This guest blog is by Dave Johnstone. You might know him as The Canoe Collector and I definitely recommend heading over to his site to read more of his adventures.
Well it had been a very long time since my first trip into the backcountry of the French River; fifty years to be exact, and Shawn was quick enough to call me out on a comment I had made about putting together a trip to celebrate. “Hey, weren’t you going to do something special this year?” Well, special became a very different animal and the interest spread. Actually it spread far and very quickly. Some heard comments that it couldn’t be done successfully, and that it would have too far a reaching impact on the environment. Was the individual’s experience level capable to perform a trip of this scope?. This trip, not unlike any other, suffered its’ share of fallout, as it did interest, so the target, exact date, members, and exact travel plans were kept to the confines of those committed to making this trip a lasting memory.
A meeting place and time were established and so we began; some with a campfire to prepare for the trip having left on the Thursday evening and others hitting the tarmac very early Friday morning to satisfy the extended trip. The Miller family was joining us and so we met up and off we went. What a joy it was to flip on the windshield wipers in the pitch black morning on Hwy 400/69 at about the halfway point to Sudbury. 15 minutes into the rain, Karin looked at me and asked, “Didn’t you leave your boots in the back of the truck?” With traffic being light, the sudden brake did nothing more than FULLY wake up Steve and get things back in attention. I’d like to think it had something to do with Ram design, but I know someone was looking out for me and …….dry boots!
Via the world of electronics and media, it became evident that some had not fared the evening so well and that we were not the only travellers not pleased the weather. At least now we had a better understanding of timelines and expectations to hit the rendezvous.
Speaking of rendezvous’s , let’s back this up a smidgen to a “planning evening” held not so long ago with a group of consorts to discuss the finer details of the trip such as beer, wings, veggie dips, and copious quantities of tales from former trips, and oh ya….”what time are we going to hit the water?” The most outstanding question of the evening was, “…so, ya gonna be there?” “You’re likely to see me along the way!”, was my response!
Coffee was definitely a priority so we headed in towards the Tim’s on 17 and as I turned in, I remarked about a good looking black Swift canoe that was pulling out of the lot. So here we are admiring the canoe as the owners are waving at us and voila, I realized I recognized these people. “Hot Damn!”, we passed the audition from the “planning evening” and people, other people, were going to be on this trip. This is where the excitement builds….! We get to the cut off road and we see the black canoe again; we see a red canoe, we see a green canoe we see canoes all over the place, and we see people shaking hands, nodding heads and hugging others. It was all going just way too good right up to the point where Matt says, “This is an active mining road….and you’re really going to have fun with the trailer!” OK, now I need another coffee……NOW!
The access road proved to be exciting but not a problem, and soon we were at our launch site. Canoes down and packs loaded and the armada was soon to be released upon the wild. Wind at out backs proved to be a boon to the trip and the fastest canoe soon became closely related to the slower boats by way of great communication and a close watch. This is a testament to a successful trip when, with a group of 22 people, multiple dogs, and an age swing from 4 – 63 years of age, you still have to administer the portages to ensure flow!
So the flotilla continued on its’ chosen course, to the land of the Wolf, yet with any venture worth its’ weight, the trials and tribulations stood before those challenging the route. It’s been said that the reward is only equal to the challenge, so child, pet, and combatant carried, and carried over several worthy obstacles. Word came down from Matt and Chelsea that the next paddle would be “easy peasy” and there was just a small swift to champion and off we would be to the camp site. A fitting spot for Matt to jump into the river and push canoes up the river.
Camp was made and food packs hung while daylight stayed with us and the array of cook ware and menu prep was from A to Z, yet no man, woman, child, or dog went hungry. The strong winds played with, and stayed with us through Saturday and Saturday evening’s campfire brought a chance for us all to get together and talk about who we were and what is was that that brought us here! What an incredible evening for sharing and an incredible evening for anyone of us to lay an egg, so to speak!
I had such a strong feeling about how this trip was coming together, and about all the people who had committed to this endeavour, I felt very good about the Sunday morning. Red pines had bent over in the breeze for two days and on the Sunday, the wind was calm. The lake was calm! The portages would be the climax for the day, or so we thought! So many times we see the road before us and calculate our trip based on that vision. Then comes the road less traveled. The road which offers the jewel of the trip; the offering to those who will spend the extra time to notice as opposed to save time by hurrying along the path. I very nearly lost it myself, so quick to get the gear and the canoes gone from one point to another and missing the entire reason for the portage. Just beside us lay a beautiful lagoon carved from the rock by the constant flow of the water. The effect it had on all of us was absolutely massive!
End result was a magnificent day to trip out with nominal winds and a bright sunny day with temps at about 23’C. By comparison, I’m certain none of us would have been excited about the alternative offered to us on a 10 km. paddle into a devastating headwind.
So was this trip worthy of a 50 year anniversary? Simple answer is, without a doubt! This trip brought together, a group of outdoors enthusiasts who had met on line and resulted in the creation of many new friendships, bonds in both camping and canoeing. So many personal bests were created on this trip because “we didn’t know if we could do it.” “We hadn’t been pushed this far before”. Well guess what folks? You didn’t get pushed…..you pushed yourselves! You signed on by your own choice and we came back with the same number we left with so hat’s off to everyone.
To every single person on this trip, I can not thank you all enough!