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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 8:02 am 
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La Verendrye: Circuit 11 into Circuit 16 trip report
June 2010, Esquif Mistral

I wanted to write this earlier, but never found the time. Initially, I was discouraged by Gerald amazing wolf story, which certainly ranks as the best tale of this past year. Nonetheless, I should offer my account of this trip, if for any reason, to finally give something back to a resource that I’ve so often consulted over the pas t few years.

Rather than describing the entire trip, I would prefer to focus on the portion that seems most important. As I am doing Circuit 16 again this year, I will post a description of this loop, camping spots, and portages with greater detail.

Two summers ago, I read in Ted’s outdoor page, about a circuit no longer existing in La Verendrye, connecting Circuit 11 (34km) and Circuit 16 (83km) together. After referring to the classical paper maps, and downloading recent topo maps for the GPS, it seemed that the route was still possible. My main motivation to experiment off the beaten path was not only excitement of the unknown, but mostly laziness. I would do almost anything to avoid the 1.4km portage. If not for that trek, Circuit 16 would certainly be my favourite, offering quiet lakes, great fishing spots, many rapids, and even a small water fall. We intended to cut out of Circuit 11 from Lac Antostagan into Lac Fracan, Lac Ajara, follow the stream into Lac Gaas, Lac Danneveaux and then Lac du Gabbon, to finally re-enter into Circuit 16.

Starting at Le Domaine, we had an easy time paddling the first 6km on Jean Pere with the wind in our backs. At the second portage, we encountered 4 young ladies, all too beautiful to be alone in the wild. I suggested to my tripping partner to abandon our initial plan for more gentlemanly ones, but Karl’s passion for fishing surpassed that of lesser noble pursuits. Being faster, we left them behind, and looked to stop at a beach to do the final prep for the hard core day ahead. Initially we stopped at 11-29, but the heaps of bear tracks pushed us to travel a few more meters, across the bay to another spot. An hour later the 4 girls set up camp there. Karl and I looked over, concealing our reason for camping elsewhere; so much for chivalry.

We stopped at 11-33, since there was a picnic table. After grilling some Toulouse sausages, washed down with a cup of wine, I called it an early night. I left Karl in charge of “closing affairs”, as he is a very intelligent pharmacist, although not too experienced in the woods. I felt confident his wisdom would compensate for this inexperience. Later that night, I awoke to a frightened Karl, hugging his bear mace as a child would a teddy bear, due to a noise in the woods. I listened for a while, and realized this was a sizable creature, probably the same one that had left the bear foot prints on the beach. The food was hung, Karl was armed, and I was too tired to care. The next morning I awoke refreshed and ready to work, whereas Karl looked less rejuvenated. Stress had kept him up for a good portion of the night.

We left camp at 8am and turned backwards into the bay. The small stream leading to Lac Fracan was passable only due to the high water of early June. I went back at the end of the season in August to collect a lost piece of gear, and there was no water. We each took a pack, and pulled the lighter canoe through 2 streams, the current going against us. This took 1 hour, and we were by the old portage sign in Lac Fracan by 9:30am.

Although the sign still existed, the trail did not. I looked to go against the current, but it was too powerful, and the stream full of large boulders. Karl took the bucksaw, I took the axe. 1:30hr later we had made a path going far enough. Although not a replica of the old trail, our portage cut into the stream after 400m, at a spot which seemed feasible to walk through. We walked through rapids waist deep, over large fallen trees cutting across to the opposite shore, to finally end up in a series of connecting marshes.

We stopped to make lunch at 1pm, having done 2km of the 16 expected to cover that day. While preparing our wraps, Karl went to scout the upcoming challenges, when I heard him shout. He had fallen thigh deep into mud, and lost a shoe. He started to look for it. 15 minutes later, I told him to stop since we should eat. During lunch, I explained that 4 socks over each other, and some duct tape could be his left shoe for the rest of the trip. He refused. I helped him for another 10minutes, when I gave up. At this point Karl, being the religious man he is, never missing Sunday Church, looked up to God and prayed. Not even a minute later, he found his shoe. Of all the events that occurred during our 6 day trip, this was the one that impressed me the most.

We continued our exhausting adventure, hopping in and out of the canoe, pushing it over logs, marshes, rocks, portaging 20m here and 40m there. This was so time consuming, and unproductive that I was very sceptical that this was better than the 1.4km portage I was trying to avoid, let alone, that we would reach our target by the end of the day.

