The Ruins of Ancient Anuradhapura – Part One

Previous Post: Up The Steps of Sri Lanka’s Mihintale

This post is one of two on the ruins of ancient Anuradhapura, the capital of a Sinhalese kingdom which once controlled north-central Sri Lanka . Following my tuck-tuk driver’s itinerary, it will cover the great dagoba of Jetavana as well as the Abhayagiri Monastery district on the northern end of the ancient city.

Part Two will deal with the rest of the site, including more amazing stupas and the Sri Maha Bodhi  (believed to be the tree that grew from a transplanted branch of the Bo Tree under which Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha).

Abhayagiriya Stupa - pilgrims approach

Abhayagiriya Stupa – pilgrims approach

Why Visit The Site of Ancient Anuradhapura?

Sri Lanka’s “Cultural Triangle” represents the core of the once-impressive Sinhalese kingdoms which flourished in Sri Lanka before external forces (first from southern  India and then from western Europe) overwhelmed them.  Spanning two millennia, the  ruins and the still-intact statues and reconstructed stupas serve as an introduction to a little-known yet impressive cultural achievement.

Sri Lanka's "Cultural Triangle"

Sri Lanka’s “Cultural Triangle” – see here for an interactive Google map

Anuradhapura, located on the plains of what is now called North Central Province, was the capital of the first of these Sinhalese kingdoms.  At its peak, the wealth generated by the kingdom’s economy was such that it was able to support a community of more that eight thousand Buddhist monks and surround them with massive religious structures which, next to the pyramids at Giza, were the largest human-made structures of the ancient world. The city was also one of the great centres of Buddhist learning and visitors came from throughout the Buddhist world from Kashmir to China in search of copies of canonical texts and scholarship.  To visit Anuradhapura is not only to enter a major tourist attraction, but also an ongoing archaeological site and a living pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from around the world.

For non-Sinhalese visitors to the site, the sheer span of the history – from the 400′s B.C.E. to about 1100 C.E. and their almost total unfamiliarity with it - will result in a feeling of occasionally feeling overwhelmed.  It’s a feeling I will admit to as I wandered around the site – and I say that as one who earned a living trying to make history come alive for mid-to-late teenagers for thirty-five years.

The grey area is the ancient city to the west of New Town

The ancient city is the greyed area is  to the west of New Town

Transportation Options - By Foot, Bicycle, or Tuk-Tuk

Another issue you have to deal with is the size of the actual site.  Given the oppressive heat after 10:30 a.m. It is too large to be tackled on foot.  There are two better options. The first is renting a bicycle. There is little traffic on the roads joining the various parts of the ancient city and you can make your way at your own pace. As the morning passes, however, it gets very hot and the cycling loses much of its allure!  Having spent the day cycling around the ruins of Polonnaruwa  three weeks before,  I was not too keen on doing the bike option again!

Ruwanwelisaya from the walkway

Ruwanwelisaya from the walkway

Mahinda and his tuk tuk had taken me to Mihintale the afternoon before.  Now his offer of a day’s worth of driving me around the twenty square kilometers of the ancient Anuradhapura site for 2000 SL rupees  was accepted. This allowed me to focus entirely on the various locations and left the navigation to Mahinda, who has visited the site hundreds of times over the past twenty years.

He picked me up at the guesthouse – The French Garden Tourist Rest in New Town – at 8:00 a.m. For the next six hours we zipped along from one end of the site to the other – he knows the place intimately so no time was lost trying to figure out where we were or how to get to where we (that should probably read “he”!)  wanted to go.  He would sit in the cab or do some socializing while I walked around the stupas or through the remains of monks’ residences or dinner halls or other structures.

Anuradhapura entry ticket

Should You Buy An Entrance Ticket – Or Not?

Our first stop was the ticket office where i paid the $25. US for the day pass.  I certainly isn’t cheap and its cost has encouraged budget travellers of resorting to ways around it. One way is not paying at all and just bicycling around and pleading ignorance if stopped by the occasional uniformed guard.  Another popular way is hiring a tuk tuk driver who will assure you that he can deliver you to all the sites for less than the ticketed price.

Isurumuniya Vihara site

Mahinda and his tuk tuk – top left – wait as I ramble around the Isurumuniya Vihara site at the end of the day

When faced with a situation like this I ask myself this question – How much would I feel is a fair entry fee?  In this case, $15. sounds reasonable. So - we are now really arguing about $10. ($25. – $15.)  When I think about the $2000. in air fare i spent to get here and all theatre expenses, this $10. fades into relative insignificance.

I am also assuming that most, if not all, of the money goes to the upkeep and continued uncovering of the site – so with my entry ticket I am making a contribution to something positive. One issue that annoys non-local visitors is that Sri Lankans do not pay to get into the site; forgotten is that they also earn one-tenth of what the typical foreign tourist does. A fellow traveller at the guesthouse assured me that the entry ticket was only necessary if you wanted to visit the various museums on the site.  If that was so, the US$25. entry fee would indeed be a rip-off, given their so-so quality.   In the end,  visitors will do whatever  they feel is right to them.

my generous contribution to develop and maintain the world heritage sites

my “generous contribution to develop and maintain the world heritage sites”  -  four or five guards would scribble on it during the course of the day

The ticket purchased, I hopped back into the tuk tuk and Mahinda headed for the north end of the site; over the next six hours  we would work our way down to the south end and get to see most of the major sites and a lot of things I still can’t put a name to! My guide for the day was my copy of The Rough Guide To Sri Lanka; reading various relevant sections while seated in the shade provided me with a rough idea of what I was looking at.

First Stop: A Little-known Wonder of the Ancient World

As we drove up to the Abhayagiri Monastery area, we passed by the first of the many stupas I would be walking around that day – the Jetavana Dagoba. (Dagoba is a Pali term which can be traced back to the Sanskrit root words dhātu (relics)  and garbha (womb, inside).  As for stupa, it is a Sanskrit term meaning heap or mound.  What Anuradhapura certainly has is some of the finest examples of colossal Buddhist relic mounds anywhere. The relic believed to be contained within the Jetavana Dagoba is a piece of the Buddha’s belt.

Amazing to think that when it was completed it was, other than the great pyramids at Giza, the tallest man-made structure in the world – and yet few (including me) before my visit have even heard of it.  it was the focal point of a monastic community which not only preserved Buddhist doctrine but helped spread it through south east Asia.

Jetavana Dagoba

Jetavana Dagoba – front view

All day it would be a challenge to frame the various stupas from up close without introducing distortion into the images by tilting the camera up to get it all in the viewfinder. I made frequent use of the electronic spirit level in my Sony A57 to make sure that things were level; the Tamron 10-24mm lens also helped. I was usually shooting at the  ultra-wide 10 mm end (the equivalent of 15mm on a full frame sensor). As you can see I was still left with some bad composition choices!

Jetavana Dagoba - the rear view

Jetavana Dagoba – the rear view …  I really needed to walk back another fifty meters and then perhaps crop the brick out of the image when I got home!

Do note that visitors must leave their shoes or flip-flops at the bottom of the steps before they walk onto the base terrace of the stupa – or many other sites.  The earlier in the day you do your clockwise-direction walk around the stupa , the cooler it will be on your feet! I did notice some western tourists with sensitive feet leaving on their socks.

stray dog enjoying the cool of the morning at Jetavana Dagoba

stray dog enjoying the cool  tiles at Jetavana Dagoba’s side temple

a Buddhist narrative brought to life

a Buddhist narrative brought to life

elaborate figures on the outside of Jetavana's side temple

elaborate figures on the inside of Jetavana’s side temple – Buddhism goes Baroque!

Before I left the Jetavana stupa, I made use of my thirty-word Sinhala vocabulary to say good morning to a young woman and the boy she was taking care of. They were waiting for the rest of a wedding party to arrive at the back of the dagoba for pictures.  I did something I rarely do in my travels – I took a shot of her and the boy, having asked her, mostly in sign language and with a smile, if she would mind. More people shots would definitely add an extra dimension to my  portfolio of pix!  Looking at my effort, I really should have had the stupa as the backdrop instead of what you see!

young Sihalese woman and boy at the Jetavana Dagoba

Before we drove up Vata Mandana Road to the first of the Abhayagiri Monastery district sites, we stopped within the confines of what was once the Citadel, the high wall and moat-protected royal palace area. None of this is evident now.   Rambling through the ruins does require a bit of imagination and previous knowledge if the visitor is to be successful in reconstructing the scene as it was fifteen hundred years ago. I supplied the imagination and used a guide-book to help me make some sense of it all.   Here is what you’re given to work with -

Abhayagiri Monastery ruins

the Citadel - ruins in the vicinity of the Temple of the Tooth

Abhayagiri ruins - lintels and doorposts

Citdadel ruins – lintels and doorposts repositioned

Temple of Tooth signIncluded in the Citadel zone was the original Temple of the Tooth – the Tooth being one which belonged to the Buddha.  It is believed to have been brought to Sri Lanka in the early 300′s C.E.  Along with the Buddha’s footprint on Sri Pada and Sri Maha Bodhi Tree in the Mahavihara district about two kilometers to the south, the Tooth is one of the most prized talismans of Sri Lankan Buddhism.  Over the centuries the Tooth became a visible political symbol of Sinhala sovereignty.  This makes sense of its location in the Citadel area and helps explain why its current home in Kandy was a justifiable target in the minds of Tamil Tiger bombers in 1998.  Twenty people died in a truck bomb explosion near the temple.

the original Temple of the Tooth

presumed ruins of the original Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa)

The Abhayagiri Monastery District

Next we were off to the north end of the ancient city to the ruins of the Abhayagiriya Monastery area. At its prime there were apparently as many as 6000 monks living here in one of the ancient city’s three main monastic centers. If you are really big on doing things in chronological order then the way to approach the ruins is by doing the monastic areas in order of age – first comes the Mahavihara area with the Sri Maha Bodhi, then the Jetavana Monastery district, and after a brief diversion the ruins of the Citadel district, a visit to the latest addition to the ancient city – Abhayagiri. I put my tour in the hands of my charioteer Mahinda and trusted him to hit all the high spots in the most logical order!

