Friday, November 15, 2019

Backposting

This last summer Erin and I successfully completed our expedition from New York to Hudson Bay.  I am currently back posting below daily, so be sure to come back often!

Check out some of the pictures here!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Day 50

Morning came, and we packed as quickly as we could in the mosquito feeding frenzy. I found an outhouse to do my duty, and mosquitoes feasted on my tush.

We launched.

We had filled 20 liters of water back in Montreal while we waited for the train. Our supply was running low. So when we passed a small stream feeding the river, we turned our boats to paddle up it. Silt clouded the nearly stagnant water. Our boats followed the zigzagging path through a swamp until we could go no further. We got out and tried to hike up to where the water flowed. Our feet sank deep in the mud.

We reentered out boats, and returned to the river without any drinking water.

Around the next bend, we found another hunting cabin; this one even had a dock. The mosquitoes didn’t seem to bother us while we paddled, but as soon as we landed they came. We applied bug repellent. The cabin had a screened in porch where we stretched, and a rainwater basin in back from which we filled our water bags and nalgenes, totalling 34 liters.

Back in front we watched a groundhog waddle through the grass and eat flowers.

In order to fit all the water in our boats, we clipped the ten liter bags into our cockpits, to occupy the space between our legs. On the water, I practiced some rolls with the bags, and everything worked fine, though I worried the bags would get tangled during a wet exit or reentry and roll.

The cabins along the river seemed to increase in frequency as we approached Senneterre. But none were nearby when we arrived at our first major series of rapids. A railroad bridge crossed the river, a continuation of the line we’d taken a couple days earlier. The water moved fast and we paddled as many sections as we dared, our boats scraping against rocks we couldn’t dodge quickly enough with the heavy loads.

The river grew too wild to paddle. We parked our boats and scoured the sides for a portage trail, and found none. We hauled our boat over 20 feet of rocks and boulders to walk them through a stagnant pond. Tall bushes separated us from the roaring rapids beyond. Deeper than it looked, I fell, banged my shin on a rock, and found myself floating with the buoyancy of my life jacket. The dark water took us back to the rapids a bit lower down, where we began walking the kayaks down the edge of wild river.

The current rushed around our legs as we tried to walk the boats from one shallow area to the next. Sometimes we’d find ourselves waist or chest deep, clutching the boats for safety as the other one of us held the far end of the boat from more secure ground.

Soaking wet, feeling invigorated yet exhausted from lining the boats, we made camp on a flat boulder archipelago in the middle of the river. Water rushed around on all sides. The sun set gloriously over the woods.

See some pictures here!

GPS coordinates (maybe) 48.338082, -77.087147

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Day 49

A word of cation. No notes were taken on this trip as we struggled to make as many miles as we could in the limited time we had. Furthermore, I was not able to write down my memory of the trip until several months after I returned home. I have a bad memory, this is the best of my recollection.

Also, Erin was a hero time and again, with every small action, on this expedition. I don’t write about her much since she is a private person who avoids social media and publicity, nor do I write much about the exchanges between us for the same reasons.


The river flowed high and fast. The rapids under the bridge were bigger now than they were when we’d taken out in 2016. We found a calm spot just above, where one of the bridge columns came down beside the shore.

After several climbs back and forth from the tracks above, we had our gear and boats beside the river. I had checked at home to make sure it all fit in the boats, and it did this time too, but barely. Together, one at a time, we lifted the enormously heavy boats, and put them in the water. I settled into the Latitude, and Erin the Pilgrim Expedition. We pointed our boats upstream and let the current spin us around, and shoot us under the bridge.

Exciting but harmless bounce cleared us of the rapids, and we grinned. That was fun and easy.

Thick pine forests lined the water, and wilderness extended beyond the limits of my imagination. I hoped we were ready for what lay ahead.

The next rapids came within the hour. The water leaped and surged down a steep descent, and we paddled pushing away any thought toward the hassle of a portage where no portage trail would likely be found.

