid and very experienced paddlers who have done several long expeditions (Wild Raven Adventure) including the route Pascal was about to embark on, were paddling upstream on the Rainy River while Pascal was paddling down stream.  Somehow they managed to miss each other but they really wanted to speak to Pascal. They managed to get a hold of him and strongly, almost desperately advised Pascal to avoid heading up the Saskatchwan and Sturgeon-Weir Rivers due to unusually high waters this year.  So Neal and Danielle started to do a little research and digging of their own.  They discovered that other paddlers who had paddled upstream on that river system had found the current to be demanding even in lower water levels and that most people tend to paddle downstream, probably for this reason.  There had also been a lot of rain recently in this region and some people from The Pas were saying the water was unusually high.  Neal found a graph of the water level on the Sturgeon-Weir and found the flow to be 10 times the normal for this time of year.

Again this led to another agonizing and painful decision to make.  Options were to paddle up the Winnipeg River, down the east side of Lake Winnipeg and then down the Red river to Winnipeg where he could either take the train home.  Or he could take the train to Edmonton where he would have to try to get a lift to Fort McMurray.  From there he could then make it to Inuvik, even Tuktoyaktuk  before the rivers froze.  This did not work out.  While in Kenora, Pascal tried to rent a car to bring him upstream, past the fast bits on the Churchill river system but again this didn’t pan out.

So after going through all stages of disappointment, anger, being heart broken, Pascal came up with his own plan: to paddle back the way he had just come, home to Gatineau or even further depending on the weather.  He said it would be just like the Voyageurs when they returned from their trips, but he would be without the furs.  Pascal was very concerned he would be disappointing his sponsors but concluded his safety was more important. He loves to be on the water, is very comfortable and at peace there, at home.  He is in great shape now and absolutely does not want to stop.  He does not mind being alone and is very comfortable  with his routine and all. Here is a video of Pascal explaining his decision (click the video link to view).

So on Thursday, July 20th, with a heavy heart Pascal headed back down Lake of the Woods, retracing his steps (strokes). It will be a very different trip: he will be portaging around some the rapids he had fun tripping down, the fast down streams will now be up streams and vice versa,  the Grand Portage should be a little easier and Lake Superior which tends to be more of a challenge in August.  Pierre and Jennifer are hoping he will catch up to them so they can spend some time paddling together.  He has chosen quite a year to embark on this adventure: the year of record high waters almost everywhere along his trip.  Even though he has given up his dream of reaching the Arctic this year, he still has this goal for another time.  He offers you all his many thanks for your support and interest.

Fort Frances to Kenora

July 12th – July 17th

After getting the royal treatment by the Langevin family, Pascal thought it was best to get back on the water if he wanted to attain his ultimate goal, the Arctic.  What a treat he had once on the Rainy River: not only was he paddling with the current but he had a tail wind to boot.  It doesn’t get better than that. In less than 2 days he was on Lake of the Woods.  On his third day out there was a strong northerly wind which forced him to stay put; it was his first day being wind-bound on his whole trip to date and so took advantage of the time to do some stone carving.  There was a small tailwind for the rest of his time on Lake of the Woods so he made it to Kenora in no time.  When he reached the town there was a couple standing on the dock, waving and greeting him.  They were Linda and Ray Boivin who had been following his progress.  They invited him to stay at their home while he waited for some supplies.  Also, his solar panel and battery charger were starting to give him trouble and were unreliable.  With the help of Jean-Loup at MEC in Vancouver, Danielle managed to get replacement of these items which luckily were still in stock.  MEC was extremely accommodating and  sent the replacement directly to Kenora. Pascal only had to wait an extra day for these items but that suited him well.  He had to make a very difficult decision which weighed him down and took a lot of his emotional energy.

Fort Frances

July 9th – July 12th

Patrick Langevin, his wife Céline Cardinal, their 12 year old daughter Marie-Mae and their 10 year old son Yannick treated Pascal royally while he stayed at their home in Fort Frances. From the welcome posters by the water, to the special cake made by Marie-Mae, to the gourmet meals, to organizing an interview with a reporter from the Fort Frances Times, to a room of his own with access to a computer, phone, TV, etc. The list goes on and on. Pascal is filled with so much gratitude for all the kindness and generosity they bestowed upon him. Thank-you all so much.

This coming week-end the whole family is headed to Akron, Ohio for the International soap-box Derby that the kids are competing in.  We wish the best of luck.

Gunflint Lake to Fort Frances

June 30th to July 9th

Even though it was tempting to spend more time at Gunflint Lodge, Pascal decided he should hit the road, woops,  the water, and get a move on.  On the first evening he met some other paddlers and camped with them.  It was nice to have the company.

By the end of the next day he entered Cache Bay in Quetico Provincial Park.  Here he was greeted by ranger Janice Matichuk who invited him for dinner and a shower (not  sure in which order) and a place to crash.  Janice is the longest serving ranger in the park’s history with 33 seasons to her credit.  Pascal found her to be a very  knowledgeable and interesting person.  He absolutely loved Quetico with all its falls, rapids and wonderful, peaceful scenery.  There were lots of people on the water though which was such a change for him after the solitude of Lake Superior.

At Lac la Croix he tried to take a short cut to avoid Loon Lake.  This proved to be much more difficult and dangerous than expected partly because the waters were a lot higher than normal and he was running into rapids where there weren’t supposed to be any.    Since this part of the route was not heavily travelled and not part of the historic Voyager route, he decided to backtrack to Lac la Croix.  This meant he lost a half days travel but he was comfortable with his decision none the less.  On Loon River he met a fellow paddler, Ron Sherk (the nomader) who has been paddling, hiking and cycling his way around Canada and New Zealand since 2013.

