Canada Strong Intermediate Trip 2009
Canada with Liquid Adventures, August 16-23, 2009
(The Black, Watertown, NY; The Ottawa, Ontario; The Gatineau and Rouge, Quebec)
by Irene Owsley with help of other trip members
Sunday, August 16
The trip began well (and did end well, by the way) – starting with a week-long parking space negotiated by Nathan at Rockwood Conference Center for left-behind cars, a new LAKS van complete with board in the rear, and an engrossing Sunday NYT crossword puzzle, finished off enroute by Alexina, Anne Nuechterlein, and Anne Kibler (who from now on will be known as Anne and Kibler, respectively). We no sooner hit Frederick, though, than a wrong turn took us off course momentarily (in our back yard, no less!). Whoever was driving got some grief. And it was not the last time, either, for an unplanned detour. But we had crackerjack navigators on the whole and some devoted, competent drivers (Alexina, Gene, and Shane) who shared the burden with Tom, and the rest of us were truly grateful for this.
We made Watertown, NY, by about 5 pm to work out the road kinks at Hole Brothers, a park-and-play spot on the Black River. With a late afternoon glow on the water, a few locals graciously accepted ten boats from out of nowhere into the queue. In true Tom fashion, he made a game of it and began timing everyone’s stay on the wave, holding out a beer as the grand prize. Shane won with a 24-second surf, beating out Carrie in close second at 20 seconds and Alexina a distant third with only 12 seconds (but a successful spin).
After changing in the parking lot by Hole Brothers, we retired to the campsite to set up tents, which encouraged an immediate “fessing up” of those who snore and those who don’t – the snorers creeping off to a far corner of the campsite. Late dinner in Watertown at an Italian restaurant with about half of the world’s supply of fake plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling and quite vividly painted murals of Italian countryside on one side and an electronic keno board on the opposite wall (we got tips from the waitress on how to play, but we had all conveniently left our “gambling cash” at home). Tom promptly disappeared for the whole meal to go shopping, returning for the last five minutes to wolf down his salad before we paid the check.
Monday, August 17
Fresh melon slices and grilled chorizo for breakfast (along with the usual juice, bagels, and oatmeal, of course). The boys got peer-pressured into finishing off the copious amounts of chorizo – tough duty, but they managed. Tom kept the sleepy masses from revolting with a (not so) quick stop at Watertown’s best drive-though coffee joint – Brew-Ha-Ha – and everyone got sufficiently caffeinated. Shane claimed his “longest surf” prize in the form of a milkshake. Made the border crossing in the vicinity of the Thousand Islands with no incident, no undue questioning of Tom, this time, and his youthful exploits. Headed north through lovely rural farmland to Owl Rafting, an outfitter on the Ottawa River with great facilities and hand’s down the most scenic campsite of the trip. We pitched our tents on a wide expanse of manicured lawn dotted with picnic tables, facing the broad, calm Ottawa River. Behind us lay farmland and a newly mown, golden hayfield (complete with loud rumbling farm equipment running well into the night!). Not even Shane’s complaints about how far the campsite was from the parking lot (including a Facebook posting) could dampen our intrepid spirits! A stunning sunset the first evening with some humidity in the air, a crisper evening the next night with the sky awash in stars and the milky way. Spectacular.
We met up with Jake Weiss, our second instructor (and designated rescuer par-excellence) who had driven up separately from Pennsylvania, and quickly brought him into the fold. He immediately became an integral part of our extended paddling family.
By about 3 pm, we put on the river to do just the first rapid, McCoy’s. Was there a little anticipation in the air? Tom had us doing stroke drills and onside-offside rolls like mad as we approached the forested island where we could leave our boats to scout. As soon as we got to the rocky outcrop to view the rapid, the sky let loose with a pelting rain and gusts of wind which blew the rain sideways and lifted the foam off the top of Sattler’s and Phil’s Holes. The heavy rain set the perfect dramatic tone, as we stared wide-eyed at the gaping maws of two of the biggest holes most of us had ever seen … and then shuddered when told of the line squeezed in between the two! We looked at the rapid from the top…..from the bottom…..from the middle….with plenty of pointing and discussion and the beginning, for us, of a new feature-based vocabulary: “Threading the Needle” was only the first of many river identifications and lines that would be seared in our dreams each night.
