Sunday, July 14, 2019

Day 59

We finished portaging from where we’d taken out friday and paddled down the last easy bit of Rapids Mignon, launching on an inlet just above the bottom on river left. The water was a little fast and a little rocky, but we’d made it through much more challenging rapids already.

From the bottom I watched Erin come down after me and, coming out of an eddy, get stuck on a barely submerged rock. Shifting her weight didn’t free her. After a bit of relationship drama, she got out onto the rock, freed her boat, and then launched quickly and efficiently from the middle of the rapids.

Rapids Coldspring were big. The water descended terrifyingly down a steep decline, and then around an island. On the right side of the island, the rapids bunched together to finish quickly after the rapids of doom. On the left side the water flowed calmly, with more rapids presumably around the corner.

We scouted the right side of the river, and found an arduous path, up and down and through the woods. At the end of it, a fisherman told us to portage on the other side of the river.

We ferried above the top of the falls and found a perfect take out. Much of the path was along rocks, but in the portion that lead through tall grasses we found the vestiges of a portage trail. Back and forth three times, supplies were starting to run low, put us beneath the first couple shelves and on the calmer left side of the island.

Paddling along, at the end of the island we found another shelf, numerous tiny islands blunting the challenge of the portage with the spectacular beauty of the wilderness. One of those islands had a stone spit traversing the shelf. We climbed down, one loaded boat at a time, and launched off the bottom.

The fellow in the row boat had told us that Matagami lay 20 miles ahead of us, but we were pretty sure he meant 20 kilometers, and that he had rounded up to get that number.

The wind blew against us, and we pushed forward to Matagami. We ran out of water, but we’d be able to refill in Matagami.

A beaver flapped its tale and dove when we approached. We’d taken a split off the river into a small tranquil chanel slightly sheltered from the wind.

It felt like we never got any closer, and then we were there. We pulled up to a dock beneath a bed and breakfast, and found a home for the night. We found a bed, a shower, a laundry machine, and all the perks of civilization.

GPS coordinates: 49.75037, -77.62111

We had a critical family event we needed to attend in the very beginning of August. We could try to finish before then, and risk missing it, or go home now and pick up in August after the event. Missing the event was not an option. So rather than risk it, we went home. The B&B offered to watch our boats and gear for us.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Day 58

In the morning, the wind continued against us, and blew throughout the day.

We paddled between the islands of a tight archipelago in the middle of the river. Trees crowded to the edge of great boulders rising out water that dropped as it poured through the river neck.

At Rapids de I’lle we searched for a portage on river left, as the woman from the bridge told us. We climbed up to the train tracks that crossed the water, and went back and forth looking for a trail, but found nothing. We scrambled down rocks and boulders on the left side of the river, and then tried to follow a path back up into the woods from the bottom of the rapids, but an animal trail disappeared after a hundred meters.

Erin noticed that the island in the middle of the river was a shorter and easier portage, so we crossed to the island. The steep landing was tricky in the fast moving current, but climbing down the island, from the top of the rapids to the bottom, turned out to be shorter and easier work than the rocks on river left. Soon we were back on our way making good time.

At the next rapids, Rapids Mignon, the river split around and island. We scouted the right side of the rapids. Large flat boulders lined the island. They would make an easy but again long portage. The river fell down a series of shelves, and I wondered if we could paddle down the easier bits and portage past the harder ones. We then scouted the other side of the island, and found a much easier portage and big flat rock to make a wonderful campsite for shabbat.

So we made camp. Erin cooked food for shabbat while I tried to fish the rapids. My lure kept getting caught in the rocks and I didn’t catch anything.

I joined Erin, we finished cooking and welcomed in the sabbath and our day of much deserved rest.

GPS coordinates: 49.61269, -77.49687

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Day 57

Just after launching from the muddy bank, I noticed a leach on my leg. I took off my shoes and found four more. I screamed like a little girl before removing them by attempting to slide my knife under their succkers. They did not want to let go.

We paddled down some light rapids and took the right side of large split in the river. The other half of the river wouldn’t rejoin ours until the end of the day, leaving us on a piece of river like those we’d paddled much higher up.

