Blind River to Wawa

2017-05-29 to 2017-06-08

The first few days paddling alone on Lake Huron were a challenge.  There were several days of fog and either headwinds or crosswinds which whipped my boat around quite a bit.  I resorted to sitting on my Pelican case in the middle of the boat to maneuver more easily.  This worked fairly well so I got my Mom to order a third seat from Souris River to be delivered to Wawa for when I got there.

When I arrived at Sault Ste. Marie there were no other boats at the locks so the guys working there treated me to a solo pass through the locks.  Not only was it really cool but I didn’t have to do a portage 🙂  Then I made my way up the east coast of Lake Superior which is stunningly beautiful.  The cliffs in Lake Superior Provincial Park are amazing!

Luckily  for me the weather was good for the most part because I had to do a few long bay crossings.  One day there was a super thick fog that came up suddenly forcing me to make a quick run to shore and stop for the day.

June 7th was my longest distance to date,  58.8kms.  I wanted to make it to Naturally Superior Adventures, just south of Wawa, that day because my parents were coming to meet me the next day and I also wanted a bit of a rest. Naturally Superior is a fabulous place right on Lake Superior, offering guided trips in canoes, sea kayaks or Voyageur canoes as well as equipment rentals.  Rock Island Lodge with B&B accomodations is there too. Dave, the owner, organizes all kinds of interesting events and lectures pertaining to all aspects of outdoor life around the Lake.  The food, cooked by chef Judy, is amazing and the staff are all great, friendly and very helpful.

I also met Oz, a shaman who happened to be there giving lectures to the Michipicoten First Nation at the Lodge. Oz gave me a flute he had made.  I showed him a white rock I had found on the beach which I was keeping for good luck.  Later that day he came to me with a similar stone, which he called “thunderbird eggs”. When rubbed together they emit a flash of light – really cool.

Naturally Superior is a great place to hang out for a day or more.  My parents arrived late Thursday and it was so nice to see them. Luckily for me the canoe seat also arrived that day so my parents helped me install it the following morning.

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Pascal continues solo from Blind River

After spending a hectic 5 days reorganizing things and buying equipment such as a one-man tent, a smaller food barrel, a cell phone (yes, he didn’t own one!), topo maps and other odds and sods, Pascal and his parents drove to Blind River on May 28th so Pascal could have an early start the following morning from the Marina in Blind River.  It was also really nice to have his aunt Carolyn and uncle Paul there to send him off on the next leg of his expedition.  The weather was cool and foggy but Pascal spiced it up by playing air guitar on his paddle to a Jimmy Hendrix tune.  He paddled 35 kms with a bit of a tail wind to start but then a cross wind and some rain to finish off the day.  A good start all in all.  His parents are extremely proud of his determination and his up beat and positive attitude.Blind River 3Blind River 2Blind River 1guitar 2air guitar

 

On to Georgian Bay…

Our next obstacle after the hydro dam at Portage-du-Fort was the Bryson dam. Here we were fortunate enough to meet Jennifer and Arlene who helped portage our gear, gave us food and a place to stay for the night.Bryson

After Fort Coulonge we began to encounter some truly beautiful landscape

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Our next, and last, big portage on the Ottawa River was around the Rapids-Des-Joachims. Upon reaching  Mattawa we finally left the Ottawa River with its historic high waters.

We spent the night in Mattawa where unfortunately Pascal stepped on a nail.  Despite the pain he continued the journey and got a tetanus shot in North Bay.  Thanks to Bernie who helped us with the Le Vase Portage, taking us from the western most end of the Mattawa River to North Bay on Lake Nipissing where Pascal got a tetanus shot.

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Bernie at the Le Vase Portage

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Lake Nipissing was very windy and stormy when we started out but we managed to get through it and into the French River without much delay.

Our descent down the French River was uneventful but very beautiful with lots of wild flowers in full bloom and numerous species of birds.  It was our first down-stream experience since Quebec city which was a really nice reprieve.

