After a somewhat ruff night we wake up happy we don’t have to paddle on Lake Manitoba this morning. We slowly pack up camp and we get ready to paddle up the diversion canal of the Assiniboine River. We leave with a steady wind in our back and make it easily upstream without paddling thanks to our awesome sail. I don’t think I can that sentence enough we really love our sail!!! The channel is sometimes so narrow that we can touch both sides at the same time and sometimes so shallow that we need to walk our boat in the water… When we get to the first portage of the channel we meet up with Radja a journalist from Radio-Canada there to film us a bit and interview us. We spend lots of time chatting with him before pushing forward upstream. Our canoe cart will help us all day even in some harder sections and we are really impressed with him. I think that is when we decided to name our canoe cart Rambo! We make it to the Assiniboine River by 10pm have supper quickly and then bed time. We are so happy to be paddling downstream for the next few days and happy to make it in Winnipeg for our next resupply.
After a very restful night we let Mali sleep in while we repack and organize the boat which we had left right on the canoe cart at the end of the days the night before. We have a relax breakfast and start paddling around 9am so happy to be on a River. The shore of the Assiniboine River has lots of new tree species that we haven’t seen before and we are surprised with how different the forest seems. We enjoy all the bends this river has to offer as it shelters us from the strong winds present that day. These same bends however make our progression towards Winnipeg a lot longer than anticipated. We nonetheless embrace our new river and push forward. We paddle until late in the evening just after we got suspicious clouds, winds and rain which worried Magali a lot. Everything eventually settles down and we set up camp quickly as the mosquitos are out that evening. One more day and we should reach Winnipeg.
Happy Saint Jean Baptiste!!! This should have been our first tough that day but I woke up caressing my sons hair and found a big lump on his scull… After closer inspection it is a huge bloated tick. We remove it, keep it for further testing if needed and clean by son’s wound. We start looking online and calling Manitoba health line as we are in cell reception. We quicly realise it just a wood tick which should not contract Lime disease but we plan on visiting a clinic in Winnipeg just to be safe. My father lets me know that the antibiotics we have for Mali are the ones use to treat lime disease if needs be, we are somewhat relieved. Later that day we hear lots of tunder storms and notice there is a tornado alert for nearby… We start paddling faster towards Winnipeg which should have nicer weather for that evening. We make it at the forks fairly early and meet up with some journalist there. We then head towards our resupply location but can’t make it before a torrential downpour accompanied by some hail. We manage to escape the hail by hiding under a bridge but doing so we displaced guesses that were hiding as well. The bridge we were hiding under was literally 200m away from Mirlene’s neighbor where we were stopping for a few days. We ended up staying at her neighbors place since Mirlene had a water leak in her basement were we were supposed to stay. We had met Mirlene through another cross Canada paddling family (Geoff Macdonald, ) who had contacted us to share information and contacts along our route. Mirlene is Geoff aunt. Due to the current circumstance John and Annette welcome us without a hesitation and we ended up staying longer than expected and made new friends.
We spent the night in John and Annette basement after spending the previous evening drinking John’s Rum and coke and chatting about our trip with our host late into the night. After a delicious breakfast cooked by John, Mirlene picks us up and drives us to a store were we buy a new fishing rode since I broke our previous one on our last day on Lake Manitoba. We also go at MEC to exchange some of our gear which we had issues with such as our tent, our GPS and our water Jug. We also purchase new chairs since we are tired of sitting on the ground every evening. Before heading back at John’s place we stop to get a few cheeses and bread to eat with the delicious pork chops John had prepared for us. Annette discovers one of our favorite cheese the Boursin and we will think of her every time we eat the cheese onwards. During supper we realise how well Johns knows Lake Winnipeg and we are happy to learn more about this lake through his many own personal stories. We once again go to bed late not seeing the time fly by in such great company.
Day 55 June 26th
I get up early to do a couple phone interviews with CBC Saskatchewan and we also visit the Radio Canada studios for another radio interview in Saint-boniface the second largest French community of Canada we learned. We end up not going to the clinic thinking we already have the antibiotics and we are sure it was a wood tick. We invite John for breakfast at a nice little place he goes often. We head back out to try and reorganize our stuff. I also visit Mirlenes since she had mentioned that her plugged gutters are what caused the leak to occur and I had offered to clean them out for her. Once I’m back at Johns place I realise that our new GPS won’t have the images I had download on the previous one and thus we go back and get our other one which had the fog in the screen but at least it has our information. Lost lots of time and energy on the new GPS for nothing in the end. I go to bed frustrated but tomorrow will be another day!