Abhayagiriya Monastery Area map created by Philg88 and found at Wikipedia

Abhayagiri Monastery Area map created by Philg88 and found at Wikipedia here

The Twin Ponds at AbhayagiriFirst up on our list were the Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds), used by the monastic community for ritual bathing. Built in the 700′s C.E., they show the Sinhala mastery of channelling and storing water. This came from centuries of refinement of the irrigation systems that were the reason for Anuradhapura’s rise as a centre of civilization.  As the overview map of the city found above illustrates, the city itself was surrounded by man-made water reservoirs (tanks or wawas) that allowed the dry plains to produce two crops a year.

one of the two bathing ponds at Abhayagiri Monastery in Anuradhapura

one of the two bathing ponds at Abhayagiri Monastery in Anuradhapura

the steps of one of the Kuttam Pokuna

the steps of one of the Kuttam Pokuna

looking over both of the ponds

looking over both of the ponds

I eventually made my way back to the tuk-tuk you can see at the far end of the ponds and we were off. We pulled up in front of the everyday bath house, a decidedly less elaborate structure than the Twin Ponds.

Abhayagiri bathhouse ruins

Abhayagiri bathhouse ruins

Abhayagiri Bath House detail - purpose unclear to me

Abhayagiri Bath House detail – purpose unclear to me

Nearby were the stone remains of the sleeping quarters – anything made of wood had obviously burned or rotted away long ago.  Walking through the site reminded me of looking down on Machu Picchu and seeing the stone walls of the week-end retreat that the Sapa Inca Pachacuti had constructed there.  Both require a bit of imagination to reconstruct in one’s mind. Perhaps one day there will be a 3D virtual reconstruction map of the ancient city  to help visitors as they walk around? There’s got to be an app for that!

a small section of the residential complex ruins

a small section of the residential complex ruins

Abhayagiri Residential Quarters

Abhayagiri Residential Quarters

residential area - a tree has found a home in the center of one buidling

residential area – a tree has found a home in the center of one building

Samadhi Buddha (early 1900''s)  - note the broken nose

Samadhi Buddha (early 1900”s) – note the broken nose – click on to enlarge …no, not the nose!

Next up was a visit to the Samadhi Buddha, a stone sculpture of the Buddha in the dyana meditation pose. It dates back to the 300′s C.E. and was originally out in the open. It now sits under a concrete shelter built to protect it but spoiling the effect somehow. Also interesting to note is that the statue was apparently painted upon completion.  As with those beautiful paint-free marble statues of Greek antiquity, we forget that the ancients saw something a bit different! Another thing to be pointed out is the crude job done on creating a new nose for the Buddha.

The Samadhi Buddha at Anuradhapura's Abhayagiri Monastery

The Samadhi Buddha on Anuradhapura’s Abhayagiri Monastery grounds

flower offerings in front of the Samadhi Buddha

flower offerings in front of the Samadhi Buddha

During the course of the day you will occasionally come across reminders on proper behaviour.  The two signs below point out important things to keep in mind as you approach or enter various areas -

no hat/no shoes sign in Anuradhapura ancient city

no hat/no shoes sign in Anuradhapura ancient city

No Photograph with Back To The Buddha  sign at Anuradhapura

No Photograph with Back To The Buddha sign at Anuradhapura

Next up was the very focal point of the Abhayagiri Monastery district of the Ancient City – the stupa or dagoba. Thanks to the legends promulgated by the Mahavamsa, a chronicle of the various dynasties of ancient Anuradhapura, local pilgrims believe that the relic mound is built on top of the spot where the Buddha (in one of his supposedly three visits to the blessed island of Lanka)  left a footprint.

Abhayagiri Dagoba in Anuradhapura's ancient city - see the first pic of this post for another view

Abhayagiri Dagoba in Anuradhapura’s ancient city – see the first pic of this post for another view

abhayagiri dagoba during reclamationTo the left is a shot found online which shows the dagoba  before it was reclaimed from the grass and bush that had found holds in the spaces between the bricks.  After the ancient city was abandoned about eight hundred years ago,  jungle filled any space it could and the site was forgotten. (I’m not sure how that fits in with the story about the Sacred Bodhi tree which you wouldn’t figure would be abandoned.)  When the British stumbled upon the site in the early 1800′s it did not take them long to figure out that they had “discovered” a major archaeological site – and this during the golden age of archaeology from Greece to Mesopotamia to India. Thanks to the end of the twenty-five year civil war in 2009, Sri Lankans can now focus on building their country – and if they are Sinhalese, reconstructing the glorious past of Sinhalese civilization. Bringing ancient Anuradhapura back to life is also a political statement on the part of the Sri Lankan government which says – “This island is fundamentally Sinhalese.”

new brickwork on the Abhayagiri Dagoba

Abhayagiri dagoba - new plant growth

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked around the dagoba – clockwise is the conventional way – I noticed the new brickwork which helps restore the stupa to most of its original glory.  Visible in some places,  however, was new plant growth in the cracks between the bricks.  Short of spraying the exterior with some sort of herbicide, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution in this battle between man and nature!

Abhayagiri dagoba - shrine room at main entry point

Abhayagiri dagoba – shrine room at main entry point

Entering the shrine room on the side of the dagoba at the end of the main entry walkway, I found a Buddha figure in the parinirvana pose (the reclining Buddha just before he died at the age of 80):

the Buddha in paranirvana position inside the shrine room

the Buddha in parinirvana pose inside the shrine room

close up of the Buddha's face in the Abhayagiri shrine room

close up of the Buddha’s face in the Abhayagiri shrine room

the paranirvana Buddha's feet

the parinirvana Buddha’s feet

Nearby was another statue of the Buddha in samadhi (meditation) pose. Time has not been quite as kind to it as to the one shown a few images above.

Abhayagiri Monastery- the second Samadhi Buddha statue

Abhayagiri monastery the second Samadhi Buddha statue

close up of Abhayagiri's second Samadhi Buddha statue

close up of Abhayagiri’s second Samadhi Buddha statue – click on images to enlarge

view of the back of the second samadhi statue

second samadhi staute - upper half

guardstone in front of Abhayagiri shrine

guardstone in front of Abhayagiri shrine house

nagaraja guardstone with seven-headed cobra crown

nagaraja (mythic snake king)guardstone with seven-headed cobra crown

Abhayagiri Monastery ruins

Abhayagiri Monastery ruins

remains of another structure in the Abhayagiri district

remains of another structure in the Abhayagiri district

Abhayagiri buidling foundation and pillars

Abhayagiri building foundation and pillars

Abhayagiri moonstone with elaborate carving

Abhayagiri moonstone with elaborate carving

moonstone detail

moonstone detail

A bit further along the foundation and little else of another shrine room.  However, the finely detailed dwarves holding up the steps leading to the shrine have survived, has the moonstone in front of them.

dwarves supporting the stone steps up to the shrine

dwarves supporting the stone steps up to the shrine

moonstone in front of the above steps

moonstone in front of the above steps

walking through the ghostly pillars in the ruins of  Abhayagiri Monastery

walking through the ghostly pillars in the ruins of Abhayagiri Monastery

the third of four Abhayagiri Buddha in Samadhi pose statues

the third of four Abhayagiri “Buddha in Samadhi pose” statues

Burrow's Pavilion sign

Burrow’s Pavilion information sign

Burrow's Pavilion (Stone Canopy)

Burrow’s Pavilion (Stone Canopy)

Abhayagiri's Et Pokuna (Elephant Pool)

Abhayagiri’s Et Pokuna (Elephant Pool)

the foundations of the refectory with stone food troughs on the right

the foundations of the refectory with stone food troughs on the right

the larger of the food throughs at the Abhayagiri monastery refectory

the larger of the food troughs at the Abhayagiri monastery refectory

the Abhayagiri Museum

statuary on display at the Abhayagiri Museum

guardstones from one of Abhayagiri's buildings

guardstones from one of Abhayagiri’s buildings

the fourth of Abhayagiri's Samadhi Buddhas

the fourth of Abhayagiri’s Samadhi Buddhas

Lankarama sign

Before we headed south to the rest of the site, we had one more destination – the Lankarama. The pillars, some still standing, are taken as evidence that the dagoba was once the core of a vatadage which stood here. If this is so, it would have looked something like this model recreation of another vatadage that we would  visit  in the afternoon – the Thuparama  pictured below. What is sometimes not clear as one walks around the ruins is what has been reconstructed in the past one hundred years and to what extent the modern work truly reflects the original structure.

