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PostPosted: July 15th, 2013, 11:04 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:38 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Date: June 28-July 3, 2013


Put-in: Lac a la Culotte
Take-out: km259
Water level: 70-76
SIV's @ km325: Portage, mucky
SIV @ km306: Drag portage
SIII & SV @ km274: Line, drag
Canyon RIV: Ran
SIV @ km267: Drag
All other RIV: Sneak lines

We started off in the pouring rain, loading the barrels, kayaks, and other equipment onto the canoe trailer. By the time we were ready to depart (8:30am), everybody was soaked through to the skin. Unfortunately, we wouldn't dry out for about three days. Part way along the drive, Stew exclaimed, "I forgot my tent! And my chair!". I'm not sure which he thought was the worst :) We had two extra hammocks with us, so we weren't too worried about sleeping arrangements. But the missing chair proved to be a much larger issue; especially for Allan as he gave up his chair to Stew! An easy drive up to the ZEC office and the put-in. We stopped in Buckingham for an early lunch at Subway (10:30am), and again in Mont Laurier for coffee at Tim Hortons. As we had a laptop with us, for viewing the photos on the way home, I had the kids watch the documentary ’12 Year Old Lifer’, about a kids in the US that was involved in a murder and incarcerated for 25 years; I thought it would be educational for them (we discussed it later one evening). The lady at the ZEC office (2:00pm) was really friendly, chatting away with us in French. The cost of a fishing license for Lochlan would have been $70, and he declined once he heard that price. We confirmed the shuttle and headed up (2:30pm) the logging roads to the put-in (4:30pm). The road was definitely not suitable for cars. Just as we arrived near the put-in, and were looking for the exact spot, a ZEC truck showed up and directed us towards some cottages and a dock. These were the fellows doing our shuttle, and said since it was raining and the cottages mostly empty, we wouldn't disturb anyone. Whereas the regular put-in, which we used on the last trip, was just around the end of the bay; our spot was much simpler. We loaded up the canoes and were off (5:30pm).

There was a strong wind, rain, and fairly large rollers/waves to contend with during our 6km paddle across the lake. We made it to the campsite without any issues (7:30pm); other than getting even more wet, if that was possible. Upon our arrival at the campsite, which has nice views when it is not raining, but has little shelter from the wind, we setup the dining shelter and tents in the lee of a few bushes. The tents were crammed into this little clearing, with literally one tent fly pegged inside the next tent's fly! You practically had to crawl through one tent to get to the next one :) But a little work with the hatchet cleared a path, though not as far as my tent! Supper was to be satays cooked over the fire, along with Brown Bear campfire treats. However, lighting a fire in the rain, followed by cooking over it, was not appetising to anyone. So we scraped the meat and stuff off the skewers and cooked it in frying pans over stoves, along with the mixed vegetables and potatoes. This was actually much simpler than cooking the meat over the fire, and everybody felt this was the way it should always be done. We skipped the cooked pudding dessert, as everybody was tired and ready for bed. Rather than setup a hammock, Stew decided to sleep in the dining shelter. He did this every night, shooing us out of his “bedroom” late at night when he wanted to go to sleep :)

It was still raining intermittently in the morning, so everything was packed up wet and we hit the first rapid. We awoke at 8:00am and were on the water at 10:30am. Everybody did well this day. The water level, though lower than our trip in 2009, still resulted in large waves on some of the first rapids; so we were looking forward to the rest of the trip. We found the rock on which Max & Jen wrapped their canoe in 2009; Stew and Allan actually managed to graze it in their canoe :( There were two class IV ledges today, which were circumvented by a 650m very mucky portage. This was the only real portage of the trip. But you often went up to your knees, or beyond, in muck! Allan forbade Sam & Lochlan from running the upper ledge in their kayaks, but let them run the lower ledge. From there it was a flat water paddle to the campsite. While the plan called for us to arrive at the campsite by noon for a half day of play in the rapids, we actually only arrived at 4:00pm. This is a very nice campsite on a point. The play rapid that was promised didn't really exist; at least it did not meet the expectations of the kids. Tonight was a Dutch Oven meal, so we tried to light a fire to light the briquettes. We could not get a fire going, for love nor money. Even generous amounts of white gas refused to get the sodden wood alight. Sam learnt the hard way that fire can climb, when he poured white gas (stop calling it propane Sam!) onto lighted birch bark, and had the whole bottle go up in flames! The bottle was kicked around resulting in several feet going up in flames! (more specifically, Allan’s foot ;P) And a patch of sand that burst into bigger flames every time it was scuffed up :) Good bye to 15% of our white gas supply :( Eventually the briquettes where lighted, by continuously feeding birch bark under them. The end result was a very delicious rabbit stew, garlic bread, and chocolate upside down cake. We tried to dry items, but rain showers kept us running to grab items back off the line.

