In my last post, part 1 of 2, Worst Site, Best Site, I had just said goodnight on a beautiful campsite on Georgian Bay. The weather had been gloomy the last 2 days and I was hoping to rise early to some sunshine. Let’s see if my wish came true?
It was Sunday morning, day 3 of my 4 day, 3 night solo kayak trip on the French River and I woke to a very blue sky. It was 5:45 am and the sun had not risen yet, but I was up and adam and on the move!
Today, I needed to spend some time paddling on Georgian Bay. After my time on the bay yesterday, in some rough water and strong winds, I knew the best thing for me to do today was get up super early and get on the water as soon as possible. The water is usually calmest first thing in the morning and I wanted to take advantage of that and save as much energy as I could. So I got dressed and started packing as soon as I woke up.
This mornings breakfast was a strawberry scone from Field of Greens Bakery in Port Carling. I had never had a scone and I wasn’t sure if I actually liked them? I did like that it was all in one piece and it was tasty and not smushed, but, it was also kind of hard and dry and that wasn’t something I was enjoying. It was convenient though and as I was scooting around my site packing, I was eating at the same time. That was super easy and I liked that part of it at least.
It was 7:10am and I was packed and ready to go. Happy happy girl! The water here was like glass but even yesterday with the winds blowing and the rain coming down, it was mirror here. The test would be to see what Georgian Bay was like. I would soon find out.
There was a huge difference from my sheltered site on the bay to the actual open waters of the bay, but I was happily surprised. It was only slightly wavy and slightly windy and that was totally fine with me. It was incredibly peaceful, paddling along all alone in the middle of no where, not a soul in sight.
I checked the map frequently and realized that I didn’t have to really be out in the open water much. Once I got through my first section of paddling, there were small islands and channels that went behind the open water where I could paddle and be fairly sheltered and protected. I was loving this!
I had been travelling Northwest all morning and I kept singing the song the Northwest Passage in my head over and over. (This song would soon be a memory of something soon to come.) I decided since it was so calm, I would make a video of myself paddling northwest while playing the song on my phone. This meant I would need to record with another device so I pulled out my Go Pro. I had a love hate relationship with my go pro so far. I got it and it didn’t work property, it was sent back to me almost 2 weeks later and that didn’t make me very happy. I used it for my daddy daughter fishing day and the audio was awful. I was still working out the kinks and had used it a bit here and there this weekend but not excessively.
Anyways, I got the go pro out and the tripod/selfie stick I’d bought to go with it. The Go Pro was very tiny which was a good thing but I found I had to fiddle with all these little parts to use it, in this case, put a little screw through the base of the camera which intertwined with the tripod stick. It happened in an instant! The little screw slipped out of my had and plopped into the water to my right, and then the go pro slipped out of my other hand and plopped into the water to my left. OH MY GOD! Please no, tell me that didn’t just happen!!!
And that is what I did. At 8:30 Sunday morning, 12 degrees, I stripped down to my sports bra and underwear and jumped into the bay to try and retrieve my camera. I dove and dove and dove and dove. ARGGGG!!!!
The video really says it all and shows how disappointed I was in myself and what had happened. I just kept saying over and over again, thank god it wasn’t my phone and did my best to look on the bright side. What else could I do? I got back into my kayak with lots of km’s to paddle today and off I went, feeling sickly for quite some time afterwards, but knowing there was nothing I could do about it. Sometimes shit just happens and you’ve just got to deal with it.
I had something new to concern me anyways. Today, I was taking a route that no one I’d asked or knew had done, and I didn’t know if I would get through to where I wanted to end up, or would have to go all the way back down the channel and up another one. I am an explorer and I wanted to explore this area and if I had to go back, then I would just have to do that.
I arrived at Fort Channel just after 9am. Besides swallowing up my Go Pro, Georgian Bay had treated me well and I was at least, happy about that. The plan was to go up the Fort Channel and into Black Bay, which I hoped would connect me with the Western Channel of the French River. According to my GPS, there was a piece of land in between. According to the park map, the water was connected and I could get through. I could not see any portages or any other information on the map to tell me what I would encounter, and I was both anxious and excited to find out what that would be.
The area I was in, like most of my journey so far, was incredibly beautiful and serene, and just like the other days, I saw not one person along my route.
I paddled through stunning rock formations and truly was in heaven. I loved rock, I loved calm water, I loved nature, I really was loving the French River, truly and completely. Every stroke got me closer to finding out the answer I was seeking, would I get through?
By the looks of the map, I was about to find out, very soon. At the end of Black Bay I discovered what could be one of my most favorite areas of all time. It was the most serene, peaceful, surreal area I’ve paddled in and I honestly didn’t want to leave. The map showed a campsite here but I couldn’t locate it. I may have just stopped and stayed for a while if I had!
