End of Trent-Severn waterway & Georgian Bay - July 2-13, 2014
*** To see the photos and the video of Big Chute, click here! ***
July 2, 2014
We left at about 7:30 this morning with the hope that the waves had subsided on Lake Simcoe. From the marina where we were, we were not able to see the conditions of the lake. We could only observe the conditions around us and rely on weather forecasts.
At the mouth of the lake, we soon realized that we would not have an easy navigation. Short and close waves were coming from all directions. The wind blew strong. So we agreed that we would try to find a place to stop. Conditions deteriorated rapidly and we sure did not belong on this lake today. We stopped at "Point of Mara" campground located south of Lagoon City, about 11km from our starting point. We stopped, in fact, just on the other side of the tip of the campground. Before we even set a foot on land, Jasmine fled. This was the second time this happened on this expedition. All that pent up energy used to chase squirrels. After running after her, we portaged our gear to the campground. The owners, Christine and Doug, welcomed us warmly. We set up our tent near the water, which enabled us to be at the forefront to observe the conditions (in real time) on Lake Simcoe.
In the afternoon, we walked to the village of Brechin to do some errands. It was extremely hot on the pavement. On our way back, we were surprised by a storm. Doug picked us up in his truck and delivered us to the front door of our tent. Really nice of him!
July 3, 2014
We started paddling at 7:45 this morning. The wind was not too strong in the early morning. Despite the prediction of a dominant northwest wind, we had a northeast to easterly wind throughout the day. The weather forecast also announced that the wind should be around 7km/h. The reality was quite different, we believe it was peaking at 35km/h. Finally, the waves were moderate and allowed us to cross the famous Lake Simcoe to Orillia. It was good timing for us to leave Simcoe, as conditions deteriorated at a fast speed. Randy and Gordon had informed us of the difficulty navigating Lake Simcoe. They were absolutely right. Conditions change very quickly. The lake is shallow and waves form quickly, even with a light breeze.
When we passed under the bridge of Orillia, we decided to continue to the next lock. Lake Couchiching, which continues on from Lake Simcoe, was relatively quiet. Despite the rain threatening us from the south and the west, we decided it would be better to enjoy acceptable paddling conditions before it deteriorated and forced us to wait several days before moving on. We worked hard to cross the lake today. The wind was not very cooperative. We finally arrived at the Couchiching Lock # 42 around 1pm. Considering that we did a bit more than 35km, we were very proud of our paddling speed with those conditions.
After a hearty dinner, rain (which made the temperature drop) and a nap, a beautiful boat moored in front of us. She is name "Akasha". The crew is from Texas and the boat proudly wears their "Great Loop" flag.
July 4, 2014
Last night, we spoke with Rosemary and Clarke from "Akasha". They are very friendly. One year ago, they bought their boat and for the last 3 months, they have travelled the waters to achieve their "Great Loop." Fantastic! They did not waste any time and made sure to be well prepared to undertake such a journey. We salute their determination and sense of adventure.
Before going to bed last night, we received an invitation to lunch on board the "Akasha". We accepted with pleasure! Rosemary and Clarke are lovely, as are their longtime friends, Janice and Joe. We had a great time with them and the food was excellent! Their boat is beautiful both outside and inside. There is lots of space, beautiful woodwork and we could appreciate the details. Rosemary and Clarke can be very proud of their boat.
After launching our canoe, we went to the next lock “Swift Rapids”. It blew hard all the way from beginning to end of the journey. There were gusts of wind up to 45km/h, which were not predicted by the weather radio. We even had a storm with thunder and lightning. We arrived through the lock just in time, as the heavens opened up. We quickly pitched our tent and emptied the canoe.
The lock gates are huge here. The site is great and it is a good place to stop for the night. We also saw a water snake in the late afternoon.
July 5, 2014
Today marked the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway. We arrived at Port Severn in the afternoon where we found the crew of the "Akasha". Before arriving at the last lock, we endured strong winds, just like yesterday gusts over 45km/h. Today on the water has not been easy, especially between Big Chute Lock and Port Severn.
Big Chute Lock is very different. You must travers on a platform (with floor and belts for boats of all sizes). Then the platform is carried on rails, out of the water and passes over a street, it then brings the boat to the water on the other side of the hill. Very impressive and quiet an interesting experience. Please note: you can see a video and photos on our website.
