Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quebec Summer 2016

In the summer of 2016, Erin Bendiksen and I completed a 630 nmi, 9-week trip from Albany to Lake Faillon. We ate lots of fish and berries, paddled down some rapids, and up a few, portaged 32 times including up four cliffs requiring rope and pulley systems, destroyed one kayak, recovered ancient first nations art, rescued mariners in distress, performed field surgery, screamed at bears, made friends and enemies, and generally had an excellent deep wilderness adventure.
In the future we hope to pick up where we left off, northbound.  Meanwhile, I hope to paddle in Norway for summer 2017, hopefully picking up from where I left off summer 2015, still northbound.
I hoe you enjoy our Quebec summer below.  Be sure to click on the pictures to see the albums.


Summer 2016 highlights

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 48

Our last day of the summer had begun. I needed to get to my new job so that they could fire me six months later, and Erin too had to return to the real world.
The rapids began at the end of the lake. We slid down the first set, and then portaged around the second. We lost the trail a couple times, but found blueberries, so it was exactly the right sort of portage to wrap up our trip.
For the second set of rapids, our guidebook said we needed to be careful about the big rock at the end.
Some of my readers may recall that I said we would destroy one of the boats in rapids. Well, we did, and since my story so far has been to the best of my recollection, and I recall exactly when we destroyed that boat, it’s coming.
I rushed down the rapids. The rock hid under a wall of water blasting up around it. I took the drop to the right, and then tried to stop to warn Erin around the rock. But the current jostled me at least another hundred meters before I could pull over.
When Erin came down the rapids, I yelled my warning, but she did not hear me over the watery roar. She went over the rock. Her boat projected through the air. The stern hull landed hard on the rock’s peak, and the bow floated in the pull of the current below. Erin’s boat rotated and she hung upside down, her head slightly dipped in the water.
She tried to roll, but suspended as she was, it didn’t work. She let herself out and pulled her boat from the rocks as the current ran her toward me.
I sprinted from the side, latched my contact tow to her boat, and paddled with all my strength toward the shore. The next set of rapids rushed toward us. I could not overcome the current. While I pulled, she tried to climb into her boat, unsuccessfully. I didn’t make it to the side of the river in time, the lower rapids were on us, and I detached myself from her boat.
I paddled down, and pulled into an eddy below.
Her boat, the Solstice, stuck tight, pinned against rocks in the rapids. She climbed onto them.
We made a plan. She’d push her boat into the main current, I’d catch it below. Then we’d get her sorted out.
With colossal strength, after attempting several times to empty the boat, only for  the current to swamp it again, she dragged the boat through enormous pressure against the rocks to freedom.
A moment later, the rapids pinned it again, and she repeated the process.
Eventually, the boat floated out the bottom of the rapids. I towed it to shore, then went to retrieve Erin. She held onto my boat and swam while I paddled to the water-edge rock where I’d parked the Solstice.
The stern and cockpit had severe leakes. The bulkhead between them was obliterated. The bow compartment only leaked a little. I had the materials to do a serious repair, but it would  take days. Our train would come the next morning, and anyway, we didn’t have food for days.
I used my entire roll of duct tape to hold her boat together and keep the water out. We consolidated all the equipment in my boat, and the dry bags once full of food, now empty on our last day, we filled with air and packed them into her boat.
We continued downstream. I caught two fish!
We pulled out of the final set of rapids right in the middle, underneath the railroad bridge, and set up camp. Whatever we didn’t need for the night, we climbed up to the tracks above.  After two fish for dinner, we spent our last night in the wilderness.
Summer 2016 Day 48

The next morning, at four am, we woke up, packed, and climbed to the tracks. A thick fog engulfed the bridge. I stood with my flash light, ready to point it at the train, and Erin waved a paddle with a neon shirt tied to its end.
Just after dawn, the train crossed the foggy bridge, and stopped for us. The conductor helped us get our boats into the baggage car. Richard had told him we’d be coming. We sat in the single passenger car.
The rain rolled back down more or less along the same route we’d paddled up. We watched much of our journey rewind past us at 40 miles per hour. When we passed La Tuque, my cell phone briefly turned on for the second time since arriving in Canada.
Ten hours after miraculously stopping the train, Richard picked us up at the station in Montreal. We spent the night in his guest room, and the next day he gave us a lift. We spent Shabbat with my aunt and uncle on Lake Champlain, and began recounting our story as a thing of the past.
Thank you Erin, for making this expedition so extraordinarily special. Without you, there’s no way I could have gotten through all those portages. With you, I flew as though I had wings.