The pictures don’t do it justice but I think you can get a pretty good idea of the loveliness of the place!
I paddled on and soon found the answer to the question I’d been asking since deciding my route the night before. YES, i could get through to the Old Voyageur Channel from here. I found a waterfall and it led from the channel to this bay. INSERT HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF!
Now, things were getting interesting. I felt a great sense of relief knowing I would be able to continue on in the right direction and not have to go all the way back, but I also was very very excited. There looked like there was more than just one way out! Now the fun began!
A ways up the bay from the waterfall, were some very small rapids. I decided I wanted to see where they led and even if I couldn’t get out to the channel from there, I knew I could just come back and do a lift over at the waterfalls I’d just passed. I first attempted to paddle up the rapids, but I got pushed back quickly. I then decided I would line the kayak or just walk through the rapids and pull it through.
I did a bit of both and got through fairly easily. The only issue now was that I had no idea what was up ahead? I could hear water rushing and I could see a long passageway with high rock walls on either side. What was ahead was to be discovered and my strokes decreased and slowed down as I approached in anticipation.
I paddled on through the rocks and held my breath, so excited to see what I couldn’t from where I was. This is my favorite part of what I do, exploring new areas and not knowing what I’ll see. Would I be rewarded, or let down?
Rewarded it was!!! I exited the passageway and entered an area with four waterfalls! Not just one or two, but four of them!!! They were all small and super cute and I was elated that I’d attempted this route and didn’t go the way everyone else does, or even just opt out at the first waterfall I saw and miss all this. What a total treat!!!
I quickly got out of my kayak and tied it up securely, then headed off to check out the area. There were actually four different ways I could get to the Western Channel from where I was (having moved past the Old Voyageur Channel now I think?). I could go up the waterfall to my right and down a shallow creek, I could unload the kayak and portage it about 50 metres to the other side. I could lift over the kayak and carry it about 20 metres down a rock trail which eventually filled with water, or, I could unload the kayak and hike over some jagged rocks and around the corner from the biggest waterfall and put in on a slope there. So many options and I was delighted I had them and wasn’t faced with the reality of having to go all the way back from where I’d come. What a great turn of events!
Feeling super lucky and knowing my location was prime for catching a fish, I cast into the centre area where all the falls met. I was instantly rewarded with a bass on my line! How awesome was that? I had been trying to catch a fish for quite some time and had caught 6 last weekend on my day trip with Paddling Adventures Radio, but they were all super small. This fish wasn’t big enough to keep, but it was at least not a puny little fish and I was ecstatic it was on my line!!! I took it off and sent it back into the churning water, hoping to catch it’s big brother or sister, but after about 45 minutes, I’d decided it was time to move on. I went for a quick swim and then transported my kayak and it’s contents to the left, beside the largest waterfall and onto the steepest route, which was also the shortest.
Cooled down by the refreshing water, I entered the Western Channel. It was about 1230 and I still had quite a bit of paddling to do to get to where I wanted to be. Stopping along the way though , was totally worth it and I was so glad once again that I took a risk and tried a new route!
The black clouds once again rolled in during my paddle up the Western Channel. I had gotten a brief signal last night and had checked the forecast which promised a sunny hot day today without precipitation. I should know better than to believe the weather forecast, but I still hoped they were right. I continued paddling, anxious to get another nice site tonight and worried they may all already be taken.
As I was in a bit of a rush at this point, I didn’t stop for lunch. Instead, I pulled my food from my day hatch which was easily accessible from where I was sitting and took out a wrap and some salami I’d gotten from Stephens Butcher Shop in Port Carling. It looked delicious and it was. I ate the wrap while paddling and didn’t miss a beat. I was low on water though, so I stopped at a site that was still empty and checked it out while I was there. It was an island and was busy with fisherman in speedboats all around it. I went up to the main area and couldn’t find any flat spots for my tent and wasn’t super impressed with the site, so I decided to continue on.
Messaging with Kevin last night, he’d suggested I paddle up to Dispute Island so I wouldn’t have a huge paddling day on my last day. I had intended to do so but then the sky darkened even more and shortly after, it started to thunder. It had been forecast my first day, but never happened. I thought I would hear and see lightening yesterday on the bay, but did not. But now, totally unexpected and unforecast, here it was!
It just so happened to start thundering as I came up to another site, one I had not planned on taking. Approaching Crombie Bay, there were two sites, one on each corner. The one on the left corner, was not visible from where I was and there was also a speedboat with 3 men in it sitting right in front of where I assumed the site was. The site on the right, was up on a huge cliff and from what I could see, appeared to be open. I thought for a moment about when I arrived at the marina and Sherry showed me the map. She said that if I come this way (as I was originally going to head this way and do the loop in the proper direction, opposite to what I was doing today) I needed to get past Crombie Bay as all the sites would probably be taken before there and that was the busiest area. This was the last site by Crombie Bay and I had wanted to continue on past it to see if any others were open, but the thunder told me I was doing something different. I was basically forced to get out of my kayak and off the water immediately. I tied my Delta up to a rock and headed up the steep hill to check out the site.