Jake executed the move flawlessly for us, but Gene was our probe, and he promptly got EATEN. The idea was to line up, cut across the right corner of Sattler’s Hole, and paddle hard towards river left (thereby “threading the needle”) in order to avoid the left edge of Phil’s Hole just below. Well, we saw just how key it was to hit enough of the corner of the upper hole so as not to be swept into Phil’s, because that’s exactly where the force of the current took Gene. He swam for the first and ONLY time on the trip (none of the subsequent rapids ever seemed to trouble him!). By the end of the afternoon, though, most people did the rapid two or three times. It’s situated on a right dogleg in the river so that there are two surfing areas at the bottom, Babyface and Corner Hole. You can carry up and do the whole thing again and again and then paddle some flat water back to your car! It’s super-convenient for all the Ottawa river-rat play boaters, of which there are many – kind of like a super-sized version of paddling out to MD & VA chutes.
There’s another line at McCoy’s without trying to “thread the needle” – you drive straight through the center of Phil’s Hole lining up with a crowning wave above and then take an almost imperceptible small opening in the middle of the hole. Tom led Anne down into this “hero-line” but didn’t quite punch through, and as Anne dropped into the hole she found Tom in mid-surf looking back at her. Now anyone who knows Tom knows he’s a gentleman’s gentleman, so it was no surprise that when he slid over to give Anne the gentler side of the hole, while he got heavily cartwheeled and chomped by Mr. Phil. Anne flipped, flushed and rolled, while Tom “fought the good fight” …. he gave Phil a few good uppercuts, but then his helmet was ripped off by the force (a faulty strap) and afraid of loosing his glasses, he put his hand on his head with one hand and pulled his skirt with the other. We were just happy to see him again, regardless. His helmet was gone, a relic from his Tibet trip, but we rescued the foam liner. When your fearless leader swims the first rapid of the first day, is that a bad omen?
A lesser event of the afternoon was a successful combat roll by Irene after being pulled into the edge of Phil’s – not noteworthy at the time but it would become so later in the week after seeing her roll disappear in the big water. April never quite figured out the line until the next day, shooting through Phil’s two of her three attempts of the rapid and losing everything in her PFD (including camera and sunscreen). But she made her roll every time!
Steak dinner and a complimentary beer (“Steam Whistle” beer – brewed with love from Canada’s crystal clear – if somewhat bug-infested – springwater) at a picnic table alongside the river at Owl Rafting with rhubarb pie a la mode for dessert. Golden light on the water, towering cumulous clouds in the distant sky. A perfect day.
Tuesday, August 18
Our first full day on the Ottawa. Middle channel. McCoy’s again, multiple runs, dodging the huge yellow and blue rafts that seemed to overtake the place amongst all the play boaters. It was a busy place! Anne threaded the needle successfully (Shane and Jeannine also?), everyone else got roll practice after a brush with Phil’s, and Irene swam, blasting a submerged rock with her backside on the way down making it somewhat painful to sit in her boat on her right side for the rest of the trip.
After some (or ALOT of) flat water comes Iron Ring where the river squeezes through a narrow channel and cascades like a slide over about a 10 ft drop in a smooth symmetrical V-shaped tongue with lots of foam and boils at the bottom. It seemed faster but “cleaner” the first day with a higher level, and “beefier” and more fun on the second when the river level was slightly lower. Almost everyone rolled at the bottom, but Shane made the nicest recovery by pushing off the rock wall on river right while he was upside down. Afterwards Irene, April, Kibler, and Anne along with Tom took an alternative channel, called Little Trickle, a creeky, curvey series of small drops. Meanwhile, Alexina and Gene – who had finally worked up their dander to run Iron Ring – and Shane – who ran the drop a second time – followed Jake down their own channel to re-convene for lunch.
