White Water Canoe Trip
July 4 – 8, 2016
What better way to spend your week then with friends, under the sun, playing on the water. The journey starts with a roadtrip up to Sudbury to get the canoes and meet up with everyone. Once everything is packed and we are ready to go, we take off headed south to the Magnetawan River. It was very late by the time we got to Harris Lake which is where we start paddling. We decided to camp there rather than paddle in the dark.
Wake up, breakfast, and we are ready to go! We got a fun lesson about important things to remember while on this trip about paddling, teamwork, and the canoes. We continued the lesson once on the water as we played around practicing the strokes. Once everyone felt comfortable we started moving forward on our way.
Today was a fun day of flat water paddling. We stopped for lunch and went for a swim to cool down because it was so hot. It was so nice and refreshing that we wanted to stay in the water! Any chance we got we would spot a nice rock face and go cliff jumping and swimming! It was so fun to work together, someone would ensure it was deep enough below, someone would find a path up to get to the jumping spot, and everyone encouraged everyone to jump in and have fun.
As we were paddling, we decided to raft up (bring all the canoes together side by side) and we got a tarp out and created a sail! It was windy enough that all we had to do was steer. It was so cool and a lot of fun just watching the wind take us!
When looking for rocks to jump off of, we came across a bridge. Bridge jumping? YES PLEASE let’s do it! We were all excited because it looked high and like lots of fun. Climbing up to the top I think we all didn’t realize just how HIGH we were. When you get up on top of the towering bridge, plus the wind rushing past you… it got us second guessing for a moment. But with a little courage (and watching someone else do it first) all of us who were nervous took a leap of faith and jumped! It was such a thrill!
We continued on our way and stopped when we found a nice place to set up camp for the night. We unloaded the boats, took up the gear, set up tents, tarps, and a fire. Felt nice and cozy our new home for the night. Some people got dinner started while others were finishing up setting up the tents. Dinner was ready and served around the fire. It was delicious! So good that people had seconds after an overflowing first bowl! Even with everyone had finished eating, we still had enough rice left over to fill a 1L water bottle! Good snack for the next day right?
While some of us stayed under the tarp mesh area hiding from the bugs, others embraced it all and went for a midnight swim off of the island we were camping at. After the swim we warmed up and dried off by the fire. As I headed to bed tired from all the fun we had today, half the group stayed up enjoying the fire and glowing stars.
The next morning was another beautiful hot and sunny one! Breakfast was nice and easy PB and jelly on bread. Some of the group mixed it up a bit by adding some of the extra rice we had from the night before to their breakfast. I had a feeling people were going to be adding rice to all their meals today! Aha
After packing up the boats and cleaning up the site, we headed out again. Switching up some of the canoe partners to let people try different spots and different partners was a fun way to learn how to work with different paddlers who may be stronger than you or have a dominant side conflicting with yours. Off we go! Paddling looking around at the gorgeous scenery; magnificent trees towering from each side of us, to the winding river path ahead of us, sun shining down from above.
While paddling we chatted, laughed, told riddles, got stumped by riddles, sang, laughed some more, had relaxing paddling, and had some competitive racing intense paddling.
When we got to our first rapid, the water levels were too low so we had to portage it. We suspected that the water levels were dramatically lower than usual as we could see the water lines of where the water used to be. The next rapid we approached was flowing nicely but was too dangerous to run. We parked the canoes so we could look at the rapid. We learned about the parts of the rapid, what parts to aim your canoe towards and what parts to avoid. We talked about why we couldn’t run the rapid and also when in rapids if you tip what to do and how to defensively and offensively swim. After learning, we all got to jump into the rapid and defensively swim down the rapid until the end when we had to offensively swim out of the rapid to the shore. Just like jumping off of the bridge, some found this nerve racking. It was not about the height this time as we weren’t very high, it was more about jumping into fast moving water. We all helped motivate those who were nervous and when we jumped and popped out of the water you saw nothing but smiles! It was exciting and of course like everything else on this trip, it was fun!
After jumping in, we went back to the canoes and portaged past the rapid. After getting a feel for playing in the rapid, I was very excited to start the white water and run a rapid.
Due to us playing so much the first day on the water, we had some distance to make up today. We did well and even came across some swifts to go down! They were fun going down and dodging the rocks. Afterwards, we kept paddling and stopped for lunch when everyone was a little hungry but also hot and ready to cool down. We stopped, ate lunch, some went for a swim, and back in the boats we went, paddling along.
