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PostPosted: April 21st, 2010, 10:49 am 
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Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 4044
Location: Toronto
Ed note:
This is pknoerr's report; I'm just posting it for him.


UPPER MISSINAIBI RIVER 2008

Part 1 of 2.



Wednesday July 2, 2008
As with all adventures sometimes getting out the door is plenty of adventure itself. Laura and I were in the final stages of packing. We had all the meals together, all the clothes packed, the boat was in it’s bag and ready to go. I planned to come home from work and load everything this evening. But we were in for a little change of plans. On the way home we drove through a big rain, which had followed another huge rain two hours before. I called to talk with my Mom, as my Dad had been having intestinal problems for several days, and the doctor’s were thinking about operating. Mom, said that things weren’t moving as the doctors wanted and thus Dad would have surgery to remove the blockage. This brought a number of conflicting feelings as I felt I should be home incase of problems, but 6 other people were relying on Laura and I and we had months of preparation for this trip. Then about 8 PM it started raining again. This one was something to remember. I said something to Laura to look at how hard it was raining outside, but she was busy balancing her checkbook, and making sure all was in order. Soon she looked out the front door and noticed that Jackson Street was flooded. I quick stripped off my shoes and ran out to see if the storm catch basins were flooded, but there was nothing covering the grates, but worse yet no water was flowing in. That meant only one thing… the storm sewers were full of water!! Cars were still trying to drive through, and creating wakes that lapped against the concrete slab at the bottom of our front steps. I ran into the basement to see if water was flowing into the basement, but we only had dampness. So I went back out front. Laura tried to redirect traffic as cars were nearly stalling in the 18 inch deep water. Fortunately within 20 minutes the storm sewers began to drain the street. Unfortunately, the newly installed grass, and all the landscaping we had placed around the new trees in our boulevard were washed up onto the sidewalk.

Thursday July 3, 2008
I had planned to go to work, but with the front of our lawn and landscaping gone, plus not being able to get the car loaded I decided to go to work late, and Laura and I would leave directly from the office to go north up US-131. We cleaned up the front lawn, loaded the car, and called the city to get the grass boulevard repaired and to dry out house out. IN addition, I called home and the surgery was still on, and Dad said that we should go on the trip, and Mom felt all would go well, and that maybe we should call before we left the US to see how the surgery later this afternoon went. At 3:30 PM we were headed north up 131 toward the bridge. We stopped in Gaylord at the Sugar Bowl for dinner and for Laura to buy fabric at the Ben Franklin before heading north up 75 and into the UP. We had made prior plans to meet up with Gary and his 15 year old daughter Irene at the Carp River State Forest Campground. Laura and I were putting up the tent when they arrived. With camp set, Laura collected some firewood, and Gary quickly fired up some dinner. I tried to call on Laura’s cell phone to see how the surgery went, but couldn’t get a signal. The fire provided scant relief from the mosquitoes, and soon after dark, we were off to the tents for sleep.

Friday July 4, 2008
We awoke and I boiled water for coffee, and Gary and Irene had a cold breakfast. We loaded the gear and headed north to Sault Ste. Marie. Laura and I stopped at the last gas station, and to call home. Mom said that surgery went fine, and that we should continue with our vacation. So we went over the International Bridge and into Canada. Laura and I stopped a to change money, then to buy the train tickets for Deb and Laura from Hearst to Hawk Junction, and finally to buy Red River cereal for one of our breakfasts. ON Church Street we saw Leo’s van with two canoes heading north, but lost them on our errand to buy the Red River. Then off we headed north. We stopped again at the Canadian Carver for smoked trout, and for Laura to buy a journal. I was feeling pressed for time, and hurried Laura too much, and we had a less than enjoyable drive through LSPP. Laura was vindicated when we passed Leo’s van in Wawa at the Subway, and then Gary’s car just before Hawk Junction. We arrived at the train station with Gary and Irene right behind us. I was finally able to eat some of the trout, but soon Leo’s van arrived.

We introduced and reintroduced the crew, and Gary, Leo and I set about finding out where we should camp. We talked to the Station Master, and she had no problems with us camping next to the station. So we unloaded the canoes and gear. Irene picked daisies from the field making a crown that ultimately ended up on Laura’s head. Soon a local stopped past to find out what we were doing, but was alarmed that we would think of camping there were some local bear issues. He quickly ran home to get his “bear banger.” For those who aren’t familiar it’s essentially a hand operated firearm that discharges a projectile that explodes hopefully scaring the bear away. Well in his enthusiasm to show us how they work, he thrust it into Irene’s hand. Irene fired it off, and suddenly I was inadvertently reacting before my brain even had time to realize what had happened. This fellow and Irene had aimed the bear banger towards the trees adjacent to the station. These weren’t very big trees and unfortunately the bear banger slammed against one of the branches and back towards the crew. One piece burned a hole in Deb’s rain jacket, and the rest exploded in my face!!! Thankfully I had my sunglasses on or we might have been making an emergency run back to the hospital in Wawa. But besides my eye being dry for a couple days, I was no real worse for the experience. With the cars unloaded, Deb, Gary and Laura were to head north up Highway 17 and Highway 631 to Highway 11. Then find an appropriate place to leave cars in Mattice and head back to Hearst for the 8:30 AM train tomorrow. I had made reservations at the Queen’s Motel for the ladies in Hearst.

With the cars gone, Leo and I set up our tents in the grass adjacent to the train station, and I began building the Pakcanoe, and then outfitting it for the lake portion of our trip. We had plenty of black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, and horseflies to swat while outfitting. Leo struck up a conversation with some fishermen headed further north to Oba, and talked them out of two cans of Bud Light. We finished getting our boats arranged and played “Catch Phrase” on John’s electronic toy. We talked to the station master about storing our food barrels in the station given the prior warnings we had regarding local black bears, and made sure we had our food locked up before she left. Leo and I set about clearing the portage trail located across the tracks from the station down to McVeigh Creek. Then we walked across the street to the Big Bear Tavern. We weren’t real sure that the establishment was still viable, but the “Open” light was illuminated. Once inside Irene realized that she didn’t have cash for lunch… but we rectified that, and I settled for a burger and a Blue. Leo and I opted to walk back up the road to check out the navigability of McVeigh Creek to Hawk Lake and the Hawk Creek exiting the lake. Both looked easily navigable, so we walked back to camp and watched the locomotives shuffle pulpwood cars and freight cars that had come in from the south and then haul the string of pulpwood cars back towards the south. Before it got real dark the bugs had us heading for our tents. I took a quick walk around the streets of Hawk Junction before heading for the tent myself.