We passed under a narrow bridge. Two First Nations people called down greetings to us. They were young, spoke Ensligh, and had paddled this section of the river before. With a last few sentences as the current pulled us past, they gave us information about upcoming rapids and portages. What luck!

The wind turned against us. The water rose up wherever it could. In spite of the current at our backs, progress slowed, and exhaustion overtook us. We fought on, hoping to make it to Matagami before the end of the week, but failed.

We passed a long abandoned cabin, but a quick investigation encouraged us to search further for a campsite.

At 7:30 pm we pulled up to a beach where we found more muddy clay than sand, Our feet sunk deep, and Erin wanted to search for a better place. But the cold sunk in, and the weariness protested. We pitched our tent on the most-solid, flattest ground we could find, besides enormous moose prints, and slept like rocks.

GPS coordinates: 49.42337, -77.4364

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Day 56

We woke to another beautiful day, and did our best to launch without stepping in the muddy grass.

Erin succeeded. I failed. I must have pulled six or seven leeches off. Yuch. Since our campsite had been grubby, and overridden with mosquitoes, we decided to have breakfast at a nicer spot, and fled.

Some rocks reached out from shore toward the center of the river, so we stopped. Rocks toward the center of the river always had fewer mosquitoes than the woods.

As Erin cooked, a fish jumped in the water, not far from the foremost rocks. I cast my line, and on the fourth try pulled in a small pike. Besides our usual cornmeal, we had fish soup for breakfast. Yumm.

Back on our way, the river twisted and turned and the current picked up again as it narrowed. We passed under a road and found a large lumberyard to our left. The industrial space totally incongruent with the natural wonder that had surrounded us. We thought about refilling our water, but decided not to. We didn’t want anything to do with them, and most likely they didn’t want anything to do with us.

Around a couple more bends in the river we saw a dock with a motor boat at the end of it. The time was 4:00pm. Our kayaks slid over grass growing from the water onto a muddy bank at the base of the dock.

An older French speaking man was home. He invited us to shower and stay the night. His mosquito free home felt like heaven. He’d started building the cabin a few decades earlier, and continued to make improvements, like the laundry line he erected for our newly clean cloths.

He kept it mosquito free by burning an incense like poison coil. In the morning, after the coil had burned out, the mosquitoes came in. I found another one, set it alight, and restored the tranquility. We slept in, and then took our time packing up.

We tried to to clean our clogged water filter. Silt from one of the streams had left it near useless. We managed to improve its performance only slightly.

Our host, thrilled to have us, called his friend over the radio and told him he had kayakers that had paddled all the way from New York. He also swept up a fairly large pile of dead mosquitoes, part of his daily routine.

GPS coordinates: 49.17281, -77.13798

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Day 55

We didn’t dare let the current catch us without scouting first. Our beach camp looked out over an inlet from the river with a strong current branching off the main one and following the river’s edge.

As soon as our boats left the tiny beach’s eddy, we were whisked around the inlet to the other side, and with urgent timing, backpadled to stop the boats at a rocky slope and took out. There was just enough room beneath a ledge to secure enough of the boats on land.

We needed to get a view of the river ahead. We climbed up into the woods and followed a parting in the forest-floor moss over a great stone floor. Just as the moss closed in on the path, we stepped under a couple of branches and out into an open space where the stone beneath our feet swept into the river.

The river rushed through a narrow channel toward a drop ahead. Looking across, we made out a few tiny inlets with eddies. I wanted to get a better look at the rapids. We hiked along a ledge above the river, and constantly tried to decide if we were on a portage trail, perhaps a continuation of the one we took the day before. But as we approached the falls, we became sure of two things. We were not on a trail. We could not paddle down those falls and hope for anything but catastrophe.

Erin saw one of the small plastic hanging flags besides one of the inlets on the far side. She’d found the portage trail.

We hiked back to our boats and crossed the rushing river at a strong ferry angle. Once across, we paddled close to shore until the second tiny inlet where we’d seen the flag. We found a pond the length of two kayaks connected to the river by a narrow opening. At the far end of the pond a steep muddy bank descended into a marsh. Above, we thought we saw the trail.