We spent a long time surfing and eating lunch in the warm sunshine at Angel’s Kiss, one of our favorite surfing spots of the trip, where Gene and Kibler were noted for their spins (Gene says his was blind luck, Kibler’s a wily veteran’s experienced skillfulness). Jake hand-surfed, side-surfing the wave, doing turns and balancing almost motionless on the foam, generally succeeding in letting the rest of us know that we all had a loooong way to go….
At Butterfly, another surfing wave (named for its wing-like feature that flies into the air?), everyone charged in and worked hard at surfing. The refrain, especially for Anne and Jeannine, was “Don’t flip, don’t flip!” because of their facility to recover easily and propensity to end a session of surfing with a roll, more for fun than anything else. This little saying became our mantra for the rest of the trip. April attacked Butterfly with aplomb, and when she was finally kicked off and rolled up, everyone was cheering. Yes, she claims she was breathing and bracing, even if it was upside down!
Next up was a beautifully picturesque Class V called the Dragon’s Tongue (a single feature of the whole rapid called Garvin’s) that none of us had any business being near. Luckily, a creeky little side drop provided a river left sneak around the nasty business. Tom’s run down was like a slow gambol, controlled as usual. He set himself up (out of his boat) in an eddy halfway down to make sure we made a tricky turn over a small drop next to an undercut rock. All looked hopeful and easy, but the Class V river demons wouldn’t allow us to pass without exacting their toll in bumps, bruises, lost flesh, and general carnage. Carrie and April both ended up putting deep grooves in their helmets on this run and the bow of Carrie’s boat looks like an upturned nose now, from being crunched on the rocks. Jeannine got her roll at the bottom but decided to walk it with April the following day, not liking the experience of the required technical moves in shallow water and exposed rocks.
Irene made it the first day, but in the shallower flow the second day, flipped at the curve and got dragged upside down over the rocks at the bottom. Medics Gene and Tom stopped the bleeding from her thumbs, cleaned and wrapped them with bandaids and duct tape so she was good to go.
We could understand why the rapid “Upper No Name” never got a name …. a bit of fun surfing but not much else. Lower No Name, however, should have been named “Big Fun Bouncy Wave Train Rapid.” It’s a series of big waves, at 4 or 5 feet, with a hole to avoid towards the bottom right. April executed five (yes – count ‘em – One, Two, Three, Four, FIVE) successful combat rolls on this single rapid! It was so much fun that Shane, Gene, Anne and Tom carried up and ran it again.
Then the flat water…. Tom took off ahead to lead us to a rendezvous with the pontoon boat from Owl Rafting, where we were to have an on-board cookout and a cushy ride back to home base at Owl Rafting (and maybe a shower?). Trouble was, we kept paddling, and paddling, and paddling, and then we paddled some more. An occasional riffle, but there wasn’t much help from the mighty Ottawa! Around bends and still no sight of the boat – or anything. Now it was late afternoon, the sky turbulent with ominous gray clouds in one direction, patches of blue sky and billowing white cumulous clouds in another. A hard falling rain shower pocked the surface of the river for just a few minutes and then once through it, we saw the rain illuminated from behind by the low sun. Mist hung around the small islands and in the thick green pine forest along the shore. It was beautiful! Each of us paddled in solo reveries, theorizing the options: we missed the boat, we’ll have to camp out tonight somewhere on the shore, Tom will do one of his marathon runs through the woods and bring back a boat, we’ll have to attain back up river to one of the rafting take-outs, and so on. We were one tired crew….. After maybe an hour of flat water paddling (4 miles?), we saw a large motorized skiff from Owl Rafting, and yes, indeed, the pontoon boat wasn’t too far ahead. Huge relief. The tempo picked up.
