Archive for the ‘Expeditions’ Category

Haida Gwaii 2013 Trip Report

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Haida Gwaii in 2013 turned out to be a different trip than the trips in 2005 & 2009 (click to see photo galleries). Click here for photos from the 2013 trip. Included are photos for the road trip and a stop in Glacier National Park for a week.

Here is a guide to the trip highlights.

The weather was far different than previous years. Drier and calmer. This made paddling the west side far more enjoyable. Note the blues skies and seas that are 3′ or less. Oh and notice the other paddlers. Two people Shayne and Matt from Vancouver Island were on the same ferry as myself and doing the same trip. This was the start to ~2 weeks of paddling together.



This wasn’t the case all the time. The second day became the typical pattern, one far more predictable in that winds would rise around the points and in the afternoon. A couple of times they rose to a degree it was time to start looking to pull out. But rounding a point would reduce them. Good thing about the wind? It was from the northwest, a tail wind!



A good thing about traveling with Shayne was that he was good at fishing. He put himself thru college working a fishing boat on the islands. It was multiple evenings with him that fresh Rock Cod fillets would get delivered.



The calmer conditions enabled landing for lunch at places one wouldn’t consider in bigger conditions. Below is the landing in Portland Bay. Given the size of the cobbles and the size of logs above the high tide line, I was glad to not be spending much time in such an exposed place.



The weather did give us times to have a weather day and catch up on our rest. Here at Husband Harbor an all day rain settled in and we took the time off. Interesting thing was the wind didn’t come with the rain, so we were able paddle the next day. Same thing for two other weather days we took.


Most interesting was Wells Harbor. An earthquake, the second largest in Canadian history stuck the area months prior. There were numerous mud slides on the surrounding hills and the wood on the beach came from a tsunami triggered by the quake. Never seen such a density of crushed & mangled wood on a beach before.  There was a certain tension being here knowing it could happen again…


The wildest and biggest waves came on the longest stretch without an easy takeout – 25 miles from Wells Harbor to Cape Freeman. Overfalls or an uneven ocean bottom combined with the tidal currents to disrupt the waves. We had 6′ waves grow to over 9′ and start breaking randomly around us. Fortunately none broke near us but it was quite a ride for a couple of hours.


Ninstints, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an amazing place. Totem poles from over a hundred years ago still stand. Haida, the First Nation people have Watchman, or people who protect the site from looters and give tours. Our guide was Kenny. For over three hours Kenny told of Haida history, customs, stories and heritage.


After Ninstints, Shayne & Matt and I parted ways. It was good to paddle with them but we differed on routes we were taking on the east side. The east side offered a different world of paddling. With a lot of islands that offer protection, calm seas and winds were a daily occurrence. Still a wild and beautiful land. Only challenge was the dry summer. Campside creeks that ran normally were dry and one needed to search for larger sources of fresh water.


The earthquake also had other effects, it caused the hot springs on Hot Springs Island to go dry. Good news is that they are coming back with trickles of water increasing in volume and temperature the week before I arrived. And this had happened after a previous earthqauke. The bad news is that it wasn’t possible to get a good soak! Below is one of the dry pools.


Then finally, a photo from the ferry on the way back to the mainland.


From here it was on to Glacier National Park for a week of hiking.

After three trips and 70 days of paddling on the islands, it is still a magical spot for me. The Haida add a magic like no other place, except maybe what the west of Ireland offers. And as always, weather dominates. The trips in 2005 & 2009 were dominated by weather and had a significant number of weather days. This year the weather at times seemed too good to be true.

So which year is my favorite? I can’t say, each one offered such a unique view of the place. I can say the 2009 trip was my least favorite but I would still take the experience that trip offered despite not being able to accomplish any of its goals. In the end, as a paddler, one responds to the weather and allows it to form the trip. For it is often in the unplanned, that gives a trip the alchemy that makes for an intoxicating potion.


Salt, Trip Prep and an Update

Monday, June 24th, 2013
Haida Gwaii aka the Queen Charlotte Islands in northern British Columbia 40 miles out from the mainland and just south of Alaska.

Haida Gwaii aka the Queen Charlotte Islands in northern British Columbia 40 miles out from the mainland and just south of Alaska.

As I ready for Haida Gwaii (click here), packing the laminated charts and maps used on previous trips, my fingers tell me that they are covered in salt. This tactile sense brings more memories: storm bound at this river mouth, a beautifully sunny rest day here, old growth trees on this island, Orcas off of this point, etc.  If the trip goes as planned, it will mark three trips and close to seventy days on the water there. This is a place that has grabbed me and pulled me into it’s waters in a way that only traveling by sea kayak does.