I climbed the bank, and slid back into the pond. Erin may have been amused. But we made our way to the top and found a thick forest. We pushed through it, exploring, looking for the trail with great difficulty.

We searched above the bank of the river with no luck. We returned to our boats, tried again, returned to our boats again.

If we cut directly into the woods away from the river, we found wide mostly stagnant stream running parallel to the river. It would be hard work to take the boats down the stream. In some places it was more than deep and wide enough, but in others rocks or logs would make paddling impossible.

We followed the stream to a deadend, hiked a little longer into the woods, and found a trail marker. The trail was old, and underused, but much better than nothing, and would work. We followed it back to the far side of the stream on one end, where it continued back toward the upper rapids where we’d failed to find a portage the day before, and down to a cobblestone like beach beneath the falls. Grass grew between the flat stones, and a lake spread out carrying the roar of the rapids.

At the top of the portage, we paddled out through a slit into the marsh at the bottom of the muddy bank, until they would go no further, then pulled them over the last of the marsh to the dead end stream on the other side. We took out the gear, carried the boats over some stones that crossed the stream, paddled 10 meters or so, and then pulled them up to the path.

The portage was long, and took us over a hill through the woods. We made two trips for gear, and another for each boat. After the four legs, we collapsed on the stone beach exhausted. Wouldn’t it be nice to make camp there for the night, but it was too early in the day, so we snacked, loaded out kayaks, and put in.

Calm water, and then around a bend we arrived at Rapides des Cedres. Water flowed smoothly under a bridge, but there, forced to narrow, it rose into an exciting waive train. We bounced down with delight, no rocks or or shelves to destroy us.

The river moved us along, and the time to make camp approached. A cabin on stilts stood where a large stream came into the Bell. We found a nice spot of grass to pitch the tent on, but a sign beside a wildlife camera said we were not welcome, and we still had a few hours of light left, so we continued on. Besides, the house was locked.

Back in the water a fish jumped ahead of us. I tried to trail my lure where we’d seen it, but no bite.

Around the next bend we found another house. It was not locked, but filthy inside and out, with garbage everywhere.

We continued paddling, and started searching the shores for anywhere we could pitch a tent. Night approached. I paddled the left shore, and Erin the right. I found a spot first. A beaver had feld a tree, and the wood chips along with animal trails down to the water, kept the foliage at bay.

As I pulled my kayak in, and Erin crossed the river, I felt a snag on my line. Most likely, the water grass had the lure, but as I worked the reel and pulled the line to get it in, the line and lure swung out into the deeper water. A pike had my lure. We fought and I reeled it in, but just as Erin went to scoop the big guy up with the net, he snapped, freed himself of the lure, and disappeared in an instant.

Erin and I climbed out of our boats into the grass toward the site, peeled leeches off, made camp in the tight space, and slept.

GPS coordinates: 49.02601, -77.15741

Monday, July 8, 2019

Day 54

We launched low on water. Behind us, we saw a large house on a hill just above the river. Way more than the usual hunting cabin, this was a proper two story house had siding, and a view of the river. We imagined being welcomed to a delicious lunch, or at the very least, to refill our water bags.

Paddling beneath the house, we found an old barely used trail with the remnants of a rotted rowboat half submerged in the forest moss beside it. We hiked up. Garbage lay scattered beside the house, including an automobile size pile, as well as an actual abandoned car.

The decaying stairs up to the porch barely supported my weight without breaking. And looking through the window, I saw the inside of the house underwent construction. A table saw and other tools lay strewn about. Nothing looked finished.

We found a spigot on an outside wall, but no water came out of it.

We headed up to the road, and found another abandoned car, but no other houses.

We paddled a short distance to a small hunting cabin a bit downstream. Though water pipes connected a couple sheds and the cabin, the spigot to let it flow appeared to be locked in one of the sheds.

On the other side of the river we found a stream. We hiked up, into the woods, and though deep sucking mud, to where we found a trickle of flowing water. Giant horseflies took gobs of Dov and Erin meat while we swatted at them and pumped water through our filter, until the silt ruined it. At least we had our water.

