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PostPosted: July 23rd, 2010, 10:09 am 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:38 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Merrickville Venturers Batiscan River Trip Report
July 1-8, 2010

Most people were able to show up the night before departure for our equipment and food packing. Even Bob showed up to see us off! With one less canoe than planned we had to take two less barrels, but we managed to cram everything in. A few things started off in dry bags to be later moved into barrels as food was eaten.

We departed on time at 6:00pm, arriving at ~10:00pm at the campground in Joliette. This place is more a seasonal trailer park, but we were placed in a large field beside a dining shelter. The shelter even had lighting. Ben and Alex couldn't wait to try the creek kayak, so they had it out that night in an adjoining pond; playing around a fountain.

The next morning we had our last hot shower. Breakfast was at Tim Horton's with a nice cup of coffee. Many of the kids went back for second helpings of food; that should have been the warning sign for our food supply. We arrived at the train station at least 1 1/2 hours before the train was scheduled to depart; the staff hadn't even arrived to unlock the gate. We unloaded all our gear and piled it beside the platform entrance. We hung around the waiting room for ages; the train was about an hour late. We placed the playboat inside a canoe as planned, but the staff didn't bother to correlate our reservation with the number of canoes we loaded.

The train ride was relaxing, but the carriages were actually quite full. A whole pile of students heading to a school in Jonquiere to learn French. The train was split in two at Hervey Junction. While we brought a couple of packs of playing cards, they were buried in a barrel, so Ben purchased a set of VIA cards and him and Adam played games and built houses. Two other canoe parties embarked on the train at various points. One was heading to Miquick and the other to Jacques-Cartier Club. I chatted the most with the group heading for Jacques-Cartier Club. They were from the Montreal Canoe Club. The trip leader had canoed the Batiscan many times. They were scheduled for the Lievre River, but came to the Batiscan as the Lievre had no water. Both groups were only doing 2-3 days trips over the weekend. They said they knew of a group that ran the full length of the river 1-2 weeks previously, and they reported that the job of they bow man was to lean over the bow and move rocks out of the way so the canoe could get down the river. Little did we know how much truth there was to that story... The quality of the food on the train was atrocious; specifically the subs were soggy. The menu didn't match the one we had obtained online.

As we closed in on our "station", Stew and I were ushered into the baggage car to ensure none of our equipment was left on the train. All the doors were open, so it was neat to see the scenery rushing by; though any barrel could just roll out a door at any time. When the train stopped, there was not only no station, but not even a post marking the spot. We tossed out all our equipment and the train rolled off, leaving us standing in the middle of track. We were past the point of no return. Stew had placed some pennies on the track, and had thus collected some squished copper as the train departed.

We tossed everything in the canoes and paddled upstream about 500m to our campsite. The site was very nice and large, but all sand. Those kids who had camped on sand before were not impressed, as they knew it got into everything. We found Stew had brought along a full size camp chair; we were jealous.

This was firework night to celebrate Canada Day. We made a pretty good display. Most of the fireworks had been placed in a dry bag, but one box didn't fit and it was left in kayak. It got wet; and we naturally blamed Alex :) Only the first few of 100 mortars in that item went off. The kids had fun pulling it apart to set the remaining ones off separately. Some had no fuse so they were thrown in a campfire; pointed away from us naturally. Stew wouldn't let the kids use the main campfire. They had to build a separate fire at the other end of the campsite. The next morning Stew picked up all the remaining pieces on the sand, threw them in our main campfire, didn't tell us, and sat back in his chair and smiled as they went off around our feet!

The first two days were brutal. We had to drag the canoes through every rapid. There wasn't enough water to float a rubber duck. We were doing 15km per day with 7 1/2 hour days. We were all exhausted. Stew said later is was enough to put him off canoeing for ever. As we moved further down the river the water levels picked up and we were able to start scraping through. As Stew said, the rapids were so technical you not only needed to watch where your canoe went, but were your paddle went too! The last rapid on the river had the most water, and finally some decent sized waves, so we were all able to end on a good note. From looking at the rocks, and trees perched on rocks, our heads were below the normal surface of the water. However, from looking at the rock formations in the rapids, they would be wickedly nice at good water levels.

