Tobeatic Canoe Trip 2005

  Wet & Wild   (Gordon)
  Shelburne Excursion   (Mike)

A Wild Wet Windy Weekend         Top

Well someone once said that you only remember the wet trips not the sunny ones. I would have to say that is probably the truth.

This canoe trip has been planned for a couple of months.

Bernie (Mr. Canoe) organized this one and originally was going to do the Tobeatic Wilderness in South Western Nova Scotia. That location proved to be very difficult to do on a long weekend so the locale was slightly changed to Kedge National Park and the Shelburne River.

Originally there were eight going, but when it came down to the short strokes, five of us showed up.

Wendy and Bernie Levy were in one canoe and Mike Haider and John Cameron were in another. (These two guys are in deep training for their Hayes River excursion this summer) Gordon Warnica, in his kayak affectionately called the Blue Whale, was the final member of this brave quintet (Quintet - that's a group of five people)

Now it should be mentioned here that the "deep training" for the Hayes probably started on this weekend.

Upon arrival at Kedge, we were informed that the winds from the North-West were expected to be 30 KMH with gusts to 50. I can assure you they were all of that and maybe more.

What this meant to us what that we had strong winds and waves coming at us from the front and side for the whole first day. Some waves were, I am sure, almost 2 feet high.

Everybody tacked through them like they knew what they were doing. We tried to hide behind islands as much as possible.

We did the big Lake - Kedge then a long portage 2.6 K then had lunch on the shores of Mountain Lake.

After crossing Mountain Lake, another portage, then into Peskowesk Lake the second biggest lake in the park. This was tough slogging as the wind was now directly into our faces and we had about a 5 k paddle ahead of us. Heck "That what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger." so off we went. It wasn't really all that bad once you put your mind to it. Another short portage to Beaverskin Lake and after a short 10 minute paddle yet another short portage to Peskawa Lake.

By this time, Wendy needed a well deserved break and decided to walk the 2 k around this lake. We towed the empty kayak and by the time we made it to the next portage, Wendy was waiting for us.

Finally the last portage of the day. Up and over by Mason's Cabin and into

Pebbleloggitch Lake. We were now exiting the park and entering the Shelburne River system. This is one of Canada's heritage rivers (as is the Hayes). We paddled upstream to the bottom of a beautiful falls and set up camp. We had started at 9:40 am and landed at 5:30 for a pretty full day. We hastily set up our tents and started on supper. John and Mike each had new stoves, which they were breaking in on this trip. John, Mike and Gordon, getting ready for three weeks on the Hayes, had rice and pasta and dried veggies and dried mushrooms and ham, while the Levys' suffered through real steak and real onions and real mushrooms and pancakes etc.

Up the next morning and, after a breakfast of hot porridge and raisins and craisins and coffee or tea, we were off to explore the Shelburne River. We traveled downstream 2 or 3 k through a bit of white water, where everyone worked on their skills and no one flipped over. We were soon into Irving Lake an after crossing it, we found the trail to a look out that was about 5 or 6 k away.

As the blackflies were getting unbearable at this point I left first but followed the survey line and not the trail. The rest were clever enough to follow the trail. After 10 minutes when I returned to follow the right trail I blazed my way through for about 10 minutes, while being chased by the black fly air force. When I decided that maybe playing in my kayak on the water with the breeze and no black flies just had some kind of nice ring to it.

As soon as I hit the water, I could see 4 other canoes crossing the lake. I paddled over to them and they were all from Yarmouth. They were doing one of the routes we had contemplated early on, as they were going down the Shelburne across Rossignol and up the Mersey. Now it was the "up the Mersey" that had concerned us. That is a lot of water to have to paddle against for about 10 K. Nova Scotia being so small, it also turned out that at least two of them are regular runners on the Run Nova Scotia Series and have had teams in both the Rum Runners Relay as well as the Cabot Trail Relay.