To get to this point on the calendar requires a loud phew! Previous summers my workload was overwhelmed with running the Y program. Stepping into a different role with less responsibility this season, life is still busy, but there is free time. How enjoyable instead of the constant scramble and having to triage so much of one’s life. With this change, is also a needed process happening to recovery from being overwhelmed for four seasons in a row. My respect to those who can live with such a schedule.

This year also marks a new direction for Nancy and I. ACA instructor workshops have been our primary activity this time of year outside of Bay Cliff and the Y. Given our experience including working as guides, running instructor workshops, doing staff training, and personal paddling, outfitters are turning to us to train their staff to a high standard.  In working with outfitters, it is one of the frontlines in keeping Great Lake’s paddlers safe. Best of all, this is fun with good people.

Arrival at Skidegate by ferry and time to pack the boat. 21 day trip in 2009.

Arrival at Skidegate by ferry and time to pack the boat. 21 day trip in 2009.

But back to trip packing/preparation. All my food is together except for a last minute buy of fresh food items. All equipment is packed together into a pile. A complex float plan is together and given to two trusted friends who will watch after me. Today is going over the needed tide tables, maps and charts ensuring they are all here & in order. Then there is the packing for the trip to Glacier National Park which includes three days of backpacking on the continental divide and several days of car camping to enable day trips on the divide in different areas. Details, details and more details are coming together so everything is in place when needed.

There is also several days of massage left. My clients, who I know I inconvenience by being gone so long, are understanding and coming in for one last massage before my return in a month. They all support my trips or at least, listen patiently as I talk about them. The photos on my office walls help to explain this part of my life.

Dugout canoes at the Haida Heritage Center in Skidegate.

Dugout canoes at the Haida Heritage Center in Skidegate.

In preparing for this trip, one thing I have been aware of is time. Previous years, working a crazy schedule with the Y, time was scarce and at times, an adversary. This year it is a friend. After returning from my last instructor workshop, I started the packing process. Tired and fatigued (three 12-14 hour days will do that), I had time to take a nap. Upon waking, my memory kicked in, I didn’t remember packing beef jerky. A sign that time has returned to being a friend and a helper. A welcomed sign…

With a checklist and a five day drive out to the ferry in Prince Rupert, the forgotten beef jerky would have been remembered. But remembering on my own and before leaving the house or using the checklist, sets up a different drive. A relaxed drive where the land tells its story and I can watch and listen: from the Northwoods, to the Northern Plains, to the Rockies to the Canadian Rockies to the BC coast and the Pacific. It is a trip that tells the story of the land as it transitions into the world where the paddling can begin. A trip that mirrors my transition into what will likely require some very committed paddling.

Gwaii Hanaas Logo

Now, back to getting salt on my hands again…


Ferry Stories

Friday, April 5th, 2013

First trip out to Haida Gwaii, the photo below was the start of the two different BC ferries that Carl and I took. It was also the start of pushing kayaks onto ferries and a few lessons learned along the way.

Carl and I getting our boats ready to roll aboard the ferry in Port Hardy for the ride up the Inside Passage.

Getting our boats ready to roll aboard the ferry in the background for the ride up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Photo by Carl Mather.

The learning curve.

  • We rolled our boats onto the ferry. Best to load them I told Carl. Boats loaded with 25 days of gear are heavy, especially when you push them 1/4 to 1/2 mile on an inclined steel grating. I can still feel my back aching. Stress cracks showed up in the gel coat. On the return trip, we used the cart walk on passengers can put bags onto and left the boats light. Sorry about that Carl…

    Kayak wheels. Strong enough to wheel a loaded boat around. Strong enough to handle a loaded boat.

    Kayak wheels.

  • Arrival times tend to be accurate, its the offloading that may take a while. We missed our scheduled permit talk at the Gwaii Haanas Park office because of that. Fortunately the ranger lady took pity on us and we were out in an hour instead of waiting around till the next day.
  • Water from the facets may not be potable. On the current ferry from Prince Rupert out to Skidegate I felt the effect by the next morning. It was 3-4 days before the need to quickly land when paddling had passed.
  • Good wheels that breakdown and stow easily are a must. They best handle a loaded boat as well. On the first trip to Haida Gwaii we left our wheels in town. Mine didn’t readily come apart and Carl’s didn’t handle a heavy boat well. The wheels to the right solve both of those problems.

    Blocks used to secure my boat on the way to Haida Gwaii.

    Blocks used to secure my boat on one ferry.

  • Expect to secure your boat. Some of these boats encounter rough water and your boat will slide around.

There is a good life aboard to enjoy.

