Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Our paddling route as per my GPS tracks in the Massasauga Park

Certainly, it is one of my favorite parks… and in early September, 2014 my friend and I embarked on my 6th visit to this park! The weather was still very good and the forecast did not call for any rain. Upon arriving at the park’s Pete Access Point, we were told about very active black bears in the park and advised to hang our food, which we were planning to do anyway. It was a little windy, but most of the time we paddled in channels and were sheltered from the wind. It took us almost 4 hours to arrive at our campsite — this time we reserved campsite #601 on Jenner Bay My friend, a canoeing novice, found such long paddling quite challenging and was very content when we finally reached the campsite.
Campsite # 601 on Jenner Bay

I had visited this campsite several years ago; it was located in a magical, a.k.a. eerie forest and it was rather dark. There was a small clearing on the shore of the lake, with the fire pit and a bench. Because I had almost always set up campsites on rocky islands, exposed to the elements, quite often on bare rock, it was certainly a totally different camping experience. Besides… I just wanted to find out if the eerie feeling I had had several years ago was going to translate into something more tangible and sinister… like a haunting house (or, in this case, a haunting campsite). There were two additional campsites on Jenner Bay (remained vacant during our stay), yet quite substandard. We quickly set up our tents and found two branches perfect for hanging food.
View from our campsite

There were a couple of old pits here and there, most likely man-made. They resembled trenches which dotted forests in Poland—remnants of the Second World War. Later I asked a part warden about them; whereas he did not know their origin or purpose, he said that there used to be a lot of human activity in the park and it was very likely there were some kind of structures many years ago. They kind of looked like mass graves, which caved in after whatever was buried in them, had disintegrated… but I did not try to carry out any semi-archeological research.
This catfish does not look pretty, but it makes a great meal!

The bay was quite private, although a small boat moored for two nights and from time to time we saw a few fishing boats come to the bay.
Chris with our dinner

Every day we were canoeing on Jenner Bay and on Lake Huron; the second day we caught a big, 16 lb catfish, which we fried and it was delicious! Later we caught two pikes, both in Jenner Bay, and they ended up in our frying pan as well.

The water level kept visibly changing; sometimes it reached the fire pit, at other times it receded at least one meter. Although we religiously hanged our food on trees’ branches, no animal every disturbed it and we only saw a few cute mice at night near the fire pit. A few times we spotted colorful hummingbirds.

One day we paddled to Frying Pan Island, where we went to the small store (also an LCBO agency, where alcoholic beverages might be purchased), replenished our beer and ice supplies and then paddled to the famous Henry’s Restaurant. Soon, I realized that something was amiss: the restaurant’s docks, normally bustling with activity and full of cruisers, motorboats, sailing boats and float planes, were completely deserted. I guessed the restaurant had closed for the season right after the September 2 Labour Day, just a few days earlier! Well, we stopped at the Sans Souci and Copperhead Association where I could finally read and take photographs of several monuments/inscriptions (which I had always only seen from afar). One of them was dedicated to the famous explorer Samuel de Champlain, who had passed in this area 399 years ago:

Samuel de Champlain

“As for me, I labour always
To prepare a way for those
Willing after me to follow it.”

The Province of Ontario
The Georgian Bay Association

After a while we paddled back to our campsite, where we sat, sipped the delicious, cold beer and admired the rising full moon.

On the second-last evening, while sitting on the shore and reading a magazine, I suddenly noticed a coiled snake near the canoe; unmistakably, it was the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in Ontario, after which the park is named. I immediately called my Chris and grabbed the camera. He hurried in and initially suspected that I had placed a rubber snake just to scare him, as the snake was motionless — but soon it began sluggishly slithering forward, powerfully rattling its tail. 
The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake at our campsite

Its rattle was made up of 9 rings. It was exactly the 5th time I had seen a rattlesnake in Ontario, but this one was the biggest: it was up to 1 meter long, very thick and unlike the previous rattlesnakes, it was not scared of us at all and did not try to escape as the others had always done. Instead, it kept forcefully moving forward across the clearing, then cut through the fire pit and eventually disappeared in the bush. Knowing that rattlesnakes usually hunt at night, patiently waiting for passing rodents, we became very careful while walking all over our campsite, especially after dusk. Although the last fatality due to the Massasauga Rattlesnake bite in Ontario was in the 1960s, we did not want to take any risks (by the way, the hospital in Parry Sound did carry have snakebite serum).