At 2pm we hit Ruisseau Antostagan, the end of the stream connecting Lac Francan to Lac Ajara. This portion was also very difficult, although with less current going against us, it had more obstacles. A massive beaver dam was the last one of these hurdles, when we finally saw open water. We paddled Lac Ajara, filled our nalgenes, as it seemed deep enough, and reached its end in a matter of minutes. There is an abandoned bridge here, which was impossible to go under. We had to walk through raspberry bushes, whose thorny stems shredded our shins. Each step felt like a whip, but at this point determination pushed us forward, and each cut translated into my childhood tennis coach’s voice yelling at me to run another lap. We entered a mental state of warriors at this point, nothing could stop us.

On the other side of this bridge was a daunting task; a large swamp with no trees to walk on, but grass shoulder high. This took us a long time to portage, as we sank with each step. It was 5pm when we finally crossed this barrage, and we were rewarded by Mother Nature. After a few paddles we saw, munching on some plants, a moose and its calf. Karl’s reaction was “BEARS!” but we lay quietly, snapping a few photographs from a distance. Minutes later we were spotted and the two animals fled away. As we paddled forwarded, we saw through the shallow water, many tracks left by moose. This must have been their favourite lunch spot, close to their home.

At the end of this stream, there is a put in off the old lumber road. In retrospect, we should have stopped there. We entered Lac Gaas, then Lac Danneveaux, walked through a shallow stream into Lac Gabbon. To our surprise there was no stream heading out of this lake, other than the one we came from. I checked the maps, looked at the GPS and both showed a stream that did not exist. Instead of an opening, there was a long, narrow, sandy peninsula. I looked up at the sky and the sun was on its way down. I told Karl that this was the end, he didn’t understand, or more likely didn’t want to accept this conclusion. It seemed wiser to set up camp here, and trek back the next day through the way which we came. Accepting such defeat was not an option for Karl, and so we paddled both sides of this sandy dune, to find the dirtiest, blackest water a swamp could ever produce, just wide enough for my Mistral to fit. “This is it” exclaimed Karl. “No its not, this is the opening to a swamp” was my retort. A few minutes of debate, and the challenge took the best of us. We went for it.

We jumped out. I was in the front pulling, Karl in the back pushing, moving a few feet at a time. Neck deep, convinced that I was covered in leeches. I used my paddle to push off the floor and use my back to raise the branches of the dense bushes so that Karl could push the canoe forward. We continued this pattern as twilight came close to becoming night. At some point, I realized I was standing under a wasp nest, but luck was on our side, and they were not aggravated enough to attack. After that close call, I told Karl that I had enough. We jumped out into the dense woods. I looked around, but there was no ground to lay the tent. We had a smoke and contemplated our situation. In our despair, and with no option coming to mind, we heard a car. Somewhere through these woods, was a road. We moved through the woods, tying markers to trees to find our way back to the gear, and slowly brought all of it to the road.

As soon as all our gear was there, Karl kissed the dirt road, as if it was made of sugar. I crashed on the floor, and finished the little water we had left, as I could feel the headache of dehydration taking over. As I was lethargic, Karl was driven by adrenaline, zipping around, finding wood for a fire. We agreed to camp on the road, and jog back somewhere in the morning. We realized that this road was the source of the sandy peninsula, blocking the stream, which was replaced by dense woods. There was no connecting stream, only overgrowth unto what was once water.

As it was getting dark, we saw headlights heading our way. A large pick up stopped, confused as to how a canoe ended up on a road which was nowhere near water. We explained our venture, and hitched a ride, gear included, to the Kondiaronk camping site. These 4 students, researching the repopulation of the yellow birch tree in clear cut areas, had saved us. The final reward came as gift in the shape of a silver bullet, filled with chilled beer: a moment of which I am convinced will never be equalled in my lifetime.
The rest of the trip was of no consequence. Everything seemed easy, and of little challenge. We fished for the following days, taking our time to complete the loop, ending with the wind at our back. We used the tent’s footprint as a sail, and zoomed the entirety of Jean Pere without one stroke of paddle.




.

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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 9:32 am 
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Thanks for contributing the great story, well written.

Quote:
My main motivation to experiment off the beaten path was not only excitement of the unknown, but mostly laziness.