We hauled the kayaks on board the barge-like craft, changed on the open deck into dry clothes as discretely as possible, and chowed down on dinner, neither remarkable nor plentiful (no seconds for our starving boys), but heartily appreciated. As the boat approached camp, we spied Jake’s tent lying upside-down on the muddy river bank, having been blown away in the bad weather. That’s the last time he’d probably leave it unstaked….
Back at Owl Rafting, after several denials from the employees, Tom cajoled the owner into a round of beers for the weary warriors (they are “complimentary” there – no liquor license?), as we sat on their deck overlooking the river. It was then we discovered that Jake had taken the van to get a little evening surfing in at McCoy’s/Corner Hole, and much of our gear, clothes, and toiletries went with him, so we had nothing to do but wait for Jake’s after-dark return. Two discussions ensued: (1) what were people’s preferences for paddling the next day, and later, (2) Tom suggested we pick a “controversial” topic and discuss it (we picked health care, and yes, it actually generated some passionate opinions!). While preferences certainly varied on the next day’s paddling options, it was clear we wouldn’t reach consensus. As leader, Tom made the final call, feeling that a quick run of the middle channel of the Ottawa followed by a drive to the Gatineau would be the best choice for Wednesday.
Jake returned finally, and we ragged on him affectionately for absconding with the van and all our gear. He was so apologetic that we had to reassure him that he was still our revered guide/instructor and most favorite happy-go-lucky youth.
Wednesday, August 19
Middle channel again, no scouting of McCoy’s. Some of us found that it looked different from our boats with a slightly lower river level. Anne side-surfed Phil’s unintentionally but came out fine, upright, smiling and unfazed as usual. We adhered to the 3-surf rule per rapid, otherwise our surfing fiends (a majority of the group!) could have spent all day running the river. Iron Ring was noticeably lower, too, and though a bit beefier everyone ran it (except Irene & April) and then carried back up to take the creeky “Little Trickle” side channel down to Angel’s Kiss. Shane got endered in the boils at Butterfly (and the boils at Iron Ring, and the boils at …..). Turns out his favorite places to swim on the trip were in swirling or boily eddy lines, not in the huge holes or big water which he took on with no problem! At Garvin’s, Irene had her cheese-grater run and Jake had to be roped to rescue her paddle wedged underwater amongst the rocks. Shane enjoyed practicing his recently acquired rescue-skills by belaying Jake out there.
The highlight, though, was Tom and Jake’s run of the Dragon’s Tongue, after a thorough scout from a small island at the crest of the falls. Though surrounded by nasty holes, the huge, elevated tongue itself was glassy smooth but ended in a big boof down into a tumult of froth and holes and currents that had to be negotiated at the bottom. Both Tom and Jake cruised it with buttery smoothness, allowing us to Ooooohh and Aaaahh in admiration.
Lunch at the take-out and back on the road north to the Gatineau. Alexina kept Jake company in his Subaru (they quickly became “designated car buddies”) and we slipped into a routine in the van, switching seats occasionally – reading, chatting, snacking, frequently pit stopping, with Shane usually wired up to music or a movie unless he was driving. On this particular afternoon, as Tom was getting some shut-eye, somehow we took a wrong turn. An hour or more later when he woke up, we had already turned around to back-track and had made no forward progress from the moment he had gone to sleep! It was like being in a time-warp, but try as we might, we couldn’t convince him that he had only fallen asleep for 30 seconds. A few of us clamored for an ice-cream break and Jake chowed down on a huge order of poutine (a Quebecois dish of french fries smothered in cheese and gravy). Even with little blips like this, everyone was good-natured (especially Tom!) and the drive was relaxed. We’ll get there when we get there. It was sunny and beautiful driving through the Quebec countryside, northwest of Montreal, to our base near the town of Maniwaki.
Got our tents up before dark at the Bonnet Rouge campsite on a high bluff overlooking the forested Gatineau. Only one other party was in the campground! Tom had a restaurant picked out in Maniwaki but we were turned away at the door due to the late hour and had to settle for a funky little place across the street where it took a long time for the waitress to warm up to this rag-tag group. Luckily for us, she was a bit of a character too, and she didn’t even get upset when Tom “caught” her accidentally charging us 50 cents too much per glass of wine.
