View topic - Mistassibi North East Trip Report - Merrickville Venturers

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PostPosted: July 25th, 2011, 4:52 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:38 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Slideshow (best of photos and videos):
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We met the night before our departure to pack the food and equipment. Most of the food was removed from its original packaging and placed in Ziploc bags; a lot of Ziploc bags. We tried out the new larger freezer barrel to see how much frozen food would fit. The canoes and kayaks (all three of them!) were loaded on the canoe trailer. Using eight large barrels this year, instead of the combination of small and large barrels of previous years, we thought we should easily have plenty of room. However, with the Dutch ovens and more food, we only just managed to fit everything in. The briquettes for the Dutch oven cooking had to go in a separate dry bag, as did the fireworks (but that was not unexpected). Packing took about three hours in total. The tortillas were placed at the bottom of the lunch barrel, thinking they wouldn't be harmed be everything on top of them, but it was quite the excavation process to find them when lunch time came on the river.

We departed Friday morning at 7:45am, just ahead of schedule. Ben started off driving the truck and canoe trailer, his first time pulling a trailer. We made a stop at Tim Horton's for coffee, and at Subway so Stew could purchase lunch. Going through Montreal there was an accident in the La Fontaine tunnel, which backed us up for quite a while. At one point a car drove up on the sidewalk to shoot past a number of other cars (Montreal drivers!). We saw a T-Rex super bike which was very cool. Most of the kids napped later in the drive, and during this time we passed a guy walking along the side of the road with a 6' tall cross strapped to his back! Stew nearly ran out of gas going up the highway to Saguenay; we found a gas station just in time (about 100km out of Jonquiere); this was 3:15pm. We called the Jonquiere Scout leader at that point to let him know we were nearly there. The magnetic mount antennas for the radios worked like a charm, and not only did we look professional, but we had perfect communications between the vehicles at all times. We arrived in Jonquiere, in the Costco parking lot, at 4:30pm, to be met by one of their leaders, and were at the Scout hut by 5:00pm. A total of 715km.

The Jonquiere Scout hut is amazing! It is an old elementary school owned by the town, divided up amongst various community groups, including the Scouts and the youth group. The Scouts seem to have the biggest portion. They have rooms for meetings, a full kitchen, rooms for all their activity equipment and camping equipment. Also a pool table, shuffle board, a table tennis table, and a number of couches. The kids were in seventh heaven. We had our last real supper, with sausages, corn on the cob, and fried vegetables & potatoes. Nick found that he had forgotten his dishes, so he stocked up on disposable bowls and cups for the week! The evening was spent relaxing with all the games. We had the use of sleeping pads, but Ben and most of the Venturers slept on the couches. Lochlan and some of the lads paid a visit to a corner store to purchase lettuces (for lunches) to replace the ones that had turned to mush as I accidentally froze the night before we left. Unfortunately we were in a sketchy area of town according to the Jonquiere leaders, so we moved all the canoes and gear from the canoe trailer inside the Scout hut for the night to ensure we would still have it come morning. The kayaks were left lashed to the canoes which made for a pretty interesting load.

I can't say enough nice things about the Jonquiere Scout leaders. Their hospitality was second to none. They gave us all monkey fist key chains, as well as flashes for their group, 1ere Dominique. We gave them all 1st Merrickville crests in return. Three leaders came Friday evening to visit us and work out the plan for Saturday morning. They also showed the Venturers a pool game based on playing cards. Each player was dealt some cards, then they had to sink the balls which matched their cards. The first person out of cards won.

Saturday morning we awoke at 6:00am. Rather, Stew and Allan awoke, and then kicked everybody else out of bed. We made our lunch clubhouse sandwiches and did a pretty good cleaning job around all the rooms we had used in the Scout hut.

We departed the Scout hut at exactly 8:00am. Another stop at Timmy's for coffee. Sam fell fast asleep during the drive, and when I had to put on the brakes at one point, our small cooler came crashing down on him, hitting him on the head and deluging him with water. Not a very nice way to wake up. The funniest part was that he thought Lochlan had done that to him on purpose, and kept blaming him! We arrived in Dolbeau at 10:00am, 828km on the odometer, filled up with fuel again, took Rue de l'Eglise (forestry road) out, and arrived at the take-out at 11:30am. We ate lunch, then two of the leaders hopped in Allan's truck for the drive to the put-in, while their third leader hung about at the take-out fishing. Sam and Lochlan were shuffled over to Stew's vehicle to make room for the leaders, and Sam must have felt left out as he spent the next two hours chatting on the radio, he wouldn't keep quiet!