  • Some have all you can eat buffets. Carl and I each had 3+ overflowing plates for breakfast and dinner after our 25 day long trip. Satiated, we found comfortable places to sleep off our food induced stupor.
  • One of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen was when Carl and I sat on the stern as we pulled out of Skidegate at sunset. Simply gorgeous. Also gorgeous was the cabin shower and the bunk beds with clean sheets that we booked for the overnight trip to Prince Rupert. Waking up the next morning, Carl was in the shower again. Didn’t you take one last night? I wanted to make sure it took.

    Watching the cars come onto the ferry in Prince Rupert after they watched me push my boat on first.

    Watching the cars come onto the ferry in Prince Rupert after they watched me push my boat on first.

  • Met a paddler from the Falklands on one ferry. Fun to pass time talking about paddling in another part of the world.
  • The ship’s restaurant on the run between Dublin and Anglessey is a Burger King but you can order a Guinness.

But with all that said, you can expect to face the unexpected. Rules, regulations, the things the reservation agent says all can change and throw a barrier in your way. Check out this story from Nancy and Carl’s adventure taking the ferry to Newfoundland – click here.

Ferry Stories:

  • Traveling from the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island, I learned July 1st can be pretty festive in Canada. An obviously inebriated person shouted out at various intervals I love you Canada and Happy Birthday. Sometimes there are pretty woman on these ferries. Sometimes it is best to stay away from them. One of them pretty ladies introduced me to the singer who was her friend.
  • In Stockholm, post 9/11, I had just passed through security when there was a shout. I was 15′ from a turn down a hallway and 50′ from the guards. Do I look back or ignore it and continue? After a couple of steps I turned around, all the security guards were there looking at me when someone said something in Swedish. No idea what was said, I kept pushing, smiled and waved. They all burst into laughter as I reached the hallway and turned out of their sight. Phew!

    Anna in line for the ferry in Mariehamm, Aland Finland.

    Anna in line for the ferry in Mariehamm, Aland Finland.

  • Also in Stockholm, I pushed the boat onto the escalator after realizing it wouldn’t fit on the elevator. Everyone, without a word, moved out of my way, as if that happened everyday.
  • Arriving in Prince Rupert, the ferry out the Haida Gwaii wasn’t until the next morning. The nearest campground was 2-3 miles away. The lady behind the counter was not one to allow any rule bending. What to do when it is midnight? We waited till the terminal staff left and commando camped in a nearby field. We rolled out of bed at 5 am to avoid trouble, broke camp and waited under the terminal’s eaves until it opened at 7am. A different counter person was more friendly. We didn’t say where we camped but the man said, you know a lot of paddlers just camp right over there, pointing to where we spent the night.




Food Planning For 23 Days

Friday, March 29th, 2013
The Sun by Haida artist Robert Davidon.

Artwork by Haida artist Robert Davidon.

23 days on the water. If all goes well, my third trip out to Haida Gwaii I will be in a wilderness unlike any other I have paddled into. After the first day, I will not see a road till day 22. A town and the ferry terminal will appear on day 23.

Food, that’s what I think about. What’s to eat?

Paddle where one can stop along the way in a store or restaurant is a totally different trip than if one needs to plan everything one eats for 3+ weeks. Below is some of what I’ve learned after 20+ years of doing overnight trips and 15+ of self supported trips two weeks or longer.

Not all paddling trips have a pub nearby.

Not all campsites have an Irish pub nearby.

Preservation is necessary. Cheese and sausage gets eaten the first week, tortillas pack smaller and last longer than other bread products and if you are lucky, hard cheese like parmesan can last three plus weeks. Dried fruit lasts and lasts, that is, if you don’t eat it right away. Several dinners come from grocery store shelves. Tuna helper is good protein & well known (I add dried veggies), Alessi’s Pasta Fazool soup is dried and has real food in it, dried spaghetti sauce plus dried ground beef rehydrates with the cooking pasta and a can of chicken, a spice packet, dried veggies & instant rice is a Chinese like meal. Variety in protein (beef, chicken & fish),  texture (rice, pasta, soup, etc) and flavor (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, etc)  is important to keep taste buds interested over weeks, even when very hungry. Variety also helps with getting better rounded nutrition.

Fast food? Think it is going to rain soon or you are so tired, all you want to/can do is crash out, think Mary Jane’s Bare Burrito. Boil some water, mix & throw it on a tortilla, you are satiated in under 20 minutes with no mess to clean up. Even quicker is some

Cooking dinner under a tarp in Haida Gwaii.

Cooking dinner under a tarp in Haida Gwaii.

beef jerky, dried fruit, tortilla and possibly a sports bar – this dinner has been eaten standing under a tree in a downpour before.