Saturday July 5, 2008
I awoke early. My eye was bothering me, so I thought I’d leave my contacts out for a while, but opted for a walk down the ACR tracks. Soon I found myself crossing McVeigh Creek, and then Hawk Creek. Both were placid and inviting… I found myself eager to get the paddling portion of the trip under way. Upon walking back, I found Leo up, but the station was still locked, and he couldn’t get to their food, or worse yet, his coffee. Fortunately, I had packed my french press in my pack with a small bag of coffee. I fired up the stove and soon we were enjoying coffee, while waiting for Laura, Deb and Gary to arrive via the train. We packed the tents and hauled the gear down to the creek. At around 11:30 we once again visited the Big Bear Hotel and Tavern for sandwiches before the train arrived. I called home, and talked with Mom. She said that everything was fine with Dad and we should enjoy our vacation. The station master said the train would be about 15 minutes late, but soon enough the train came into view and Laura was the first person off. Leo videotaped the arrival, and Laura did her final packing, and requested a beer. I wandered across the street and paid for the beer, but couldn’t take it out of the bar. So Laura had to walk back to finish her beer. Soon we were portaging the last of our gear across the RR tracks to the canoes, and launching on our two week adventure.

Within 10 minutes heading south we were crossing the east end of Hawk Lake, and swinging to the east into the Hawk Creek. The creek was very aesthetic, meandering through reeds and wetlands. Hawk Creek slowly widened into Blue Bay of Manitowik Lake. Manitowik Lake is part of the Michipicoten River that flows south into Lake Superior. We paddled the 18 tail wind aided kilometers up Manitowik Lake. As the lakeshores once again closed in around us we noted a small waterfall to the west that Laura suggested we go look at. But as we paddled west toward the shore Big Stoney Falls at the end of the lake came into view. Laura picked up the camera and shot pictures as we paddled up to the foot of the falls. We searched for the beginning of the portage, and Gary spotted an opening in the trees that ended up being the campsite. We unloaded the boats and found suitable locations for the four tents and the bug tent, and set about getting camp set for the evening. Leo opted to cook dinner of hearty beef soup with sausage and we completed dishes just as the sun was setting. The bug tent provided a welcome respite from the bugs, but all were tired so we were all soon in our tents.

Sunday July 6, 2008
Slowly camp came to life. We would begin our day with a portage around Big Stony Falls. I made breakfast of Red River hot cereal with strawberries, raisins, brown sugar, and nuts. Gary used his backpacker’s oven to make banana bread as well. We loaded the gear and did the portage to a short segment of the Micipicoten River proper. The water level was high, and we had some serious current to fight against so I climbed ashore and bushwhacked up river and found that the portage actually began just below Little Stony Falls. This required climbing some eddies and some ferries across the strong current. We all arrived at the portage safely but wondering how tricky the whitewater might be on the river ahead.

The portage was across a beautiful field of daisies, which Irene began fashioning into new crowns. Laura and I completed the portage, and then spent some time taking photos before launching onto the southern arm of Dog Lake and chasing down the other canoes.

We worked up Dog Lake in a solid tailwind trying to pitch from point to point hoping to make a short detour to see the pictographs located along the west side of Dog Lake. We stopped for a brief break behind and island before pitching across the western arm to head for the pictographs. The wind had slowly increased and the wind driven waves had increased to the point that the waves were catching us from behind and while we could surf down the face of the waves we were white knuckling it to cross diagonal to the waves. Laura and I ducked behind a point to wait for the other boats, and discussed taking a break and hoping for the wind to die down as evening approached. Fortunately, the next point had a campsite on it and despite virtually no good landing location in a strong tail wind we were able to get three canoes unloaded and on shore. Gary had opted to pass the point and not wanting to come back upwind, opted to camp on the opposite side of the point. We pulled out snacks, maps, and relaxed on our PFDs. John dug out his Ipod and mini speakers and we enjoyed a little music , naps, etc. The wind never let down, so as early evening approached we decided we would probably end up staying for the night. Laura braved the bugs cooking dinner back in the bushes to stay out of the wind. Laura had made a Korean barbeque called Bulgoki along with green beans and peas, freeze dried anchovies, and seaweed wraps. The adults and Irene enjoyed the beginning of our trip of meals around the world. We had chocolate pudding for desert for a second day. Then we cleaned dishes, and Laura and I popped up our tent up on the last remaining flat spot, before migrating off to bed.

Monday July 7, 2008
Laura got out of the tent, and told me that the wind was coming from the north. I climbed out and we realized that the wind was increasing. We opted to skip breakfast and packed quickly hoping to get to a more wind protected portion of Dog Lake. We realized that this meant we wouldn’t see the pictographs as we had hoped. As Laura and I were loading our canoe, Gary and Irene came around the point aided by the growing tailwind from the north. Gary too had realized that the wind direction had changed 180 degrees and we needed to move. With all the boats on the water, Laura and I set our course north east to duck behind a small island just north of a point, and then via a series of crossings we were able to ultimately find a little less wind so we could continue our progress to the east. Dog Lake is a large lake with many convoluted arms with long fetch distances that can make strong winds a common issue. Soon the Village of Missinaibie came into view. We opted not to stop, though a cold beer could have been our reward after 11 AM. We stopped just past the Canadian Pacific (CP) bridge and before crossing under 651 that provides road access to Missinaibie for a late breakfast/brunch. It’s been an overcast windy day, and Laura and I opt to fire up the stove for some coffee. Dog Lake starts to get real convoluted near it’s eastern end, creating two significant bays; Hay Bay and Fifty-Seven Bay. Here the lake is narrow enough that paddling against the wind isn’t too difficult when the sinuous lake makes us paddle toward the northeast. Fifty-Seven Bay runs generally northeast, and slowly narrows until we spot a narrow slit in the reeds that marks the Height of Land Portage. It’s very mucky at the start, with several of us ending up slipping while unloading boats. But solidifies as we progress across. This portage marks the divide between the Michipicoten in St. Laurence drainage basin which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Missinaibi which flows into James Bay and ultimately the Arctic Ocean. We passed a group of four paddlers in two tandems heading west that had come down the Little Missinaibi, and had camped at the east end of Crooked Lake. The bugs were tough on the portage, and Laura and I and the Hochgrafs pushed off to get clear of the bugs and to create loading areas for the two other canoes amongst the timbers from a former building. Laura opted for a short nap in the canoe, and Gary found a place on the rocks across the narrow channel. We once again pushed into a slight headwind down Crooked Lake.

Laura and I stopped on a small island to stretch our sore legs, we scout the grassy campsite with the plywood table, and a pretty ugly boombox in the woods. I picked up cans and bottles from the firepit to hopefully dispose of tomorrow at the Missinaibi Provincial Park. Our crew appeared tired from the long day of battling wind and waves, but part of the crew wanted to camp at the campsite at the east end of Crooked Lake that was recommended by the crew we had passed. Ultimately, the vote was to stay at the decent site on the island. We set up our tents, and Nate the Arsonist starts a twig fire on the rock near the boats. John took it upon himself to disassemble the boombox and Nate combusted that, while I located a few TP blooms for burning as well. We all took baths while Leo offered to lighten his packs by making chicken with rice. We had desert of strawberry cheesecake and settled around the relative bug free zone around the fire. Slowly the physical toll of the day drew us all to our sleeping bags.

Tuesday July 8, 2008
During the night it began raining, I most of the clothes off the line and went back to bed. I awoke to the smell of pancakes cooking, but opted to stay in the bag for a few minutes. It started to rain again, and I wasn’t going anywhere, so I drifted back off to sleep. The rain slacked off in the mid morning, and Leo got back to cooking pancakes again. We packed up the wet tents, and loaded the canoes hopeful that the wind wouldn’t build before we got onto Missinaibi Lake so we could see the pictographs at Fairy Point.