About half way down the river we realised we had been underestimating the difficulty of the rapids, and they can be a lot harder in many ways at low water with small channels to find and so many rocks to get pinned against. Stew is an excellent sternsman, and it was like a slalom course going down the river.

Stew really knows his birds and animals. He could name any bird just from its song. Not that we had the knowledge to call him on any of it. The only drawback was that if a bird flew by while we were canoeing, the canoe would veer off course as Stew checked out the bird :) We found a government fish trap at the mouth of one of the rivers that was obviously not being checked. It contained three dead and two live Speckled Trout. We tried to release the live fish, without success, as we didn't have the proper tools (dip net or wire cutter) on us. The kids did spot and identify a Bald Eagle which Stew missed.

Poor Gregory and dropping things. He started with dropping his supper, a slice of pizza, in the garbage can in the truck. We only have video proof that he threw away his paddle in a rapid once :) But he did spill half our Black Forest cake Dream Whip topping on Ben's foot!

Like always, I brought with me a number of books; I like to read before I go to sleep. Stew made a comment on the first evening about wishing he had a book to read, so I dug my selection out. During the week he made it through two trilogies: Tripods (John Christopher) and Smiler (Victor Canning). Next thing we knew, we had Adam and Gregory after the books, so we taught them to read too :)

The funniest rapid was a CIV slide. There wasn't enough water to run it in a canoe, but we dragged the canoes up the bank to scout it out. One of the canoes came loose and went flying down the slide, spinning around, dropping over ledges, and finally shot its self still upright into an eddy at the bottom. It was quite the sight to see, and we got it on video! Adam was at the bottom so he swam out to the canoe, but then found there were no paddles in it. So Alex, it could only be him, tossed a paddle down the rapids which shoots away from the canoe, so Adam dives back in the water to get the paddle, then swims back to the canoe :) Alex and Ben took a couple of runs each down a chute beside the slide. Ben said it was the best fun he has ever had in a kayak, with water cascading over his back on the way down.

One CIV look dicey, but Adam wanted to run it, so we stationed appropriate downstream safety, and he and Ben made a perfect run. The only other person who wanted to try was Jennifer. So her and Ben had a go. Unfortunately their line was not as good and their canoe flipped on the first drop. They were both quickly flushed out, after a couple of largish drops (Ben said it wasn't fun), but the canoe got stuck in a vertical pin. We only thought that happened with kayaks. A radio was ferried across the river to allow us to coordinate the rescue. We didn't have a waterproof bag for the radio, so we used one of the map cases. A throw bag rope was lassoed around the end of the canoe. Then it was pulled towards the bank, rolling the canoe, and the canoe popped right out of the pin and floated free. In parallel the other kids were portaging the remaining canoes and gear around the rapid. This rapid had a really sketchy plank to walk across to get to the main viewing area.

Ben was surfing in one rapid when he flipped. As the river was shallow and full of rocks, his head collided with a rock. There wasn't enough water to roll, but he was able to push himself upright. The helmet took the main force, with the brim actually being chipped, but the rock also got the side of his face giving him a nice goose egg on his forehead and some abrasions. His good looks would be spoiled for the rest of the week :( New rule: no surfing if there are downstream consequences.

Stew and I pinned our canoe in a CII rapid. We became hemmed in between rocks, and though we tried really hard to prevent ourselves being broached (we leaned into the rock), we eventually took too much water over the gunwale. This time we needed our 150' rope. This was ferried up to us and taken to shore. One everybody started pulling in the right direction the canoe slid off the rocks. Stew and I were left stranded in the middle of the river, so we had to jump in and swim across the current to get ourselves to shore.

We had one last canoe pin. Ben and Adam were running a rapid and they went over a ledge. There was so little water that the canoe was left perched high and dry while they continued to paddle :) As they tried to jiggle it forward they flipped the canoe, they were ejected into the water, and the canoe got pinned. Once they managed to lasso the stern with a throw bag the canoe came off quite easily.

