Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canada 2010 Canoe/Kayak trip, Missinaibi

4 of us hit the water at Missinaibi Lake in Ontario, Canada for a 130 mile canoe/kayak trip. 1 canoe, an Old Town 17.4 Discovery, of which I guess they don't make anymore, and 2 kayaks, both of which were Prijon Yukon Expeditions.

We all met in Escanaba, MI and consolidated to one vehicle, the Mac Van.
Looks like Tom does all the work??

We had an interesting night before in Chapleau, ON, a town of under 3,000 people. We got there in time to check in to a motel and head down to the local Legion Bar. We had a couple beers with some bar food and on the way back to the motel a local policeman was waiting for us at a stop sign. No lights flashing, just walked out and asked Mac (as he was driving) through the window if he had been drinking. Mac said yes, a couple beers. A breath analyzer was called in along with a backup unit and a unit that didn't stop, but we noticed crusing around. The nearest town is miles and miles away...Chapleau is really kind of "out there". So, 4 squad cars converged on us....ok.
Well, anyway, Mac blew a 0.00 and we were allowed to continue on our way.
Oh, while Mac was in back of the van by the squad that had the breathalyzer, the initial cop that stopped us asked Mac, who probably had his hands in his pockets "Do you have anything in your pockets that can hurt me?"
As part of an old joke we all thought Mac should have answered (and thankfully he didn't) "just something that looks like a penis only smaller..."

Tom, me, Mac and Josh at the put-in.
We ran into Matt Howell, Director if Missinaibi Outfitters at the lake. He and a friend were just ending their time they spent camping around the lake and we were just getting on to find the river outlet. We stopped and talked to him last year and have seen him a few times at Conoecopia in Madison, WI.
Told us the water was very low, he was 100% correct.

Tom and Mac, veterans of many of these trips. Bios from last year's trip.

Coming down Split Rock Rapids this year....kinda! (We actually portaged it then came up from the bottom to get this shot.)
Josh, a young friend on his first venture north of the border to participate in this type of adventure, did great his first time out. No whining or wimping out in the paddling, portaging or helping around camp. Maybe the best part is that Josh is a Type 1 Diabetic, but he didn't let that slow him down. With all the fish that were caught, his hardy appetite came in handy as well!
A number of the photos in this posting are Josh's as well, so thanks for sharing them, Josh.

We started out on Missinaibi Lake for 7 mile paddle into a decent headwind.

Finding the outlet of the lake was a little interesting due to the low water levels. We did this same trip about 7 years ago and just paddled up to the end of the lake and there the river was. I added a couple extra hours of paddling looking for the outlet this year....something we really didn't need.

This year, with about a 3 foot drop in water level, we had to use a different tact to get to the end of the lake.
Walking across a 75 yard sunken island that basically separated the 2 sections of the lake.
At the 2nd rapids, Cedar Rapids, I started fishing for dinner. The walleyes were hitting hard and often. In 15-20 casts I had a number of nice specimens for the frying pan.
I almost had my head-mounted camera set at the right angle! Something to work on.

When I got to camp an hour later than the rest of the crew, they had an appetizer and a cocktail ready for me, along with tents setup, water purified and ample amounts of firewood to last the evening. This was the MO for just about every day.
Tom and I started filleting the fish.
Notice our cutting board. This guy was a little frisky yet.
Then the frying started. Smoked bacon used a source of grease, fish rolled in Shore Lunch as a breading. Smoked bacon won't spoil so we use on these trips along with smoked sausage.
A real luxury here was a campsite with grate.
For the first night's dinner, we often bring steak, vegetables and mushrooms....combine this with the fish and we had a huge dinner!
This is the only year we never had to wear any bug netting. Maybe due to the dry weather?
Later in the evening we had a little midnight snack, walleye and bacon, of course.
Pancakes the next morning, thanks to my wife's purchase of a mix packet. We also had leftover fish and mushrooms from the night before, as well. Water warming to clean dishes.
Mac and his duct taped tennis taken on various days during the trip.
Field repair.
It was decided last year that Tom was to buy Mac new shoes and Mac was to buy Tom a new kettle....neither happened and our kettle handle was broke before we even go to to use it once....and well, Mac's shoes look to be the very same pair he started with 10 years ago on these trips.

The white bucket....uses:
- dry food storage
- food doesn't get smashed as in a Duluth or backpack
- won't sink if dumped from canoe
- camp stool

- lid serves as cutting board or plate to make sandwiches on (or PB&J tortillas)

- holding up a bench
I wasn't a big fan of it at first, but Tom seems to have proved his point.
Don't dispose of those empty Whiskey bottles, either!
First day out. Cow moose and calf.
Ducks in flight.
The infamous KARK paddle....still going strong.
2nd day out, Peterbill train crossing...lunch time.
About this time we thought we heard a train coming....we were right. Had to get off the tracks, pronto!

Typical that can keep, no extra containers, high calories...inexpensive!Typical food. No freeze dried stuff. Things like store bought au Grauten potatoes, sour cream and chives, mac and cheese, mashed spuds, etc. Just add water, toss in some sausage in desired. Guess rice would work as well, but we haven't taken any as of yet.
Left over walleye and 'schrooms in the tin foil from the night before.
Snacks. Granola bars are our breakfast of choice, especially if the bugs are so thick in the morning you just want to break camp and get on the water to escape them. This year was an exception, fried bacon a few times for breakfast.
Various shots along the river:
What is going on here???!!!!

