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Thread: Full Circle on Morar and Nevis

  1. #1
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    Default Full Circle on Morar and Nevis

    Loch Morar and Loch Nevis - The Full Circle Route

    Day 1 and 2

    Each year SunburyAndy and I have met up for an annual canoe expedition (I use the word very grandly) to Scotland. For some time we had been aiming for Lochs Morar and Nevis. The many SOTP blogs, and our own experience on Lochs Ailort, Moidart and Shiel had convinced us it was a worthwhile destination.


    Busy personal schedules meant only one narrow time window was open for the trip, and with a business trip right before hand this left little time for planning. However we pulled it together and our plan quickly solidified. John (Elveys) joined us quite late on and two became three.


    Our plan was tight, with little room for error.


    Day 1 - Drive the 600 miles to Morar, arriving in time to paddle out to the islands and camp.
    Day 2 - Paddle down Loch Morar and camp in the mountains
    Day 3 - Paddle back to Sworldand, portage over to Tarbet, paddle down Loch Nevis and camp.
    Day 4 - Paddle to Inverie and camp - civilization!
    Day 5 - Paddle to Mallaig and then back down the coast and up the River Morar. Portage back to Loch Morar and paddle back to the car.
    Day 6 - Drive home.


    The journey to Scotland was a long one - 14-15 hours in total, but incredibly we arrived just 30 minutes later than planned. Despite driving through rain all the way up, we arrived to find a beautiful evening, the low sun hanging over a perfectly still Loch Morar. We quickly loaded our canoes prepared to set off.





    We set off into the beautiful evening, somewhat stunned by the stillness and the fantastic scenery. Evening paddles like this are quite something.











    We paddled lazily out towards the islands, a mere 1 mile distant, congratulating ourselves on our amazing good fortune for just being here.








    Slowly the islands drew closer and we headed in to explore and locate the perfect campsite we knew to exist somewhere amongst them.














    Finally we found the place we were seeking, facing east on Eilean a Phidhir. We landed and set about making camp. The campsite is well used, but generally very clean and well treated. A small fire kept the midges at bay for the evening, who otherwise were enjoying the still conditions.








    We awoke to a fine morning and wonderful views. It was so nice we were all tempted to just stay there.








    Finally unable to take any more photos we broke camp and set off into a near perfect morning.








    We paddled down through the islands exploring as we went, and then out into the loch proper





    The hillsides were incredible. Verdant, green and inviting exploration, riven with waterfalls along their length. Venture in though and you find a hard and wet land where just walking around is difficult.











    We stopped for the required morning brew stop (a habit which sadly got forgotten in later days). I climbed up a hill to take this picture, and it was just as wet at the top as at the bottom. It was around here that we saw what we think was a Golden Eagle.





    We continued down the loch, the rugged slopes of Carn Mor looming in the distance.





    As the day drew on the weather began to change and a difficult tail wind blew up, making it hard to maintain a steady course. I made us stop for breaks, as a shoulder injury I was nursing was starting to play up in the tricky conditions.





    A short rest was enough to set us on our way again, finally reaching the head of the loch where we explored the camping options in the twin valleys of Gleann an Lochain Eanaiche and Gleann an Obain Bhig. Sadly both proved difficult. The former was being farmed with sheep and the later had no dry ground at all that we could find. We opted to camp near Oban bothy just outside Glean an Obain Bhig.


    The weather worsened as evening drew on and it began to rain. Well we were in Scotland!


    I love tarps.





    The next day we arose to heavy cloud and rain. Thankfully we had a dry period in which to break camp before the weather closed right in and persistent rain followed us up the loch to Swordland. However the stiff head wind that faced us to begin with, soon gave way to stillness, and despite the rain the paddling was relaxed and easy. I took no photos.


    As we reached the landing at Swordland, the rain became more intermittent. The portage is not long, and lugging the kit did not seem too hard, but the boat proved tough and I have to admit to needing help. Recent months of little exercise were exposing my low fitness. Going to have to work on that. With John and Andy's help I made it down to Tarbet without collapsing.