Have a need to eat something greasy & salty? Bring along some hashbrowns, oil and a fry pan. Add some eggs (from freeze dried or powered, freeze dried taste better and have little clean up), and you have a breakfast meal that for an off day or a half day will make you dream of the next time you get to eat it.

Then there is fresh food. Out of every craving I have walked off of a trip with, fresh is the only one I have not figured a way to fix. Baby carrots, small onions and garlic are carried as they all last well and can be thrown in bow/stern end to stow. Tortillas, baby carrots and peanut butter are a mid trip lunch staple. A bit of onion and garlic livens up any evening meal. Have to admit I am still figuring this part out.

What three weeks worth of food looks like.

What three weeks worth of food looks like packed.

Fuel concerns are another factor. Multiple meals boil water and then the meal is ready (bare burritos, stir fry using instant rice) and others cook for under 10 minutes (tuna helper, spaghetti, soup). Early trips had longer cooking foods and needed more fuel. Now I carry 80 ounces of fuel instead of 116 ounces for a 21 day trip.

Sports nutrition such as what Clif does grew from something I once questioned to something that earned its place in a packed boat. Clif bars I eat once a year, paddling season, for their dense calories. Clif shots and bloks provide a quick calorie boost. An ample supply is stuffed into my PFD pockets. When combined with a hydration bladder, you get  easy access to water & calories in rough seas or extended paddling between landings. A sports drink such as Cytomax provides hydration as well as sustained energy, I stop every hour for a drink of it. All of these products help me at the end of a long day (30-40 miles) to drag the boat above the high tide line, setup camp and cook dinner without crashing.

Deserts can save your sanity/pick up spirits and provide a reward. Simple foods with a low fuel requirement are needed. Chocolate is a standard, a snickers for every week is a

Stopping for coffee and ice cream in the San Juan Islands.

Stopping for coffee and ice cream in the San Juan Islands.

tradition and dried apricots turn into an object of lust. But a change is needed every once in a while to lift one out of taste fatigue or save you from killing someone (tough on a solo trip). Popping popcorn provides a salty crunchy snack that cannot be duplicated. Warm cookies (instant pancakes with chocolate chips added) makes one forget about apricots or murderous desires.

Chex mix provides a pre-dinner snack while waiting for the water to boil, both salty and crunchy, it can temporarily defang hunger pangs.

I’ve learned certain foods, even after two+ weeks of paddling taste awful. Instant cheesecake is one, potato soup by Bear Valley is another. There is the need to be satiated and Amy’s Mac & cheese just doesn’t pack enough calories. Then there is dietary needs, beef jerky is on every trip as a protein boost as is cheese and powdered milk for the nutrition (like calcium) that milk brings.

So much focus is on dinner and that is my plan – have the evening to rest, recover and plan for the next day. Breakfast is simple on paddling days, granola, powdered milk and dried bananas – I can get on the water in under an hour from waking up when needed. Plus a cold breakfast saves on fuel. Lunch is tortillas with cheese & sausage the first week, peanut

Gift from a crab fisherman in Ireland.

Gift from a crab fisherman in Ireland.

butter & jelly the second and flavored tuna/salmon packs the third week. That last week, the protein/energy provided by the fish is amazing to feel course through ones self. Breakfast and lunch are geared to be simple & quick, there is paddling to be done.

Food is highly individualistic. Like philosophy, some of this will seem silly to some people and to females or a different aged male, there can be different results/needs. Culture influences preferences as well. One European paddler friend prefers to eat his big meal of the day at lunchtime. Lunch is a couple hours long and he prefers to paddle into the evening where dinner is something simple & quick just before sunset.

But food is fuel. Screw it up and it will be near impossible to have a good trip – have you ever met anyone on a diet who is happy? Get it right and a miserable trip won’t be as miserable. Either way, food can help you crank out the miles one day and wake up to do it again the next. You’ll even look forward to the question, what’s to eat?


Haida Gwaii Part III

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
Totem pole from the late 1800s at Chaatl a former village on the west coast.

Totem pole from the late 1800s at Chaatl a former village on the west coast.

Haida Gwaii or the Queen Charlotte Islands in northern British Columbia has always been a muse. Previous trips in 2005 and 2009, totaling 46 days left me wanting more. So in july of 2013 I will return for 23 days on the water, my third trip there. Self supported and solo, I will let the weather determine the actual route. Any route, will include rain, storms as well as old growth, Bald Eagles and remote wilderness. Magic and misery are closely entwined here. First time on the west coast it rained for 6+ days with only a few breaks. Also hard to forget was the waterfall that was thousands of feet high, an exposed beach where the high water mark from waves was nearly a mile from the waters edge and the mountains rising up out of the ocean.

