Canoe trips, Churchill River

Churchill River Canoe Trip 3

February 20, 2021

We ran Silent Rapid to the delight of the kids who love fast moving water.  We had a nice paddle and found another beautiful camp that was not marked on the map.  It was a hot day so after pumping only one bottle of water I dove in the lake in all my clothes to cool off.  Coming out of the water, yikes, there was one of those huge leeches.  Dwane whittled Molly a leech stick so when she went swimming she would have a stick to keep the leeches away.  The leeches didn’t deter us from swimming, since they were usually close to shore and quite slow so we’d jump in over them and swim out into the open water.  There was some yelling and silliness when we saw them, but it was fun.  (We only learnt after the trip that they are algae eaters and don’t bother people).

The next day was an unofficial rest day.  Unofficial because we never talked about it, we just stayed.  I was stiff and sore and didn’t feel like moving.  The kids crafted and Dwane fished with our dog Jojo, who can’t get enough fishing.  When he caught two large Pike the kids were thrilled.  We made a fire and fried them up for lunch.  The weather got so hot we either stayed in the shade or in the water.  We played games, read books and hung in the hammock.  The kids dressed up as pirates, complete with bandanas and a rope around their waste to hold the stick swords that Dwane had carved. 

Forest fire smoke had started to blow in today, so we started to get concerned that there was possibly a forest fire in the area.  We sent an InReach text message to my dad to look up where the fires were and he found that the smoke was coming all the way from huge fires in Alberta and BC.  There were no local fires to worry about, only smoke.

The excitement of the next day was when Chuck who was sitting up high on the packs suddenly slipped over the side. One second he was giggling and having fun, then over the side he went. From the stern, Dwane scooped him up, just like he’s rescued all the dropped toys, hats and paddles. Poor Chuck, he had a bit of a shock but no tears.

Our old dog Nelson wasn’t too comfortable in the heat and smoke so we stopped at the next campsite we could find, which was a small island in Black Bear Island Lake. It stayed hot well into the night and we swam several times that evening trying to stay cool.  I woke up at 1 am and it was still sweltering hot.  The air was thick with smoke and it was hard to sleep.  Nelson was sleeping in the woods, he refused to even come under the tent awning.  In the morning the smoke was so thick we almost couldn’t see the neighbouring island.  The wind was picking up so we launched the canoes quickly before waves would prevent a safe launch off the rocks.

Later that day we found another beautiful small island for lunch and a swim.  The lasting memory of this canoe trip must be the endless beautiful picnic spots, rest spots and campsites. So many to choose from! We were happy that the north wind blew most of the day.  The smoke had come from the south west the day before so we hoped that the north wind would blow it back.  At the beginning of the day the smoke hurt my lungs and stomach and was giving me a headache.  By early afternoon it seemed to have lifted significantly and there was even a little blue sky on the horizon. What a relief!

The next portage around Birch Rapids was fun, not too long, with a nice safe trail thru the forest.  The kids liked it so much that I had to run back and forth in order to keep up to the pace they set. Our dog Jojo also enjoyed running back and forth while Nelson stayed with our stuff at the end of the portage. He had learned from previous trips that as long as he was with our stuff we would always come back for him.

Some canoe friends we had met were waiting at a nice campsite between Birch Falls and lower Birch Rapids.  They offered us the site if we wanted it and we gratefully took it.  Molly gave them some drawings she’d done on birch bark and a warm thank you.  We swam, ate more blueberries and worked on more birch bark drawings.  Now that the smoke had cleared we were back to our happy place and didn’t want the trip to end! 

The next portage at Trout Falls was pretty easy.  It was short with a nice trail with only one fallen tree that was just high enough to make climbing over it difficult, especially with a canoe on your head.  Then we paddled through Little Trout Rapids and barrelled through the first wave of the wave train instead of going over it.  Molly was soaked and it even got Jojo and I wet in the stern. Molly thought that it was great fun!  The portage past Trout Rock Rapids was also fun and easy.  There was a group of women camped on the far end, with the kids and dogs and all our heavy load of gear we provided good entertainment for them.  It was a nice easy trail so the kids ran back & forth making every one smile by how much they love portaging.

The third portage of the day was also the longest of the day.  We scouted the rapids without carrying anything.  Dwane thought he saw a “sneak route” so he ran the first canoe alone.  He said it was no problem so he took the kids for the second ride.  They got soaked in the bigger waves while sitting together in the bow, but arrived at the bottom holding hands and laughing out loud. Their first real rapid in a canoe. They couldn’t have been happier.

Later that day we found a beautiful spot to camp right before Little Rock Trout Rapids.  Dwane caught a walleye and lost a pike.  Dwane cut the kids some big birch hiking sticks (or jumping sticks) and they tied ropes to them and built a playground with them for their stuffed animals.  Another “best day ever”.

Click here for part 4 of the trip