View topic - Kattawagami River May 8-18 2010

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PostPosted: May 19th, 2010, 12:17 pm 
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Joined: December 14th, 2007, 11:39 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Sault Ste. Marie
Sat May 8th
This trip would be my first long trip in a white water kayak. I have paddled many rivers in tandem canoes and a couple in solo canoes. With a canoe, you can litterally take the kitchen sink if you wish. However packing all the gear and food for a 12 day trip in a 8 foot white water kayak is challenging. I spent three evenings packing and repacking. In the end I managed to get all the bare essentials packed. I was very pleased that my new MSR hubba tent also fit. So on Saturday May 8th at 6am we loaded the three kayaks in my trailer and left Sault Ste. Marie for the drive to Cochrane. We drove thru a major snow storm the wind and snow causing white outs at times. We took a shorter route down the Ranger Lake Road hoping to save time. However this gravel road was covered in snow and ice. I never new that my new Toyota Rav has some kind of skid warning sytem. During this drive the buzzer alarmed at least 12 times as we skidded out of control toward the bush before traction was found. This was a very scary drive especially on big hills. We did have a big bull moose run down the road in front of our car for about 300M before he veared off into the thick bush. I clocked his run at 20 to 25km an hour. Not much slower then what we were travelling at. When we reached the 129 Hyw I tried to make up some time and bumped up the speed to 100km an hour. With in 15 min I was nervously waiting along the side of the highway while an OPP officer inspected my Drivers Licence Insurance and Ownership. Perhaps he took pitty on us but he let me go with a warning. By now my trailer had frozen ice built up a foot thick on the front. This added so much tongue weight that I nearly ground off my trailer safety chains. Near Chapleu we drove out of the storm. It was still very cold. My car temp gauge displayed -3 C. Around 2 in the afternoon we met Terry O'Neil who would drive our vehicle back to Cochrane from Kattawagami Lake. We made it to the lake around 3:30. So far we had seen two moose and five bear during our drive. I'm glad I bought a small Canister of Bear Spray. There is a major camp site at the lake catering to Trailer Campers. The place was empty except for one travel trailer . Because it was so cold and windy we decided to spend the night and then begin our journey down the river in the morning. Terry left us, I was a bit concerned about the trailer because the heavy ice had by now bent my trailer tongue a bit.

Sunday May 9
It was still very cold in the morning. The water in our tea pail froze down at least 1/2 inch thick and snow covered the ground slightly. We starting paddling about 9:30. We had a very strong head wind and the spray off the bow of our kayaks was freezing on us. Before long our dry suits and pfd's were covered in ice. So much so that I feared I would not be able to rip off my spray skirt if need be. Jorma was afraid that the ice would rip open his dry suit if he moved the wrong way. At noon we found a sunny spot out of the wind to wolf down our frozen sandwitches. Group moral was low we were all running on the spot or doing jumping jacks to stay warm. Not a good beginnng for a demanding 190km river trip. The weather improved during the afternoon and the ice began to melt off the bow of our boats and kayak paddles. We made camp at 3pm. After a bit of excavating we had two good spots for tents and Jorma had burned a big area of the knee high sage brush. Warm and dry -- Ahhh it the simple things we take for granted.

Monday May 10th
Again we awoke to find 1/2 inch of ice froze in our tea pail. I was gratefull for the 2liters of boiling water that I poured into a palatapus bag and then wrapped in a sweater and placed in my sleeping bag. This water was still warm in the morning and helped me warm up my hands to pack for our second day of paddling. It takes us 1.5 hours to pack up and reload the kayaks. We had a very long day of paddling however we were blessed with a tail wind most of the day. We arrived at Bailey Lake at 3pm. and paddled thru white caps around two points to a sand beach camp site on the south side of the lake. Previous paddlers had refered to this as a Fantastic Camp Site (Paradise)
For us it was hell and proved to be our worst decision of the trip . The wind and surf pounded us . The water was black with some kind of decayed debris. Making it impossible to get water or even wash our dishes. After a quick supper behind Jorma's tarp we all went to bed around 7:30. Tomorrow evening it will be my turn to cook supper. I need to cook my chicken, not that there has been any chance of it thawing out.

Tuesday May 11th
Paradise Camp site lived up to it's name in the morniing. We awoke to sunshine and clear blue sky. We were all gratefull to the river gods for granting us such a beautiful morning. We took our time having breakfast and getting packed up . On the water and paddling at 9:30 we crossed the lake and checked out a Cree Nations Fishing Camp.. We were made aware of this by the No Trespassing sign posted on the beach. The camp was locked up, however, the front yard would have made a better camp site then being in the howling wind the night before. Most of the day we paddled into a head wind as the Black spruce shore line passed by. The high light of the paddle was watching a large bull moose walk across the 200 meter wide river 100 meters in front of us. Jorma commented that we now know how deep the river is. At 2pm we reach pineapple rapid, this our first rapid of the trip. Easy run centre with very large wave train.. Here we camped the night on river right. We tried fishing with no sucess.

