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PostPosted: October 8th, 2006, 4:13 pm 
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Location: Plainfield, Indiana USA
French River: September 11 – 15, 2006
By Worth Donaldson


I rose early in the morning gathered my gear and got ready for Jim Shaw’s early arrival. After waiting for over an hour I gave Jose Joven a call to inform him that Jim must be running late. While speaking with Jose I see Jim drive up. He apologized and told me that the interstate had turned into a parking lot on the south side of Indianapolis. We hastily loaded my packs and canoe and then drove to the north side to pick up Jose. Jose was waiting and in no time we had his packs loaded and a third canoe on top of Jim’s van.

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Through numerous internet contacts we learned driving to Sault Ste. Marie and southeast along Lake Huron would be less stressful than entering Canada at Sarnia just north of Detroit. Just like Indiana, the urban areas surrounding Toronto are undergoing extensive construction and have become one long narrow parking lot. So instead of driving 700 miles we decided to drive 730 miles and take the more scenic view. It was a long drive to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. This gave us plenty of time to discuss our trip and re-read the chapter, “The French River: A Historic Waterway” in Kevin Callan’s book, A Paddler’s Guide to Ontario. Supposedly it is an excellent five-day trip through cottage country that includes lining upstream and running some fast-moving whitewater. The majority of portages are approximately 60 meters or less long. However, we do have a 400 meter portage that is challenging. The weather forecast predicts temperatures in the upper 60’s with cool nights. We were also told that the water levels are moderate and dropping. For once, we are looking forward to a nice, easy relaxing paddle with plenty of time to fish.

By early evening we arrive at Hotel Patel and old run down looking motel tucked behind and almost hidden by several sparkling, brand new inns that promise a night of pampering and luxury. Jim and I asked Jose if the rooms are rented by the hour? Do we need to worry about cockroaches? He insists that the rooms look much better on the inside than the outside. To clinch the deal he tells us that a continental breakfast is included and there is free internet. Internet, Jim never uses the internet! Jose enters the office loud and boisterous and says, “Hi, remember me? I told you I’d be back. I brought friends this time” while shaking the clerk’s hand. After introductions we each pay the clerk seventeen dollars and go to our room. Jim and I are shocked. The room really is clean and appears to have been recently renovated. For seventeen dollars we each have a queen size bed. There is a television and refrigerator. Free internet is at the office.

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We rose early in the morning and ate our continental breakfast consisting of cereal, danish and boiled eggs. Afterwards, Jose checked his email and got a weather report while Jim stood outside waiting to hit the road. We had no problems crossing the border and arrived at the Custom House several minutes prior to their opening to exchange our money and purchase fishing licenses.

Once again it was a long drive. Traffic was light and every now and then we would get a glimpse of Lake Huron. We were making excellent time until I made a hasty decision that took us into Sudbury. By mid-afternoon we had arrived at our destination, Loon’s Landing, a resort with cabins, RV’s and campsites.

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After obtaining our permits we ask a few questions about the river and quickly realized they know little about canoeists. We were told to hang our food and be mindful of hungry bears. I asked about rattlesnakes and get a chuckle out of Jim. Jose sets the record straight. Yes, there are massauga rattlesnakes along Georgian Bay. I spied a map of our route taped to the counter and state that it looks like the one in Kevin Callan’s book. We were told that Kevin contacted them and had asked if they could pick him up at the bus stop? They obliged and that was the last they thought they would hear from him. The following year they found themselves siege with canoeists requesting campsites. Apparently, Kevin forgot to mention that he was writing a guide book.

After dinner at the French River Trading Post we returned to the campsite and built a fire and studied the maps I had photocopied. Jose asked if I had entered the GPS coordinates into my GPS. “We might be paddling in fog come tomorrow morning”, he said. I told him, “No, I saw no need to. Our route looks easy”. By firelight we inputted the coordinates into my GPS with much difficulty. Instead of labeling all the gridlines I had only labeled one on the X and Y axis on the photo-copied maps. Eventually, I had to get out the original map because we were making too many coordinate errors.