    The view back down the loch was pretty good.








    Loch Nevis, first view.






    At Tarbet the rain stopped and we snatched a late lunch on the beach. We were a little worried because our timing for this trip meant that the tides were all wrong. We were about to paddle up through the narrows against the flow. The tide had not long turned but we remained concerned.


    However a neap tide proved our saviour and the feared currents did not materialise. We drifted down Loch Nevis.











    The water was very still once again, though the cloud and rain remained with us for the day. We were now searching for a campsite in Knoydart, reputed to be one of the hardest and wettest regions in the country, and it had been raining all day. We struggled to find a dry spot anywhere. All around us the sound of roaring water filled our ears as tiny rivulets turned to powerful waterfalls, cascading down the lochsides every few hundred yards,


    Eventually we located a tiny camp site between two river outflows, with just enough land to camp on. Behind us a larger waterfall made its presence felt and heard, whilst the nearby stream grew in size all evening. I strated to worry just how far it would come up.


    Our camp was wet and midgey, but we managed to dry ourselves our and pass a reasonable evening.








    Andy's fire log gave us some welcome cheer amidst the endless drizzle.





    Twice during the evening deer tried to enter the camp but were deterred by our presence. This young buck barked out its annoyance before heading off across the hillside.


    Last edited by Matto; 17th-July-2011 at 01:13 PM. Reason: Can't type, can't spell!
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  2. #2
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    Day 3 & 4

    The next morning was dry and it was clear the weather was lifting.





    The damp and still conditions however proved to be a paradise for midges and we were getting savaged at breakfast. It was no use. The head nets came out.








    We took our time to get going, managing to dry out most of our kit in the process, before heading onto the loch.





    On the way up we disturbed a family of seals in a small bay, who proceeded to swim around us for about 20 minutes as we sat and watched. This was a really special moment for us all I think.





    We drifted lazily down the loch, enjoying the views which had been missing the previous day.








    Once again we were paddling against the tide through the narrows, but it did not slow us down considerably.








    The waters of Loch Nevis are wonderfully clear, and sea life abundant. Fantastic jellyfish passed us by as we paddled.





    Gradually the loch opened out and we began to see our destination Inverie Bay, occupied by a weather front.





    Eventually we could see the village itself, and thankfully the weather cleared away.






    We landed near The Old Forge pub (of course) and decided it was incumbent upon us to patronise it.

















    After a swift beer, we paddled down to the campsite further around the bay. It was nice to have a flat and dry campsite at last, and the views were unsurpassed. Goodness knows how many photos I took here, but it was worth it.
































    OK, OK, enough already. I'll stop. You get the idea.


    We slept that night with the tent door open, enjoying the view.


    The next day we rose early to catch the tide to Mallaig. We were all nervous about this crossing. We hit the water at 7:00am, heading out once again into still water. It looked like it was going to be easy.











    Our intended course was to aim for the headland of Rubha Raonuill and cross there in a southerly direction, as it is the shortest crossing. However the still conditions encouraged us to change plan halfway and head straight for the southern shore below Sgurr an Eilein Ghjubhais. This plan worked well until we hit some unexpected tidal currents halfway across. We knew the tide was going out, but there was a strong surrent heading into the bay. This was very unnerving, and for a while it felt like we made very little progress against it. Eventually though we got through and into calmer water, before hitting another odd current. Clearly the tidal currents in Inverie Bay are worth understanding because they were very surprising.


    We got there eventually, and had a fairly gentle paddle along the southern shore towards Mallaig. Seals followed us from time to time, and at one point we saw a sea otter swimming along on its back. Wonderful. My first ever siting of an otter in the wild. It's the tiny speck in the water. When it flipped over and dived you could see for sure what it was.





    As Mallaig drew closer the views got better as the rugged mountains of Skye filled the horizon.





    We landed in Mallaig and headed for the Fisherman's Mission for a well earned Bacon Sarnie and Tea.








    Then we had to decide on the most challenging part of the trip. The paddle down the west coast was always the likely bail out point of the trip. Only a little weather would scupper it and make it unnecessarily dangerous, but conditions really could not get any better. This was the best chance we were ever going to get.


