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Georgian Bay: French River (Hartley Bay) to Ste. Marie among the Hurons (July 2002)
I have always been fascinated by the history and lost culture of the Huron, the role of the French and missionaries in the last decades of this proud people, the fur trade, and early European explorers. So I decided to canoe the trade route the Huron controlled before the mid 17th century.
Navigation was a little more modern and my compass was invaluable. Also, before leaving, I used mapping software to plot my entire course, zig-zagging through the myriad islands. The plots on the map were a rough guide directing me to the most sheltered routes; I expected I would make a few side trips and diversions. I used an ink-jet printer to produce a set of 1:50,000 scale topographic maps on 8.5"x11" paper, then a second set was colour-photocopied at the local copy shop. Unlike Ink jet ink, photocopy toner does not runs when it gets wet. The photocopied set of maps were then treated with a commercial map waterproofing solution. These were then sealed in plastic sleeves. The ink jet set was kept with my dry clothes and used for making notations once I got to camp. Without the mapping software, I would have required eight full size topographic maps or the equivalent naval charts.
After completing a 4-day French River loop trip with my cousin John, I dropped him off at Hartley Bay Marina and he drove my car back to Toronto. My sister agreed to pick me up at Ste. Marie among the Hurons at the end of what I expected would be a leisurely two-week solo trip in my Huron Cruiser cedarstrip canoe.
Day 1: French River, The Elbow
Conditions: clear; north breeze.
Paddling time: 4 to 7:15 pm
Dinner: Mac and cheese with ground beef
At 4 pm I parted company with John at Hartley Bay Marina and set out down Wanapitei Bay to the French River Main Outlet. Since there is nowhere to hang food on the islands of Georgian Bay, I brought a 60L blue barrel, weighing 70lbs, to keep the critters out of my food. Needless to say, I decided not to take the Old Voyageur Channel, thus avoiding the short but steep portage at Devils Door rapids. I was able to take advantage of a light north breeze with my sail. Not much wind but it helped.
I arrived at The Elbow at about 7:15. John and I began the day from here - only this time the good south-east campsite was vacant. It was a beautiful evening with few mosquitoes. They came out after sunset and stayed only for a couple of hours. I enjoyed what was to be one of many beautiful sunsets over the next eighteen days.
Day 2: Sand Bay
Conditions: sunny; strong south-west wind; warm in sheltered areas.
Paddling time: 10:30 to 3:30
Dinner: ground beef hash with gravy
All day there was a strong headwind blowing up the Channel. At the Bass Lake portage I used a wheelbarrow someone left at the boardwalk/portage to transport my packs. At 240 metres this was the longest portage I would have to endure, but the wheelbarrow and boardwalk made it easy. The only concern was the recent bear sitings in the area.
Out on Georgian Bay the wind was even stronger. When John and I passed through here the other day, I cached my wanigan at Sand Bay so I wouldn’t have to portage it twice. Crossing the Main Outlet Channel to get to Sand Bay was difficult work with a strong wind coming at me from an angle. The big chop made me very nervous but I managed to creep along by staying in the lee of the islands as much as I could. I was relieved to finally reach the place I cached the wanigan.
Finding the campsite at the point on Sand Bay was not easy. When I finally did find a spot to camp I was sure it was not the ‘official’ campsite indicated on the map. Even so, this island had a fire pit and two places to pitch a tent. I chose a different spot behind some trees to give the tent some shelter from the wind. I have a small tent so it can go practically anywhere.
In the early evening I sat atop this rock island 25 feet above the waves. The view was spectacular! I sat and watched the terns diving and gliding in their acrobatic search for fish. They are the most incredibly agile little flyers. The image of World War II Spitfires came to mind. The terns flew right over my head, as if they were showing off. An eagle then flew overhead too and straight on to shore, about 500 metres distant, and landed in the top branches of a tall dead tree. There were a few seagulls too but they were more interested in fishing than in bothering me. Obviously these were ‘wild’ seagulls, not the annoying ‘french fry scavengers’ I was accustomed to. The eagle watched the tern and seagull activity and looked like he was going to stay but then one of the terns flew acrobatics all around the tree the eagle was perched on. The eagle took off, heading inland, probably annoyed with the terns antics.