I arrived at the bottom first, and took my camera out to get a picture of Erin coming down behind me looking like a heroine. The camera caught on something in my life jacket pocket, and when it did come out, the casing flapped open. I waterlogged my camera on our first day.

The next set of rapids came when an island seemed to take up most of the river. We padded the wider side successfully and continued in the warm sunlight. Besides the camera, we were off to an excellent start.

On the water for about six hours, we saw a small isolated hunting cabin on patch of grass a couple meters above the water. A smaller river fed into the Megiscane at the spot, and we paddle up it to a steep muddy bank boat ramp beneath the cabin.

We pulled the boats up onto the grassy lawn, and began to make camp. The mosquitoes came. A lot of them. We checked, and found the cabin unlocked.

I heard a fish jump in the small side river. I grabbed my rod and cast while Erin got started on dinner. She did not like that I wasn’t helping with dinner. I got lucky, because on my third cast, I caught the fish. I scaled, gutted, and threw it into the rice and lentils. Though small, it tasted delicious. I had helped with dinner after all, and Erin was quite pleased.

We made dinner inside the cabin, but the mosquitos came in. They found a way, and they ate us, and we suffered. It’s hard to eat dinner with a mosquito net over the face. And at every exposed bit of flesh, they feasted.

After getting into our tent for the night, we did the usual kill them all dance. Under the fly an angry swarm quivered and flew. Their buzzed, not the melodious song of nature, more like the sounds a tree hears when the chainsaw comes approaches.

They waited for the tent flap to open, and when we went to the bathroom in the night, they were ready. They filled the tent. So we both sat awake with the flashlight and did the mosquito killing dance, and with twenty to thirty dead mosquitos lining the walls, many of them bloody, we slept.

GPS coordinates: 48.278303, -76.973321

The First Night

We got off the train beside the river at midnight, three hours later than we had expected, and without the vestiges of day we had expected.

Erin and I had put some thought into headlamps. On the previous leg, the many hours of daylight meant we had never needed more than one headlamp. Too bad. We had a deck light, but holding it up alight to see ahead blinded as much as it lit the darkness.

The mosquitoes found us. Immersed in a swarm of blood suckers ready to drag us into hell, we flew through our duffel bags to get the face nets out and rain jackets on. They bit our hands and though our pants.

Through the ever growing swarm, we climbed down the hill under the bridge, to the water. The river flowed high. So high, the wonderful camp site we’d previously enjoyed and expected to find, lay entirely underwater.

Sweating under our jackets, we walked along the water, through thick underbrush and mosquito torture, looking for a spot to pitch our tent. I accidentally stepped in the river, soaking my shoe immediately.

No spot could be found: not on the hill, not beside the tracks. Well, maybe beside the tracks. We found a spot that might have been large enough to pitch the tent about a meter from the rail. The next train wasn’t scheduled to come, as far as we knew, until after we’d most likely wake up in the morning. We decided it was too risky.

We set out aimlessly into the woods. And found a spot on the mossy forest floor, with just enough space between the trees. We pitched the tent, tried to kill as many of the mosquitoes that came in with us, and collapsed asleep.

A train passed above at 3:00 am.


GPS coordinates: 48.270317, -76.798282

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Train

We looked around at the train stop. We searched, and found no indication that we were at the right place. A sign beside the open platform offered a number to call, but nobody answered since it was Canada Day. A sign listed the lines that were available from the station — all local.

We were the only people at the station, and full of doubt. We moved our boats and gear next to the track. Then we waited for the train.

Another person showed up. He came for the same train we waited for. Yayy.

We waited. The train’s ETA came and went. We waited. The other fellow at the station got a text message. The train was delayed. Erin and I found a water fountain in a nearby park to fill up our 10 liter bags. If the train came while we filled our bags, the fellow would try to stall them while we sprinted back. But there was no need. The train arrived three hours late on account of another train getting derailed just south of us.