I get up before the rest of the family and work on our blog for a while. As you might have noticed we are strugulling to keep it up to date. I’m writing these lines on day 110th of the trip almost two months later. This is when our daily handwritten notes come in handy. This is our last day with John and Annette and we still need to reorganize all our food and do our groceries. We also decide to buy a new paddle for myself as my hands are still very painful in the morning. We reinflate our canoe cart tires and a few minutes after that BOOMMMMM!!! One of the tire expodes and destroys the plastic rim in the process!!! NOOOOOOOOO, I’m freaking out and John as well since he had insisted we inflate them with his pressurised pump and now felt very bad. We had forgotten about the sticker on the box that said not to inflate the tire to 25psi as indicated on the tire itself but only to 15psi. We call western canoeing and Kayaking and they fix our issue in two minutes by finding us a location were we could get a replacement tire. Both John and I are relieved and happy to have solved the issue so quickly. We finish our shopping, eat supper with our great host one last time and try to fisnish the blog late in the evening.
We wake up early hoping to be on the water around 9am. We have one last of John’s delicious breakfast and I start packing the boat while Magali finishes her blog post. We end up on the water around 11h30 and by 12 as I was thinking about my delicious sandwich I will have for lunch realise that we left all our fresh groceries at John and Annettes place. John offers to meet us further down on the river to bring our groceries and we are so happy. We are now on the Red River a highway of moter boats with very nasty water… We eventually reach the lock at Lockport and enjoy the experience. At the exit there are tonsof boat waiting to go upstream and they seem surprised to see a canoe exiting. We keep pushing trying to make it near Lake Winnipeg. Later that day I start getting very hard cramps like I have never had before. They never really go away until a few days later and we assume it is dehydration causing that but now thinking back on the cramps they might have been caused by something else I will only realise I have much later on the trip… We finally stop for the night at a small campground where Bill and Hellen welcome us. Friends of their daughters are also there with their 6 years old son which turned 7 the next day. Great place to spend the next day since the winds were looking pretty bad.
My stomach still has cramps and this morning my shoulder is starting to hurt as well. When I wake up there is almost no wind by within 30 minutes the winds pick up drastically. We decide to spend the day with our new friends and really enjoyed that decision. Mali and Kenyon play all day together both very happy to have a buddy since they are the only two kids around. We even have a hot tub as well as cake and ice cream since its Kenyon’s birthday. Everyone is happy. Bill even drives me to Canadian tire tp purchase our new Jug since our new one already pierced… We fish a bit later, catch a few small catfishes and have another evening in great company. We go the bed feeling very luck to have met such great people in this great location.
Today good weather forcasted for our first day on Lake Winnipeg. We try to get an early start but realise that one of our mattress has a whole in it and thus need a new one shipped to us at our next resupply…in 14 days… Bill knows someone half way to our resupply in Pinawa but the package can’t make it there in time for when we will be there. We thus take off in nice weather and have the opportunity to see a hydroplane take off and land multiple time near us, sometimes a bit to near to us! Mali is very impressed and it makes him forget the sad moment when we had to leave his new friend Kenyon. Just after that we reach Lake Winnipeg. Wow, what a lake. We are very happy that it seems so calm in this beautiful day. The winds slowly increased by the time we reach Patricia beach and we stop quickly for a break and some family fun. We paddle out a bit further trying to reach Grand Marais. We get a taste of small winds on Lake Winnipeg but we quickly find shelter behind nearby islands. We find a beautiful beach were we spend the night although we feel very exposed with such a massive Lake beside us. The weather forecast looks great and thus we decide to enjoy this beautiful location despite the exposure. A decision that this time we did not regret.