I noticed many flying insects clinging to the stunted cedar trees. I supposed they wait in the trees until nightfall in the hope the birds don’t find them. Just as that thought was passing through my head I was happy to see a pudgy little bird picking and pecking in the lower branches of a stunted cedar near my tent. I cheered it on thinking it would reduce the number of mosquito bites for me.
The firepit was built into a natural depression in the rock in order to shield it from the strong winds on these barren rocks. Out here everything seems to be clinging to life. The trees send their roots into the cracks in the rock because there is virtually no soil to provide support. I saw only one other canoe that evening, heading back up the French River Main Channel. I didn’t hear or see any motorboats.
What a beautiful evening. What a beautiful place. Windbound in paradise!
Day 3: Pratt Island
Conditions: clear blue sky; moderate west-south-west wind.
Lunch: beef jerky, dry fruit; Dinner: spaghettini with pesto
Up at 8 am. The sun shone directly into my tent. Good thing because the wind had died down somewhat and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. I was not disappointed! I set off at about 9:30. The waves were not too bad and the sail certainly helped for about 1/3 of my travels. I was glad I brought it. I followed the route I marked on my maps with one small detour after I miscalculated for sideslip due to the wind.
I arrived at Dead Island after noon sometime. I stayed for about an hour. I could see why the natives chose this island as a burial ground. The island was big enough to sustain a small forest which provided shelter for a peaceful pond in the centre. One of the most beautiful scenes I have seen!
Before setting down to eat my lunch, I built a tiny fire and made an offering of tobacco and cedar. I hoped the spirits would protect me on my journey. I would have liked to camp at the pond but it just didn’t seem right as the island was sacred ground. So I paddled another half an hour to Pratt Island.
Pratt Island was my little piece of sea-side paradise (again). There was a small protected cove where I could land, unload, and launch the canoe out of the wind and waves. The island was smooth sculpted rock with a big patch of bush and moss in a depression in the centre of the island. Aside from four or five patches of cedar trees, one maple, and patches of moss with lillies growing out of their centre, this is just another barren rock island with a stunning view! Having stopped paddling early, I enjoyed what remained of the afternoon reading a book and walking around the island.
Day 4: Key Harbour
Conditions: Sunny, occasional cloud; moderate west-south-west wind later becoming strong south-west.
Dinner: Bulk Barn veggie chili mix with added green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and ground beef.
Up at 8 am again. I did some laundry by filling a dry old eddy hole in the rock with water and campsuds. Then I prepared my dried supper veggies for rehydration. About 9 am I took a nap in the tent. When I got up I took my time packing. I spent some time attaching the groundsheet to the four corners of the tent in order to shorten setup time. I went for a dip and wash in the lagoon. It felt good to be clean again. I thought it would be a good idea to be presentable when I arrived at Key Harbour.
Key Harbour is a ‘sleepy’ little coastal community. When I arrived at the store, the door was locked. The sign said 9 am to 6 pm so I called out. A man stuck his head out a window from above and asked what I wanted. "Batteries and film", I said. He said he would be right down. As it turned out, the old fellow was taking a nap after having decided to close early after a busy morning and lunch time.
I left Key Harbour and headed south-west, directly into the wind. It took a long time and hard paddling to fight my way against the wind and waves to an uninhabited island 2-3 kms south-west of Key harbour and directly south of Queenie Island. Another barren rock - less interesting than my previous campsites. Nevertheless, I had a little excitement on my way there - as if paddling in wind and waves was not exciting enough! I stepped out of the canoe to get over a shallow section between two islands. Just as I was stepping forward to set my foot down on an exposed rock, a Massassauga rattlesnake, half submerged, lunged at me with jaws wide open and fangs ready to sink into my flesh with poisonous venom. In mid-step I was able to pull back in time and avoided being struck. The snake looked up at me for a moment and then dove into the water and disappeared under the canoe. I carefully made my way to deeper water and jumped back into the canoe with a sigh of relief. While rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, it would surely have cut short my journey.
Day 5: McNab Rocks
Conditions: sunny, some cloud over land but clear over the water; light south-west wind.
