View topic - Agawa Canyon Sept. 29 - Oct. 4, 2012 (pic heavy)

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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 4:02 pm 
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Agawa Canyon Sept. 29 – Oct 4. 2012
Well it was time for my annual fall pilgrimage up to the canyon and as in previous years the concern was going to be is there going to be enough water? So the month before was filled with that fun filled game….(loud deep voice here)
“Watch the river gauges and rain fall accumulation” wooo hoooooo!!!!
And the reward was two weeks before almost a complete week of rain which brought all the gauges above the min. levels I have marked in another post.

( http://myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=36777 )

The Nemegosenda River and Wawa Creek both of which have their headwaters in the same area, had higher levels in relationship to the rivers to the south, the Batchawanna and Goulas. So I was hoping that the Agawa would have a little more water than the southern rivers and that was the case.
The biggest change I have noticed since coming up here since 85, is the numbers of vacationers that are coming up here in the fall, especially this year. Usually the traffic is sporadic, with mostly trucks, not this year, it was steady all the way. Last year there where only a few staying at the Sault KOA but this year more than 30 trailers and campers.
I like to leave on the Friday morning from the GTA so I can enjoy a nice leisurely drive up to the Sault and get there early enough to get my train ticket so I can sleep in a little longer Saturday morning. (you buy the ticket at the Station downtown and load your equipment at the train yard)
On the way out “Agawa Bob” flagged me down and we had a nice chat in a parking lot as my wife picked up some small items I forgot to load into the trailer before we left……
Driving north out of the Sault we got to see that we where in for a great week of colour.
This year my wife was again going to stay in the Agawa Bay campground with our trailer and do some day trips from there while I was on the river. And we where both rewarded with peak colours, and summer like weather. After getting the trailer set up and picking up some firewood for her from the visitor centre we where off to Frater Station and to meet the train.
First goal of the trip was on the train just a mile north of Frater at the old Agawa Station, this is no longer in use and the side track long gone but it is also the place the Group of Seven would have stopped on their “box car” trips. It is also probably the area from which A. Jackson’s First Snow was painted.

http://g7scans.freehostia.com/jackson_f ... _19-20.jpg

The view from here is now blocked by the regeneration of the forest but I have some images from my earlier trips that match much better, but you can still get a good partial few from just up the tracks and the colours where spectacular.

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This Old forestry map shows the old trail up from the Hudson’s Bay Post and the Mouth of the Agawa River. There are others on this site that show that the area was burned. My guess is it was painted from the top of the hill just to the west of the old station.

http://forestry.ssmpl.ca/library/FDP-Sc ... Name=agawa

Those that have taken the various trains into wilderness locations know what I am talking about when I say you should get a wilderness canoe trip by train onto your to do list, it is such a great way to get to your location and it really helps gear you down from your every day tribulations and I can not say enough of how well the Staff at the Algoma Central Railway treats you.
This pic is just another reason why it is a great place to camp, the river every year replenishes the fire wood.

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After camp was set up it was time to accomplish a few more goals. I knew this cliff side had been blasted at different times since the building of the ACR and I want images to show that for a theory on Agawa falls. The larger rocks on the left are from earlier time when the railroad was pushed through and the smaller blasted rocks are from when they cut a path for a hydro line just above and to the right. The Sault Library used to have images of before and after this was done, but those are no longer available on line.

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If you look at George A. Reids (not a G 7 member) 1945 painting “Agawa River, Algoma” you can see the pinnacle of rock that still stands today and the little dip in the hill where the hydro lines where put through. The good news there is they did a very good job cleaning out this set of lines a few years ago and there is very little trace of them.

http://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collection ... ?mkey=6682

Word of caution here if you plan to hike up these rocks to get to A.Y. Jacksons AY Jackson’s “Agawa Canyon” location be very careful and keep your distance if you are a group. These rocks are very loose and could slip down the steep hill quite easily.http://www.mayberryfineart.com/artwork/AW1346
I have always enjoyed the view of the Canyon and this year was rewarded with great lighting and colours.