I have to maintain control of my yak while filming/taking pics. There was a lot more current here than it seems, pulling us upstream toward the tight chute and rapids that contained what appears to be a relatively mild falls or drop.
We had thought this drop above could be ran, but if one ended up not making the long technical run above it or this spot even, we felt there was enough of back current to hold a person in the hydraulic, there-by risking drowning. The pull on the boats even at this distance from the drop was quite significant. A person swimming would not have been able to over come the pull back into the water that would continuously rotate one trapped in a cycle. Further, the banks were solid rock, slippery and steep, with no way out but to escape the pull of the current.

Below is another seeming innocent set of rapids, but there were a series of 5 drops and the 2nd one, that can't be seen here was a doozy. Drops are tough on longer boats because you end up with the bow and stern the only places touch water, the narrowest part of the canoe or kayak, which tends to make them unstable. Throw in some decent wave action from the side or a needed quick maneuver right or left and over ya go. Drops, as explained above, are dangerous in that they can "hold" a swimmer. Large rolling rapids will wash you out, drops/hydraulics hold and trap you.
Then take into account having to get your boat out of the water with literally hundreds of pounds of water in it if you do dump, assuming the boat or you don't get pinned against a rock or caught in a hydraulic, then after an hour or so, wet, beat and tired, you can be on your way. Not worth the risks, or time lost. Gotta let the river win once in awhile.

The 1st, 2nd, and 6th (last) days were nice weather. 3rd, 4th and 5th, well, ok, except for the dang headwind.

Wolf sign, last campsite. Also, bear tracks were seen walking the muddy bank.
3rd, 4th, and 5th days were tough with big headwinds, 20-30 mile an hour gusts at times, maybe. Woke up to low 40's for temps on the 3rd and 4th days with on and off rain the 3rd day.
We never did get a south wind....rule No. 1 of the river, "wind is always in your face".

Wind wasn't a big issue in places where there was some decent current, but with the low water aspect, current was minimal 80% of the time.
Some pluses on the low water was that Tom and Mac had minimal portaging and they could run a lot of the rapids where normally one would have had to portage, as well as Josh and I in the yaks. The low water provided more opportunities for us to work our way down the river looking for the channel instead of just cruising on down.

This was a runnable drop in the yaks under normal circumstances. But, when you're 50 miles from the takeout with no way to get help, it was risk we didn't need to take. Even a dislocated shoulder could be a big problem when you still have 50 miles to paddle. No need putting yourself or you partners in a bad situation.

We moved over to river left and found this exit around the drop instead.

River graveyard. With the low water many large rocks were over exposed. We all 3 experienced a strange feeling of entering a grave yard during the 1/4 mile or more stretch of river. Tom and Mac saw a perfectly arched rock that could have been used to etch the name of a lost canoeist. People have drowned on this rive, but most probably further north (downstream) after leaving Mattice, where we got off. We've done the down river section as well.
Smallmouth bass, caught 2 about this size, good fighters!
A little night life action. Stayed light till 10PM or so.
Josh, posing as The Captain.
The only "matches" one needs on very windy day or when the wood is wet after days of rain.
Waiting out the wind one afternoon.

We met Andrew on day 3 I believe. He's was 7 days into his 4 week trip starting from Lake Superior heading to James (Hudson) Bay. Solo. Rented a canoe from Missinaibi Outfitters. He had an issue with it and Mac fixed him up with some spare parts we had brought.
This was taken the morning before we started down a long rapids called Greenhill. The portage is around a mile, so we discussed with Andrew that we were going to see about lining it, that due to the low water levels, we thought we could avoid the portage.
He thought he'd try it, too and off he went.
After we broke camp Josh and I started down the rapids with Tom and Mac following behind watching how we did to see what options they had.
It wasn't long before we came upon Andrew. He had lined the upper most difficult section then decided to paddle the rest. It was too technical for a solo runner and he tipped after hitting some rocks.
Josh and him got his canoe drained and upright.........
while I gathered in some of his load.
On the last night camping I held back at the last rapids before reaching camp. Fishing was a little slow and then I got a hit. The fish came in hard and slow out of the fast water and it was a real nice 26" or so walleye.
I got him up next to the kayak and grabbed him with my gloved left hand and tossed him in the bottom of the yak.
That's when the wrestling match started. He still had the rapala bait in his mouth and as he thrashed around, he managed to hook the last treble hook into the bottom of my wind pants as I sat in the yak trying to keep him from doing more damage to me or flipping himself out.
When I finally got the hook out of his mouth and got him attached to the stringer, I just decided to cut the hook out of my pants as it was too tightly "hooked" into the pants.
At least I didn't get a hook caught in the back of my leg.
Big Wally
6 of the 8 fillets from Big Wally.
The end of this section of the river, right before the town of Mattice. Ojibway burial site.
Loading up.
Various river art.
Missinaibi Sailfish?
Making little ones out of big ones.
Missinaibi mosquito skeleton?


Anonymous said...

I thought about killing the kid(Josh) but I need him to haul my gear next year. Great summary of what looks like a great trip.


mark scotch said...

The good part was WE never felt like killing him on the trip, he did great....we all enjoyed his company and enthusiasm. We did tell him that the only reason we brought him along was so that he'd learn enough to take us and take care of us on similar trips in the future when we get to be old men!

Nick said...

Mark, always like checking the blog to hear about your adventures. Someone needs to get Mac a new pair of shoes. Is that bucket idea the one you all gave Bogey such a hard time about?
Looks like another successful trip for you guys. Love the pics, videos, and storytelling.

mark scotch said...

yep, that's the bucket, I had to eat a little crow concerning it..

new shoes? broken kettle handle fixed?.....maybe next year!