We started up Crooked Lake into a small headwind, it was humid with mist in the air, and threatened to rain several times. Laura tried to dip her lure for some elusive fish, but despite a few nibbles on Laura’s “Hot Little Number,” no fish were hauled into the canoe. Eventually, our need to cover a little distance won out and we paddled down to the Missinaibi Portage. The portage began on a cobble bar, and the bugs were terrible at the launch. So we quickly gathered our stuff and pushed off from shore. The bugs followed us for several hundred feet, and with the wind dying the water was dead flat. I pumped a couple water bottles and with the bugs bad we pulled up to an exposed rock island just of the end of the portage. Soon we were all ready to attempt a visit to Fairy Point. Missinaibi Lake is a HUGE lake, and we were fortunate enough to have dead flat conditions. We headed southeast pitching from point to point, eventually passing the bright red rocks of Red Granite Point. Laura lamented that we had arrived at such a beautiful place on such a beautiful calm day and couldn’t stop to camp. But Fairy Point awaited across the lake. Fairy Point holds incredible significance to the First Nation People who have historically visited the area. It’s the meeting point of the three main bays (Baltic to the northeast, Barclay to the east, and South Bay to the southwest) of the 25 mile long Missinaibi Lake. Often the wind and waves prevent a visit to the pictographs, and deaths, both modern and ancient, have been the results of a visit on the wrong day to Fairy Point. But today, the ancient gods were with us, and we reverently approached the sheer cliffs. We silently ghosted along taking in the hundreds of red ochre figures on the vertical walls. Laura had brought along numerous individual red tobacco ties, and we added them to those that we saw in the small crevices from prior visitors. With the dead calm waters we were able to leisurely paddle right up for an up close and very personal look. After our fill, we headed south across the main body of Missinaibi Lake as we opt to quick look at the less visible pictographs at Reva Point.

The wind has picked up while doing the 10 minute crossing from Fairy Point, so we opt to keep moving down Missinaibi Lake to our proposed campsite at “Whitefish Falls.” As a crew we all are ready for a little sun, and some R&R, but we have a few more miles to camp. Laura and I sing “100 Bottles of Beer” to keep our minds from wandering, as the waves build. Slowly we reel in the protected water of the pool that the Little Missinaibi River flows into Missinaibi Lake. At first we can’t find the campsite because I recall seeing the campsite on Haps’ Little Missinaibi detail map, but it was not on the Missinaibi Lake map I had brought with me. This was further antagonized by the very obvious marking of “NO CAMPING” on the point between the bay and the lake. But soon Laura spied the telltale orange campsite sign right of the falls. A quick survey of the site illustrated that it would be a tight fit, but we had a picnic table, a fire ring and a nice clean maintained boombox. Laura and I camped on the beach near the canoe launch, and dried out not only the tent, but our clothes and sleeping bags as well. I did a little hike exploring and taking photos along Whitefish Falls. Gary was on dinner duty, and prepared a welcome meal of tacos replete with dried corn tortillas, refried beans (refrittos), taco seasoned TVP, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and onions……Very good, and welcome, sure to be added to a future trip. Leo and John headed out fishing, and Laura took her rod and casted some as well. Nate, Irene and Gary frolicked about upsetting the canoe in the tailwaters off Whitefish falls prior to the upcoming river portion of our canoe trip. Laura and I ended up exploring the bay, and found the faint pictographs, some huge dock spiders, lots of blue flag irises and chased two beavers across the bay. They were hauling greens for their young who were squeeking away in the lodge. We canoed past John and Leo who had numerous bites, and John “the fish whisperer” was having a field day catching. Laura borrowed a green jig and got a few bites, but struggled to set the hook. The sun was setting, so we all headed back toward camp for desert, before heading to our tents for a well deserved sleep.

Wednesday July 9, 2008
We slowly all emerged from our tents. Unfortunately, we realized yesterday that Gary had misunderstood that he was also to have breakfasts for the crew. But that wasn’t a worry, because Leo had a bunch of extra oatmeal packages, and we had some extra muffins we could contribute. We heartily dug into the oatmeal for breakfast, and with only dew on the tent fly, we packed the canoes for a windy ride up Missinaibi Lake. On the way out of the bay, we pointed out the pictographs, and started heading northeast. Did I mention, Missinaibi Lake is a big lake? We followed the south shore with hopes of finding a trash receptacle for the trash Laura and I had carried from out Crooked Lake Island campsite. The tailwind made the trip both easier, but trickier too. We passed a Canadian Flag on a point placed by the Provincial Park folks, and eventually found refuge in the mouth of Snake Arm Bay. We landed on a nice sandy beach near a picnic table. Laura and I set off to dispose of the trash, and found the campground and a nice couple willing to take our trash to the garbage. Then we headed back to the crew for our lunch of salmon steaks and slightly moldy pita. Oddly, the white pita molded, and the whole wheat stayed fresh longer.

Once refueled, we set off for our last stretch of lake paddling to Quittagene Rapids. We opted to cross Barclay Bay at a slight narrowing to the north side to take advantage of some potential protection from the wind. The side bays were all pretty big, and some were large enough to have their own wind funneling effect, so about 3/4s across the bay we’d pick up wind driven waves coming from behind us, as well as from about 45 degrees from straight behind us. We took a shore leg stretch break and crossed Last Bay towards the Narrows. Laura wanted to check out the old Logging Site on the south side of the lake, so at the Narrows, the Hochgrafs and us snuck through the sedges towards the southeastern shore. Laura spied a sign, which ultimately said that the area was “closed” so we rejoined the other canoes. As we were just about to the end of Lake Missiniabi, we saw thunderheads approaching from the west. Laura and I hit high gear, as we couldn’t find a good landing location and pitched for a beach on the opposite shore of a small bay. We landed just after the rain started, quickly donning raincoats, as the other canoes followed. Gary was already struggling with Deb’s parenting style as he landed onshore. I walked/waded around the point to avoid any parenting conversations that I wanted nothing to do with, and could see the sedges marking the end of the lake, and within 10 minutes the rain had diminished, and we saddled up to round the point and locate our campsite above Quittagene Rapids. Paddling out of Missinaibi Lake was oddly reminiscent of paddling out of Steel Lake last summer. The campsite wasn’t nearly as nice as we had hoped, nor as nice as the one on the north end of Steel Lake. The takeout was muddy, the mossies were so thick you could taste them. There were four obvious tent spots that were recently occupied the night before, but the rain made all the grass wet, and it was somewhat futile to change to dry shoes in camp. We quickly set up Leo’s bug tent to combat the thousands of mosquitoes, and smudge fire helps keep the bugs at bay. We were obviously on a river for the first camp of the trip. We can look across and actually see things on the opposite shore. The Missinaibi is relatively small here at the end of the lake. Leo cooks spaghetti with chocolate mousse for dinner. Laura, Leo, Gary and I grab Leo’s two canoes and paddle across the river to the portage trail to scout tomorrows rapids. The map depicts the rapids as a straightforward run, but also states that a number of canoes upset in this first rapid. I’m excited to be running whitewater again, but it’s immediately evident that Laura is really nervous. We scouted the rapids, and it’s very straightforward just following the Vees in the river, but the high water makes the standing waves a little interesting. We talk about whether we will run it or walk it as we walk back to the boats. We can see boats in the campsite below, and wonder if we will encounter more canoes now that we are in the Provincial Park. Laura and I paddle up the river a little playing in the current while trying to talk out our nervousness of running a few rapids tomorrow. Leo and I start to reminisce about rapids we have run, swims we’ve had, boats we own, etc. around the campfire. Laura feels left out of our “Rocker and Chine” conversation, and begins about a half a day of heightened emotions among the entire crew as we are all trying to get some sleep.

