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Thread: Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario

  1. #1
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    Default Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario

    You've got to really want to paddle the Missinaibi River in northern Ontario; if you think it's a pain in the butt to get there - early coach to Heathrow, a seven hour flight plus a 14 hour drive to the start - then getting back from a place with no roads on a train that drops you a 4 hour shuttle from where you started, will give you a proper spanking in the logistics (and cost) departments.



    Driving north and west from Toronto, brushing Lake Huron up to our start at Mattice, it was apparent that Canada was facing similar weather conditions to the UK with major wildfires affecting the French River and the Temagami provincial park - road signs declared a ban on open fires and we were stocked up with petrol for cooking (propane in canisters also prohibited)



    Naturally, to make us damp-loving Brits feel more at home the weather broke and we paddled the first two days in rain



    Threading our way through boulder field rapids





    .....or not threading our way as evidenced by our only swim of the entire 10 days - Honestly officer, I never saw the rock jump out until it was too late!



    Well I reckon that the bedraggled, buoyancy aid and poncho look might catch on



    Remiss of me - introductions - Bare Gills (Robin) on left, Patterdale Paddler (me) right - third member of this illustrious gathering is ScouterRon (Ron) who is a genuine Canadian



    Those familiar with my blogs will know that there was to have been a fourth member of the group but Bisbrooke Hippo (Ian) went over to the States a week early to do some motorcycling in Tennessee and North Carolina - long story short, he had a disagreement with a Yellow Jacket wasp, suffered anaphylaxis and collapsed - it was only the serendipitous choice of lunch venue by paramedics at the nearest petrol station that his riding companion took him to, that he survived the anaphylaxis and secondary complications. He is now back home recuperating.

    Anyways, the second day was even wetter than the first



    Kettle Falls - a mandatory portage





    Fast forward through the rain to the camp on the second evening - looking a tadge brighter



    At this stage you're probably wondering if we saw a bear - we did and it will be along soon. In the meantime, the sun came out on the third day and all seemed well in the world as a result.



    A regular feature on the Missinaibi are swifts - not quite a rapid but entertaining none the less



    They generally run full width and can last for miles



    Sometimes you just had to get out and push - the sun was out, the water was warm - no problem



    By now, Ron & Robin were paddling double and I'd taken over single paddling duties - they were to develop into quite a white water duo by the end of the trip



    The only sign on the river - placed there after a series of fatalities in the 70s - it basically says Get out in 500m as death is generally a permanent condition - we were approaching Thunderhouse Falls



    You can carry on past this low grade rapid but then you find yourself in a Class III with no room for error



    We opted for not saving a few yards on the portage distance as this is what awaits



    Followed by this....



    ....and then



    This is an example of the sketch maps we used from Hap Wilson's book on the Missinaibi - Point of No Return - no thanks!



    A 1645m portage seemed a worthwhile exchange for living to tell the tale IMHO - even if you have to multiply 1645 by a few return trips - good exercise!

    As you can tell, the portage path is not exactly well used



    As well as the only sign on the river, Thunderhouse Falls merits the only thunder-box toilet and the only log box too



    It is possible to camp almost next to the roaring falls but given my nocturnal wanderings it was deemed sensible to go for Camp C - which had its own attractions



    A cheeky little chipmunk burglarising the food bag





    Despite only getting away with a wrapper he obviously went down the pub and bragged to the groundhogs



    Despite this minor lapse in food security we were scrupulous in moving temptation away from us and hopefully bears at night.......the sun still had his hat on the following day but if you think 1645m is a portage, you've seen nothing yet!



    ........to be continued
    Last edited by Patterdale Paddler; 12th-August-2018 at 01:37 PM.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  2. #2
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    ....continued

    Hell's Gate Canyon!



    It is possible to paddle the middle section of the portages and save 1.5km of slog but the descent/ascent to/from are so steep and dangerous when carrying a boat on your head that we thought the saving minimal at best.