    We paddled back out of the harbour and turned the corner into the Sound of Sleet, staying tight to the coast. We were slap in the middle of slack water (planned I have to say), and it felt so calm I think none of us could really believe we were there.











    Views of Eigg, Rum and Skye filled the western horizon.





    In almost no time we reached the golden sands surrounding the mouth of the River Morar. We began paddling up, but the low water meant we quickly ran aground. We stopped for a brew to let the tide come a bit further upriver.








    After 45 minutes or so we tried again, and found just enough water to progress. The current against us was steady but manageable. We reached the head of Britain's shortest river in due course, just in time to see the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig pass above us.





    The falls at Morar are rather impressive. It was portage time again.








    We trolleyed the boats and kit the 700m to the jetties at the beginning of the river on Loch Morar.








    Portage over, we set off to paddle the last mile back to the car.





    In no time we were there. We had done it. Loch Morar and Loch Nevis, Full Circle. I was chuffed to bits. I was sure the weather would prevent us completing part of this trip, but we had had almost no wind and calm weather for four solid days. Even the rain had brought calm weather with it. Scotland doesn't often get this kind.





    Thanks to Andy and John for their great company and unflinching support whenever I needed it.


    Here is our route.


    Last edited by Matto; 17th-July-2011 at 01:18 PM. Reason: bad typing
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  3. #3
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    A very enjoyable blog. Fantastic pictures and well told.

    Thanks for sharing

    Fred

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    Really enjoyed that, well done,look's like you had a crackin time.
    Thank's for sharing
    Steve
    "Access all areas, Under the radar"

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    Another great blogg from what has to be one of Scotland's best canoe tours .

    Well done guys and some wonderful pictures and I'm sure memories !

    Some of the worst midges i have ever experienced were camping on the shores of loch Nevis , but still very worth the trip .

    Craig............

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    A magic trip and a great blogg. I to am amazed that you managed the full loop as the weather stepping in at some point. I guess the trick is to be only pinned down by the weather after you have made it to the Pub.

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    Excellent blog of an excellent trip.

    I was there with you right the way through. fantastic area and just so full of opportunity.

    Great Stuff.

    Alan L.

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    Weather looks excellent, you lucky sods.

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    Did you see any porpoises? We saw a few last Monday from the Armadale to Mallaig ferry.

    Cheers,
    Mark

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    Congratulations on completing such a great trip and also on compiling such a great blogg. Superb!

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    Quote Originally Posted by theMark View Post
    Did you see any porpoises? We saw a few last Monday from the Armadale to Mallaig ferry.

    Cheers,
    Mark
    Yes we saw a pair of them as we paddled across Inverie Bay on the way to Mallaig. Fantastic.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


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    I've just read that on my mobile, with no images as it takes too long to download them. You know what, it didn't matter at all, as your descriptions gave me all the images i needed. What a great tip, I am sooooo jealous, having walked this fantastic part of the world but not (yet) paddled there. A great blog, can't wait to see the photos when im back at the pc proper.Nice one guys!
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Great trip. Nice one Matto & Co.

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    Stunning pics, though with scenery like that it's hard not to get them!

    Only sailed and climbed in that area but you've really had a great trip in the canoes with every thing that Scotland has to offer.

    BTW, the Old Forge (great sea food which we sampled last year) is up for sale at £700k if you're interested.
    Chris


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    Excellent blog Matto, looks like you had a fab time, no doubt helped by the calm conditions.
    One day I'll do this trip again.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Cracking blog! Well told and some lovely photographs. That's one more Scottish trip to add to the 'to do' list!
    Juvanile delinkwit, vaguely faffing around with a pair of pliers. Du skal ikke tro at du er bedre end mig!

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    Excellent trip and blogg - thanks guys
    Sandy

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    Fantastic Blog! Thanks guys.

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    A great blog and pics,Matt.The track between Lochs Morar and Nevis looks superb.Is it like that the entire way? The sighting of the otter in the wild,drifting on its back then turning and diving must be one of the sights of a lifetime.

