GHOSTS OF THE FRENCH RIVER

The water levels on the first and second rapids had left us all with a sense of apprehension for what was to come.  One canoe headed left to scout and Karin and I headed the other two right.  I had mentioned to Karin, I thought there was a better portage avenue from this shore.  49 years from the first trip, not on this route, and 13 years since the last failed attempt while my wife was pregnant.  Well, as the saying goes, the memory is the second thing to go…..I just can’t remember what the first one was!

Mommy and son in one canoe and Daddy and daughter in the other and off we back ferried to the far shore.  It was becoming abundantly obvious why Swift Canoes were called Swift.  Steve and Nancy and the girls had all but lined their charge and gear downstream and everyone was quick to help make the passage a fun and memorable one.

I have to admit to a large measure of pride in seeing our children handle this adventure in the manner they did.  No pack too large, no rock too slippery, and no route went without challenge.  I was just adjusting the lining ropes for our second canoe when my breathe left me, my heart stopped, and the instant beads of sweat broke out.

Any parent who has had their children out in the backcountry for the first time, anyone who has stood by a set of churning rapids, anyone who has, for a split second, been too consumed by what they’re doing, is instantly brought to alert by the cry, “…… is in the water,  she’s…………..the water!

Adrenaline plus!  Look right, look left while doing a mental head count, seven out of eight, and Steve is in the river past his elbow!  Full flight takes over because I can’t remember whose face went with the head count plus it doesn’t matter.  Rocks and moss and loon stuff fail to trip me up and finally I meet up with Steve and he announces, ” She was in over a foot of water and look, my iPhone is still working.”  Over my shoulder I catch a glimpse of face number eight and think, thanks God, because dry rice is so scarce at this point of the French.

Canoes re-packed, munchies dealt with, an ominously low sky  and with the severe low water situation, choices for a campsite are being considered quickly.  Islands floated past us and finally the beaver dam was right in front of us; IMG_20151004_090342.jpg I knew in a heartbeat…..Point Edward.  What a wonderful site it is and after we cut down the errant strands of nylon and lifted a canoe for the kitchen hood, we realized what a special portion of Heaven we had come to land on.

Tents were set up over the Double Rapids, a scrumptious dinner was served up, and after cleanup the food pack was hung high, and safe from the tents.  Three adults to hang the food pack and three girls to drop and raid it the next morning…..hmmmm?

The gentle patter of rain drops greeted the morning but failed to dampen spirits and with a hearty breakfast and some laughs, we bid farewell to this portion of the French.  No matter how low the water levels, how hard the wind blew, we knew this would be the kind of adventure we could tackle together; an adventure we could enjoy together!

There are definitely ghosts on the French.  The ghosts of rain on most of the trips you’ve enjoyed, the ghosts of those you’ve tripped with, the ghosts of those who’ve tripped before you.  The only ghost I’d be concerned with is the one who scared me away from making the 50 year trip!IMG_4081IMG_20150809_181834IMG_20151003_180502.jpgIMG_20151003_180604.jpgIMG_20151003_180629IMG_20151004_092319.jpgIMG_20151004_092327

 

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Back on the French River after 49 years

And so it was set. After much banter about changing up camping choices, we were headed to the French River, mid October, to celebrate my 49th. That’s right, 49 years since my first trip in. Up to that point we had only done car camping with the kids and their canoe skills needed some extra practice.
The trip started off a bit later than we had planned but with packs cinched down and canoes loaded on the trailer, we were off.
Just shy of Parry Sound, Steve noticed some shakes and shimmies with his truck so we pulled over to have a look and shortly after that, we enjoyed some GORP and salami while we waited for the tow truck. We scouted the plazas while the repairs were done and then way late in the day the decision to do a re-start in the morning was made.
Day 2 put us up and running and much to do was made as we crossed the Pickerel and then the French River Bridge. We arrived at the Inn at Pine Cove (Pine Cove Lodge 49 yrs ago) and proceeded to sling packs and canoes down to the dock, all the while observing the wind and the waves. As we pushed off, the Mom’s and Dad’s knew it would be a test. On the way to the North Channel, the wind was taking it’s toll on two of three canoes. The Miller’s, in an 18’6″ Swift 3 seater, sliced through the water almost oblivious to the wind. A testimony to Swift Canoe & Kayak design. The Scott and the Langford stuck with it with an adult and child each and by using the islands as windbreaks we came up to the Little Pine Rapids. Rapids? The water was so low, there was barely a trickle so we opted to navigate around Commanda Island and use the Rainy Rapids. What a relief to have the trees block the 45km/h winds and put that breeze to use by sailing part way around the island. The first set of rapids resulted in a brief swim by yours truly (darned slippery rocks), then we ran both the first and second sets. The third set, we lined on the left as it was a boulder garden and a beauty souse hole, complete with a napkin after eating canoes.
Where did we set up? That’s a story for another day.   #frenchriver12079326_10153341779095756_6254989360385379682_n-2IMG_4059IMG_4069IMG_4074IMG_4082