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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 12:06 am 
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Location: Mid-coast Maine
Gens de Terre Trip Report, September 2023

We managed to pull off a late season trip somewhat out of the blue. Ben wanted to do the GdT because it was one of the few rivers in that neighborhood that he hadn’t run yet. Tom and I hadn’t run anything in that neck of the woods before, and were happy to oblige. We met at the bridge at the end of the river on Sunday night, September 24th. Tom had gotten a start from Virginia the day before, and I drove up from Maine that day – we arrived within an hour of each other, right about dark. Ben rolled in from Toronto around midnight. We pitched in a lumpy skidding yard just off the road and just past the bridge. No-see-ums and sand fleas - a fire drove most of them off. Cocktails and etc and off to bed.

Up late-ish and put all of Tom’s gear into/onto my Subaru. Out of camp just after noon. Did the 2-hour drive to the put-in with my vehicle and Ben’s, and left Tom’s at the end. The put-in at the Cabonga Reservoir dam was very accessible and had a nice porta-john. Arrived just before 2pm, boats loaded, vehicles stashed, and on the river a bit before 3:30.

General considerations – the river was running at 7 cubic meters / second, which is important to note for future travelers considering this report. It is a relatively LOW flow for the Gens de Terre, but still very paddle-able at that level. Kinda wouldn’t have wanted too much more, actually… Our weather throughout the trip was superb, with blue skies and warm days (high 70s, low 80s) and cold nights (the first two in the 30s, I think, then 40s). Some nice breezes most of the time, but nothing notable as a headwind or tailwind for very long. Waxing and full moon. We did contend with a relentless dew that fell shortly after sunset every night and soaked anything left out. There were a few episodes with bugs, but never enough to warrant setting up the bughut that I brought along for the ride. No nocturnal camp visitors. Never touched my doubleblade. Made a few casts, but, as is typical with us, did not put much time or effort into fishing. Maps for the GdT can be found at cartesplienair.org and are very accurate.

After launching from the dam, the first rapid of consequence was the R3/4 + S4 about 1.5kms downstream. Here the river necks down through a mini defile with rock walls about 10’ high. It is a speedy drop across about 150 meters. We scouted via the portage trail, and decided we’d rather run it than carry it, so I got to be the Guinea pig and ran the chute first in my Novacraft Moisie. Fun run - took on a bit of water, but nothing terrible. Tom came next in his Canyon and was sideways and gunwale deep before he hit the last drop – somehow he kept it upright, and only lost his coffee mug, which I retrieved. Ben came last, bobbing down like a cork in his Mohawk XL 14. We all pulled over to a sandbar and helped bail Tom’s boat. The R2/3 that followed shortly thereafter was a 3’ ledge drop followed by a quick flush between steep rock walls again. We all ran it in various ways and versions of success. Then it was largely flat water with a bit of current here and there into Lac Saint Amour, which we reached at sunset, making camp on a sandy beach on the west bank, just up from where the river flowed in. We could hear the falls on the other side of the lake, reminding us of the portages that were in front of us tomorrow, but for the moment, we enjoyed the view across the glass calm lake, and the fall colors on the surrounding hillside in the sunset. Set up camp and enjoyed some cheese and crackers, cocktails and cigars around the fire, and I made ‘walking tacos’ for supper – fritos, sausage, dirty rice, guac, refried beans, salsa, cheese. Ben produced an apple pie for dessert.

Tuesday morning: after the usual routine of moping around the dead fire waiting for the coffee to boil, I cracked some eggs into the leftover rice/beans/sausage, and we had a mexi fried rice thing for breakfast. Then we packed up and zipped across the lake to the “ancien barrage,” one of a few leftover dams from the logging days. We scouted the dam and the rapids that followed via the portage trail, then scurried over to the left side and decided to line the boats down the remains of the dam platforms on that side. Though the map clearly states to be wary of “debris de metal,” I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and let my canoe drift straight into a piece of sheet metal that was sticking off the shore. I’m glad it wasn’t my leg – that sheet metal went through the Royalex like a hot knife through butter, and knifed a clean 2 inch gash through the hull. We patched with gorilla tape and continued on to line the boats down the left side of the dam. We ran the runout below the dam and a few rapids that followed, lined the S4 (Rapides Lariviere) on the right, ran a few more and then portaged the R5/6 Chute Poigan. That portage was about 300m and took us a solid 2 hours. We paddled about 10 minutes beyond the portage and camped on a beach on river left about 6:30. After camp was set up and everyone had snacked and gotten properly disposed, we played a few games of croquet, and Ben retained the championship belt that he won on the Partridge earlier this year. We had Meal-In-A-Bags (MIAB) for dinner around 11pm, and stayed up late enjoying the evening fire and company.