While paddling back to Pete’s Place, my handheld Garmin GPS became totally misaligned and after trying to fix it, I gave up and got my back-up unit, which I always bring with me. Of course, we could have found our way back without the GPS, but it was much easier to do so with the help of this modern piece of technology. It was fairly windy and we had to paddle hard on choppy Woods Bay, but once we reached Blackstone Harbour, the wind subsided.
Around the campfire

The park staff told us that every day campers were reporting active bears visiting their campsites, but the bears were not in the area we camped. Fortunately, bears were only interested in food, not campers, but since I had had quite a few encounters with black bears, I could only imagine how scary, unnerving and unpleasant such confrontations must have been!

Nothing spooky or supernatural took place during our stay there, yet Chris confided to me one year later that indeed, there was something creepy about this campsite and to this day he kept thinking about this site.

Overall, it was a nice canoeing trip: the park was almost deserted, the boat traffic significantly dwindled, most of the bugs gone and the weather still good. We had hoped to catch more fish, but well, you cannot have everything! I am looking forward to visiting this park next year.

Monday, November 2, 2015


During our last visit to the Temagami area (in 2012), we were quite enchanted by its beauty and wilderness—and we promised to come back. Although we had paddled on Lake Temagami in 2012 and even reached the famous Bear Island, we realized that Lake Temagami was much too big for a longer canoe trip; strong winds could seriously affect our trip and jeopardize our safety. We had purchased several excellent maps of Temagami; they were very useful and after studying them and spending several hours online, I had decided that we should go to Lady Evelyn Lake. Looking at the map, I could see that to reach Lady Evelyn Lake from Mowat Landing, we had to paddle on the Montreal River—yet there was one problem: namely, a sizable dam, Mattawapika Dam, along the way. 
Mattawapika Dam

There was no way we were going to portage, yet we really wanted to get to the lake! Although we knew there were some unmarked logging roads around the lake, we did not see any on the map and it appeared that there was no road access to Lady Evelyn Lake. Nevertheless, there was a number of lodges on Lady Evelyn Lake (not to mention private cottages) and I quickly found out that they transport their guests' gear (and even the guests) in a truck-pulled trailer—no traditional portaging required! Catherine and I contacted several lodges by email and by phone, hoping to get more information on using this mode of transportation around the dam or coordinating our arrival with their guests' so that we could also take advantage of the availability of their trailer/flatbed/truck—needless to say, not for free. Unfortunately, the replies we received were quite disappointing. One lodge even sent me a polite reply saying that it only provided this service to its guests and it was sorry it could not help me—it also asked me how I found about the lodge as the got three other inquiries in the last week of similar nature from canoeists. However, eventually Catherine called Island Lodge and it informed her about a gentleman living at the dam, Mitchell, who transported boats around the dam every day—it was his job! We were quite disappointed by the fact that the other lodges did not mention Mitchell's services to us, as if he did not exist and made us think that the only available transportation over the dam was theirs.
Finlayson Point Provincial Park-our campsite no. 8

We left Toronto on August 10, 2014; it was very hot (+30C) and sunny. We stopped in Gravenhurst where we were treated to free bratwurst at the supermarket's parking lot and later had a break in a small town of Katrine off highway 11. We decided to spend a few nights in Finlayson Point Provincial Park, where we had camped previously. At the park's office we met Emily, who worked for the park. She lived in the area and we chatted with her for a while—she also confirmed that Mitchell provided transportation services over the Mattawapika Dam. She took her time to mark the sites that were not available so that we could select the most suitable campsite. We also spoke to a park warden, a very nice fellow too. After slowly driving in the park for a while, we picked site number 8. The hilly campsite was made up of open rock with partial view of the lake. There were many chipmunks running everywhere and it was fun watching them, sometimes they carried big pine cones or even sizable pieces of bread that they probably stole off campers and pushed them into their holes in the ground. Two years ago we had stayed on the adjacent campsite, number 10, but it was taken. In addition to our campsite, we also got a 'private' dock where we kept our canoe overnight. We settled in and went for a late-evening paddle as it was a warm, windless evening. We saw a few loons on the lake and enjoyed their unforgettable calling. But what really caught our attention was the beautiful, reddish moon—not only was it full, but it was also 'super moon,' biggest full moon of 2014!
Paddling on Temagami Lake