Weds May12
On the water at 9am. Jorma and Lorraine once again beat me packing.. They both paddle Prijon Hercules that don't have a centre support pillar in the front or back. My Jackson Mega Rocker requires both because American plastic is just not as strong as there German made boats. We tried fishing several times today and Jorma caught one small northern (hammer handle) . Two more just like it would have been ideal. I wanted more ice for my chilly bin however, this was the first morning we only had a slight skim of ice over the tea pot. We paddled thru an old burn area and saw a tall poplar. For many Km's all we have seen is black spruce -- Larch (Tamerak) and of course river tag alders. We stopped today at the bottem of Big Spruce Rapid. We set up camp on the river right after doing a bit of clearing and excavating. For supper Lorraine cooked pasta and I cooked up our one fish. The only wild life today was a osprey that circled 30m over head with his tallens hanging down. Chatting around the fire having a nip of Scotch or Drambeau was becoming an evening ritual. Because it was a bit windy and fire wood was so hard to get we decided to forsake our evening fire. . My hands were taking a beating I now have 6 cuts between the two hands. One slice on the tip of my thumb grabbbed my attention with every task.

Thursday May 13th
Once again we are on the water at 9am. I am always amazed all the 5 and 15 litre dry bags fit in my kayak. We need to take a before and after picture. Today I am oh-so gratefull to be paddling a white water kayak. We are about to begin three days of white water as we decend 300 meters off of the Canadian Shield. We need to navigate 80 rapids and 6 water falls. During this entire journey I only portaged 8 meters. This portage I did at Adriene Falls. Now portaging a kayak is much different than a 16 foot tripping canoe. A kayak is like a big plastic suitcase. You just pick up the bow and bounce it down over rocks and ledges to a point in the river that is runnable. We stopped today at Raindrop Falls. A beautifull place with big flat rocks along river left. Many places to pitch a tent and plenty of dry drift wood for the fire. It just does not get much better than this. The sun was shining no clouds in site. Temperature in the mid 70's and best of all ---NO BUGS I am quickly getting hooked on early spring river trips. Good water levels and NO Bugs. The white water made this an awesome day. We still have 40 rapids left before coming off the Canadian Shield. We caught one small walley under a foam pile at the base of a pour over. Not enough for supper so we let him go. Black Bean chilli for supper . Lorraine did a great job dehydrating some tasty meals. When it is my turn to cook it is always the same thing rice and dehydrated vegetables. When the sun dips below the tree line the temperature drops very quickly.

Friday May 14th
What a River. Seldom did we paddle more than 500 meters before coming to the next rapid. We were up and paddling today at 8:30. Fortified once again by instant porridge and 2 cups of instant coffee.. Most of the rapids are just fun with no death defying consequences. Most we could scout from our boats however some needed to be scutinized very well. We always found a line that was do-able. My confidance was definetely up untill Lovers Leap rapid. We decided to run far river right. I went first dropping over a 2 meter verticle ledge all the water then pushed me into a verticle rock wall. Unable to brace against the wall the current caught my edge and flipped me. I went over the next 1 meter ledge up side down. It was 20meters later before I stopped pinballing off rocks and had an opportunity to roll up. Tapping on my head I signalled to Jorma that I was all right. Hunching my shoulder and holding up my arms I tried to signal that I was hesitant about them safely running it. After watching my carnage they decided to portage the 30 meters around the drop. I was not the only one to get their hair wet today. Earlier Lorraine flipped after going over a 2meter drop but quickly recovered making a text book combat roll.. She also flipped at Arrow Shoots Rapids. We took the farthest river left channel. It is basically a 5 meter wide gorge with verticle walls where the water boils thru for 120 meters. Lorraine flipped at the first 2m pour over. Her boat submarined and then porpoised out of the water and slammed into the left verticle wall. Lorraine fearing the next ledge ejected from her kayak and swam the entire length of the gorge. I was waiting in my boat at the bottem. After helping her to shore I rescued her boat and Jorma's throw rope. Like all good paddlers she never let go of her paddle. Both she and the boat and it's contents were fine. We stopped for the night at N10 camp. It had started to rain about noon and continued on and off all afternoon. Perhaps it was the release of adrenaline but I was very tired and looked forward to getting warm and dry. Most of all I wanted off the river. The white water Junkie in me was satisfied, I just wanted to paddle some safe flat water for awile.

Saturday May15th
Once again on the water by 9am. For some reason the vegetation has changed. There now is white birch, white spruce, poplar and cedar and of course black spruce. We paddled very cautiously today. Getting out and scouting every drop that we could not easily boat scout. After yesterday carnage neither Lorraine or I wanted to take unnessasary chances. About 12 noon we had finally navigated the last rapid of this spectacular river. We were all elated and a round of high 5's and congatulations were in order.. Now begins the flat water paddle over the James Bay Low lands. As the afternoon progressed so did the head winds. What made it even more difficult was the shallow depth of the river here. Many times we had to go from one side of the river to the other to find 12 inches of water. We finally stopped at the last island camp site around 3pm. We could not find a camp site and ended up fabricating one of our own on the west side of this small island. With in an hour we had fashioned a very nice camp site 15 meters in from the river edge. This would have been a horrible camp site had it been in bug season. Jorma went shore line combing and found some fossils and white alabastor rock. Lorraine and I refer to Jorma as the ever-ready bunny , I took a siesta. Beautiful sunny day -mid 70's and NO BUGS. It felt strange not to hear the constant roar of a rapid or water fall at this camp site. (10 cuts now on my hands)