A model of the Vatadage of Anuradhapura's  Thuparama

A model of the Vatadage of Anuradhapura’s Thuparama

Lankarama from a distance

Lankarama from a distance

another view of the Lankarama from afar

another view of the Lankarama from afar

Lankarama and pillars

Lankarama dagoba and pillars

We had started our whirlwind tour of ancient Anuradhapura at about 8:30. Now it was a bit past 11:00 a.m. and we had only visited the northern-most district of the old city.  Even then, it had been a bit of a rush. You really could spend an entire day just rambling around the ruins of Abhayagiri – but, given the steep entrance fee, you move on and try to see as much as possible.  The energy-sapping heat of the mid-day was starting to make itself felt.

Soon to be uploaded: Part Two.  

Taking In The Fall Colours With Viggo

Toronto Skyline from above the Brickworks

looking south to the Toronto downtown skyline from above the Brickworks

It is autumn in Toronto and that means fall colours. Viggo and I have been up and down the Don Valley – the eight kilometers from Lake Ontario all the way up to Moore Park – on this week’s rambles. It has been mostly overcast but every once in a while the sun manages to poke through.  On the days I had a camera with me we stopped for some photos.  Spoiler alert: what you’ll see as you skim through are lots of pix of Viggo and lots pix of fall colours, and sometimes both at the same time!

fall colours in Riverdale

fall colours at Withrow Park in Riverdale

On Sunday we made our way down to the beach at the foot of Cherry Street – it is the ultimate off-leash dog park in the city and Viggo’s favourite place since fetch also involves going into the water. This was the morning the little p & s camera was giving out bogus “Charge the battery” messages so not a lot of pix were taken. But here are a few of Viggo at work!

Viggo at the Cherry Street Beach Dog Park

Viggo at the Cherry Street Beach Dog Park – my current desktop image!

it's all about the ball!

it’s all about the ball!

Viggo ready to exchange the ball - for a treat!

Viggo ready to exchange the ball – for a treat!

The lack of maple trees down along the waterfront meant that the colour palette was somewhat muted – the above shots were about all the camera would work for.  The next day I had better luck with another camera as we walked the streets of Cabbagetown, a residential area just on the other side of the Don Valley from our Riverdale home. The housing stock there dates back to the 1880′s; what was once a very working class area of Toronto has been gentrified over the past forty years and is now a desirable address!

one of the many simple cottage homes of Cabbagetown

one of the many simple cottage homes of Cabbagetown

Cabbagetown front yards

Cabbagetown front yards

Cabbagetown fall colour

Cabbagetown fall colour

classic Cabbagetown - right down to the lace curtains!

classic Cabbagetown – right down to the lace curtains!

another Cabbagetown front yard

another Cabbagetown front yard

Once back on our side of the Don Valley, we paused for some water when we reached the picnic tables.  I got a few shots of the dog we call “Mr. Happy Yappy” as he stood on top of the table we usually sit on.

Viggo on a park picnic table - Riverdale Park East

Viggo on a park picnic table – Riverdale Park East

Viggo still seemed “full of beans” so I figured we might as well go up to the skating rink and play fetch for a while.  Given V’s chase drive, I like being able to shut the door to the rink.  The previous night’s rain meant there was a bit of water covering the concrete but we managed to get a few throws in.

viggo checking out the ice condition

Viggo checking out the ice condition

Viggo at the ice rink

Viggo at the ice skating  rink – ice is usually in by December

As you can see from the background of the previous shot, there is not a lot of fall colour happening in the woods by the skating rink yet. It turned out that the day’s most amazing colour was on our own street! Here are just a couple of shots of what we saw that day as we walked back home -

Riverdale Avenue maple leaves

Riverdale Avenue maple leaves

more Riverdale maple leaves on display

more Riverdale maple leaves on display

This morning was another overcast day but since the forecast was for rain in the afternoon, I figured we may as well make use of the morning. I had an ulterior motive at play; my new Polar H7 heart rate sensor – it pairs with my iPod Touch via Bluetooth – was just asking to be tested and what better way than a two-hour outing with Viggo!

I had heard rave reviews of the colours on the trail running up behind the Brickworks (aka the Moore Park Ravine) so that was our target for the morning.  First we bicycled up the Don Valley bike trail to Pottery Road and over to Bayview Avenue where I locked my bike to a utility pole. Then we scampered up and over the hill to the most fantastic view of Toronto – the one you see in this post’s first photo. The following pix will give you an idea of what the Moore Park Ravine looks like this week.

[While the Ravine is always a great place to be, right now it is especially pretty - and you don't need a dog to visit! Just park your car at the Brickworks and go for a walk.]

I tied Viggo’s leash to my bicycle seat post and off we went. Up the street, down into the park, down the flight of stairs to the bike trail, over the footbridge and through the tunnel you see below, past more than one reminder that our quest for fall colours is unfolding in a gritty urban environment.

the footbridge across the Don just north of the Riverdale Bridge

the footbridge across the Don just north of the Riverdale Bridge

The tunnel underneath the old Belt Line rail tracks

The tunnel underneath the old Belt Line rail tracks

a reminder that this is not a nature preserve

a reminder that this is not a nature preserve

And then, after a bit of work, we get to THE View – we are on the ridge above the Brickworks, looking at the immense cavity that provided the raw material for the brick homes that are so characteristic of a certain period of Toronto building.

Viggo surveys his domain from the Stone of Viggo above the Brickworks

Viggo surveys his domain from the Stone of Viggo above the Brickworks

Viggo responding to his name -

Viggo responding to his name -

And the Stone of Viggo. Well, it is the large boulder that sits up on the ridge .  Too much time spent reading LOTR led to creating a mythic world for our Viggo, Prince of Iceland.

The Stone of Viggo

The Stone of Viggo – he hops up, he gets a treat, I take a picture.  Familiar routine!

And then it is a bit of a scramble down a muddy hillside  to take us to the trail which goes up the Moore Park Ravine. I use the exposed roots of trees to provide some footing as we make our way down.  Down in the valley there is lots to explore…

the creek (Mud Creek?)  running down the ravine

Mud Creek  running down the ravine – Viggo checks it out

down along the creekbed

down along the creekbed

Viggo wading in Mud Creek:Moore Park Ravine

Viggo wading in Mud Creek - Moore Park Ravine

And then it was back to the path and the occasional encounter with other dogs and dog owners and, with my sincerest apologies, Viggo’s most recent giving chase to a bicyclist. She appeared before I could put V on a leash – but not before he had already clicked in to his urban job as Icelandic Bicycle Dog. She apologized for the incident; I told her it was definitely my “bad”.   In the hour that we were down there she was the only cyclist we saw. We do avoid the trail on weekends when all the joggers and cyclists are out in full force.

Viggo and a bed of fallen leaves

Viggo and a bed of fallen leaves

a short stretch of the ravine trail

a short stretch of the ravine trail

another section of the Moore Park Ravine pathway

another section of the Ravine pathway just before it ends south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Viggo watching a couple of dogs in the distance

Viggo watching a couple of dogs in the distance

Viggo giving me that smile of his

Viggo giving me that smile of his

more leaves - and another %22smile' from the Veegs

more leaves – and another “smile” from the Veegs

And then it was time to head on back down to Riverdale.  When we got home, Viggo was pretty mellow for a good chunk of the afternoon. We really have to do this more often!

I was keen to upload the heart rate information from the Polar Beat app on my iPod Touch. Our almost two hour adventure had burned up 1000 calories and had my heart getting a good workout. While the time spent in the two lowest heart rate zones hardly constitutes exercise, the hour I spent in zones 3 and 4 definitely qualify as my aerobic exercise of the day.

walking the dog - heart rate graph

walking the dog – heart rate graph

As I looked at the various peaks where my heart rate approached the red zone (zone 5) I wondered which peak was the one where I ran to get Viggo back on leash as he chased after that cyclist down in the ravine!

Withrow Park maple hiding  the sun

Withrow Park maple hiding the sun

Just a few minutes after finishing this post, I surfed my way to this Globe & Mail photo collection published today – a collection of fall colour shots from across Canada. See here for some truly creative images that capture the magic of a Canadian autumn.

Thorung La: The High Point of the Annapurna Circuit

Thorung Phedi to Muktinath Map

Thorung Phedi to Muktinath Map

Update:  Devastating News.