Thursday July 10, 2008
I had re-hydrated our egg scramble, the night before, so I warmed it up for breakfast with coffee while once again enjoying the relative lack of mosquitoes in the bug tent. I’m not fully happy with the eggs, but it gets us started, and we’re still a little damp from the on and off sprinkles. So the wet start, and impeding nervousness of the rapids has everyone on edge, but the sun is burning through the clouds. We looked over the rapids again, and one by one do the run, passing the group still camped below the rapids. Laura is nervous and doesn’t enjoy the rapids. We talk about pulling out and paddling back to the Provincial Park, because Laura isn’t sure she is up to the rest of the river. We paddle the short distance downstream to Cedar Rapids, which we scout, and John volunteers to photo us in the rapids. Laura is still nervous, but we run the rapids fine, but she and I are really struggling to communicate. Gary tries to play negotiator, but feelings are pretty raw in our boat. We drift behind, and try to deal with the rapids, along with the life struggle fears that emerge as well. Unfortunately, all the talking surely spooks the abundant moose population as we pass the Hay River. Deb has some pretty strong feelings as well, and we have a floating group meeting. Deb confronts Gary about his criticism of her parenting style, says the lakes were more than expected suggests they pull off at Peterbell Crossing 18 miles downriver. I have concerns with Laura’s confidence, and Laura doesn’t really want to paddle with me. Leo struggles with aborting a trip he’s dreamed of and put months of planning into. But slowly hurt feelings subside some. We run several small washed out Class Is, and talk our way through Long Rapids

We approach Sun Rapids, two drops with big standing waves and strong eddy lines and once again finding the portage on river left above the rapids is difficult due to the high water. We pulled ashore well before the rapids, and found the beginning of the portage. Gary boat scouted, and they and the Hummels started to run the upper pitches. Laura was once again unnerved by the rapids, and when Gary and Irene completed the run, Irene volunteered to run the rapids with me. We walked back up the portage, and snuck through the rapids following Gary’s route without problems, but all the boats bottomed out in the right channel in the lower drop, while discussions after seemed to suggest the left channel was more distinct at this level. I quickly set about moving the bow seat back and the stern seat forward to create more rocker for the remaining rapids. We set off downriver, stopping at a series of rocks in the middle of the river where Irene found mint. It’s a pretty quiet lunch… but things are slightly on the mend. We run several class Is and small class IIs, with Laura and I working better as a team, and picking a nice clean run through to lead the crew. We approach Barrel Rapids and confidence that we all have the skills to do this trip emerge. We face nearly 8 kilometers of flatwater to Peterbell and separate out. Laura’s confidence has buoyed up, and we are back to a strong team. The kilometers wane towards Peterbell, and we are all unsure of who will end their trip, and who will continue to Mattice. The clouds start to close in again… and it’s getting darker and the red nose of a locomotive erupted from the dark green of the forest jus as the Canadian National (CN) bridge loomed ahead.

We pulled over to scout the campsite just before the bridge, and Leo said that they wanted to continue for the rest of the trip, if we would have them. So we put a lot of individual feelings on the side, with the realization that together we were a stronger team than apart. We passed beneath the bridge on the second half of our Missinaibi adventure, and are greeted by a very brief rain shower. Almost immediately below Peterbell Crossing, we enter a vast marsh known as the Peterbell Marsh. Vast wetlands and marshlands stretched for kilometers on both sides of the river, and the clouds pass overhead letting tendrils of sun to burn through. The map states that a good campsite exists on a bedrock shelf. Leo I look in all directions and I can’t fathom exposed bedrock in this massive swamp. But soon the river opens, and a massive exposed bedrock mass looms beyond the reeds on river right. We pull into camp with the sun burning through the rain clouds and our spirits buoyed for the river ahead. The campsite is a maze of excellent tent sites, with rock access to the canoes, and nice community space for the bug tent. We set up tents, hung out clothes to dry, assembled the bug tent, and pumped community drinking water. Within 15 minutes of landing two red solo canoes paddled with double blades passed the campsite out in the river Laura, Deb and Gary identified them as the Czech guys they had med on the train. Nearly everyone took advantage of the rocks for a bath, some swimming, and even some jumping into the pools surrounding the bedrock. Leo wanted to lighten his load for the upcoming portages, and prepared pasta with chicken for dinner, and Gary made chocolate cake. Something was obviously amiss when one by one people disappeared from the bug tent, leaving only me inside. The crew surprises me with a candle on the cake, and a birthday card while singing Happy Birthday. We enjoy the cake with some mint tea made with the leaves Irene picked earlier in the day.

Despite the day’s struggles, I can’t think of a better place to spend my birthday rather than running rapids on a wilderness river with a group of people who share that passion. It seems that every long trip causes people to grate on eachothers nerves by illustrating our little faults, but also illustrating the compassion we all have and our ability to bury our smugness and unite as a team that is much stronger together than apart. Laura led the group in a journey around the campfire while the sunset among the clouds for a beautiful evening, before we all head off to bed.

Friday July 11, 2008
We awoke to a thick mist over the marsh. Leo and I enjoyed the quiet of the morning in the bug tent while making coffee while the sun burned the mist off. Breakfast? Granola?
Laura was moving slowly, and wanted a rest day. But given the bugs most of the rest of the crew was ready to move along. We loaded the boats and reluctantly left what would surely be the most memorable campsite of the trip. Just beyond our site was a second smaller bedrock exposure, that the solo canoeists had camped at. We chatted briefly as they told us they planned to take a day off at this site before proceeding. We had over an hour of canoeing through this magical marsh before we crossed another bedrock exposure via rapids. This was prime moose habitat, and we were rewarded when we rounded a corner and spotted a cow and calf. Unfortunately, Gary inadvertently shouted “moose,” they spooked, and our encounter was too brief to get a photograph. Marsh Rapids was the first rapid, and Laura had a few apprehensions, but the rapids were straightforward and we dropped through the big Class II and four big class Is below with no issues. Soon we were at Allen Island. We weren’t sure which side would be better, but we decided to try the northern channel firs because the portage was shorter. But a large log jam, and no evident portage persuaded us to try the southern channel. The chutes were a big class III that looked pretty run-able, and I’d have been pretty interested in running in a solo with floatation. The portage trail looked pretty well used, so while Laura walked the trail, I pulled out the left over hummus from yesterdays lunch and salmon with bagels. Upon completing lunch I grabbed the canoe and ported. Two sizeable downed trees created obstacles on the portage, but sure looked easier than bush-whacking a portage on the north side of the island.