Sunday May 15th
Today we planned on paddling only 21km to a point where the Kattawagami River and the Harricana River are only 400 meters apart. At this point we hoped to portage to the Harricana river and camp for the night. It was another beautiful sunny day and of course (NO BUGS). On the water paddling at 10 am. The current helped to move us along. Once again there were several places finding enough water to paddle was a challenge. We started our portage at 2 in the afternoon sun. Two hours later we had skidded the three kayaks over to the Haricanna River. Not a great place to camp so we continued our journey down the mighty Harricana River. This is a completely different river . Many places it is 2km wide. The water is laden with silt making it impossible to see more than .5 meters below the surface. Massive sheats of Pack us line the banks often making piles 5meter high and 10 meter wide and 500m long. Before long we relized that camping along this shore would be a very muddy experience. We decided to push on the remaining 16km to the Washow Lodge Goose Camp. We met two different boats coming up the river from Washow Lodge going out for evening fishing. Very friendly and they all knew we were coming. However, they did expect us on the Kattawagami River. They informed us that it was impossible to get a boat pick from Moosonee. The pack ice had blown and plugged the entrance to Hanna Bay. We would need to arrange for a flight out. We reached the lodge at 7pm. I was bone tired, the portage and 37km paddle had taken it's toll. I had promised my wife that I would call home when I had reach James Bay. So I dug out the Sat phone I had so carefully vacuum packed and stored in foam. During our conversation she accused me of drinking and said I was slurring my words. I'm not sure if this was the Sat. phone or the fact I was totally exhausted and a bit dehydrated . Sinclair Trapper the manager at the lodge invited us to share in turkey dinner. Mashed potatoes butter gravey corn cranberry sauce cherry pie and blueberry pies.. Had they charged me for the meal they would have lost money I went for thirds that night. Just before bed at 9pm Sinclair knocked on the door to inform us that the plane would pick us up at 9am the next morning. Sinclair had made all the arrangements for us. We were very fortunate that a Beaver Plane was already at Moosonee. It took two flights to transport paddlers and gear. The total cost was $1520.00. If we had to have a plane come all the way from Cochrane we would have had to pay well over $4000. With the plane landing at the barge beach it was just a matter of flagging down a pick up and shuttling kayaks and gear to the train station at Moosonee. The train leaves Moosonee at 5pm and arrives in Cochrane at 10pm. We spent the night in Cochrane and made the drive home the next day back to Sault Ste Marie. Saw two bears on the drive back home. We spent a good part of the drive home talking about our next big river trip using kayaks. Perhaps the Moisee or the Seal river in Manitoba. I am definetely convinced that tripping in a Kayak is the way to go. Like I said earlier I did this entire river with only one 8 meter portage. If you were in a Tandem Canoe I am sure you would need to add a least two more days to the white water section. Even in the flat water the kayaks made good time. I think we may work a bit harder to maintain a 6km an hour pace. With a little pre trip conditioning this pace if very do-able. I now need to convince all my canoe tripping paddling buddies that kayaks are the way to go.
Paul


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PostPosted: May 20th, 2010, 10:18 am 
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Joined: November 12th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 175
Location: Toronto, Ontario Canada
Thanks for the interesting read. That river is on my to-do list.

Regarding the use of ww kayaks on river trips - I think it would have to depend on the river and skill level. Rivers with long unrunable stretches (even for a kayak) would be a pain to portage. Then there's space - could you cram in enough food for a two week trip?


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PostPosted: May 20th, 2010, 12:30 pm 
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Joined: December 14th, 2007, 11:39 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Sault Ste. Marie
The style of kayak makes a huge difference. Like I said the Prijon Hercules German made kayak has no rear or forward pillar. Jorma and Lorraine could carry a lot more then me. We planned and packed enough food for 12 days just in case of high winds on Hanna Bay. In the rapids skill level of course needs to be developed. Having a reliable combat roll is a must. But I find that even a long complex rapid usually has only short sections that are un-runable. It's just an easy portage (drag) and then you pop back in. I am hooked on Kayak river tripping. I have paddled many rivers in Tandem Canoes. For example the Pukaskwa river one spring required 14 portages with a total length of 3km. I paddle the same river at higher levels two years later in a kayak. This time 5 portages with a total length of 500m. ---- Paul


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PostPosted: May 22nd, 2010, 4:01 pm 
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Joined: October 16th, 2008, 9:20 am
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Location: Oshawa
Hey Paul,

I was really excited to read your trip report and to find out how you made out. Thank you for taking the time to write it up!

Regards,

Sam

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PostPosted: May 28th, 2010, 8:54 pm 
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Location: Burlington, Ontario
Nice write up! Sounds like it was a great adventure.

Take care,
Cousin Pete

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