    So....adding 700, 1500 and 2350 we spent an entire day portaging 4550 metres three times each to get back in above the long rapids which are almost continuous Class II

    But I'm getting ahead of myself with talk of paddling - a few pictures dedicated to portaging - imagine a narrow trail through swamps and forests with trees down every few yards to break your stride - then add in an army of midges marshalled by the evil love-child of Sun Tzu and one of those infuriatingly thin and fit people who go in for Tough Mudder events - you're almost there









    Camp that night was near the viewing point marked on the map - the slightly incongruous remains of a tracked vehicle was left there in the 1950s by engineers looking to see if they could dam Hell's Gate Canyon for hydro-power



    ....and when they say viewing point it's not like the Lake District or Dartmoor - I scared myself witless dangling from a tree vaguely attached to the cliff face to get this view downstream - I wasn't prepared to risk life to get an upstream view



    Next morning a short but steep 200m portage led to Utopia - or at least the knowledge that there were no more portages for a few days



    ...and a well deserved and much needed swim



    below the mouth of Hell's Gate



    A few miles of almost continuous low grade but fun rapids in glorious sunshine was our reward for yesterday's exertion







    With the odd splash of occasionally more exciting or technical bits





    It's hard to think of a more idyllic camp than this one on a sand bank by a stream







    To have this to ourselves with civilisation five days upstream and five days downstream was simply breathtaking - bordering on spiritual even for your cynical correspondent



    Ron and I both fished and caught with first casts - a walleye and a small mouth bass were captured almost simultaneously





    Happy Ending Alert! Both fish were returned alive to fight another day when Robin discovered that the laws of food perishability meant we had to have pizza that night!

    Chilling by my tent with this rather lovely view after said pizza it became apparent that the nearest rock was not only moving but had ears



    Said ears belonged to this very fine bear who casually sauntered off into the forest - again, even for a jaded old cynic like me, I was trembling with excitement and I'm still buzzing just writing about the experience



    .....will be continued
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  3. #3
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    ......continued

    With the excitement of the bear sending our souls soaring, next day the wind on our backs sent us down river at full, if somewhat uncontrolled at times, throttle......at up to 14kmh we covered 75km in a day - three times what we'd likely paddle



    Robin at the front as lookout and bow paddler



    Ron on the starboard stern bit - steering specialist



    Port side stern operative - ballast



    You can't really complain about the view from the stern



    ....and the front wasn't too shabby either



    Just about every day we'd had pairs of bald eagles soaring over the river - a great sight but with only point & hope cameras to hand we couldn't catch a decent photo of them in flight (Olympus TG-5)

    Best I could do from rafted boats going rather fast




    Sailing on into the evening to take advantage of the breeze we eventually set up a late camp on a small beach



    The weather gods obviously had a meeting overnight and decided we needed to be brought down a peg or two - a lone figure braves the food barrel in the face of heavy rain driven by a strong wind coming up the river - unanimous decision to stay in tents



    Until the afternoon when we emerged to set fire to stuff



    Attempt to bash back a rather buckled gunnel - note down body warmer, woolly hat etc - about 15degs colder than yesterday



    Sketch - badly



    Eat



    ....and simply chill and take in the wonderful setting





    The weather gods called a truce next day - a good old fashioned compromise - no wind at all but not raining!



    The last named rapid on our trip was Deception Falls







    Simply good honest fun in the sun - a short video of this rapid



    Just when you think the camps can't get much nicer..........





    Multi-tasking?



    The whole ten days saw me chop an onion or two and occasionally I stirred something - I'm in awe and exceedingly grateful to Robin & Ron for carrying me cooking wise - bannock with a jam sort of stuff made from the prolific wild raspberries all around us on the river



    to be continued....
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  4. #4
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    ....continued

    Surf-sailing through small rapids was now part of our repertoire





    When the wind dropped Robin discovered that the stern operatives weren't all that keen on paddling!



    The Missinaibi flows into the Moose River where it is joined by the waters of several other rivers - unfortunately the others are dammed for hydro and with the recent dry weather we entered a Moose River far too wide for the little water feeding it - Portage Island was no longer an island



    ....and the banks were exposed a long way down



    After the almost mystical atmosphere along the Missinaibi it felt strange paddling out into a more barren landscape - we made camp on a small island to think about the ending of our trip







    We had originally planned to paddle to the town of Moosonee but always had the option of getting out at Moose River Crossing - it seemed daft to end the trip with a couple of days dragging boats 70km over shoals and rocks so we had a swimming and reading day on the island and resolved to finish at the train bridge.

    We weren't the island's only inhabitants



    Moose River - final paddling day - high cross winds on a very wide river - train bridge in the distance



    That's it then - paddling over - just the little matter of three days to get home now!