Two weeks later, and skinnier than I’d been in years, my doctor diagnosed me with Giardia.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 47

Into the headwind, we paddled down some light rapids under ander a broken bridge.
I threw up.  My stomach felt disgruntled.  I didn’t want to eat.
Spots of rain caim and went, but the wind persisted against us.  We’d planned to wrap things up after only one more day of paddling, which meant we had a surplus of energy bars.  I laid off the trail mix and stuck with the bars, they seemed easier on my system, if only slightly.
I paddled weakly.
We arrived at Lake Failon, and stuck close to the southern shore where the wind blew weakest. At the far end of the lake we found a small resort town, and pulled up on a beach.  Above, a column of smoke rose to the sky, and the fire’s owners invited us to warm ourselves and pitch our tent on their lawn.  
They also gave us a ride to the local hotel, where we might find wifi and a shower.
They didn’t believe we’d kayaked from New York.  Seven or eight wilderness Canadians (or tourists) sat around, and looked at us.  Clearly, they thought we lied.
“We paddled up the Hudson, to the Champlain Canal, to the Richelieu, to the Saint Lawrence, to the Saint Maurice, to the Gouin Reservoir, to the Megiscane, to here, and tomorrow is our last day.  We’ll take out at the train tracks just beyond the rapids.”
They believed us.  We got to use the shower and the wifi, and the owner of the hotel even gave us a lift to scout out the rapids and potential portages.
Summer 2016 Day 47

Monday, August 22, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 46

Our day began with going, ever so slightly, the wong way.  With only a little bit of an about face, we were back on track.  Then came the first set of rapids.  Our sheets said they were level two and three.  We rushed down, and around rocks, from one section to the next.  
On a small, flat, in-between area, a teepee stood at the edge of the water.  Nobody seemed to be home.  We got out and looked for a way to portage around the bouncing rocks below, but found nothing.  We headed back into the fray, launching our boats from one potential pin to the next, sliding and dropping as the water flew around us.
The second set of rapids, our map said, had a portage.  We searched the woods, found lots of big blueberries, but no portage.  We paddled down the first bit of rapids, then carried the boats and gear along big flat rocks beside the river until there were no more, then put in and paddled out the lower portion of the rapids.
Rapids are like roller coasters, except there’s no assurance that they’re safe.  As a novice, I climbed a steep learning curve.
Our map said the next set reached level four, and that we’d find a portage.  After some searching, we did.  We lugged our gear up a hill, along a path through clear cut forest, then back down into woods besides the water.
When we returned to the water to make a second trip, we saw a beaver swimming.  Occasionally it dove, then come back up and patrolled from the surface.  When it saw us, it dove with an enormous splash.
Shadows grew longer, and we decided to make camp leaving the final leg for the morning.  We made dinner down by the water, and ate while being eaten.  We never ate within the bug safety of our tent because we didn’t want to attract bears in the night.