Distance travelled: 17.5 kms
Paddling time: 12:30 to 5:00
Lunch: peanut butter and jam sandwiches; Dinner: beef hash
I was up early enough to see the sun rise: a big red ball on the horizon. I went back to sleep and didn’t get up until 11:30. I made camp on the largest of McNab Rocks. These islands separate the North and South Channels of Byng Inlet. Tired and sunburnt.
Day 6: Charles Inlet
Conditions: partly cloudy; clear in the afternoon; moderate south-south-west wind.
Distance travelled: 19 kms
Paddling time: 9:30 to 5:00
I woke up and didn’t bother getting dressed since there was nobody around. Nudists would love Georgian Bay because of the remoteness, even in the middle of July.
I spent much of the morning navigating through a maze of islands. I spent at least an hour trying to find a particular passage on the south side of Burritts Bay - it seems to have dried up since the map was made. This particular area is ideal for canoe trips with so many places where you can pitch a tent. I took a few wrong turns but each time I was able to figure out where I was a few minutes after realising I wasn’t where I thought I was. The worst thing was starting off the morning with a 45 degree navigation error. I don’t know how that happened. Maybe I was concentrating on the old red and white lighthouse instead of my bearings. Proper compass navigation is a must on the Bay because it can get quite confusing in this maze of islands. I almost decided to stop early at Head Island with this nice view but pressed on with the intention of camping on one of the small islands south of Chicken Liver Channel.
I bumped into some kayakers while crossing the mouth of the Naiscoot River North Channel. The leader was a young guy from Missouri. They were paddling from the Spanish River to Parry Sound. After admiring my cedarstrip canoe, they pulled ahead and turned in to where I wanted to camp. They were a group of eight young guys and I didn’t want camp near them so I decided to camp on the barren shore just north of Charles Inlet. As I neared the nicest spot I noticed a bunch of people standing around in the trees. Then a small boat departed. I don’t know what they were doing (no tents) but it was obvious I wasn’t going to be camping there. Just as I was passing by, I noticed someone on shore sunbathing in the buff.
By now I was getting impatient and I just wanted to set up camp. I crossed Charles Inlet and headed for a flat ledge overlooking the surrounding area. It was not an ideal choice. The wind was picking up and I was exposed to the full force of the wind coming in off the Bay. Later I discovered there was a cottage less than 100 metres behind, which was not on my topographic map. I was also right next to a boat channel, though the traffic was very light. To top it off, there was poison ivy 15 feet from my tent. On a positive note, there were lots of raspberries ripe for the picking.
I lay in the tent listening to the wind howl and the waves crash on the rocks just a few metres below me. The tent held firm.
Day 7: Wade Island
Conditions: hot; moderate west-south-west wind.
Distance travelled: 23 kms
Paddle time: 9:40 to 5:30
Today was a long paddle through the thick cottage country of the Point au Baril area. It was beginning to look like suburbia on water. There were some nice little rustic cottages of the kind I dream of but others that were very big and gaudy - more like monster homes. There was one really obnoxious one with a huge silo-like structure on Brooker Island, beside a semi-submerged steam-engine shipwreck. I stopped here to take pictures and ask for directions (I thought I was further along than I was) from the owner who was friendly and helpful and seemed quite proud of the monstrosity he built beside this historic site.
I avoided the main boat channels as much as I could. The wonderful thing about travelling by canoe is you can go places motorboats dare not enter because rocks are only inches below the surface of the water.
By the time I got to camp south-west of Shawanaga Island, I could see the weather was turning: a big thunderstorm was rolling in. I secured the canoe and took a sponge bath which I desperately needed after a long hard paddle. I could see a bolt of lightening strike a couple of miles away. Soon it was right on top of me. At first I thought the lightening strikes were my main worry but then the wind really picked up. It howled all night long. I set up the tent for west winds but it changed to a north wind. As a result, the long side of my tent was taking the full force of the wind. The exposed side of the tent wall was being blown so hard that the tent seemed half the size inside and I was worried it might collapse. I didn’t want to go out to make adjustments because of the driving rain and I was concerned I might lose the tent if I took my weight off the tent floor, not to mention the lightening strikes crashing all around me. Instead, I shifted all my gear/clothes to the other side and lay against the windblown wall, thereby pushing it back out to deflect the wind around the tent better.