A totem pole being carved along with completed canoes at teh Haida Heritage Center.

A totem pole being carved along with completed canoes at teh Haida Heritage Center.

The people of the Haida First Nation have a thriving culture I have seen in few places. In particular is their artistry. These are the people of the totem pole, whose artists were and still are highly valued. It is a culture that looks to the water. Villages were on the waters edge, travel done by canoe and the majority of food came from the ocean. The Haida language is taught in all the schools, even to non Haida children. Efforts by the Canadian/British Columbian governments to deny their rightful authority to the land and self government has been ignored. Their Haida Heritage Center, a place for artists, workshops and a museum, has no admission charge. They view their culture as something to share with the world.

The view from Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.

The view from Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.

On the way home, is a planned three day backpacking trip in Glacier National Park. My application is in the lottery and I am hoping for those days to be spent along the continental divide. My last trip to Haida Gwaii I drove through Banff and Glacier and was intrigued with the ability to drive high and then set out with elevation changes 1-3000′ instead of a 4-6000′ climb. The continental divide, where water flows into different watersheds,  has always been a fascination for me. In Glacier at one place, waters flow towards the Pacific Ocean, Mississippi/Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay. Truly a flatlanders muse.

Travel in Haida Gwaii is not to be taken lightly. On the remote west coast, hazards are abundant. This is where waves formed in Hawaii, Japan and the Aleutians meet land.  Boomers, waves that break only when the largest waves come through are found everywhere here. Normally, one consults a chart and plans their route based on what the bottom topography dictates. The west coast near shore bottom is uncharted, observation is my only option here. The east coast is more traveled and sheltered. Currents will be an issue in a couple of areas and require careful planning.

ACR's PLB that will be along with me on the trip.

ACR’s PLB that will be along with me on the trip.

My last trip there was stopped in its tracks by two stationary low pressure systems that each sat for 5 days throwing out 25 knot winds. With a float plan that had a friend expecting a call on a specified date and time, responsibility dictated I couldn’t continue once things cleared. This time I will have more flexibility thanks to the feature ACR’s personal locator beacon has to send out a couple of different non emergency signals.

In the end though, this trip is an immersion into the wilderness of northern British Columbia plus a bonus trip to the mountains of Glacier. A trip to the Muses offers one a richer life. For me it most likely means part three will be followed by a part four…

PS More photos below!


Prince Rupert is a 5 day drive from Marquette.

Prince Rupert is a 5 day drive from Marquette.

An overnight ferry will cross the Hecate Strait.

An overnight ferry will take me across the Hecate Strait.

Carl Mather paddling along the wesat coast, where mountains meet the sea.

Carl Mather paddling along the west coast, where mountains meet the sea.

Cape St James, the southern tip of the islands.

Cape St James, the southern tip of the islands.

Near Cape St James. Photo by Barry Poole.

Near Cape St James. Photo by Barry Poole.


A protected cove on the east side under the rising moon.

A protected cove on the east side under the rising moon. Photo by Carl Mather.

Ninstints, a UNESCO world heritage site as the best remaining example of a Native village site.

Ninstints, a UNESCO world heritage site as the best remaining example of a Native village site. Photo by Carl Mather.

The hot springs of Hot Springs Island are starting to flow again after a recent earthquake. Photo by Barry Poole.

The hot springs of Hot Springs Island are starting to flow again after a recent earthquake. Photo by Barry Poole.

The totem poles of the Haida Heritage Site.

The totem poles of the Haida Heritage Site.

From Glacier National Park, a peak along the continental divide peaking out of the clouds.

From Glacier National Park, a peak along the continental divide peaking out of the clouds.


Haida Gwaii (517)

Looking west after passing through Glacier National Park.


Home Again!

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Ahh… feels good to be back in the U.P.!

The drive back from Nova Scotia was relatively uneventful…. In addition to a new alternator, I had to have my brakes machined because they had gotten so rusted from sitting next to the sea for 4 weeks that it didn’t feel safe to drive! And, the first time I went to get gas, the gas tank release was stuck and took 2 people to open. Opened and closed it a few times with some WD 40 and all was well.

I had some friends meet me at my parents in the Buffalo / Niagara Falls area on the way home, and I took them for a tour of Niagara Falls. We had a great time. Though, the sunny blue sky day became overcast as we walked around. We did the maid of the mist and walked up near the falls – where the mist and spray are drenching – with some protection from the glorified garbage bags they call raincoats that come with the tour. When we were done, we threw the rain coats away and within 5 to 10 minutes it started raining!