Together with the conductor, we loaded our boats onto the baggage car. The conductor didn’t even need to see our tickets, because she knew who we were on account of the boats. A good thing too, our tickets were on my phone, or rather, in the cloud. I didn’t have access without an internet connection.

Suburbs of montreal rushed by us, then trees, rivers, lakes, and hills. Some of those lakes and rivers we’d paddled on the previous leg of the trip. The conductor asked us where we’d get off. We showed her on a map, and also told her we’d know from our GPS when we approached.

“Your GPS won’t work up there.”

“It worked up there last summer.” We had used it once the entire summer, and then on the train coming home. It worked fine.

“This train has a satellite dish, and their GPS doesn’t work. There’s no way your handheld device will work."

The GPS worked fine. We showed her, and made her dislike us. She told us we had to stop going to our boats. We had been spending time in the baggage car doing last minute alterations and preparations with boats and gear. But now that our GPS worked, there were security concerns and we couldn’t go into the baggage car unattended.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Montreal

The original plan was to do the first week or so of the summer’s trip with friends, Amy and David. They canceled last minute, but would still prove to be a valuable resource. David’s parents lived in Montreal. We could stay with them overnight and catch the train in the morning to the spot on the river where we’d hailed the train finishing our 2016 trip.

Amy might have mentioned something about her inlaws not communicating so well with one another, but not to worry, they expected us, and would give us a ride to the station in the morning. We could leave the car in their driveway for the next month.

We knocked on the door, and waited.

An older woman opened the door in a nightgown. “Yes, what do you want?”

Erin and I stood there, a bit confused. We had thought David’s parents expected us.

“I’m Dov, this is Erin …” She showed no recognition. “We’re the kayakers.” Still nothing. We asked her if we had the right address.

“Yes.”

“We’re friends of Amy and David. Did David tell you we were coming?”

“No.” She told us, opening the door a little more.

Erin was able to show her the texts she’d exchanged with Amy, but we were not invited in. So

be it. We’d find another way to make this work.

We’d ordered bear deterrents to the house: flash bangs for the 12 gauge, bear spray, and flairs. Shipping laws for these things made it easier to have them delivered in Canada than in the US. “No worries. We’re happy to find another solution. But we ordered a package to this address. Do you have it?”

“No.” She told us. “We didn’t get any package.”

And that was all there was to it. We’d move on.

“Where will you go?” She asked.

“We’re not sure yet, but we’ll find something.” we didn’t even have internet. Our phone service cut out at the border.

“If you’re friends of David, come in.” She told us, and ushered us into her house, and her kitchen, where she offered us cookies and bagels with cream-cheese.

After a light snack, Erin and I went shopping and to drop off our resupply package to be mailed to Matagami the halfway point. By the time we returned to David’s parent’s house, his father had come home. All was well. He had expected us. We were super welcome.

He had our package, minus the blanks that may have wandered off with his grandson. ‘‘He orders all sorts of things from the internet,” the old moroccan told us. “I assumed the package was for him.” (It had our names on it, care of David’s father). After perusing the contents, the young man told his grandfather that someone had sent them a box full of munitions. David’s father went to call the police, but spoke with David just in time to figure out that a stranger hadn’t mailed them explosives.

That night we had a cozy bed in a welcoming home. The next morning David’s father dropped us at the train station and then took our car back to his house to sit in his driveway for the summer.

Polar Bears, the Gun, and Canada


After too many hours on the road, we approached the US Canadian border in Vermont.

We had a shotgun with us. When we'd planned the trip, we planned for two months of paddling which would likely take us into Hudson Bay - polar bear territory. And despite my aversion to guns, experts and dopes alike unanimously recommended I bring a firearm.

We waited in line to get into Canada. Before leaving the US, I needed to check my gun out at the US border, Border Protection had told me over the phone.