Day 8: Wade Island
I survived and so did the tent, but it was a long night! I got up and rotated the tent into the wind. I think there are many tents out there that would not have held up to those winds. By noon the winds had eased a bit - they were only moderate to strong.
I hiked around the rock island and confirmed to myself that I was camped on Wade Island. I wasn’t sure the night before. There weren’t many trees but numerous ponds in the centre. It was fun walking around because when you come to a pond and tried to walk around it, you step up one level and there is yet another pond to go around, and so on. The small wetlands on these islands are habitat for all kinds of birds and flora and many colourful flowers. I love these little oases above the Bay. A few small trees, usually cedar, some shrubs and flowers, lily pads and catails, mosses and lichens, sometimes berries and poison ivy, and bright blue dragonflies with black stripes, hovering around the reeds looking for a meal. I saw some small black birds with orange stripes on their wings - cardinals maybe? The cardinal was singing and chirping and jumping from treetop to treetop as I moved around. Another one landed in a treetop nearby. I wondered if they had a nest nearby. These pictures are just a small sample of the flora you can expect to find on this route.
This areas was obviously a popular destination for local cottagers on day trips. Two days in a row now I have seen a few boatloads of people out for the afternoon to hike, swim, and picnic on the islands.
Day 9: Mink Islands
Conditions: sunny; light to moderate north-west wind changed to moderate to strong west wind.
With the northerly winds I decided to take a detour from my planned trip and use the wind to take me out to the McCoy and Mink Islands 5-10 kms from shore. I didn’t have an exact tail wind so I drifted east even though I wanted to head due south. This started to become a problem after noon because the wind had picked up and was more westerly. I used the sail for most of the trip but the closer I got to the Mink Islands the more it worked against me. The waves had increased to 1 metre and it was getting windier so I put the sail away and slogged into the wind.
I paddled through the Mink Islands then started looking for a good campsite. These islands are very pretty and remote and I was not the only one who thought so: there were cottages on almost every island! I should have stopped at the first uninhabited island oasis I noticed between the McCoy and Mink Islands. Instead I went right through to the south end of the Mink Islands where the uninhabited islands are mostly small bare rocks. I dismissed the idea of backtracking and decided to camp on Virtue Island as it had some vegetation to provide a windbreak for the tent. Of course, all the best islands had cottages on them and there was one nearby on Heron Island, not indicated on my topographic map. I wondered what will happen when all the islands are bought up? For now I planted my tent on Virtue Island and for the rest of the day and night it was mine.
I wondered if the Mink Islands got their name because of the half submerged rocks around here that look like the backs of whales. When big waves hit them they splash upwards as if coming from the whales’ blowholes. All these whales swimming in place with their backs just above the surface.
To top off all that beauty I was graced with yet another gorgeous sunset. The best yet! The colour was all around the sky, 360 degrees on the horizon and straight above. Every cloud in the sky was orange. The best part was after the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. Then the bugs came out in numbers I hadn’t seen yet. They tended to stay over the vegetation, perhaps as a windbreak. I wondered why they flew in circles right above the tree tops. It seemed like a perfect target for birds but they never came.
Day 10: Snug Harbour and Lally Island
Conditions: sunny; light south wind, becoming moderate south-west.
Dinner: chickpea, spinach and herb curry - very tasty.
After a wash, breakfast and laundry, I set out at 9:15 arriving at Snug Harbour at 11:30. I went to the general-store/boat-launch/gas-station to pick up some supplies: buns, chocolate bars, 2 rolls of film and batteries for $17. If you use the boat launch for put-in and take-out there is a fee: $2.50 in and $2.50 out (for canoes). I stopped at the government dock to ask a young woman sitting there if she knew of any good campsites in the area. She mentioned Killbear and Massassauga Provincial Parks but didn’t know much other than that. We started talking and she said she bought herself a Prospector canoe as a university graduation present. Now that is my kind of woman! She was working for the summer on a pilot project for the provincial government. They want to introduce user fees at government docks. It was all part of ‘downloading’ services to the local communities. Apparently local ‘ratepayers’ will still have ‘free’ access: free, that is, until they notice their local taxes increase!