Today since the weather is nice we will try to get off Lake Winnipeg. We even get a bit of wind in our back in the morning. We pass Grand Beach which looks amazing but we have to move if we want to get off the lake today. However early in the afternoon my cramps start again and Magali starts a very bad headache. We decide to stop at Victoria beach and while Magali take a 2hour nap in the shade me and Mali play and make new friends. We meet Shaun and his brother son’s of a RCMP agent in vacation with his family. I show him our canoe and chat about our trip so far. He tells me a bit about where we are going since he has worked near the Winnipeg River before. When Magali wakes up we have a quick bite and leave . We make it to Albert Beach supposidely the French beach of Lake Manitoba although the only Frenchman we met was the one who told us that fact. I get to see some fireworks beside a nice moon and go to bed tired but happy to be almost done big lakes for a while.
Mali wakes up hopping there are still fireworks. I tried to wake him up the night before but we was out cold. We wake up once again with smoky clouds with a Red Sun. The smoke from the fires in Saskatchewan are masking the sun. We have lunch on Jack fish point before saying good bye to Lake Winnipeg and Hello to the Winnipeg River. The change of scenery is abrupt. The moment we started the Winnipeg River we knew we had reached the Canadian shield and we were very happy about it. We pass fort Alexander and we see an old fort most likely one of the earlier fort to have occurred around here. The current is fairly easy to paddle up at least for now. We line our boat for the first time up some decent rapids and our boat even did a semi controlled 180 in of them. We reach Pine falls were I do an interview on skype with CTV Edmonton and we sleep on the other side of the portage were tons of ticks are waiting for us…
After our morning tick check up I go to the nearest gas station to get more bug spray which helps avoiding the ticks. When I get back we pack all our stuff quickly and have breakfast on the water. We will notice lots of thick that day most likely from that site… We portage Silver falls on the property of a nice man who even offers us some nice cold treats. Before we reach White mud falls we get offers from 2 differents peoples to stop for a cold refreshment and rest but we really want to make it to Lac Dubonnet today so we have to decline and keep pushing in this nice weather. The second man recommends we portage just left of Whitemud falls which we did. Easy portage on flat rocks and we even had a quick swim in small rapids at the top. We portage great falls by the right and we reach the main road by going up the property of two very nice ladies one who had pplenty of kids over at her house. They even help us bring our canoe and gear up to the road and wish us good luck on our journey. We get around the dam easily thanks to their advice and then paddle to McArthur falls. This last section was the hardest so far. Many stretches of river had such strong current that we were barely progressing. We had to ferry across the river multiple times to catch eddies and progress upstream. We finally reach McArthur falls quickly portage around it and stop just on the other side for the night around 9h30. At least we still have light for a few hours. Mali loves the sites and runs everywhere while Magali and I are exploded from our strenuous day of paddling and portaging.
Despite the long day yesterday we get up early to avoid the strong winds forecasted. We are happy we did since when the wind started picking up the lifted decent wakes on Lake Dubonnet and decent size lake even if it is no Lake Winnipeg. At this point we decide to take the Lee River route and a 17km portage to avoid 70-80 km of upstream paddling and 3 dams. As we are paddling towards the Lee River a few people wonder were we are going and if we are lost. We let people know about our plan and we receive a message from Annette letting us know that John’s Bother has a cabin on the Lee River. We tell her that would be great but don’t hear back until later and so we move on hopping to find a nice place for the night since massive storms are forecasted for the evening. Later that day Lorn (John’s Brother) and his wife Debbie pulls up to us in their boat and offers to host us for the night. We had planned to take out near Pinawa Bay were Jay a fisherman we had met earlier told us we could stay for the night and Lorn offers to meet us there. We unpack and chat with Jay and Lorn show’s up quickly and in no time we are at there place. They let us unpack our stuff in the garage and offer us cold refreshements and snack. Lorns quickly shows us around his nice dock and boat garage and me and Mali quickly decide to go for a swim. As expected the storm is very violent and started right after supper. Later in the evening the power went off and we spent a great evening chatting with Lorn and his wife Debbie. Another great encounter that makes this trip so special.