The moral of the story:  if you want a nice, sunny vacation – plan it with Sam, not me.  I seem to have a rain cloud following me.  :)

Newfoundland is truly a spectacular place – even in the fog and rain!   I have wonderful memories and tons of pictures, which I haven’t had a chance to sort through yet.  But, will try to get some posted in the next week or so.  I am still sorting and cleaning gear and going  through mail and getting ready to go back to my folks in Buffalo.

Trip Report – Pukaskwa, Michipicoten Island and Cape Gartgantua

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Back from the Canadian bush and a very nice trip. Weather was unbelievably good. I haven’t been on a trip like this since 2006 and never seen  conditions like this on a trip of this length. I never wore a paddling jacket, only wore a lightweight top, it rained 4 times mostly at night, winds were only twice over 10 knots, seas were over 3′ 4-5 times, bugs were rarely present, water was warm enough to swim every day. The good folks at Naturally Superior Adventures did the car shuttle, arranged some huge surf and setup a house concert by Brock Zeman. What great folks and a great place to end a trip.

Quite a bit different from Nancy and Carl’s expedition (or was that a paddler’s country western song? :)). Nancy seemed to survive a bit better than her posting  Stranded in Sydney implied though the health of her Mom is still a concern. Carl said it was a great trip, but then again he is British. Such things are mere trifles when one use to run the world, fought Hitler one on one and well, grew up eating British cooking.

Below is a brief photo journal of the trip. Click here to go to the gallery for more photos.

Sunset at Hattie Cove

The trip started at Hattie Cove, the western end of Pukaskwa National Park. This is the only road access in the park. The above is Pic Island with what turned out to be the start of a great weather stretch.

Rock, Pukaskwa is rock and lots of it. A rugged shoreline, it has kept development and even roads far away from the lake.

One of the most famous waterfalls in Canada, Cascade Falls. This is the first of several spectacular waterfalls seen.

I wasn’t the only one there. This is the David Thompson Brigrade, Brooke, Laura and Gary. They are traveling from Thunder Bay to Montreal. This part of the trip is in sea kayaks but they have a Voyageur canoe stashed for the non Lake Superior parts. Click here for more info on their trip and click here for an article about them in the Soo.

The lighthouse on the east end of Michipicoten Island. After the ten mile crossing I camped here for two nights. The flying buttress design is for it to withstand and last in the wind. Nearby were bountiful blueberries.

Quebec Harbor on the southside of the island was where people were found. Several vacation homes are there. Several boats were about including one that motored up and asked me if I was Melanie. He then added he didn’t have his glasses with him.

Located in the harbor is also shipwrecks, 3 total. The above one is the most interesting. A fire burned off all the wood from the steel frame.

This is my favorite campsite on the lake, the tombolo on the west side of the island. It is remote, rugged and gives one of the strongest senses of being out there. Despite being late july, there was no sign of humans walking around or camping. To the southwest is one of the longest fetches on the lake. I ended up taking a day to explore the area.

After crossing back to the mainland, stopped at the Dog River. A big sandbar there offers great camping and an hour or so hike brings you to these falls. Quite a site to see, it takes several hours just climbing around to soak up the impressive size and nature of this waterfall. Estimate it is over 100′ high.

Cape Gargantua has some of the most impressive rock formations to see. Above is Devil’s Chair. So called because the Ojibwa originally called it Nanabozho’s Chair, their Creator. In an effort to prevent the Natives, who were increasingly Christianized, Missionaries called it Devils Chair to stop the worshiping of such objects. Scientists looking at the rock formation believe it is part of a very old volcano.

Trip end, mouth of the Michipicoten River near Wawa. Although the traveling from place to place ended, spent a couple of nights here.

The crew at Naturally Superior are great to hang out with. When I arrived, they invited me to a body surfing session on a gravel bar at the river’s mouth. The next day, surf built into some of the biggest waves I have tried to surf but was unsuccessful. Waves were huge, very punishing if you were in the wrong place but an incredible adrenaline rush. This is David Wells, owner of Naturally Superior, after we landed.

To cap everything else, Brock Zeman played a house concert. He was on his way to the Red Rock Folk Festival. An incredible show and a great way to end the trip.


Stranded in North Sydney…

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

My saga of broken equipment continues, despite the end of the paddling portion of the trip. I am at a B and B across the street from a Canadian Tire store, hoping my car will be fixed by tomorrow!

Carl and I left Newfoundland in, surprise, surprise, foggy conditions. The rain did clear Saturday and was followed by a warm and sunny afternoon before the fog settled in again in the evening at the ferry terminal.