It was a tired bunch that greeted the day on Wednesday morning and we didn’t get out of camp until nearly 1pm after coffee and a cold breakfast of fruit and snacks. It was 10 kms crossing a glass calm Lac Poigan and we knocked it out in just over 2 hours. Then we lined over another old logging dam, and paddled the runout as well as a few more C2/3 rapids before running into the S4/5 ledge. The map says there is easy lining on the right, and I’m sure at higher water levels there would be, but we had to drag across 20 feet of slippery exposed boulders and then hand down the boats and gear over an 8-foot-high, dry rock wall which took about 45 minutes. Then we crossed Petit Lac Poigan and camped on another sandy beach just before Km 60, arriving about 5:45. We had just enough daylight to put a UV-activated fiberglass patch on my boat and get camp set up. Then snacks and the necessary drinks and smokes and we relaxed awhile watching the sunset. For supper, we grilled 4 pounds of sirloin tips and 3 ears of corn, plus instant mashies and sauteed onions. Late night croquet left me taking the belt from Ben. Then we finished the pie.

We managed to be up and about fairly early Thursday morning, despite our self-inflicted wounds. I did steak and egg wraps with the leftover sirloin and some wraps that Ben had brought. On the water by noonish with high hopes for a 20km day (which was not to be). We cleaned up 15 kms of good rapids by 5pm and then hit the R5/6 falls, which was a 250-300m portage and took us the better part of 3 hours to complete. It was pushing dark by the time we got the last load down to the foot of the falls where there was a small rock shelf, but Ben saw a slightly larger sand spit across the river and we ferried over and set up a tight camp there. The view of the falls was great. Cocktails, cigars, fire, and another MIAB night.

On Friday we were on the river by just past noon after coffee and a cold breakfast. We had some big stuff to get
past. We scouted and then ran the S and R3 that were up first. Then there was a challenging lining/paddling/lining episode around the S4/R3. Then we portaged the R5 which took almost 2 hours, and then we portaged Hell’s Gate Falls which took another hour. Then we had 5 or 6 kms of big but runnable whitewater and we pulled over at the river right 3C campsite (km 39ish) about 6pm. A few big trees have come down in this site and it is completely overgrown. There weren’t a lot of better options, so we packed in tight, and had a MIAB night, no fire. Yet again, we had hoped to be farther along – Plan A was to reach the take-out the next day. At this point we knew that wasn’t happening. Messages were relayed to the necessary parties – a passive aggressive silence was all we received.

Another pretty morning greeted us on Saturday, Sept 30, and we had another morning of coffee/tea + a cold breakfast. Overachievers all, we were on the water at 11:30. Ahead of us in the next 2.5 kms were: an R2, R1/2, R3/4, R4, R2, R1/2, R5, R3, R2/3, R4. We lucked out and with some scouting, good karma, and more than a few pucker-moments, we found lines to run through everything up to the R5. The carry around the R5 was quite long (300 meters???) with a lot of up and down, and took us nearly 3 hours to portage. Then we lined the top of the R3, ran the bottom, and ran the R2/3 that followed. We got to the portage (~100m) for the R4 about 6pm, and there was a good (we disagreed with the ‘A’ rating) campsite about ¾ through the trail. We made camp there, and broke out the snackage, cocktails, etc. One more croquet game yielded two forever lost balls in the crevasses between riverside boulders, and I managed to retain my Quebec Croquet Crown. We had a late dinner of kielbasas grilled over the fire, laid on a bed of jambalaya.