The Annapurna Circuit is in the news – and not in a good way.  Since October 14  the number of deaths has gone up into the dozens  [it now stands at 39]  as the Thorung La area recovers from a massive blizzard caused by the tail end of Tropical Storm Hudhud which swept up from the Bay of Bengal. The result was landslides at lower altitude due to massive amounts of rain and avalanches and blizzard conditions higher up because of the wet snow and wind. 

Apparently some trekking parties – some with guides, some not - decided to make what is normally a four-to-six-hour crossing of Thorung La in spite of poor weather conditions.  They may have been betting that the worst was over and they’d get across without a problem. Instead, they were walloped by a worsening blizzard that caught them unprepared both in terms of gear and dealing with a full-out emergency mountaineering experience.  While some trekkers took shelter at the teahouse at the pass itself, apparently it was those who continued on down to Muktinath that lost their lives. 

There were also deaths on an Annapurna side trail  from Koto (just east of Chame)  up the Naur and Phu Kholas to Phugaon (map here).  Four Canadians, an Indian, and three local villagers were killed in an avalanche. To the west of Jomsom at the Mount Dhaulagiri Base Camp two Slovak mountaineers and three Nepali mountain guides were also killed in an avalanche as they prepared to summit the mountain.

 In time more details will emerge to help us make more sense of what must be the darkest day in Himalayan trekking and climbing history.

My condolences go out to the families and friends of those trekkers and guides who lost their lives.  ________________________________________________________________________

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the world’s great hiking routes. Along with stupendous scenery, walkers find easy accommodation, a clearly defined route that the locals have used for hundreds of years, and enchanting cultural expressions  - often in the form of religious architecture or ritual – that have drawn western travellers for decades, ever since the trail opened in the late 1970′s.

Buddhist temple front before Chame

Buddhist temple front before Chame

All images enlarge with a click; all blue text leads to related info with a click.

Over a period of two and a half weeks or so, the 225 kilometer walk takes you from the lush sub-tropical environment of Besi Sahar and the Marsyangdi Kholar Valley up to the stark windswept alpine region north of Chame before crossing the the high pass of Thorung La . Then it is a 1600-meter descent  to the pilgrimage town of Muktinath before following the world’s deepest gorge (Kali Gandaki)  down to the end of the walk at Birethati.

Annapurna Circuit altitude gain graph

Source: Solundir at Wikipedia – see here

From the altitude profile above it is clear that Thorung La (La means “pass” in Tibetan) is literally – but often figuratively too – the high point of the entire trip.  At 5416 m/17769 ft, for most trekkers it will the highest point they ever walk up to in their lives.  It also presents the biggest potential danger of the circuit.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) sign above Manang

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) sign above Manang

The problem usually lies in the fact the trekkers are ascending too quickly and not giving their bodies enough time to acclimatize to the decreasing density of oxygen in the air.  Kathmandu at 1300 meters is where most will begin their Nepali adventure; after the bus ride to Besi Sahar via Dumre, the trail begins with a gradual ascent of the Marsyangdi Khola to Chame at 2710 meters.

Entering Thorung Phedi Base Camp Lodge

Entering Thorung Phedi Base Camp Lodge

We spent five days on this first section of the  walk and another six to get to the Thorung Base Camp Lodge ( altitude 4540 m) just above Thorung Phedi. ((Phedi is a Nepali word meaning “base of the hill”.)  Built into the walk up to Thorung Phedi were two extra acclimatization days – one in Pisang and the other in Manang.  In each case we followed one of the basic rules of mountaineering – “Walk high, sleep low”.  To help us further acclimatize, a few hours of each spare day were spent in the hills above the two villages before we  came down in the afternoon to our lodges at the lower altitude. When we got to our accommodation above Thorung Phedi, I went for a two-hour walk in the hills above the lodge.

the trail up the valley from Yak Kharta to Thorung Base Camp Lodge

looking back at the trail up the valley from Yak Kharta to Thorung Base Camp Lodge

our rooms are on the right of the stone patio

our rooms are on the right of the stone patio

the view from above Thorung Base Camp Lodge

the view from above Thorung Base Camp Lodge

two local dogs in the hills above the Thorung Lodge

two local dogs in the hills above the Thorung Lodge

Another general rule of acclimatizing is to set a maximum of  five hundred meters in  daily altitude gain.  Take a look at how established trekking companies plan their itineraries and  you’ll see that they build in a gradual ascent and provide enough time for their clients to acclimatize.

[As an example of a reputable small-group adventure travel company, here is the Exodus itinerary for the full circuit; even the Exodus Mini-Annapurna Circuit (!) doesn’t mess around with the acclimatization time needed to deal with Thorung La. See here to see what is cut out to create the shortened non-circuit Annapurna adventure.]

Clearly, the last thing any trip leader needs is the problem of what to do with a client or three unable to continue the trek half-way through. While there is no 100% guarantee that following the above guidelines will ensure that nobody will suffer any effects of altitude sickness,  it does make sure that no one will die of AMS.  In the end, the profile of someone likely to suffer from altitude sickness would include the following characteristics – an independent, twenty-something male trekker in a hurry to do the entire circuit in 10 days because he has to catch a plane back to NYC in five days. I met him in Manang and wonder what happened to him!

fellow trekkers killing time at Thorung Base Camp Lodge

fellow trekkers killing time at Thorung Base Camp Lodge

As well, keeping well-hydrated is crucial; notice the water bottles and the tea thermos on the table as trekkers kill some time waiting for the next morning’s climb up to Thorung La. While beer is available all the way up the trail, I stuck to bottled or treated water and tea and passed on the beer until we made the crossing!

The following zoomed-in Google map of the Thorung La area has the trail on it. You can get a sense of the terrain the crossing of pass involves. I am sure that one day soon the Google team will have a 3D virtual path view available!

We got up around three for a 4:30 a.m. departure.  The reasoning for the early rising seems to be that the snow will be at its hardest and the winds at their most moderate – whatever the case, lodges in Thorung Phedi will see a flourish of activity as trekkers try to get going. Many will have spent a restless night as they worry about what Thorung La will bring.

4 a.m. and ready to go

4 a.m. and keen to go – a Canadian, an Aussie, and a German – a mini- United Nations!

Our crew of a dozen walkers was ready to go by 4:30; people were wearing all the cold weather clothing they had - fleece underpants and sweaters and wool hats and gloves and those extra thick wool socks. The temperature outside was surprisingly mild and it was completely windless.

There are trekkers who are not so lucky, who have to wait for a day or two at Thorung Phedi because of the weather or, even worse, have to retreat back down to Manang or Dumre.  October and November are considered the best months for crossing Thorung La. Of the 20,000 trekkers who made the crossing in 2013, 6000 of them did it in October!  We were there on October 21 and walked into  a beautiful day.

Waiting for a couple of stragglers at the day's start

Waiting for a couple of stragglers at the day’s start

As we made our way up the first steep section to a plateau where things seemed to level out a bit, the trail created by the previous day’s and week’s walkers was clearly visible. Every once in a while there would be a cairn or other marker to show where the path was.  All it would have taken is a major snowfall or an incoming blizzard to turn our scenic and occasionally breath-taking walk into a full-blown difficult mountaineering situation where staying on track or finding shelter would become the #1 priority. Walking inside a ping png ball is the best description that comes to mind to describe what it is like to be on the trail with heavy snowfall.

Walkers are pretty exposed and there is really nowhere to go – other that returning to Thorung Phedi, there is a hut/teahouse at the pass, and another lodge (4100 m) on the Muktinath side of the day’s walk. While most trekkers are pretty well-equipped, there were some doing the trek who had clearly made a last-minute decision in Kathmandu or Pokhara to do the famous Annapurna Circuit on the cheap (i.e no guide or porter) and without the better-quality gear you need.

trekkers on the snow path to Thorung Phedi

trekkers – the dots on the right side of the image! – on the snow path to Thorung Phedi

trekkers approaching Thorung La

trekkers approaching Thorung La – notice the pole route marker

ponies ready to be used

ponies ready to be rented out to tired trekkers!

the route to Thorung La after the first steep bit

the route to Thorung La after the first steep bit

For four hours we walked through stunning mountain scenery on a pretty good hard-packed trail; as the hours passed, anticipation rose every time i saw what looked like the final ascent.  The following image illustrates once such situation – the ridge top we were approaching looked like it could be the pass!

a bit of uphill on the way to Thorung La

a bit of uphill on the way to Thorung La

Well, wish all you want but the pass will come when it comes – until then, just keep moving your feet and you’ll get there when you get there!

