After a quick day in The Pas Manitoba we get back on the water relatively rested. Magali was able to see a chiropractor and massage therapist the previous day so we still give her a day off paddling to make sure she is up for the big lakes to come. Our friends Gaetan and Roger have two new friends paddling with them, another Gaetan and Francis. Gaetan #2 is actually a cameraman for Radio Canada and was there for our departure from Edmonton! We still have another two days of paddling with them before we take our separate ways and Mali is happy to have new friends. We thank Terry Hendrickson before leaving for all his help and we are on our way. We spend a great evening talking and sharing stories around the fire. The following day we cross path with a group of 3 canoe going upstream! They left the golf of mexico in January, wow what a journey they are on. The day before Cedar Lake our friends decide to go for it even though we are 3-4 hours of paddling from the lake. We decide to paddle those 3-4 hours and attempt the big Lake the next day. So we spend one last evening together and say goodbye to our friends. The next day since we only have a few hours of paddling we take it easy. Mali and I explore the forest around our campsite, we built a little river on the bank of the river and we play lots. We end up leaving but stop for a bit of fishing in a side stream when the winds become to intense. I catch 2 Walleye and a northern pike that we later eat for supper. We make it to a camp near the mouth of the river and camp there before attempting to cross Cedar Lake.
Since the weather forecast seems good we head out and try to cross Cedar lake in one Day. We wake up around 4h30am but its still raining a bit so we get up a bit more slowly and them head out around 5h30am under uncertain conditions… We paddle against strong winds until around noon and then the lake becomes calm as a mirror. Wow very impressive to be on such a big lake. Tobin Lake was pretty small compared to this one. We make it at the portage around 5-6pm and meet native people who are setting up a camp as they will be working on the shore during the summer building piles of drift wood that they burn during the winter. We set up camp there and chat with them regarding the other end of the portage. They give us valuable insight and offer to help but we are actually looking forward to walking a bit. We get an really unbelievable sunset and go to bed pretty tired of our big day.
We start the portage around 10h30 after meeting our native friends that came back to finish setting their camp up. We then walk and pull our canoe for the 5-6km portage leading to lake Winnipegosis. The end of the portage is a bit more in the bush but we manage to use our great cart in the forest a bit. We make it to Lake Winnipegosis which seems very beautiful and head out trying to find a campsite. Campsites were not a frequent here and we have to sleep on a very narrow peninsula as it’s the only place we can find. The plan seemed good since the weather was calm but we quickly regretted our choice of campsite when the winds picked up later that evening… Once in bed the winds started picking up and I ask Magali «How strongly did you put the tent down» She tells me that we are in sand and that its not very strong…. We get out to solidify the tent but at the same time a strong burst of wind takes it away. The tent literally rolled the tent away with Mali in it!!!!! We jump on the tent before it reaches our fire pit and quickly reassure Mali who got woken up pretty brutally. We set a tarp where we can reset the tent under it and go to bed in a uncomfortable but safer position.
The next day we wake up very tired from the crappy night we have spent but the conditions for paddling are good and we don’t feel like spending another night on this thin peninsula. We paddle for only a short part of the day but seeing very few areas where we could stop to camp. We end up finding a small rocky island very close to the mainland and think we could camp there but that we will set the tent very strongly, which we do. We spend a relax afternoon, I catch a couple Northern Pikes for supper and we go to bed still kind of tired from the day before. In the middle of the night the winds start picking up again. This time our tent and tarp our very solid but the winds are so strong that we are almost scared that the tent could collapse under the wind. On top of that the water levels are rising due to wind tides… So while Magali spend most of the night holding the tent to prevent it from collapsing I was building a stone wall and trench to keep the water from reaching our tent. Another very stressful night although Mali slept through all of this and snored for most of it. The moment we had sunlight we packed our stuff, walked with our boat in the water until it was safer to paddle and eventually made it to a calmer bay nearby. We set up camp and go back to sleep exhausted. We had learned our lessons for the next little while we will always sleep far from shore and sheltered within the trees.
The next day after finally spending a full night of sleep we try to make good distance since the weather is nice. The first little section of paddling brings us some big waves even though the winds are calm, most likely some left over waves from the days before. We paddle for more than 12 hours that day but managed to paddle about 50km. We find a campsite just before a beautiful sunset and after an original selection of spot change the tent further in the bush to make sure we have a calm night of sleep. The next day was another great day for paddling with a good wind in our back we paddle another 50km and our 1 day away from getting of the lake. We have a large bay to cross later in the day and I noticed that Magali is still pretty nervous when we are far from shore. I try to reassure her as much as I can but the main solution is to just paddle and get across as fast as possible. We stop for supper and Mali goes for a little swim. As we leave the Island just after supper we see a bear just a bit further on the Island! That was a close one! We paddle a bit further and reach a nice bay with a few beaches were we decide to set up camp. The forest is full of oaks and there is a nice spot further in the forest for the tent. We set a solid camp as there is supposed to be a big storm the next day for my birthday.