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Some of the other shots in my album at this area are to match other G7 spots and to try and match pictures of large boulders that I found online that where on the tracks and I assume just pushed into the river.
Another thing I did a month earlier to prep for picture taking was to take a compass reading of the full moon rising. The moon also has a cycle of where it rises and sets and since you are in the canyon it makes it a “wee” bit difficult to see it actually rise. Now that I had the “big” lens I wanted to get a shot of the white pines on the cliffs in front of the moon. With a clear sky the night before going in I was able to get another reading at the KOA so on my walk from the Goudge down to the second rapid to scout it out to see if there was anything new in it I looked for trees that I could set up for. With the moon going to rise almost out of due east, which is almost 90 degrees from the tracks, there where not a lot of promising locations, mostly again because of tree growth along the tracks. The best spot ended up being at the “firewood” location where camp was set up. When the moon is rising and you are trying to catch a specific image, it is amazing how fast things happen. But I did manage to get one good shot.

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Oh yeah! First nights dinner, roasted on the fire, corn on the cob, baked potato, and strip loin stake and a glass of white wine….
Next morning it started of cool when I woke up about 2c on my thermometer, but some how during the night I unzipped myself and got a bit of a chill, so I made a fire and then I thought gee did I get that cold or is it getting colder? In half a hour the temp dropped to minus 4c. Before the temperature dropped I had started to take stuff down to the river and took a pic of this logging dam spike which is probably close to 3 ft. long, now that’s a spike!

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With the quick drop in temperature the little bit of mist was freezing on my camera lenses so I but it away, too bad because my boat became a very nice white one. The sun was starting to work it’s way into the canyon so I knew it was going to warm up.
I was lucky with my guess there would be enough water to float, that and choosing the flat bottomed discovery which can float in very shallow water so, at the first rapid I only had to pull through about 1m. I still had to maneuver around a lot of rocks, but I was pleasantly surprised. The second rapid that I scouted the night before again proved exciting, as narrow as it was at this level it is still steep and fast, but somehow I managed to hit a rock which bounced the nose into a little gap, spun around ran the middle part backwards until I could find another gap to spin (bump, gind, wiggle ) and ran the rest forwards, but laughing out loud at myself, how I could spin in such a tiny area.
Next on my goals was to find another G7 location with an image fellow ccr member Jim Waddington (jcw41) gave me. When he sent me these last fall it was one I could not place, there are not too many rapids that could match, but I said that due to river work for the logging drives it might be tough.
I paddled past last year’s camp spot on the sand bar and started to line up for the 3rd rapid when I immediately recognized the rock in the picture from above. No time to admire the find yet as even though the rapid is not long or tough there are some rocks you could do some damage on, even at this low level.

http://amica.davidrumsey.com/luna/servl ... mi=0&trs=1

Just I entered the mid point of the rapid I paddled into the sun, so from temps in around 0c to 10c real quickly, I pulled over to the west bank of the river and no sooner than I had taken the camera out of the barrel then the lens fogged over big time because the camera was still very cold. So grabbed the copy of the Lawren Harris’s “on the Agawa river and tried to find the rock he most likely painted from. That was pretty easy as it is a fairly large flat boulder that would be underwater at high levels and everything just lined perfectly. So I sat down and waited for my camera to de-fog and then I had my Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark moment. This scene is where Indiana is in the one tomb with the miniature city laidout, he plants the staff with crystal in and waits for the sun to show where the Ark of the Covenant was.
So as the sun rose and the shadows fell into place it was a “neat” feeling that I was sitting at the very spot, at the same time of day on a beautiful fall day.

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On the down side, I should have taken my whole camera apart to warm in the sun, even though the outside of the lens had cleared, the inside had not and that little bit of cloudiness did not show on the little display screen.

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Now that I had a nice warm fuzzy feeling I slowly just continued to paddle down the river. And a thing to remember as you are enjoying going down the canyon, turn around and see where you have been, there is a good chance you will be rewarded with another great view.