We wake up in Lorn and Debbies beautiful cottage and have a delicious breakfast with them. As we are talking about the portage they quickly discourage us of doing it with our canoe cart. The traffic is busy on the road due to construction at the Dam near point Dubois. They also mention that the road has nearly no shoulder and is very windy… They offer to drive us there and thus we decide to take the day easy and drive there only later in the day. Instead of portaging we are going fishing and swimming to Mali great pleasure. Lorn and Debbie are two other great people with whom we had a great time. They eventually drive us to Point Dubois but not before warning us about poison Ivy which is abundant in the area. Lorn know lots about Poison Ivy since Debbie is strongly allergic to it. As they drive us to Point Dubois we realise how narrow the road is and are happy not to be on it with our cart. We put in and head for the nearest campsite. We learn about the different campsite in the Whiteshell provincial park at the campground were we put in. We leave our new friends who wish us fair well. As we are paddling we appreciate how much calmer it is here than on the Lee River which was a zoo of motor boats. We reach are site to find full of poison Ivy everywhere and we set up camp carefully.
We decide to take it easy today and just get to the nice campground near rapids not far from where we are. I wake up first and decide to go fishing. I get the line caught twice, fall in the water trying to untangle the second time… Not a great start to my day. An otter even visit and seems to be bragging that its catching lots of fish ;-) We have breakfast and I take a short nap in the sun. We eventually leave and reach the very nice site near beautiful rapids. We decide to fish and catch a large Northern Pike which will be our supper for the night. This relaxed day feels so good. We got to spend a great time relaxing and enjoying each other and the area we are in. We agree that we need a bit more days like these before we reach Montreal.
We wake up without an alarm and slowly get ready to go. We easily portage around the rapids were we camped and start paddling upstream. We have multiple small rapids in the morning but we are able to paddle up all of them with ease. We also have a good tail wind that propels us upstream quickly. We even surprised a bear munching on the side of the water which was pretty funny. He never saw us coming! Our tail wind eventually becomes a head wind but the current slows down quite a bit. We eventually reach a very nice campsite with lots of nice rocks and a small rapid once again. We had stopped for fishing for lunch and thus had a nice Northern Pike again for supper. We spend a great evening and go to bed happy.
Another late morning since the weather is supposed to be stormy today. The site is also so nice that it would be great for spending the day. My loved ones get up a bit later. I appreciate the quiet moments in the morning when I am alone outside. It allows me to quietly observe and appreciate the beauty of the wilderness we are in. We also realize that we are within 400m of the Ontario border we have cell reception! We give news to our loved ones and update our social media. We get a bit of rain but noting much after all but go in the tent for a little game of cards and a nap. After we go for a swim and for some fishing. Mali fishes for the first time on his own near the site and catches a 14 inch northern pike! He is so happy. By the time I get the camera for a picture he is pulling out a second one but it get unhooked from the line once on the rock and Mali watches it jump back into the water amazed. We had the fish for supper and it was delicious. Later that evening we get in touch with another group of paddlers Les Chemins de L’Or Bleu who are paddling in the opposite direction towards the artic. We will cross path with them in the next week and are trying to coordinate a meeting with them to share stories and tips.
After a rest day we usually try to get an early start and this is one of those days. We are hopping to reach Minaki our next resupply the next day. Early in the day we cross into Ontario and are pretty to have reached near the mid-point of our trip. We line a short rapid in the morning but the rest is pretty easy. We even have a long section with strong tail winds in the afternoon which brings us near the Dam around which we have to portage late in the day. Before we reach the dam however we have to paddle threw a few sections of very strong current which give us a bit of struggle. We portage around the Whitedog dam and reach our campsite for the night late that evening. Another nice spot near a rapid. I’m really liking the Canadian shield so far!!!! At this site there are plenty of blueberries and Mali is in Heaven. He munches on them until supper but he is almost already full.
Once again I get up early not able to sleep in. I stretch and relax by the water as well as write in my journal. When Mali wakes up we go for a little swim in the rapids. I’m like a big kid and just enjoying the nice moving water. We end up leaving around 10h30 and paddle up a few rapids in the morning. We paddle out of cell reception and manage to get it back just in time for a phone interview with a Montreal radio show. We stop for lunch and for a swim as the weather calls for swimming, hot sunny day! Mali gets stung by a wasp or bee and we are happy that he isn’t allergic! We paddle out and reach our next resupply a Cabin called high cliff who’s owned by the family of a coworker of Magali from the Edmonton MEC Store Dylan’s. Dylan’s father is waiting for us and welcomes us in his beautiful cabin like if we were royalty. We spend a great evening in his company and enjoy visiting the cabin originally built in 1907 and with lots of its original furniture. We are happy to spend a few days here and know that it will be hard to leave when the time will come.