Arrival at the put-in was at 1:30pm at 1,063km. Following the road up was very easy, but boy was it dusty; worse than a whiteout in a snowstorm at times. Allan's truck windshield took a big stone chip from a passing truck. We saw a moose wading in the river, but it took off into the bushes when we stopped for a closer look. We loaded up the canoes with all the gear and set off at 2:30pm across the first of several lakes. This was our first real exposure to the devastation left by the forest fire last summer; it was like walking on a moon made of charcoal. The Jonquiere leaders took our trucks back to the put-in, then headed for home in their truck. Many, many thanks!

As we started, Sam managed somehow to drop a number of Allan's bungee cords in the lake; never to be seen again. What was he doing... The wind then picked up, luckily a tail wind, and we had three foot waves coming up behind us as we canoed several kilometres down the largest lake. The waves were so big that every so often they would pick up the canoe and we would be surfing along! We had a couple of small creek drags from lake to lake, and we were beginning to think that this dragging would not be too bad. The saws from the pin kits came out a couple of times to cut saplings which had fallen across the creeks. When we came to where the portage was shown on the map, it was 4:30pm and we decided not to try and get any further that day. Supposedly there was place to camp at either end of the portage, but we couldn't even find the portage in the charred remains of the forest. Though we could easily see the next lake, so we knew where to go. Luckily a rough logging road had been forced through between these two lakes, no doubt to cut what was left after the forest fire, and we were able to camp on the shoulders where the road widened at one point. We decided camping in the middle of the road would not be the brightest of ideas; something about a logging truck running over a tent in the middle of the night not being a good start to the trip :)

It was actually not too bad a campsite, though it was hard to find any remaining trees that were strong enough to hold the hammocks. Nick made the fire, which he did mostly every night. The spaghetti sauce was really good, though the cooks, Ben and Alex, refused to cook the noodles in salt water as per the recipe. The noodle water was boiled over the fire as the stove was taking too long. All the spaghetti was eaten; we could have done with a bit more than 3 ounces per person. We found that in addition to his rock shoes and chalk bag, Nick had also brought a machete! So the lads got it into their head to chop down a tree with it. They managed it, and this would turn out to be one of many trees to be felled over the week. They blew up a can of Axe in the fire; they had been waiting months to do that. Finally we set off our fireworks in celebration of Canada Day. Alex made Allan's mud pie cookies for a late night snack, though for some unknown reason they tasted different than normal.

We had heavy rain over night, but it stopped by morning. We departed the campsite at 9:20am. The last creek drag before the main river was absolutely brutal. We would have been better doing the alternate portage. The first 3/4 was over and under various trees, then it got really too bad, and we had to portage the last hundred yards or so. We finished the last bit at 12:30pm and had lunch. A 1:15pm departure had us finally on the real river.

This first section of the river was the extra rapids we got from our portaging up the chain of lakes the previous day. With the current water levels the rapids weren't all that exciting, but they did have a lot of potential. On one class III, Stew and Allan flipped going over a ledge. This was the only canoe flip we had while running a rapid during the whole trip. Everybody else made it over fine, through Stew said they went over an easier part of the ledge :) Lochlan and Nick pinned their canoe a few times, but were able to get it off themselves each time. Lochlan mentioned the broach prevention practice we had on our river safety course was really helpful. We found the campsite at 4:30pm. While it was on the mainland, it looked like an island of green in a sea of black. We have no idea how it managed to stay unburnt. This was the second best campsite of the trip. It had a place for the dining shelter, tent spots, and even a fireplace. Alex, Lochlan, Sam, and Nick built a toilet seat, the closest we got to a thunderbox. The satays for supper were still ice cold in the freezer barrel. One bag of shredded cabbage had mostly gone bad, so we were a little short on coleslaw, but Stew shredded some extra lettuce as a replacement. Good amount of instant mashed potatoes. Another tree was chopped down, this time with the hatchet. I don't understand the excitement they get from tree felling, but the trees were dead anyway from the forest fire. After supper some of the lads went out into the bay, practicing their kayak rolls. Nick and Sam both got their back deck, sweep, and offside rolls. Toffee cookies for that night's snack.