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It was still perfectly calm and the tour train had not yet arrived at Canyon Station and the canyon was totally quiet except for the sound of woodland birds and the two Black beaver waterfalls and Bridal veil falls which is pretty as ever.

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At lower water there is an exposed gravel bar in the middle of the river which give you a great vantage place for pictures both of the falls and up the valley.

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I was just finishing up as the tour train arrived.

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The next image is that of another AY Jackson Location, again because of almost 100 years of vegetation growth some of the spots are a little bit tough to get into. So I stayed in the boat at the bottom of the rocks he probably painted from. The rocks in the forefront of his painting look like a recent rock-fall and you can see the mosses and brush that have grown since then.

http://www.artvalue.com/auctionresult-- ... 660329.htm

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The next rapid at the Mile 113 marker (known as New Hope Rapid by some) has been changed since the G7 painted there now exactly what was done was most likely just some blasting to create a clear channel for the logs to come through. The Historical Forestry records confirm that some work was scheduled, but I could not find anything to confirm this was completed.
I stopped at the bridge at Mile 112 to check out the ice climbers tent as a favor for them, it was in good shape except that the sun’s uv had eaten some of the ropes holding the tarps in place, but that was easy to fix up.
I knew was going to get into some drag and pull at the rapid at Mile 111, a short one at the entrance because the channel was blocked by a log and about 25m at the bottom.
The rapid where the canyon turns towards Lake Superior was barely float-able and it took 15-20 mins. to work (and it is work) through that stretch.
The technique to run this kind of boulder garden is to stand up and piece the bits of water together, if you sit, or kneel all you see is rocks and I was lucky I only had to pull about 5 m.
But there is always the scenery to sit back and enjoy as you are having a recovery drink of water.

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When I got to the Little Agawa and the camp site there the path from the river up to the camp site was completely blocked by a large balsam at the top of the bank. I got my ax out and cut the branches off so I could get my gear up and after setting up camp and hiking up to the tracks and back I broke out my saw and started to cut off sections and then split them for firewood. The trail to the thunder box was also filled with dead fall and I returned the box to it’s hole, so it was sort of a bonus that I did not have to go searching for firewood.
Little Agawa – JEH MacDonald’s “Little Falls” site, where the ACR crosses the Little Agawa.

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Lawren Harris’s painting.

http://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Lawren- ... 652C312C31

This side channel of little Agawa, is just mere metres from where Lawren Harris would have painted the above image. The interesting thing here is when I first looked at this image my wife and I new exactly where it was. When we first ran the Agawa in 85 we had planned to camp at the site where the Little Agawa meets the main river, but the spot was pretty trashed, it was getting dark and the weather was threatening, we could see the sand bar at the bottom of the rapids so we opted to camp there. The next morning we crossed the river to go look at the falls and as we walked in, that was the first view of those two falls. Again even from 1985 the vegetation has grown back, both falls are still pretty no matter which angle you are looking at them from. But the hike from half way up those falls to the tracks and the site of “Little Falls” is much tougher because of the very dense under growth.
Lawren Harris’s “Algoma Stream”

http://www.artfinder.com/work/algoma-st ... rt-harris/

My pic

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While dinner was cooking I cut and spilt some more wood for the night and cleaned up the various branch debris that was around the site. By the time I was done and everything put away it was pretty dark, you can get some pretty interesting mists and fogs at this part of the canyon so I had mad several trips back to the river to see if any thing was happening. At 7:50pm I felt pretty tired and figured I would turn in if nothing was happening photo wise by the river. The moon was starting to light up north side of the canyon wall, but too the northeast the sky looked different, not foggy buy I could not see any stars in that part of the sky. I know that digital cameras will pick-up aurora before the human eye can, so I went back up and grabbed my camera and tripod and set up for a long exposure. I still could not see anything with my eyes but the camera defiantly caught some green glow in the sky. With the full moon I did not expect much of a show but then the sky just exploded! My camera shots do not do justice with what I was watching.
There would be these glowing clouds and then they would fall from the heavens towards the earth.