Just around the corner from Allen Island was Wavy Rapids. Hap’s book describes Wavy Rapids as having some rather large standing waves below the drop. Our scouting illustrated that the high water made the haystacks pretty intimidating. Prior to running the rapids we checked out the campsite at the bottom of the rapids because the next moderately decent campsite would either require us running the Class III Greenhill Rapids or doing the 1.5km portage. We decided that the campsite was good, and we would run the rapids and make camp for the night. The run wasn’t technical, just down the vee and ride out the haystacks. Deb sat on a rock to shoot videos of the canoes running Wavy Rapids. Gary and Irene took the first shot, and ran the vee then skirted off the side of the big rollers for a clean run. They got some air, but seeing how easy Gary and Irene ran the rapid, Laura was ready to go, but while we ported all the packs but mine, Leo was all ready to “run it right down the schnout!!!”, and we decided to watch his run first. He and Nate went for a wild ride off the first wave, but eventually they flipped on the fourth or fifth wave. This unnerved Laura, and brought about further apprehension. Leo and Nate righted their canoe, and Leo ran through with John with no problems, and Gary and Irene carried up and reran the rapids. After nearly everyone had run the rapids twice, Laura’s confidence returned and we ran the rapids right down the middle. After eddying out Laura was ready for a second run, but we were on dinner duty this evening, so we set up our tent, and hung out our gear and got the bug tent up. It was off to Morocco tonight for dinner with Poulet du Citron, Israeli couscous, and a carrot salad. The kids built a fire and we sat around for a while before migrating to the tent to write in our journals. Leo and I decided to brew a short pot of coffee, but soon we were all off to sleep.

_________________

A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



Last edited by Allan Jacobs on April 21st, 2010, 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: April 21st, 2010, 10:51 am 
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Paul's file was larger than 60,000 characters and so I had to split it.

UPPER MISSINAIBI RIVER 2008

Part 2 of 2.


Saturday July 12, 2008
In the dark of very early morning rain drops were heard on the tent fly. I awoke to make sure that the main door was closed. Laura rolled over to ask what I was doing. We went back to sleep. The rain slacked off, and Laura discovered that the secondary door fly zipper wasn’t zipped and her sleeping bag got a little damp. we crawled from the tent for breakfast. Once again we pack up the tent fly wet!!!! Unfortunately, we’ll probably be portaging today. So we loaded up the gear and said goodbye to Wavy Rapids. After 5 clicks of flatwater, and two small swifts we landed on river left at a grassy patch that is marked as a small campsite above the Greenhill Portage. Greenhill Rapids is a long rapids that is impossible to scout, and Hap’s notes say that the initial Class III can be very large at Spring Levels. We opt as a group to do the portage, so Laura and I grab our portage packs. The portage begins with a steep climb but then gets boggy real quick. It’s wet and the sun breaks through so it gets muggy to go with a few bugs. We walk through the muck for quite a distance before the footing solidifies, eventually the canopy begins to open and we come out into an opening with a decent campsite. Then it’s back for the canoe and food barrel. We note gear dropped along the way by others to lighten their load. Upon completing the portage, I grabbed the camera to get a few portage pictures, but most came out slightly blurry. As Leo was disappearing into the woods I asked where they were regarding packs at the top. He said there were still two. I continued to head back, and grabbed one of the packs. On the way back, I met “Portage Stud” John heading back for the last one. Unfortunately, John paid for his heroic effort with some blisters that nagged him for the rest of the trip. For most of the crew it was three trips for 4.5 km, but for John and I we logged a hearty 5 trips for 7.5 clicks of portaging before lunch. We loaded up the boats and slid off into the river again to escape the bugs. As we drifted out from the launch area looking upstream we saw the Green Hill river coming in from the right and the Missinaibi from the left. I sure wish we could have atleast scouted the rapids… but we’ll have to leave that for the next trip!!!

Back on the river we were soon at Calf Rapids, which had some good sized waves, but presented no problem, but then slide into St. Peter Rapids. St. Peter wasn’t any bigger than Calf Rapids, but had a decent sized roller wave across the entire channel. Laura looked at it and opted not to run it. Leo looked at it as well and decided to line. So we did the same… Gary and Irene carried their gear around the rapids, and then set up to run through empty. Turned out our fears of the roller wave were unfounded, but as Leo likes to repeat from his friend Greg Riemer, “You always take the dry line.” We stopped to pump some drinking water, and for lunch. While we were finishing lunch we met a guy from Collingwood traveling solo in a Novacraft Prospector. He hadn’t been running any of the Class II’s but he was making good time nonetheless with long days on the water.

Back on the water we headed down river picking our way through a couple more Class Is with waves we would call big class II’s at home in Michigan. Then Split Rock Falls loomed ahead. We unloaded the boats, and passed through a pretty nice campsite overlooking the falls. It had been a long day, and Greenhill had taken it’s toll, plus we would have 8 more kilometers to the next marked campsite. So we opted to set up camp for the night and dry out from the morning rain and the wet portage. Split Rock looks harmless enough at the top, but narrows up as it slices through a narrow canyon with one place where the main channel runs into the sidewall, making a very abrupt turn. It’s probably runnable in a playboat, but you’d better be real comfortable with dealing with a potential canoe canyon wall impact. The solo paddler passed us on the portage trail, and soon the Czech guys came up the trail and planned to camp on the driftwood strewn beach at the bottom of the portage trail. Laura and Irene grabbed a quick bath, followed by Gary and I. I During lunch Gary had suggested to John, Nate and Irene that they prepare the couscous dinner he had brought. While our gear dried out, Laura took a nap, and I explored along the falls taking pictures. I also talked to our neighbors, who were paddling Novacraft Supernovas (one stock and one modified in width). They had lined the top of Greenhill and paddled the lower stretches. Leo also talked to them and found out that they this was their second time on the Missinaibi and that they had done the Moisie and had upset in some of the rapids. Soon under Gary’s tutelage the couscous was prepared, but Nate and John opted for macaroni and cheese instead. Leo pulled out the whiskey which soothed sore muscles from the day of heavy carrying.

Sunday July 13, 2008
Laura and I were slow to get up this morning, and the others were already taking down tents as we quickly ate oatmeal. But our gear came together pretty quick and we were the first boat loaded. So I helped Leo and the boys load up, while Deb extracted details from her Czech friends. Today would likely involve only one portage and miles of flatwater. We headed downriver for a few kilometers before we could hear Thunder Falls. Pretty appropriate name as they can be heard for a good distance up river. We skirting in tight along the river right shore, scouring the bank for the portage. We were almost on top of the portage before we could see the sign. There was a steep mud bank that required unloading the canoe from in the water and hoisting the packs up onto the shore. We unloaded quickly and got the boat out of the way for the other boats. Laura and I quickly completed the portage, and loaded up among an extensive floating jam of logs. We tried to check out the falls from off the portage trail, but Laura suggested we paddle across the river to the huge exposed bedrock. We found a beautiful mossy crevice to park the canoe, and shot pictures of Thunder Falls and the rest of the crew completing their portage. Laura and I grabbed a quick snack of granola bars and dehydrated nectarines and raisins, while Gary and I extracted a plastic campsite sign from a cedar tree that had been downed and was floating in the pond below the rapids. The Wisconsin portion of our crew opted to stop at a campsite across the river just below the falls for their shore break. We headed over to join them, and they took videos of us as we approached. We decided to take a group photo with Thunder Falls in the background.