Monday morning saw rain during breakfast. The day was cold, rainy, and windy. We departed the campsite at 9:45am, slow start due to the rain, and arrived at that night's campsite at 4:15pm. During the day we stopped at one rapid so the kayakers could hike back up and run it. Stew and Allan's canoe was swamped during one longer class III rapid; we sit lower in the water than the kids. But we stayed upright and paddled to shore. One of the rapids had some nice little surfing waves at the bottom where Alex taught side surfing. Sam managed a stern squirt in the kayak which surprised him even more than it surprised us :) Nick managed a wet exit, even though he knows how to roll. This night's campsite was at the class V ledge, and it was easily the best campsite of the week. Nice tent spots, multiple levels, a beautiful view, and even a rock cliff. Nick got out his climbing shoes and chalk bag and free climbed the cliff! He may not have brought any warm clothes or dishes, but he found room for all his toys :) While Alex was about to relieve himself in a rock crevice, he noticed there was ice in the hole! We knew it had been cold, but not that cold. It turned out to be ice left from the winter that was insulated from the heat by sphagnum moss. The Venturers chopped out chunks with the hatchet, made it into ice cubes, and proceeded to have iced ice tea. Yet another small thing which really tickled their fancy. They also put a large chunk of ice in the freezer barrel for the next evening. That night was our first Dutch oven meal cooked cooked by ourselves, Macaroni & cheese; it was delicious. Nick turned out to the be master briquette lighter. Yet another dead tree was felled. Nick made brownies in the Outback oven for our bedtime snack.

Tuesday morning was spent playing in the canoes and kayaks at the class V ledge (which was more a class III rapid at our water level). First Alex and Sam lined down a couple of canoes to act as safety boats. Then the Venturers took turns running the kayaks down the various chutes and slides. While the rapid looked intimidating initially, it actually turned out to be fairly docile (but fun!) to run. Both Alex and Laura soloed a canoe down the main chute; Laura popped into the eddy at the bottom perfectly. Alex and Sam flipped their canoe eddying out at the bottom, and the eddy was so boiling and turbulent that it took them and the safety canoe quite a while to do the canoe over canoe rescue. At one point Alex ran along the length of the upside down canoe :) We got some pretty good action photographs from this morning. The inflatable dolphin came out, and Alex played at the bottom with it; but nobody had the guts to run the rapid in it.

We finally departed at 11:00am, arriving at the next campsite at 4:00pm. Along the way we came across a moose hunting stand. Stew said it was way more luxurious than any he used. It even came with its own library collection, in which the lads were quite interested... Our map showed a cabin which appeared to be marked as usable by canoers. We stopped to check it out. There was a bed of nails in front of the door (which Lochlan nearly stepped on!) and which Stew said was to deter bears. The cabin appeared to be locked, but one of the lads fiddled with the lock and noticed it was actually unlocked. We went inside and from reading a journal it appeared that anybody was welcome to stay. We still weren't sure, but then saw a sign on the wall which essentially said (in French) "Everybody welcome, treat as your own". Since our planned campsite was only a couple of km down the lake, the Venturers decided to stay in the cabin instead, this quite caught their fancy. There were seven bunks, two of them doubles, but Laura and Stew decided to sleep in tents outside. Stew said he could sleep in a bed at home. The cabin had 12V lighting (charged with a solar panel), a cassette deck, a propane range, and a VHF amateur radio. We cooked over the propane range this night; first fettuccini and then garlic biscuits in the outback oven.

There was not quite enough fettuccini, the 3 ounces per person should have been a bit more, and the small number of garlic biscuits just wetted our appetites for them. The whipping cream for the fettuccini looked like cottage cheese, but that was just from being frozen. We saw a large pike off the dock. Lochlan dropped a log in the river splashing Alex, who promptly blamed it on Nick and gave chase around the campsite. Tons of firewood available, though not really any good spots for tents. The only downside to the cabin was the mosquitoes that attacked us early in the morning before we were ready to get up. Chocolate cookies for snack tonight. Stew read the camp journal and found the owners flew in by float plane, and crashed a plane at the end of the lake the previous year.

