Canadian Canoe Routes

Grand Lake Newfoundland
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Author:  canoe709 [ February 8th, 2021, 9:50 am ]
Post subject:  Grand Lake Newfoundland

I have been reading an article by Linda Bartlett about kayaking the length of Grand Lake, needless to say it's very inspiring. I see another fellow Kevin Redmond kayaked(?) it as well. Anyway it seems the information on the lake and any trips on it is scarce. Does anyone know if someone has done it it a open canoe? The only information I can find is that it is a big body of water and is to be respected. Anyone have any thoughts or experiences with it would be appreciated.


Author:  hooligan [ February 8th, 2021, 2:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grand Lake Newfoundland

Paddled Grand in 2004 or 2005 in an open canoe with GF on our way up the Naskaupi so we didn’t go completely to the west end.
It is B I G water but doable in a canoe. Weather can change in minutes .
Uneventful on the way up but a bit exciting on the way back to North West River. I have a bit of a write up about the return trip that I posted here years ago about how fast the weather changes. I’ll try and dig it up.

Author:  hooligan [ February 9th, 2021, 2:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grand Lake Newfoundland

I have sent a couple of PM's to the OP but they don't seem to be going anywhere, just sitting in the outbox for more than six hours and they do not show as a sent message.

Anyone know what's happening?

Resolved and PM's received.

Author:  hooligan [ February 10th, 2021, 5:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grand Lake Newfoundland

As requested by canoe709 here is my long winded and sometimes superfluous write up about a day on Grand Lake, Labrador. It is not so much about the lake itself rather more about our experiences in some bad weather..
First posted here in 2007 from a trip in 2004.

Warning . . . it is quite long, you even get the prologue. What can I say, I like detail!

For some unknown reason, yesterday I looked up this bit of a trip. It was misfiled in some obscure electronic folder where it had sat for six months or more, and even that document was years after the actual happenings. I journal every day on my trips, in a small wire bound booklet, and when I return home the pages are torn out, stapled together and placed on the ever growing pile in the filing cabinet. Some get transcribed and typed into a legible format, stored in some form or another, most just sit in the stack. The tiny journals are just point form, triggers for future reference.
When rereading this account, I scrounged around and brought out the original pages. Some were smudged from my grubby fingers, some smeared from rain. But what memories they brought back!
What is missing from this one, and most of what I write, is all those physical memories; the smells of spruce, water and wood smoke, the buzz of mosquitoes and the sting of blackflies, the sound of a paddle in the water, the new sights around the next bend, the scream of eagles in the air, the ache of tired muscles at the end of a day, all those things that I cannot capture in print. I have a hard time putting four words together to make a sentence.

We awoke to a beautiful day; sunshine, no wind and a calm lake.
When we went to sleep last night we were expecting the worst. We had pulled into shore at an old trappers cabin hoping for some shelter from the expected storm. The sky was all purple clouds and the smell of rain was in the air. The cabin was a shambles. No door, no windows, no roof but it did have walls. Our tent was set in the north corner on the bare plank floor. A tarp thrown over what was left of the ridgepole and tacked to the walls would provide some shelter when the rains began.
The rains never came. The clouds remained, gathering and swirling about; wind picked up and died then picked up again. It whistled through the branches of the spruce trees surrounding us, sounding like a freeway of heavy traffic. Then at dusk it died completely. The setting sun was amazing; turning the clouds shades of purple, pink and every spectrum in between.

So, here we are after the night of an anticipated storm, both of us amazed at the start of the day. There was something not quite right that neither of us could put a finger on. The air had a faint taste. And the colours were not quite right. Sort of as if the air had a diffused bronze tint to it.
After a leisurely breakfast and bath in the freezing water, we packed the canoe and set out.
Water like glass, the only ripple was from our wake and the occasional fish jumping for flies. Not a breath of wind. We couldn’t believe the weather.
There was no need to rush, North West River was still a couple of days away and we didn’t have a timetable anyway.
We pulled in and ate an early lunch at a large smooth rock jutting into the water, directly across from Caribou Point. There seemed to be a natural path from the rock to the alders and then up into the stunted black spruce further in. We figure that if there is a path that caribou will use, natives will follow. After our meal we followed the path and explored the caribou trail looking for old native relics. And there were a few; tent poles, a bottle, an old enamelled tin cup. And the ever present leg hold traps. As we wandered about, the conversation drifted to the ones we usually had in places like this; how long ago was anyone here? this is a good campsite, do you think Wallace stopped here? Enough was enough and we headed out once more.
The lake was still glassy, not a ripple to be seen. The Labrador sun was out, beating down in that strange way, warming our backs but seeming to distort all distances. The humidity hung in the air, almost palpable.
What the heck, might as well cut some paddling off and cut across the next bay rather than hugging the shore!? We had about 3-4K of open water before the far point, not much in the grand scheme of things.
We are in a jovial mood, talking as we paddled, noting things in the scenery and pointing them out to each other.
When the changes came, they came quickly.
The water started to move.
Gentle swells came out of nowhere, going opposite to us, up the lake to the north. Not much, only about 5-6 inches in height but very broad. Maybe 60 feet between crests. Crest isn’t the correct word, it was more like . . . the ocean. No whitecaps, no breaking waves, just a very gentle swell. We are about half way to the point, still no reason to worry.
Up ahead something strange is happening. Maybe my eyes are confused; maybe that strange sunlight distortion is causing a mirage. I ask Dallas what she sees. In a kidding way she confirms my thoughts “it looks as if a bridge has been built across the lake!” And it does look like a bridge. A solid black band across the lake looked solid enough to drive on. It had substance and height.
Another minute passes before we understand what is happening. “That’s no bridge, it’s a wall of water and it’s coming our way. We’re heading for shore. NOW! PADDLE HARD!”
I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. A wall of water racing down the lake, stretching from shore to shore, and us paddling hard, closing the distance, trying to get to shore. It looked enormous, maybe 20 feet high. The height diminished as the distance closed between us. Wind picked up, a breeze at first then brisk, and then enough to pull froth off the water. Clouds blocked out the sun at our backs. Rain started to fall; only a few drops, then more, then more again. The wind carried the rain into our faces.
When the wall of water finally did hit us it was not twenty feet high or even ten. Maybe two, who knows for sure, memories have a way of escalating. Whatever the height, it was enough to dump water in the canoe.