Next day was hot and sunny. Our campsite was so exposed to the sun that we even considered switching a campsite—but all the good sites had been taken or booked. In the evening we canoed to the town of Temagami and walked around the main buildings, but everything was closed. We enjoyed strolling along the shores and admired wooden structures, garden sheds and fish houses. Catherine also went to the Chinese restaurant and got the menu, just in case it rained and we wanted to have dinner. It was getting dark and we headed back to the campsite for a late-night campfire and a rib fest.
Cobalt mine

On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, we got up and it was pouring rain; it kept raining every day until Friday morning. Our new Eureka El Capitan 3 tent was perfectly keeping us dry and cozy inside. Of course, we did not even think about commencing the second part of our trip on Lady Evelyn Lake; instead, we visited adjoining towns. We drove to Cobalt, the legendary mining town; after the discovery of silver in 1903 in the area, it became one of the largest silver producing areas in the world, people arrived in doves by train and the next day were looking for silver (the original train station still stood there). There are no operating mines in the area, but plenty of old mines and mining artifacts.
Old railway station, now museum. It was here that throngs of prospectors arrived from North America, hoping to become millionaires.

We went to the mining museum and then were transported to explore a real, albeit long closed, silver mine! It was one of the most interesting tours I had—I believe the only other mine I had visited was the famous Salt Mine in Wieliczka, Poland, over 40+ years ago—which was very different from the one in Cobalt! The tour guides, young local students, did a very good job telling us about how hard people had to work there and describing the perils of mining. The mine was damp and the temperature quite low—it did not vary during the year. 
At the old silver mine in Cobalt

Miners had their own non-electric light and if by accident it was blown out, they were suddenly surround by total—and I mean total—darkness; if they were unable to re-start the light, they had to stay put either until somebody padding by saw them or to the end of their 12 hour shift—once it was determined that somebody was missing, the management sent a search party. After the tour of the silver mine, we were about to watch a movie in the museum, but the power was down. Due to the rain I was unable to take too many photos. We visited a few stores and also went to a local Flea Market which was indoors and had plenty of selection of everything you could think of.
Cobalt, Ontario

The town of New Liskeard was different—there were lots of grocery stores, even Canadian Tire and Staples. In fact, our awesome Scott canoe was made by Mid Canada Fiberglass Company, located in New Liskeard. Unfortunately, the previous year it had gone out of business... Since the border with Quebec was nearby, we bravely crossed it (no passports required—yet) and drove to Notre Dame du Norte. Everything was closed (after 5:00 pm) and we turned back. In Latchford we saw a memorial plaque dedicated to Aubrey Cosens.

Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, V.C. 1921-1945

Born in Latchford and raised near Porquis Junction, Cosens enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Regiment, Canadian Active Service Force, in 1940 and transferred to the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada in 1944. Early on February 26, 1945, his unit attacked German forces at Mooshof, Holland, a strategic position vital to the success of future operations. His platoon suffered heavy casualties and Cosens assumed command. Supported by a tank, he led another attack against three enemy strong points, which he captured single-handed. He later was killed by a sniper. For his "outstanding gallantry, initiative and determined leadership" he was posthumously awarded the Commonwealth's highest decoration for valour, the Victoria Cross.

There is also the Sgt. Aubrey Cosens VC Memorial Bridge on highway 11 in Latchford, where it crosses the Montreal River. In 2003 there was a partial failure of the bridge, caused by fatigue fracture of three steel hanger rods.
View from our campsite at Finlayson Point Provincial Park-we could see boats, house boats and float planes

On Tuesday morning we heard emergency vehicles sirens, which was something uncommon. Later we found out there was a motor vehicle accident at Marten River, an 80 year old woman was killed. Incidentally, we did get used to hearing the passing trains' whistles, float planes taking off close to our campsite and huge tractors trailers' passing through town—not to mention big motor boats. It almost seemed wasteful to haul all those loads by trucks instead trains—and we were told that there were only two trains per day; the passenger train (Toronto-Cochrane) was discontinued not long ago. Well, Finlayson Point is a nice park, BUT if you want to experience peace and solitude, it is certainly NOT the PARK to stay in!