We awoke at 6:00am (this was a 20km day, and we wanted to avoid supper by candle light), departed the campsite at 9:30am, and arrived at the next campsite at 4:00pm. Sam and Lochlan flipped in a class III rapid. It actually looked like their canoe was wrapped, but that was just the red kayak lashed to the canoe gunwales; the canoe was just swamped and pinned. The general consensus is they flipped as they were over confident. The bag of garbage and a kayak floated away (both picked up at later). The bow floatation bag was ripped on a rock, and was patched that evening by Allan. An awesome location was found for lunch, on top of a huge rock in the middle of the river. We had just passed some canoes getting in the river, and they stopped to chat (in French) with us. The “leader” said he had done the river 20 years ago, and was wondering if there was a portage around an upcoming class III rapid as he had beginners with him. There isn’t a portage, and this isn’t a river for beginners. They had an open barrel in one of their canoes, and one of the kids said it was filled with beer cans :) We passed them on a little class II rapid and they did not appear to know what they were doing. On the class III rapid before the class IV ledge, all our boats swamped due to high waves. Everybody made it intact to the bottom of the rapid, except for Laura who “decided” to abandon Lochlan’s canoe :) This was the rapid the other group was hoping to portage; I hate to think of what they were going to look like at the end of that rapid. It was at this point that Allan dropped his waterproof camera case in the water, while it was open; thus the camera got damp and we don’t have many photos for the rest of the day until it dried out. At the subsequent class IV ledge we hauled the canoes across a short portage, fully loaded. Sam and Lochlan then ran the ledge in their kayaks. Supper was Macaroni & Cheese, fried ham, and apple crumble; all Dutch Oven cooked. Somehow we forgot to pack the cottage cheese for the Macaroni & Cheese, but the kids said it tasted better without; whatever :)

Awoke at 6:30am, on the river at 9:45am, and at the campsite at 4:45pm. Can we see a trend... We ran all the rapids today, finding sneak routes through a couple of large ones. We survived the long flat stretch, but since the current is fairly strong, it’s not too bad. For lunch, we lashed the canoes together and drifted about 1km while eating pitas with paté. We stopped at a bridge for a quick jump for the kids into the water. Lochlan’s dry top ballooned up like the Michelin Man :) That night we finally got a reasonable fire going, and were thus able to burn our garbage (and other garbage we had collected). This was Canada Day, so we were able to set off the fireworks we had been lugging around; always a fun time. The supposedly burnt out casings were thrown in the fire for disposal. But that provided a few surprises as the night wore on! Things shooting in every direction :) Fettuccine Alfredo, garlic bannock, salmon croquettes, and mud pie cookies for supper.

Awake at 7:00am, departure at 10:30am, and arrival at 4:00pm. This was the biggest day of rapids. We lined and dragged around a class V ledge, and then ran a class IV rapid/ledge using a sneak route on river left. Stew & Allan swamped just before the class IV canyon, but were able to eddy out, dump their canoe, and make the eddy at the portage start. All the canoes ran the canyon. There was a “sneak” route starting centre, and then river right. The waves were huge though. When Stew and Allan hit the large wave at the end, it was the hardest Allan had even been hit by water before. I think we went in one side of the wave and out the other; the canoe was instantly full. Lochlan and Sam stayed to play in the waves at the bottom of the canyon, while the rest of us headed to the campsite; it was just around the corner. They said it was the best play spot they have ever had. This was the kid’s favorite campsite. While it wasn’t large, and the tent spots weren’t that great, it did have a very nice view across a bay. Lochlan and Sam decided they wanted to go for a swim, so they asked Allan to canoe them up the river a bit so they could swim back. Our last supper was Shepherd’s Pie and Peach Cobbler in Dutch Ovens. The Shepherd’s Pie had 3 lbs. of ground beef versus last year’s 2 ¼ lbs., not counting what Sam dumped on the ground last year :), but even so Stew was scraping the bottom of the Dutch Oven :) A very nice time around a roaring fire for the last night, and great embers for cooking the Brown Bears. Stew had never had these before; they were a favorite at our Cub camps.