Today was my longest paddle at over 24 kms but was by no means the most strenuous. It was mostly a liesurely paddle. I even helped 2 kayaking couples at a lighthouse who were not quite sure where they were. The other day I couldn’t figure out what Islands I was looking at and today I am giving directions - the blind leading the blind! Seriously, if you aren’t constantly watching where you are you will quickly find yourself in a situation where nothing around you appears as it does on the map.
This was my tenth day but it certainly didn’t feel like it as I was having such a good time. Lally Island was one of the prettiest I had been on. It has lots of trees and a protected harbour on either side. The one on the north side, where I was camped, was especially pretty. Again, the pictures don't even come close.
Day 11: Lally Island
Conditions: overcast; warm; 1 hour of light rain; moderate to strong south wind.
Just my luck - stranded on a beautiful island because the winds are too strong and coming from the direction I want to paddle.
I went for a walk around the island. The rock formation here is different than the smooth wind and wave sculpted rock further up north. There are deep striations in the rock which look like ancient lava flows but they are not. The rock underfoot even sounds different when you walk on it - sort of a light or hollow sound. Huge boulders can be tilted by stepping on one end. Maybe the wind and waves eroded the softer layers thus creating the sculpted striations - by I'm no geologist.
On my way back from the walk, I saw someone camped on the other half of the island. We met halfway and had a chat. John was 75 and had been coming here for 40 years. He said he was ‘Yugoslavian’ and that this area reminded him of home, of the Adriatic Sea! He said he wants to do what I am doing but his health is not good. He spends most of his time out here but setting up camp is hard for him. John’s son died tragically a few years ago in a car crash and his ashes are on one of the islands just north of here. John also told me that water levels were much higher 20 years ago. This island, for example, was two islands. He said there used to be more vegetation around the water’s edge for minnnows and small fish but now most of the fish are gone. Apparently, the cormorants numbered in the thousands in each flock and would blacken the sky. Today you are lucky if you see a flock of hundreds.
Day 12: Sans Souci and Wilkinson Island
Conditions: hot and humid.
Distance travelled: 28.5 kms
In the morning I paddled past John’s camp but there was no sign of him. I was able to sail across Waubuno Channel to Parry Island. South of Parry Island becomes thick with cottages and motorboats. At Ansley Island I stopped for about 45 minutes to talk with some cottagers. I saw this little wooden boat and an older gentleman getting it ready. I couldn’t resist the temptation to talk to another small boat builder. It was a mahogany plywood ‘stitch and glue’ battery powered replica of a ‘Muskoka hidden propeller’ boat. It was shaped like a fat canoe but used oars instead of paddles. He was charging it up when I spotted him. We chatted and then the whole family, children and grandchildren, came down and we all chatted some more. They invited me ashore for a beer but I declined as I still had a long paddle ahead of me.
The grandfather told me about a good restaurant/marina, ‘Henry’s’, at Sans Souci so I altered my course. At Henry's I enjoyed battered pickerel on a bun with fries and a pop for $12 including tip. I ate on the patio overlooking the docks. It was a bit odd to see my little canoe tied to the dock beside all these huge houseboats and mini-yachts. I used the pay phone to call family and let them know everything was going fine. It was about 7pm by the time I left ‘Henry’s’ to find a rock to sleep on. Most had cottages on them so I had to head west, to the edge of open water, to find one on Wilkinson Island. The wind was picking up and another thunderstorm was rolling in.
Day 13: Wilkinson Island
Conditions: sunny; strong north-north-west wind.
Dinner: chicken burritoes.
Distance travelled: 0 kms
I was tired and decided to sleep in. Besides, the strong wind would have made for a challenging paddle. With more monster-cottages in plain site it wasn’t exactly the best location for a rest day. Even so, looking west over the Bay I could see for miles and I enjoyed another gorgeous sunset, this time with the moon rising on the opposite horizon at the same time. From inside my tent I could see the sun setting through one door and the moon rising through the opposite door. I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves smashing against the rocks. How wonderful!
Day 14: Private Property
Conditions: sunny with cloudy periods; moderate south wind changed to light west wind in mid-afternoon.