Summer 2016 Day 46

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 45

Light rapids brought us to a lake which in turn led us to more river, then another lake.
Larger rapids lay below us, on both sides of an island.  Our map said the rapids to the left of the island were more navigable, or that maybe there was a portage there.  The directions were in French and unclear to us.
We couldn’t find the portage, so we paddled down.  I tried to read the water.  I needed to find the rocks underneath based on what the surface did.  I went over the first drop, and steered around a rock over the second.
I paddled backwards and turned hard to avoid being pinned, and took the third drop and then the fourth.  I came out the bottom with a few more scrapes on my hull, but still in one piece.  If I kept scraping the bottom of my boat, I’d lose it.
A few fishermen in small boats floated around the bottom of the rapids.  Erin and I were running low on toilet paper, but nobody had any for us.  We’d make due without if we had to, but it didn’t hurt to ask.  Of course, it didn’t help that we didn’t know how to say toilet paper in French.
The river curved left and right.  A small house, without road access or electricity, sat at the intersection of our river and another.  
I caught a fish, yay.  Before I could get the hook out, it flopped in my boat, hooked my thigh, and then tore at my leg with such force that the barb in my leg broke free of the hook.  One of the hook’s three barbs stuck firmly embedded in my thigh.
A motor boat came up the river, and we waved to them for help.  Erin got the first aid kit and our rescuers, impressed by my wound, handed me pliers.  With only one barb, I didn’t need to cut anything.  I coated the barb and the anticipated exit wound with antibacterial goo, then firmly gripped the hook with the plier, and pushed it out of my leg from underneath.
I felt the point digging up as I manipulated the pliers.  Once out, I remembered to take a picture.  I then pulled it out from the tip through the tunnel I’d burrowed.  Thinking about it, about six months later, makes my leg hurt.
The fishermen told us that if it got infected, we could come shelter with them at the house we had just passed, since there was nothing else out here.
We continued on our way.  The west wind slowed our otherwise downhill progress.
As the sun began to set, tired and weary, we found a small beach with barely enough room for the tent.  Hopefully the water would not rise.

Summer 2016 Day 45

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 44

We’d filled up on drinking water at the last cabin, two days earlier.  We needed to find drinking water before Shabbat.  Ever since losing our water filter, we’d tried to fill up only at reliable sources.
We paddled down the river, and saw a motorboat.  Apparently a fishing outfitter hid up in a lake that fed the river.  The fishermen on the boat only had beer, no water.  We decided not to head up to the outfitter.
The next fishing boat, a couple of hours later, happily gave us a small 500ml bottle of water.  We drank it right away, and gave it back so as not to be stuck with the garbage.  They thought we might find another outfitter around the corner, where we could get water.
We went around the corner, but found only wilderness.
We paddled through lakes with lots of islands, some big, many small.  Sometimes when all the waters converged to one channel, we’d feel current.
We caught a good-sized fish, and then another.  When I pulled the second one out of the boat, Erin went to hold it in her cockpit so I could take the hook out.
Taking the hook out of pike’s mouth is tricky business.  They snap with rows of sharp teeth that had previously made my fingers feel like hot dogs.  I’d learned to hold their mouths open with my fat knife, but they were so slippery that they would still sometimes get bites in, or manage to escape Erin’s grasp and flop around the boat.
When the new catch flopped in her boat, and she reached for it, one of the hooks lodged in her finger.  Another one still snared the fish, flopping.
Erin fought the pain.  The barb did not come out.  I reached into her boat, and separated it from the lure, like a key from a very tiny ring.
I then hooked my contact tow rope to her boat and paddled us both to shore.  Scared, I kept telling her she would be fine.  “Don’t forget, I’m a medic.  We’ll have it out of you in no time.”  I had no idea what to do.
We got out, I went for the medical kit not sure what I’d do with it, and then reexamined the hook in her finger.
The hook had three barbs on it.  One of them sunk in deep.  The other two made it impossible to drive the barb through her finger and pull it out the other side.  I gently tugged on it, and the barb would not come out the way it came in.
Erin braced for more pain, “rip it out,” she said, “I’m ready.”
“No.”  I worried I’d take half her finger off with it.  “You’re going to be fine.  We’ll figure this out.”  I tried to be calm for her.
I took out my swiss army knife.  I did not have wire cutters to separate the three barbs and drive the lodged one forward and out.
After covering the blade and the site in antibacterial goo, I slid it along the inside of the bard, as I pulled up, until I widened the hole in Erin just enough to match the shape of the hook inside her, and pulled it out.
A little blood flowed from the tiny hole in her finger.  I pressed more antibacterial goo into it, and then put on a bandaid.
Erin felt ready to get back on our way, so we did.  I wished I’d thought to take a picture of the hook so that we could look back and remember her fortitude.
To the left, on the next lake, we found a tiny stream.  We’d have to dig a little to fill up our water bottles from it, but it flowed clean enough.  Just beyond we saw some kind of camp.  We got out and explored.  In a field, we found a pavilion of sorts, fashioned from wood cut there and tied together, teepee structures without skins, and piles of wood, probably cut on site.
Back on the water, three motorboats approached us.  We met archaeologists, and we had just perused one of their digs.  We were in ancient First Nations’ trading ground.  “Did you know that it was once possible to paddle from here to the great lakes, Hudson Bay, and New York City?” None of them spoke English.  One of them spoke in Spanish, which Erin understood.
“Yes, we know.  We paddled here from New York.  We’re going to Hudson Bay, though we won’t make it all the way this summer.”
The archaeologists were impressed.  They gave us juice boxes, and candy bars.  They didn’t have any water, but told us where to find a stream, and recommended that we make camp on the beautiful beach across the way.  They also dug over there.
We found the water, draining out of a swamp but sufficiently wet.  Behind the beach we found an ancient log cabin where we sheltered from intermittent rain over Shabbat.  On Friday, we’d caught four medium to large fish, our largest catch yet, and feasted like royalty.
The beach looked out over the lake.  The archaeologists came back on saturday to tell us about their dig and the people who once lived and traded there.  A couple did speak English, but the Spanish speaker seemed to connect with Erin, and gave her two beads that they had recovered on the site.