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    Fine bloggage Matto.

    I bet you couldn't believe how lucky you were with the weather.

    Our trip there last year was heavily influenced by high winds, which always seemed to be blowing from the wrong direction.
    We were wind-bound at the same campsite that you used on the islands and never got to do the crossing from Inverie back to Mallaig.

    It truly is a beautiful part of the world and your pictures capture the climate, mood and atmosphere perfectly.
    Newbond

    'In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.'

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    Quote Originally Posted by andre View Post
    A great blog and pics,Matt.The track between Lochs Morar and Nevis looks superb.Is it like that the entire way? The sighting of the otter in the wild,drifting on its back then turning and diving must be one of the sights of a lifetime.
    Yes the track is like that the whole way. It's pretty steep in one section as I found to my cost , but really considering where you are, it is a very good track. I think it is used by quad bike or 4x4 to reach Tarbet and the landings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Newbond View Post
    Fine bloggage Matto.

    I bet you couldn't believe how lucky you were with the weather.
    You're not wrong. When we looked at the mountain weather forecast in Inverie and it said 4mph winds on the summits I though they were joking. I've never been on a summit anywhere when the wind wasn't blowing.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


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    Great blogg Matto and what a lucky weather-window

    Stunning photo's!

    Thanks.
    Tony.

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    Great trip guys, Your pictures brought back some good memories of our trip last month. Seems like you had a bit more rain than we did but much less wind. We just got to Mallaig. We didnt encounter the currents leaving Inverie Bay like you guys either, think we were on the ebb then. Some cracking photos! Cheers Jim

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    This is a wonderfull blogg. It tells a great story with outstanding pictures. But more than that it had indepth information on the trip. This has made this trip my number one priority before the year is out, and i shall use this blogg as my guide and reference.

    This is really superb blogg, well done.

    Cheers

    Alan

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    Matt - nice write up, you beat me too it again

    I am still pinching myself about how lucky we were and it's taking some time to come back down to reality! This trip was on our radar for last year however the winds were so strong that we headed over the Spey instead. If I recall correctly the same winds marooned ChrisH in Portree harbour for the best part of two weeks. Matt photos are pretty similar to mine so I'll just add a few to cover any gaps.

    Thanks guys for your excellent company (as usual)

    Saturday's extended tea stop



    Camp at Oban



    Scottish rain




    The big portage




    Camp on Nevis




    Lunch Stop








    Ready for the big crossing - Mallaig 10k and 2 hours paddling



    River Morar



    Last edited by SunburyAndy; 18th-July-2011 at 08:40 AM.

  26. #26
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    Its even better now I've actually seen the pictures, guys! Great stuff. Now even higher up my priority list...

    ...can somebody let me know the best weather windows for Summer 2012 please?
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  27. #27
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    really great blog of a really great trip.
    well done guys

    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    ...can somebody let me know the best weather windows for Summer 2012 please?
    the next day of summer is scheduled for 2013. sorry.

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    This really was a fantastic trip. As Matt said I joined the party late on so all the planning and prep had already been done by Andy and Matt.

    This was my first trip where I'd needed to take several days gear and food in the boat so I learnt a lot from the trip and hope to be carrying a bit less on the next one!

    Highlights of the trip for me were camping on the islands on Loch Morar, the portage accross to Loch Nevis, the wildlife we were lucky enough to encounter and the evening at Inverie (a flat pitch!). Getting all the way back down to Morar was the icing on the cake and the sense of achievement when we arrived back at the van was quite special.

    Andy and Matt were great company. I thank them both for a great trip and hope to share many more adventures with them in the future.

    Here are some more pictures from the trip


    Loch Morar Islands











    Heading to the East end of Morar







    Oban Bothy comes into view







    Sunday morning jourey to Swordland








    The portage





    Matt closes his eyes and imagines he is somewhere warm, dry and flat!















    Back on the water at Loch Nevis













    Shame the mussels hadn't been visible Sunday evening otherwise we'd have had them for supper!