Paddling time: 10:30 to 5:00
Distance travelled: 22 kms
I was beginning to regret doing the southern half of Georgian Bay. There were too many cottages and too much boat traffic. When I was crossing the boat channel three big boats came way to close to me and I was almost swamped. The first one led the other two almost on top of me: the stupid leading the blind! Moreover, with so many cottages on islands it was getting difficult to find a nice island to camp on. There are some campsites at O’Donnel Pointe Nature Reserve but it seemed too early to stop there. Besides, it was right beside the main boat channel. There were other ‘Georgian Bay Islands National Park’ islands but they didn’t have obvious campsites - too jagged. I stopped on Gooseberry Island and there was a sign on a tree saying it was private property and you shouldn’t camp there but if you do, the sign said, "leave no trace." Feeling unwelcome, I decided to push on and find something else.
Eventually I found a barren, but very pretty island with a sunbathing snapping turtle and scurrying mink.
I decided to set up camp. Before I even got the tent out of the bag, two people paddled up in kayaks. The man, about 60, came over and introduced himself as the brother of the owner of this island. He said his brother discourages camping but if I don’t have a fire it will probably be OK. "But", he said, "my brother may come by later to ask you to leave." Great! I wanted to stay on this beautiful little island for a couple of days but not with this guy breathing down my neck.
I found myself wondering how anyone can ‘own’ this? Everyone should be allowed to partake in this natural beauty, day or night, as long as you do no harm. It seemed criminal to me and I found myself sympathizing with the native belief that you can’t ‘own’ land, air or water. These islands were waypoints and campsites for travelers on the Bay since time immemorial. What a difference compared to the north! Up north people were friendly and vacant islands were in abundance. I was becoming concerned I might run out of rocks to put my tent on and wondered if I would be able to complete my journey. The Huron were forced out of these same islands by marauding Iroquois in the mid-1600s.
Travelling this southern portion of the Bay requires careful pre-planning to find the ‘acceptable’ islands to camp on. Either that or be prepared to pay a fee at local or provincial parks.
Day 15: Cecil Island
Conditions: sunny, cloudy periods; strong south-south-west wind.
Distance travelled: 22 kms
Today was a bit of a slog against a strong headwind. The first leg across Big David Bay was exhilerating but also hard work with a cross wind. The absentee landlords’ brother was out in a boat and asked if I needed a safe harbour. "No", I said, "I was heading toward the sheltered islands close to shore." He didn’t offer to let me stay on his brother's prescious island for my own safety!
Once in behind Steers, Bands, Gunn, and Bernadette Islands I was protected from the big waves but not from the wind. I had a short portage and some dragging liftovers. Behind Gunn Island there was a 20 metre stretch where the water was too low. Then coming out from behind Starr Island there was a reed bed, a small canoe channel on the east side of a big rock island and then I had to drag the canoe over several wet sandy sections, the longest being about 15 metres. This was a very pretty area and not too many cottages or boat traffic. This would make a nice day or weekend trip. There are even some ‘Georgian Bay Islands National Park’ islands in the area - 3 to my knowledge - but I didn’t check for campsites.
I pressed on and decided to camp on the west side of Long Island. There were no buildings indicated on my map so I figured it would be OK. On the hill I saw two stones standing upright, like obelisks. They were cemented in place so someone obviously owns this excellent campsite with a spectacular view. A sign said it was the property of the Madawaska Canoe Club but since nobody was around I decided to camp there anyway.
I knew it was too good to be true: two teenage girls arrived in their motorboat and said they were the advance guard for a teenage booze party, though I was welcome to stay. Apparently these teenagers were the children of the Club members and they regularly throw late-night parties here. I guess that explained the broken glass I noticed earlier. It was getting dark so I hurriedly tore down my tent, loaded the canoe, and headed out to the barren Cecil Island about 1 km offshore - which I was sure must be private property too. I could hear the party for most of the night.
Yesterday I saw a raven - the ‘Trickster’ - up close and wondered what he had in store for me; now I knew. I suspected someone would come kick me off this island too.
Day 16: Cecil Island
Lazy day. Nobody kicked me off. Slept in; ate; slept; read; slept; walked around; read; cooked dinner; took pictures; ate; slept. The island was unique in the sense that it was mostly a pond, but too close to the boat channel.