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The residue then became giant shimmering moving curtains, and the speed they moved was breath taking.

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And these curtains of energy seem to move along the canyon walls making it look the canyon walls reached out to space. I was pretty well looking straight up at the aurora. Too catch this phenomena I needed a lot better equipment and camera skill, but I was still very happy catching what I could. That is part of the big Dipper in this shot.

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With the full moon lighting up the canyon the Aurora was still bright enough to reflect off the water. This is now my new desktop image.

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The show lasted a good 1hr and 45min. and I was stoked! It had been a great day in the canyon!

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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 4:03 pm 
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Part II :D

Next morning was another great calm sunny day, I was hoping for some fog shots but after the aurora show but one cannot expect everything.
I continued the standup and paddle technique and it is actually quite easy shifting your weight to tilt the boat between rocks, and there was only spot through easy gravel I had to drag the boat for about 10m. When you get to the start of the flat water above the old logging dam site the iconic view has pretty well stayed the same, the colours may change but not matter what the season it is always impressive.

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One of the goals for the trip was to hike up and camp overnight at the bottom of the cliff so I could get sun set/moon rise/moon set/sun rise shots over the canyon. You can see by the next pic just how steep it is.

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I put a lot of prep time by hiking 3 or 4 times a week in the Halton Conservation areas with my camera stuff and I had only planned to take a total of 30 to 40 lbs of gear, and after putting on the pack and trying to climb up around some of the boulders I knew it was a bad idea, having found out I have arthritis in both hips this past winter that extra weight was too much. So as disappointed as I was I vetoed the idea. A day pack of camera/water/camera with 2 lenses and some emergency stuff was not a problem on my other hikes, this I knew was past my limits that I could perform safely on a solo trip. With a second person you could easily work as a team up the hard spots. As it turned out, late in the afternoon the clouds moved in and did not leave for over 24 hours.
On the sandbar above the small falls here there was evidence of one of natures chase scenes. The tracks in the sand showed a lot of action, there was no sign of a successful hunt, but the moose and deer tracks showed how desperate the situation was. All I can say is I was happy not to meet the wolf that made this track. My Lens cap is 8 cm. (just over 3”) I have a fairly big hand and that print is as big as my palm!

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Next goal was a JEH MacDonald spot just below this last rapid. I figured this is the rock he probably painted from but, (flat rock just upstream from the tripod) because of forest re-growth you could not see the hill line like in the painting, but if you went downstream a bit it was easy for confirmation. Those that have portaged around this rapid either the short version or the full bypass know how steep the hill in the painting is. It is amazing how the forest covers up the true topography.

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Here the utube of the painting selling at auction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As9pbtnUTis

http://www.heffel.com/links/sales.aspx?ID=5E595C

My preferred view is either this or the view straight up the small gorge. It is amazing that like this spot and others I had been photographing for years just mere steps from where they had painted.

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Next up on the “to do” list was photograph the rock above the falls in an effort to prove that the “look” of the falls has changed since the G7 had been there. I have always photographed from the south side of the river, the same side accessed from the Towab trail because the view below was better. It is still a good view though.

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A hiker was up on top of the falls when I pulled into the portage, I got my gear up the bank and then set out to take pictures of rocks. Up until about 50m above the falls the rocks are all rounded, as one would expect. The images I have taken in the past show the south bank to be like this right up to the falls. This is not true of the north bank. The rocks higher on the north bank are rounded and smooth but the ones closers to the water and the river bed itself are sharp, with various fractures.

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The “spine” in the middle of the river, right above the falls has some incredibly sharp surfaces, there is even one where the top of a much larger pothole has been ripped from the rock face.


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The sharpness of the rock here in this shot is very similar to that of other areas that have been blasted such as the bridge over the Little Agawa. Of course there is no rock debris because of the speed of the river at this point.

