The next day we zipped down Little Rock Trout Rapids but as we rounded the corner below the wind changed direction and was blowing right in our face. We managed to paddle to a small island against the wind and landed on the lee shore. We climbed to the top of the island and again there was the perfect camp. We’d only paddled about 1 km and we weren’t even hungry for lunch yet, but by the time the wind calmed down the kids were so engrossed in their stick & rock game we decided to stay.
The kids were now pretending to be the lost boys from Peter Pan, bounding through the forest and hiding in the bushes, climbing trees and having sword fights. Molly has decided this is the island she is going to live on when she’s an adult. She is going to paint pictures and then canoe to town to sell them. Their journal from today is full of cabin plans. We called it Crystal Island. Another magical day.
We are still in sight of the eagles nest that we could see from last night’s campsite and I spent hours watching the youngster practice flying in circles, trying to land, but not making it and soaring up again. A couple of white pelicans landed quietly on the lake. They have become special to us on this trip, not having seen them anywhere else before. They are such good company.
The next day we found the best blueberry patch we’d ever seen. The low bushes were loaded with huge perfectly ripe sweet berries. All of us crawled around picking and eating as many blueberries as we could eat. When we were all finally stuffed, lying in the warm tall grass we found Chuck still filling his pockets for later.
The next morning we woke to a calm day and sparkling blue skies! The smoke had moved on and we had to make a choice which channel to take downstream. There was the southern route which was more white water and where people camped for days to play and practice their paddling skills. We chose the quieter northern route. It was a beautiful paddle that morning into shimmering water with puffy white clouds above, a perfect start to the day.
Looking at the map the first portage was to be over a kilometre long so we each picked up a heavy load and started off down the rough trail. We had a snack at the far end then headed back to get our second load. On the way back Dwane spotted a trail down towards the water where he was able to scout the river. He could see that it was runnable upstream of that point we could unload here instead of further upstream. This shortened the portage by more than half the distance. Once the boats were at the new take out spot we alternated taking trips over the rest of the portage, one of us staying with the kids while the other carried a load.
Soon we were on to the next portage where Dwane dropped the kids, the dogs and I off at the trailhead and ran the boats through. Paddling away he called back to me “I hope to see you at the bottom!” Yes let’s hope! Right away the kids sank to their knees in the mud. They were holding hands so they both went in. We walked back to the start of the portage to clean their shoes & feet and then started off again. It was a fine trail for the most part except for the occasional huge mud hole that we had to go around. Near the end of the trail was the biggest mud hole of all. The kids, expert log walkers, quickly found a route around. I followed them, since it did look like a better choice than wading through the middle. The dogs and I fell off the log a couple times, but the kids made it across clean. In the end Dwane ran the rapids, walked back up the trail and ran the rapids again before we all made it to the end.
Not far downstream from there, where we could still hear the sound of the last rapids, we found a nice camp back in the trees on river right. A perfect spot to spend our last night out in the wilderness of Northern Saskatchewan. Pancakes with maple syrup for dinner, then a chapter of Grey Owl in the tent before falling asleep to the call of the loons. The next day, after packing up for the last time and paddling across Devil Lake to the end of our Churchill River Trip the kids yelled out “ Best Trip Ever! “ Another successful family canoe expedition.
For more information about paddling the Churchill River check out Churchill River Canoe Outfitters