Our map marked Chutes Kiosk, a waterfall, and we approached it with trepidation. A train bridge crossed the river and a flag hung from a tree on the left above an easy landing. Excellent, surely that marked a portage trail. We searched, and we searched more. The forrest was thick with young trees. If there had been a trail there ten years ago, it could be completely overgrown by now. I looked at the impressive shelfs and wondered if we could paddle down them. I don’t think they were more than 7 or 8 feet in some places. Erin would have none of it.

Across the river we saw low growth, and then large boulders that crowded the right shore. We paddle to the other side and took out at a muddy beach, dragging the heavy boats onto the thick growth. After getting the boats and gear across the boulders, we found something of a trail at the bottom through a small section of woods to a beach where we made camp. People had come this way before.

We cooked dinner out on the rocks near the rapids, and perhaps there fewer mosquitoes came after us for being away from the woods, but there were still a lot.

From the beach we could see the main current rush passed the small inlet in front of us around a sharp turn. Our map showed the waterfall there.

Check out pictures here!

GPS coordinates: 48.98326, -77.01793

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Day 53

We passed a parking lot on the left side of the river. A sign welcomed people to nature, and porta potties provided them with a way to steer clear of nature.

The wind rose. Erin felt cold and put her jacket on.

A few cottages stood above the water on mowed lawns between bits of forrest. We guessed there was road access on the other side of them. Row boats with motors sat on the grass just above the water, and an older fellow mowed his lawn.

Our map, and the sound of the river, told us rapids waited around the next bend. So we went to ask the lawn mowing man about them.

We didn’t speak French, and he didn’t speak English very well. He couldn’t tell us if there was a portage. He recommended we take the rapids on the right. He also told us, “I’ve heard about you.”


We approached the rapids from the right. They were ferocious. Maybe I could paddle down them. The water on the left side of the river poured over a rock filled shelf of death. The right side of the river moved fast, had large waves, a few big rocks that I might be able to paddle around, and a few places where there might be shallow rocks, or deep. I couldn’t tell.

Erin didn’t want to paddle down. I didn’t want to portage, so she would climb through the water as close to the edge as the thick brush leaning out over the river would allow, and I would paddle my boat, then hike up the river, and paddler hers down.

I began my run. I tried to stay too close to the side with the slower current, and got pulled into an eddy. Facing upstream, my boat slammed into a rock, I spun around going down backwards for a moment, and then straightened out in time to be flung through the bottom half of the rapids, by skill or luck avoiding disaster.

It was thrilling. At the bottom I checked my hull. It looked good. I didn’t see the large crack I put in it until a couple days later I realized the constant presence of water in my boat had to do with a leak.

I climbed up, passing Erin on her way down, and traded skirts. At the top, I got into her boat, and launched. Coming down the second time, I steered closer to the main current to clear the eddy, found myself flying through an enormous wave, and landing with a terrifying crunch on the rock just below it. The water whisked me on and spit me out.

Erin clearly had better judgment than me with regards to what rapids we could safely paddle.

Lower down, we got to more rapids, which we paddled successfully until they got big again and we decided to embark on our first portage. We found, on the left side of the river, a beautiful well maintained portage trail.

A similar trail had probably also lined the rapids that cracked my boat, but we didn’t think to look for it since the old man told us there was no portage. Assuming he understood us, and we him.

We walked down the trail and found a house on a beach at the bottom. We also got a better view of the rapids, and decided that, while they were big, we could paddle them after all. The right side of the river looked safer.

We ferried across the strong current at the top, and then let the current pull us over waves through the rough stuff, exhilarating and scary, to the calmer water below.

We continued down river, and arrived at Rapids Strangway

Erin searched the left side of the river a hundred meters or so up from the start of the rapids where a clearing came up against the water. Tracks lead her to believe she’d found a moose hangout spot.

On the left side, I climbed down the river through the water, and after the first bit of rapids, found a tree hanging way out over a stagnant offshoot of the river. An old thick rope hung from the tree, and a path lead into the woods beside it.