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I have a theory that blasting of the falls area has changed the look since the G7 was there. There is proof in the paintings that they where above and below the falls, the earliest maps show both what is now the Towab trail and portage where known, and as pretty as the falls is now why didn’t they paint it.
I love this view of it!

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There is this painting by Lawren Harris called “Agawa Falls”

Agawa falls
http://www.artfinder.com/work/falls-aga ... rt-harris/

If you use the logs as a scale (they where 16’ lengths) and then use the ones closer to the falls in the painting you also get a drop of about 75’, which is the height of the falls today. There is a similar gap between the two falls that is not seen at higher flows and other images of the falls from a ledge on the south side when cropped are also similar. Did the rock debris falling break the ledge at the bottom? I estimate close to 50m where it appears the riverbed was blasted, so that could mean a fairly large amount of rock debris. I am going to have to entice some experts to get involved. The one thing that is fact that the company that first logged the lower Agawa is different from the Company that logged the upper, and the first company got into financial hardships because of the costs of logging this river where much more than other rivers to the south and east. And yes dynamite was one of their bigger expenses, and it is the major reason they did not log the rivers that are in the northern part of the park and the records kept by the second group where much more detailed and they even mentioned in one of their documents that the first groups records where inadequate.

Ahhh but I digress…. After finishing the pics and speculating what went on here, I went back up to portage my gear but first I had to complete what has become a yearly tradition… flag the takeout above the falls.
There is not a lot of firewood at the bottom of the falls campsite, I gathered a bit in case the sky cleared but the clouds had moved in, pretty low but no real wind. Had a cup of coffee, and had a late supper just before dark and was in bed by 9.
Next morning I was hoping for clear skies but the clouds where even lower and it was pretty dark. The water levels had continued to drop so I dressed for getting wet. I was pleasantly surprised at the little cutoff channel where last year I had to maneuver around some trees in the river. With the lower water I was able to duck under the left side along he bank under the big tree, but all the small ones had been washed away. There where thousands of Pink Salmon in this channel and I was surprised there was no eagle hanging out in the trees above the shallows, even in this poor light they where very easy to see. As I was to see later that low clouds seemed to keep the eagles in the trees. In the next couple of K’s I only had to drag the boat 4 times, two at about 50m each, and the other two about 25m. There was still a lot of bump and grind but there was also fresh aluminum canoe tracks on many of the rocks, probably from the week before.
Even though the lighting was not so great, I was still set up to get some eagle pics, and this juvenile let me get up close.

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There where very few adults in the area but lots of young ones. This Adult was watching from high up the canyon walls.

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Next goal of the trip was a J.E.H. MacDonald location, well actually I knew where it was, now was to get where he probably stood. (3rd image)

http://www.groupofseven.ca/Adventures/R ... d-Cez.aspx

Again when JEH painted there it was probably a lot clearer than it is now. So I stood in the bush a bit to get this.

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Most of the changes that came to this corner happened in the floodwaters of 2008. Until that point in higher waters the current use to flow into the cliff and create some interesting boils. This is where the channel use to be.

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And this is where JEH mostly likely stood.

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And the view past the cliff in the paintings forefront.

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And looking back, before the flood I would be swimming at this location. Where I took the other images from is just above my head.

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It was a great day just to float and take in the colours, even though it wasn’t sunny, it was warm and very little breeze. I stopped where I flagged the cairn for the park people last year and since the tape was gone I assume they had been there. Even though I developed a contact at he Logging Memorial in Blind River we were unable to come up with a name but there was an a First Nations individual who died on a drive in that time period in Algoma….. not much to go on but I did give thanks for another great trip and safe passage.
The combined campsite on the Towab Trail is good for several reasons It’s flat and easy to set up in, it is a good place to sit and watch for eagles on the shallows just below the camp site, lots of firewood if you have a canoe to get to the other side of the river, it is a good place to stage for and early morning getaway to watch for wildlife and picture opportunities and of course like most places in the canyon, the view.

