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PostPosted: September 3rd, 2015, 10:45 pm 

Joined: November 16th, 2007, 1:11 pm
Posts: 117
Location: Mid-coast Maine
Preconceived notions:
• A river is a mostly continuous body of water moving in a downhill direction with some amount of gradient/current/flow. (False.)
• A headwind is a strong wind blowing upstream that sucks to paddle into but which can be overcome. (False.)
• “We don’t need a satellite phone. We’ll be fine.” (False.)
• “It’s the Canadian Shield, just like in Quebec.” (False.)

Projected Timetable:
• Monday July 27 – put-in on Artery Lake
• Wed/Thurs August 5 or 6 (7th absolute latest) – take out at 304 bridge
• Back to work by Monday Aug 10

• 3 Esquif Canyons, 1 Novacraft Moisie

Water level: fluctuated in the low-mid 40cms range

The Bloodvein Disaater:
Round about July 10, paddler #6 bails – cause: money and marriage.
Round about July 20, paddler #5 bails – cause: serious & sudden health issues.
July 24, 2015 – Remaining 4 paddlers leave Virginia. Christian drives his family to Maine to wait out the expedition with in-laws. Carl, Jeff, and Tom begin the drive to Manitoba. The boys don’t even get out of hometown Harrisonburg before they realize the canoe trailer’s new tires are underinflated, and for some reason decide to remove the tires entirely from the rims to check them and then re-inflate them – 2 hour delay. Boys get to Youngstown, Ohio by midnight. Christian gets to Scranton.

July 25 – Christian gets to Maine, boys make it to Madison, Wisconsin.

July 26 – Christian flies from Rockland, Maine(10am), to Boston, to Toronto, to Winnipeg (6pm). Boys arrive in Winnipeg about 7pm. Carl is convinced the alternator in the truck is dying.

July 27 – breakfast at motel, shop for last minute groceries. On closer inspection, turns out truck battery was last replaced in 2004. 11 years is a good run for a battery, but maybe someone should have checked on that… While new battery is bought and installed, coolers replenished with fresh block ice. Dry ice procured on way out of Winnipeg at Praxair. Christian takes over driving outside of town. All speed limits ignored. Make it to Bissett by 1pm. Meet Solo Ben at Blue Water Aviation & begin preparations for flights. Between the 4 VA paddlers and Ben (from Toronto), we have 2100 pounds of gear with us (does not include paddlers or boats). 2 flights to Artery Lake on 1957 DeHavilland Otter. First flight was 2 boats, 3 guys, and gear. Second flight was 2 guys, 3 boats, and gear. Temp about 85-90F. Glass calm on lake. Night on Artery Lake – croquet, petroglyphs, loons, stories swapped with Ben, chorizo-stuffed chicken for supper. Mosquitoes arrived in force about half an hour before dark and stuck around for about an hour. The pattern continued so every night.

July 28 – Breakfast with Ben. Broke camp about noon and left Ben to nap for a bit. Hoped to get as far as Bushey Lake today. Headwinds begin – slowly at first, then in more earnest by the end of the day. There would not be a calm during daylight hours for the rest of the trip. Poor map reading on Artery. “Explored” (lost on) Artery for about an hour. Finally found exit. Looking for something resembling a river... Shot CII (#10) on right. Big lake ahead. Paddle, paddle, paddle, headwind, headwind, headwind. Crossed into Manitoba in serious winds. Fishing camp at bottom end of lake. Ran CII, II, I (#11,12,13). Flatwater – headwinds. Ran Moosebone (III, #14). Ran CI #15. Camped on rock shelf just past #15. Baths. Cocktails. Nice sunset. About 5kms behind schedule. Will make it up tomorrow. Chili mac for supper. Boys are tired and wondering if the river’s character will continue in the broad/flat/no current style for the next 200kms…? We are used to gravity and current working in our favor. Morale ok.

July 29 – Headwind. Morning showers. Shot top of #16 (CV) down middle to left eddy. Lined/dragged the bottom to left of large round boulder. Paddled about 10 feet to #17 (IV-V) – really thought about shooting the long tongue right down the middle – would only had to have punched one hole, but… didn’t. Portaged – fairly easy – nice mossy drag. Paddled in headwind and light rain to #18 (Nutcracker Falls) – lined down left. Began to paddle out into Bushey Lake. Headwinds turned into gales. 2’ swells and whitecaps on lake. Got to the point on the northeastern side of the lake, before it really opens up, and could not make any progress out into the open water. The banks were too low to get any protection from. Saw a campsite on the point with 2 aluminum rowboats. Used boats as wind break and hunkered down to lunch. Thought we’d wait it out, but the wind kept on all day. This storm system brought a tornado to southern Ontario. Caught a bunch of walleye and pike and cleaned them up for supper. Played croquet. Had hoped to be at XRock tonight – now we are a day and a half behind – morale dwindling, but we’re still ok.