Allan woke everybody up at 5:30am, so we could get an early start. However, he promptly fell back asleep! The general comment from people was: We heard Allan snoring, so we knew it was safe to go back to sleep :) About 6:30am, Laura went on a singing tirade, which though it woke everybody up, made her no end of enemies :) We all finally got up, and ate breakfast and packed in record time, getting on the water at 8:30am. The first class III/IV ledge we probably could have run, but we decided discretion was the best part of valour and lined it. This was the day where Stew & Allan’s pride was hurt. They dumped twice, once on a class IV and once on the long class III. On the class IV, their line was a little bit off and they hit the edge of a hole and the wave just flipped the canoe over. It was a very bumpy swim down to the bottom of the rapid. There were no shortage of spectators of the river bank, but a distinct lack of rescue attempts. Calvin did heave a throw bag, but it landed about two feet away from him :( Stew was rescued by the kayak and towed into shore. On the long class III, Stew and Allan were doing really well, then hit a couple of waves that completely filled the canoe, and while they were trying to catch an eddy, they brushed a rock which flipped them over. Allan made it to shore, but Stew ended up stuck on a ledge about 20’ from the shore. Calvin’s canoe became pinned on this same rock, but he managed to free it without losing it. One of the barrels came free and floated down where Stew managed to catch it, while still on the ledge! Using a throw bag, Allan pendulumed the barrel to shore, and then did the same for Stew. At this point, we put Lochlan into one of the play boats, so Stew could take his place in one of the canoes; Allan then walked about 750m along the shore of the rapid to where the canoe would be found. Sam had to follow Stew and Allan’s canoe down the rapid, so was unable to play; he then had a long wait at the bottom of the rapid for everybody else. All the canoes had to stop several times to bail during that rapid. Just before the takeout is a nice sand cliff, perfect for kayak seal launches. Calvin, after his wicked experience last year, declined have a go this year, but he helped out Sam and Lochlan with their kayaks. Two successful launches downs the cliff! We arrived at the takeout at 11:45am, packed everything away, and were on the road at 1:30pm. For lunch, we snacked on cheese & crackers & such during the drive. The laptop was used to view all the photos and videos during the drive; that was an improvement over people huddled over the small screen on the camera. We arrived in Merrickville at 7:00pm, sorted the equipment, and by 8:30pm the kids were on their way home.

The food quantities worked out pretty well. We had a little too much, but better that then running out. 12 less bagels and none of the breakfast round bread things would be good. And maybe one bag less of snacks. We also had a little bit too much sausage and Ritz crackers. We only needed a single batch of bannock, and a single batch of salmon croquettes. The blackberry jam (Smuckers Pure), picked up by Cheryl as she was tired of just purchasing strawberry jam, was a very big hit. As was the dark chocolate covered pomegranate/raspberry/etc. things from Costco. The Brown Bear campfire treat, originally scheduled for the first night, and finally eaten on the last night, was voted an excellent idea of Cheryl's. It brought back memories of the kids from Cubs. In the mornings Allan started offering coffee, and that was taken up by Stew and all the lads. Lochlan no longer complained that we packed three coffee filter holder things :) Part way though the trip Allan also started offering cups of iced tea and lemonade; amazing that nobody is willing to make the effort to get themselves a cup, but once it is offered... :) The communal dishes worked well. Dishes are hard to pack when trying to keep a pack waterproof, and it is so much easier having everything handy in the kitchen barrel. At a younger age, being responsible for your own dishes helps teach responsibility, but these kids are far beyond that. Both types of dried sausage from the Sausage Kitchen in the Ottawa market were well liked. The kids initially made strange faces when faced with smoked salmon and pate for one of the lunches, but once they tried the different items, they devoured everything! It was really good. The mud pies and toffee cookies were devoured. The fettuccini noodles didn’t seem to get cooked properly. Quite a number of eggs were broken in the egg carrier, Lochlan suggests it was because he tended to walk across the barrels in the canoes! A little miscalculation of the remaining eggs meant that the Shepherd’s pie had to do without; but it was fine. Though since the kids mixed in our remaining garlic butter with the potatoes, they were a little running. But it all tasted great. One of the milk tetra packs started leaking, which meant a barrel had to be cleaned out; the remainder were placed in zip lock bags. We should think about using powdered milk. The whipping cream did separate as it had been frozen, but that didn’t affect the Fettuccini recipe. The canned cream worked well again with the deserts.

Everybody was saying the trip was too short, and the time went by too fast. This trip was two days shorter than our previous trip down the Mistassibi North East, and one day shorter than our trip down the Batiscan. However, I think one of the reasons the trip went by quickly, is that we were pretty much busy from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed. After arriving at each campsite between 4pm and 5pm, we worked pretty solid setting up and making supper until 7-9pm, so everybody was pretty much done in at that point. A little more relaxing might be nice, but this trip was bookended by Calvin wanting to graduate at the beginning, and Heather heading for a horse show at the end. Our complex Dutch Oven suppers take quite a lot of time to prepare, but the practice is good for the kids, and they do taste delicious.

The creek kayak, a Dagger Mamba, was well liked. When Allan went to pick up the kayak, the one we had reserved had been sold out from under us. So after much humming and hawing, and offers of boats we didn’t want (they would be too small or too big), Paddleshack/Trailhead gave us this brand new boat! I think it was the best liked of all the creek boats we have rented. The first aid signs on those two barrels worked well, but the other barrel numbering stickers didn’t last very well, but the idea was good. Some of the stickers were positioned such that they were underneath the harnesses and thus not visible :( The water level oscillated between 70 and 76 throughout the week, this is down from the 120 level of our previous trip, but still plenty of fun. Somebody discovered that the kayaks made great seats in the dining shelter, so those were dragged in every night. The laminated spiral bound menu/recipes worked nicely again, and the addition of a set of spiral bound maps for use at the campsite was worthwhile. We took seven barrels across three canoes; they fitted fine with one personal pack per person. We carry a lot of first aid, repair, and rescue gear (and duplicates of it all), so that takes up a fair amount of barrel space.


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