We even catch one a bit sideways that almost flipped us but I managed to pull a strong brace to keep us up straight. I struggle with deciding what to do as all our option are less than optimal… We eventually just paddled straight to shore on a small beach to reassess. Magali is furious, afraid and stressed, she does not want to go back on the water. We have supper and I convince her that spending the night were we are will be far worse than the little struggle we might have getting to the portage. We end up deciding to walk with the canoe in waist deep water by times and just following the shores. We eventually reached an area where we felt comfortable getting back in and we make it to the portage just before sundown happy to be off Lake Winnipegosis for good. We put our tent on the side of a dirt road between two cabins as no one was in either cabins. The owners came back later that evening but we got to speak with them mainly in the morning.
The next morning I let Mali and Magali sleep in a bit while I get the canoe and the rest of the gear ready for the portage. I meet Jerry one of the owners of the cabins by which we camped and we talk about the lake and what it can do. He gives us some water and offers to help us get to lake Manitoba but the road is flat and simple and we are in no rush to get back onto another very large lake. The rest of the family slowly gets up and we start walking across to Lake Manitoba. At the other end of the portage we are welcomed by a bunch of cows that seem very curious. They gather around us and a few bulls let us know they are the boss. We start paddling but the winds slowly start to increase and we decide to stop for the night. A decision we are very happy we made as the wind started becoming very strong and lifting very large waves.
After another windy night we get up early and think for a long time whether or not we want to attempt to get on the windy water. We are still a bit nervous from our close call on Lake Winnipegosis. We finally decide to go and complete our first crossing easily despite our nervous state of mind. We follow shore for most of the day and manage to catch lots of air miles with our sail. At some points the winds pick up so much in our backs that we are litteraly surfing waves with our 17 foot canoes. Normaly I would have been having a blast in such conditions, but in such a remote setting with only one canoe it makes me a bit more nervous. We make it to a beautiful beach by the end of the evening and we spend a great evening with no winds!
As the wind forcast is good with just a little wind in our backs we get up early and start paddling despite our muscles which are still feeling the long day of paddling from the day before. Nonetheless we make good progress that day. We camp far in the forest near a nice beach and end up spend another great night of sleep. We also have cell reception for the first time in almost 3 weeks so we catch up on our emails and social media. We realise that a really nasty storm is forecasted for the next day in the afternoon so we decide to get up early and make it to the narrows before it hits us. So the next morning we get up and race with the scary clouds coming in the distance. We make it just in time to the Narrows were we find shelter in a nice restaurant. We let the storm pass by but the winds however just increased all day and when we tough we could go back out the crazy waves and winds discourage us and we decide to spend the night at the hotel in a room with a hot tub. Our bodies were very happy with that decision I think.
We get up early after a great night of sleep and start paddling south on Lake Manitoba. We noticed lots of cows on a island and wondered how they got there. We later learned that they are barged there in the spring and picked up in the fall. The winds are calm and we paddle all day in easy waters. We noticed lots of birds flying in lines always going in the same direction, like if it was a highway for birds. We are very impressed and even see some of them passing close by, mainly pelicans and cormorants. Around 6-7pm the wind start to increase from the south and we quickly try and find a place to stay. We end up finding a nice little campground the Westshore hideaway rv campground which is owned by Patti a great lady that allowed us to stay on her property for the next two nights as the weather was not looking good for the following day. On our day off Mali and I helped Patti plant a few trees, we had dinner with Patti and Supper with some of her seasonal campers and Mali spent lots of time playing with Patti’s kitten. What a wonderful day and what a wonderful person this Patti. We are sad to say goodbye a day later but we have to progress as weather is nice again.
The next day we paddle for another long stretch and make it to big point. At this point we cannot see the other side of the lake in most directions. Very impressive. We witness the damage that the floods of last year have done on this point as many houses and cabins are severely damaged. We spend the night with Ty and his family and spend a great evening with great people once again. We are amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people we meet. The following day its Father’s Day and for my this special day we want to get off Lake Manitoba. We paddle with little wind until Lynch point where we spend the afternoon at the beach. Mali’s plays with other kids and we meet other great people wanting to help us. Like Laurence who gave us lots of fishing advice and a new fishing net which we had lost earlier on Lake Winnipegosis. We eventually make it to the diversion channel of the Assiniboine and set up camp quicly before the rain hits us. We eventually get only a little bit of rain and go to bed early. We are happy to be done with these big lakes which have been very challenging. We still have good challenges ahead but we are glad this one is over.