Friday, November 06, 2015

Paddling in La Verendrye Park, QC: Day 1 - Part 1

Day 1 - Part 2           Day 2             Day 3

This summer both LT and I decided to try some different tripping options. He went on a 6-day solo trip, he went on a trip with 3 of his friends without me, and I went with my brother (Mark) and his family. Both of his trips were in Algonquin Park, but I wandered further afield to La Verendrye Park north of Maniwaki, Quebec.

Both of my younger brothers have had lots of canoe camping experience, starting as far back as college days. Whereas I'm a more recent convert. They often did their backcountry canoe camping in La Verendrye. And everyone else on this trip had been canoe camping in this park before. 

Our group consisted of Mark (the sole male), his wife (Julianne) and their three daughters (Alison, Eileen, and Alana). My nieces are between 22 and 17 years old. So everyone had a full pack to carry. With 6 of us on the trip, we split up nicely between 3 canoes. I brought the one I share with LT, they rented 2 more at the park.

I picked up a laminated map at World of Maps. We were doing circuit 11, which is 34 km long. There aren't too many portages and most of them are quite short. The map I found online isn't quite detailed enough to show all the portages.

Circuit 11 is a loop starting and ending at Le Domaine.

We exchanged emails beforehand to make sure we were all organized before leaving. Food was planned, I would provide desserts for both nights and one supper for everyone. I brought some of my own snacks and breakfasts. I was looking forward to proudly showing them some of the food I can make from dehydrated ingredients. 

I was really interested to see how it would be tripping with different people. LT has been a really good teacher, he's taught me some very good habits for being in the wild. Both for safety and for respect of nature.

We got an early enough start on a Friday morning in August, everyone had taken Friday off. One niece even made the trip all the way up from Montreal, although it might have been closer for her to drive directly if she had a car. We made a quick pit stop at the McDonald's in Maniwaki for washrooms and Egg McMuffins.

The weather was nice, a great August morning. We continued on to the destination of Le Domaine. It's almost right on the highway, the lake visible from the road. The park office is there, as well as the canoe rental, souvenir shop, washrooms, almost anything you need. 

We could drive our cars right down in front of the office to unload, there were a lot of people buzzing around all getting ready to launch as well. LT had helped me load the canoe early this morning at his place. Julianne and I untied it and set it down nearby. They provide some picnic tables that we could use to pile our gear before leaving.

Family photo before launching
Busy beach launch

And we're off (Julianne and Elieen)
Today we were planning on going clockwise on the loop, doing about 12 km. We were extremely lucky, the big lake, Lac Jean-Pere, was quite calm and we made good time. Alison and I were paired together. LT has told me many times I need to sit in the back and learn to steer. After our first portage, I took a turn at it. I took a long turn at it and I suck. Big time. The canoe zigzagged the whole time I was at the rudder. After a couple of hours of that pain, I gave up.

The first portage was pretty easy. It was flat, not very long (180M), and not very crowded. Because of the weight of the 2 rental canoes, they were carrying their canoes in pairs. Alison and I are a good match for that as we're close to the same height. Everyone else in the group is tall. Alison and I carried the canoe that way on the first portage, but then we started to do the portages with one of us carrying the canoe and the other at the back helping to balance it. We did double trips for all portages on this trip.
Two person carry
I will say, Alison and I rocked the portages, we were the fastest! I think it's because we each only had a single bag. The rest of the gang had been assigned multiple bags to carry. 

Well, if I was on the fastest portage team, I was the lead weight at the back of the pack for paddling. It was humbling to realize how much slower I am. I'm consistent, but slow. I'm so used to LT doing all the hard stuff, he's obviously the power paddler on our team.

We came into a tiny lake, Lac Alenya to see a canoe with a man and 3 kids in it. They were fishing. As we made our way around the corner to the next portage there was a woman there in a bikini that was getting very agitated. She was with a canoe waiting for the fishing group. We talked to her, turns out the guy in the other canoe was her brother (hey, I could identify). Except I was pretty glad MY brother wasn't wearing a Speedo bathing suit (and nothing else) like her brother. Her gang came ashore with us, and there wasn't much space for 5 canoes and all our gear, including a batch of freshly caught fish. 

Alison and I made a quick trip to the other side of the portage. It was a bit hillier than the first, but not by much. It was 330M long. As the other group was being pushed by the woman, we let them launch first. I could see she wanted to make sure they got a suitable campsite for the kids. They were all fairly young, under 10 years old.

We got our canoes launched and were now in a more narrow waterway that is part of Lac Antostagan. 
Beaver dam crossing - Julianne getting her feet wet

Making our way through the weeds
The family crew had settled on the first campsite after that portage. Which was a mistake. We continued on to get about 12 km done for the day.

After a few hours of paddling we settled on a spot to camp. The park is set out a bit differently than Algonquin Park. There are triangles on the map that have a large number in the middle, 2-3-4-5...  This number indicates how many tent pads there are on a site. We chose a site that had 3 tent pads and had the number 11-20. 11 to indicate the route, 20, I assume, to indicate the site.
Our site: the "3" closest to the 4.5 km marker

Beach parking lot
See here for Part 2 of our day.

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