Another couple of clicks and we were approaching the Fire River. Hap’s guides indicated that the falls just up the Fire River were scenic and that there was a hunter’s cabin. Laura and I talked the rest of the indifferent crew into checking it out. Just below a small ledge drop, we found a ATV trail through the mosquito infested woods to the trapper’s cabin. The cabin was in sound condition, but it appeared that nothing had been put away. There was a reasonably new outboard in a storage shed. Laura and I continued following the trail to the Fire Falls. I set about making baba ganouj for bagels, while Laura picked a bouquet of flowers and took pictures. It was a wonderful scenic place for peaceful lunch. Upon completing lunch we were just about to begin walking the trail back to the canoe, when Laura realized she didn’t have her hat or her bug net. We searched our lunch spot, and where she was picking flowers to no avail. During the search I gouged my led on a rock. Seems that either the wind or the forest fairies stole her hat as it wasn’t to be found anywhere!!! Back at the canoe we found the Wisconsin boats had left, and Gary and Irene had grabbed our fishing pole but the jig had lodged in the rocks. Unfortunately, the jig too would need to be left in the Fire River. Laura and I had been lobbying for interest in doing the Brunswick portage and exploring Brunswick Lake and the Brunswick River. But there is little interest in doing the 1.5 km portage, so we press on down the Missiniabi River. Oddly enough the Missinaibi has a pretty significant gradient, but almost all the elevation drop seems to occur in rapids as the flatwater stretches of the river itself have only limited current. It’s all nicely forested, and traveling along we see lots of red-winged blackbirds, mergansers, the occasional loon, and the common call of the white throated sparrow. In addition, we see evidence of moose, and what we believe was a river otter swimming in the shadows along the shore. Unfortunately, there are few rocks, or other geographical features for many kilometers.

We eventually come down to a rapids around a long rock shelf into the river marked as Class I on the maps. There were significant haystacks, but of greater interest, a very large raptor with mottled white and black markings lifted off from just below the ledge. Unfortunately, we were running the rapids, and could only glance, but believe it was an osprey. We decided to camp here because no campsites marked ahead, and with a party of 8, we couldn’t camp just anywhere. Once again, we set about pitching tents, the bug tent, and hanging out clothes. “Iron Man” John works hard to rebuild his blistered feet with Second Skin as we get ready for dinner. Gary is on for dinner this evening and we are visiting China tonight, with cellophane noodles and stir fried vegetables, and a meal Gary’s dad taught him of tuna mushroom cashew sauce over rice. It was a hearty dinner, that was well enjoyed by all. Once again we get drizzles forcing us to pull our not totally dry clothes off the line. No boom box here… first time since our third night out, and seems everyone is finding themselves off swatting skeeters while visiting the woods.

Monday July 14, 2008
Today is going to be a big flatwater day. I look at Leo’s pre-production Crismar Map. They have the rapids we are at listed as Lonesome Rapids. Seems appropriate as there aren’t any rapids for many miles upstream or down. We’ve got approximately 38 kilometers to the next marked campsite at Two Portages Rapid. Leo cooks egg scramblettes with mushrooms fro breakfast. They come out really tasty. Gary has made whole wheat bread as well. We load into the boats and start clicking off miles. I can’t help but wonder how pretty the view might be from the island on Brunswick Lake, or what the rapids in the Brunswick River are like. It’s a long slog, with each turn pretty, but the forest is pretty dense, and beyond the evidence that Moose cross the road, and some old linear clearings that have long overgrown that are oddly marked with dashed lines on the topographical map. I wonder as well what these were… old logging roads that were used in the winter when the river froze? snowmobile trails? We never found a suitable terrestrial location for lunch, so we rafted together and dug into the food barrels. A brief shower again brought out rain jackets. But it too was short lasting.

Soon we again were back on the river. The wind blows from the north, and we seek windbreaks along the shore to ease the paddling. Kilometer after kilometer we paddled down river, with only a couple small swifts to break up the day. Eventually, we reached a wooden decked bridge with huge steel armor to protect the bridge from ice floes during melt. I got out and climbed to the bridge to stretch my legs and wave at our Wisconsin crews as they passed below us. Haps maps say that an old logging camp exists on the east side of the river near the bridge, but nobody wants to stop….

We still have lots miles to go. Laura wants to get this stretch done so she and I push out ahead, we pass and island and consider sneaking through along the shore. We round the corner and see canoes rafted up where the map depicts that the Brunswick River comes out. One, two, three, four….. nope, 5 canoes of young boys!!! Uh-oh! We’ve got tight quarters tonight!!! So Laura and I keep the turbines running and paddle past on the inside of the river bend. One canoe breaks off, but we keep paddling. They realize we’re not stopping, and call off. “Are you camping at Two Portages? Yep, we reply. They say that they are a large group and wonder if we’ll camp at the bottom of the rapids. We both know that the map depicts the better site at the top. I replied that we are a bigger party as well and we can sort it out at the campsite when we see the campsites. Laura and kick in what afterburners we still have after nearly 36 clicks on the river. The five canoes tuck in behind us, but aren’t gaining, but we’re not going to be able to run this fast for too long. But Laura’s upfront saying something like… “I’m not giving up a flat campsite to a bunch of young boys, after paddling 38 kilometers of dead flat water….. “

We hit the beach, and Laura grabbed her pack to at least make a bid for the campsite. We haven’t seen the rest of our crew for over an hour now. We look at the upper site… it’s big enough for one party, but when I look at the lower site there is almost no room at the bottom. I also look at the end of the shorter portage to below the first drop, and there is a beach with room for some tents, but it’s not that big either. I met up with the leader of the group. He’s from Chicago, and goes to Yale. He’s leading a “Canoe Camp” grounp from a camp located in Temagami, who came off the Budd Car at Shumka and up the Little Missinaibi. I told him that there isn’t much room for camping, and we could all make room on the large upper site, and the beach below. They scouted the lower site and made room for all their tents at the bottom of the rapids. Laura and I assembled our tent, and I hauled the canoe up on shore, and spied our first canoe coming in.

We explained what had happened, and set up our camp. Gary and Irene walked down to talk to the other campers and found out that two of the boys were from Ann Arbor, Michigan. With the bug tent up, Leo makes tortellini for dinner, and we get a chance to dry out again in the sunlight, and do a little sightseeing out on the rock island. Nate makes a fire in the rock fireplace for me to cook a pan of bannock, but attempts to burn a wet towel essentially kill the fire for baking. After the towel is finally completely combusted, I can resume baking, but the bannock never fully cooks correctly. We migrate off to bed dead tired.

Tuesday July 15, 2008
Once again it has rained in the morning… everything is wet!!! We get up. Leo has a headache… Gary has made berry muffins, and Laura and I finish the remains of our granola. We pack up. We have Pond Falls to portage and then Devil Cap and Devil Shoepack complex of rapids to negotiate. Both Pond and Devil Cap are big ledges, with short rocky portages. We load up and head down through the next fast stretch. Emotions are again coming into play. It’s obvious that Deb wants at any cost to get off the river a day early. Before we had left home, she had pressed that we modify the trip plans so that their family could participate in a long standing family gathering in the Porcupine Mountains. We stop on the rocky shore for a snack and to stretch our legs.

