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Guess who has the most room in the canoe?
Hint: neither of them are holding paddles!

Trip stats:

  • Total # portages this season = 53
  • # times Jude fell out of the canoe = 1
  • # pictograph sites visited this season= 3
  • total km paddled this season = about 1600 km

Favourite pieces of gear:

  • Esquif Miramichi canoe handles big water and big waves beautifully.  There was more than enough room for our crew and all of our gear.
  • North Water spray deck – once again we can’t say enough good things about this spray deck.  It has been an essential piece of equipment for the canoe on the Great Lakes to keep out both wind and waves.
  • Littlebug stove – packs small, very light, and uses only a handful of firewood to get water boiling.
  • Deuter Kid Comfort II backpack – once again, Jude practically lived in this backpack this summer.  He would always get excited when we geared up for “portaging adventures.”

Least favourite piece of gear:

  • Fujifilm F300 EXR camera is a piece of junk.  It worked well for a month or so, then it began acting up.  Should have stuck with Panasonic or Lumix.

We didn’t even know they made “doggles”…

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While resupplying in Wawa, we saw this duo.  The pooch is actually wearing a leather cap (complete with earholes), “doggles“, and a wool sweater.  It can get chilly on a motorcycle, you know.  Somehow I don’t think Taq would go for this ensemble.

Agawa Rock Indian Pictographs

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We paddled past out third set of pictographs this season – the famous Agawa Rock Indian Pictographs Trail is pictured here.

 Canadian Lock at Sault Ste. Marie

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This was the best “portage” we’ve done on the trip so far!  Many people had told us that we’d have to carry around, but Drew (a friend of Geoff’s from University) had asked them if they’d take a canoe through…and they said “yes!”

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On this leg of the journey we had a great deal of support from the Punkari family, particularly Andrew Punkari of Sault Ste. Marie.  He arranged places for us to stay in Montreal River, Sault Ste. Marie (thank you Lois, Andrew’s mother pictured above), and at his home in Desbarats (thank you Heather and Sophie!)  In addition, he also cooked us huge steaks, had a seemingly endless supply of cold beer and a big truck to haul around our large crew while we resupplied.  Can’t tell you how thankful we are for lending us his camera after Sault Ste. Marie.

Andrew spoke with the staff working at the Canadian locks at Sault Ste. Marie to ensure smooth passage through. We are grateful for everything he did for us.

Campsites

This was one of our favourite campsites on Lake Huron.  The rock was very smooth with beautiful lines running vertically.  Jude enjoyed rolling his trucks down the slope.  Notice the tent in the shade – anything to bring the sleeping temperature down.

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After doing 53 portages this summer, Jude has learned to help…when he feels like it. The backpack he is wearing holds all of his toys for the trip. This year he brought a toy boat, some trucks, a bucket and shovel, kids binoculars, toy camera, small ball, and some odds and ends. It all fits inside. When he sees us put on the packs to load the canoe, he wants his on as well. In this photo, he even grabbed a dry bag. Jude carries more than Taq already!

Sailing

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We love to sail, however, it is a fine balance between having enough wind to sail and it being too windy and needing to get off.   In the past, we had the sail in the front – this would pull the canoe.  Now that Jude is sitting in that area, we have the sail at the back.  It makes it tricky to steer for Geoff (can you see him gritting his teeth?)  A good analogy is pushing a shopping cart with the wheels at the back instead of the front.

For a very rare few minutes, Taq is sleeping on the bottom of the canoe.  99% of the time he has his head resting on the spray deck because he is afraid of missing out.

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Taq found a little shade along a rock wall – Jude decided to join him.

Interesting places

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Devil’s Chair on Lake Superior and caves near Coppermine Point.

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These are a few neat places we came across in our travels.  Andrew told us that one of the islands near his home was reported to be the one pictured on our loonie.  We think the photo above is the best match.

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The sign in this photo reads “This island now Canadian.  Recaptured June 1986.”  We passed this island along Lake Superior.  Apparently Americans owned it…until 1986.