The putin at the end of the portage trail was awful and we stumbled around a good bit the next morning getting our gear loaded. On the river by about 12:15 and we had about 5kms (an hour) of R1s, R2s, and swifts before we came to the last falls, an R6, with a fairly painless 100m portage that we knocked out in an hour. After the falls we had swifts for another few kms, and then the river became sluggish, and knowing the end was near, so did we. The day before we had gone 2.5 kms in about 7 hours – this day we went 25 kms in 6 hours and took out at the bridge at km 11 at 6:30pm. Tom’s car was right where we left it, and we did the last portage bringing all our gear about 75m up to the skid yard. Then we did the two hour drive back to the put-in, retrieved the other two vehicles, and then drove the two hours back to the takeout, arriving back at our wet pile of dew-soaked gear around 11pm. We made a fire in the yard and packed up the cars while we snacked and imbibed. Everyone slept in their vehicles in some manner – mine was none too comfortable – but I told my daughter I would make her soccer game and was up and out first while the mist was still on the river. For my early rising efforts, I received a speeding ticket from a QC cop about 10 minutes after I hit the pavement. I still don’t understand Canada’s fear of driving with alacrity. Regardless, I got back to the coast of Maine in time to see the last quarter of the big game. I did not, however, have time to catch a shower or even change clothes prior to walking into the stands, and the looks and comments I received were none too complimentary. Even my wife and younger daughter suggested I go stand down on the sidelines away from people. I’ll chalk it up to jealousy….

Tom and Ben made it home without incident.

Tremendous trip – had a little bit of everything in terms of topography and skills sets – lakes, challenging rapids, interesting obstacles that honed our lining skills, beautiful scenery, and the fall colors were spectacular. And, as always, we indulged our hedonistic tendencies (a fix that won’t hold long…), and enjoyed excellent company and camaraderie. Now for the spring trip planning…

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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 9:07 am 
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A very interesting read, as always. Thanks for posting.


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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 9:57 am 
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Nice read Christian! Sounds like a fun and successful trip!

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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 1:55 pm 
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Croquet? Do you each carry a mallet, or share, or make them en route?

Re flow, did the dam operator know that you’d be on the river or di you get any assurance that there wouldn’t be a massive release?


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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 2:34 pm 
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Airbag wrote:
Re flow, did the dam operator know that you’d be on the river or di you get any assurance that there wouldn’t be a massive release?


While I suppose "massive releases" are possible checking the gauge on the dam shows that this would be a very rare event. The Park closed on the September 17th (this year) the releases are pretty much shut down on that date, while we were on the river it was at 7cms, just slightly higher than the guaranteed minimum of 5cms.

The only time there are massive releases would be in May when the park opens and the flow increases from 5cms to the 50cms range or there is some very unusual need to drain the Cabonga Reservoir due to extreme amounts of Spring melt or precipitation.

https://ottawariver.ca/location/cabonga/

In my opinion the warnings of big releases is mostly just CYA.

At the low rate of 7cms the first day the levels are "low", once you make it down to the lakes the only effect of low water is that the beaches for camping are very large, several that we camped on had obviously been much higher a few days before out arrival.

I'm curious what the "canyon" section is like at high water, some of the rapids might be easier, some might be more pushy with big wave trains. Many of the small ledges we ran might be completely under water at higher levels and definitely access to portage takeouts would be easier as we had to scramble over big boulders to reach the start of some of the trails.

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PostPosted: October 20th, 2023, 8:44 pm 
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Re: croquet... Yes, croquet is one of the sanctified rites of the Church of the Blue Dome. We bring enough mallets and balls for each person, plus a spare. We never considered individualized carry - it all goes in a sack in Tom's boat, typically.

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PostPosted: February 4th, 2024, 11:07 pm 
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Joined: November 16th, 2007, 1:11 pm
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Finally getting around to some winter video editing.
Here's the link to our Gens de Terre trip video:
https://youtu.be/VaCgdzM_7XI?si=9C0IROTaKP0XaFzG

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PostPosted: February 5th, 2024, 8:39 pm 
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Lots of great shots. Cool head and a good wiggle on the ledge. Well done.
Thanks!


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