One day we were having coffee and reading newspaper in Temagami's Coffee Time; we were just reading about some labour problems at Bombardier's plant in Thunder Bay and about hauling subway cars to Toronto—and at that very moment we saw a few huge trucks carrying... the very same subway cars to Toronto!
Memorial plaque at Finlayson Point Provincial Park dedicated to Grey Owl

Because of the weather, we stayed in the tent (not very comfortable), in the van (more comfortable, but not much space) or in the Temagami library—which was the best place to be—and we did spend several hours there, reading magazines & newspapers, perusing books or browsing the Internet. We also chatted with lovely library employees, who were so nice to talk to! There was a shelf of discontinued books for sale or donation which was a godsend. We got an audiotape and sat in the van in the rain one evening listening to French-Canadian police tales.

There was a very interesting woodworking shop in the center of Temagami, just around the grocery store. We wish our van had not been packed to the hilt so that we could buy and take with us some of the beautiful handmade wooden ware. But we only wanted to buy wood scraps for kindling for our campfire. The shop was closed, but the owner, a.k.a. Chief Carpenter just happened to be driving by and told us to follow him to his main workshop, located on a side road. He said that often bears wander around his workshop—well, the local garbage dump was nearby and in the past I spent many an hour there, observing tens of black bears! He made all kinds of furniture, sheds, birdhouses and anything made of wood! He was a very nice gentleman.
On Lake Temagami

The Temagami grocery store, “Our Daily Bread”, was, thankfully, still running and very well stocked. I had met the owners, a couple, in 2012 and I chatted with the wife this year too, she was a very charming lady and I wished her all the success in this undertaking! I have to say that we were almost surprised that everyone we met in Temagami was so pleasant and helpful!
Our paddling route according to my GPS

The weather was still bad and it was only +9C, cold! At least we found some wild mushrooms which love rain—and there was plenty of it! Funny, but when we were camping at this park two years ago, it was so hot that one day a warden showed up at our campsite and informed us that a fire ban had just been implemented in the area! This time we were almost ready to abandon the second leg of our trip—after all, we were not such die-hard canoeists to disregard the weather and reach our destination! But on Friday (15/08/2014) the weather was supposed to improve; it was still raining in the morning, so we packed up the still wet tent, left the park and drove up north on highway 11 and then turned left on Mowat Landing Road.
Catherine feeding a friendly duck

A group of canoeists have just finished their trip and were packing up—they looked cold and crabby—no wonder, 4 days of cold, wet weather! I spent some time playing with a tame, friendly duck, very eager to get some food.
I loved this kind of portage!

We were on the water at 03:00 pm and after a short paddle we reached the Mattawapika Dam. A portage of about 400 meters was required, but thanks to Mr. Mitchell, who lived there, it was not necessary if you were willing to shell out $25.00 (the fee included the transportation on the way back, too!). While Catherine was getting Mr. Mitchell, I was talking to four canoeists from Hamilton, who were just going home—wet and cold. One of them showed me on the map the campsite they stayed on and said it was very nice, with plenty of wet wood. After a short time Mr. Mitchell arrived with his truck and a special boat trailer. To my astonishment, our fully packed canoe floated onto the trailer, we got into the back of the truck and slowly proceeded to the ramp on the Lady Evelyn River. We did not even have to pay him now, but on the way back—“after all, you have to come back this way,” he said.
Our perfect campsite, very close to Lady Evelyn Lake

Since we wanted to get to the suggested campsite, both of us paddled our hearts out. After all, there was competition on the lake and Catherine had her sight set on that campsite. We saw a few campsites here and there, but eventually reached the campsite just vacated by that group of four canoeists. It was very lovely, rocky, spacious, with lots of trails to follow, lots of wood, and a thunder box a distance away. In no time we set up the tent and tarp, in case it rained. I sawed some wood and in the evening we had a very nice campfire. The loons serenated us for quite a long time. I would like to add that this area was not part of the park (i.e., Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park); even though there were campsites marked on the map, they were not legally designate and we could have camped anywhere—not that it would make much sense!
Our campsite