The river safety course we ran was definitely beneficial. Many times the kids were leaning downstream into rocks to prevent being broached, and they told us the rapid swimming instruction came in very handy making them a lot more comfortable in the water. The lining practice also paid off, with a lot of good work being done. I would only say the kids need to get more comfortable giving the canoes more freedom and be willing to let one rope go when appropriate. Lining ropes longer than our 25' would have helped at times.

Having two radios was very valuable for coordinating rescues over the noise of the rapids. One in each canoe and water proof cases would have been nice. They were also good for communication between the two cars during the commute to and from Joliette.

Ben and Adam did all cooking again, and an excellent job it was. However, that does take away the opportunity for the other kids to learn. Something we need to possibly re-think in the future. Again we should think about a duty roster for things like camp cleanup, water fetching, washing, etc so we are not continually having to assign tasks while trying to keep the work spread fairly among everybody.

Alex spent nearly the entire trip in a kayak, either the playboat or the creek boat. He just loves kayaks. Last year Alex soled a canoe a lot so Ben could be in a kayak, and this year Adam soloed nearly the entire last couple of days so Alex could be in a kayak. It was actually very handy having Alex in a kayak at the bottom of a rapid as a safety boat. Several times he went off after canoes, barrels, and packs floating downstream. As the rapids were so small, we didn't bother tying down the gear most of the time. One time Gregory and Calvin swamped Stew's and my canoe while lining it down a rapid and two barrels went merrily downstream. Alex flew after them, catching one pretty quickly but by the time that he had that on shore, the other was out of sight. He caught up with it after about a kilometer. He then hiked back up the shore to rejoin us. The creek boat we rented from Paddle Shack, due to our odd number, worked out fine. It carried our shelter poles behind the seat.

Alex got it into his head that he wanted to teach people the kayak roll. So he started the first night and kept at it most evenings. He taught Ben the back deck roll (Alex had taught himself from YouTube) then he taught Max a regular roll (Max was in seventh heaven). He worked with Adam and Jen, but they weren't able to master it. Alex couldn't get the hand roll from Ben though. I showed people that I still had my roll. Alex quipped "Now I believe you!". Later he swims up to me and asked home many times I had rolled, I told him I was three for three. He then promptly flips my kayak over! When I roll back, he says "Now you are four for four!". When running one rapid in the kayak Alex flipped and he rolled back so quickly the deck hardly appeared to get wet.

On the last night we had a great campsite. It was on a point of land with another river down one side with a set of small rapids. The kids spent hours playing at the bottom where this river met the Batiscan. There were large rocks going into the water to lie on, they took one of the now empty barrels and shot the rapids with it, and lots of swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and general horsing around.

This campsite was only about 4km upstream from our takeout. Since we were about out of food, some of the lads (Alex, Ben, Adam, Gregory) decided to see if they could hike into Rousseau and find a corner store. They set out at 7pm intending to just follow paths we saw leading from our campsite. At 10:45pm Max woke me up, I had fallen asleep in Ben's hammock (when they left I heard a "Allan had better not be asleep in my hammock when I get back"). The lads weren't back and it was pitch black. I woke Stew and we were just discussing what action to take, when the four of them turned up walking along the river edge. They made it to Rousseau by the paths, a little bush whacking, and following the river's edge. Upon arrival in Rousseau, they couldn't find a store, so they asked and were told the closest one was another 8km downstream at the next village. It was about a 12km round trip hike for them. Ben brought a flashlight, but they didn't have any other equipment (like a map, compass, and more flashlights). They had set themselves a time to turn back, but ignored it. We also didn't set a time for which they had to be back at camp. They could also have taken a radio which would probably have reached to Rousseau. A learning experience for all.