July 30 – up at 5:30 in hopes of beating the wind. Out of camp by 7am – coffee, but no breakfast. Rainbow across Bushey Lake, the end of the rainbow pointed to the exit. Portaged #19 Bruiseasy Falls – short and steep – straight up, straight down. Paddled til 10am before the wind caught us again. Rainbow halo around sun during our 10am brunch break – lunch meat wraps. One of our water filters beginning to fail. Stonehouse Lake – strong headwinds across long, long, long lake – very pretty, would have liked to take a picture, but didn’t want to stop paddling and lose 100m of progress just to do so. Then Stonehouse Falls – 440m portage, up, down, up, down. This portage was unkind and one guy begins to exhibit signs of exhaustion and then panic. Those of us not in some kind of cardiac crisis after the portage shot the lower part (CIII) of Stonehouse in empty boats. Exhausted, big storm brewing, camped on ledge above the CIII. Had just got tents up before the heavens opened. Rain quit after half an hour. Steaks for supper. Supposed to be at Round the Bend tonight – still only a day and a half behind schedule. Should be able to make it up. Morale very questionable. One guy ready to hit the SOS button on the Go Spot any time now – reality too challenging. Doing dishes (around 11pm), we looked up and saw the Northern Lights beaming green on the northern horizon. Watched the show for about half an hour, until it quit. Worth every ounce of tired.
Where’s the “river”…?

July 31 – eggs and sausage wraps for breakfast. Rain in early morning and more wind. Out of camp by 9:30. More headwinds. More long slogs across flatwater. Sun came out to shoot #24 (III), and #25 (IV/III). More flats. Wraps and trail mix in middle of XRock portage – tough put-in. Paddled more flatwater in headwinds to #27 (CV). Finished portage of #27 by about 6pm. Decided to camp on ledge above #27. Supposed to be at Island Rapids tonight – now we are fully 2 days behind schedule. If we can make 30kms every day for the next 5 days, we’ll be out on time. Baths below the falls. Croquet. Great moonrise. BBQed chicken thighs for supper – but not enough of them.

Aug 1 - Up early again, to get ahead of the wind. No luck. Rain and wind begin immediately. Shot #28 (I), then took the short portage around the CV at Goose Rapids (#29), then ran the rest of it. Met BSA group at portage and used their sat phone (Thanks, Finn!) to call a wife, to let the rest know we doubted we would be home on time. Ran #30 (II), #31 (III), then lined left on #32 Crater Rapid (CIV) for the first third, and shot the last 2/3 down the middle. Just before #30, the river turns to the SW and really begins to look like a river, though there isn’t any more flow, and the headwind was still with us. Ran #33 & 34, and pulled up at the Stagger Inn for the night. It was filled with mosquitoes – should have just tented, but it was nice not to have to. Big fish jumping, but no one had the energy to try to hook them. Pork chops for supper. Made our 30kms today, but supposed to have been at Chap Falls tonight – still a full 2 days behind. Still need to make 30kms every day to get out on time. If the wind would quit… If we could find some current… if, if, if…

Aug 2 – Up 6am. Egg wraps. Tired. More headwind. Did #35, 36a, 37 – came around corner into burned out flats and the Big Winds came up again. Long flatwater stretch ahead of us wasn’t going to be possible. Windbound again – if it lasted all day, we’d be 3 days behind. Pulled back about a km, out of the wind, and had a hard conversation about options. Morale low, one guy still exhausted and panic-y, time running short. Ran into the scouts again. Decided to pull the trigger and used their phone to call Blue Water for extraction next day. Logic was that if the wind stopped and the weather held for the rest of the week, we still wouldn’t make it home in time for work; and we might not see another group with a sat phone to get extraction at a further point; and, if weather didn’t hold, didn’t know if we could make it to a further pre-determined point. No good choices, so opted for the next day extraction from where we were. Made camp below #37 and fished, played croquet. Winds lasted all day – wouldn’t have gotten far – some consolation. Steaks for supper.

Aug 3 – A quiet and despondent group ate breakfast, packed up, and paddled to extraction point. Blue Water landed about a km north of us and we paddled to them. Carl and Jeff off on first plane. Tom and Christian waited and sulked for about an hour for second. Drove to Winnipeg. Caught a hotel, a shower, and a good steakhouse.

Aug 4 – Boys head home. Christian flies to Boston. Truck lost transmission in Minnesota. Boys get towed, abandon ship, rent car, drive home. Morale abysmal.

Aug 5 – Christian lands in Maine, boys land in VA. Carl flew out to Minnesota a week later and drove truck home – some seriously ripe gear in those drybags.

Lessons learned:
• The western shield is not the eastern shield. Much less gradient.
• Manitoba headwinds suck.
• Plan lots of extra time. The timetable is what killed us. We’d have been fine with an open schedule. Had plenty of supplies & could have lasted 12-15 days comfortably. Planned to complete trip in 9 days, gave ourselves 10, should have given ourselves 12-14.
• Make sure everyone’s expectations of potential conditions are as accurate as possible, and don’t underestimate the terrain.
• Think we made the right decision when we did. Had we had our own sat phone, could have seen a lot more river, or extended trip. Expensive mistake. Will know better next time…

Bloodvein River Blues (sing to whatever blues riff you like best)

Portage in the mornin’, portage in the eve…
Portage in the mornin’, portage in the eve…
When I gets my paddle wet,
Got the wind right in my teeth.