On Saturday, August 16, 2014 it (again!) rained a lot and it was cold. We read books and listened the radio about Russian ‘humanitarian’ convoys to Ukraine and America’s involvement in Iraq in taking back the dam near Mosul. In the evening we managed to go canoeing on Lady Evelyn lake; we visited a few islands and campsites as well as went ashore in a very dense forest, with plenty of fallen and rotting trees. It was very difficult to move around; we saw plenty of Moose droppings and evidence of tree nibbling. Back at the campsite, with some difficulty, we managed to start the fire, as the wood was wet.
At our campsite-towards Lady Evelyn Lake

Sunday was cloudy, windy and cool, yet the prognosis did not call for rain. So, we packed up a lunch and headed to see the ‘famous’ sandbanks or sand spits—I had spotted them on Google’s satellite map and became rather intrigued by their peculiar contours.
Sandbanks on Lady Evelyn Lake

Once we left the mouth of the river, we encountered a head wind and sizable waves—Catherine was getting wet in front of the canoe. Since we had to position the canoe at a certain angle to the waves, we were not able to take the shortest route. Despite the waves, the canoe was very stable and we were paddling on open waters of the lake, far from its shores. We did not see any other canoes or kayaks on the lake, just a few determined fishermen, who were curiously looking at our struggling canoe. A motorboat passed nearby and the boat operator shouted,

            “I admire your tenacity to paddle in such rough weather!”

            “We admire ourselves, too,” we shouted back and under our breath we added, “our stupidity, too.

According to my GPS, we were paddling at a speed of 4 km/h. Considering that we were paddling at our maximum, our speed should have been at least 6 km/h—meaning that we were ‘losing’ at least 2 km/h due to the head wind. Of course, had we had a tailwind, it would have increased our speed by 2 km/h—yet, as I have mentioned so many times in my blogs, for some totally inexplicable reasons, at least 80% of the time were forced to paddle against the wind.
Sandbanks on Lady Evelyn Lake

As we were paddling, I thought I saw low-lying clouds—but after a while I realized it was a mountain range. Indeed, the area contained several conspicuous mountains, including Maple Mountain (elevation 671 m) and Ishpatina Ridge; that latter, with elevation 701 m, is the highest point in Ontario.
Our day trip to the dunes

Some stretches of the lake become rather shallow—probably water levels depended not only on the rainfall, but the Mattawapika Dam. At one point I thought my GPS broke down—it was showing that we were paddling…. overland! Well, the topographical map was showing the area as 'intermittent water' and that was why I got a little confused.
Dunes-finally, we were sheltered from the wind and could have our lunch

After almost 3 hours we reached the dunes, located in the south-central shoreline of Lady Evelyn Lake. The maze of partially submerged forested sand dunes developed through post-glacial wind action. The finger-like clusters of sand dunes have been flooded, but still protrude above the waters of the lake. The dues were formed long before the water in this lake was raised 10 m or more as a result of hydroelectric development and wave erosion is rapidly destroying them.

We could see that the dunes were covered with long pine forests and vegetation. They formed very quaint channels and inlets, which perfectly sheltered us from the wind. We went ashore and had our lunch—Catherine brought the stove so that we could enjoy hot pasta and soup. Since we were feeling chilled, it hit the spot. We explored some of the ‘channels’ separating the dunes and turned back, heading to our campsite. Again, for unfathomable reasons, we wither paddled against the wind or had a side wind and a few times water got inside the canoe. It was a slow and laborious journey. We passed Ellen Island Lodge (with a small floatplane moored) and several islands, and finally we could enjoy the calm waters near the mouth of the Lake Evelyn River; minutes later, we were at our campsite. Altogether we paddled 18 km; with the wind factor, that was probably close to 30 km. Wow, what an awesome excursion!
Finally back at our campsite!

The first thing I did after arriving at the campsite was starting the fire and I dried my wet shoes and socks; Catherine headed to th tent, jumped into the sleeping bag and stayed the for a while to get warm. Afterwards both of us sat around the fire, enjoying red wine and grilled ribs.

