is a crazy idea to paddle 80 km in one
long day. Yet this crazy idea
brought the 7 of us together to paddle a massive chunk of the
French River - from Wolseley Bay
to Georgian Bay - in one marathon day. Something
of a 2012 take on the voyageurs and the historic fur trade route on the French River.
always known the voyageurs to be a rowdy, somewhat wild crew who paddled hard
by day and enjoyed a smoke and sip of something strong at
night. Our approach was similar
but with the addition of steaks, fresh trout and wine.
Late afternoon Monday, we put in and paddled a few hours to get in the groove.
of our seven, Peter, is the definition
of a “ringer”. Peter has been paddling Montreal canoes down the
French for decades. His confidence in
what our north canoe could handle was inspiring and in no time
we were barreling down the rapids of Blue Chute and Parisien with big smiles.
26 foot north canoe looked a little rough with uneven packs, barrel and coolers
but we were balanced nicely and with seven paddlers moved at a good pace. At one point our big canoe went over a rock garden and one good sized
boulder which stretched the canoe but unbelievably did not break. Amazed ,we paddled on checking for leaks
which never came.
French River has amazing camping everywhere
and our Monday night site was superb.
After a feast of red meat and shiraz,
we sipped spiced rum by the fire and talked through our plan for
the big day. On the water by 5am and with luck – on the bay by end of daylight.
Tuesday began with driving rain which thankfully quit as we packed out. With a hit of coffee – we were off. The first 5 hours flew by. 30 odd k and feeling good. The portage around Recollect Falls was simple and provided a much needed fuel stop.
then the west wind kicked in. The forecast called for westerly winds at 25km
felt all of it. The canoe slowed but our effort did not.
River really is a series
of lakes and we paddled on through bay
afternoon – we turned south and got a
wee break from the brunt of the
wind. In no time we were at the Dallas
Rapids- a tricky set but one in which we
were looking forward to shooting. But our excitement quickly changed to concern . The rapid
looked treacherous in one spot . With
the early spring melt , the water level
on the French was exceeding low and at
this rapid translated to the sharp rocks
below the surface. Rocks that otherwise we could float over in higher
much effort, head wind and now this “fun” rapid
was turning out to be our crux.
The gate before the bay. We all wanted to run the rapid but with that
can opener – the chance of the canoe being torn apart was real. The portage was short but the trails we did see went nowhere and were
difficult for carrying a north canoe.
Lining was no picnic either. The idea of a difficult portage or line after such a long day on the river was bringing
down our energy.
is no reward without risk and with that in our mind a decision was made to
without packs and with a lighter weight of just 4 paddlers.
gave us the line and we nailed it - with
a nice eddy turn to boot!
spirits soared! On to the bay!
group of 7 hit the Bay an hour after.
The off shore islands protected us
from the wind and we
were able to paddle out to Sabine Island arriving around 6:15pm.
Satisfied and with smiles all around, we hoisted a drink with a gorgeous view of
Georgian Bay and the Bustard Islands.
Labels: French River, Ontario River, Voyageur canoe, Voyageur Quest, Voyageurs