I ain’t got no money, but I got me some friends
I ain’t got no money, but I got me some friends
Sometime they take me down the river
Sometime they take me round the bend.

Heaven is a river, so I’m Manitoba bound
Heaven is a river, so I’m Manitoba bound
But in Heaven they got Sherpas
Just to haul my xxxx around.

The Bloodvein River call me, but what I am not sure
The Bloodvein River call me, but what I am not sure.
But I think the word ‘portage’
Is French for moose manure.

I’ve seen signs and wonders, I’ve seen loss and gain
I’ve seen signs and wonders, I’ve seen loss and gain
But when that goddam no good Bloodvein headwind starts ahowlin
I see nothing but heartache and pain.

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." - WATER RAT, The Wind in the Willows

PostPosted: September 4th, 2015, 6:43 am 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
Posts: 849
Location: Warren, Manitoba
Yep, Manitoba Summers can be dry. We ran out of water on our trip in early July in Atikaki but south of the Bloodvein. The real soaking came in early August but even that is a crap shoot out here. Hot and dry is normal Summer in 'Toba.

Mind you, we were in Geraldton second week of August and ran out of water there too.


PostPosted: September 4th, 2015, 7:35 am 
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Joined: August 5th, 2013, 6:48 am
Posts: 180
Thanks for posting this trip report. They do not all come off as planned but others can pick up a lot of pointers from your honest reporting. You are not alone in having suffered a lot wind in the area this summer. I think every contact or report I read from WCPP mentioned the weather impacting their trip in a negative way. You were fortunate that your first paddling day was the first day in a while that was not really hot. I was up in the NW corner of WCPP and not that far away but on small waters so could relate back to the days you described.


PostPosted: September 4th, 2015, 6:20 pm 
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Joined: March 26th, 2013, 9:27 pm
Posts: 487
Location: Winnipeg, MB
We paddled the Bloodvein last year and had wind every day but our last. We only had severe winds one day on Carrol Lake on our way up to Artery. I also had the flue for three days. It was the worst at the Stonehouse Rapids. We thought we had it bad at the time... Apparently it could've been a lot worse.

PostPosted: September 6th, 2015, 6:19 pm 
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Joined: August 7th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 1018
Location: Duluth, MN USA
The Wilson/Aykroyd guidebook for the Bloodvein is excellent. His description: "The Bloodvein is a typical pool & riffle type river where most of the current is restricted to the actual outflow of the individual rapid or fall only. This characteristic makes the river appealing for both up and downstream travel, ...."

Quebec has similar rivers, and they typify the Canadian Shield, but exceptions exist. In my experience, the type of water easiest to pack on miles is large lakes, rather than small rivers.

The exceptions to pool and riffle (or pool and drop) rivers on the Shield will be places where there is a lot of glacial sediment so that the river bed is mostly sediment (boulders to clay) rather than bedrock. For example, the lower Bloodvein is on the Shield, but there's a lot of glacial lake clay (the river starts to meander some, and there's much less bedrock outcrop and fewer rapids).

Locally near me, the upper St. Croix River is on the Shield, but the river valley has a tremendous amount of sand, because it used to be a large braided river draining meltwater from the ice sheet.

The lower segments of rivers draining into Hudson Bay are not on the Shield (they're on less resistant sedimentary rock), plus they're very young and cutting through lots of marine sediment - like the lower Missinaibi or Harricana (which also cuts through thick deposits of glacial lake sediment).

I'd look at some of the Hudson Bay rivers for your next trip - or fly out to the mountains where the gradient gets steep. I get the impression you were also looking for whitewater. The Moisie has 10x the discharge and 3x times the gradient of the Bloodvein.

The scouts have been taking kids to that area since 1972. My first real canoe trip was on the Gammon-Bloodvein in 1987 using Grumman canoes. They carried surface to air radios then.

PostPosted: September 10th, 2015, 7:39 pm 

Joined: January 8th, 2007, 9:56 pm
Posts: 35
Location: Wisconsin
It's interesting how one's prior expectations can influence their enjoyment of the trip.

We were 3 days ahead of you on the Bloodvein, so we encountered essentially the same conditions (plus a couple days of really hot weather that you just missed). Our main hardship was a couple of exceptionally slippery steep landings due to rain.

We had relatively low water, but I think that is actually an advantage on the Bloodvein because we could paddle right up to the lip of some of the drops and then lift over or line around rather than portage. This would have been too risky in high water.

We planned 14 days for the trip from Artery Lake to Bloodvein Village, so we could travel at a more leisurely pace. As a result, we had a largely positive experience. I can see how it would be stressful trying to complete the trip in 9-10 days.

It helped our planning that I had previously paddled the Bloodvein as well as the nearby Pigeon and Berens, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect and could plan our timeline accordingly.

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