While paddling a rain cloud passed over us. It started pouring rain, like hard torrential rain! We all paddled hard with huge grins across our faces as we challenge to pass through the rain drops beating on us. It was a fun fast 5 minutes and then clear skies again! The rain was quite refreshing actually!
We found another nice campsite while on a portage. We portaged the stuff around a massive rapid and half way we stopped and set up camp. We made dinner and while cooking, some of the group went to swim at the bottom of the rapid. What a view we had camping right beside, overlooking the whole rapid and everything around it. Everyone came back for dinner time. Dinner was delicious and afterwards we played a game to end the night laughing and having fun with each other.
The next morning we stuffed ourselves with some yummy breakfast, packed up, cleaned up, and carried our stuff down to the river walking the rest of the portage. In the boats and away we go! We had a day of relaxed paddling and fun swimming and cliff jumping, then we had a day of distance making up some kilometres and today is our day of white water!
As we paddle along we start to hear the water... helmets on! Safety first so helmets on when you can hear the moving water just in case you suddenly get stuck in it. When putting on my helmet its gets real and very exciting to me because i know the fun ahead but the mystery is still there. It’s a mystery because even though you know rapids are ahead, you don’t know what class they are (difficulty), how long they are, whether you are going to tip and fall in.
The first rapid we get to we portage the gear across but run it in the canoes! Some people went solo and others tandem. It was so much fun trying to navigate down and keep your balance. Trying to plan out your strokes, paddling hard and fast, and watching the water whip by you; it a feeling you can’t quite describe you have to just get out there and do it. The excitement when I thought I made it down and in a solo canoe only to at the very end tip in was too funny and really fun actually to get into the water and cool down
After playing on this rapid for a while and everyone going down a few times (and tipping a few times as well haha), we collected the gear into the boats and were on our way to the next rapid. We had to portage one or two more but ran many others. The last rapid we ran I was rushing down full speed and saw that the canoe that went before mine had tipped… I soon realized something was up, when I saw that they were stationary where they tipped! When we were going down I realized this and had to quickly turn the boat to avoid hitting theirs! We successfully passed and parked our canoe. I noticed that the canoe was actually stuck. It had been pinned between several large rocks in the rapid and was lying on its side filled with water pinched inside the rocks. Everyone parked their canoes and the boys all tried lifting the canoe out with no luck. From lifting we tried a pulley system with ropes and carabiners. Attached on one side to the canoe and the other side to a tree. No luck again so we tried from the other side of the river. We tried having people pull the rope while others lifted the canoe, all to no victory. 4 hours later after the canoe was initially stuck, we had to give up and leave the canoe. It was getting dark and by then the canoe was breaking, and everyone was losing energy.
We said goodbye to the canoe and started portaging everything past the rapids and reorganizing to fit the lost boats gear and people into the canoes that we still had. After some planning we got it all organized. The exhaustion has hitting everyone, it was getting dark, and people were more than ready to sleep. We paddled until we found a campsite, quickly split up and had dinner made while tents got set up. Everyone ate and then went straight to bed.
Up early and trying to move fast today. We had breakfast and packed up quickly so that we could get on the water. Paddling today we came across a creek. We started portaging through shallow water and stones sticking out everywhere. After a stretch of portaging, we decided it would be easier to portage along the road we found. It was a longer portage but safer, and easier to walk. After the long portage under the hot sun, we took a break had some snacks and when we saw the water couldn’t wait to get in! We paddled out past the swampy part and jumped in off the canoes! So nice and refreshing!
Once we were cooled down, we got the stuff in the boats and off we go! A short hour or two more maybe and we’d be back at the marina where we started! As we paddle, it starts to get a little cloudy and we hear thunder in the sky above us. We keep paddling, hugging the shore just in case we need to get on land. Paddling and looking around for any lightening, we suddenly see a huge strike of lightning strike down right in front of us! “GO TO THE SHORE” one yells and we are all quickly making our way. We park the boats and jump out and into the forest. Everyone spread out and crouched on top of their life jackets waiting for the storm to pass. It was a crazy experience slightly scary but more just another amazing memory to take away from the trip!
Half an hour later, the storm had passed and we were in the clear! The group hoped back in the canoes and we were in our canoes for another hour before making it to the marina.
What a week! Amazing people, memorable challenges, epic rapids, crazy fun! It’s what you sign up for when you get outside! Except for the lost canoe. That really wasn't part of the plan.
Thanks for reading!