We packed up and left the next day. After reaching the Mattawapika Dam, Mr. Mitchell again transported our canoe (and us) over the 400 m road, thus saving us not only portaging, but many trips, as we would have to carry innumerable pieces of our equipment! I have to say it that the $25 we paid for both 'motorized portages' was one of the best investment I had ever made!
Once again, my favourite portage!

There was a familiar looking float plane at Mowat Landing—yes, the one from Temagami, that made so much noise while taking off! This time it circled on the water for a while and finally took off.
Float plane with a canoe, taking off

Once we were packed, we drove to the town of Hailebury, on the shores of Lake Timiskaming. This was a big lake; its eastern shores, some 7 km across, were in the province of Quebec. We drove north along the western shores of this lake, reached highway 65, circled the lake's northern shores and soon entered Quebec. In Notre Dame du Nort we crossed a bridge on the Ottawa River and after a few minutes started driving south, on highway 101, again along the shores of Lake Timiskaming. We could immediately see that Quebec was different—apart from the fact that all signs were in French, architecture of buildings somehow differed from that in Ontario. The scenery changed too—it was not as rugged as that on the other shores of the lake, in Ontario. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to stop and take a close look at whatever we wanted to see—we wished we could come here for several days! Eventually the lake started to become narrower and turned into the Ottawa River. In the town of Temiscaming we crossed the Ottawa River and again entered Ontario. For a while we drove on road number 63, then left to road 533 which eventually took us to the town of Mattawa. From there highway 17 took us to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, where we were going to spend the night. 
Map of Samuel de Champlain Park and our campsite, #145

We managed to get a nice campsite number 145, very close to the historic Mattawa River—the park was named after the famous explorer, who travelled on this river in 399 years ago, in 1615. Of course, Catherine wanted to go for a swim and even though the current was quite strong, she did go into the water and slowly walked to the middle of the river.
One of the exhibits at the Mattawa River Visitor Center

The next day we explored the park and went to Mattawa River Visitor Center. We were the only visitors and the park employee did a great job answering our questions. The Center had plenty of very interesting exhibits on the history of the area, early explorers and voyageurs, native paintings and a real Voyageur canoe! We were absolutely thrilled and even got a map of the Mattawa River, hoping that one day we would
Another exhibit at the Visitor Centre
go there canoeing!

It was an excellent trip; despite the bad weather, we managed to camp at two parks and explore Lady Evelyn Lake—as well as visit a number of towns. No doubt that we will again return to this area!
Catherine at the Visitor Center trying on various furs


It is not easy for Catherine and I to find a new place to paddle and bivouac which is relatively close to Toronto, does not require portaging, has parking facilities and is relatively safe to canoe. Having talked to a number people and examining maps and books, we finally decided to try an area close to Georgian Bay.
Ready to go... provided the canoe won't sink!

On July 27, 2014, we left Toronto and one hour later stopped at Barrie’s MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) store. I was surprised that the store did not carry topographical maps anymore. Our second stop was at Pointe au Baril and I when I entered into the LCBO store, it closed its door for the day, it was 4:00 pm. We bought beer and wine; the latter turned out to be not good at all. After a short drive we arrived at Bayfield Inlet; amazingly, the parking was still free—but only this year; according to posted signs, as of 2015, we will have to park at nearby marinas or other private establishments. It was quiet and we did not see anybody around, so we quickly launched the canoe and soon were paddling towards Georgian Bay. It was windy, but the numerous islands around provided ample protection against the wind. Of course, we were paddling against the wind—during our trips, we paddle against the wind at least 80% of the time and I do not remember when was the last time we were pushed by strong winds. Then we turned right and headed towards the River—despite the fact that we changed the direction, the wind was blowing in our faces!

“We don’t even need a GPS,” I said, “all we have to do is paddle against the wind and we’ll certainly get to our destination!”
Finally, we entered the river