It was perfect. It had an amazing view and not only that, but there was a privy. I was sold. I unloaded my kayak and put everything under a large evergreen tree that gave me lots of shelter, which was good, because just a few minutes later, it started to pour. This was accompanied by thunder and lightening and I was so very grateful the thunder made me stop here in the first place. I would most likely be out on the water in this dangerous weather looking for a place to stop and most likely not finding an empty site. This was confirmed several times afterwards by 3 different sets of people coming by to ask if I was staying on the site. That’s when I counted my blessings.
I sat under the tree’s shelter for quite some time, exhausted from my very long day and recounting the events of it. Loosing the Go Pro to the bay, diving to try and find it before most people had had their morning coffee, the anxiety and uncertainty of the days paddle, not knowing if I’d be able to get through to the channel and then the extreme beauty of the area I discovered complete with waterfalls and a fish. It was an awesome ride! After a bit I mustered some energy and set up my tarp. It wasn’t raining hard any more, but it was finally started to drip through the tree branches. Of course, once set up, the rain stopped completely, but isn’t that always the way?
Eventually I got moving again and set up my tent. It was now just after 4pm and I had a few hours before dinnertime. I still had time to catch an edible fish for dinner and even though I didn’t want to leave the spot I was so comfortably sitting in, I forced myself to head to the water and check out the fishing spot I had now seen 3 different boats sitting at, just across from my site.
The water was very wavy and the wind had picked up again. I let the lure drop right down to the bottom and it looked like it was really deep here. Unfortunately, I didn’t get even the slightest bite or nibble and by 6pm I called it quits. I did want to catch and clean and eat a fish, but it wasn’t happening today and I was totally okay with that at this point. It was an incredible day and I was grateful for every moment and not catching a fish didn’t ruin it in the least. I headed back to site to make up my dinner for the evening and relax a bit, something I desperately needed right now.
I sat under my cute little tarp sheltered area and cooked my meal, even though the rain had stopped and the sun was now shining. I had brought dehydrated morel mushrooms, asparagus and angel hair pasta. I rehydrated the morels and asparagus and then cooked the pasta. I then sauteed the mushrooms and asparagus in butter and olive oil and mixed it with the pasta afterwards. It was delicious and I sat staring at my beautiful view while I hungrily ate my yummy meal.
I cleaned up and then got the fire going with the wood I’d been collecting since I’d arrived. The sun was going down and I seemed to be in the best spot on the lake to witness it. I was very grateful for that because I didn’t have the energy or the drive to head back out in the kayak to get photos, instead the sunset came to me. Thank you Mother Nature!
What an amazing sight! I was in awe of the beauty I was presented with and just sat by my lovely fire and enjoyed every minute of it, recounting the journey I’d experienced so far. I was incredibly grateful.
I sat by the fire until the witching hour when the bugs got surprisingly bad. I was up on a high cliff but the wind was no where in sight. I took the fly off my tent and as it was close to the firepit, stoked up the fire and then sat inside the security of my screens listening to the bugs buzzing at me angrily not able to reach me while I still enjoyed the view and my fire.
Shortly after seeking shelter in my tent, I headed to sleep. It had been a long day and I was very tired from the past few days activities and the minimal amount of sleep I’d had. On to day 4, the last day of my adventure. What would it bring me?
After I touched base with the world, got an updated weather forecast and texted my mom, I went back to bed for a bit. I had been go go go since I started this trip and I could use a bit more sleep. Plus, I was chilly and a little damp from being out on the cliff in the misty rain (getting a signal). The weather forecast said it was going to clear up today and be sunny in a few hours and I had time to wait for that, so I snuggled back up in my sleeping bag and stayed there til about 8:30.
I was still chilly when I got up so I used my emergency oatmeal. I normally don’t eat oatmeal as I have colitis and it is very fiberous, but my issues were in check at the moment and I didn’t think it would cause too many problems. I had some dehydrated apple slices left that I used as snacks and put some in there as well, as the oatmeal was apple and cinnamon flavored. I had a nice cup of hot chocolate and soon warmed up quite a bit. I changed into my day clothes, packed up my tent and all my stuff and was ready to hit the water around 10:30. It had not cleared up at all and was still gloomy, but such is life.
I packed up my kayak and while doing so the sky lightened up a bit. There were 3 men fishing in a speedboat just near my site and I asked them how they were making out, once I’d finished packing the kayak. They said they had only caught a few very small fish and nothing major so I decided I would skip the fishing and just start making my way out.