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French River – Lost on Day 1

It was 45 degrees when we rose and left for breakfast at the trading post. By 10:00 am we were on the river and had arrived at Meshaw Falls although my GPS told me we were somewhere else.

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After portaging our gear and canoes above the falls we checked out the swirl hole near the put in. The hole is almost 6 feet across, 16 feet deep and was created by a 150 pound granite ball that looked like a bowling ball.

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While sipping on ginger ale we listened to Pete Rysdale talk about the history of the waterfalls and the state of the Canadian health care system. Afterwards, we paddled into Eighteen Mile Bay and passed one cottage after another. We paddled northeast towards a large point and then towards a second smaller point. I confirmed our direction with Jose and we passed more cottages or should I say, nice homes; one after another, after another.

Nearing the islands we searched for the channel that would take us east and can not find it. We paddled along the eastern shoreline thinking we had over shot the channel and still we can not find it. We checked the compass and continued to paddle southeast searching for the quartzite islands and the channel. Eventually, I activated the GPS. It told me we needed to head west. This contradicted the map and what I saw. We needed to head east. Obviously, we had made another error when inputting the coordinates in the dark. Once Jose and I are thoroughly confused and discombobulated, Jim spoke up and said we had been paddling the wrong direction. We needed to head west. Jose insisted he was wrong. I had problems visualizing Jim’s explanation. We continued to paddle southeast. Shortly thereafter, I realized we mistook a peninsula for an island because the blue topographical lines on the map failed to photo-copied. Islands and bays appear where they do not exist on our maps. Once we started paddling west, we easily found our way through Eighteen Mile Bay and to the North Channel.

We lined the first rapid and dig hard in the swift beneath the iron bridge. Unfortunately, an hour spent with Pete, another hour lost in the bay, and paddling against the wind and current kept us from reaching our desired destination. Instead, we camp near Caulkins Island.

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French River – Day 2, A Challenging Portage

It was 40 degrees and cloudy when we rose. By 8:00 we are on the river and ready to get back on schedule. Instead of having the prevailing winds at our back we found ourselves paddling into the wind and against the current. By 10:00 we are off the river and firing up the stove to cut the chill with some chicken noodle soup.

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We lined the first section of Cedar Rapids then paddled up the right side of the island for a lift over. Instead we found ourselves having to portage gear and packs a few meters. Only then do we realized that the lift over was on the left side of the island.

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We paddled the narrow channel looking for the 400 meter portage. Instead we found a cliff to our right, a gorge and a small waterfall that prevented us from going further up river. Jim climbed out onto the cliff and tied off onto a rock. Slowly he ascended a cleft in the rock and climbed 50 feet upward. Jose joined him while I paddled deeper into the gorge looking for an alternative route. I returned and tied off. Jose and Jim reported that this was the portage. Forming a fireman’s bucket brigade we tossed a pack upward towards a ledge. We tossed a second pack to the ledge. Jim’s canoe is passed upward and then carried beyond another ledge to a level spot high on the cliff. Jose’s packs and canoe followed then mine. Forming another fireman’s bucket brigade, we passed the packs to the second ledge. I found a snake skin lying on top of my pack. Hmmm! We are hot and tired. Upon completing the portage we all agreed that it felt shorter than 400 meters. It was late in the afternoon and we still had a lot of river to paddle to make it to Wolseley Bay; thus, we skipped lunch and kept going. By 5:00 we had a small island campsite just south of Rainy Island to call home. We had traveled 24 kilometers against the wind and the current. Our average speed on the river was 4.6 kilometers per hour.

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French River – Day 3, Inukshuk
It sprinkled on and off during the night. During a lull in the early morning showers I packed up and joined Jim for breakfast. Jose eventually rose and said, “I thought we were sleeping in”. I responded, “I didn’t want to pack in the rain”. It begun to mist and I donned my rain wear for I did not want to get my outer layers wet. I have been wearing the same pair of wet, smelly socks and boots since we started the trip and have not been able to get them to completely dry for the days are too short and cool.