    I think this picture shows just how shallow the Moose River was at the time - happy with decision to stop here



    A final 800m portage along the tracks to the small request stop



    ....and time for a quick team selfie with a stray sign



    Seemed like a good chance for a kip



    A notion fully supported by the local snake population who found a stack of rail plates irresistible - garter snakes?



    You've got to hand it to the Canadians - when they do trains they don't skimp on size - and you can buy beer on board!



    Well folks, thanks for staying the course and making it to the end of a fairly marathon blog.

    A truly inspirational place to paddle, to linger and just take in what nature has to offer.

    Finally, if I may, I'm going to dedicate the whole shebang to Ian whose genuinely near death experience puts everything else into perspective.

    Regards to you all, Dick
    Last edited by Patterdale Paddler; 12th-August-2018 at 01:14 PM.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  5. #5

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    Nicely done. I love that River - one of my very favorite trips. I am SO glad that you got the chance to see it. Dunno if it was exactly the same gravel-bar near Moose River but if not it was almost identical, but I once spend an entire night, solo, wide awake on that bar with a shotgun across my lap coz of a stupid (and probably hungry) flippin' bear who kept coming around despite bangers and flares... he just didn't want to give up.... I was never so glad to see a sunrise in my life....

  6. #6
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    A tad different to the Nene at Thrapston Dick. Well done. We stayed closer to civilisation in the Karwarthas but enjoyed our time in Ontario.
    Get Paddling!

    Blott

  7. #7
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    Excellent blogg and lovely photos to complete it.

    Mrs P and myself paddled from Mattice to Bell's bay and flew out from there. Brilliant trip and quite remote. Well, by UK standards extremely remote.
    We were even lucky to meet some Cree & Ojibwa paddlers too.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  8. #8
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    sk8r:-

    We also noticed the massively long trains. We counted one with 3 engines pulling and one or two pushing and 144 carriages. Any idea of the biggest/longest train in terms of carriages?
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  9. #9
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    What a fantastic adventure. Shame hippo couldn't make it. I hope he's fully recovered.

    Some great pics there too. Glad you endured the travelling so that we could have this great blog to read.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  10. #10
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    Awestruck, my jealousy knows no bounds! Fantastic blog with great pictures, thanks for improving my day.
    Calefactio orbis? Culus meus!!

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Perry View Post
    sk8r:-

    We also noticed the massively long trains. We counted one with 3 engines pulling and one or two pushing and 144 carriages. Any idea of the biggest/longest train in terms of carriages?
    In that area the longest I've seen was around 200 cars, but west of the Ontario border, in the flatlands, I've seen them up around 250 - maybe 4 or 5 kilometers long. Then when they get to the Kicking Horse they divide them up into much smaller ones & then re-connect them over in British Columbia to keep going west. There's a very cool series of 'spiral' tunnels in the Pass to get them up & over the height of the Pass.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hill

  12. #12
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    Fabulous stuff, Dick, what a trip. Definitely one I hope to do one day. I mean, you must have missed having to fight through trees on the water, but at least you got to carry over them on the portages.

    Hope Ian is recovering now, must be gutted to miss the trip, but hopefully there will be another one soon enough, even if its a ditch in Northamptonshire rather than on the Canadian Shield.

  13. #13
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    Outstanding!
    ..................but rather disapointed with the lack of ditches

    Sorry the Hippo didn't make it!
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  14. #14
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    Knowing you were going there left me with a mix of blog anticipation and bald faced envy. The excellent blog hasn’t helped with the envy but it has passed a decent interlude under grey skies in SW France (for which we are all grateful believe it or not)

    I had a similar hornet related issue a few years back while on the trike in Corsica and was lucky it hit me while near a town. I therefore hope Ian is getting back to normal and am really pleased it wasn’t worse for him.

    Top stuff Dick, cheers
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”



  15. #15
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    Thanks sk8r

    Ours can't even be half or a third of that. But I'm happy to be told otherwise.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  16. #16

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    I really enjoyed that. Excellent blog and brilliant pictures.


    Sent from my SM-T813 using Tapatalk

  17. #17
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    Call that a ditch! peh Wonderful
    Up a lazy river by the old mill run..the lazy, lazy river in the noon day sun

  18. #18
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    Brilliant blog, really enjoyed it. Many thanks.

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    Finally managed to get a chance to properly read this blogg. Great stuff, although I really don’t envy you the portages.

  20. #20
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    Great story! I am really envious...
    --
    Martin
    Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris (If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar).

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