We wake up and take a delicious breakfast with David, eggs, bacon and waffles!!! We talk with David some more and learn more about the history of Minaki and the Cabin we are in. We quickly decide to go for a swim of the deck David lets us know that he invited the neighbors over for supper and we are thrilled to meet new people. We spend most of the day doing nothing except organize the meeting with our good friends Mike and Martine as well as with the paddlers from Les Chemins de l’Or Bleu. David is ok to have them all over for a great evening. 8 extra heads in his cabin and David is very happy to host them all. David is very happy to have all these people over and we are very happy to share this special evening with him. But that was the next day. First supper with the neighbors whom arrived just before supper. When they walk up to the door I quickly recognize Denis Reale one of my undergrads teachers from Montreal! What a small world. I surprised that he recognized me despite my very large beard. We spend another great evening in great company something we always enjoy. We organize play dates with Denis and Carolyn daughter Ava who is 8 and also wants company and live just 5 minute walks from Davids cabin.
This day was a very relaxing one. I can’t even recall what we did exactly. We fooled around on the dock, swam, ate and walked around in the woods. The day fly’s by so quickly but it was a nice day. We have another great meal and evening with David someone we enjoying talking with more and more.
After another breakfast Mali and I walk over to the neighbors with David for a play date. We go for a swim and play with water bugs. We are invited for lunch and accept. Denis comes back from fieldwork as he is only partially on vacation while supervising his grad students doing field work on the islands around Minaki. We have lunch and then we hear back from Mike who need a boat ride as his buddy isn’t available as planned. David drives us to town (in the boat since everything is boat access in Minaki) and we meet up with Mike and Martine. We are so happy to meet them especially in this location since this is where Mike grew up. Its like if we got to know Mike even better by having visited this location with him. We are also very happy that Mike will be there for the meeting with Les Chemins de l’Or Bleu as he will be able to help us capture this epic meeting between our two groups. Our paddling friends end up arriving just after 6 in pouring rain. But I welcome them on the dock despite the rain and welcome them to High Cliff. Davids gives them a tour of the cabin and we help them to bring their gear up to the cabin. The evening was amazing, great food great company and so many stories around the table. I finish the evening late in the night exchanging information with Martin and Julien while looking at Maps. Me and Julien also shared stories about the camp Kéno that we both attended many years ago and for a moment it’s like I was back in the day when we stayed up late sharing stories when I was working at that camp.
Our paddling friends decide they have to push forward as they have a tight schedule. We enjoy their company and wish them off from the docks. We only have known them since last night but it already feels like we have known them for ever. We make plans to reconnect once in Montreal and wish them luck on the rest of their trip. After many pictures hugs and last minute stories shared they eventually take off. We say good bye to David who is going back into Winnipeg for work but he is leaving us at his cabin for the next few days. I spend the rest of the day helping a buddy of Mike, Tom, unmount his camper from his pick up and we have supper with his family near Minaki. Another great evening in great company. Great meal, a long game of cards and a dance off party are all part of the evening. We drive back in the dark very impressed with Tom’s ability to find his way in the darkness.
We wake up in the Cabin without David and realise how empty the cabin feels without David. We look at some of the footage we shot since the beginning with Mike as he is helping us with our documentary and then have to say goodbye as Mike and Martine are heading back to Kenora to visit Mikes mother. Ava the neighbors daughter comes by and spends the afternoon with us. Mali enjoys the company and we swim, play hiding seeks and other fun games. We also start reorganizing as we should leave soon. Not the next day due to bad weather but the day after. So we go the bed knowing we have only one last day in this beautiful place.
We wake up just in time for an interview with CBC radio in Sudbury. We continue to prepare our next stretch of the trip. I spend lots of time studying the maps and were we are going we reorganize the food as well as back up all the footage we have shot in the last few weeks. The neighbors stop by to say goodbye. We work late into the night to complete our blog before we leave the next day.
Day 76 July 17th
Finally the time has come that we have to leave Minaki. The weather looks great and we are pretty happy to be back on the water. We feel like we now have wings. We loved our time here but we have gotten used to moving often and it almost feels weird to us to stay put for so long. We organize a few last things before slowly packing our stuff. We end up leaving around 1pm with a long day of paddling ahead but the rest of this tale will be for another day.