We had been looking forward to this day, a day full of rapids and promising fishing opportunities. We quickly arrived at Little Pine Rapids and easily lined the upper section. Standing on a slab of slick, smooth bed rock the bottom section of the rapids tugged hard on our lines while trying to pull us into the river. Lining this last section, I watched my gunnel roll and begin to drop. Call it skill or luck, I was fortunate not to fill my canoe with water.

After studying Big Pine Rapids the decision was made to portage around it. The rapid descends into a small gorge and appeared easy to run if you can avoid a rock in the center of the narrow chute. The rock is located at the very top of the rapid and receives the majority of the water flow; thus, creating a big standing wave. In warmer weather, we probably would have tested our skills and attempted to run it.

Due to low water levels Double Rapids was nothing more than fast flowing swifts. Very quickly, we arrived at Double Rapids Island. To the right of the island is The Ladder. Here, voyageurs would accidentally swamp their 36-foot long boats in a narrow space between two ledges in an attempt to avoid the Blue Chute located on the left side of the island. Divers have found numerous artifacts around The Ladder. We paddled past The Ladder because water levels appeared extremely low. We thought we could possibly run the Blue Chute. After running the Blue Chute, a nice long C-II rapid, and allowing Jim to bail a little water out of his canoe, Jose and I paddled to the last rung of The Ladder.

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It was like a maze trying to avoid all the boulders and barely submerged rocks. We found The Ladder to be full of boulders the shape and size of beach balls.

Not far downstream, we portaged 30 meters around a no name rapid and stopped in hopes of a shore lunch. Jose and I caught nothing but Jim was able to feed us with the numerous walleye he caught.

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After filling our bellies with fish, we launched the canoes with anticipation of running three more sets of rapids. We approached an island. Jim went left and Jose and I go right. Eventually, the walls closed in on us until there was no more water to paddle. Instead of portaging to the main channel we turned back. While trying to catch up with Jim, we questioned where we are. Where was the roar of the rapids? Due to extreme low water levels we did not realized the swifts we ran were Big Parisien Rapids. Furthermore, we suspected our paddle through a narrow, fast flowing gorge was Devil Chute. Little Parisien Rapids was nothing more than swifts. Once again we are having navigation issues due to problems with the photo-copied maps and low water levels. Fishing boats become numerous around Hammerhead Bay. When we strayed off the main channel one fishing boat spoke up and gave us guidance on how to navigate the “S” turn where islands appeared on our maps. We never noticed Crooked Rapids.

We camped on an island across from Ed’s Island that was heavily posted with private property signs. After setting up camp, Jim stated he was going back to take a picture of the 6-foot tall man before it got too dark. Jose and I did not know what he was talking about. After hiking several minutes to the center of the island we spied the inukshuk.

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I asked Jim what on the earth possessed him to hike so far inland? He responded, “I was just trying to find a good spot to pitch my tent”. Unfortunately, finding the perfect campsite or tent pad was impossible. Most campsites had too many mangled or hacked up trees due to the indiscreet quest for firewood. Furthermore, large level tent pads were rare. Sloping bedrock was the predominant tent pad feature of every campsite we found.

During dinner it threatened to rain; thus, with Jose’s help I pitched a tarp. After dinner we all turned in for the night. Once inside my tent I smelled an insidious aroma that has slowly become stronger with each passing day. It was an odor of sourness and spoiled meat. I searched the tent for the odor and locate it beneath my rain fly. It was my wet boots and socks that refuse to dry.

Day 4 – The Cross and Heathens

As usual we rose early; however, we took our time breaking camp. Jim was on the water first and led the way downstream. Unbeknownst to Jim, Jose wanted to hold back, slow the trip down and sets the pace accordingly. Once again, we had begun to see several fishing boats. Jim was not interested in visiting Cross Island and called it a tourist trap. However, Jose and I persevered, stopped and paid homage to the Jesuit priests that were massacred by the Iroquois in a raiding party on their way to attack the Nippissing band in 1649.