Summer 2016 Day 44

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 43

Over a beaver dam, across a lake, over a beaver dam, and we joined with the outflow from another lake. We had enough water to call it a river, a small river, but definitely a river.
At our first rapid, the water moved quickly around small stones.  We stuck to the center where the river ran a few feet deep and had no trouble at all.
The second rapid, between two boulders, constituted a drop.  Woot!  The next rapid was similarly simple and just as much fun.  The water moved, and took us where we wanted to go.  What a wonderful change.  Little did we know, the little guy’s bigger cousin to the west would demolish a kayak and leave it’s paddler adrift at the mercy of a raging current.
But we didn’t know that, and we had fun.  We wore our helmets.  Once we reached the first of the two larger lakes, the current diminished and the ever west wind nagged.
Fishing let us finish the day with a tasty dinner, but it had also slowed us down every time the line caught on water weeds.
We began thinking about places to end our summer’s trip.  We could take out where train tracks crossed the river before Senneterre.  We needed to make it there with enough time to get me back to new teacher orientation at the end of August. Erin too had places to go and things to do.
We put the line in the water about half an hour before calling it a day, and caught two medium sized fish for dinner right away.
We made camp on a beach beside a burned out forest, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset beyond our small campfire.

Summer 2016 Day 43

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 42

We set out in the morning from the last hospitality we’d see for a hundred miles.
Before long, we were at the beaver dam.  We found the portage trail to the right, between the dams.  We got out, climbed over the first, passed the kayaks over, and then made trips through the short portage.  Our boats were a lot lighter than they‘d been a month earlier.
I’m a little worried I broke the dam some climbing over it.  It seemed like the trickle of water flowing though had grown.  Hopefully it wouldn't be too hard for the beaver to fix.
We took a raspberry break, then continued.  The shallow muddy river turned to the left, where we caught a fish!  The water seemed to grow shallower as we progressed.
We arrived at a fork in the river.  Our map showed the path to the right to be larger, so we went that way.
The river narrowed to a trickle, and a beaver dam.  We got out and climbed over.  On the other side of the beaver dam we found a pool, with another beaver dam at the end.
After the second beaver dam, we found an even shallower pool with an old road at the end.  The water trickled into some bushes where we found and followed a short portage trail to the next section.
Leeches glumped around Erin’s boat!  We tried to get them out without touching them, using sticks.  But the squirmy little bastards refused to cooperate, so eventually I used my hands.
We paddled 500 feet before the river became a tiny stream that again disappeared beneath brush.  We looked for a portage trail, and did not find one.  I tried following the stream.  I used the saw on my knife to cut through the near impenetrable growth.  Erin followed a lead in another direction.
After hacking, bending and breaking branches, I found a trail that crossed the river.  I called to Erin, and we explored it.  In one direction, after losing and refinding the the obscure path, we arrived at the next section of pseudo-river.  We followed the trail in the other direction from the stream to a swampy area about 30 feet back from where I started following the water on foot.
The portage was not short, and involved climbing over fallen trees, and rotating the boats around tight turns.  For one short section, we pulled the boats through marsh, but before long, we were back to lugging them over dry land.  Each of the five sections — trail, first marsh, trail, second marsh, last section of trail –  we were able to do in three trips, about half the time it would have taken us a month earlier laden with more supplies.
The rain came down hard, and by the time we completed the portage, our exhausting day had come to an end.  Eventually, this stream and collection of swamps and lakes that we followed would become the Megiscane.  We hoped that would be tomorrow.
As the rain poured around us the water in the swamps rose and a discernable, if shallow current began to flow.  We found ground that we hoped was high enough to pitch our tent on without getting whisked away, and walked across the river to prepare dinner so that bears wouldn’t be attracted to our camp.
We found moose tracks.