Movin' on up towards Thorung La - one step at a time

Movin’ on up towards Thorung La – one step at a time

the two Aussies give me a smile as we shuffle up to Thorung La

the two Aussies give me a smile as we shuffle up to Thorung La

snow trail to Thorung La

snow trail to Thorung La

looking back at where we've come from

looking back at where we’ve come from

a cairn on the trail near Thorung La

a cairn and prayer flags above the trail at Thorung La

The Teahouse/hut at Thorung La

The Teahouse/hut at Thorung La

The peak behind the teahouse is known as Thorung Tse or Thorung Ri (6144 m).  Behind it but not visible from the pass is the even higher peak of Khatung Kang (6488 m). I’m sure a few people have stood at the pass and looked up and thought – “Wouldn’t it be neat to quickly go up there and see the view!”  However, both are in the expedition peaks category and require additional permits on top of the trekking permits all trekkers on the Circuit have to get. Given the above, as well as the initial very steep and icy approach and the reported danger of avalanches, a basic Annapurna Circuit trekker would be foolish to enter into the realm of mountaineering  without the proper gear and skills and guide necessary!

catching our breath at Thorung La

catching our breath at Thorung La

Trekkers chillin' at Thorung La

Trekkers chillin’ at Thorung La

Thorung La Sign - compulsory photo!

Thorung La Sign – compulsory “I wuz there” photo!

The steep downhill to Muktinath - with Mustang region to the right

The steep downhill to Muktinath – with Mustang region to the right

It is on the downhill that the trekking poles become even more valuable.  While they are useful for balance and propulsion when going mostly up, being able to stabilize yourself and break your forward motion at times makes the 1600-meter descent to Muktinath easier to take.  A major plus is that your knees are spared the usual punishment they take on downhill stretches since some of your weight is transferred to your upper body. I’ll admit that on first seeing the poles in use around Chamonix in the Alps I thought they were an affectation that only a wussie Euro would  take to.  Well, live and learn.  I would never go on a trek without them again!

the steep descent from Thorung La - note the trail marker!

trekkers making the steep descent from Thorung La – note the almost invisible trail marker!

the descent to Muktinath continues

the descent to Muktinath continues – we’re below the snow line now

temple in Muktinath

temple in Muktinath

We got to Muktinath around noon.  we were now at 3800 meters and all the worry of Acute Mountain Sickness was gone. After a celebratory lunch we dumped our gear in our rooms at the lodge and walked back up to the temple area;  Muktinath is a major Shiva pilgrimage site for Hindus.

Muktinath and the Hotel Bob Marley

We eventually found our way to another shrine – the Bob Marley Hotel!  What is it about the popularity of this Jamaican reggae singer in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal?  It is as if he is the patron saint of hippy travellers! Our visit involved bottles of beer – the pressure was off.  Time for the pilgrims to do  a little celebrating!

Useful Links:

if you’d like to see the entire Annapurna Circuit in 1:125000 detail here is a map produced by Shangi-La Maps in Nepal.

Lonely Planet have a somewhat dated (2009) but still useful  Trekking In the Nepal Himalaya  guidebook available.  A new edition is in the plans for 2015.  The Annapurna chapter can be downloaded as a 7.34 mb pdf file for $5. See here.

The Cicerone guide book series recently (2013) published a new edition of their Annapurna guidebook.  I have used their books in the Alps and the Everest region and find them worth taking along in my pack.  See here for some info.

I’ve got another post on Annapurna – The Annapurna Circuit: Is It Still Worth Doing? – that might have some useful information and suggestions and other links. Click on the title to check it out.

The survivors’ stories make for some uplifting - or depressing – reading.  This BBC report from October 18 (Nepal Annapurna: Trekking Disaster Toll Reaches 39) provides an overview. An Israeli’s story provides an explanation of why so many died on the descent from the pass.the UK’s Telegraph  highlights his account in this article - Nepal trekkers ‘kicked out of lodge during snow storm’ blame local greed for eight deaths.

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 17 – To Bloodvein Village & Flight to Red Lake

Previous Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 16  - Lagoon Run to Rapids W88  Campsite 

Day 17 - W888 to Bloodvein First Nations Village

Day 17 – W888 to Bloodvein First Nations Village

Click on images to enlarge; click on blue text for more info.

DAY 17 BASICS:

distance: about 8 kilometers

weather: sunny and clear

rapids/portages: W89 (swifts) ran

campsite: by 9:30 p.m. a room at the Telstar Motel in Kakabeka Falls!

The view from our tent site 7 km. from the mouth of the Bloodvein

The view from our tent site 8 km. from the mouth of the Bloodvein

We left our Day 16 campsite at about 8:30 and a little more than an hour later we had paddled past the Bloodvein River Lodge on Kitchi Island on our way to the Bloodvein First Nation ferry landing and the end of the trip.

Bloodvein River Lodge on Kitchi Island

Bloodvein River Lodge on Kitchi Island

Hello, Bloodvein Village! the suburbs come into view...

Hello, Bloodvein First Nation! The suburbs come into view…

Once at the ferry landing  Max stayed with the canoe and gear while I went off in search of a telephone so that I could phone Viking Outposts Air and let them know we were ready to go.  All we needed to know was where exactly the plane would be landing.  For months before the trip I had assumed that we’d be picked up at the landing strip just to the east of the village - without thinking of asking to make sure.

Shortly before we left Red Lake Harlan informed me that we would have to make our way over from Bloodvein Village to Islandview on the ferry  and then get ourselves and the canoe and gear over to Pine Dock Lodge where the pick-up would be made. I can’t say we were too happy with the news - but it was what it was!   I had forgotten the name of the lodge and was now phoning to find out exactly where it was and how to get there.

The Dumoine has landed! Bloodvein Village ferry dock area

The Dumoine has landed! Bloodvein Village ferry landing area – landing is above the canoe

the Edgar Wood ferry landing at Bloodvein Village

the Edgar Wood ferry landing at Bloodvein Village

Welcome to Bloodvein sign as you come down the ferry docking strip

“Welcome to Bloodvein” sign as you come down the ferry landing strip

After a short walk over to the corner store/restaurant ,  I was making use of the landline phone to contact Harlan Schwartz at Red Lake Outfitters.  No answer!  So  I phoned Viking Outposts and got Craig Carlson on the line. He said he’d been expecting the call and had some news for me – the pick-up would not be taking place at the lodge near Islandview after all.

Apparently the new lodge owner had ended whatever landing arrangement the lodge used to have with Viking.  The de Havilland Beaver would land right in front of Bloodvein First Nations and pick us up there.  Alright!  This was making a lot more sense!  It meant that we could relax instead of jumping through a few extra hoops before actually getting into the plane.

Bloodvein's new Nursing Station on Main Street

Bloodvein’s new Nursing Station on Main Street

Bloodvein Nursing Station window message

Bloodvein Nursing Station window message

Carlson figured the plane would be there in under three hours so we settled in for a bit of a wait in the shade of the “Welcome to Bloodvein…” billboard.  In our rambles around the village we did chat with a few of the locals – a high school student, someone working at the Nursing Station, a local keen on information about moose numbers up river.  Most people seemed to be driving up and down Main Street – still unpaved and very dusty but given the presence of a road construction crew soon be be covered with asphalt.

Bloodvein Village - to the side of the old Anglican Church building

Bloodvein Village – to the side of the old Anglican Church building

Bloodvein's old Anglican church building

Bloodvein’s old Anglican church building

When I saw the old Anglican church just off of Main Street I thought about a Bloodvein trip report (perhaps jjoven’s) which mentioned that they had slept inside the church for a couple of nights at the end of their trip. The building is looking a bit derelict; services are now held in the building next door – the new Anglican Church! We learned that they made use of straw bale to construct it.

the new Anglican Church building - next to the old one

the new Anglican Church building – next to the old one

We watched the Edgar Wood ferry make a smooth stop at the end of the gravel ramp.  It didn’t seem especially busy on this particular day. After the white truck in the photo below dropped off its cargo on the ferry, it went back to town.

the Edgar Wood  ferry at the Bloodvein Dock

the Edgar Wood ferry at the Bloodvein Dock  - see here for the ferry schedule

Islandview-Bloodvein area

Islandview-Bloodvein area – see here for an interactive  map view of Manitoba

off goes the Edgar Wood ferry to Princess Harbour before returning to Islandview

off goes the Edgar Wood ferry to Islandview and Highway 234

Within thirty minutes the ferry had come and gone and we were left listening for the sound of a De Havilland up above. When we did, we hopped into the canoe and pushed off shore – obviously keen on moving the day’s proceedings along.

We couldn’t understand why the pilot – Mike, as we would learn! - kept on circling and not committing to a landing. It actually took him ten or fifteen minutes before he hit the water.  We would later learn that landing in front of Bloodvein Village means a good chance of hitting badly-placed rocks!  This would explain Mike’s deliberate approach!

Waiting for the Breaver to arrive from Red Lake

Waiting for the de Havilland Beaver to arrive from Red Lake

the de Havilland Beaver control panel

the de Havilland Beaver cockpit and instrument panel

Beaver serial number plate

Beaver serial number plate

Bloodvein flight path back to Red Lake

Bloodvein flight path back to Red Lake

Up in the air by 1:30, we would be in Red Lake before 3:00. (It is a 200 kilometer/125 mile flight.)  On the way back we got to see – but not always recognize – bits and pieces of the river that we had spent the last seventeen days with. Here are some of the shots I took from my front row seat with the window rolled down.

