Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Capsized Canoe 2006 was amazing!


The trip was more then I thought it would be in many ways. This is it, the full trip description and summary of the trip highlights.

At the end I have added a section of things we will change for next years trip.

You can find all the pics from this years trip by following this link.

Thursday Aug 3, 2006

Gerry and I left Newcastle by 4:00 pm and arrived at the Welcome Inn Motel by 8:00 ($50 a night..great deal and only 15 minutes from the Brent access point)

It took us all of 30 seconds to move our gear in the room and we were in the car again heading for a local watering hole. We found the bar on the main strip and it was called McCools. Despite the lack of draft, it was just what we needed and was full of lots of "local colour". I had one beer and noticed that it was hitting me really hard. Before I knew it , Gerry ordered a second and once we killed those we decided it was time to leave. On standing I remembered that I had been taking muscle relaxants for my back and was not too mix them with alcohol. Well needless to say, with in 10 minutes I was pretty much hammered and was having problems walking. After some laughs at the expense of some locals, we made our way back to the hotel and I were asleep before 11:00.

Friday Aug 4, 2006

We were checked out of the hotel and on our way by 7:00 and after breakfast at a greasy spoon restaurant next door to the Dixie Lee in Mattawa we made our way to Brent.

Erin (from Ontario Parks) was at the main gate again this year and she was very pregnent. Judging from Gerrys smile , you would think he had something to do with it. Erin told us how the storm the had caused all kinds of damage several weeks ago in Algonquin had blocked the road going into Brent, trapping her there for 4 days. As for the trail conditions, she was quick to assure us that all of the trails have been cleared of storm damage....we would find out later that she was somewhat misinformed.

We were in Brent talking to Jake by 8:30. Always an interesting guy, Jake seemed to like the idea that we had managed to get up early to beat the long weekend crowds. He told us a poem that sums up his personality

JAKES POEM :"Here I sit by the fire starring at a log, the more that I meet people the more I like my dog"

The entire trip from Brent to Burntroot took us 10 hours and 15 minutes, ( 2 hours over my original estimate). The longest portage of the day was the 2380 and it felt even longer. I had planned on carrying the canoe for the entire distance, but needed to exchange it with Gerry after the first 1/3 and then carried it again for the final 1/3. This took the wind from my sail a bit, as I realized that I had underestimated the difficulty the portaging was going to be. It was not the weight, I was having trouble finding the right balance with the canoe and so the yoke was causing some pretty severe pain at times as it dug into my neck.

Catfish Lake was very rough and this had me feeling fear for the first time on the trip. We also met up with a pair of younger guys named Matt and Graham that Gerry nick-named "The Frat Boys". After talking with them, we discovered they were gunning for the same Table Top site that we were. The huge waves combined with the fire of competition had us cowboy up another notch and kept us within a few hundred yards of the speedy Frat Boys. In the southern part of Catfish we saw a moose of in the distance (Moose #1) and

We ran into the frat boys again as we reached the portage on Pearley lake and this would prove to be the last we would see of them, they were just too fast. Once we had conceded the site and as the fatigue of 8 hours of tough canoeing set in, our stroke was a little slower and our smiles all but absent. Near the end of Pearley we saw another moose and this managed to raise our spirits a bit (Moose #2)

By now I had started to find a good balance with the canoe and Gerry helped me to adjust my pack a bit. Between the two, I had found a comfort zone and this made the long portages much better.

At the end of the portage going into Burntroot Lake both of us were happy to finaly be there, but also silently cursing the Frat boys for beating us to the site we so badly wanted. We then geared up and started to paddle towards our secondary site, located at the opposite end of the preferred table top site island.

As we approach the island, Gerry suggested that we go to the other site to check to see it it is indeed occupied. I was reluctant to do it, as the last thing I wanted was to see the frat boys enjoying our site. As we paddled up to the site to our surprise the site was empty! We happily made short work of setting up camp and within the hour we were sitting down to sausage on a bun and a cup of a very nice Pino Noir. After a late night skinny dip (that would become our trip ritual) we were both in bed by 9:30

Saturday Aug 5, 2006

We were up, fed and on our way to the south or Burntroot by 8 am. Our mission was to find the Barnet Farm and the Aligator.

After a 2 hour paddle we found the farm easily and took lots of picks of the what is left of the buildings. We took a short hike around the clearing that would have been used as the garden and found overgrown strawberries and raspberries everywhere. The strawberries were gone, but there were many raspberries and as we ate them it was amazing to think that they have survived over 130 years.

We then set off to find the alligator and it proved a little harder to find, but after 30 minutes of searching I spotted the roof of it through the brush. This was an amazing site and we spent a lot of time exploring it and taking countless pics.

We then set off home and after another 2 hour return paddle we were back on the table top site.

The rest of the day was spend swimming and resting ourselves, as we would be on the move again in the morning. Little did we know how much we would need the rest on Sunday.