Thursday, August 20
Yes, we all shamelessly watched with childish anticipation as Isabel, the proprietress of Bonnet Rouge, gave Tom her customary big welcome hug. A jolly, warm woman with a strong French Canadian accent, she ran shuttle for us and dropped us at the put-in.
The Gatineau felt different – there were no rafts and we saw only three other boaters the entire day! It seemed like a real north country, wild river and maybe the low gray clouds and drizzle contributed to that, but our spirits were up. We all felt blessed to have this beautiful remote natural setting all to ourselves. Lucifer’s was the first rapid which required a thorough scout for the left and middle lines. The infamous “Lucifer’s Anus,” the right center hole was BIG and a wee bit scary. After our runs, Jake surfed it – no problem. Alexina surfed it unintentionally while she tried the middle line, but came out easily, having thrown down some back surfs and spins, then executing her roll as always. The red boat mafia, the tag line for Anne, Gene, and Shane, ran the middle line, while the others followed Tom on the left line. April never let the big water stop her the entire trip. Tom carried back up and led Irene down the river right sneak. This was by far one of the most fun rapids of the trip for the middle-line kids. It was like a big burly carnival ride that was alive underneath you, and it was so good, that we only ran the line once that day to “preserve the experience.”
Next we scouted The Crow from a log jam in the middle of the river. It was the consensus that getting out of our boats and climbing around the logs and river flotsam with water flowing though and flushed-up clouds of what looked like black flies seemed more risky than running the rapid. The “hole you’d never get out of” on river left didn’t look friendly, but the line through the middle was easy and fun. Dance of the Lumberjacks came next, and then we stopped to scout at High Tension, actually named for the wires strung overhead but so aptly designated for the emotions it could elicit. This was a picturesque long rapid with a bit of ”walled-in canyon” feel, and the very famous “High Tension” surf wave, which unfortunately at the current level was less of a wave and more of a hole for us (a hole with a 10 foot high foampile, that is …)
Irene ran probe on this one, following Tom. Turned out they didn’t ferry out high enough and while Tom could make it out into the middle of the current in his long boat to line up, within about 10 seconds Irene knew she wasn’t getting out fast enough in her creek boat to avoid the hole. The powerful current took her right into the meat of it, which seemed to her about two stories high…..needless to say this was followed by a tough swim through chaotic, crashing waves, swirls and boils for quite a distance below. Trouble was, another rapid lurked around the corner….The Wall….and it was only Tom’s brute strength that got them into an eddy on river right (out of sight of the others) before the prospect of swimming ANOTHER rapid. The rest of the crew waited patiently, lightly shivering in the drizzling rain and not able to see what was going on while Jake rescued her boat. All this took a pretty long time and necessitated a hike back through the woods, but it turned out that Irene’s misfortune was simply an admonition to the rest of the group about what NOT to do. So everyone successfully ran it one at a time, as Gene played traffic cop atop a rock pinnacle, affording him views above and below the rapid.
We lunched on the beach in a crook of the river below the rapid. Wonderfully, the clouds rolled back and the sun shone down on us just long enough to eat lunch and pack up, then those clouds rolled back in. During lunch, all of our residual “high tension” was worked out with flying kick and hip toss demos by our tae kwon do master, Shane. Jake and Tom rushed Shane for all they were worth, who deflected their moves and flung them into hip deep water. The play was caught “on film” by Alexina. Boys.
By all accounts, The Wall was fun, where you had to blast through a center hole whose waves crashed in on top of each other. It was intimidating paddling straight into the middle of that churning mess, but if you hit just the right spot it was “soft” and you magically sliced gently through (hitting it in the wrong spot gave you the upside-down shake-n-bake and some roll-practice). Anne and Jeannine made it through without flipping at all. Tom commented it was one of the most fun rapids for him, getting him stoked. The next day when the river was a tiny bit lower, the report was that the blast through the hole didn’t feel as soft. Credit those pointy kendo boats, though – they cut through that water like a hot knife through Canadian butter.