The Bloodvein - between the Bridge and the last set of rapids (W89)

The Bloodvein – between the Bridge and the last set of rapids (W89)

the bridge over the Bloodvein in late July 2014

the bridge over the Bloodvein in late July 2014

The Bloodvein Bridge under construction - July 2014

The Bloodvein Bridge under construction – July 2014

Meekisiwi Rapids W87 just above the new Bridge

Meekisiwi Rapids W87 just above the new Bridge

The Bloodvein's Meekisiwi Rapids up close

The Bloodvein’s Meekisiwi Rapids up close

Off the Bloodvein - Kaneeshotekwayak Creek headwaters just above Meekisiwi Rapids

Off the Bloodvein – Kaneeshotekwayak Creek headwaters just above Meekisiwi Rapids

The Bloodvein's Wayweekokanshok Falls (W76) with W77 coming up at the bottom of the image

The Bloodvein’s Wayweekokanshok Falls (W76) with W77 coming up at the bottom of the image

The Bloodvein - Leyond Junction and Namay Rapids

The Bloodvein – Leyond Junction and Namay Rapids

The Bloodvein - Sekak Rapids (W49)

The Bloodvein – Sekak Rapids (W50)

The Bloodvein from the put-in after Crater Rapids (W32)  towards the junction with the Gammon River

The Bloodvein from the put-in after Crater Rapids (W32) towards the junction with the Gammon River

looking down at  a small pond on our Bloodvein flight path .

looking down at a small pond on our Bloodvein flight path

Google view of pond, flight path, and Bloodvein

Google view of pond, flight path, and Bloodvein – click here for the Google view

X-Rock Rapids and Island campsite

X-Rock Rapids and Island campsite

Looking down on the Bloodvein - Rapid W25 just before X-Rock Rapids.

Looking down on the Bloodvein – Rapid W25 just before X-Rock Rapids.

Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein River system

Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein River system

Basecamp view of Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein

Basecamp view of Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein

Burn evidence in the Larus Creek area south of Larus Lake

Burn evidence in the Larus  Lake area

approaching Red Lake

approaching Red Lake town from the west end of Red Lake

RGB - Green Island in Blue water on Red Lake

Red Lake with Green Island in Blue - natural RGB!

Red Lake Townsite under the wings of the Beaver

Red Lake Townsite under the wings of the Beaver

The Beaver has landed - at the Viking Outpost dock

The Beaver has landed – at the Viking Outpost dock

our Beaver's next emergency flight cargo into Woodland Caribou Park

precious cargo on our Beaver’s next emergency flight into Woodland Caribou Park

one last look at the iconic dehavilland Beaver

one last look at the iconic de Havilland Beaver

Wow – nothing like a bush plane ride!  Even better, nothing like a bush plane ride after having earned the ride by paddling from one end of the Bloodvein to the other.  Canoe and de Havilland Beaver – this was only my second ride, but I’m liking the combination a lot.  Yes, it does free the bankbook of a bit of cash – but it also frees you from always having to plan your trip as a loop.

We came back from the trip totally buzzed by the experience – and by the river itself.  A few weeks later when putting it all into words on a canoe forum  it came out this way -

My brother and I have canoed a string of incredible rivers in the last few years. Our introduction to the Wabakimi area opened up a new world for us, focused as we had been on NE Ontario. While I am hoping that next year’s trip is still better, I think this summer we may have hit the jackpot.  The Bloodvein River is the most beautiful river we have ever paddled down. We spent seventeen days – six on the headwaters in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario and eleven on the Manitoba side in Atikaki Provincial Park down to Lake Winnipeg – on a river system that has it all. 

A couple of months later it still sounds completely reasonable. Stay tuned as we search for a new river which may take the crown away!

First Post:   Canoeing The Bloodvein River System – Introduction,  Maps,  And Planning

Canoeing the Bloodvein Day 16 – Lagoon Run to Camp Below W88

Previous Post:  Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 15 – Namay Falls to “Lagoon Run” 

DAY 16 BASICS:

distance: about 17 kilometers

weather: sunny and clear

rapids/portages: W87 port 65 m; W88 ran

campsite: point less than 1 km below W88

looking back at the Day 15 Campsite

looking back east  at the Day 15 Campsite on the hilltop above “Lagoon Run”

Our last full day on the river was really a half-day of paddling, given that we were setting up camp shortly after noon on a point below Kasoos… Rapids (W88) about five kilometers outside of the Atikaki Park boundary.

Day 15 - Lagoon Run to Point below W88

Day 15 – Lagoon Run to Point outside the park below Wilson’s rapid #88

narrow stretch of the Bloodvein below W86  just before a set of swifts

narrow stretch of the Bloodvein below “Lagoon Run” just before a set of swifts

river left at Meekisiwi Rapids (W87)

river left at Meekisiwi Rapids (W87)

Meekisiwi Rapids -

 

We had one portage to deal with – the 65-meter carry at Meekisiwi Rapids illustrated by my gps track to the left.  The very next day we would fly by the rapids on our way back to Red Lake; the shot below shows what the rapids look like from 600 meters up.

The Bloodvein's Meekisiwi Rapids up close

The Bloodvein’s Meekisiwi Rapids aerial view – the river is running from image top to bottom right

Coming up were the last two reported pictograph sites on the river and we scanned rock faces in anticipation.  No pictographs – but very nice reflections!

rock face and reflection on the Bloodvein

rock face and reflection on the Bloodvein below Meekisiwi Rapids

Rock face below Meekisiwi Rapids on the Bloodvein

Rock face below Meekisiwi Rapids on the Bloodvein

The first of the pictograph sites came up just downriver from the new bridge spanning the Bloodvein for the all-weather road which will soon be open and connect Bloodvein First Nations with Highway 304 about ten kilometers east of Manigotagan.

the new Bloodvein River Bridge at the end of the Park

approaching the new Bloodvein River Bridge and the end of the Park

The Bloodvein Bridge under construction - July 2014

an aerial shot from the next day – The Bloodvein Bridge under construction – July 2014

Unfortunately easier access to the river via the road has already resulted in some graffiti spoiling what is a mostly pristine wilderness river and shoreline. Paddling downriver from the bridge, in the next 1.5 kilometers you will see this on river right -

the graffiti south of the Bridge and a few meters north of the pictograph site

the graffiti south of the Bridge and a few meters north of the pictograph site

Chubby, Vern, and Chester's %22Hello to the World%22 by the new Bloodvein Bridge

Chubby, Vern, and Chester’s “Hello to the World”  by the new Bloodvein Bridge

more graffiti - technically petroglyphs? - on the Bloodvein near the new Bridge

more graffiti – technically petroglyphs? – on the Bloodvein near the new Bridge

Along with the recent defacing of the rock face, we did find a small panel with three pictographs.  A human figure with outstretched arms and one holding what may be a medicine bag, what looks like a tripod but with five legs, and a rectangle. A line underneath them all seems to serve as a foundation.

Bloodvein Pictograph just south of the new bridge crossing the Bloodvein

Bloodvein Pictograph just south of the new bridge crossing the Bloodvein

And then it was back to more recent scratchings of lichen-covered rock face.  What were Marty and Marcy thinking?  I am surprised that nothing has been done to get rid of the worst of the graffiti. It does not make a great advertisement for those trying to create a U.N. World Heritage site in the area.

more scratchings on the rock face

more scratchings on the rock face

yet more graffiti near the end of the Bloodvein below the new Bridge

yet more graffiti near the end of the Bloodvein below the new Bridge

Clyde Cook does the Bloodvein

Clyde Cook leaves his mark on the Bloodvein

break time on the Bloodvein below Meekisiwi Rapids

break time on the Bloodvein below Meekisiwi Rapids

the Swift Dumoine takes a break on the Bloodvein!

the Swift Dumoine takes a break on the Bloodvein!

We were ready to see the last of the rock painting sites as we approached Kasoos Rapids (W88).  Just above the rapids on river right is apparently a half-life-size pictograph of a moose.  Well, i don’t know how we managed it, but we didn’t even see a rock face, let alone the rock painting! As for the rapids, the term “swifts” would be a more fitting term to describe the water we found.

The view from ourBloodvein  tent site 7 km. from the ferry dock and the village

The view from our Bloodvein tent site upriver from the ferry dock and the village

Bloodvein W88, picto site, and Day 16 CampBelow the rapids the river widens into a mini-lake.  It seems to be a popular spot for fishermen as we spotted a few boats over the next few hours motoring up to the foot of the rapids.  We headed to a point on river left and found a great tent site. While we could have paddled right down to Bloodvein First Nations and waited there for the next day pick-up by Viking Outposts Air,  this quiet and hassle-free spot seemed a better option. The last seven kilometers to the village could wait for the next morning.