French River 2French RiverCook FireThe French led us to Georgian Bay where again the wind and waves made the going tough and slow.

Upon reaching Killarney on Georgian Bay, Constant decided not to continue with the expedition due to severe joint and muscle pain. After taking a few days to sort things out Pascal will be continuing the expedition solo.

 

Ottawa/Gatineau to Portage-du-Fort

After resting a couple of days at home in Gatineau, we resumed our journey up the Ottawa river from the Aylmer Marina. Several friends were there to see us off.

Our next challenge was the portage around the hydro dam at Fitzroy Harbor. Fortunately we were helped by Scott and his daughter who loaded our canoe and supplies into their truck which saved us a lot of time and effort.

After Fitzroy Harbour, we had an invitation to stay at Linda Plante’s and Paul Tardif’s home at Lac des chats on the  Ottawa River.  We were treated royally to warm beds, great food, beer, wonderful company and then a yummy breakfast that got us going the next morning.

The weather is still quite variable with rain, wind, sun and sometimes even a little snow!

Mid May Snow

Early May and that is snow on our tent

Frequent rain kept the water high so we found fast water where it is normally calm resulting in more portages than expected.

High water rapids

Snow and high water on a normally calm part of the Ottawa River

The next big dam was at Portage-du-Fort.  Here we were helped by Brenda and Normand who offered us a place to stay, food and portaged our canoe with their truck.

We have been so lucky to meet many kind and generous people thus far on our trip.  We are very grateful for all your help and support.  Many thanks to all of you.

Love my paddle… Cherry wood grain is a thing of beauty…paddle wood grain

We made it… and we’re leaving again!

Well, we made it to Ottawa, 500 km upstream later! The current is unbelievably strong and high this year – the highest it’s been since at least 40 years. There’s massive flooding all along the St-Lawrence, but the Ottawa River is particularly bad. This gave us the opportunity to paddle in forests, in streets, over bridges, lamp posts and islands that no longer existed. The worst thing about it is that the water level is still getting higher… We saw the Ottawa River gain 45 cm / a foot and a half in a night! The flood gates are open on most damns. Here are a few picture of the flooding:

 

We also had the chance to have a few interviews! Here are some links:

 

Here are a couple photos of the interviews:

 

Anyways, tomorrow morning (Sathurday, May 6th) we’ll be leaving again!

Talk to you soon!

-Pascal

Update

Wow!  This is a lot harder than we expected.  For the past 3 days we have been battling strong heads winds and  an extremely strong current on the St Lawrence (we are paddling up stream).  Having record high waters and an extremely rainy spring have not made it any easier.  On Sunday we had to wade in the water and pull the canoe because the current was just too strong to paddle against. Yesterday we did a short 40m portage at the Becancour port due to super strong current.  But we are having a fun time and are both really happy.  We have seen lots of raptors and migrating birds.  So far when we get up in the morning everything is covered in ice: gloves, pfd’s, zips, boots, etc. but we expected the temperature to drop below zero in April.

On the water!

After a few delays for equipment and ice on the river, our expedition left from Cap Rouge, a few kilometers west of Quebec City, on April 21st, 2017 at 9:45AM.

The whether was not ideal at 3 degrees with rain and wind gusts of up to 50 km/h but with our North Water spray deck and Kokatat dry suits for protection we were able to launch.

Once we got out of Cap Rouge, the wind was behind us for the most part but the waves were well over a meter and at times washed right over our canoe. The spray deck saved our day.

Here are a few pictures of the launch:

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Installing the spray deck

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Pre launch TVA interview

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Into the St Lawrence!!!

Click here to follow our journey on an inReach map.