Wednesday had us departing the cabin at 9:15am, Stew and I thought that with not having to tear down the camp we would be off earlier, but evidentially that was not to be. We stopped in an eddy at one point to regroup the canoes and Alex and Lochlan happened to end up 30' below everyone else. As they were walking up the shore Alex looked in the bushes and found a soft sided cooler! What luck! Even better it contained bags of Kit Kats and ice cold drinks! Talk about a story that will be retold for generations. Around lunch time we came upon a sand/gravel embankment about 20' high that Sam thought would make a great kayak seal launch. Up the slope he clambers and shoots down in to the water. There is actually a hunting cabin here, so we paddle around the corner to check it out. No where near as nice as our previous accommodation. Alex decides to give the seal launch a try, and his exclamation ("Holy shit") as he looks over the cliff is a classic! Sam tries to slide down the path from the cabin to the beach in a kayak, but managed to side swipe a tree half way down. Later on, Stew and Ben spotted a waterfall close to the main river, so the Venturers decided to try and find it. A lot of rock hopping, and wading through fast moving water eventually brought us to the waterfall. It wasn't runnable by a kayak, but it was pretty. Some bumpy rapid swimming brought everybody back to the canoes. We had a little discussion on river safety at that point as only one person had a helmet on (and that was just because Sam was in the kayak and had no where to take it off) and when traversing the current the first ones across didn't wait until everybody was safe. One of those teaching moments.

There were a couple options for tonight's campsite: A beach in front of a cabin or a class D (the lowest) campsite a km or so further on. We checked out the beach first but it was small and sloping, would no doubt be full of sand flies, and the area closer to the cabin was really rough. The Venturer turned their nose up at this option. We headed down to the other option, but that campsite did not even exist! It may have existed once upon a time, but there was no sign of it now. It was now 4:15pm, there was nothing further on, and nobody wanted to go back, so the Venturers got out the machete and axe, and started chopping. Within about half an hour or so the Venturers had a passable site created. While it was still a class D, at least it existed, had space for the dining shelter and some tents, and even a path to the beach. Allan snagged one of the hammocks this night. Supper was a large lasagna and a large apple crumble with canned cream. Everybody was completely stuffed after this meal. I thought the canned cream, 25%, was pourable, but it came out of the cans like whipping cream; even better than planned. Neither the noodles nor the apples cooked completely. Evidentially the noodles needed more water (they were the oven ready type). A cover for the Dutch oven while cooking would have helped the apples (we had ordered one but the supplier messed up and it didn't arrive). This was the evening when most of the Venturers fell fast asleep in the dining shelter while waiting for supper to cook; the poor little babies were tired out from their hard work :)

Thursday brought us to our last day on the river. The river was all flat water, but was running fairly fast, so we moved along nicely. We departed in the morning at 9:45am and arrived at the campsite beside the take-out at 4:00pm. This was the day of the huge kayak seal launch. We found a sandy slope about 80' tall, and some of the lads decided to take the kayak down it. Ben went down successfully, then Alex from a little higher up, and then Sam from a little bit higher still. Part way down the slope there was a bit of a jump, and the kayaks actually get good air! Finally Calvin gave it a try. Unfortunately he went slightly sideways coming down from the jump, caught an edge, and did three somersaults down the sand and into the river! Luckily it happened so quickly that neither us, nor Calvin, had a chance to be frightened. Calvin was upside down in the water and as the Venturers ran to rescue him, he did a wet exit and popped right up. Not a scratch on him! And Alex messed up the videoing and didn't capture it!!!!! We will never forgive him. Interestingly, nobody else wanted to give the launch a try after that :) Lochlan and Alex hadn't tied their canoe up very well and it drifted downstream aways; they had to be taken as deck cargo to reach it.