Summer 2016 Day 42

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 41

We entered our third drainage basin.  The first ridge we crossed, what felt like ages ago, on the Champlain Canal.  On tuesday, through three smaller canals, we passed from Canada’s Atlantic drainage basin into the Hudson Bay drainage basin.  From there on, we’d paddle downhill.
Our new lures dived too deep.  We caught our first fish right away, just as our hosts from the previous night promised.  But then the lure snagged on the bottom of the river and the line snapped when we tried to pull it up.
The dam was not a hydroelectric dam, but rather seemed built to force some of the higher lakes to drain into the reservoir rather than down into THE MEGISCANE!
After a short portage, we were on the new river. The Megiscane would hopefully take us to Senneterre.
But it didn’t feel very much like a river, more like a collection of lakes.  We paddled from one to another through the system.  The tightest connection took us on a path through grass not wide enough to plant out paddles on both sides of the boat.
I had a fish on my line.  I pulled it out of the water and tried to force it into my boat.  Its head thrashed on one side of the cockpit, its tail on the other, and I pushed down in the middle.  Too big, and too strong, for all that I wrestled with, I could not get it into my boat.  The fish broke free and swam away.
We saw a motor boat out on one of the larger lakes, but they disappeared by the time we got close.  We paddled past a cottage with a dock.  A couple disembarked from their small fishing boat with a bunch of fish on a line.
They told us we’d find a beaver dam ahead, and that the way after would be hard.  We should go around.  The fisherman and his wife showed us a 1,200-foot portage on the map that might or might not have a trail.  He said that would be easier than going along the river.  Erin and I were dubious, so we continued ahead.
Until we got to the beaver dam.  We’d seen lots of beaver lodges, but this was our first dam.  It completely blocked the river.  Just past the dam, lay another beaver dam, that also obstructed the river.  The water in between the dams sat much lower than the water above them, and the water beneath lower still.   Beyond the lower dam, a tiny trickle of water lead into a pipe underneath a road.
Piles of sticks packed with mud blocked the river.  We looked around, and failed to find a portage.  We paddled back to a boat ramp we’d seen earlier.  We walked along the road until it went over the puddle beneath the dams.  We looked for a portage path over the road, and didn’t find it.  We did find a precarious descent from the road onto the next portion of the river, but it would be tricky.  To carry the boats from the boat ramp to the bridge could take half a day.
We returned to the cabin.  We’d try the 1,200 ft portage tomorrow, and the cabin lay on the way.  The folks at the cabin were happy to host us in their guest room for the night, but they decided to revise their advice.  They now recommended we portage around the beaver dams.  They explained to us exactly where to find the path we’d missed.

Summer 2016 day 41

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 40

We continued south, unable to take exact bearings, and owing to an island missing from our recently printed map, we got a little lost.  We found ourselves at an outfitter with a few cabins.  We chatted with tourists who told us how great the fishing on the lake was.  You’d have to be a terrible fisherman not to catch anything.  We hadn’t caught anything.
The owner of the outfitter happily gave us directions, and we continued on our way.
A full day of paddling behind us, we pulled up to a small house on the water to ask if we could stay.  Vacant, we got back in our boats and tried the house across a small bay.  Besides looking much more lived in with clothing hanging on a line, blueberry bushes surrounded the property.
We pitched our tent.  Nobody showed up until just after we laid down to sleep.  A couple of fishermen pulled up in a motor boat.  We got out of bed, headed down to the water, and introduced ourselves.
They couldn’t have been happier to meet us.  Our hosts fed us delicious butter lemon fried fish and freshly picked mushrooms.  They gave us fishing lures, sure to work better than our own and told us the secrets of fishing in the area.