By the time he made it to Loon Lake, the wind had picked up.  The next three days were long and hard. Dealing with strong head winds were very disconcerting for Pascal because progress was very slow through Voyageurs National Park and Rainy Lake (which has the reputation of being difficult to paddle because of prevailing westerly winds and open water). Despite the difficulties Pascal had a friend, Johnny-John Burksman, a May Fly, that stuck with him from Kettle Falls through to Rainy Lake. Pascal had planned to be in Fort Frances for Friday, July 7th. However, by Friday he was still a long way from his destination so he decided to paddle by the light of the moon while on Rainy Lake, hoping the wind would die down in the evening as it often does.  However around 2:00 a.m. the wind picked up again while he was in the middle of an open water crossing which forced him to backtrack to safety and sleep.

Sunday morning he breezed into Fort Frances with a tail wind.  There he was warmly welcomed by the Langevin family who greeted him with posters and cheers from the dock.  Even re-entering Canada through customs was a breeze.  They took his passport number and other information by phone so didn’t have to wait at the marina.  Patrick, Céline, Marie-Mai and Yannick wisked Pascal away to show him the town.

Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters

June 28th to June 30th, 2017

After doing the Grand Portage followed by several more shorter portages, Pascal was really looking forward to a short break at Gunflint Lodge.  He had to pick up a box of food his parents had mailed there a few weeks earlier.  John unexpectedly invited Pascal to stay in the bunk-house which he really appreciated. This provided an opportunity to dry things out a bit since he had been paddling or portaging in the rain for days.  Gunflint Lodge also has a very nice restaurant so Pascal gave up dried food for a night and ordered himself some good hearty ribs.  Yum, yum.

Luckily when Danielle called Gunflint Lodge in early June to enquire about mailing a food drop-off and to get the correct mailing address, it was Brandon Trapp who answered the phone.  He gave her lots of valuable information and support over the following month in preparation for Pascal’s arrival.   He even came back to Gunflint on his day off to give Pascal a helping hand.   Brandon was very generous and helpful in numerous ways including  purchasing a map of Voyageur Park, driving Pascal to Grand Marais to get a knee support and going over maps of the upcoming route.  Many thanks to a great guy!

Pascal also got to update his Facebook page which was a real bonus.  We don’t how this happened but he also did a radio interview with the community radio station, WTIP.  Pascal had a super experience at Gunflint Lodge, the staff being all so friendly and helpful.  He told his parents he can’t wait to go back.

Grand Portage to Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters

June 24 – June 28, 2017

Pascal started the historic but arduous 13.7 km (8.5 mi) Grand Portage which has a elevation gain of 220m., in the rain.  Right off the get-go the toboggan didn’t work.  So he carried his 60 pound canoe and 40 pound food barrel about 400 meters, and then walked back to get his 80 pound pack, carrying his Pelican case with camera in his hands.  Then started all over again, slowly but steadily making his way up the trail.  The conditions are awful at the best of times but it had been raining for almost 2 weeks so the trail was muddier than usual.  Pascal had to walk in mud over his ankles, he said the bugs were the worse so far and it poured rain over the 15 hours over 2 days it took to do the portage.  En route he met “Dr. Juice” (Gregory Bambenek) who gave him some fishing gear and offered some fishing bait “juice” made from an Amazonian recipe.  He declined the latter but in retrospect wished he had taken the special concoction.  Dr. Juice even tempted him with a ride to avoid the portage but Pascal declined, feeling he would have wimped out had he not done the whole portage.  Even though he found it to be extremely gruelling and challenging to say the least, was he happy to have completed it.

Once he made it to the Pigeon River, Pascal paddled upstream as far as the Partridge Falls for the night.  He found the river to be very fast and the next day he reached a point about 4 miles up from Partridge Falls where the current was so fast he could not move forward and he was unable to find a portage trail. The river reminded Pascal of the Riviere des Prairies (runs on north shore of Island of Montreal) during the record breaking spring floods and the height of the snow melt this spring.   It turns out there isn’t a trail and people must wade upstream to get by the two sets of rapids.  But because it had rained heavily for the past 2 weeks, the river was too fast and too high for anyone to get through.  Pascal turned around and contacted his Mom to see if she could organize someone to come get him near the falls since he really didn’t want to redo the Grand Portage; once in a week was enough.

Danielle managed to get a hold of the staff at the Grand Portage National Monument who immediately stepped up to the task.  Craig, the superintendent, got his team going in no time.  He passed messages on to  Danielle who in turn communicated with Pascal via the inReach satellite communication (there is no cell service here).  Brandon and Mike met Pascal at the parking lot near Partridge Falls and drove him and his canoe to McFarland Lake which is above those difficult rapids.  This enabled him to continue his journey as planned; he was tickled pink and so grateful to the guys for all their help.  It was far more than he ever expected. Many, many thanks to Craig and his entire team.  You were amazing!

On Wednesday, June 28th, Pascal did a relatively easy  portage called Height of Land when he went from South Lake to North Lake.  The water of South Lake flows south and east to the Great Lakes and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean while the water of North Lake, only 400 yards away, flows north to Hudson Bay.  Cool!  He will now be paddling with the current for a change.  For this reason this portage  held special significance for the Voyageurs.

Pascal made it to Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters by mid-afternoon on June 28th.  He stopped here to pick up a food drop-off  that his parents had mailed to him.  Brandon Trapp, along with Mandy Husky helped organize this for him and were very helpful in getting Pascal set up comfortably in the bunk-house.  To be continued…..