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Old 08-09-2015, 03:39 PM   #1
Neil's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,118
Circuit 77, Lavérendrye and Lac Kempt, Quebec. One week each.

First canoe trip in 35 years.

While preparing for 2 back to back week-long trips I came to the realization that my previous trip was 35 years ago. So many forgotten logistics! I recalled trips where the menu went something like rice and peanuts, noodles and canned chicken, bulgur and tuna, bedtime snacks of sardines and the like. I found it very interesting to try comparing then and now on this trip. I fondly remembered one-trip portages with one hiking frame pack each that somehow held everything we needed for 7 days.

We decided to use a 60 L barrel that contained all of our food and our kitchen and use regular hiking packs (40L in my case) plus a 20 liter pack for the tent and tarps. Inside the packs all of our clothes etc. were inside dry bag pack liners. We thus had a total of four items besides the canoe, paddles and pdfs to schlepp on portages.

Here are some random observations of the trips beginning with La Vérendrye, which was our second week's trip. We chose Circuit 77, which would re-acquaint us with portaging.

On day 2 we paddled 20-25 k in steady rain, bucking a moderate head wind. On Lake Victoria we observed a bear as it wandered along the opposite shoreline about 500 meters away. Then it swam across the channel to the island we were stopped at (about a 400 m swim). It was a very quick swimmer. We watched it through binoculars and upon reaching the shore about 200 meters from us it quickly penetrated the woods.
Our planned campsite on this wet day two was alongside a road and was so uninspiring we decided to keep going. The rain never stopped and it alternated between steady and pouring buckets. When we stopped to inspect the poor campsite I quickly began shivering in spite of what I though was decent clothing including a wool toque under my cap and rain jacket's hood. I paddled hard to slowly get warm and when we reached our first portage (850 m) the rain suddenly stopped – for 10 minutes – and then it poured. This first portage of the trip was not the most elegant but we managed fine. All of our portages were 2-trip affairs and we quickly became more efficient and streamlined.

We took a 30 minute break in a stinky but dry cabin and I put on a nice layer of warm and dry clothing. After our late lunch we changed back into our wet stuff and continued over a second 300 m portage with no more rain for the rest of the day. Got into camp on a gorgeous esker with red pines well past 7 and feeling beat. That night it poured and poured but in the morning the sky was blue so we spread everything that was wet out in the sun. (wet clothes, wet bags and packs, tent etc.)

Day 3 involved a chain of 7 portages plus a beaver dam which involved unloading and we took it nice and easy but the loading and unloading with poor and slippery footing took its toll and we were worn out and in bed around 8:30. We paused at mid-day when a thunderstorm threatened and set up our 8x10 syl-nylon tarp but this proved unnecessary because the storm just grazed us. It was fun to feel safe though.
Whenever we stopped for the night the very first thing we did was put up the tarp and we got very proficient at this. The tarp was our most cherished piece of gear along with the folding chairs. We spent most of our waking shore time sitting under it while it rained. Multiple attachment points with long lengths of cord and a few pegs enabled us to put it up in a wide variety of configurations, adapting it easily to the terrain and available trees. As for the rather bulky chairs, I never regretted portaging them one bit because they we so nice to sit upon.

The weather improved a lot although it remained gray. I had a new Suunto wrist barometer and was pleased to watch it climb steadily after bottoming out on day 2.

We used a simple iso-butane cannister stove and ate home-dried meals (for the first time ever) and we were very agreeably surprised at how good, quick and easy this was. In the morning we alternated between oatmeal pre-mixed with sugar and milk powder and home-made muesli for breakfast with lots of home-roasted pumpkin and sun seeds with walnuts and dried fruit added to each. We particularly enjoyed very leisurely mornings with lots of coffee to which we added sweet powdered hot chocolate. For 7 nights our food weighed a total of about 25 pounds. We brought about 3 pounds of swiss cheese and a pound of almond butter besides dried sausage and other good stuff. We were never full and never hungry.

Our binoculars were always handy for observing birds, of which we didn't see all that many. We hit the water usually around 10 and by day 4, after the big 7-portage day, the trip became much more leisurely with better weather and earlier stops.

We both noticed how often one bends over and squats while back-country camping and how hard it would be with a bad hip, say. (I never noticed this 40 odd years ago!)

The route was a real beauty and we only saw 3 other groups the whole time. We saw moose and plenty of Balds, including watching one dive-bomb at high speed into the water – smack! We also heard a bizarre turkey-like sound, quite loud, 3 seconds in duration, repeated about 5 times. On a sandy point with plenty of birch and poplar we spent about an hour observing a few Connecticut Warbler mother-young as they foraged. The mother was still feeding the juvenile, which followed her closely everywhere she went. The feeding is non-stop and I would think these beautiful little balls of fluffy feathers are only a day ahead of starving to death.
Paddling seems to require far fewer calories than hiking and backpacking but I got the impression that by using smaller muscles for doing all the work fatigue gradually sets in. The trunk muscles definitely got a big workout loading and unloading the canoe over the succession of portages, especially with some of the uneven rocky put-ins/takeouts. As a professional hazard I enjoyed analyzing various paddling techniques and positions and noted that by rotating my trunk during the stroke I could maintain my arms in a more favorable position for a better effort-power ratio. Since I have no knowledge about paddling technique it was a case of applied subjective bio-mechanics and I'm sure I discovered nothing new.

Our purchases of decent PFD's to replace ancient ones and a harness for the food barrel were good ones and for our next trip we'll get proper dry bags and perhaps lighter chairs.

For our first week we stayed sedentarily at a beautiful campsite on Lac Kempt and paddled a nearly empty canoe 20-25 k every day, exploring most of the different arms and reaches of this 100-plus year-old reservoir. There are many big stretches of open water and so we watched the barometer, wind direction changes and clouds very attentively. We managed to have the biggest wind of the week at our backs for a 10k stretch and made 10k/hour easily. Generally, the weather was baking hot under blue skies with afternoon thunderstorms often a threat. Over the course of a day you could watch the sky go from clear blue through cumulus humilis to congestsus and finally rumbling thunderheads spitting lightning. Beaches were always at hand though and on one occasion we safely watched a gust front precede the dark rumbling cloud. The wind went from zero to about 60 k/h in less than a minute and it blew so hard we quickly moved the canoe into the woods behind the beach. When it was all over the remaining wind blew us home. Six nights of this was very mellow and idyllic and we had about 10 pounds worth of various bird, flower and weather guide books, which we consulted regularly. We augmented our paddler's diet with a pint or two of wild blueberries. After it was all over we drove back to Laval through St Michel des Saints, reloaded, showered, slept in a real bed and headed out the door for LaVérendrye the next morning.

Lavérendrye Pics
Lac Kempt Pics
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.

Last edited by Neil; 08-10-2015 at 06:26 AM..
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Old 08-09-2015, 09:34 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Johnstown NY
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Thanks for sharing Neil!! The pics are great, especially the one with the storm ahead of you guys while paddling ...

and the link for the Lac Kempt pics doesn't seem to work (for me at least).

Once a year, go some where you've never been before.
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Old 08-10-2015, 06:27 AM   #3
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Join Date: May 2004
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Originally Posted by kwc View Post
and the link for the Lac Kempt pics doesn't seem to work (for me at least).
Fixed it.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.
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Old 08-10-2015, 01:31 PM   #4
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Location: North River, NY
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As always a nice report, thanks for sharing
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