There were cottages on some islands and along the shores, but as we got closer to the river, they became quite sparse. The mouth of the river—consisting of a narrow entrance—was constricting and shallow, with many rocks sticking out or hiding just under the water, some still bearing traces of boats’ paint. Almost immediately we found ourselves in a different world! No traces of human habitation, just graceful rocks and vegetation on both shores. Soon we reached a sturdy beaver dam. A water snake, sunbathing on the dam, was staring directly at Catherine and she was afraid it would suddenly jump into the canoe and attack her. Going over the dam would require us to remove everything from the canoe—being much too slothful, we turned back and began looking for a suitable place to set up a bivouac by the river. The east shore was very rugged, the west shore steep, with rock polished by receding glaciers. We came ashore—there were perfect sites for a campsite on the top of the rocks, yet we would have to carry our equipment up—which we did not want to do. Finally we decided to set up the tent on a sloping rock near the water, which was not the ideal location, but at least we would not have to walk up and down steep and smooth rocks; in case it rained, our path would resemble a very slippery slide. At that point I realized that I did not properly secure the canoe and it slowly floated away several meters from the shore. Right away I took my clothes off and swam to get it—besides, it was a great idea to have a quick bath! Before 9:00 pm we had a campfire and grilled ribs. Mosquitoes were terrible. One of our folding chairs collapsed and we had to patch it up. It got quite windy at night and I did not sleep well.
The beaver dam near our campsite-you can see the tent

It was still breezy when we got up and some of our bags were blown into the water. Yesterday we had seen plenty of blueberry bushes with multitude of big, ripened blueberries. We spent about 30 minutes collecting them and each of us brought a big cup full of big, sweet, delicious blueberries and probably ate more than that. We did not need any breakfast. By the way, we decided not to hang our food—the trees were on the top of the rocky shores and most of them were quite small and fragile, making it very difficult to hang a big, heavy barrel.
Our campsite

After the blueberry breakfast we paddled up the river, carried the canoe over the beaver dam and found ourselves on a beautiful, pristine lake—its shores were formed of plenty of rocks and rocky hills and large patches of the lake were literally covered with water lily plants and flowers. It was very windy; amazingly, the wind pushed us this time towards the west (dead) end of the lake, where was spotted another beaver dam. But if we thought we were lucky this time, we were totally mistaken: paddling back, against the strong wind, turned out to be very strenuous, we moved 2-3 km/h, but it was not a long paddle and in no time we reached ‘our’ beaver dam, went over it and got back to our campsite. I spent another 30 minutes collecting blueberries and became satiated in no time.
Our campsite towards the beaver dam

In the evening we grilled the last of our ribs over the campfire—we had our supper earlier to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes which appeared later in the evening. Before turning in, we listened to the news: it was mostly about the war in Gaza and problems at the site of the Malaysian plane crash in Ukraine.
We kept the food in the blue barrel as it was very difficult to find a good tree to hang it

July 30, 2014, Tuesday. In the morning Catherine heard some rustling just around the tent and water splashing, but we assumed it was beavers, muskrats or, unlikely, deer. Around 10 am, while we were still in the tent, we heard lumbering near the tent and then splashing, as if something waded in the water. Because we had everywhere seen plenty of (probably) moose droppings, we thought that it was a moose crossing the river. Catherine got out of the tent and was intensely looking for a moose—so intensely that she almost missed a black bear, sitting on a rock on the opposite shore and staring at her, like the water snake from 2 nights before. I quickly left the tent and saw it too, but by the time I got my camera, the bear was slowly loping into the woods. Later we tried to figure out where it crossed the water and looking at the still wet rock, we determined that most likely it utilized a well-used water passage among the bulrushes that led to the other side of the river—and which passed just a few meters from our tent!
Our reliable canoe

The weather was so-so, on the cool side: cloudy, with some very light rain and possible thunderstorms. We decided to stay put on our campsite and read books. I spent almost one hour picking blueberries and without exaggeration I must have eaten over one liter of them, they were big and plentiful. While getting engrossed in blueberry picking, just in case I was singing or mumbling something aloud—I did not want to startle a hungry bear who might be also enwrapped in the same activity! The evening news was about problems in Libya and the evacuation of the Canadian embassy.
Surrounded by wilderness...

Next day we again carried the canoe over the beaver dam and paddled to the North/Middle Channel—we were surrounded by total solitude, no human-made structure was in sight, only occasional old fire pits on the rocks indicated that people do infrequently visit this lake. It was simply magical! According to our maps, there was a connection to the other body of water, but if there was, it was totally overgrown with weeds, vegetation and possibly blocked by beaver dams. So we just paddled, completely alone, reveling in the utmost beauty, serenity and wilderness that encircled us. There were a few beaver lodges, some probably abandoned. Around one of them we spotted mysterious gel blobs, which appeared out of this world—neither of us had ever seen anything like that before! Later I conducted some research and determined that the gelatinous balls were called bryozoans. They were tiny colonial animals that form jelly like masses, often attached to other objects (pieces of wood, docks). Supposedly fresh water bryozoans are harmless to humans.