Day 17: Beausoleil Island
Conditions: sunny; moderate south wind in morning; calm afternoon.
Distance travelled: 19 kms
Another late start - on the water by 11:00 - even though I was up to watch the sunrise. It was a fairly red sunrise and that worried me regarding the weather.
When I reached Bushby Point I saw the two teenage girls from the other night. They were in their bikinis soaking up the sun on a rock. Better yet, half an hour later I came upon two very attractive naked women standing on a rock lathering up. They were laughing and giggling and one jumped in the water as soon as I rounded the corner. The other one just stood there until she was done washing and then jumped in.
When I got into the Muskoka Landing Channel the houseboat and speedboat traffic was very heavy. I was constantly turning into their wakes. Most did not slow down and those that did were usually the smaller boats. By the time I got to the wider Musquash Channel I was able to get well clear of most of the boat traffic by staying close the the southern islands and rocks.
Coming down the Main Channel on the east side of Beausoleil Island was the worst motorboat traffic of the entire trip. At times I could see 6-10 boats beside me going in both directions and absolutely no concern about speed or wake. The Main Channel was far too stressful to ever consider a future trip circumnavigating Beausoleil Island. Who needs that kind of stress on a canoe trip?! When I got into Beausoleil Bay, I noticed the side that was the Park had more boats anchored offshore than there were cottages on the opposite shore! This is no place for canoe tripping!
An ominous cloud approached and I headed for Tonch Point campground to rest and wait out the storm. The cloud passed quickly and the wind died down again. The campsites seemed very civilised. There was a roofed area with two picnic tables where you can enjoy a meal if it was raining, plus a big wood stove. There was a picnic table and a fixed barbecue next to each tent pad. The tent pads were indicated with 2x2s set in the ground marking an area about 3 metres square. Some of the other campsites had cedar decking for tent pads. These campsites obviously experienced heavy use.
Between Thumb and Finger Points there was a congregation of about 100 boats of various sizes anchored offshore. I had to be very careful not to be run over by some of these large slow moving beasts.
I arrived at Beausoleil Point and was feeling down about the trip finally coming to an end. After dark the motorboat droaning had receded to a distant hum. I could now hear the crickets and the waves lapping the shore.
The worst thing over the past few days has been the ‘cigar’ boats. Those speedboats are so loud they must have aircraft engines in them. I love the sound of speed but there is a place for everything and out here, even among the cottages (they must hate it), this is not the place for something that loud. We have sound limitations on cars so why can’t boats have quieter engines?
What a brutal day. At least it started with two naked women!
Day 18: Ste. Marie among the Hurons
I woke up to a thunderstorm and started thinking I would not be able to make my pre-arranged rendevous with my sister. But it quickly cleared up and I was able to get going after 10:00, a bit behind schedule. I took a bath in the shallows so that I wouldn’t subject my sister to the full force of the smell. However, I was working so hard paddling south against a strong headwind that I was just as stinky by the time I arrived at Ste. Marie among the Hurons. While crossing the wide opening of the Outer Harbour, I was surprised by a large rogue wave coming at me broadside. For whatever reason I happened to glance in the right direction and at the last second managed to turn the bow into the wave just enough to prevent being swamped by this loan but large breaking wave. I am sure that if I hadn’t seen it on time it would have broken above the gunwhale and swamped me if not flip me over. It just goes to show that you can never let down your guard on Georgian Bay.
The marshy Wye River was difficult to paddle with all the weeds. About ½ kilometre from the reconstructed Jesuit Mission, I was met by my sister standing on shore and I told her to meet me at the Mission parking lot. After picking my way slowly through the weeds, I eventually made it to the dock on the left just past the Mission and before the weir. Unfortunately, water levels have receded and made the ‘canoe channel’ into the Mission unusable.
While on Georgian Bay I couldn’t stop admiring the crystal clear emerald green waters and the many beautiful islands. It seemed like something out of the south pacific or carribean. The northern section, and some parts in the south are highly recommended for a canoe trip of any duration. The southern section was too populated for my tastes but I still feel very lucky to have been able to take this journey. A tour of the reconstructed Jesuit Mission, where my trip ended, is a must see for anyone interested in our early history.