I then paddled down the first set of rapids to watch them navigate through. They knew what they were doing. As I took to the shore to portage back up, I put my paddle on the downstream side and got out upstream. The current grabbed my paddle and after chasing it along the bank for a few metres, it was getting farther and farther away. No choice - I jumped in and even when the water got to chest level I didn't quit and I did get may paddle back. After taking my paddle and water bottle and lifejacket back up the bank I was struck with a rotting smell like dead fish. I carefully checked the river bank looking for the source of the foul smell. While returning to get the kayak and climbing higher on the bank, I found a dead coyote that had been caught in a snare.

When I returned to the group, they had just returned from their hike. The elusive look out was just too far to go.

We paddled back up the Shelburne again working on ferrying and other white water skills.

It was sort of nice when upon returning to camp there was a breeze that seemed to keep the flies away.

After supper, around 7:30, it started to rain and the wind came up a bit more. Snuggled into our sleeping bags in our tents it really blew hard and the rain became more of a downpour. It turned out the tent that I had so hastily set up on Friday night didn't have the fly fastened down enough and some of the tent pegs came out so by morning we were a bit wet.

Mike and John and Gordon (having to be out that day) were up at 6:45 for breakfast and gone by 7:45. leaving Wendy and Bernie snug in their tent. Now as luck would have it, the wind that had been so devastating the first day in our face had changed direction 180 degrees and was to be in our face in the return as well.

We hugged the shores more and went from one point of land to the next a step at a time. We would paddle hard for a bit, huddle in behind the point for a breather then swing out and go to the next point. It seemed to work quite well, as it was at times raining really hard, and we had no problems.

We were in the car and on the road by 3:45. After a great cheesburger in Caledonia and the obligatory Tims coffee in Bridgewater, we were home by 7:00 pm.

It was a great weekend. We learned lots of skills - both white water and big waves. The tent needs some work. I forgot my mug but found my water bottle could do the extra duty quit well. The bags that Gonzo (Katie), in Boulder, found us, worked better that I ever dreamed and they are really quite easy to carry on portages as well. We developed some quite good techniques on the portages and they were really smooth by the end of the weekend. And everybody had a smile at the end. What more could you ask for? Total distance paddled? about 55 k. Total distance portaged? about 10 k on 9 different portages. Not counting the little ones on the Shelburne River with an empty canoe.


Shelburne River Excursion         Top

Having just, just graduated from Bernies' canoeing school (see Note 1) and in search of some hands on experience it was off too the Tobeatic Wilderness trip in South Western Nova Scotia revised because of water volumes to the actual less difficult (thank the heavens) Kedge National Park and the Shelburne River excursion. Thoughts of sunny peaceful mirror like lake paddling with some good folks.

Bernie to the rescue immediately at the put in before a paddle hits the water. Chilly and windy; with fifty k/hr gusts and second thoughts already, who'd a 'thunk' you'd need gloves. Bernie's got a spare pair in the trunk. I'm thinking the back seat of the car would be nice for two nights but can't let John down. He's probably thinking the same thing. The rest of the crew are thinking there must be four of these guys two couldn't be that uncoordinated. Good news, the newly acquired dry bag gear and equipment look and fit great.

Nobody mentioned foot and a half waves and headwinds from the get go. Death by fire as they say! Nursed along by Gord and Bernie's reassurances, not too mention Wendy's not looking phased in the least expression we make progress. Not real pretty I'm sure but nobody's taking pictures. I can't see John's expression in the stern because I'm scarred to death to turn around for fear of capsizing. Mine is that yearning to be Gord or Bernie's partner look. Nothing against John but we're really not in sync at this point, not too mention that we had difficulty getting back in the canoe in the pool two short weeks ago and it's not something I've practiced a whole lot since. Can't speak for John at this point. John's saying "The only thing that could be worse is if it were raining along with the blowing"

Many lakes later with some renewed confidence I'm loving the portages. My kind of deal. No brains or finesse required just mule pack in the direction of the arrows and I've got feet on the ground and the canoe leg cramps worked out. John looks more comfortable under the canoe than on top. Not to mention that the temperature for packing is comfortable and the wind is too much for the black flies to take aim and light most of the time. Bernie can carry the pack and the canoe at the same time wow! Don't get in Gimps way when he's hobbling at about 8k/hr. I've figured out Gord's portaging strategy at this point. No side stepping water puddles, the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line. Once an Engineer: always an Engineer.