Laura is nervous about the Class IIs and Class II technicals ahead in Shoepack, and Z-Drag. But we pick on down through Devil Shoepack with no issues. But as we approach Rapid 36, a wide ledge running across the river, we’re not sure if we want to portage or try to run in. Gary, Irene, Laura and I nudge down to the rock ledge to look at the rapids. Gary decides he’s going to lift over the rock ledge and run though a narrow slot between rocks below. I help him carry over, and they aim to for the slot, The bow hits the slot, but the stern hangs up in the eddy above the slot and the current washes the canoe up on a rock and flips. Gary grabs the canoe and swims it to a better location and begins bailing. There are no rapids below and we can provide little assistance, but they are safe. Laura rejects trying the same maneuver, so we paddle up parallel to the main current and then ferry across it above the main drop to the river right where the Wisconsin crew has eddied out. Laura, Leo and I scout the rapids. The right channel looks good, except that a quick turn is needed to avoid a final rock ledge. Laura isn’t sure what she wants to do… This frustrates me, because I feel it’s totally within our skills. Leo thinks he’ll line, but rethinks it and decides to run it. Deb decides to tape it, and Laura and I portage the gear. Leo and Nate make a clean run and negotiate the sharp turn, and returns to run the rapid with John. I decide to run the rapid solo, and go back for the canoe. I decided to run the meat of the big right ledge as opposed to doing the tricky turn. Turns out that the ledge wasn’t nearly as tricky.

We load up, and Laura and are aren’t talking again. We paddle on after the rest of the crew. We put our feelings aside to run Z-drag perfect and then sneak through a few swifts. We find the crew pulled out at a rocky ledge on river left taking lunch. We eddy out with them and take a silent lunch as well. After lunch the crew packs up, and Laura wanders away from the group for a nap. I thought she saw everyone packing, and I unfortunately am not clear that they loaded up. Eventually, Laura joins us, but our miscommunication only amplifies the silence between us. We now face a few miles of flatwater. Unfortunately, the flatwater, and our schedule have conspired to not having any known campsites until we get to Big Beaver Rapids which is 28 kilometers downstream. That’s further than we can go for tonight. We heard from the canoe scouts that they cleared a campsite down near Albany Rapids. So we set our sites 13 kilometers downriver. The winds dropped, but there is only minimal current to carry us along. But the sun was out, the river was pretty. Wilson Bend was gorgeous in the flat calm conditions. I took several pictures. The high water washed out the swifts below Wilson Bend. Eventually we straggled past the confluence with the Mattiwitchiwan River, as rocks loomed across the river ahead. Upper Albany Rapids was simple to just scout as we were running the rapids, but no real defined channels existed so we were constantly searching for defined vee’s to keep the loaded boats from running around in the shallows. Ahead, Laura spotted an orange camp sign on river left just above the large rock island between Upper and Lower Albany Rapids. We pulled ashore… it’s small and buggy, but with limited options we decide to camp. Gary and Irene opt to set up camp exposed on the rocky island. Laura and I are on for dinner. We set up the bug tent, just in time because it begins to rain and almost immediately turns to hail. Irene and Nate who were pumping water from the rocks came running for the protection of the bug tent. Leo seems tired and opts for a nap, while we cook Minestrone soup and blueberry muffin mix, and John dresses is blistered feet. After dinner, Deb lays out her plan to push through the remaining 39 kilometers so their family can get to their family backpacking trip in the Porkies. The remainder of us decides to break the mileage into two days. This news and the wet conditions subdues everyone, as we migrate off to our respective tents. Laura and I head out to outcrop to try taking full moon pictures, but the mosquitos are horrible, and we dive into the tent along with a horde of the hungry beasts.

Wednesday July 16, 2008
Laura and I awaken to hear the Wisconsin crew planning to get an early start. We quick broke down our tent and packed the canoe. The mosquitoes were still swarming, so we headed out to the relative bug free island that Gary and Irene’s tent was on. Laura and I boiled water for coffee, and rooted out Gary’s Outback Oven to make bannock for breakfast. Leo, Deb and the boys completed their packing, and came out to the island. As Leo approached we offered Leo a cup of coffee. Gary and Irene emerged from their tent and we said our good-byes. Soon the Wisconsin crew headed downstream, and Laura and I dug into breakfast. I definitely had mixed feelings. It was good to not be pressed by an imposed deadline, but it’s also hard to split up a group that had done 11 days of tripping together as well… especially from a safety perspective. After a bath, and drying out the tent fly and some clothes we packed our breakfast gear and Laura and I headed down through Lower Albany Rapids. Glassy Falls has a good campsite partway down to Mattice, and we’ll plan to stop there for the night.

Laura and I picked our way through Sleeping Beauty and the Class II at the bottom by running the main vee’s. The waves were sizeable, but our canoe was getting light and easily maneuvered through all the rocks. Irene and Gary stood in their canoe to get a better perspective, and soon we were into the flat water above Big Beaver Rapids. Big Beaver sounded big as we approached. As with most rapids the take out wasn’t too far above the point of no turning back. We took a cautious approach and found the mud bank that began the portage. The portage trail was well worn, and passed through two large campsites. We took a few photos and loaded the boats and stopped below the rapids for a quick lunch and to pump a little drinking water and then headed down to Little Beaver Rapids, which we scouted and Laura chose a favorable route through the waves that worked great. Then we had a few kilometers of flat water before Sharp Rock Rapids. Once again the portage trail began very close above the rapids with this much water in the river. We pulled out and negotiated the short, rocky steep portage to a pool below the ledge. The rapids look more runnable than they probably are. Laura and I are intent to spend some time relaxing, so we make short work of the few kilometers to Glassy Falls. We find a reasonable take out and unload the canoe. We aren’t real sure where the best place to camp is. There is a nice beach, but there are a few bugs there, but there aren’t any real great spots on the bedrock, and the bugs aren’t any better there. The portage trail illustrates that we are coming back to civilization, because it’s a full ATV two track that is muddy and almost dangerous for portaging. Laura and I opt to carry our gear to the beach, and lay everything out to dry. It’s warm and sunny, and Laura takes a nap in the tent, while I fall asleep on the tarp next to the tent. Gary and Irene nap on the rocks, and appear to be planning to camp, but soon they haul their gear down to the beach as well. Gary cooks up some tortellini with feta cheese and wild onions. It’s quiet and we all enjoy the luxury of exploring the rocks, taking a few photos, and enjoying relatively bug free living. I pick up a few bottles and cans from around camp and pack them for disposal. We are all pretty tired, so despite our naps we all were off to sleep as it started to get dark

