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PostPosted: February 2nd, 2021, 1:22 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
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Location: Eganville, ON
Day 5 - Thur September 3rd: 17km, 0 portages

Woke up to similar conditions from the previous afternoon, mixed sun and cloud. Wind was starting to build however which it would continue to do for a couple days. We had our usual breakfast then packed up with the plan to head to Lac Larabel where a few years before we had camped on a beautiful big beach peninsula.

A short paddle would bring us to a couple of narrows with substantial current flowing through them. A little bit of effort was required to paddle upstream through the narrows which brought us into another couple hours’ worth of flatwater. At the end of this lake we would be looking for a stream that takes us into the North end of Lac Larabel. Of the 3 canoes I am the slowest as I spend most of my day trolling a line. I’m also the only one with the maps loaded onto the phone with gps. When we got to the end of the lake the other 2 boats were nowhere to be found!

We checked the stream where a few hundred meters of fast upstream work is required to get through the narrows into Lac Larabel; so they should have been visible lining/portaging here. We knew we were not that far behind that we shouldn’t have caught up to them trying to line and drag canoes here. After some map studying we came to the conclusion that they must have seen another stream at the end of the lake and headed there. We headed down to that end to check and still didn’t see anyone. The stream looked to be navigable for about half a kilometer before petering out in a bog. After a bit of shouting we finally heard them way down in the bog. We waited for them at the mouth of the creek, and a little while later they sheepishly came paddling back out realizing they picked the wrong stream.

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We paddled back to the correct stream; where we found lots of water, but of course we were heading upstream. It looked like a fun ride coming downstream with good current and some nice waves. It took us a while to line and drag the boats through the fast current to where it widened and slowed and we could finally paddle again.
We were now in Lac Larabel, our destination lake for the day.
The wind was steadily picking up as we entered the open areas of the lake. During a snack break we talked about how the previous days shore lunch was so delicious; but too light for a full meal. It was decided that we would keep more fish for dinner today. Thankfully the lakes did not disappoint and as we paddled to our beach site I loaded up a stringer of 5 pike and walleye.

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When we reached the beach it became apparent how high the water was. The beach only had about 5 feet of open sand, and even that was periodically going under water due to the wind and large waves. We backtracked to the point where a thick carpet of moss and Labrador tea would become our camp for the night. It took a little bit of work with the pruners to clear out a spot to setup the screen tent; but we were soon tucked in and proceeded to fry up a huge mess of fish. The fish along with some sweet onion and mayo on a bun was an amazing and very filling dinner.

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It was turning into another cloud covered evening, thwarting our chance of northern lights again. The clouds were really racing overhead; an ominous sign of what was to come the next day. We had our usual nightcap then crashed for a well earned rest.

Day 6 - Fri September 4th: 24km, 1 portages

Woke up to howling winds and cool temperatures; never a good omen on a canoe trip. Not much rain today just an occasional drizzle; but the wind would set the tone for the entire day. We had our usual breakfast then geared up for a tough day of paddling.

Even though the temperature was getting cooler; the wind was coming from the south; a strange combination in the summer. To exit Lac Larabel we would have to cross from west to east, but generally were heading north to start. This was an intense crossing surfing some large swells that would occasionally break over the side of the canoe. Once on the east shore we had some islands to hide behind as we continued north.

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We soon rounded a point and were now heading due south in a small narrow bay toward the stream that connects Lac Larabel and Lac Bueil. This would be our first taste of battling the ferocious headwind, but thankfully in this small bay the waves were manageable. At the end we entered the stream where it was navigable with a combination of paddling/dragging and upstream lining. This combination worked for us through the next few ponds until the last stream that was just too shallow and overgrown. Here we had to portage overland through relatively sparse forest around 200M.