    View from long Beach campside





    Monday morning setting off accross the bay




    The crossing was so easy Matt and Andy stopped in the middle to discuss the tides



    Off down the coast to Mallaig



    Getting close to Mallaig



    Arrive at Mallaig



    Weather still great so back out again and off to Morar











    The last brew stop.









    Portage time again









    Camera battery number 2 runs out!

  29. #29

    Default Well done!

    Great blogg as always fellas. Even with the fantastic weather that is still an ambitious trip. Glad your endeavours were rewarded with such fine views and great wildlife. That pebble beach you stopped at on your way down Loch Morar is where I spent last New Years Eve! Thanks for sharing. Regards Martin.

  30. #30
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    Great blogg. Next year you need to allow that extra day for a stopover at Castle MagiKelly
    John

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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Great blogg. Next year you need to allow that extra day for a stopover at Castle MagiKelly
    Thanks MK. I felt bad we didn't tell you we were passing, and as it was nearing tea time, the smell of haggis was definitely calling.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  32. #32

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    A really good journey and a great blogg to boot, put in mind of a lot of the epic Scottish Canoe Bloggs we used to get on here, nice one chaps!


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    Six stars blogg for sure! The pictures just get better and better.... Going back to see all of them again.
    Tony BR
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    Next 20 building Canoes!!!

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    Outstanding, just flat OUTSTANDING!
    Canoeing and camping are both cheaper than therapy... and generally more productive.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matto View Post
    Thanks MK. I felt bad we didn't tell you we were passing, and as it was nearing tea time, the smell of haggis was definitely calling.
    I felt a disturbance in the force as you passed and knew I had been snubbed
    John

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  36. #36
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    A really inspiring trip - fantastic photos!
    Cheers,

    Ceibach

    Cruising n' bruising!

  37. #37
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    Great trip guys! Beautiful pictures and great blog. You were lucky with the weather.

    I like this picture!



    I remember that feeling of trepidation from our Loch Shiel trip when you are about to paddle on the sea but if you get the right conditions it's simply awesome.

    Your trip brought back good memories of our trip to Morar a couple of years back. Loch Morar and the coastline around Silver Sands are still my favourite places to paddle. Your trip has inspired me to return and complete the circuit, now that Tobey is old enough to manage the portage.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Lynne
    All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost

  38. #38
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    This is on my to do list.

    Great trip and good photos to inspire me.

    I don't know why I missed it earlier?

    Thank you,

    Doug
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    Afloat in the White Canoe.
    Alan Sullivan


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    Brings back good memories, many thanks, from an aging paddler.

  40. #40
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    What an epic adventure, well blogged with some stunning photographs. Thanks for sharing.

    Roy

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    Just saw this blogg, excellent photgraphy and write up. Can't wait to get up there again (we only had a full day on Loch Morar, with the girls wanting to spend it on the island's jetty [in APril] to sunbathe). Next time I'll make it to Oban bothy and might take a look at that portage over to Loch Nevis (will just look though)
    thanks for such a brilliant blogg

    Sundowner - "Deeply and firmly rooted in
    morally lowest possible ground !! "

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    Stunning blogg and trip. You were really lucky with the weather. Well planned and executed trip and good map. Out of interest are the two Wenonah's Prospector 15 or 16?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Happyfish View Post
    Stunning blogg and trip. You were really lucky with the weather. Well planned and executed trip and good map. Out of interest are the two Wenonah's Prospector 15 or 16?
    They are both 15's.

    Seeing this blogg up again as got me thinking it must be time to start thinking about another venture North

  44. #44
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    Wow this is awesome! Being new to canoeing, trip reports like this are fantastically inspiring! Can someone tell me the total distance covered on this trip?

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by plainsman View Post
    Wow this is awesome! Being new to canoeing, trip reports like this are fantastically inspiring! Can someone tell me the total distance covered on this trip?
    The total distance is actually quite modest at just 43 miles. But it's not about the miles, it's about the journey .
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  46. #46
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    Still sound like a pretty good distance to this amateur!

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