I too have tried this sort of thing, for similar reasons, and always with similar (although less challenging) results. If you want to get somewhere, the portage is almost always the best bet. But the excitement is usually the untraveled route.

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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 9:55 am 
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Thanks for the excellent report. Funny, bright, and well written. Your writing renews my faith in the new generation. Well, not really! But your report is a refreshing read. I can imagine the fun of two young Turks on a break (well-earned? probably not!) from more civilized pursuits. I thought I heard echoes of Edwardian English public school and perhaps even "Chariots of Fire". (The ubiquitous "smoke" in between those annoying hurdling competitions.)
Thanks again.


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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 3:16 pm 
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Absolutely fantastic - well done - in both the doing and the telling.

My 1971 La Vérendrye map shows the stream and the route that you took as the official route. My 1989 map,however, shows what is now the route. The 1971 map doesn't even show the route over to Poulter.

Ah youth, Gerald and I quit before you and your buddy. Being old, I would have just spent my time helping out the 4 young ladies and to heck with exploring :D

If you're thinking of doing some more exploring of old routes, just drop me a note and I'll send you either paper or jpeg maps of whatever I have. Just use the email from the home page of my website.

And thanks for the prod. I only have one trip into LaV planned for this year. I have another idea/place that I have to explore as I want to solo trip from the very top to the very bottom of the Reserve ending at Le Domaine.

cheers and thanks,
Ted

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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 4:01 pm 
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Thanks for the comments guys.

Ted, consider this and ode to you and Gerald. I have spent much time reading both of your posts and learning from your experiences. Albeit, I must admit I might have blasphemed your name at some point during my escalade.

I have dreamt of encountering the mythical “all girl” trippers for many years. It was a shame to abandon such a rarity but I have to say that my fiancée wouldn’t approve.

I would love to do more exploring, especially if it comes recommended. As entertaining as recounting the tale may be, I doubt Karl would volunteer for the next one.

I also have many maps in digital format (high resolution scans and all of Quebec for the GPS). If you’re interested in anything, they are but a rapidshare link away.

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Last edited by gcc_mtl on February 20th, 2011, 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 8:42 pm 
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gcc_mtl,

Maybe some of these photos will look familiar to you.
Thanks for the trip report.
I tried to solo from Kondiaronk to Ajara in 2009 but the water was to low.


Ted and I clearing the way for you. :thumbup:

Image

Image
Image


Photo taken in 1972 by my wife just around that first bend where the rock wall is. That moose almost hit the rear of our canoe.

Image

2008 a familiar face descending the creek towards Antostagan.

Image

Good tripping,
Gerald

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PostPosted: February 20th, 2011, 9:06 pm 
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Thanks for the pics.
Kondiaronk to Ajara.. .through Lac des deux Iles?
Or is there a sneaky way I dont know about?

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PostPosted: February 21st, 2011, 11:39 am 
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gcc_mtl,

Ted and I were doing this route hoping that the Parc would reinstate it. However when we got to Ajara we realized that the new water levels in there since the road network was modified would make it impossible to reinstate that route. I have photos from the 70's and 80's at home showing the upper portion of Antotagan Creek with volumes of water. In those days there were only 2 short and one medium portage all the way between Lac Antostagan and Lac des Deux-Iles on that circuit named Circuit "D" at the time. It was a popular route.

Where you stopped at that road (Lac du Gabion) is where I stopped in 2009 coming in from Lac des Deux Iles. If you could have spent the night camped near that road (sand pit nearby) and put in the next morning on the other side of that road you would have had pretty clear going up to Deux-Iles and Kondiaronk.

Now if you want to try something of the same type next year how about looking up the old route of Ruisseau de La Loche further up in the more northern part of the park. You wont have to walk the portages, the black flies will carry you. :D

Gerald

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PostPosted: February 21st, 2011, 12:53 pm 
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Yes, Ruisseau de La Loche is the path that I'm hoping will take me from the top of Circuit 73 down to Circuit 35 with only a dip through the Dozois Reservoir. Circuit 35 to 16 and then up to Le Domaine via Circuit 10. There is only one occasionally done route from the 70s down to the 30s which is up through Rivière des Outaouais and then all the way down the Dozois Reservoir. I'm not a fan of the Dozois as an open canoe soloist so let's hope that the La Loche route is a go.