Six Chutes was the last rapid of the day where we took the far right line, followed by a flatwater paddle and a last fun wave train to reach our riverside campsite. While Gene, April and Irene took advantage of some “down time” at the campsite, the rest headed further down river to a surfing wave, some paddling down, and some by parking the van at the take-out and attaining up. The “official report” was that it wasn’t all that easy to get on the wave and involved a fair amount of work to get back to it, but Anne was a champion in her speedy kendo and got’er-dun.
Dinner was at Tom’s choice, La Rabaska in Maniwaki, which, as it turns out had only been open for four days under new management! They were quite happy to see us come back again to try them out and they treated us well. A lightning and thunder storm erupted soon after we returned to our tents, which Anne completely missed as she was off to a deep sleep within minutes. Gene felt the wrath of the skies, as his clothes bag got completely soaked, and his extra clothing was wet and fermenting for the rest of the trip.
Friday, August 21
Can fried breakfast potatoes really taste that good? They can, when the man behind the spatula is Chef McEwan! Jake sliced diced, Tom fried, we ate, all smiled.
The idea was to run our second day on the Gatineau at a faster pace without scouting. Highlights were Kibler’s running the middle line of Lucifer’s and Shane surfing High Tension but swimming in the boils down below, just narrowly making the eddy behind Jake’s boat above The Wall where Irene and Tom landed the day before. At Six Chutes, most everyone wanted to try the far river left line, either boofing a little drop or punching a hole where Carrie did some fine side surfing before succumbing to a swim.
Back in the van, it was another 2-3 hour drive to the Rouge River where we found a campsite, mostly populated by RVs, at the confluence of the Rouge and the Ottawa Rivers. It didn’t QUITE feel like camping on the wrong side of town, but it wasn’t far off, with shirtless sideways-hat-wearing beer drinkers strolling the gravel roads. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad, but just compared unfavorably to our previous campsites which had been fantastic. Luckily, a nice dinner at Stephanie’s across the Ottawa River in Hawkesbury took up most of the evening, so we didn’t have to contend with the mosquitoes and ants at the campsite, although we still hadn’t gotten to our marshmallows and bottle of wine saved for an evening campfire.
Saturday, August 22
Our breakfast menu was augmented by fresh beets, scarfed up for free by Jake and Alexina at a roadside farmstand and roasted over a morning campfire in foil with olive oil. A brilliant red color inside, they were pretty tasty and sweet. Beets for breakfast!
We put on the Rouge and paddled up the river to a rapid whose name we never determined while we waited for Jake and Tom to set shuttle. A local told us it was “The Rapid that Broke Hips and Legs” and seemed to warn us off. But it was a beautiful day, the falls stretched from one side of the river to the other, and we ended up playing there for a couple of hours, finding a line on the last drop on river left after Jake and Tom arrived to set safety, that most everyone carried up and did again and again. It was a great little waterfall boof off of a flake that sent you sailing 6 feet down and rewarded you with that patented BOOF sound. Anne (who went first) and Gene liked it so much that they only ran it once, to again “preserve the experience.” Jeannine, on the other hand, was the record-holder with four runs …. we jokingly called her the waterfall hog. Shane had stayed behind in his playboat at the put-in rather than do an attain in a short boat, thinking we wouldn’t be up there too long. Eventually, Gene went back to get him to join us in the fun.
Shane ran the line easily and then asked Tom if he could do the middle of this part of the falls, about a 6-8 foot drop, where the hole at the bottom was trickier. Rather than getting up enough speed to properly boof it, he landed without enough momentum to drive out of the boily water below, flipped, righted, almost worked himself out, then flipped again, eventually coming out of his boat. Unfortunately the boily hole was much worse than any of us had thought, and he was under for a long time. It was a swim none of us will ever forget, especially Shane, ending with a rope rescue by Tom and Jake. A scary experience for everyone. Regaining our composure took awhile.
