Date: Sunday, July 26, 2015
Weather: 30 degrees Celsius, sunny
Distance: ~4 kms
What a spectacular morning to start the day!
I had found a secluded tent pad yesterday and set up my tent to face east. I knew we would be in bed early which meant I would be awake with first light. I crept out of my tent, grabbed my Pelican case, and headed for the rapids to shoot the morning light. After a half an hour of sunrise photos I crept back to my tent to start packing up my belongings quietly.
By the time I finished there was movement from the other women. We started coffee and tea and sliced up some oranges while Jenny started breakfast. A warm air mass sat on us, forcing us to slow our pace. We did the dishes, tore down the rest of camp, and made sure everyone was topped up for water and slathered with sunscreen.
As we examined the map and the plan for the day, Gail bestowed me with her Canadian flag. I had passed my Canadian citizenship test only a couple of weeks earlier and was waiting for the notice calling me to be sworn in. An almost-Canadian on an iconic Canadian canoe trip.
The paddle to Big Pine Chute was short. We beached the canoes and hopped out on shore, watching out for the poison ivy infestation as we walked the portage trail to the bottom of the rapids. Gail showed us the river features we wanted to avoid and the ones we could run comfortably. We walked back up to the top of the chute and spent a long time looking at the various lines that could be or should not be run. River Left looked to be a no-no with some fairly significant pour-overs. There was an eddy on River Right that we could catch and buy ourselves some time before we ran the last of the rapids. Based on the features of the chute and the current water levels, we were looking at a Class II rapid.
After about 45 minutes of talking it through and examining the hazards, we decided all three boats would run it, empty of gear. My paddling partner and I watched Gail run Big Pine, then Jenny ran it. A couple asked us what we were doing and we told them we were on a Paddle Canada moving water course. It was time for our canoe to make the run and the two of us ambled back to the canoe, breathing deeply, envisioning our line and our commands to one another.
I ended up entering the chute where I wanted to this time and managed to get myself into the eddy (hooray!). I took a little more direct line for the bottom half of Big Pine Chute which resulted in a log-flume effect but the two of us were thrilled when we eddied out at the bottom. I bailed out the water we took on and then all six of us debriefed on shore, fueled up on trail mix, and rehydrated.
Just as we were about to load up the canoes again, we watched in horror as the couple I had just been talking with on shore decided to run the rapid with their beautiful kevlar canoe and all of their gear. We had made Big Pine Chute look too easy. The current pushed them over to River Left and they dumped on one of the pour-overs. Their boat was pinned facing downstream (one small silver lining).
By some small miracle, the guy was able to bail out the canoe enough that the two of them could right it and get back in, continuing down the precarious River Left side of the chute before they pulled over to shore to retrieve some of their belongings that had floated downstream. They continued on their way and we packed up our canoes and did the same.
We made our way downstream to Blue Chute where many were playing in the water. People were swimming the rapid, hopping out at the bottom, and running up to swim it again. We portaged our gear over, ran our boats through Blue Chute’s big, beautiful ‘V’, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and some swam the rapid. Our couple from the morning’s adventures did the same, successfully running it this time. We waved good-bye to all of the swimmers and paddled on towards Big Parisien.
We opted to camp beneath Big Parisien Rapids and make the third day of our canoe trip our long, flatwater day. We once again hopped out of our canoes and portaged our gear across, watching for insidious patches of poison ivy. The couple were right behind us, opting to portage this one and continue on.
We scouted Big Parisien from its cliff walls, noting another big, beautiful ‘V’ to follow most of the way down. We decided to run it ducky-style this time, one canoe following the next with about a canoe-length between each boat. With all three canoes through safely, we went for a cooling swim, set up camp, swatted flies and mosquitoes, and reflected on our day over dinner.
For the rest of this trip report, click here.