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It was another cold morning and our slow pace down the river kept me from feeling warm. By late morning we found ourselves on a small island sharing a hot lunch of corn chowder with chicken, hummus, crackers and blackberry wine. Although we had not seen any otters, their presence was everywhere. The island was littered with mussel shells. Soon after, a tandem canoe passed us by.

After getting back on the water, Jose took off and left Jim and I behind. Quickly he put 500 meters between us, then a kilometer and then 2 kilometers. We could barely see him far off in the distance. We were a few hours away from being out of the park and I was annoyed. What was he up to? Had he changed his mind? Are we leaving today? Jim and I do not give chase; eventually we lose sight of him. Upon seeing the Ontario hydro transmission lines far off in the dull gray horizon we both realized the trip was almost over. Once beneath the power lines, we finally got a glimpse of blue skies, something we had not seen since the beginning of the trip. Not soon afterwards, we began to shed our layers of clothing for the clear skies had made the afternoon turn hot.

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Eventually we found Jose floating in a small cove off Dalton’s Point. I asked him, “What’s up? Why did you take off”? Jose responded, “I wanted to catch up with the tandem paddlers” and almost did in his Kruger Seawind.

By 2:30 we had paddled 12 kilometers and found probably one of the nicest campsites along the river just past Lost Child Bend. Lost Child Bend got its name from the crying of a lost Native child that was never found but heard for six days. After making camp, we all do a little laundry and take sponge baths. Jose having nothing to wear made a loin cloth using bandanas and rope.

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Our campsite had a nice sandy beach. Beside our campsite and to the south was a gentle sloping slab of granite that slowly rose and pointed up river as if it was a finger on one’s hand. Climbing the slab high into the sky, we found wonderful views in all directions.

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However, in the middle of the river sat an expensive house with views of sunrise and sunset. In addition, there was a platform tennis court on this island. It was obvious that this bothered Jose. Every now and then he would glance over and asked, “Who would build a tennis court in the middle of no where? Why? Why would you build a tennis court in the wilderness”? Eventually, Jose paddled over in his loin cloth and strutted around the premises looking more like a voyeur than a voyageur in searched of an answer. During dinner, Jose reported what he found and saw while Jim fed the gulls the majority of his hot and spicy chili.

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With promises of a beautiful sunset, Jose and I climbed the granite mound and patiently waited. Jose asked, “Why, why would you build a platform tennis court here”. I am not sure what possessed me but I begun to strip. Once butt naked I asked Jose to take my picture. I climbed to the top of the mound and stood with arms outstretched one hundred feet above the water waiting for the click of the camera.

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Shortly thereafter, a pontoon boat materialized and broke the magical spell of dusk and the promises of a beautiful sunset. They dropped anchor in front of the picturesque islands and proceeded to fish well past dusk.

French River – Day 5, Magical Views at the **** Palace

Throughout the night I am awaken by noises around my tent. I do not fear the visitors for they are making way too much noise to be bear or moose. Eventually, I am awakened by Jose prancing near my tent. Rudely, he shined his light on my tent prompting me to asked, “What’s up”? He replied, “I see animals by your tent and they have BIG eyes”! I am too tired to care. I rolled over and go back to sleep.

The morning was extremely foggy. Thus, we take our time breaking camp and eat a hearty breakfast of granola, eggs, ham, bannock with sausage gravy and coffee. Instead of orange juice, I drank the last few dregs of blackberry wine I had left.

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All too soon we found ourselves on the water paddling in a magical wonder land. The fog shrouded and adorned the islands. A loon appeared nearby and mysteriously disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Silence, we can feel the silence and hear the voyageurs whispering.

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Within the hour we arrived at the mouth of Stony Rapids and paddled upriver for a glimpse. Returning to Dry Pine Bay we are greeted with scenes of fishing boats.

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Within minutes Jose and I arrived at Meshaw Falls and purchased some ginger ale from Pete. Jim was half-way across Dry Pine Bay and heading for Loon’s Landing before we could finish our beverages.

