From intimate rivers, expansive lakes and stunning skies (and only two portages!!!!), this stretch held unexpected delights. Coming around the corner to set eyes upon Crowduck Falls brought smiles to our face as the falls present almost as a giant water slide (note the almost!). Crowduck held incredibly clear water and so many bays to explore. On Big Whiteshell Lake and the Whiteshell River we saw paddlers again – a good sign that this is an area to visit. The only downside – abundant poison ivy to be avoided! Be sure you can identify it before you go!
When you think of Kenora you can’t help but think of Lake of the Woods; rightfully so as it is such a large, beautiful lake with 14,000 islands and thousands upon thousands of kilometres to explore. The Path of the Paddle touches but a small piece of this lake. I knew I would find appealing (and windy) this lake of exposed rock and wind swept pines. What I didn’t know or expect was the incredible paddling area in the ELA (Experimental Lakes Area – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_Lakes_Area). Just east of Kenora. A well established canoe tripping destination, it wasn’t the cliffs and clear waters that drew me in, as gorgeous as these were; rather, it was the portages. Typically, portages are a necessary evil (or worse) to get into wonderful waters. In this area there were two portages in particular (Winnange to Manomin and Gale to Kilvert) that were perfect. My idea of a perfect portage is spacious, dry, and comfortable footing – these trails had it all. What a treat!
Chances are, if you’re well into a 70 day canoe trip, that you’ve had some tired and discouraging moments. Heck, it could be a 7 day canoe trip and you’ve had tired and discouraging moments. I’ve tried to share a few of ours in the blog, such as camping on 4 different portage trails. I describe these as the ‘muddy’ moments where you feel stuck or just not up to the task at hand. If you’re lucky like us, however, you cross paths with enough Spirit Lifters to help you get through the inevitable tough times. Along our way most recently we’ve had Garth from Dryden (who makes canoes as pictured in the top photo – Lean Green Manufacturing) pick us up from a terrible portage in the pouring rain and put a handle on a new paddle; Gail from Kenora join us for a paddle (with Garth), camp out with us, feed us amazing Guacamole and send us off on our last leg with homemade oatmeal bars; POPA Board member Jennifer (and partner Tim) who took us home, fed us amazing meals, gave us wheels to run errands and a bed to rest in, showers and badly needed laundry; and Erwin from Winnipeg, who upon hearing what we were doing and why, contributed by carrying two of our barrels over a slippery 450m portage saving me a trip! With each and every one named here we shared a smile and a laugh. The thoughtfulness and care lifted our spirits and spurred us on.
Whenever you meet others, on or off the trail, you don’t know whether they are in the midst of a magical or muddy moment. Either way, you can meet them with kindness. It might just make all the difference in the world! Thanks to those who have taken the time to be interested, positive and encouraging! Our journey is all the sweeter because it included you!
It’s not all sunshine and wild roses out on the Path of the Paddle! You cannot possibly do a 70 day canoe trip without some trying times and when that trip is auditing a trail in the making this is even more so the case. There are stretches that need more campsites (and, hence, saw us paddle long days that we would have liked to end earlier or curled up on a rock that barely fit the two of us to wait out wind); there are portage trails indiscernible through lush greenery that, even signed, had us lost and camping, lost, mid-portage (we camped 4x’s on a portage trail – this is always an indication that things have gone awry); there are storms, relentless, daily storms – sometimes at 6am and sometimes at midnight – we roughed them out in the boat when there was no where to land, under the ground sheet when there was, but we certainly appreciated the rainbow after the clouds, maybe because the hard times are just so hard that the good times become that much more good.
We awoke at 5am (again!) on Eagle Lake to make it to Buster’s for lunch, 28km away – what a feat. Buster’s, in Vermillion Bay, was a good ‘carrot’ spurring us on though. Known for award winning BBQ sauce and featured on ‘you gotta eat here’, we enjoyed our burgers and headed back to the lake, where for once, we also had a calm afternoon so we kept going making an astonishing 50km in one day!
If the answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind, then surely we know it in spades! The past two weeks has been windy! We have had more hard paddling days against wind (and one day where we just sat) and more 5am wake ups in this stretch than not. The upside is all the beautiful sunrises and moonsets we’ve seen (though notice even at 5:30am in the last shot the water isn’t calm but the beginnings of a headwind)! The downside for us non-morning people is that we are wicked tired and ready to arise at a normal hour. Nonetheless, best to try to paddle when it’s calm which means I should be sleeping already tonite at 9:12pm. Goodnight from the trail!