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On my last morning I was planning for an early start so I could catch the eagles going for fish, but I thought the leaves falling on the tent was rain so I turned over and went back to sleep….. till after 8! By the time I had breakfast and my coffee it was a little late for plan A so plan B on a beautiful fall day.
If with my big lens the eagles where still too far away for great shots, but it was still fun to watch.

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Again I was expecting to drag the boat a bit, but ended up with just one very short 3m drag, which made it that more enjoyable with the colours.

Last goal for the trip, weather and Lake Superior pending was to get a picture from the mouth of the river looking up the valley.

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And a couple of pics from the lake looking back out the canyon.

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And the lake was so calm I was able to confidently change lenses.

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The paddle across the lake was, for this time of year just another page in an incredible week, and the water still very warm for time of year. I took my time stopping often to drink water, eat gorp and continue to just enjoy being out there.
That night after dinner my wife and I sat and took in “just” another Superior sunset.

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We finished up with a night at Chutes P.P. on the way home, again another great day. But as in Agawa Bay Campground there are a lot more people discovering the north in the fall, and that is a good thing for all of us who enjoy our public lands.
Jeff

Link to album
https://picasaweb.google.com/1142241160 ... directlink

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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 5:15 pm 
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Jeff,
Fantastic report.
Thanks for sharing it with us.
Jim


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 8:07 pm 
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I love the waterfalls and the northern lights. That juvenile eagle is definitely working on it's "Don't make me come down there!" look.

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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 8:24 pm 
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amazing pics and log. Great read!


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2012, 10:04 pm 
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Amazing report and pics! I especially liked the photos of the Northern Lights. Although I spend a decent amount of time in the back country, I have never seen them yet. The fall colours were amazing. Thanks for sharing.

Take care,
Cousin Pete

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PostPosted: October 25th, 2012, 12:15 pm 
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thanks for sharing!
we love the Agawa Canyon.

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PostPosted: October 27th, 2012, 11:10 am 
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Very nicely done- Great pix and informative commentary about the relation of some of them to Group of Seven paintings. Seeing this makes me want to grab my camera and camping gear and get out there. I'd set my tent up close to that incredible water fall that you framed beautifully in one of your best pix.

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PostPosted: October 27th, 2012, 9:23 pm 
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Wow, just amazing. I concur with true_north about wanting to get out there. I have been on the train a few times but not experienced the canyon to the degree that you have, Thanks for sharing.

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2012, 3:09 pm 
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Wow thanks for the report. I am in the process of researching a canoe trip for next year and was thinking of a train in trip.


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2012, 10:25 am 
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Jeff, Well done again. I really enjoy your fall trips on the Agawa. It's been 13 years since I did the Agawa, and I love the memories your trip reports create. Awesome that you were able to experience the Aurora in such a beautiful setting. Thanks again for taking us along on your fall adventure.

PK


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2012, 12:24 pm 
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Thanks Jeff! Really well done!

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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2012, 3:01 pm 
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Excellent shots! I tried to sharpen that water-vapored photo, but couldn't accomplish much.

Sometimes, though, when you are dealing with such intense colors, you can increase apparent photo sharpness by a very modes reduction in color saturation. But possibly my LCD screen settings are allowing too much saturation to come through.

I especially appreciate the Agawa series because when we were there in midsummer, the Agawa was too low by any standard, and the only thing going was the Michipicoten. Anyway, I had the wrong ww boat along for the Agawa falls portage.


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2012, 9:07 pm 
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Thanks for the compliments!
I have been lucky enough to see the Aurora numerous times in Southern Ontario, but this display was incredible!
I am happy to share the area with others as others who report and share their trips.
and hopefully others will follow us.
It will help us make aware of the great areas we have to visit and hopefully preserve for the future.
Jeff

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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PostPosted: November 5th, 2012, 10:41 am 
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Joined: October 16th, 2008, 9:20 am
Posts: 1412
Location: Oshawa
Wow! Fantastic pictures Jeff, the colors are so beautiful...and they look stunning with the gorgeous blue sky. I think my fav picture is the one of the Northern lights and the canyon illuminated...amazing!

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