Spent the night on the ferry and arrived (nearly) on time in North Sydney. Walked across the street to get my car – dead as a doornail. Tried to jump it. As soon as the cables were detached it went dead again. Time for a tow. Unfortunately, no mechanics as it was a Sunday afternoon. More unfortunately, today is a national holiday in Canada. Fortunately, the Canadian Tire is open. Unfortunaley, I need an alternator, which they don’t have. So, I am here at least one more day. I have never sat and waited and been stranded so often during a trip – and it is not one of my strengths!

This has been the most challenging trip I’ve been on for a variety of reasons. Lots of logistics and travel; many obstacles when planning; more gear worn than anticipated – but I could never just order what needed to be replaced and check it off the list. It was unavailable, or backordered, or phone calls and emails weren’t returned, or the equipment arrived with defects… everything had to be done 2 or 3 or 4 times. Takes alot of time to plan this kind of trip as it is – without doing everything multiple times!

Depsite my best efforts, I was still plagued on the trip. Here is my list of what went wrong. The good news, is I had the proper repair items (sometimes with Carl’s help) to get it taken care of.
1. Leaky spray skirt. I tired to get a new, custom sprayskirt as mine showed signs of wear. Started in early April…. but, still it arrived a couple days after I left. Noticed a hole in current one on the first day of the trip. Used the spare for 9 days – until there was a dry enough time to fix the first one with some goop! Better, but still was wet most of the time..
2. Defective air mattress. Brand new thermarest (not self inflating) got an internal leak (hard to explain, but unfixable).
Wasn’t sure if it would last – bought blue foam pad as back up. The thermarest broke down little by little, but was usable till the end (thankfully – tried the blue foam and it was totally inadequate)
3. Broken tent pole. Fixed with sleeve in repair kit.
4. Lost tow bag. My own dumb mistake…somehow left it behind after a pee break). Luckily, Carl didn’t need a tow.
5. Leaky tent (was fine till midway through the trip). I put my tarp over the tent, so remained dry the entire trip.
6. Another broken tent pole. Used Carl’s sleeve to fix it. Then picked up some 6 inch pieces of plastic pipe at the next town, in case another one broke. I cringed everytime I set up the tent, hoping not to hear yet another snap…
7. Under deck bag came undone. That was one of the things that gave me grief installing – and was done mulitple times. But that is another story – and I knew if it failed I could live without the space.
8. Part of my kayak seat broke – where the back strap attached. Carl had an extra webbing strap to re-inforce it. I was getting pretty frustrated and incoherent by this time…

In addition to all those kayak items, and my broken down car, there were many things going on at home to cause me stress. While driving to Nova Scotia, mom ended up in the hospital – followed the next day by dad. Dad is home and doing well, but will need surgery. Mom is up and down, and in a long term care facility for an undetermined length of time. Has been to the ER several times, from the facility. It has been hard to be so far away… I have also learned that one of my good college friends has died, and an aunt has had a stroke and is doing poorly. It has not been a summer of good news.

Right now, I want nothing more than to go home – to see my parents, but also to go to my home, and just enjoy the beauty and friends and routine of the UP. I don’t know when that will be, and that is hard. More waiting….

Waiting for the ferry to Nova Scotia…

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Beginning tonight at 7:30 PM local time, we will be leaving Newfoundland, and closing the circle heading back from Argentia to North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Wednesday was spent with a little exploring and a short hike. Finally got to the top of some hills to get a nice panoramic view. Where it was evident the wind – which wasn’t supposed to pick up till late afternoon or evening – was early (it was not yet noon). I so wanted to hike on the endless rocky knolls stretching into the distance and so very inviting. But, more strongly wanted to get into a safe port so we could get the ferry on Saturday! And, once the wind started blowing, it was forecast to keep blowing for at least 3 to 4 days. As it was, Wednesday afternoon paddling was a slog in blowing wind and building seas, but we arrived safely back to a sheltered harbor.

Thursday was spent in Rencontre East (pronounced Rouncounter) – accerssible only by intercoastal ferry – sorting gear. Woke up to overcast skies that looked as if it could rain. Locals who had the forecast said it would be a nice day, with rain on Friday. And, indeed it was beautiful! Sun came out, blue skies, short sleeves and a nice breeze to keep things cool. Perfect – could have used a dozen more of that kind of day this trip. Though, wouldn’t have had much paddling on the open coast – as, outside our very protected harbor, it was more than a nice breeze!