Tomorrow, Georgian Bay with its 30,000 islands will open its arms to us. We cannot wait!
July 6, 2014
This morning, we decided not to move. The winds were strong and we had to navigate in open water. Around 10am, we changed our minds. Forecasts were more lenient and we aimed for Honey Harbour, 18km from Port Severn. We were in the last lock of the "Trent" at 11:4o and just before noon we had our first sight of Georgian Bay.
At first, everything was fine. Then, the situation change. The waves were increasing and the wind was blowing harder and harder. The weather forecast was again wrong! A few hundred yards before Moore Point, we stopped on a private beach where we were welcomed by two families. After several questions, we came to the conclusion that we were only 6km from Honey Harbour. Past Moore Point, we were supposed to be in a better position to face various natural elements. The day was hard and we paddled a long time on the same side. Luckily, Pierre is very experienced and he gaged perfectly; the wind, the waves and our capabilities. He positioned us as strategically as possible at all times. The canoe always wants to go nose into the wind. This can put us in a precarious position facing the waves if we let it happen. In addition, we will navigate only with the GPS until Killarney, since we have no paper maps for this section.
We found out, upon arriving in Honey Harbour that there was no place to camp. Luckily, there was Beausoleil Island about 2km from where we were. This island is part of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. We stopped at Point Tonch South. The place is beautiful with pink granite rocks everywhere. We even have a platform to pitch the tent. Jasmine was quite content to bark at intruders. In the evening, the wind and the water calmed down. We had a small fire and no mosquitoes! Loons were singing away while the sun was setting. Life doesn't get much better!
July 7, 2014
A day off. Conditions did not permit a safe launching and navigation, especially in a canoe. In the morning, we had rain and the sky was overcast. Then, in the afternoon, the sun came out. We were able to dry our clothes, still wet from the day before. We even got sunburned. Dinner time was another magical moment. Everything was calm, and the warm colors of the rocks shone. We were relaxed and in perfect peace. We even stayed up until 9:20pm!
July 8, 2014
Wow! A beautiful sunrise this morning. We got up early at 5:20am and had the chance to view the show. We left at 7:20am in the direction of Moose Point (King Bay). At the beginning of the day, the wind was calm. Then around 10:00, it started to rain and blow, forecasts had announced the rain for 3pm. We were completely soaked. Jasmine looked like a little chicken with her hair stuck to her head. At times we had to scream at each other to be heard above the sound of the rain mixed with the wind. Near Gunn Island, the rain fell so hard it bounced on top of the water. This was the first time I have seen this. It was like billions of pearls bouncing on an ink black sea. Although the situation was not enviable, I found it very beautiful.
We arrived around 12:30pm (after traveling 30km) to Marina King Bay (Moose Point). We were told, very coldly, that there was nowhere to camp. We were advised to try on an island at the bottom of the bay. We did not waste any time getting there as a storm was coming and we could hear thunder in the distance. Upon arriving at the island we discovered it was not possible to mount our tent. The rocks were full of holes, and in addition, there were dead fish everywhere. A man on a boat anchored behind the island, told us about a place where we could possibly camp. We were left alone in the bay to find that little place away from everything. It was not very pretty, it was dirty and there was trash everywhere. However, we could set up the tent, although the ground was sloping. We did that quickly before emptying the canoe. We finished just in time before the lightning and thunder struck. Because of the heavy rain everything was wet in the vestibule. We spent the rest of the day and the evening in the tent, where we were all comfortable together. Although the day was far from perfect, we were happy with our progress. One must remember that our expedition is synonymous with adaptation.
July 9, 2014
The wind was strong last night. There was a gust of wind up to 60km/h and lots of rain.
This morning it was 10°C. It was cool and the winds blew constantly at 50km/h. Nevertheless, we planned to go to the marina on the other side of the bay, eat at the restaurant before starting a 2km portage allowing us to get to another marina located in Twelve Miles Bay. When we arrived at the first marina, we learned that the restaurant was closed for the day. So, we ate a little from our supplies, then we went on the road for the portage. When we arrived to the Moose Deere Point Marina, we were poorly received. The marina is on an Indian reserve and we had no idea that it would impact us so negatively. The person in charge of the marina was affirmative, there was no possibility for us to stay on the site! Pierre then went to the secretariat of the municipality (located nearby). The lady in charge told him, "Do not expect me to help you after all the cuts we have had! You go that way for another 22km". She blamed the "whites" for the government cuts. However, we would like to mention that several people were very nice to us (like Julie at the marina store and a volunteer firefighter). It is only some people who were very unwelcoming. We went back on the water and found a camp site about 6km away. We have not achieved a big paddling day in kilometers, but a big one as far as our effort and emotions.