Sunday Aug. 6, 2006

We were fed, broke camp on our way out of burntroot by 8:30. Our goal today was to make it to the high falls site, make camp and then travel up river to see the POW camp. By now both of us had all but perfected our portaging skills and so it was no longer a task either of us dreaded. I carried the canoe for the first three and Gerry carried it for the entire 1900 (talk about crushing it...way to go dude!).

We arrived at the Nippising River by 11:30 and made our way up river to get to the high falls site. We were paddling against the current and the closer we got to the falls the more difficult it was to paddle, but it was manageable. Once we turned the final corner and were with in 100 feet of the portage, the current really started to whip our buts, but we kicked it up to 10 and were making some headway, but the 2 steps forward one step back was really tiring. Now only 20 feet from the portage and paddling all out, that feeling of fear came back as the current started to pull us sideways. This would capsize us...the overwhelming fear enabled us to kick it up to a level neither of us thought we had and as the foam from the rapids sprayed all over us we managed to pull into the portage....Barely!

After some nervous laughs about what had just happened we geared up and made our way to the beautiful high falls site. This is where the Saturday started to go wrong...the site was awfull! No cover, no room just a firepit and a place to drop the tent. Worse yet, with the current being as strong as it was, there was no way we could swim. So we decided to have lunch and look at our options.

I should mention that our MSR mini-works water filter has been working well. On burntroot lake the filter needed to be cleaned after every liter or two. On the Nippising River however, the water is much dirtier, in fact in looks like dark tea. Here we were lucky to get 500 ml of water before the filter would clog and when your thirsty that filter is a lot of work. Just remember this for later...

Back to the lunch on high falls...we looked our options a) Stay at the shitty site with no shade, no room and no swimming b) Leave and shoot for the Nippising Hill top site that we had planned on spending Monday night on. Well we choose the later and after a much needed lunch of tuna wraps, granola bars and filter tea water, we were off again by 1:30

The Nippising River was long and the first hour was cool, but I have to admit that after 3 hours of the same high banks and never ending winding river, it got a bit boring. At one point I was so sick of having to clean the water filter after every 500 ml that I announced to Gerry that I was going to just drink it straight from the river. I know it seems crazy now, but at that time I was tired and the filter had become work..10 minutes work for 500 ml did not seem worth it. Gerry managed to talk me out of it and I worked on filtering the water while Gerry paddled. After 20 minutes, we had added Gatoraide to 2 liters of filtered tea water and were happily straining silt through our teeth.

We came around a corner near the site and were stunned to see a moose less then 10 feet from us (Moose #3). He turned out to be a great model as he stood there for 5 minutes and let us snap away. All the time we were almost close enough to touch him. This made the tea water seem not as bad.

We arrived at the Hill top site Near the end of the Nippising at 7:00 and made short work of making camp, dinner and hanging our first bear bag of the trip. The site was another bad site unlevel ground, a hike to the water and not much of a clearing, but at this point neither of us cared. After our ritual skinny dip, we decided two things: 1) Despite being only 8:15, we would go to bed 2) In the morning we would break camp and head for Brent

This had us coming home a day early, but because we had traveled so much distance the previous day, we were a day ahead of schedule. We considered spending the last night on Cedar Lake, on the island we were on for last years trip. But in the end we decided we had out grown the island and it would have to wait at least another year for a visit form us.

We then went to sleep for the last night of Capsized Canoe 2006.

Monday Aug. 7, 2006

With military percision we broke camp and were on the water by 8:00. As we approached the end of the Nipising River where it starts to widen, we saw another moose (Moose #4) that charged across the water in from of us. Gerry and I stood back in awe of this powerfull animal, all the time knowing that our trip was coming to an end. We watched as the moose slowly disappeared into the brush and without a word Gerry and I new it was special moment.

The Nippising widened into Cedar Lake and despite being so close to the end, the park would not let us have and easy crossing. The wind had picked up and the waves forces us to paddle hard in to stop being pushed off course.

We arrived at 10:30 took a few pics, loaded the car and set off home. We did however, stop for lunch at the Dixie Lee in Mattawa (another tradition) before winding our way back through the highway congestion of long weekend traffic. We arrived home just before 4 pm filled with rediscovered appreciation of our family's and a feeling of accomplishment. We had done it!!!

Things to Change for next year:

  1. Bring less food- We brought enough food to last us 2 weeks and it added a lot of weight.
  2. Outback Oven- It works great, but at the end of hard day it is just to much to spend 20-30 minutes preparing a meal. Next year more simple meals and leave the oven at home
  3. More protein - Next year we will bring more protein powder and textured vegetable protein
  4. Just spoon- Not a big deal, but why did we bring a knife and fork?
  5. Solar battery Charger- Did not use it once
  6. Clothes - Bring one more t-shirt and another pair of Merino wool socks, by the end I was getting too smelly

I am sure I will add to this later, as I do not have my trip notes with me.

Lastly, I just want to say something too my buddy Gerry. Thanks for being there brother!

P.S- Capsized Canoe 2007 is only 336 days 5 hours and 6 minutes away!

1 comment:

Linda in Sudbury said...

Great read - terrific photos! What a marvelous adventure.