Thursday July 17, 2008
Unfortunately, sometime in the middle of the night it began to rain again. We tried rolling over and hoping it would end. But it continued to rain pretty hard. The rain tapered off enough that we could sneak out without letting too much water in. Once up, it wasn’t worth going back to bed, so we pulled out the remaining granola bars, and the last bit of trail mix and some dried fruit. We started to pack the tent’s contents, and Gary climbed from his tent as well. Since we only faced 16.5 kilometers to Mattice, we just packed up wet planning on drying out at home. The mosquitoes were thicker than anyplace along the river. Laura and I were packed a little early and tried to escape them by launching, but the lack of wind, plus the rain propelled us to begin paddling to escape the bugs. We ran a couple small rapids separated by stretches of flatwater. Eventually the rain laid off and being reasonably bug free we waited for Gary and Irene to catch us. Then we ran a couple more small rapids. Soon we could see buildings appearing along the shore. Haps map depicts an Early Cree/ Ojibway Gravesite that we tried to find. We found the end of an unpaved road at the rivers edge and explored that, but didn’t find the gravesite. The bugs were bad, so we continued toward Mattice. Ahead we saw a large white sign, and as we approached we saw some of the lettering was Cree. We pulled ashore and walked up to a small fenced First Nation cemetery to pay our respects. Once back in the boat we soon saw the railroad bridge ahead, and the Highway 11 bridge beyond. We pulled ashore at the boat ramp ending our Upper Missinaibi canoe trip.

Slowly we unloaded the boats and carried the gear up to the gravel drive. Laura went to get the Volkswagen from the parking lot a block away. Unfortunately, Gary’s car was in Hearst, and because the group split we would have to get all our gear, two canoe and 4 people in the Passat. We tried to combine gear as best we could, and I installed the bar extenders. We didn’t have room inside to disassemble the Pakcanoe, so we would have to transport both boats on the racks. Eventually we got everything packed and we started off slowly through the Village of Mattice. We stopped at the bronze statue of the Cour du Bois portaging his canoe for a couple pictures before leaving town. We thought all the excitement was over, but about half way to Hearst Gary’s Old Town loosened from the racks and fell off. Fortunately, we weren’t traveling fast, so no damage resulted to either the canoe or the car. We redoubled our knots and headed cautiously west on Highway 11. Soon Hearst appeared before us. We found Gary’s car secure behind the Queens Motel, and started swapping Gary’s gear out. We disassembled the canoe. Gary and Laura found out that the hotel would let us shower for $5 each. So we all grabbed showers. The next important aspect would be finding some food. Gary said there is a Greek restaurant, but none of us was sure where it was. So we drove through the main business district, and ended up at the Italian joint that they had eaten at during the shuttle. We ordered vegetarian pizza and beer. The food was good, but the combination of trying to reenter modern society after two weeks away, the beer, and the emotions associated with the completion of the trip, both Laura and I needed a cup of coffee for the drive. So we said goodbye to Gary and Irene, and Laura and I walked down to the Tim Hortons for a big cup of coffee and a blueberry fritter for me, and a Maple chocolate something for Laura. Then I fueled the car with enough gas to get back to the states. Can you say $1.49/Liter? We retraced the route Laura took two weeks earlier, with Laura thinking she left her phone in Gary’s car. We stopped briefly in Hornepayne, where I was able to call my Mom, but we couldn’t get a connection to Laura’s mom. We found out that my Dad had some complications which required that he be in the hospital for a few extra days after surgery, and due to draining from the incision would require him to not venture far from the house for the better part of another month. We continued south making another brief stop at a truck stop in Wawa, and then set our sites on grabbing dinner at the Voyageur Inn in Batchawana Bay. Passing though Lake Superior Provincial Park, it started to get foggy and out of the fog a black bear crossed the road ahead of us. I slowed down, and Laura was able to grab a photo as we passed. We saw Gary’s car at the Canadian Carver which was closed, but we pulled off on the apron and Laura tried unsuccessfully to find her phone. I rooted in our car, and found Laura’s phone beneath the passenger seat. We were tired, and so we headed south into Batchawana Bay. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies at the Inn, and the Restaurant had just closed. So thinking fast, I suggested we check the Saltzburg Hof where I had stayed with Garth and Dixon in 1999 when we did the Agawa River. We pulled in and were greeted by the original owner, Anne. They had a room available which we took. Then they asked if we wanted a beer to take back to our room. We ordered a nice wheat and a tasty bock and found our room. After fumbling around for the light we explored our suite sipping our beers. Looking out the windows over Lake Superior we could see the storm approaching. We wandered out onto the lawn, but the mosquitoes and the impending rain dragged us indoors. We finished our beer, read some brochures we had picked up at the office and headed off to sleep.

Friday July 18, 2008
We woke up, grabbed our stuff and walked down to the dining room. We ordered a breakfast of French toast and blueberries, and a side of hash browns along with several cups of tasty coffee. We bought maple syrup from their gift shop, and headed south down 17 to the Soo. We passed through the border and into the UP, stopped in St. Ignace for Laura to plug in her phone and pick up messages. Then took the scenic route down US-31 through Petoskey and Charlevoix, where we bought a bag of sweet cherried and then back to Grand Haven.

Our trip was over… the longest canoe trip either of us had ever taken; 325 kilometers of 240 miles of canoeing, 50+ notable rapids, 12+ kilometers of portaging, 13 nights of camping for me, and lots of both memories. It took a lot of effort on the parts of all the members to be polite and work as a team given the arduous nature of canoe tripping. The long miles, strong winds, big waves, portages, sleeping on the ground, sore muscles, cooking on a backpack stove, blisters, purifying our water, running challenging rapids in very high water conditions, and fighting the black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies all took their toll. I can’t say we were always at our best behavior, but overall, we did pretty good. I learned some more about canoe tripping from this trip that I can take forward for future adventures. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed. The not completing the trip together is probably the biggest, but not visiting the HBC post on Brunswick Lake in lieu of paddling the flatwater stretch of the river is a close second. But the highlights outnumber the low-points. Visiting Fairy Point in dead calm conditions between all the showers and the prevalent strong winds the area gets was magical. The scenery and the campsite in Peterbell Marsh will stay with me forever. The fun and exhilaration of running Wavy Rapids with Laura, was excellent and boosted her confidence about what she can run, and how much fun running rapids can be. Lastly, getting to know 6 other people that I’d never tripped with before. Leo, it was great… you were a joy to trip with… solid in the face of tribulations, excited to paddle, and pulling more than your share and always with a smile on your face. John, you were “the man,” both in the boat and on the portages. I’d trip with you anywhere. Nate, Your humour made the trip fun, along my respect for the quick way you picked up whitewater canoeing from Leo. Deb, I laud your willingness to undertake the adventure, and your being a strong woman. Gary, your teamwork to chip in where the group needed, and the solid support provided to us all both on the water and in camp. Irene, your peacefulness and open-mind, along with all the wonderful biological wonders you found. Last but not least, Laura, who has become my strong tripping partner capable of dealing long hours in the boat, tough portages, and very skilled at all aspects of canoeing, along with all the hard work to take us as a team to many more wonderful natural places. We have many adventures to complete!!

Ending one canoe trip begets thoughts of the next. The next 325 kilometers from Mattice to James Bay, is now a huge gaping whole in our paddling resume, but maybe other trips will rise to the top first. Though, the Lower Missinaibi will surely be completed in the years to come. But we’ve got time to digest this one a little before making plans for the next. pk

_________________

A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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