By the time Jose and I arrived at Loon’s Landing Jim had already retrieved the van and was loading his gear for the long drive home. Before leaving to take showers, Jose purchased a map of the French River and asked, “Who would build a tennis court in the middle of no where? Why? Why would you build a tennis court in the wilderness”? We are told by the owner, “An American owns it, an American movie producer. He makes **** films there”. Jose and I got a good laugh out of this. Even Jim saw the humor in it when he realized Jose was walking around the premises in a loin cloth and I danced high on a bluff in the nude.

All too soon, the trip was over. We agreed it was not quite what we expected but it was still better than anything we could have paddled in Indiana. We left wanting and unsatisfied. There was not enough white water and it was a little crowded. Thus, we talked about possibilities for next year during our long drive home; Georgian Bay, the Spanish, Winisk or the Nahanni.

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 8:24 am 
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So much for the old rule of wearing whites for tennis. eom


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 11:29 am 
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I guess you could say I wore whites. Ignoring my farmer's tan (arms, neck and head) I am lilly white as a hen.

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 5:43 pm 
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Worth - thank you for the detailed log and pictures. Appreciated your humility and honesty (getting your coordinates screwed up on GPS) etc. As a novice, I make plenty of mistakes and it makes me realize not to sweat it , everyone does.

I liked the pictures 8) What is it about canoeing and nudies. Thinking on this more, I have been canoeing with my paddling partner who also happens to be female and we NEVER run around naked let alone pose for pictures - is this a guy thing??? Do all men feel the need for a little exposure - is this primordial hunter gather behaviour...much to ponder.


Thanks for a nice read on Thanksgiving.

D

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 8:55 pm 
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Before this deteriorates into a "Brokeback Canoeing" thread I'll weigh in.

It was the first and only hot day we had on the trip.
I had washed my clothes and didn't have any others to wear.
I have fashioned a loincloth from a piece of rope and a bandana on previous trips and consider it a safe and sane clothing option when the climate and bugs are right. I am not naked nor is anything hanging out, except for my belly. :oops:

As to Worth posing in the all together he will have to offer his own explanations.

Ladydi, you and your paddling partner should try au naturel sometime. I'm sure you two would look much better than two old fat guys sitting on a rock.

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 9:20 pm 
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Thats for the trip report most of the pics were great. :oops:

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006, 9:40 pm 
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ladydi said

Quote:
is this a guy thing??? Do all men feel the need for a little exposure - is this primordial hunter gather behaviour...much to ponder.


Actually, while sitting high on the bluff it brough back memories of an island campsite we had in Peterbell Marsh on the Missinaibi. The island rose out of no where and was surrounded by marsh as far as you could see. I always regretted not getting a nude picture from the water with me standing tall on the bluff. The opportunity presented itself again and I seized the moment.

One day on the Bloodvein we all washed our clothes and hung them in the bushes to dry. It must have been an ugly sight to see 4 fat, middle-aged men nude or in boxers fishing for dinner.

Is this primordial hunter gather behaviour? I doubt it. I think we are just more comfortable accepting ourselves for what we are.

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 7:24 am 
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ladydi wrote:
What is it about canoeing and nudies. Thinking on this more, I have been canoeing with my paddling partner who also happens to be female and we NEVER run around naked let alone pose for pictures - is this a guy thing???
Nope. Both guys and gals.


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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 7:34 am 
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Guys and girls TOGETHER - yeah I get that.

Actually, on one occassion we were at Frontenac and paddling towards our first campsite. As we approached I could make out this ...well...something..

As I got closer I saw this woman who had to be at LEAST 200 lbs sitting on a chair with other woman surrounding her. She was buck naked from (I think) the waist up.

To see a woman who bust size tips the EE range naked is well (I don't want to offend) different.

It would kind of be in the same league as seeing a man of that size buck naked from the waist down. Different.

I guess I need to get out more! :D

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 7:43 am 
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jjoven wrote:
Ladydi, you and your paddling partner should try au naturel sometime. I'm sure you two would look much better than two old fat guys sitting on a rock.