The only other way that I can think of is Petit lac des Baies to Lac Larive and Ward via Labrador then up to Circuit 35.

I'm hoping for 21 days total trip but will most likely take more food just in case.

I'm not sure how passable either route will be my plan is to check those two links this summer. If I can get one to link, it'll be straight shooting from then on.

Did I give you any hints on places to explore?

cheers Ted

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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 9:05 am 
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A well written entertaining trip report, and some great follow ups.

Thanks for sharing, with maps out I will re read it and dream/plan of trips to come in LaVerendrye.


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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 10:04 am 
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Gerald, Ted,

How do you guys chose what trips to take? I prefer looking on paper maps, as to see the entire trip at once, something not possible on the GPS. La Verendrye has a sizeable portion of the park missing, aka, not on paper, especially Reservoir Dozois. Where is map #3? It feels like it should be there.

I was looking to combine Circuit 34 (map 2) into Circuit 15 (map 1) via the lakes Lac Mallard, Lac de la Rocaille and into Lac Idle (just above the Poulter Sepaq Camping site). This would revome a decent portage from the trip. Im not sure if Baies des Rapides connects back into 34 at the end though.

Do you have any interesting suggestions for exploration on these two maps?

pics from our trip
My first time using flickr, hope i did it right.

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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 12:14 pm 
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Hey great minds think alike!
A few years back, Gerald and I did a look-see at doing the same but using a slightly different path. Like your idea, ours was to check a Circuit 34 connector to Poulter.

Today's Circuit 34 heads southwest from Lac Moran to Lac Duman then Nizard, etc. My 1989 route map shows a route south from Lac Larouche to Poulter via Aigny, Fada, Imelda, Ernee, Hamelet and Jackie then into the smallish NW arm of Poulter.

That 1989 route area was logged some time ago. From the moraine between Morane and Imelda, the portages are gone so bushwhacking is a must. At the other end, the old port sign is still there at the NW arm of Poulter. Gerald headed up the old path which ended in logging brush, blueberries and bears feeding on the blueberries. So next time pre-berry July would be a good time to explore.

This is another one of my projects unless you beat me to it with either your route idea or the 1989 one. I can't explore my ideas until early August.

I get a kick of the old 1968, 1975? and 1989 circuit maps as they seem to go everywhere the modern circuits don't.
If you like bushwhacking and lost routes, La Vérendrye is a blast.

I sit at home playing with paper maps and with Oziexplorer. That and using the old maps for ideas. Good way to spend the winter when not winter camping and Xcountry skiing.

Have fun.
Ted

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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 12:29 pm 
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Not sure how they decide which maps to print and sell. They don't have a large pool of cash. I just keep buying what they have as I keep wearing mine out.

There used to be a route from Larouche, Aigny, Brotel, under Highway 117 to Lac Taiga and into Baie des Rapides.

Another old one was Lac Emela to Lac Rettie under 117 and then into Baie des Rapides.

hth,
Ted

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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 1:46 pm 
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Hey Ted,

I just spent the last 2hrs looking at the path you're suggesting. I like it better than the one I initially thought of because it has existed in the past, and there is significantly less marshes.

If the path is blocked between Moran and Imelda, cant you follow the current route into Quenelle, then Urubu, which then goes into Imelda. The problem I have is that between Imelda and Ernee there is a large waterless gap.

As for the other end, I have gone bushwaking there years ago. I remember it very well, but do not remember seeing the second opening Gerald went to. As I headed down towards Lac du Lagan, I saw the biggest beaver dam of my life. In fact, to this day Im not completely convinced it wasnt a man made structure, as it was at least 2 feet taller than me.

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PostPosted: February 22nd, 2011, 6:38 pm 
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Exploring on map before a trip is great fun.

I won't say blocked - more bushwhacking,brush and zigzagging - than anything else. There are the remnants of a logging road on the moraine. Walking south on it might get you a tad closer to Imelda or maybe a little friendlier bushwhacking.
The moraine seemed like a regular bear highway with lots of fresh bear scat so I'd never think of tenting there. If it wasn't for the poop, it would have been a perfect campsite.

I haven't a clue what lays between Imelda, the little lakes and the Poulter arm other than the area that Gerald saw from the Poulter end.

More exploring needs to be done, that's for sure.

Ted

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