We're camped above -- literally -- the Devil Door Rapid on the French River. The scenery here is awe-inspiring. The scene itself is disheartening.
Green and brown lichen spattered pink rock islands shaped like fingers gently resting on the water's surface, Tiny cedars stick precariously out of the sides of the cliffs, their roots clinging to god knows what to maintain their purchase. If Killarney married Georgian Bay and gave birth to a river, they would have named it "French." So it's beautiful.
But if I turn my head 90 degrees I can see three massive yachts moored just down stream of the chute. Since we got here (at about 1:30pm) a steady stream of zodiacs, motorboats, cheesy plastic play kayaks and -- sigh -- yes, even seadoos have been zooming back and forth through the channel. The seadoos are particularly vile. With the conventional motor boats it's conceivable that they're doing this because they've got somewhere to go and a need to go through. Seadoos, on the other hand, are joy riding. Pure and simple. They also leave a noticable smell of gasoline in their wake.
I don't understand why -- given, as the ranger pointed out so insistently yesterday, that this is a provincial park -- this is legal. (It's not a managed park, that's why.)
Anyway, we're here. And I'm sure the yachters are dismayed that their views of this spectacular place are sullied by these outdoorsy low-lifes and their multicoloured nylon domes. Maybe some day they'll think about their environmental footprint and the sustainability of our wilderness.
So after enduring a thunderstorm last night in which Rick, camped on an exposed hill as he was, threw his tent in a gully and curled up on a relatively soft bit of rock to avoid being struck by lightning, we arose to a quick breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and peanut butter. We were on the water by 9am.
It was foggy, with a promise of sunshine above when we set out to find the Old Voyageur channel. We had found it, despite the fog thickening and the sky above turning grey. But most miraculous of all, we found it with me, map in hand, in the lead canoe, with Robert.
We headed down the Old Voyageur channel toward the Cross Channel. Rain spattered on us infrequently. We did two short portages (maybe 20 metres each) and lined through one shallow channel. With the water level in the river fluctuating, it's difficult to predict how much carrying/lifting/lining you'll have to do. Both Leo and Rick have done this route before and they were constantly remarking that the river looks totally different than they remember it.
I was certainly pleased that today wind was not a factor.
It started pouring just after we finished our lunch on Cross Channel (brie with stuffed vine leaves, olives, carrots and the ubiquitous sausage and salami -- if you like that sort of thing). A very clever food choice. The cheese is meant to be warm and mushy. The vine leaves were canned, the olives preserved. But a bit more paddling and a 100m portage brought us to where we are now. And the rain stopped.
I'm camped on a moss bed, atop a rock that forms one of the walls of the Devil Door rapid. Should be flatter than last night. Now that the sun has broken through, I'm trying to dry it out a bit so that I don't soak myself from below.
People have just gotten up from their afternoon naps and are going swimming.
So what's better? A club trip or a guided trip? I dunno. Everyone here knows what they're doing, where on a guided trip most are newbies. We all co-operate and I like the exchange of ideas, tips and I feel like I'm learning stuff.
Having a guide does reduce friction, I have to say. The "acknowledged expert" thing does help keep egos from colliding. Here, it just causes tension when people differ on how to do something because we have to negotiate who knows more every time. But I think group dynamics will always be a bit of a crap shoot on any trip, especially if, like me, you're going on the trip without knowing anyone.
One fairly obvious benefit to club trips is that they're much cheaper. This one will cost me (apart from the gear) about $190 including cab fare to and from the Y. A seven day guided trip with the OOC cost about $700 a couple of years ago.
I find the pace of this trip rather languid. I actually enjoy the exertion of a seriously long day of paddling and portaging, provided people aren't stupid about it. Feeling tired and stiff makes me feel like I've done something. If my energy is being used efficiently and intelligently, so much the better.
I hasten to add, however, that I did choose to take this trip and its write up quite accurately reflects (so far) the route, the effort required etc etc. So, gentle reader, do not take this as a criticism. It is not.
After dinner we had a bit of a calamity. Leo fell off a rock and dislocated his shoulder. He popped it back in but his left arm is too painful to move. He also bruised his tailbone. I wonder what we're going to do.
Camp lore is funny. Mosquitoes for example. Everyone has a Farmers' Almanac explanation for the presence (anticipated or actual) of mosquitos. "We had a really cold spring so there shouldn't be so many bugs." "We had a really cold spring so I'm surprised there are so many bugs." "It's been so hot lately, the bugs should have been burnt off." "It's been so hot lately the bugs should be really bad." "What with all this rain, the bugs..." etc etc. You get the idea. Whatever the reason, there are lots of them out there. They come out in earnest around 9:30 at night.
I'm lying here listening to the rushing water of the rapid and the wind in the leaves. The moon is almost full and its light illuminates the pink finger islands of the French River delta. Goodnight all. Peace.