The Last Post! Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 17 – W89 Camp to Bloodvein First Nation

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 15 – Namay Falls To Lagoon Run (W86)

Previous Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 14 – Sharp Rock Rapids to Namay Falls 

Day 15 - Namay Falls (W80) to Lagoon Run (W86)

Day 15 – Namay Falls (W80) to Lagoon Run (W86)

DAY 15 BASICS:

distance: about 15 kilometers

weather: overcast and threatening to rain in the morning; mostly clear skies in the aft

rapids/portages: on paper an easy day

Day 15 Rapids:Portages

campsite: the plateau above “Lagoon Run”

Since we had two and a half days to get the final forty kilometres done, we were looking forward to a leisurely day or two.  It certainly started off that way.  Leaving Namay Falls  we took the left fork of the river and bypassed a couple of sets of rapids in the process. After a swift or two and a bit of lining,  we came up to Namay Rapids (W83) which we lined in a few minutes.  We were very pleased as we approached Kaokonapeekewonk Rapids – the short cut had proven to be the right choice and we had enjoyed the narrowness of the river and the rock-lined shore  through this stretch.

rock lining shoreline in the bypass channel on the Bloodvein

rock lining shoreline in the bypass channel on the Bloodvein

Next up was W84 …Kaokonapeekewonk Rapids – now affectionately known to us as K-O Rapids.  To the left was a nice potential lift-over over the ledge which avoided the worst of the turbulence. We took a quick look at the situation without going to shore and decided to run it down the middle as the Wilson map for this set of rapids suggests.

We did not, however,  make the also-suggested hard turn to the left.  The result? We got flipped by an incredible undercurrent on the right hand side . The canoe rolled over so quickly that  all the bags stayed inside even though they were not tied down. The current was such that we were swept downriver at a pretty decent clip.  The gps track shows the route -

Bloodvein Kao-kona-peek-e-wonk Rapids (W85)

Bloodvein Kao-kona-peek-e-wonk Rapids (W85)

Down at the bottom of the rapids we were briefly stuck in an eddy that prevented us from reaching either shore without a major effort. In retrospect, we are really glad we had replaced our twenty-year old life jackets just this year with new Kokatats. They provided excellent buoyancy.  Once out of the eddy,  Max was able to swim to shore,  pulling in the canoe behind him.  He then paddled out to pick me up. I was looking around to see if I could see our two Tilley hats bobbing about. then it was back to shore.

All bags accounted for – everything was there except for the hats – we hauled the packs up to the area you see in the pic below.  To top it off,  it looked like rain was coming so the  up went the tent just in case. Almost everything had escaped the twenty minutes we had spent in the eddy at the bottom of the rapids, trying to get to shore, any shore!

regrouping on the point at the bottom of K,O. Rapids - Max is missing his Tilley

regrouping on the point at the bottom of K.O. Rapids – Max is missing his Tilley

For the next three hours  the wind dried our packs and anything else that needed to be. The waterproof liners that I had purchased from Hooligan Gear for their packs turned out to be what they were billed as.  This eliminated a whole bunch of worries.  Also effective  were the Pelican cases.  I had three of them – all proved to be waterproof, including my Pelican 1400 case with my dslr and a few lenses in it.  Whew!  We did, however, suffer three losses – Max’s Canon SX230 and my Sony digital tape recorder both got soaked and neither revived. His image files were later luckily retrievable from the memory card; lost were the entire trip’s worth of audio notes on various aspects of the river and  portage conditions. All in all,  it could have been worse.

By three we were back on the water, somewhat humbled by our experience.  As we paddled downriver, we looked for signs of our Tilleys bobbing in the water – but no luck. My Tilley had been my go-to hat since the early 1990′s when I first dipped it in the Ganges River at Varanasi. Unlike that elephant in the Tilley commercial, the Bloodvein decided not to give it back!  We did get to paddle by a moose a couple of kilometers above the next set of rapids

At Akeeko Rapids we bumped into the some of the Pine Crest Crew at the start of the portage – we had first met them a couple of days before. Then the rest of the group came walking back along the portage trail.  They had gone to the other end to check out the campsite. Having decided that they could do better,  they went across the river above the rapids to check out another reported site.

We pressed on, dealing with the portage in good time and then paddling another half hour down to what Wilson labels “Lagoon Run” (W86). His map note indicates a “choice view of rapids” and that is what we found. Like the Namay Falls campsite, this one begins with a steep initial ascent to the plateau and has room for dozens of tents up top.   While the rapids are not quite as dramatic as those at Namay Falls, it is still a very scenic slice of the Canadian Shield. The pix below show a bit of what it looks like.

Day 15 tentsite on the plateau above W80 Lagoon Run

Day 15 tent site on the plateau above W86 Lagoon Run

the Lagoon Run rapids(W86) on the Bloodvein

the Lagoon Run rapids (W86) on the Bloodvein

panorama of the Bloodvein's W86 "Lagoon's Run"

panorama of the Bloodvein’s W86 “Lagoon’s Run”

looking down the Bloodvein from our tentsite at Lagoon Run (W86)

looking down the Bloodvein from our tent site at Lagoon Run (W86)

Lagoon Run on the Bloodvein - side view

Lagoon Run on the Bloodvein – side view

A fifteen-kilometer day with an unexpected bit of drama –  happy it was done with,  we were both chastened and relieved that it hadn’t been worse.

 Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 16 – “Lagoon Run” to Camp Below Kasoos Rapids (W88)

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 14 – Sharp Rock Rapids to Namay Falls (W80)

Previous Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 13 – Gorge Rapids to Sharp Rock Rapids 

_______________________________________________________________________

DAY 14 BASICS:

distance: 26 kilometers

weather: a beautiful day on the river

rapids/portages:  a “lite” day. See map 4 in Wilson’s book for overview and specifics.

Day 14 Portages

Wilson cover

   

campsite: Namay Falls Convention Center!  Room for fifty tents…we had first choice!

_________________________________________________________________________

I’m not sure what happened to Day 14 of my gps tracks; I think I may have deleted it!  iphone and SPOT ConnectWhat you see below is the equivalent – and much less detailed – track created by my SPOT Connect. It creates a track every ten minutes while it is on; this gps “bread crumb” trail is posted at the SPOT website where anyone interested can follow your progress. Our families like the emergency alert feature as well as the peace of mind it gives so it has become a part of how we do canoe trips these past few years. The Spot is  3″ x 2.6″ x 1.2″ (7.6 cm x 6.6 cm x 3.2 cm) and weighs 5 oz. (140 gm).  Paired with my iPod Touch it also allows us to send up-to-45-character messages to pre-installed email addresses. See here for a good write-up of the device and its features.  You will also notice where I “borrowed” the image – so thanks to the staff at trailCamper for the info and image! I also bring along a 5000 mAh battery charger for the iPod (just in case) and a couple of extra sets of AA batteries for the SPOT. Oh – and a usb cable to connect the SPOT to the charger.  These are a few of the things a modern-day voyageur has to remember to bring along!

Day 14 -  the Spot Connect Track for the day

Day 14 – the Spot Connect Track for the day

Looking at the Google satellite view and then the map below indicating the Atikaki Park corridor, it is interesting to note that the denuded area on river left goes right up to the boundary line.  Is it logging activity  that is responsible?  A bit of surfing the net did not turn up any supporting evidence –  there could be another explanation that I am not seeing. Any further information would be appreciated – let me know!

Garmin Basecamp map of Day 14 route on the Bloodvein

Garmin Basecamp map of Day 14 route on the Bloodvein

After a couple of 30+ kilometer days, this one was more leisurely and whatever short portages we had to do also gave us lots of reasons to slow down and pull out the cameras. The shot below came from a “gorp and gatorade” stop below a nice piece of vertical rock face.

Day 14 - a stop on the river

Day 14 – a stop on the river

Also in evidence again this day were the swifts that occasionally pushed the speedometer up into the double digits!  The Basecamp map below shows two such spots as we approached Wayweekokanshok Rapids (W76). By chance I would take an aerial shot of this stretch of the Bloodvein during our de Havilland Beaver flight back to Red Lake a few days later.

the basecamp view of W76 and W77 area of the Bloodvein

the Garmin Basecamp view of W76 and W77 area of the Bloodvein

The Bloodvein's Wayweekokanshok Falls (W76) with W77 coming up at the bottom of the image

The Bloodvein’s Wayweekokanshok Falls (W76) with W77 coming up at the bottom of the image

The two most impressive sets of rapids of the day were Ankuasi Falls and Namay Falls. The maps below give you a general idea of where and how long they are. Again, fresh orange prospectors’ flagging tape indicated the take-out points (both high water and low water) .

W79 P165

Ankuasi Falls –  W79 P165

W80 P155

Namay Falls – W80 P155 Day 14 camp

Apparently the word “ankuasi” means “driftwood” in Ojibwe. (Spellings like aangwasag and aungwahsug reveal the roots of the word.)  The connection became clear as we approached the falls and saw the pile of logs and deadfall washed up on the left hand side of the falls.  We ended up spending almost two hours at the Falls, as it made a great lunch spot and a reason to get out the cameras again.