While we had been warned about truck traffic and a logging camp generator, those didn't really bother us. And the campsite, while sandy near the shore was quite nice further in. There was a large fallen down tree beside the campfire which made for a great bench, with Alex chopping himself a custom seat. Once, when Allan was heaving himself up on it, he went too far, and slowly fell backwards off the log going head over heels :) The Venturers couldn't stop laughing! Before supper, Ben and Alex headed off to locate the trucks; all was safe and sound. They moved Allan's truck and canoe trailer to the take-out and brought back our treat of Canada Dry ginger ale. Stew finally got vegetables for supper, in the Shepherd's Pie; he had been asking for them for days. The Shepherd's Pie could have been about twice as big, it only filled the Dutch oven half full; though Sam dropping half the ground beef on the ground hadn't helped! The peach cobbler was awesome; browned to perfection on top. After supper the lads headed over to the bridge for a some jumping. It was about 30' up and reportedly scary as anything when a logging truck flew by. Only Ben and Sam jumped in the end. The Venturers lazed aways the evening horsing around in the shallows beside the campsite. Stew could practically skip stones right across the river.

Friday brought some more rain as we packed up camp and then loaded up the canoe trailer. We woke the Venturers up at 5:45 am (normally we got them up at 7:00am), and departed the campsite at 8:00am. At 9:00am we had everything loaded in the vehicles and were starting the drive home. This time it was Stew's vehicle's windshield that got chipped. We stopped in a picnic spot and ate left over crackers and cheese for lunch, then stopped at McDonalds in Montreal for supper. We arrived back in Merrickville at 9:00pm and had everything unloaded and divvied up for cleaning and drying for 10:00pm. We put the canoes away a subsequent evening.

Just before the last campsite Allan found a tire on the river bank. With just the thought of keeping the river clean, he loaded it onto our canoe to haul out. However, since the tire had lots of good tread, he brought it back home with us and gave it to Herb White as a small thank you for all the work he does for the Scout group; he will be able to resell it to someone.

The water level wasn't the greatest. While we had much more water than last year, the rapids weren't as exciting as the could have been. I actually think the rapid level was good for the newer Venturers we had this year. Most of the rapids were fairly tame, but quite technical at times, and there were a few longer ones with bigger waves to add some fun. It gave everybody some good practice without being overwhelming.

This year we didn't run out of food, much to everyone's satisfaction. We had just about the right amount of everything. The combination of cereal, English muffins, and two types of bagels worked well for breakfast. We used all the jam and nearly all the peanut butter. The squeeze are convienient for dispensing the jam, but they are a pain to fill and to empty the last bits. The cream cheese would have been better in the freezer barrel, since while it kept, it did tend to separate. We had more than enough crackers, but since they were just in Ziploc bags, they got crushed quite badly. The cereal survived better, but a portion of the Mini-Wheats, which the kids left to last, turned to dust. Placing all the ingredients, including cans/etc, for a meal in a single Ziploc bag worked really well. The laminated spiral bound menu and recipe booklet worked great, though the Venturers still didn't read all the instructions each time. We had a couple of eggs left over at the end, so something didn't get the eggs it was supposed to!

The Dutch oven meals were delicious. The preparation time was longer than expected, and combining that with a cooking time of 30-45 minutes, meant we often didn't eat supper until 7:00pm-8:00pm. Stew said we should be serving hors d'oeuvres :) The ingredients were quite heavy, nobody ever wanted to carry the supper barrel, but we were making everything from scratch using raw ingredients. The combination of lasagna and apple crumble w/cream left us all absolutely stuffed. A full 12" Dutch oven for the main course along with a full 10" Dutch oven for desert worked perfectly for the nine of us. The Shepherd's pie could have been about twice as large, though Sam did drop half of Laura's carefully dehydrated ground beef on the ground... Speaking of which, dehydrating the ground beef turned out to be easy (Laura did it the day before we left with Allan giving instructions over the telephone from work. The kids loved the peach cobbler, even to scraping out the cake batter from the mixing bowl; and that was just a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix.

We didn't think to bring brown sugar for the oatmeal, and I forgot to pack the white sugar for Ben's coffee, even though that was on the list. A measuring cup would have been handy, as Allan's (or Laura's) cup kept having to be used to measure ingredients for the various meals. One litre of milk for breakfast worked well, given that some people often wanted English muffins or bagels instead. Somehow we ended up with an extra litre of milk at the end; I think a partially used container went back in the barrel and was used a second day. It was stated that the batches of cookies Allan made most nights were too small. While a regular recipe worked when we were a smaller group, our trips have doubled in size now but the cookie recipes haven't followed suit. We had the right amount of snacks, with some granola bars remaining at the end. The new Cafe Square bars were delicious. Our 3 kg of juice crystals was about right, we ran out on the last night. The larger freezer barrel worked great, keeping food cold for about 4-5 days (everything was pre-frozen including 4 litres of UHT milk as ice packs). A wireless thermometer would be cool (no pun intended) to track how the barrel is working. Dry ice would be neat to try one year. The dried sausage tasted good, but the spicy version was way too spicy, even in the lasagna. The cream cheese separated a bit, it should have been kept in the freezer barrel, though it didn't go bad, it just looked funny.