As we were unpacking boats and drying gear and re-organizing for the trip home, a woman was in her yard next to the dock and struck up a conversation. Then Shirley invited us in for tea – which included homemade soup, rolls, muffins, cheese, yogurt and converstation with Shirley and her cousin, Donna. Donna was visiting from Belloram (pronounced Bell OR im) and was full of stories. Shirley (in her 70’s?) has just sold the home she grew up in…. She and her husband have used it as a summer home (with the first indoor plumbing installed in 2005) for many years. He died a couple years ago, and she said it just isn’t the same. Despite her packing, however, she took time to cater to us. Not only feeding us, but inviting us to take a shower and allowing a load of laundry. Pure bliss to have a shower and clean clothes after 3 weeks! She also said we could put our bags in the shed overnight. Another detail which was a wonderful bonus, as it meant we would not have to unpack and repack our boats anymore!

Took a couple short walks that day. Around a pond in the area. Throughout the town. And along the Rencontre River to the “head of the lake”. Rencountre Lake is 4 1/2 miles long and 1/2 mile at it’s widest. Tucked between steep cliffs. Gorgeous. We had thought of paddling up, but after Wednesday’s difficult slog, we were both tired – and wanted dry gear for the journey home.

Started to drizzle in the evening… and we spent our last night in our tents in pouring down rain. Awoke to a drizzle on Friday, and got our tents and remaining gear packed. Wheeled our kayaks to the ferry dock, and holed up in Shirley’s shed until it was time to board. Then, Shirley stuck her head out and called “come on in for coffee”! So, in we went. Met her son, Shaun, who arrived on the previous evening’s ferry to help pack and move. She apologized for sleeping in and not having eggs and bacon to offer!

Soon, the ferry was loading and we were off. Into high seas, from the perspective on my sensitive stomach, though the captain was unphased. “It’s not too bad”. No doubt, he has seen much, much worse. He also told Carl “I’ve been on the sea all my life, and you guys have got more balls than I have to go out in those little boats”. I guess we just choose our days more carefully than he can as a ferry captain! All perspective. Of course, it was also foggy and raining on our 1 3/4 hour crossing. Seemed fitting..

Arrived in Bay L’argent without incident. Waited about an hour for our ride from Greg Pittman (and his 14 year old son). Had a nice brunch, drove into sunshine, and dropped our boats off at the ferry terminal. With all the hassle coming over, it was surprisingly anticlimactic. “We’ve sent kayaks over before – no problem.” Our boats and gears are currently stored at the terminal, and we have been hanging out at the Castle Landing Bed and Breakfast, in Placentia. Enjoyed a walk to town, ice cream and a rest by the sea before it began to drizzle again. Had a great dinner – with fresh veggies!!!! – and enjoyed our first night in a bed in 4 weeks. We are basking in the cover of a house (it is raining again…), flush toilets and daily showers. Plans to go to a historic sight in walking distance if the rain clears.

That’s it for now. The paddling is done, but the journey not quite over!


July 21st – Finally in McCallum!

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I wrote this draft on July 21st, and got booted off the computer when I tried to publish it. I know it is out of order, But is part of the story!

July 21st:
Well, the first, and biggest goal of the trip, was to get to McCallum – traversing the exposed and difficult southwest coast.  As you know, we have had our share of weather days – another one yesterday, making 7 total!

We paddled in fog (surprise, surprise!) again on Monday, though had some bits of blue sky and decent visibility initially.  Even got to see the cliffs surrounding Francois as we departed.  But, it settled in thick later on.  Visibility ever decreasing, blue sky disappearing, periods of sun glowing through lessening.

Traversing some exposed coast in swell and clapotis, it became darker and darker.  Eerie, almost.  Black cliffs, black water, seemingly black fog.  We eventually ended the day in Cul de Sac – a lovely mile long cove with an amazing waterfall a the end.  We were treated to a wee bit of blue sky dancing with the fog, before it again turned dark and gray.  We could hear the waterfall, but not see it.

Yesterday, fog remained like pea soup all day, and the forecast for increased wind and waves.  We sat it out.  Forecast for today was good.  Didn’t get too early a start, as there was a risk of morning thunderstorms.  Turned out to be a good decision – blue sky began to peak through as we prepared to leave.  We paddled out of the cove into intence, bright white (with hardly any visibility) fog.  But, that is the kind of fog that often burns off.  And, as the morning went on, it fully dissapated.  We were finally able to see the 700 meter cliffs we have paddled by these last days.  Fantastic, majestic, awesome, and so many other descriptors that don’t do justice.  A west wind picked up in the afternoon and virtually blew us to McCallum.  One of the nicest days of paddling so far.

Now we head toward Gaultois, Hermitage, Harbor Breton and up into Fortune Bay and Belle Bay, toward a rendevous with Greg Pittman to shuttle us to the ferry in Argentia on the 31st.  Will be fun to see what lies ahead!