Day 76 July 17th
After leaving Minaki we had to paddle close to the Lake of the Woods. We were invited for the night at Lisa White’s place who had been following our journey for a few weeks now. Following the advice of people from Minaki and from members of Les Chemins de l’or bleu we decided to make a short portage that allowed us to skip a section of River with lots of current. The portage brought us to a narrow calm arm of the Winnipeg River and we reach Lisa’s house early in the evening. We received a warm welcome from Lisa and her family and Mali enjoyed playing a few games with Genevieve their 8 year old granddaughter. After eating delicious hamburgers and a blueberry pie they offered us to sleep in their camper as there are heavy showers forecasted for the night. We gladly accept and go to bed happy that are journey is back on track.
We wake up earlier but as its pouring rain outside we take our time and sleep in a bit. The skies eventually clear up and after a quick breakfast with our great host we are back on the water, direction Kenora and Lake of the Woods. That morning we get a good warm up as there are numerous sections of very strong current that we needed to paddle upstream in. After a very short portage and a few paddle strokes we reach Kenora just in time to avoid another strong rain shower and crazy winds. We stop at the grocery store which has a boat parking and resupply on fresh goods. We also purchase a new GPS in town as our previous GPS decided to die just as we got on the Lake of the Woods, the lake with a million islands… However even with our new GPS we didn’t manage to find topo maps for the device and the following section was where we were counting to us the GPS the most. At least we have a compass and good printed topo maps to help us find our way. We find a nice little campground in town and spend the night.
The next day I wake up early convinced that I could find topo maps online since we have an internet access at the campground. I manage to find a good topo maps for the boundary water section but that is still two weeks away. We have to wait until Fort Frances where a store has topo maps on micro-sim cards to get topo maps for our GPS. I nonetheless feel confident with our compass and paper maps. Despite the windy day we decide to hit the water confident that we can manage to find shelter behind the numerous islands. We met some very nice people on a small island and they even found us later that day with their motor boat to make sure we were ok in the big waves. We had a few exposed sections but for the most part we managed to stay sheltered. We get off the water at one point to avoid a crazy storm and find refuge at someones cabin in French Narrows a small community. We catch the end of the storm that was now in our back and take advantage of the wind with great sail. We quickly reached a sheltered bay were we meet David and Mary Apps who invite us to spend the night on their property. We spend a great evening sharing stories and Dr David Apps even gave Magali some medication for her ear that has been hurting for a few days now.
The next morning after a breakfast in great company we continue our journey. We still have a good tail wind that followed us all day. We continue to find our way between the many islands and we managed never to take a wrong turn. However I have to spend a lot more time looking at the maps and my compass. We avoid another big storm and stopped a few moments; built a quick shelter and stayed dry. We also took advantage of this break to have lunch on land which doesn’t happen very often. We eventually find a nice place to camp after looking for a few hours, most nice spots all had cabins making it harder to find a place to camp. As we set up camp Mali get stung by 4 wasps (on a finger, his arm and on his back) that were hidden in a ground nest. We monitor him closely during the evening but his symptoms diminish quickly. We enjoy a beautiful sunset and a nice moon and go to bed early.
Day 80 July 21st
The next morning we take advantage of the nice camping spot and we take a nice swim (just Mali and I). The water is so clear that it’s hard for Mali and I to resist jumping in it. We then give a call to some media’s with whom we had phone meetings to give them updates. We then leave our site and paddle a few hours to reach our next portage. After paddling through a sea of water lily, we eventually reach the portage that will allow us to reach the next lake. As we are snaking before the portage Mali and I witness a hummingbird that flies extremely close to us. We eventually make our 5km portage and reach Lake Kakagi another lake with extremely clear water. We find another beautiful campsite with a nice rock off of which we can jump to swim. We are surprised to still have cell reception and take the time to call friends and family to give them an updates.
We take another easy morning and are starting to enjoy the more relaxed beat of the past few days. We decide to have a short day and take advantage of the beautiful weather and the amazing lake we are on. We have another swim from our campsite and slowly head out with goal to just reach the other end of the lake. We stop for lunch and Mali events tries to swim a bit without his life jacket (under close supervision obviously). We have fun diving from the canoe! We also see many loons that day and are amazed by their majestic voices. We finally reach the end of the lake were we will be portaging the next day and find a nice spot on an beautiful island with pine trees. We enjoy a great meal with a VIP view on the sunset and two loons courting each other. We hear some strong noises in the forest nearby but noting came close to our campsite. We go to bed early as the next day will be a big day of portaging.
Day 82 July 23rd
This day is going to be a challenging one. We have many portages with potentially no trails. The first one is just a small beaver dam we have to get over. For Magali and Mali it was a first and Mali walked on it and explored it and he was very impressed. We are very surprised that most of the portages we had that day had very well maintained trails, except the last one. When we got at portages I would take a bag and some gear and quickly scout and find the next lake.
Day 83 July 24th
The next morning I contemplate the huge cedar tree under which we spent the night and I can honestly say I think it’s one of the largest cedars I have seen in my life. We have a beautiful morning and after the fog clears away we start paddling again. We meet a few fishermen but quickly get the feeling that we are bothering them so we quickly pass by quietly. We eventually reach another portage with a beautifully maintained trail and we reach the Loon Haunt Lake were we find a beautiful campsite. We try to fish but have no luck so we eat are planned meal and the mosquitos send us to bed early.
I wake up before everyone and enjoy the calm and quiet to catch up on writing my journal. Once the rest of the family gets up we have breakfast and leave to reach our second resupply near Fort Frances. On our first portage of the day the trail is blocked by a scary looking snapping turtle that doesn’t want to let us go by. We eventually scare it off the trail and continue our portage. Late that day we get a small section of downstream paddling (Jack fish rapids) which felt so good. It had been over a month since we had paddled downstream and it felt very good even if it was only for a few meters! We reach the end of the Lake were we spend the night at a campground by the road and meet great people from the USA that offer us a cold drink and some company. We spend a great evening sharing stories. We go to bed very excited because the next day we will receive the visit from Mike Ranta a famous cross-canada paddler!
We wake up and start preparing for Mike’s arrival. Mike accepted to drive the 2 hours from Atikokan Ontario to meet us there and drive us into town so we could get our special permit at the US custom in Fort Frances. This permit will allow us to cross the Canada-US border remotely without going through customs. Are visit at the custom go smoothly and we also stop at a store to get the topo map for our GPS. However once at the store we realise it’s not really what we though and we decide to just keep going with what we had. We also make a quick stop at the grocery store to get some fresh goods. We take Mike out for lunch to thank him for his help and he drives us back to where he met us and we try to find a place to camp before heading out on Rainy Lake. However the campgrounds are full because of a big fishing tournament and we can’t find anyone willing to let us just camp on their lawn… Mike couldn’t believe it… We eventually find a boat launch and say farewell to our good friend Mike. We decided to find a spot a bit further on the lake despite the late time of day but just as we are about to leave a pontoon arrives at the launch. We talk a bit with them and they quickly offer us to stay at their place just beside the boat launch. Richard and his family invite us over for super and we spend a great evening in their company. They could not stay late due to other engagements but left us the access to their main floor with kitchen and bathrooms and power! We recharge all our electronics reorganize all our food and we get ready to leave for the rest of our adventure the next day.