Abitibi Paddling Adventure 2020 Part 4 (Sept. 11-12)

2020.09.24

We woke up all cleaned up, rested up, and comfortable to a breakfast of overnight oats, before breaking camp and setting back out down the river. The weather was a little cloudier than the day before, and not as windy, but still relatively warm and sunny.

We decided before heading out that although it would certainly be possible for us to make it all the way to the Moose River, that’d mean having to take Allan Rapids (the ones at the mouth of the Abitibi, that the guys from Onakawana had told us were the only remaining rapids of note) around the end of the day, when we’d be all tired. We also figured that we didn’t know how brackish the water in the Moose would be when we got to it, and whether it’d be usable (we had a filter, but no desalination). For the second reason, we also decided that we should fill up on extra water when we stopped for the night.

Those decisions being made, the morning’s paddle was relatively uneventful. We had kielbasa sandwiches for lunch (the ingredients still being in remarkably good condition, thanks to the cool weather).
The afternoon’s paddle was also uneventful up until just before the end.

We were getting pretty far downriver, and noticed what looked to be a decent spot to camp, but it wasn’t amazing, and we figured we had a few km before the rapids and that was enough distance to find a better spot. I remembered from biking across Canada that the little voice in my head that says “well this spot looks ok to stop for the night, but I’m sure we don’t have to go too far to find somewhere better” is not to be trusted. Naturally, I trusted it anyway, and we put in a few hundred more metres, went around a bend, and could hear the rapids.

We beached the canoe, checked the GPS, and sure enough we were one more bend away from the rapids. We couldn’t see a better spot to camp than the one we’d recently rejected (or even one half as good), so we paddled back up against the current to that spot and camped there.

Dinner was planned to be stuffed squash, roasted in the campfire. The squash was pretty large, so we’d need a fair bit of fuel to keep it going. It took a bit of wandering to gather up enough wood, but expecting this was one of the reasons we’d figured on looking for another spot to camp. Apart from that, we had good spots for the tent, canoe, and firepit, and it was generally a nice night (if a smidge on the late side because of how long the squash took to cook).


As the next morning rolled around, we still didn’t have much of an oversupply of water (as our filter element was getting kinda clogged up with sediment, and the pumping was getting difficult). Seeing that there was an additional reservation about 10-15km upriver from Moose Factory, we figured that we might be able to score some water there that we would have to pump (and failing that, there was another small tributary just downriver of it, from which we could probably pump fresher water, if need be). So we decided to take the rapids without first tiring ourselves out with extra pumping.

It wasn’t too hard to find a good line through the rapids, or to stick to that line, though we did get a little stuck and have to drag for a few dozen feet just as we were hitting the Moose. To minimize the potential for future trouble of that sort, we headed across the Moose, to paddle along the north shore. Before doing that however, we saw a cottage/hunt/fish camp on the side of the river, and marvelled first at the fact that we’d made it through the wilderness and were back to civilization — and second that an unserviced riverside cottage/hunt/fish camp had become our standard of “civilization”, when in our normal lives, we’d consider it to be pretty remote wilderness.

Once across the Moose, we started seeing other people. First a beached canoe, with its humans sitting onshore and eating (we couldn’t tell if it was a late breakfast or an early lunch), and next a fishing boat that looked like a large cedar (or likelier spruce) strip canoe with a squared off stern and an outboard motor.

The Moose continued to have minor rapids here and there, but nothing of note until we got to the inflow from the Kwetabohigan River. What was there wasn’t too much, but there was a bit of a line of hole on the upriver side of the mixing flows. We didn’t go far enough along it, and the canoe rocked enough to take in a decent little gush of water, but nowhere near enough for us to have to worry about our things getting wet. Regardless, it seemed like a good time to stop for lunch (more kielbasa sandwiches). We ate in view of the mixing hole, and saw the canoe that we’d passed earlier take on a bit of water the same as we had. They kept going though (as we were close enough to where we saw them eating that we woudln’t’ve taken a break after that little paddling either).

The weather was getting cloudy, grey, and cool by that point, but no real rain to speak of. Still we had to layer up before getting back underway. Once underway, we realized that we’d have to veer hard south between the various islands, if we were to get to that reservation we saw on the GPS, so that’s what we did.