I followed the path, and though it hadn’t been maintained in years, much of it was passable. One section, with thick growth on either side had a pine tree across the path. The branches were too thick to climb over, but we could slide the boats under, ourselves on our bellies to make it past.

Elsewhere, I followed the a clear path easily, and though long, it brought me around the entire set of rapids to calmer water and a small campsite below.

I returned to the tree with the rope, mud sucking at my feet halfway up the trail, and began searching the other side of the inlet for the top of the portage trail. The trail above, if it existed, was not clear. I wandered out of the woods into a rocky space with grass growing taller than me. With some wrong directions and backtracking, I found my way through the grasses to my boat. I called Erin on the radio, and we met just above the first big rapids I had precariously climbed through earlier.

With a little bit of scouting, finding a small pool filled with tadpoles, we settled on an optimal path to the stagnant offshoot of the river. Once we carried out boats and gear there, we loaded the cockpits of the boats with the gear, and pulled them through the water to the top of the trail.

In retrospect, we should have paddle down the first small set of rapids to the tree with the rope. The offshoot there would have made for an easy parking spot in spite of the swift water.

The mosquitos waited for us. But in spite of them, sweating under our jackets with head nets on our faces, with six trips along the lengthy trail, crawling on our bellies and yucking through mud each time, we got our boats and gear to the camp at the bottom.

We had dinner looking out over the rapids, swatting mosquitoes, but generally feeling good about the beautiful world we traversed.

GPS coordinates: 48.85942, -77.10396

Friday, July 5, 2019

Day 52

Paddling through Lake Parent, we caught a fish! We scooped a pike out of the water in our net, and then held its mouth open with my pfd knife while I tried to carefully remove the hook. Previously, pike had bitten my fingers and lodged hooks in me and Erin during this process. I have since read that the wise fisherman uses pliers. But my hand took no harm when the pike twisted spasmodically; I yanked it away dropping the fish back into the net. The hook got caught up in the net, but with some effort, carefully twisting, pulling, and giving the fish some healthy respect, we sorted everything out.

I’d bought a line with a ring at one end and pin at the other for threading through the jaw of a fish so that we could keep it in the water alive as long as possible. I’d forgotten it at home.

So with a key ring and a piece of string from my repair kit, I made another one there on the water, and tied it to the back of Erin’s kayak. We resumed our paddle, and caught another pike just before being taken down the light rapids out of the lake.

As we fiddled with the second fish, hook, and net, the wind blew us into some bushes and onto some shallow rocks, which was much better than down the rapids.

Fish secured behind the boat, we paddled down.

Beneath the rapids, a large wild stream poured into the river beside a small cabin. We searched around the cabin for a rainwater basin to resupply, and didn’t find one. It looked like the stream came from a section of Lake Parent, northeast of where we left it. We thought it best not to drink water downriver of Senneterre.

We continued downriver and began searching each cabin for drinking water. Silt and stagnant goo filled most of the streams at the side of the river. We found a basin of rain water on the third try. The basins are linked to the roof gutters and fill up from rain: likely full of bacteria, but probably not giardia. We made camp on the screened in porch of a cabin just above some rapids.

The porch had a grill on it, so we grilled fish for shabat. Mosquitos got into the porch area through holes in the floor, but not into our tent. The porch on the hill gave us a view of the river and lakes on three sides. We enjoyed a well deserved day of rest in aslice a paradise.

GPS coordinates: 48.78547, -77.0828

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Day 51

Some calmer water followed the rapids, and as we paddled between islands in the delta of one river into another, we completed the Megiscane and began the Bell River. In the distance we saw Senneterre’s marina, but in the distance was the closest we’d get to civilization as we turned south away from the town.

The current moved much slower now through the wider river, but a healthy tailwind helped us to make good time. We cruised pass a fishing boat exchanging waves and smiles, and made camp, exhausted, on a beach on an island in Lake Parent.

With ample driftwood, we made a fire to conserve fuel. Afterwards Erin used it to heat water for sunset tea. We slept on a flat bead of soft sand.

Pictures here!

GPS coordinates 48.63025, -77.0628

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.

Check out these pictures from before I broke the camera!

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.