Summer 2016 Day 40

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 39, my Birthday!

We made breakfast, packed up camp, and went to retrieve our map from the table where the moose hunter promised he’d leave it.  The table lay bare.
We explained the situation to one of our hosts, a drunk.  He went off to find the guy who had our map.  We waited.  The drunk’s brother came around.  He too set out to get our map for us.
We had a GPS as a backup to the map. I’d saved way points to it, and they could be used to navigate our route.  But without any information about the surrounding area, where to find nearest forest, the surrounding topology, and upcoming rapids, we wanted to avoid being solely dependent on it.  Also, despite being marketed as waterproof, I’d lost way too many GPSs to water damage.  
Outside of Obedjiwan, we were more likely to find a bear to ask for directions than a person.
The brother came back.  He’d been our map thief's house, and found nobody home.  He called the police for us, and they came.
The town’s two officers were French Canadian and spoke English!  They listened to our story, and went to the map thief’s house.  The house remained empty.
They took us to the station.  I printed out some maps from a Canadian topographical site and thanked the officers greatly.  Our new maps weren’t as large or waterproof as the map we’d lost, but would get us onto the next map, still in our possession.
“What do you want us to do when we catch the guy who has your map?” the police asked us.
“I don’t know.  Explain to him the damage he could have done, I guess.”
Day 39
Sunday, August 14th - Dov’s Birthday
On the water, we quickly learned that our map had been stretched when printed, and we could not get accurate bearings off of it.  Fortunately, we could still eyeball our location pretty well.  The four compass directions—north, south, east, and west—still lined up with the map the way they were supposed to.  All the others were just a little bit off.*
We passed a couple of fishing boats, but didn’t catch anything ourselves. After the late start, we paddled over calm waters, hopping from one island to the next, then through a passage, and finally south along a shore.
Our tranquil afternoon ended with a fiery sunset mirrored on the lake.  We watched it from a stone spit that reached out from the small beach where our tent stood between bushes.

*We did not identify the factor of the stretch, which would have let us compensate, and without knowing if the stretch was away from the origin, wherever that might be, or off only one the axi it would have been difficult to determine.
Summer 2016 Day 39

