Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's On, Huron

I had hurriedly packed my barrel and was about to hurl myself out of the tent but as I did, the tent began to flatten again, and I was reduced to sitting my my arms and shoulders bracing the structure against the wind and rain. A broken pole would not be a big deal, but five broken poles would be. In a lull, I jumped out and collapsed the tent, stuffing while trying to keep from getting blown over. Two hundred meters away, ten foot waves obliterated islands one after another while streaks of foam rushed through the water below me.

In all, I felt lucky and happy- I had dodged a much bigger bullet.

The night before, I had pulled into camp east of Killarney, Ontario and had flicked on the weather radio as is my routine while setting up camp. Clouds had moved in, but the water was oily calm and without much energy. After the French version, which sounded strangely dramatic, my old friend from the Thunder Bay Coast Guard Station came on and began heralding the apocalypse. The storm was going to break over night and the hot, humid and calm weather of the previous week was getting blown out rather forcefully; 50+ knot winds, 10 foot seas, etc. So at 6pm, I packed up, rounded the last point out of Lake Huron and into the French River, and set up camp. The next morning, I was glad of it.

I began this leg near Sault Ste. Marie, and have moved over 300 miles since then in about 13 days. Across Huron, up the French and across Lake Nipissing to North Bay and the access to the Mattawa River. Now, I report from Mattawa.

These past few weeks have been gorgeous- nothing here but rock, pine, and water for hundreds of miles. Camps too (what in Ontario they call cottages), but plenty of room to explore and great campsites. Huron felt a bit more like a sea kayaking trip, with the hottest weather I've ever camped in in my life- I would take breaks throughout the day to just lay fully clothed in the lake. The wind blows from time to time, and with nothing but water on the horizon, the swells can get rather large. On one crossing, the waves were about 4 feet with a huge period and thus easily managed with some focus and a windward eye. About halfway across, the loudest and deepest noise I have ever heard boomed out, exactly like thunder. I started at it, afraid it was the expected thunderstorm. The plume of dust from an inland mine showed my fear unfounded.

On the French River I rediscovered my love of Fun Dip, the staple of Little League games of years past. My version involves Snickers bars and cream cheese. The quest for calories never ceases.

I saw a black bear way out in Georgian Bay on an island deep water soloing a sick 5.8 too- one of the highlights of the passage. For those non-climbers out there, the bear, an young adult, was climbing a vertical rock face perched over the open lake. I have photos- it was pretty awesome. Later the same day, a duck walked up a 60 degree rock wall to watch me eat. I am not alone out here.

OK, time to run. I am now in the Ottawa valley, and a rest in Pembroke awaits!


Joanna said...

Hi Alexander!
My friend Charis and I met you along the French River during a brief window of calm weather last weekend... and I'm relieved to hear that you made it safely through that storm system! We had a bit of a challenge paddling against that wind the following day, but I think we still had it pretty easy compared to the storms you wrote about! What an adventure you're on! Your blogs are inspiring!
Happy paddling!

Zand B Martin said...

Thanks for your well wishes! Send me an e-mail at, I'd love to chat and to see some of your photos from that day. I don't actually have many photos of myself from the trip.

Talk soon.