We were now in Lac Bueil; a large ranging lake 20km long and up to 2km wide in some areas. Of course the lake is mostly oriented north-south, and we would be heading due south to start into gale force winds. At first the lake was narrow enough and had enough points and bays that we could charge through each section to the next hiding spot out of the wind. As we continued south the lake continued to open up, and the wind continued to get worse. After each short paddle we would have to stop and bail, and gather our strength before rounding the point back into the gale. By the time we’d reach the next wind break everyone would be exhausted and we would repeat over again. I distinctly remember at one point on a particularly big swell looking down at the bow of the boat many feet below me.

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After a few hours of this white knuckle paddling from point to point through swells as high as 4 to 5 feet and giving every ounce of paddling effort we could muster; we finally decided we were risking too much for too little gain. In 30 years of paddling I’ve never had to call wind bound until this day. Our next crossing was to be 4km of very big exposed water so we called it quits and setup camp even though it was only 2pm. We setup only the screen house to start, planning to reevaluate if travel was possible after a warm up and dinner.

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We made a nice smoked cheddar, bacon and onion macaroni that filled and warmed up the belly well. After a couple of hours we went back to check on the lake, and although it was still windy; it was no longer 4 foot swells. The decision was made to paddle into the evening to make up for the miles we’ve lost. We’d only made it 10km with a planned target of 30.

Once in the boat we were very happy with our decisions. Even though we were still paddling into a strong headwind, we could actually feel progress being made, and the swells were no longer white knuckle inducing. After crossing the 4 or 5km wide open portion we were again into an area riddled with islands. We now had more protection from the winds and by dark we had knocked off 14km in a few hours.

We found a relatively open bushy site on the backside of an island where we hastily setup camp in the dark. After a long exhausting cold day only the quickest of nightcaps was had before crashing for the night.

Day 7 - Sat September 5th: 37km, 2 portages

Woke up to thankfully quieter winds, mixed sun and cloud morning. We took our time enjoying breakfast, and occasionally reveling in the sun when it appeared. After breaking camp we would head to the east end of Lac Bueil where a thin blue line marked a possibly navigable creek into a small lake next to the Riviere De Maures.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the kilometer long creek was mostly navigable save for a 50 meter carryover around a pile of boulders and deadfall. The creek was only 3 to 4 feet wide, but a few feet deep and wound its way through a nice bog. It was a serene paddle through here as the wind was blocked, and the sun was out.

The lake at the other end of the stream was gorgeous. I really wish we could have made it that far the night before as it had potential for some beautiful campsites. The small lake had steep sandy banks around most of it with sparse Jackpine and spruce forests atop. The trees were very mature for the area with some trunks as big as 8 inches around.

At the other end of the lake was a densely forested ridge separating us from Riviere De Maures by only a couple hundred meters. I had scouted the route on our way past days earlier and found an obvious snowmobile trail, but failed to mark it on this side. It was a lot harder to find from the water, so it took a while walking through the forest to finally intersect with it again. The start was straight up a steep hill requiring some pushing and dragging of the canoes. Once at the top it was a gentler slope down the snowmobile trail to the river on the other side.

Once on the river we were now heading upstream and soon came across some rapids we ran on the way downstream. These ones had enough boulder shoreline that we were able to line up them. We then paddled past the large Cree camp again. Just past that we stopped at a very large beach for a quick bath since the sun was peeking through. The water was ice cold so it was literally seconds of scrubbing then out to bask in the sun. We had a snack and some blueberries before pushing off to cross a large lake like section before reentering the river.

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The lake crossing did involve some wind; but after the previous day only a hurricane would seem bad. Once in the river heading upstream we soon came to an impassable rapid. Here we used the obvious portage trail that we used on the first day. It was still disheartening to see so much garbage littering such a remote and otherwise unspoiled land.

