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French River Canoe Trip 2009: Day 5 – The Return home

August 25, 2009

Final day. Boo. We didn’t canoe as much as we would’ve liked, but we did get going eventually. It was more about being out of doors, in a beautiful area. Clear cool water, lovely Canadian shield (I did bring a rock home), trees (pine scented and I brought home a beaver-chewed log), and fire – beautiful warm fire.  Top it off with a clear starry night, all kinds of birds and wildlife, pretty flowers, fish, frogs, toads and everything. I’m going to miss this place. We’ve already planned to come back.

25 Aug 09

It is WINDY. Really windy. But it’s coming from the south and we’re heading north today. Ross suggests a sail, but with the weight in the boat I don’t like it. So I nix the idea.  I don’t want to be a party pooper as R2 seems to have recovered and is interested in sailing, but I don’t want to dump on the last day. I am happy with my gear and everything and don’t want to lose anything now – least of all myself or one of my companions.

Ross and I are eager to be off again – he especially needs to get going because he will be driving the whole way home as I don’t drive and R2 can’t drive stick. He gets up first and gets the food and I get dressed and pack up my gear. Lay out my gear ready to leave.  R2 is still asleep so I poke up and down, take some pics and nibble some cereal. It’s cold in the shade, but the wind is looking to be our friend.

We see the kind gent and his son who saved us from possible danger with respect to the rapids of yesterday.  He is moving quite quickly. We (Ross and I) are very impressed. He must be a very strong canoeist. We wave and see them on his way.

R2 finally stirs (Ross has nicknamed her the Mermaid) and decides she needs a bit of a dip and a warm breakie again. This rate of prep will take forever. Ross and I march around in the sunnier areas of the beach trying to keep warm while she gets herself ready. Finally all the gear is out of the tent and we can take it down and dry off the dew. It is so windy that I feel like I’m about to take flight myself when I release the fly. It’s fairly amusing and I start singing ‘Let’s go fly a kite’.

We do a last check for gear and set off for Hartley Bay.

It is a difficult start – in the Eastern Channel, we are in the midst of cross-winds.  I am bow paddling for the day – we need to move.   We take a quick break to take off our longs because it is very warm on the water today. It’s almost 10:30 again. Some more sunscreen and we need to make some water.

We get out to the Elbow and decide to take the same return route. We rest a time on the water and discover that we have drifted quite a ways. We move faster in the wind than yesterday.  We surf sometimes and Ross swears I was right out of the water once or twice. It is good and fun.

Lunch is at noon near Nishoda Island.  Only the sight of other canoeists moves us to get going. Ross seems to get embarrassed by the thought that someone might out stroke us. It’s funny really, how much pride he sets in our abilities. But it’s true. There is definitely the sense of competition with whomever might be on the water.

R2 offers to paddle the remainder of the way in, but I’m comfortable albeit tired.  We hop back in for the last leg, not knowing that the wind will change and add to our problems.

We pass our first site which has been re-occupied.  I’m glad we left the site tidy and with a nice bit of firewood ready.  I hope they enjoy it. I certainly did.  We also see another flock of geese – 13 in total. Nice.

I remark that I’d like to take a picture of the marina as we go in since I didn’t get one going out because of our haste and the weather.  Ross agrees that it would be nice. I’m hoping that at least a few of the pics will come out to describe what we saw and felt.

Unfortunately, as we make the turn around the point of Wanapitei into the channel to the bay, we find ourselves in a cross wind.  We are travelling east and the wind is direct from the south. There are distinct whitecaps and it is difficult to keep my paddle in the water deep enough to get us moving. Ross is having difficulties keeping us going in the direction we wish to go.

We start shipping water and are being side-swiped.  I’m soaked and am pretty sure my outer pack is quite wet as well.  Thank god for dry bags.  Its colder when wet and I’m very tired. I don’t know how Ross does it.  We finally struggle in and are off the water around 2:30.

A few more delays, including a stalled bus on the exit road and my having my hand crunched in a door and we are on our way back home. I could have stayed out there forever.  Looking at the map, we start planning our next trip.

Arrive back in London about 9:30 – impressive. The trip home is reasonably uneventful. We do stink though. Of more than just smoke 😉  I am so impressed by Ross and his stamina to enable him to drive the whole way home after steering through the weather. According to the guy at the marina – the whitecaps indicate windspeeds of about 25 knots.

Lessons learned:  Be sure of your companions’ abilities and goals with respect to the type of trip you are planning. Dry bags, a good pruning saw, flint and steel and a leatherman are very useful bits of gear.  Preparation is everything – food, gear and ppl. Even numbers are better than odd.  And dry socks are the best things ever 🙂

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