That plan didn’t last very long. I checked the map and just a ways from my site was a little bay. There were 2 campsites there and I had wanted to try and get one of them yesterday, but due to the thunder, I never made it there. I noticed also, that there was a huge rock wall there and a small stream behind the rock. I thought it looked like it would be a great place to catch fish. It couldn’t hurt to try.
I cast a few and got a couple nibbles, but nothing major. I had a fake worm on with a jig and was dropping the line to the bottom and letting it sit there. It was definitely very deep here. I paddled up a bit towards the area behind the rock wall where there was small creek that was very shallow, full of weeds and then looked like the water disappeared and turned into grasses. Another great place to fish, I thought.
I got a few more nibbles and even almost hooked a fish. I saw it jump in the air and off my line and knew I was so close! If only!!!
I switched up the lure and put on the Mepps Black Fury that Sean from Paddling Adventures Radio had given me. First cast and BAM! There was a fish on my line!! NO FRIGGING WAY!!! OMG! Now what? I’d never landed a fish in my kayak before. I reeled it in right next to the boat and then pulled it in and onto my lap, more or less.
Just then, the line broke and there was the fish, lying in the bottom of my kayak! HOLY CRAP! I was freaking out! I took a photo and a video of course! Then went to my fishing bag and got out a piece of rope I kept just in case I actually caught a fish. I got the pliers out to remove the lure and then carefully reached in and picked up the fish. OMG! The lure was gone and this fish had teeth! Good thing I didn’t try and pick it up the way Kevin showed me by the lower lip huh? LOL
I waited until the fish tried to breath and it’s gills opened wide and put the rope through and up and out of it’s mouth. Then I tied like 4 knots to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. Before grabbing the fish, I’d tied the rope to the kayak so after that I took a photo and then put him back into the water.
I’d originally planned to try and catch another, but my line was a mess and the lure was gone and it was getting time for me to start making my way back to the marina. It was just before noon and I had about 14 km’s or so to paddle so I headed to shore to clean my lunch! YAY!!!!!
I knew it was either a pike or a pickerel. I was leaning towards pike but I’d left my fish identifying diagram at home and I still had no internet, so I could only guess. I bonked it on the head as it wouldn’t stop flopping around and then started to clean it. It was actually a bit hard to remember how to do it. I had only cleaned 3 fish before, all at the same time on Canada Day weekend and I had someone instructing me the entire time.
I did my best and when I got it open, realized it was the fish with the extra Y bones in the middle. A pike for sure. I got as many of the bones out as I could and think I did a great job! Just as I finished, it started raining again, so I relocated the cooking portion to under a tree nearby which worked out fabulously.
First I rinsed off the fish in the lake and then put it in a big ziploc and poured the fish crisp I’d brought into the bigger bag. I tossed the fish around in there and coated each piece and then fried them in hot oil with some lemon balm I’d brought from our herb garden at home. It didn’t take very long to cook and my mouth was watering, waiting to have my shore lunch I’d been dying to have for a long time now.
I sat eating and the sun came back out. I was so so so happy and I probably looked like a little kid, feet waving back and forth, munching on my fish. It was so good and I ate every single little bite. HOW AWESOME WAS THIS?
As all good things must come to an end, so did my lunch. I cleaned up, packed the few items I’d taken out of my kayak back into it and headed off towards the marina. It was around 1pm and I estimated it would take me about 3 hours of paddling to get back. I was going against the current and had a bit of wind, but the sun managed to stay out for most of the trip. As I had a lot of paddling to do, I only took a few photos and continued paddling. My arms were tired, I was tired and I was ready to be back at the dock.
At exactly 4pm I pulled in to Hartley Bay Marina. It was surprisingly not super busy, but that changed very quickly once I’d landed.
I asked for my car to be brought over but had it put in the upper parking lot and carried my kayak there. That way I was out of the chaos that was on it’s way in and would be able to get out quickly. I unloaded my kayak and soon it was back on my car with all its contents safely inside my vehicle.
I paid my parking fees and changed into my driving clothes that I’d kept in the car. I noticed a hot dog stand on the way by and purchased a hot dog and some cold water for the 2 hour drive home.
And that was that. My French River trip had ended. I was happy and I was sad and I wished I was still out there. Sadly, it was time for me to get back to reality and work and electricity and a cell signal.
I really enjoyed my time on the French River and especially on Georgian Bay, which was something I already had known I would. I did not really enjoy the speedboats, but for the most part, I was alone even though the sites were all taken and it was a long weekend. With good things, always comes bad things as well and in this case, the good far outweighed the bad.
I hope you enjoyed my post and will check out my videos on this trip. They are pretty neat and have lots of great views of the scenery as I paddled along from place to place. Part 2 of 2 will be up later this week but you can check out part one by clicking the link here.
Here are my stats for the trip if you are interested:
Thanks for checking out my post and please stay tuned for some great upcoming adventures including a 4 day trip to Killarney and another 4 day solo trip!