Of course many of these channels were shallow, and riddled with rapids (though at least they flowed in the same direction as us). None of the rapids were particularly challenging, but there was a solid run of my having to get out to drag the canoe (while D unweighted the bow with her paddle, since she didn’t have a complete pair of boots). Fortunately it was nowhere near as shallow or as long as the first day’s shoal — but it still sucked.

Eventually we were across, and realized that that area marked as reservation was just more cottages/hunt/fish camps (we’d started seeing them every km or so on the north shore, and they were similarly abundant here, and starting to appear on the mid-river islands too.

Seeing no sign of being able to get water without pumping it, I dipped my hand in the river, and quickly licked the wet to taste it. There was no perceptible salt flavour, and the river was looking pretty flat as far down as we could see, so we’d almost certainly be able to pump river water for the night.

And plans for the night were now starting to come to mind. We were starting to feel tired, but none of the nearby shores seemed like a good place to stop. D pointed at an island up ahead, and suggested that we stop there. I agreed that it seemed like a good place.

Of course, as we got closer to the island, we could see Moose Factory’s water tower, checked the GPS, and noticed that it’d only take an extra 2-3km of paddling to reach Moose Factory. As much as we wanted to be done paddling for the day (we’d covered more than 35km), the prospect of indoor accommodations — and more importantly, water we didn’t have to pump — was too much of a draw, and we continued on.

In a stroke of good luck, we passed the hospital’s dock at around the time of a shift change, and were able to ask the staff heading back to Moosonee where’d be a good place to beach the canoe and start looking for accommodations. They recommended the Eco-Lodge just around the bend in the channel, so we paddled on, beached there, and headed ashore to check things out.

The Eco-Lodge was closed because of the pandemic, so we decided to try wandering into town to see what our other options might be (and also if we could score a warm meal, or a drink that didn’t involve pumping water through our filter). As we were wandering in, a man drove up, asked us if we knew where we were going, and offered us a lift to a guest house that might be able to accommodate us. No one answered the door there, so he offered us a lift to the other guest house in town. Again, no answer. There weren’t any other options, so we thanked him for the lift and wandered over to the gas station and store just down the road, whose signage indicated that there was a Pizza Hut and KFC inside. Upon getting inside, we learned that the foodservice had already closed for the night, so we just picked up some snacks, clean water, and bottle of sports drink.

We then wandered back to the canoe (it was maybe a 5 minute walk) and debated what to do. We’d been told (I now forget by whom) that the two islands in between Moose Factory and Moosonee make up a provincial park with proper campsites. D didn’t really want to get back in the canoe and keep paddling, whereas I was feeling iffy on just setting up camp in someone’s lawn and didn’t know where people’s lawns ended and more public land began. Eventually D acquiesced, and we paddled into the channel between the two islands (which the water taxis used pretty heavily) and just set up camp on the beach on the more downriver of the islands. It wasn’t a proper campsite, but neither of us had the energy to go looking for the proper campsites. As we were setting up camp, it started to rain. We managed to get ourselves inside the tent before getting too covered with now-sticky wet sand, consume the rest of our charcuterie and get to sleep. The water taxis ran later than we’d gotten used to going to sleep, but not so late as to deny us a good night’s sleep.

Stats:
Sept. 11 distance paddled: 29.2km (13km pre-lunch 16.2km after)
Sept. 11 shortest path distance: 25.3km (12.0km pre-lunch 13.5km after)
Distance from Otter Rapids at end of Sept. 11: 108km (94.8km at lunch)
Distance from Moosonee at end of Sept.11: 33.3km (47.0km at lunch)
Sept. 12 distance paddled: 40.1km (16.3km pre-lunch, 22.9km after, 0.93km evening)
Sept. 12 shortest path distance: 31.4km (13.4km pre-lunch, 18.9km after, 0.84km evening)
Distance from Otter Rapids at end of Sept. 12: 139km (121km at lunch)
Distance from Moosonee at end of Sept. 12: 2.21km (20.5km at lunch)

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