The Rouge definitely had a different feel to it than the previous rivers. It was more walled-in, and a bit rockier ….. landing somewhere between the big-water we had just experienced on the Ottawa and the Gatineau, and the narrower rockier rivers like the Yough and Cheat that we knew from back home.
Elizabeth’s Ledge – the first rapid of the normal run – was a fun drop, but was raft central so we didn’t linger long. Next was a series of rapids that we eddy-hopped down leading to Washing Machine where we got out to scout. Tom ran a little science-experiment, deciding to swim the actual Washing Machine hole, to ascertain its true nature, and it was many seconds before he emerged a ways downriver, only commenting that his feet touched a bit along the bottom. Anne and Tom ran it first and were able to negotiate the big wave/holes in the beginning and drive left to get in the eddy (not easy in itself) and get set up for a line down the left side to avoid the Washing Machine hole. A few others successfully did the same, a couple of us swam, and April and Irene walked, along with Carrie who was fighting a bug and feeling feverish unfortunately. Rafts were coming down fast and furiously, rafters were swimming, raft guides were stationed with ropes – it was quite a scene.
After a few lesser rapids – unnamed? – we took out for a carry around the Seven Sisters (a deep gorge with seven waterfalls from which a roar rose up and where the roiling water was only white). Some would say it was the portage from hell, because we had to climb up and back down a series of wooden steps built into the side of the canyon for bridge construction and then climb down a steep, forested and rocky bank to the river. Our men (and Alexina) kindly helped with the boats, Shane taking on the two heaviest over a section with a steep ascent. Everyone pitched in with encouraging words, by carrying extra paddles, and passing boats. We made it, but not without some trepidation on some of the more precipitous spots. Kibler powered ahead just like she does on the water, at first dubious she could do it, and Anne worked through her fear of heights, totally relieved when she finally reached the water’s edge.
As we put back onto the water, the skies opened up, and a torrential rain came down. We had two more fun wave train rapids in the pouring rain, and the high canyon walls, the mist and the limited visibility really made it feel even more remote and adventurous. But just around the next corner we came upon the confluence with the Ottawa, kind of like an emergence from the wilderness into civilization, our tents nestled amongst the RVs directly on river left.
Dinner at another small roadside restaurant, almost empty, where we seemed to mightily confuse the French-speaking waitress but the kitchen gamely prepared our dinners. Jeannine claimed it was the best hamburger of the trip.
At a stop for gas at a Canadian filling station chain, Gene literally bought the shirt off the owner’s back for Tom – a MacEwen t-shirt (which he promptly wore the next day) complete with the company motto, “Local People Serving You.” Maybe not the same spelling, but fun nonetheless.
One of the hardest parts of the day – besides Shane’s swim — was saying good-bye to Jake! His unfailing cheer, boyish energy, seriousness and competence on the river, and attentiveness to all of us were so wonderful, so much appreciated. He took off for some solo surfing on the Lachine, while we headed south to Watertown where we arrived at 1:11 am exactly, according to Alexina. After a few tours of the camp ground, Tom executing skilled reverses with the van and trailer, and figuring out what spots were left by the carnival folk, Gene announced “I’m sleeping here” (pointing to a nice green slope). Kibler, Jeannine and April slept right where they were in the van while the rest of us hastily erected tents in the dark and turned in.
Sunday, August 23
After morning play at Hole Brothers and a stop at Brew-Ha-Ha, we headed home, stymied only by a construction-induced detour. Tom provided on-board entertainment in the form of kayaking movies on his laptop which passed the time well. Yes, Tom, you need to install one of those overhead DVD players! It was 11 pm when we arrived at our parked cars….tired, river-scented, and rumpled – but as enthusiastic as ever for what we accomplished.
Goodbye, Canada ….. counting the days ‘til next year!