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 38

With blueberry laden breakfast in our bellies, we set out onto the tranquil waters of the reservoir.
We paddled around and in between islands, by grassy fields, and into a mild headwind over a couple of crossings.
Fishing on the lake without a permit was prohibited, and  law enforcement on the lake issued severe fines.  We were ready.  If a boat approached, I’d drop the reel under my skirt.  Hopefully the line would be sufficiently invisible from any distance.
A small motor boat approached.  It lacked sirens and anything to identify it as law enforcement.   But the two men on it wore uniforms, and by the time I saw it, they’d cruised close enough to see any of my sudden attempts to hide my fishing reel.
I leaned forward into a more aggressive paddling form to obscure the view of my skirt.  The officers stared at us as their boat slowly passed.  I smiled and nodded.  We kept on going, and so did they.
Halfway through one of the crossings, a fish had my line.  I let it run with it.  I tried to pull it in, but it wanted to run more.  I pulled it in some, and then it ran more.  The fish was indefatigable.  I pulled it in slowly, and it came.  It fought, but then it came in some more, and finally, we saw the fish beside our boats.  A Great Northern Pike, it’s head as big as mine, looked up at us.  It’s giant body curved into the depths beneath.  I tried to pull it up.  It snapped and thrashed, freed itself and vanished.  
My heart crashed against the walls of my chest.  Such a large and alien creature had never been meant to be so close to the water’s surface, let alone, seen by men.
We continued on, severely rattled.
For the first time in ages, no current pushed against us,  but the wind picked up where the current left off.  It had started the day before, and continued unabated.  Apparently, the wind on the Gouin reservoir usually blows from the west.
Our destination for the weekend, the Atikamekw’s town, Obedjiwan, appeared around the corner of an island.  We pulled up to a small beach freckled with broken glass, and entered the reserve.
The residents of the small house across the beach did not speak English very well, but managed to understand our request to pitch a tent in their yard, and were happy to oblige.
They also made some phone calls.  The vice principal of the local grade school spoke English, and came by to offer his services in any way he could.
What did we want?  Just to pitch our tent, find the supermarket, and be on our way on Sunday.  They were happy to oblige.
The deputy mayor came by with the town driver in the town’s van to welcome us.  They gave us a lift to the supermarket.  The van didn’t have any seats in the back, but a kitchen chair had been screwed to the floor.  Erin sat much more securely on the floor.
After we finished our shopping for Shabbat, the deputy mayor gave us a tour of the town.  We saw the school, the police station, drove up to a high point with a view, and heard a French monologue that undoubtedly contained everything anyone could want to know.
“Do you want art?”  the driver more or less translated for us.
“Sure, we’d love to see art.”
We found ourselves in the deputy mayor’s grandmother’s house.  The elderly woman wanted to sell us homemade dolls of First Nation’s people and their children.  The dolls were beautiful.  But a delicate First Nation's doll wouldn’t fit in our boats.
Between the tour of the town, the offer of hospitality, and the kindness, we felt indebted to our hosts.  We tried to make a contribution to the woman’s art without buying a doll, and once she understood what we were saying, she handed our money back.
The deputy mayor gave us a ride back to our tents, still happy to have us.
Summer 2016 Day 38 Dogs roamed the town, and we connected with a puppy.  When our olive oil container spilled inside our boat, the little guy joyfully climbed into our hatch and cleaned it up thoroughly.
He also stole our chocolate nibs and one of our bags of chia seeds.
Saturday night, Erin and I studied our map and planned our route for the next day.
The forecast called for rain overnight, and the owners of the yard we’d pitched our tent in invited us to sleep inside.  But many people slept in the house, all related in one way or another.  We thanked them for their offer but told them our tent would keep us dry.
A young man who had been introduced to us as a cousin spoke a little English.  He looked over our shoulders at the map we studied.
“That’s amazing,”  He said.  “Can I borrow it?”
I was pretty sure I’d never seen it again.  But how could I refuse someone who’s family had been so nice to us?
“It’s really important to us.  We can’t risk losing it.”
“How much does it cost?” he asked.
“Not a lot, maybe twenty dollars, but we need it,” I said, a little nervously.  
“It’s the only map you have?”
“No, we have about ten, but each one is for a different area.”  Maybe he understood.  Maybe I hadn’t broken through the language barrier.
“I’m going moose hunting tonight.  Can I borrow it?”
“You can, but you have to understand that if we don’t get it back, we’re fucked.”
“Yah.  No problem.”
“Okay, so it has to be back on this table by 9:00 tomorrow morning, when we launch.”

“No problem.”  He took the map.  I worried I’d never see it again.  I never saw it again.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer 2016 Day 37

Day 37
Thursday, Aug 11th
Sorry that our host, The Minister of the Natural resources of Quebec, couldn’t meet us in person and explain why he let loggers cut down so much of Canada, we set out onto the lake.
The reservoir formed in 1918 when the Shawnigan water and power company built Barage Gouin.  Canadians come from far and wide to fish it’s shallow miles.  The sinuous lake has hundred of islands and fingers reaching every which way like a smushed millipede.
Our route tested our navigation skills which, until then, had mostly been to go left or right at a split in the river.  We paddled between islands pressed against one another with barely enough space, and across vast sections of open water.
I took a bearing off my map to identify our target island.  The bearing seemed wrong.  The results of the check didn’t match my sense of direction.  I checked again, and again.  Finally I gave up, and went the way that I knew to be right.
My measurements were correct, not my traitorous sense of direction.  Upon completing the crossing, we didn’t see what the map said we should be seeing, so I triangulated our position from scratch, figured out where my pride had taken us, and corrected our route accordingly.  The mistake had only taken us about a mile out of the way.
We made camp at a small outfitter and hotel called L’aventurier du Gouin.  While not overly sociable, they let us camp on their private beach, use their wifi and drink their coffee in the morning.  Their lodgers were friendly and happy to hear about are trip.
Just above the fishing docks, we found more blueberries than we could pick.

Summer 2016 Day 37