By the way, we saw and/or heard bears crossing the river every day, no more than 30 meters from our campsite, but they were so silent and discreet that I never had a chance to snap a photo of them—and I did keep my cameras nearby! Sometimes we saw a black contour on the rock or heard water splashing—when we looked, all we could see was the rear part of a bear quickly disappearing in the woods.
Water Lily

One day we left the campsite for the whole day and paddled on the bay leading to Georgian Bay. There were a few motor boats, some islands had impressive cottages and the whole area was quite picturesque. When we came back to the campsite, we did not see anything amiss—apparently bears were very timid and not interested in our campsite. As we were unable to hang the food, usually we took the food barrel with us while canoeing.
Finally some civilization!

Altogether we spent 5 nights camping on this lovely river and we did not see one (human) soul in that area, just about 10 black bears. We left on Friday, August 1, 2014 and leisurely paddled back to the dock. [Incidentally, it was the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising which broke out on August 1, 1944 and lasted for 63 days. Somehow I remembered that on the same day 20 years ago, a friend of mine and I had gone camping to Six Mile Provincial Park and after a short wait, we got the last (and worst) available site in the park]. 

As we were unloading the canoe, two kayakers were just ready to depart on their weekend jaunt; they got quite a scare when we told them about the numerous bears at our campsite! On the way back we visited a tourist lodge—and since there were blueberry bushes with tons of big, ripe blueberries along the road, we stopped and in no time our empty 4 liter water containers were full! Locals said it was an amazing year for blueberries due to perfect weather and swarms of black flies which supposedly helped pollinate blueberries. I visited the same place, at the same time of the year, the following year and because of the hot and sunny weather, most of the blueberry bushes were burned by the sun and dry and we only managed to pick a handful of semi-edible blueberries.
The best time of my life-sitting around the campfire and reading a good book!

Late afternoon we stopped in Parry Sound, visited the Hart Store and No Frills, bought some food supplies and headed to the main docks, where we had lunch under the CPR railway trestle over the Sequin River. The trestle was completed in 1907. Tom Thomson, the famous painter and precursor of the Group of Seven, had visited Parry Sound in July, 1914—almost exactly 100 years ago—and painted the bridge and the Parry Sound Lumber Company; the reproduction of his painting was on a plaque near the trestle.

Trestle at Parry Sound, 1914

Tom Thomson paddled into the mouth of the Seguin River one evening in mid-July, 1914. He had come from Go Home Bay, stopping to stay in the South Channel for a few days. Seeing the new CPR trestle, the longest bridge east of the Rockies, and the Parry Sound Lumber Company aglow in the setting sun, he selected one of his 8” by 10” wooden boards, and made this evocative sketch in less than an hour.
Today Tom Thomson is acknowledged as Canada’s foremost painter. Those small wooden boards he gave to friends can be worth more than a million dollars.
What he saw in 1914: Fifty years after the lumbering began, logs, arriving down the river, are trimmed and cut into the mills. The river is dammed; both shores are lined with tramways, thousands of boards feet of lumber piled high, waiting to be loaded in ships. The lumber goes to railheads around the Great Lakes to build the cities of North America and the world. Seven years later, the last of the mills had burned to the ground, and Parry Sound had welcomed the first of the cruise ships with visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Incidentally, in August, 2015 I was trying to locate the plaque and show it to my friend, but could not find it—supposedly it had been vandalized!
One of the best campsites we've ever had!

Although it was a rather short trip, we will remember it for a long time: the area was absolutely pristine and extremely picturesque, unspoiled by any visible human activity. We were able to experience total solitude, interrupted only by ephemeral sightings of black bears and never before had we gorged on so many wild blueberries! I am certain that it was not our last visit there.

Blog po polsku/Blog in the Polish language: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.ca/2015/11/biwakowanie-na-przepieknej-rzece-koo.html