July 10, 2014
We left this morning with serene spirits. Yesterday was behind us. Nevertheless, we had another hard day on our emotions and strength. GPS navigation is not easy for me (Jen) and since we no longer have paper maps to rely on, I give the way points and confirmations on our direction. Pierre must ensure we stay on course and keep the boat heading in the right direction against the waves and wind according to my readings. I convinced Pierre before we left for this expedition that we could only navigate with the GPS (without keeping it open all day) and would prepare our next navigational day with the computer (in which we have GPS software and maps). I should be able to do well estimating, confirming and positioning. I finally realize that I have difficulty placing what I would see on the GPS and relating it to the landscape. This weakness has caused some bad decisions and this has made us lose time in the day. In some places, we could have been protected from the wind by islands, but we paddled away from the shore thinking that all of the islands were part of the shoreline. Pierre for his part has had to work harder than expected to combat the adverse effects of wind and waves. Today was not the most glorious day for any of us nor for the expedition.
We stopped in the afternoon at Killbear Provincial Park. It is a beautiful place. The beach is almost the entire length of the bay, there are large pink rocks and white pines. We were accepted on a camp site not far from the beach, but set high up. It was a big portage for Pierre. I had to stay with Jasmine onsite and start setting up as Pierre would bring our supplies. In the evening, Ena, a great friend of Leah Schwenger (our friend), came to see us. She brought us beers and invited us for breakfast. She has a cottage just outside of the park. It was a pleasant encounter. A big thank you to Leah who made sure to inform her friend of our presence. Leah is not only our editor, to ensure that the English texts of our blog are correct, she is also a donator and now a manager. Thank you Leah!
July 11, 2014
Rude awakening this morning. About 2 days ago, pain appeared in my left shoulder (Jen), it woke me up several times last night and is excruciating this morning. Leah helped us to contact Ena. Ena, very generously ,at 7:15am took me to the hospital in Parry Sound. Doctor's verdict: an overused muscle injury. I have to take at least 2 days off with anti-inflammatories. After that, we will see how my shoulder holds up.
Ena has invited us to come and stay with her rather than staying at the campground. We accepted the invitation with pleasure. After the hospital, we did some errands together. Then she came back to the campground and we put our things into her car, leaving us only with the canoe and a few items to carry up to her cottage. Her car was full! So we paddled up to her property, located close by. The place where she lives is amazing! The view is fantastic and the landscape enchanting. Her cottage overlooks Georgian Bay with it's beautiful, pink granite rocks.
Ena is a very generous and welcoming person. She did everything to make us feel at home. Ena exudes joy, happiness and serenity. She is goodness personified. Taking us under her wing means so much to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
July 12, 2014
Wow! Ena is an excellent cook! She offered us a lunch and a dinner fit for royalty yesterday. We slept very well after an enjoyable day, but I could not say this morning that my shoulder was better. There was a burning sensation that spread into my arm. Only time and the anti-inflammatory will overcome my problem.
We spent a very pleasant day with our hosts. Dennis, Ena’s husband, arrived at the cottage at lunch time. The day passed quickly with interesting discussions and sharing of experiences. Leah had found us a prime location with people with whom we had fun and we greatly appreciated it. We also both filled our stomachs. The food was generous, excellent and always well presented. The attention to detail was phenomenal, as well as the excellent tastes.
July 13, 2014
This morning, I could feel an improvement in my shoulder. This is encouraging! Another day off today should help me. But I think getting back to paddling should be gradual.
After having a breakfast (the likes of which we will not see in the next few years), we have agreed to relocate closer to Killarney, in a place that will be more protected for the upcoming paddling days. This way I can return to the water gradually, without putting too much pressure on my shoulder. Early afternoon, Dennis and Ena drove us to Britt. At this point, we are left with just over 80km to go before we get to Killarney.
Ena and Dennis, in addition to hosting us, generously feeding us and making us feel like we were at home, you have transported us to Parry Sound, then Britt. We will be eternally grateful for everything. Your hospitality and warmth were invaluable to us in a critical moment. Thank you!