French – Pickerel River Trip: September 2014

September 12 - 15 2014


“The river is engorged,” the friendly voice at the other end of the line began. “Where are you planning on going?”

I explained.

You’ll be exposed coming across there to Dead Island Channel.”

That gave me pause. We didn’t really have time to get wind bound.

“And if you did that you’ll have to portage.”

“It doesn’t look that bad on my map.”

“Well it’s at least eighty metres. Possibly as much as 120.”

“We are travelling by canoe, you realize.” After last year, 120 metres just seemed unnatural. But I reckoned we could adjust.

In early September I called the French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre to get some advice on the much-anticipated sixth annual Martin-Chris trip. I’d paddled the French River before twelve years ago, in July but as they say, you never paddle the same river twice.

Poetic as that sounds, the saying has a practical side because water levels, beaver activity and floating stuff (trees, capsized canoes, corpses) can change the flow, turn rock gardens into chutes, liftovers into portages and vice versa. Current intelligence is important.

The first two legs of the planned route were pretty straight forward, but I was looking for advice on how to come back north. Kevin Callan and most of what I’d read on suggested that the Pickerel River – my intended – was a bit short on water most of the time.

“What would you suggest?” She offered another route up through Bass Lake. “I just want you to enjoy your trip is all,” she said.

I made note of it, said thanks and hung up. She’d called our route ‘ambitious’. Would it be too much?

Reader’s digest version:

Day 1: Cold but with a favourable wind we breeze along to Robinson Bay, leaving our wallets and water bottles safely parked at the marina.

Day 2: Constant rain, shivering cold we paddle numbly across the delta, losing a cup to the engorged, tea-coloured river

Day 3: The sun begrudges us some of its warmth as we head up the Pickerel to camp at The Elephants

Day 4: A straightforward paddle back up Wanapitei Bay takes us to the car and home.

Offering of gratitude and appreciation

What can you say about a partner who ever year lets me abandon all responsibility for four days at the start of the school year? How bout, “you’re wonderful?” I am enormously appreciative of Irene’s indulgence and support.

Standard warning of impending doom

This is not an advice site. I am not an expert. We encountered rattlesnakes and rapids on this trip. Both of which can really hurt if you happen upon them the wrong way or without preparation. Hire a guide, join a club because this page could lead you to a cold, miserable end.