It turned out that Stew likes decaffeinated coffee in the evening and regular coffee in the morning. He started getting a bit uppity as the trip went on, and started placing an order for coffee shortly after supper each night! With Allan drinking decaffeinated too, we only just had enough; using the last bit on the last morning. The creamers worked very well too.

Yet again the Venturers refused to have a duty roster. Ben and Alex cooked most of the meals. With everybody else cooking bits and pieces throughout the week. Dishwashing was rotated around, at least mostly fairly. Nick did a great job of making an awesome fire every night, and Ben still loves cutting firewood. On the last night everybody was co-opted into washing dishes. Calvin pulled a fast one, one morning. Allan was searching for the lightest barrels, when Calvin picked up a barrel and made like it was really heavy. Allan dismissed that barrel, but Calvin in telling the story that night said it was actually the breakfast barrel, our lightest!

The new Hooligan blue barrels were waterproof, unlike our previous Eureka yellow barrels. We did have one blue barrel leak, but we found the defect on the sealing ring and will be returning it for a replacement. The screened dining shelter was a blessing. Not only did it keep us bug free (except for some sand flies), it kept off the many rain showers. Having the poles was essential, as on many campsite there were no trees which could have been used. The longer centre pole worked perfectly, and the new corner poles were much easier to use. We do need to remember to hang something from the centre of each side on the outside to prevent rain pooling. The stoves worked fine, and we had about two bottles of white gas remaining. The outback oven worked well, but it doesn't really cook in large enough quantities for our larger group now; we need to switch to the Dutch oven for all our baking. Allan brought three chairs! A regular camp chair, Bob's hunting chair, and a Thermarest chair. Teasing aside, everybody was quite glad to use them. The new lightweight tents were excellent. The kids say they are very easy to setup. No paddles were lost on this trip, that was a first! There was about a quarter of the bag of briquettes left. One skid plate got broken and will need to be replaced.

The creek kayak was fun, but was a lot of work paddling on flat water into the wind. The lads said the outfitting wasn't as comfortable as the Jackson playboats. Both playboats got a fair amount of use. Bringing the extra skirt worked well, we could have even used another skirt at times. Somebody wasn't counting properly when we packed, and we ended up bringing two extra kayak paddles!

Throughout the trip Stew was continually challenged to identify every bird call that was heard. He knew them all, or at least claimed too... the only other wildlife we saw was fish. The scenery was really nice, forest fires notwithstanding, going from the plains early on to high rocky cliffs later in the week. There was a lot of evidence of clear cut logging, but it was only apparent at certain points in the trip. Numerous very picturesque waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs.

The weather was definitely colder than we had ever had on a canoe trip before. It was dropping to well below 8C at night. Most of us were cold some nights, we had all packed much lighter than maybe should have. We knew we were a fair way up north, but it never crossed our minds it would make such a difference. But during our drive home, we noticed the temperature gradually climbing as we headed south; and by the time we hit Montreal it was positively roasting.

The only injuries we sustained were a few scrapes and bruises, a sprained finger, some blistered hands, and a bit of sunburn (Calvin of course!).


PostPosted: August 5th, 2011, 9:25 pm 
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Joined: November 10th, 2004, 8:17 am
Posts: 168
Location: Ste-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier
Really enjoyed your slideshow.
Great shots.
Good job on and of the river.
Very inspiring.


PostPosted: August 7th, 2011, 8:35 am 
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Joined: March 24th, 2007, 9:28 am
Posts: 303
Location: North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Great TR and slide show, This is what Scouting is all about!

PostPosted: July 7th, 2017, 12:50 pm 

Joined: April 8th, 2013, 8:37 pm
Posts: 10
Really good read here. Paddling this river in August, really looking forward to it.

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