For the first time in my camping history we actually ran out of food. All we had left were a couple of bags of cold cereal. Stew was the only one with any food left, and that was because he brought his only supply of gluten free items. The kids tried some of his bread, but declined on the second offering :) Our second last lunch was two Ritz crackers, 1/2 a pita, peanut butter & cream cheese. We did still have a proper supper. The last lunch, just before we boarded the train, was peanut M&Ms and brownies :) While some of our breakfast/lunch quantities were evidentially a little low, the main issue was more English muffins and bagels were toasted for breakfast than planned; they were mostly intended for lunches. We also forgot to factor in the tortillas required for the pizza, so some lunch tortilla wraps were used.

The new type of "nutritious" pop tarts were not liked. We took too much cereal. Needed more English muffins and bagels and jam. The squeeze tubes for the jam (2), mustard (1), and horse radish (1) worked really well. They loved the salmon croquets again; could have made about 50% more. The garlic bannock biscuits baked in the Outback oven were really good. We baked them all for the first supper. All the cookies I made went down well. The real Fettuccini with whipping cream and parmesan cheese was much preferred over the package we used last year. The freezer barrel we made kept our food colder for longer this year. The Black Forest cake we baked turned out really well. The Dream Whip topping didn't really whip even after sacrificing our four cold packs from the first aid kits to try and cool it down. People were told not to injure themselves after that :) But they did... The red apples became uneatable before they were all eaten, the green apples survived much better. Three heads of lettuce was right. We ran out of juice crystals, Iced Tea, again, even though we took more this year. Not sure if this was because people liked it better or whether we were drinking more due to the heat. The Rice Krispies didn't get touched until we ran out of all the other food; we only brought them because Stew thought he could eat them (he couldn't). We were amazed at how much and how fast Gregory could eat. He was timed at 14s for a taco! The pizzas that were to be cooked over the campfire, were actually mostly cooked in the Outback oven. That worked very well, though it took some time to do each one.

At km 140 on the river, there is a campsite marked on the map as "Beside a chalet; ask permission if occupied". When we reached that point, sure enough there was a chalet (and a couple of men) but no sign of a campsite. We canoed up to them and asked, in French of course, if there was a campsite. Once we said we were Scouts, we were welcomed with open arms. It turned out they knew about the map showing a campsite, but one did not exist. However, since we were Scouts we were more than welcome to camp on their lawn. No cost, all they asked for was our respect. We could make our own campfire if we wanted, or we could come sit by their campfire. The younger fellow called across to a friend of his at the next chalet, inviting him over to see the "gang of Scouts" he had staying with him :) This was the night the kids made the Black Forest cake, so they took over a couple of slices as a thank you. These guys took my email address because they wanted copies of the photos so they could show people the Scouts that stayed with them. They told us this was not a public campsite, but that we were welcome to camp there anytime. I will be asking the map owner to remove this campsite from his map. At this campsite two mountains could be seen, one was called Indian Face and the other Sleeping Giant; you can guess what they look like.

In Joliette and on the river, nearly everyone was unilingual French speaking. This was good practice for me, but Stew was also speaking French as was Ben. Good for all!

One day we saw a pickup truck trundle down the train track beside the river. A bit later it headed back in the other direction. It stopped and a guy walked down the embankment to the river looking at us. I started to think he was part of a search party or something. We made our way over, and it turned out he was a whitewater canoer and just wanted to chat about our trip and tell us about the trips he has done. Another day a train whistled to us as it passed.

The last rapid, right before the takeout had an old guy surfing in an inflatable kayak at the bottom. He was nice and laid back, drinking at least two bottles of beer from a cooler while we were there. The kids were impressed with his one handed rolling of cigarettes while kayaking. He said he owned about five different kayaks and did a lot of whitewater paddling. When our canoes ran the rapid, he would sit at the bottom and stick up his paddle showing us the right line to take. He tried to direct us right into Rousseau for the takeout, but we kept to where it looked right on the map, and the knowledge of our advanced scouting party from the night before :)

It was only a 200m walk from the takeout to the train tracks. Adam managed to get a nice juicy leech on his ankle. We baked brownies for lunch. Adam laid out a whole row of pennies on the track for the train. About half an hour before the train was due we heard a train coming, so we scrambled to get ready. It turned out to be just a freight train. Ben and Adam had started eating the brownies right out of the pan before they were done as they though we would have to jump on the train!

