View topic - Trip Report - French / Pickerel

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 8:32 am 
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Just back from a relaxing four days on the French / Pickerel Rivers. Trip with a bunch of couples - our friends that we paddle with every August. Large group this year - 6 couples. Very rare that everyone is able to make the trip, but this year it just clicked.

We put in at Hartley Bay Marina Thursday morning, and paddled south on the French. Unsettled looking weather, but the worst it did was sprinkle on us a few times in the mid-afternoon.

We entered Georgian Bay via Bass Lake - portaged over the boardwalk at that location. Gotta love it - sure makes a portage easy.

Click here for a pic

By the time we got out into Georgian Bay it was looking downright stormy, so we hugged the shore as we began to head east towards the Fox Islands, where we were planning to stay for the night. We didn't beat the squalls - they hit when we were still an hour from our site.

I've paddled in some pretty good rainstorms, but these were unbelievable. The kind of rainfall that makes you pull over to the side of the road if you're driving. The rain fell so hard that it hurt. We were thankful it wasn't hail. The surface of Georgian Bay looked like a snow field - completely white from the rain bouncing off it. Needless to say, we spent a bit of time bailing.

Two or three separate squalls blew through as we tried to get to our site - very strong winds, and the bay would immediately be whipped up into 2 ft swells.

Not much you can do, so we kept plugging along. The first couple of sites we checked out were occupied by groups of kayakers, but we found an "ok" site at the centre of Vixen Island. A bit of a squeeze for our large group, but we made do.

Weather cleared during the evening.

Click here for a pic

We were planning a layover day sometime in our trip, but the site on Vixen wasn't the place to do it. We were on the water by 9:30 AM. Continued east along the bay out around a point and back north up towards the mouth of the Pickerel. Flat water when we left the site, and a pretty good rolling swell an hour later when we were close to the Pickere. Stopped to chat with a couple of kayakers on an island, then headed north, out of the strong winds.

Water levels were very low - a few false starts up narrow channels that required a backtrack when the water ran out.

The river widened a bit at this location - Wonderful paddling - lots of ducks and geese at every turn, and great scenery.

Click here for a pic

A couple of km south of our proposed site, we were trying to sneak through some little rocky channels - once again, no water. We headed across the rocky outcrops on foot to scout out a better route, and we ran into another group of paddlers.

Five people from Austria. Two guys in Speedos, two gals in bikinis, and one guy merrily dragging his canoe through the shallow channel, buck naked. He graciously put on a swimsuit as we chatted with the group. Different atitudes to nudity in Europe, it seems.

The little channel that usually requires a portage in this section was pretty dry. Some of us opted for a combination of paddling, lifting over and dragging - others just did the portage. Six of one, half dozen of the other - we all finished about the same time.

Click here for a pic

An hour later, we were at our site at the north end of the Pickerel. Great site, so we decided to stay put for the two days at that location. Didn't see another soul for that two days.

Weather was glorious. Warm, sunny and a continuous breeze to keep the temperature comfortable.

Everyone spent the two days reading, fishing, blueberry picking, playing Euchre and just generally sitting around shooting the breeze.

One small bear walking around on the opposite shore (about a 3 year old) but he never came to visit.

Paddled out on Sunday morning. Left at 9:30 AM and were out at Hartley Bay by 12:30. Saw a mama bear and two cubs as we paddled out.

Very busy at HB Marina - took us a long time to take out and get the cars and canoe trailer loaded. Couldn't find a restaurant for the traditional post-trip lunch (Champlain was closed) so we ended up having a late lunch when we got back to Sudbury.


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 Post subject: Nice tripand question
PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 10:47 am 
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That is one heck ofa portage cart. Is it yours or a fixture of the Boardwalkportage?

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 11:28 am 
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jjoven wrote:
Is it yours or a fixture of the Boardwalkportage?
Comes with the portage... and yes, it's a monster.


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 11:38 am 
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I have been trying to get information about the French River now that it’s a park and haven’t had any luck with the government sources. I have been to the French many times, but not since it became an “operating park” a year or two ago. Did you have to pay park fees? Were you able to do that at the Marina? Do you know if the fees apply to the entire French, or to just certain areas (a la Temagami)?
Thanks very much,

Marsh


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 11:45 am 
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Location: Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada
Park fee is $7.50 per person per night. In return for that fee, you get pretty much nothing :wink:

Fee can be paid and permist obtained at any of the commercial outlets and marinas - French River Trading Post, Hartley Bay Marina, etc.

There's no signage on either campsites or portages, and access to campsites is first come-first served. I don't even know if they have a system in place to prevent over-booking. No thunderboxes, tent pads, fire pits or anything like that. No can or bottle ban, as far as I know.

Not a huge criticism here - I know the park is in its infancy. However, the cost can add up, and it would be nice to have some sort of reservation system, at least by zone. Our group of 12 paid $270 to stay there 3 nights last week.

Add to that a $6 / canoe launching fee at Hartley Bay, $6 per car per day parking and a trailer parking fee, and it ain't cheap any more. Still a fantastic area, though.


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 2:21 pm 
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Nice photos, Richard.
I love that area. The blueberries can be awesome!


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 5:13 pm 
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Not a huge criticism here - I know the park is in its infancy. However, the cost can add up, and it would be nice to have some sort of reservation system, at least by zone. Our group of 12 paid $270 to stay there 3 nights last week.


Yeah this sort of thing is comepletely ridiculous and can only lead to many people refusing to pay. You could have stayed at a fully operating park with flush toilets, showers and electrical hookups for about $100

Or 1 person could occupy the same sites as you did for $22.50

Ben

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 8:02 pm 
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Mind you, I think we were "legally" limited to the Prov Park rule of maximum nine people per site, and we actually had twelve ...


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 9:13 pm 
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Just over $20 per head is not horrible for the chance to paddle in that enviroment.
If and its a big if, the money goes to help perserve these wilderness areas it really is a small price to pay.

Just my 2 cents on the $$$ issue

Other than that it sounded like a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the trip report and viewing the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2005, 9:25 pm 
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rob in angus wrote:
Just over $20 per head is not horrible for the chance to paddle in that enviroment.


No complaints here ... cheap at twice the price.

We'd just like to see the park become a park if that's the way it's going (which it is). If there's going to be a fee, there may as well be reservations. It would also be nice to know that the funds were going into the park an not into Provincial general revenue.


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PostPosted: August 10th, 2005, 6:06 pm 
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Phew, that fourth picture had me worried that it was going to be a bunch of Austrian's in speedo's.

It doesn't sound like it was crowded at all. Is that normal? I guess I presumed that this section of the French was a little busier.

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PostPosted: August 10th, 2005, 7:09 pm 
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AlexF wrote:
It doesn't sound like it was crowded at all. Is that normal? I guess I presumed that this section of the French was a little busier.


We saw one church group camped at the Elbow when we paddled in on Thursday - then two groups of kayakers already camped when we got out to the Bay.

We saw the Austrian nudists on the way north on Friday. Nobody passed our site on the Pickerel on Friday or Saturday.

We saw one canoe heading south down Wan Bay as we paddled out, and one group of two canoes heading out of Hartley Bay as we docked.

So no, surprisingly quiet.


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