Haven't a clue where we are, the $5 dollar map hasn't left the pocket since we left. That's not entirely true. I know we're out of the Park and somewhere in the Shelburne River system. Not too worry I'm in good hands the tents are up and the stove and instant pasta are a piece of cake for a guy who can stir fry by his lonesome (with the aid of a bottle of cheap red) on occasional Friday nights. I can't help but notice that Bernie's is gaining lots of points over at the Smiths place. He even looks good in charge of the make shift kitchen. I'm sure Wendy's better; but she's nobody's fool. She's looking quite content relaxed with the bug net and all. Only the occasional word of encouragement directed at Bernie. I think she's buffaloed Bernie into thinking he's in charge. A thought comes to mind that Gimp cooks like he hikes; straight ahead, no nonsense, no wasted steps or gas and don't get between he and his humble fixings.

Off to bed early! Don't know if I like the mummy bag. Can't seem to flip around without getting tangled up.

The second day is almost pleasant. It's the black flies that are relentless. I've swallowed enough of these that lunch is optional. Bernie, Wendy and Gord are in teaching mode. John and Mike are not as quick as they used to be. I can't imagine with a reaction time in the double-digit seconds how John was ever a decent goalie. He's wondering who ties Mike's shoelaces in the morning. Bernie's asking how long it is before the Hayes adventure and thinking these city slicks need way more time. How do these guys/gal make it look so easy? Wendy's trying to mend the bruised egos by confessing she had difficulty at one time. John and I aren't all together stupid. We know she's just being kind and motherly trying to make us feel better. By the time we're finished I'm not sure I know my right from my left. We make it.

Supper is re-hash of yesterday and it's off to bed.

Three lessons learned today: 1. one can't eat thru the bug net and 2. one doesn't take his tick invested socks to bed(found at least 5 in the mummy bag that night) and 3. if it rains buckets and things are getting wet you can't pack up the wife and kids, hop in the car and head for home. Another goal to set for myself: paddling a day without getting my feet wet.

What a last day! Thank goodness we had the wind experience on Friday. John's saying "Guess what, it's raining and blowing". What goes round comes round. Now all we have to master on Sunday is the added blinding rain ripping into our faces factor. Thank goodness Gimp exudes confidence and demonstrates skill and patience. He almost looks like he's enjoying our suffering. Island to island, one piece at a time, no problem is too big if it's tackled in small enough pieces. The safest distance between two points on the water is not a straight line. Confusing Engineers. He's thinking at hour 6 that without the deadwood he'd be in the warm car. Follow the leader and we're enjoying a cheeseburger down the road in the steamy car after the ~= 8 hr ordeal.

Lesson for the day: put the rain gear on before you're soaked to the core and shivering with first stage hypothermia.

I can't believe driving home that we actually canoed in that. This is definitely something to bank somewhere in the positive thoughts and confidence part of the grey matter for future reference. It seems that the only thing John and I are exceptional at is devouring the burger. No coaching needed here.Suzanne is thankful for Nancy's call that we're on the way home and is pleased to see me. Can you imagine that!

I feel for Bernie and Wendy's wild day spent in the blowing rain and cramped quarters with not much of a better outlook for the next day. In some way sick way that probably adds to the challenge for the seasoned.

Lesson for the trip: travel with pros but expect the unexpected.

Lesson for Gimp: get the gas money up front.

Good company, great learning experience but we knew that going in. Sincere thanks to all!!23/05/2005


Note 1:(Both John and Mike earned a solid D- only after John; being the wiser and richer of the two, said enough spills and near bone crushing/bruising re-entry attempts and slipped Bernie a $twenty for a passing grade.

Mike Haider