And now we would see the other face of the lake; no more glass like surface, no more sun on our backs. This would be the one we would not like, the one that howled and threw rain that stung like sleet.

Our route to shore could not be direct – that would put us broadside to the waves. We had to angle in, a compromise on distance and wave action. We took water over the right side but could not stop paddling to bail. Dallas managed to get her PFD on but I couldn’t, I was afraid of losing control in the waves. No time for rain gear for either of us.
Only a couple hundred meters to go and the wind picks up to a howl, rain is plastered to our faces and the temperature has dropped maybe five degrees already. Headway slows. The pain in my shoulder tells me I cannot continue much longer without a rest. Resting now would be deadly.
We try to talk to each other for encouragement but it is more like shouting to be heard above the screaming wind.
As we near shore the trees and rock point offer some shelter and the wave action diminishes slightly. This is good because we are both almost done in.
We pull in on the rock strewn shore and give a big hug before we dig out the rain gear, try to warm up and take stock of ourselves and the situation.
We are cold and wet and a bit tired from the adrenalin rush of the storm and frantic paddle. The shore is quite inhospitable, just a bit of level, boulder strewn ground rising steeply to bare rock cliffs. The only growth is the strip of tightly packed tag alders before the rock. We cannot stay here. The map shows a small bay around the point so after a brief discussion we head out and try to find a campsite for the evening.
The rain is still falling in sheets, the lake is white caps but we plan to take shelter from the shore whenever we can.
This may have been a mistake.
The paddle to the point was not bad. When we rounded the last spit of land the wind hit us with what seemed like renewed vigour. No shelter from the shore now, we are almost broadside to the waves. More than once I use my paddle to push us away from steep cliffs rising straight out of the water on our left side. Worried as I am, a large patch of orange lichen, clutching the bare rock face, all wet and dripping, still catches my eye as we pass, and I wonder that it must look magnificent in the bright sunlight. We push hard only a few meters from shore, wind direction changing from near broadside to bow on as we round the small bay.
Rain is falling hard now, driven almost horizontal by the howling wind, stinging our faces and running down our necks, soaking us to the skin. It seems like the temperature has fallen into the single digits. Nothing would surprise me, it has been known to snow every month of the year up here. We are soaked and cold.
Daylight is fading now even though it is only 1400h. We need a campsite. But where? Steep sloping, rocky, treeless, windswept shore is all we can see.
Twice, Dallas gets out of the canoe to scout what we think is a level section of ground only to return shaking her head. The third one is not much better but it will have to do, light is fading fast. A small level patch on this shore of steep inclines, it is not large enough for a two person tent. A convenient crack in the rock, full of water, makes a nice entranceway under the fly, which we cannot stake down because of the rock.
The canoe is pulled up as far as possible, flipped over and tied to some boulders. The stern is still in the waves. Setting the tent in this wind took both our efforts; material flapping till someone can clip that last buckle, struggling with large rocks for the four corners. Pegs are impossible here; there is no soil at all. Rain is pelting us in a ceaseless torment, cooling us even with the exertion of set up. The vestibule cannot be pulled out because the rock shelf drops away too quickly. Finally we are done and stare at each other for a second, both of us thinking the same thoughts; “what will this night bring?”
We cram the food and clothes barrel under the sagging fly and back into the tent, stripping off our wet clothes as we go. My last chore as I back in is to string a length of parachute cord through the vestibule grommets and around the barrels to give us some semblance of protection.
First we set the sleeping pads and then change in to our dry poly underwear. We laugh at our appearance, wet scraggly hair and haggard faces. The temperature rises quickly in the tent and our shivering stops. Next we eat our supper; heavy crackers and peanut butter washed down with lake water. We exchange a few thoughts and questions about bears and eating in the tent (which we have never done) but do not stop. We cannot stop, we are starved.
The wind is still howling fiercely, we can actually see the distorted shape of the dome leaning to the north, but it has not increased for a while. Nor diminished either. It will not be a good sleep tonight for the rock slopes two ways or more. Rain is pounding the tent, the vestibule is flapping, and waves are crashing only a few feet outside, our clothes are a sodden pile at the door; but for now, all is right with our world. We are warm and dry and have survived the day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Reaching through the door and rummaging in the food barrel, which is propped at a very convenient angle thanks to the water filled crack in the rock, I come up with the tiny Nalgene of Drambuie.
Before setting the sleeping bags and curling up with each other, we have a couple of pulls of that exotic liqueur and toast each other with a few words that we save for these kind of situations; words that have become our mutual encouragement when we are down and out, tired and wet, demoralized and stymied or in general need of a boost:

“Here’s to us and those like us. DAMN FEW LEFT!!”

Author:  Ralph [ February 10th, 2021, 5:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grand Lake Newfoundland

Great writing! I feel like I was there. You did very well to handle the situation so well.

Author:  hooligan [ February 10th, 2021, 9:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grand Lake Newfoundland

Ralph wrote:
Great writing! I feel like I was there. You did very well to handle the situation so well.

^^^^^ This! The best compliment, and what I try to achieve, with my blathering chicken scratching.
Thank you!

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