I do when I go solo - its a great feeling! :D

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 7:47 am 
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Oddly enough, this year at the Changing of the Seasons Ceremony a small contingent of attendees decided it would be okay to go swimming naked. This was at the group site a few hours before the ceremony. There were about 50 people milling about when this happened.

Some of the kids were hilarious. C_Mels son shouted (no more than 20 feet away) EWWWW THAT GUY IS NAKED! AND THAT GIRL IS NAKED TOO! I just about wet my pants laughing.

I was surprised at first. Then kind of envied their freedom. After the ceremony I went back to our site, out of the view of the "group" and dove in naked. It felt kinda of liberating and I reccomend it to anybody who hasn't tried it. I could not shake the feeling of leeches latching on to my naughty bits though so the swim was short.

Ladydi, you sould try it. Not to be an exhibisionist but in the privacy of your own wilderness.

As far as the trip report goes. Awesome. This is on my to do list for next year and I love reading accounts of the French River.

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 8:10 am 
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The Paddling Bares Canoe Club

http://www.canoeing.org/

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 8:11 am 
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Ladydi,

Quote:
What is it about canoeing and nudies. Thinking on this more, I have been canoeing with my paddling partner who also happens to be female and we NEVER run around naked let alone pose for pictures - is this a guy thing???


Naw... it's definitely not just a guy thing. During my trips, it just happened that all of the naked bodies I've seen up close out there have been female... lucky, I guess.

Women aren't dumb, they know they look good naked and will use it for effect. And besides, who wants to see hairy guys running around out there anyway.

Since women value their nakedness, it isn't respectful to dismiss this lightly. Women don't like being ignored, especially when they've removed their clothes. But it would have been extremely rude to have whipped out a telephoto lens and to start clicking away, so I took copious notes while doing this important research - here are the results of my field work.... all three out of three naked bodies seen were female.

The first was while canoeing in Killarney, I was cruising the shoreline, looking for wildlife, came round a bend... and OMG, a totally naked female. Not a stitch of clothing on her. She covered up right away, but didn't run screaming into the woods or hide in the tent, either. There was nobody else around, and since she didn't seem to be particularly upset at being seen naked, I felt some small talk was appropriate to break the ice... nice campsite, great scenery, etc. Polite conversation, polite smiles. No invitation to have coffee on shore... damn.

The next was on Algonquin's Opeongo, on one of those beach campsites, where a hippydippy blonde ran into the water right in front of the canoe. Again, as naked as the day she was born. There seemed to be a party going on, love was in the air.

The last and most dramatic, was also on Opeongo, where a tall brunette, with a model's body, removed her clothes and walked into the water, slowly... with me in the canoe and others at the campsite looking on. OYVAY, everything went silent in that glorious moment, time stood still... thank you, Jesus...


So the results of the survey seem to indicate that females often enjoy going nude, and being seen that way, more than guys do.



This masterpiece, by a painter who I can't seem to remember at the moment seems to sum it up very well. The poor satyr seems reluctant in the midst of all that female nakedness, or whatever it is those naked nymphs want him to do. Maybe he's gay, who knows... whatever, bring on the nymphs.


http://tinyurl.com/kc4gb

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 9:55 am 
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Perhaps some of you have paddled by this group

www.wildwomenexp.com/

Yes there is something about the warm sun, light breezes and cool water. I don't always wait for laundry day.

Leeches, yeah...didn't do much swimming on the Spanish after one hitched a ride on me and into my sleeping bag. :o

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2006, 2:50 pm 
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Great trip report!
Nice to see someone take the time to lay it all out with pics.

If you get the chance try the Pickeral River outlets sometime in the French... you wont' see quite so many people.

Oh and nudity is mandatory on the French :o

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here are a couple of links to pics I've done in the area...

http://www.pbase.com/jaydog/french_river_2003
http://www.pbase.com/jaydog/camping__fr ... ptember_05

Jason


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