Progress from Cap Rouge:

  • April 21st: 30 km, just east of Donnacona. Strong winds, large waves and rain.
  • April 22nd: 28 km, Leclercville. Rain and strong current.
  • April 23rd: 29 km, just east of Gentilly. Head winds 30 km gusting to 50 km, strong current. Sun and cloud.
  • April 24th: 31 km, mouth of Riviere Nicolet at Trois Rivieres. Great day, good weather, lots of migrating raptors and other birds. Short portage at Becancour Port
  • April 25th: 41 km, 5 km east of Sorel. Hard day but made good progress.
  • April 26th: 44 km, Verchères.
  • April 27th: 24 km, Berge des Écores in Laval. Very strong currents in rivière des Prairies but lucky we had a small tail wind. Stayed with Pascal’s grand-parents overnight. Decided to do a short “car portage” for the rest of rivière des Prairies.
  • April 28th: Tried to launch in Lac de Deux Montagnes but with 50 km/h wind gusts and very choppy water had to return after an hour. Took a rest day at Pascal’s grand-parents.
  • April 29th: 21 km. Launched at Club De Yacht Laval-Sur-Le-Lac at 5:45 a.m. to avoid winds. Stopped at Oka due to strong head winds and very choppy water.
  • April 30th: 46 km. Portaged around dam at Carillon and stopped in Grenville.
  • May 1st: 51 km. Just east of Rockland. Biggest day yet! Difficult to find dry land for a tent so we got permission to camp in a tool shed for the night.

Our Canoe has Arrived!

What a joy it is to see that canoe! Shipped by truck from Atikokan, 100 miles West from Thunder Bay, the canoe came in a super sturdy crate. It  took Neal, Pascal’s cratefather, half an hour to unscrew all the screws with his multi-tool (he forgot to bring a drill). In the crate, it was also wrapped in plastic so that it wouldn’t scratch during the shipping. The canoe is a Wilderness 18 from Souris River Canoes. It’s 18 feet long and it only weighs 50 pounds! That’s great for us because it’ll make us go faster on the water and it won’t be too heavy during the many portages we’re going to be doing. It’s made of 5 layers of Kevlar. You can see the pure Kevlar color and we really think it looks great! Here are a few pictures of the boat:

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Wilderness 18, a wonderful tripping boat.

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Here, you can really see the form and the length of the boat, as well as the “ribs” that give more strenght

Constant and I took it for a test run a few days ago and we absolutely loved the way it handled. Since it’s quite round, it was a bit unstable but it really isn’t something for us to worry about. With all our gear in the canoe, it will be just fine. Here are a few pictures of us trying it out:

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We flipped it to see how it handled once in the water. It really caught the current and it wasn’t easy to swim in the current with our drysuits either. We really don’t want to tip during the trip! Hopefully the spray deck we’ll have will help us if ever we do tip. You can really see the ribs here!

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Pascal trying it out solo.

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Here we are, with the sun shinning through the boat. What an amazing canoe!

We’re waiting to receive our spray deck from NorthWater to go on the water. We really can’t wait to start paddling – in just a few days! See you then!

Winter has arrived!

Two Sundays ago, Constant, my girlfriend Catherine and myself got together at the Camp Air-Eau-Bois. While Constant was going to his workplace, Catherine and I were going to my favorite place in the world to relax a bit. We were all met with splendid beauty: it was the first snowfall of the year.

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It was quite the slippery car ride to get there because of the snow and ice build. We made it safely and without any trouble but just couldn’t make it up the last steep hill before camp. We parked the car in a parking space not too far from the road that leads to camp. After a walk in the howling wind and the blowing snow, we took a peak at the lake which is right next to the base. It was so dark and mysterious that you couldn’t even tell at what level the water was nor where were the waves. It was the first time I ever saw the lake like that. We then made our way to our final destination for the night and Constant arrived shortly after we did. We had fun cooking our meal and making pop corn on the fire because there was no electricity (a tree fell on the power lines).

After a good night’s sleep and a quick breakfast, we went out to a nice little lookout, the PPV. It’s one of the three amazing lookouts that you can go hike to from the base camp. Here are a few pictures of our view:

After the hike, we had another nice supper and Catherine and I were off to the city again. Overall, it was a great little vacation!