Typical campsite on Lake Huron

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Pictured above is a typical campsite on Lake Huron.  We used our pelican case as a table for Jude.  Geoff is cooking on the Littlebug stove in the background and Taq is on cleanup duty.

Andrew sent a little care package of cold beer and frozen water when we left his house.  Something for everyone!

Lake Huron is warm!

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Lake Huron was reported to be around 20C – compared to 4C in Lake Superior.  We had a lot of fun swimming and playing on the shoreline.  Even Taq began taking dips in the water (notice he is shaking all over our dry clothes.)

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We really enjoyed eating lunch on the beautiful, rounded rock on Lake Huron.

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Leaving Montreal River on Lake Superior.

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When Jude decides to share my seat, I have to modify my stroke – when Taq decides to switch sides (notice how far to the right he is in the picture?) Geoff has to modify his stroke.

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Jude slept the entire hour clutching his newly acquired monster truck. – A treasured gift from Hunter in Nils Bay.

The French River, ON

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We were thrilled to finally make it to the French River after spending the majority of the summer at the mercy of the Great Lakes.  After finding two channels of the French River dried up, we finally found enough water to paddle in the Old Voyageur Channel.  We should have known the voyageurs would have known the best route in low water!

We avoided portaging on the main channel by pulling the canoe up the shallow rapids.

Coming clean on bent shaft paddles

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This is the first season that Geoff and I have used carbon paddles.  In the past, we’ve always used wooden ones.  We bought a bent shaft paddle for me to use in the bow and it was fantastic.  I loved it.  We made better time and it felt like I was holding a feather.

Neither of us have ever used these paddles, or even been around people using them.  When it arrived in the mail, it made perfect sense that the shaft would bend backwards like a scoop.  After we’d returned from the summer, Geoff spotted a paddling magazine sitting on the counter showing someone using one the opposite direction.  A quick online search (veteran bent shaft paddlers have probably already spotted what is wrong with the above picture) confirmed that I paddled the entire summer with my paddle backwards.

We were already thrilled with the performance of the new paddle; imagine how much further we’ll go next summer with it facing the right way!?!?!

Thank you to the following people:

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  • Once again, our families have been incredibly helpful.  Bob and Katy MacDonald (Geoff’s parents) picked us up at Nipigon and shuttled us and our gear to Wawa, where we picked up where we left off last year.  We are grateful they fixed the two flat tires on our Toyota.  They took Jude on many adventures while we packed and resupplied.  It was wonderful to see them.