We kept pushing on until evening so the next day would only require half a days travel, and we could drive home that afternoon. We made it to Lac Odon by which time the light was starting to fade. We checked one island for a campsite but found it too bushy. Across from it the shoreline looked clearer so we landed there and made camp. There was a nice spot at the top of the rocks that we could just squeeze the screen house. Behind that we lay the tents on the dense Labrador tea bushes. It was a long day, and after dinner we could all feel the temperature dropping so we were soon heading for the warmth of our sleeping bags.

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Day 8 - Sat September 5th: 15km, 2 portages

Woke up to another morning of broken clouds with the odd bit of rain. Had our usual breakfast of champions and coffee. After breakfast I gathered some Labrador tea leaves to bring home with me as it was very healthy looking and fragrant on our hill. Not long after we were pushing off for our last bit of travel back to the cars.
We quickly completed crossing the lake we were on in the shadow of an impressive hill to our south. Then through some narrows into another small set of lakes separated by a very short stretch of fast water requiring a bit of effort to upstream paddle. Then we turned due south into the river again.

Not far into the river we encountered the first rocky drop. We pulled ashore to start portaging through the bush and realized an old trail already existed. On the trail were the remnants of 2 spruce poles about 1 foot apart that were connected end to end all the way along the portage. I assume they were used for sliding aluminum boats along the trail. They were very old and falling apart; so care had to be taken for some of the exposed nails sticking up. The trail alongside them was OK save for some deadfall.

Back into the river for a short paddle to the next rapid. Initially we had portaged this on river right through the bush. We looked around on river left and quickly found another trail with a boat slide. Once across we were on the homestretch back to the cars; always a bittersweet part of the trip.

We reached the cars in the early afternoon. By the time we had packed everything we figured we could make it home just after midnight. By the time we started rolling I was already thinking about opportunities to come back next year!


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PostPosted: February 3rd, 2021, 4:00 am 
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Joined: April 21st, 2004, 10:52 am
Posts: 1146
Location: Near Ottawa ON
Thanks for the report. Using the de Maures to access the mouth of the Rupert was on my list but I didn't get it done before my knees wore out. Glad you did it and took the time to write about it.
Have you checked out that road R1030 lately? It was disused and impassable when I tried years ago but Google Satellite view shows it winding its way up to near the Rupert where there appears to be a lot of logging activity. Maybe it's passable now?

I'll risk a comment here on a difficult topic. I too ran through a whole series of emotions the first time I came across an old Cree camp. It took me literally years to struggle past the cognitive dissonance of the reality juxtaposed to the popular mythology. I've since rationalized that it is/was a dying echo of traditions and a view of the land by amazing people that found ways to survive in a tough environment, that had few calories to spare and counted on the almost limitless land to look after itself. And it did, periodically purging itself with the regime of its fire cycle. Newer camps aren't like that.

You guys have got to do the north arm of the Rupert.


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PostPosted: February 4th, 2021, 12:45 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
Posts: 147
Location: Eganville, ON
Hi Krusty

I've looked at rd 1030 for the past ten years; but still haven't tried it. I've been without 4 wheel drive since before we started heading up this way (family and rural living necessitate good mileage vehicles) and wasn't willing to subject any of my buddies vehicles to the exploration. It always looked like a good option to shave off a days travel if the road was passable.

We have explored the de maures road, and found with a good clearance vehicle you can make it within 4km of Lac Epervanche. We have also launched at Lac Robineau a few times; the trail there is also good for decent clearance vehicles.

We had similar discussion regarding the state of the Cree camps. Our thought was along the lines of culture and traditions as well. Only a couple of generations ago everything the used largely came from the land; so if you disposed it back into the bush it would biodegrade/disappear likely before you ever traversed the same path again.

We are itching to do both the upper and lower branches of the Rupert from the big lake through to Lac Mesgouez. After that you would run into the dams and diversions. We may do the lower branch soon as it can be done in a long week; but to do the north branch will likely require a couple of weeks which is harder to organize with current demands of work and family.

I would also like to spend some time exploring the cross channels between the 2 branches; making some sort of loop trip. Too many things to explore; and too little time.


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