With no weather forecasts, naturally the heat wave hits us unexpectedly. Canoeing all day with the wind off the water and being in the water half the time, we didn't notice anything until we stopped to camp for the night. Then the kids exclaimed "What is the temperature?". So I hauled out my thermometer and found it was 33C! For the next couple of days when we reached our campsites the kids basically rolled out of the canoes into the water and played for the next few hours. They didn't even carry their kit into the campsite and think about making supper until 6-7pm. With the thermometer out, it brought with it the inevitable competition as to how could blow the fastest (the unit has an anemometer). Max always wins.

Rather than the barrel bags from last year, we tried keeping our small items in two transparent vinyl pouches; these worked much better. The larger screened dining shelter was very nice. However it only has mosquito netting and thus lets through sand flies. It did make the first few days of the trip a lot more pleasant. The black flies were bad at the top of the river, but we had less trouble as the week wore on.

One day we stopped for lunch at a cute little cabin, sheltering under its front porch. The best feature it had though, was an outhouse with a padded seat!

The train ride home was a dream. Air conditioning, ice cold drinks, and food (microwaved cheese burgers). This is definitely the way to shuttle. It was about an hour late picking us up, and an additional 1/2 hour late arriving in Joliette. We all got to go in the baggage car, with it's open doors, as we approached Joliette. After packing up the trucks and canoe trailer, we decided to go to Dairy Queen as it was roasting hot again. We received directions from a guy at the station, but we made a wrong turn, and headed the wrong way down a one way street. A sweet reversing job, according to the kids, with the canoe trailer, and all was fixed. Allan made it to Dairy Queen first, the guy from the station actually followed us to make sure we found it, and guided Stew in by radio.

We did much better preventing equipment loss this year. We only lost two paddles and bent one beyond repair. One skid plate had chunks taken out of it. This was one installed (poorly) by the manufacturer, not one of the replacements Ben and I installed this past winter. We still have materials for one more install, so we will get that replaced.

The repair kit got a lot more use. Jennifer sewed a tear in the screen of one of the hammocks; she wouldn't let me do it :) Gregory's water shoes came apart and we attempted to epoxy (5 minute) them back together. It lasted for a while but then came apart. Shoe Goo might have done a better job. Ben's sleeping bag was missing it's zipper, so I put it back together with 37 safety pins! They were collected from both our two repair kits and our two first aid kits. Stew's chair fell apart and that was wired back together.

Calvin made good use of the after burn cream in the first aid kit. He also had wicked tan lines on his arms from using fingertip less paddling gloves. Many of the kids used the anti-itch wipes (benzocaine). We also had a variety of cut fingers and scraped legs.

Our start and end times each day:
Saturday: 8:45am - 5:00pm
Sunday: 9:15am - 4:30pm
Monday: 9:30am - 6:00pm
Tuesday: 9:15am - 3:00pm
Wednesday: 10:00am - 3:15pm

In spite of the low water and lack of large rapids the kids said they enjoyed the trip. Ben, Jen, and Adam have all expressed an interest in a canoe trip again next year even though they will not be in Venturers. Ben will supposedly be concentrating on school, and Jen and Adam are both off to college/university.

The equipment dispersal upon our return worked well. Sending the barrels home with people was easier and less time consuming than dealing with them.

The photos and videos are on our website at ... /index.htm, but the videos are next to impossible to play from there. All our kayak videos are available at Canoe videos to come.


PostPosted: July 30th, 2010, 9:05 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:38 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Canoeing highlights video:


PostPosted: September 28th, 2010, 1:35 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:38 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Slideshow on Youtube:


PostPosted: September 29th, 2010, 9:47 am 

Joined: August 5th, 2009, 8:34 am
Posts: 294
Looks like you guys had an awesome trip! Venturers are such a great age to work with!

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