We could see the Canadian border up ahead, as the traffic periodically progressed a handful of inches. Through the congested lane to our left, we just made out a third lane branching off toward what might have been US customs. No signs gave any hint. We asked the fellow in the car to our left if we could cut across, he said no. But the car after his let us through, and we cut across the traffic to just barely make it to the off lane before a separation barrier.

Ahead of us, the off lane parallel to the road lay open. A large beige brick building, probably American customs, stood off to our left. We drove down the empty lane beside the traffic choked road. A sign said to "stop here for declarations," beside an unmanned booth. We stopped. Nothing happened. I started driving again. Two hundred yards later, the lane re-merged with traffic, quite a bit closer to the border. We had inadvertently found a great way to cut the line.

I drove in reverse back to the stop sign, parked, and went toward the building. A friendly border patrol officer opened the door for me.

"Hi," I said as he let me in, wondering what on earth I was doing. "I'd like to fill out paperwork to leave the country with a firearm. I called in advance and an officer told me over the phone this was the surest way to get the firearm back into the country without trouble."

He could help me. I followed. He then directed me through a door which locked behind me. I waited with all the people held up on their way from Canada into the United States, and worried that I was in trouble. The door had locked behind me, what if I had inadvertently done something illegal with my borrowed gun, and they arrested me? What would Erin do? Would she be in trouble too?

I don't think of myself as a worrier, but I've had enough trouble with the law over the years to shake a bit when a door locks behind me.

But after just a couple minutes of waiting, the border agent called me up to the desk and gave me the form on which I would swear it was my gun. I told him it wasn't, it was my brothers.

The officer one booth over muttered, "It's not even his gun, heh."

But my officer thought about it, and told me the best thing to do was just say it was mine. And so I did.

We went out to the car to check the serial number on it.

I was scared to handle my gun. What if I moved too quickly and the border agent shot me? But that didn't happen, because I explained my problem to him, and the officer, understanding, removed the 40 inch shotgun from the 41 inch dry bag, and copied down the serial number. He also expressed admiration for my firearm. I glowed a little.

I got back in the car and we drove passed the traffic until our lane met up with the Canada bound road much nearer the border. It turns out it may be faster to leave the US with a firearm, than without.

We pulled up to the Canadian checkpoint, and handed the officer our passports and Canadian firearm paperwork in triplicate.

"I didn't ask for papers," the officer commanded at us. "Hand me just your passports." We took the paperwork back and handed him just our passports.

He reviewed them. Erin is a Canadian citizen, so she should have been easy. But when he asked her where her permanent address is, and we told him that she was between places right now. He didn’t like it. How was he to know that she didn't plan on staying in Canada?

"She's a citizen." I told him.

"A lot of people think that they can come into Canada, but the items in the car are not a citizen of Canada. You may be trying to bring in a tv without paying taxes on it."

"We're going kayaking, and leaving the country in a month." I said looking up to the kayaks on the roof.

"And how will you support her during that month?" He asked me.

"We have lots of rice and lentils." I told him.

He didn't seem to believe me that I had so many rice and lentils. But I did, and would not be deterred.

(We also had beans, granola, spaghetti, wraps, peanut butter, cornmeal, energy bars, cheese, and who knows what else.)

"What was that paperwork you tried to hand me?" He asked.

"A non resident firearm declaration form."

He took the form, printed in triplicate.

I went on, "I didn't know if I was supposed to sign it here, or in advance, so I printed three with a signature, and three without."

He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language (neither French nor English). "I don't do paperwork. I won't do paperwork for you. You'll do that inside."

I felt like I had done something terribly wrong. That I'd been getting everything wrong since I first opened my mouth. "I'm sorry, ... for being me?" I trailed off.

He told me to drive around the corner. Someone would inspect my firearm while I stayed in the car.

The officer who inspected my firearm was friendlier and more helpful. In short order we were back on our way, everything had worked out.