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  • Mark and Teresa of the Best Northern Motel in Wawa, ON were, once again, gracious hosts.  They serve the best Polish food we’ve ever tasted.
  • Andrew Punkari helped us out in more ways than we can list.  He found us places to stay in Montreal River Harbour, Sault Ste. Marie, and Desbarats.  He cooked us a huge dinner, supplied us with endless cold beer and shuttled us to and from the lake a number of times to resupply.  He also talked to the staff at the Canadian locks to ensure we would be able to paddle through.  A big thanks to Heather and Sophie for all of their help and patience.  Heather sent bedding with Andrew, cooked us a feast in Desbarats and Sophie shared her car seat with Jude.  We’ve been eating oatmeal with molasses ever since…
  • Thank you to the La Belle’s for letting us stay in their cabin for the night.  We really enjoyed the hot shower and lovely view of Lake Superior.
  • Ellen Van Laar and Dan Bisson invited us to pitch a tent on their lawn as we were passing through.  We are sorry that we missed them by a day, as it would have been great to catch up with them.
  • Although we didn’t get a chance to stay at Tom Corbett’s cabin (due to fog and wind) we’d like to thank him for extending us the offer.
  • The Elsigan Family of the Salzburger Hof were very gracious in letting us pitch our tent on their beach.  A wind came up while we had stopped for lunch that made it unsafe for us to continue across the bay.
  • We met some great people in Nils Bay after stopping there to eat lunch and play on the beach:
    • Scott & Shauna Hojem knew a friend of Geoff’s from Waterloo
    • Ron & June Bergamin filled our water bottles and delivered 6 freshly baked muffins – delicious!
    • Laurie & Bill Semeniuk gave us some delicious cooked sausages, fresh rye bread, a cold coke and a big bone for Taq.
    • Hunter gave Jude his favourite present of the trip – a monster truck with huge tires and suspension.
    • We are grateful to Andy Rockwood, Laura Miller and Ben Miller for inviting us to pitch our tent on the lawn beside their camp.  Geoff got to cook dinner inside the cabin out of the bugs.  Laura served up some delicious strawberries, biscuits and whipped cream for dessert.
    • The Lions Club Pointe Des Chenes Campground & Trailer Park is a great place.  The managers, Debbie & Ken Montgomery were incredibly helpful.  They arranged for a tractor to haul our canoe (a special thanks to Sam & friend for helping carry it all) and gear to our campsite, found us a pizza place to order from and even managed to find us a couple of cold beer.  What more can you ask for?  When it poured rain and thunderstormed the next day, they let us hang out in the craft center.  Thank you!
    • Betty Germanili dropped off some toys for Jude and a tequila shot for us – something for everyone!
    • Michelle McLarty and baby Owen made a big care package of toddler snacks for Jude
    • Not only did Sam help us carry our gear to and from the water, direct us to a pizza place that delivered to the campground, but he also dropped off 4 cold beer in a bag of ice.  Just what we needed after a hot, muggy day of paddling.
    • A huge thank you to Lois Punkari.  Her home was one of the most ideal places to resupply that we’ve encountered on this trip.  We spread out all of our gear and food in the basement, did laundry, had showers, and Jude adored playing with Nana Lois.  She really made us feel like part of the family.
    • The Garden Hoes (as they called themselves) allowed us to go into the “backyard” they were landscaping so that we could see the water conditions.  Their company name made us chuckle.
    • A special shout-out to Larry (guy who camped across from us at Pointe Des Chenes).  He had infectious enthusiasm for our trip.  It made our day that he came to the lock to see us through.  We wish we had his contact information – Larry, if you are reading this, drop us a line!
    • James of Bellevue Marina let us tie up our canoe for a couple of nights for free – thanks!
    • David Read gave us a tour of his art gallery (www.davidread.ca).  Beautiful work.
    • The folks at Carolyn Beach Motor Inn served us dinner even though we paddled into their beach late.  Who can resist a restaurant on the lake, when you have a boat full of dried food?
    • Brenda and Dan Laplante of the Marina Café in Blind River, ON, were always full of great stories and conversation.  We really appreciate the juice and treats Brenda spoiled Jude with.
    • It was a pleasure meeting Pierre Roy at the Sportsman Inn Marina in Killarney.
    • Tim and Diane Vandersall spent their summer vacation jet-skiing on Lake Huron.  It was a wonderful coincidence that we all decided to spend a wind day in the little town of Killarney.  Jude got a kick out of Tim “blowing the light out” and couldn’t get enough of Diane reading to him.  Really hope we cross paths again.
    • Patricia Watson is another great person we met in Killarney.  She was singing at the Inn where we stayed.  Jude thought she was wonderful and liked to take her for walks around the patio.  Patricia, if you read this, we are sorry we didn’t come back after we pulled away.  Jude was getting fussy and we had already left later than we’d planned.  Best of luck with your rock opera:  “Soulmates.”
    • Even though we suffered the next morning, we had a great time drinking beer with the folks from O-H-I-O.  Wish we’d gotten your names…

Where do we go from here?

Manitoba has been elusive due to bugs then flooding.  Our plan is to head out in May 2012 to finally paddle the missing piece.  We’ll paddle from Tobin Lake, SK to Kenora, ON then pick up where we left off at the French River, ON.

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