Ankuasi Falls - driftwood up top

Ankuasi Falls – driftwood up top

the very scenic Ankuasi Falls area

the very scenic Ankuasi Falls area

Ankuasi Falls - canoe at end of short portage

Ankuasi Falls – our canoe at end of short portage

Ankuasi Falls - W79 on the Bloodvein River

Ankuasi Falls – W79 on the Bloodvein River

Namay Falls is a half-hour paddle from Ankuasi Falls. We got to the take-out spot just above the falls after having checked out the high water exit perhaps fifty meters upriver.  The start of the portage is a bit muddy and you’re faced with a steep first section that brings you to the flat hill-top. Walking across it we could see dozens of potential spots to put up our tent. It was easy to imagine an Anishinaabe band making this a temporary home for a part of the summer. We picked a nice spot overlooking the rapids and set up the tent there. Like we had on a number of earlier days, we now declared this campsite the #1 of the trip.  The Bloodvein definitely spoils you with fantastic places to park your canoe for the night.

Namay Falls (W80) campsite on the Bloodvein

Namay Falls (W80) campsite on the Bloodvein

tent site above the Bloodvein at Namay Falls

tent site above the Bloodvein at Namay Falls

Needless to say, there was nobody else there.  In fact, other than the two fishing boats on the Manitoba side of Artery Lake on Day 7 and the teen crew  at W70 on Day 13, we did not meet anyone else on the river until the last night when fishing boats from Bloodvein Village passed our campsite some 8 kilometers from the end.

We did see the teepee structure below that perhaps serves as the framework a temporary shelter for Bloodvein villagers when they make the forty kilometer trip  up to Namay Falls on hunting trips. Or maybe canoe trippers with an extra day to kill decided to make use of their time building something they could wrap a tarp around?

Teepee frame at Namay Falls on the Bloodvein

Teepee frame at Namay Falls on the Bloodvein

flowers at top of Namay Falls

flowers at top of Namay Falls

looking up Namay Falls

looking up Namay Falls

Namay Falls on the Bloodvein- shutter speed of 1 second

Namay Falls on the Bloodvein – shutter speed of 1 second

Namay Falls on the Bloodvein

Namay Falls on the Bloodvein – shutter speed of 1/160th of a second

Namay Falls panorama

Namay Falls panorama

looking down the Bloodvein at Namay Falls

looking down the Bloodvein at Namay Falls

Two Ways Around Namay Falls

Two Ways Around Namay Falls

We had approached Namay Falls on river right and did the steep ascent to the scenic and massive  campsite on the flat top of the sloped rock face that lines the falls on this side. There is another option – you can come down on river left and bypass the 150 meter portage in favour of a 10-meter carry.  We noted a campsite above the short lift-over. It would be an easier option if you were just passing through.  At the very least  it would provide a different perspective of Namay Falls than the one that you get from the main campsite.

Namay Falls - left hand channel of the Bloodvein

Namay Falls – left hand channel of the Bloodvein coming down from the top centre

It was a Monday afternoon when we arrived at Namay Falls; we had arranged for a Thursday  pick-up by Viking Outposts Air at Bloodvein First Nations Village.  So we had two and a half lazy days to deal with a bit less than forty kilometers of the Bloodvein.

However, just when you think you’re on Easy Street, stuff happens!  The very next day we would spend a few hours dealing with the consequences of being just a bit too cavalier about a set of rapids. Tested at Kaokonapeekewonk (shortened to K.O.!)  Rapids (W84) were our life jackets as well as the waterproofness of our pack liners and Pelican camera cases.

Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 15 - Namay Falls to Lagoon Run (W86)

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 13 – Gorge Rapids (W56) to Sharp Rock Rapids (W73)

Previous Post: Day 12 – From Kautunigan lake to Gorge Rapids (W56)

Day 13 - W56 to W73

Day 13 – W56 to W73

DAY 13 BASICS:

distance: about 27 kilometers + a couple of kilometers on the portage trail

weather: from threatening in the morning to pretty nice in the aft and evening

rapids/portages: see below

Day 13 Rapids Run:Portages Done

campsite: campsite above Sharp Rock Rapids (W73) – nice quiet spot

Day 12 campsite - paddling away

Day 12 campsite – paddling away

 

Bloodvein Canyon Rapids (W59) take out spot

Bloodvein Canyon Rapids (W59) take out spot

a view of the Bloodvein's Canyon Rapids (W59)

a view of the Bloodvein’s Canyon Rapids (W59) from the portage trail

W59P240 Canyon Rapids

W59 P240 – Canyon Rapids

W60 P60

W60 P60

W61 P155

W61 P155  (“Island Chutes”)

looking down  to the canoe and Max at Island Chutes Rapids on the Bloodvein

looking down to the canoe and Max at “Island Chutes” on the Bloodvein

Max at the end of the portage at the Bloodvein's  Island Chutes Rapids (W61)

Max at the end of the portage at the Bloodvein’s “Island Chutes”  (W61)

looking up Island Chutes from the bottom

looking up Island Chutes from the bottom

scenic campsite and fire pit at Island Chutes Rapids on the Bloodvein

scenic campsite and fire pit at Island Chutes Rapids on the Bloodvein

fire ring at island Chutes Rapids on the Bloodvein

fire ring at Island Chutes Rapids (W61) on the Bloodvein

the Bloodvein's "Island Chutes" Rapids

the Bloodvein’s “Island Chutes”

Island Chutes would have made a great place to stop and put up the tent and savour the views over the course of a day in changing light. Unfortunately we needed to put in more than the 6 kilometers we had done so far.  After scampering about the shoreline for a while and framing the river and rocks from different angles, it was time to push off.

the Bloodvein Rapids (W70) just above Manitou Rapids

the Bloodvein Rapids (W70) just above Manitou Rapids…initial lift over then run

By 1:30  we were at at the set of rapids Wilson labels as #70.  You can see the top ledge in the picture above – an impressive churning and tumbling stretch of water that we did a 35-meter carry around on river right.

We got to the point below the ledge just in time to see the last of the three canoes belonging to the group of eight paddlers from the Pine Crest Camp in Ontario’s Muskoka country.  The other teens had already gone down the set of Class 1 Tech rapids and tucked into a bay on river left to contemplate the next section as the river rounds the corner.

Impressed by the skill level and confidence shown by the paddlers as they worked the rapids, we could see that they had honed their technique on earlier canoe trips.  It is always great to see a younger generation paddling the rivers that too often seem to be reserved for geezers like us!

Summer Camp trippers entering the rapids at W70

Summer Camp trippers entering the rapids at W70

After dealing with this set of rapids, we did a quick portage on river right around Manitou Rapids.  Then it was on our way to the big portage of the day, a 500-meter carry.  As we approached the take-out spot,  we saw evidence of a recent (2011 or 2012) burn along the river left shore line that made for some stark scenery.

Boreal Fire Activity along the Bloodvein River

Boreal Fire Activity along the Bloodvein  - see here for the on-line interactive source of the map

2011 Bloodvein fire evidence in 2014

2011 Bloodvein fire evidence in 2014

three years after the Bloodvein Fire of 2011 near Kashaweposenatak Rapids

three years after the Bloodvein Fire of 2011 near Kashaweposenatak Rapids

W72 - Kashaweposenatak Rapids - Portage

W72 – Kashaweposenatak Rapids

At 510 meters the portage around  Kashaweposenatak Rapids was our longest carry of the day. In fact, it represented 50% of the day’s portage distance. As with almost all the other portage trails along the Bloodvein from Artery Lake, it was clearly indicated by orange prospectors’ tape.  The gps track does show that I  couldn’t see where Max had dumped the packs and took the canoe for a bit of a walk!

Just a bit further downriver was a shorter portage and beyond that our campsite for the day.  But as the fire map above shows this was the area most affected by the fire.

Day 13 campsite on the Bloodvein

Day 13 campsite on the Bloodvein

Worried that we would not find a campsite with unscorched trees to provide a bit of wind shelter, we were happy to find this site on the river right. Another day – another great campsite to settle into –  definitely an easy canoe trip pattern to get used to!

Day 13 campsite on the Bloodvein

Day 13 campsite on the Bloodvein

reflections on the Bloodvein

reflections on the Bloodvein

the dusk view from Camp - Day 13

the dusk view from our Day 13 Camp

Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 14 – Sharp Rock Rapids to Namay Falls

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 12 – Kautunigan Lake to Gorge Rapids (W56)

Previous Post –  Day 11:  From  Below  The Bloodvein/Gammon  Junction   to Kautunigan Lake

Most of Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park lies east of Kautunigan Lake. West of the lake the park is reduced to three narrow river corridors with one-to-two-kilometer strips of land on each side as the rivers – the Pigeon, the Leyond, and the Bloodvein – make their way to Lake Winnipeg. None of the corridors goes right to Lake Winnipeg itself; the Bloodvein corridor ends where the new bridge crosses the river about 10 kilometers east of the Bloodvein First Nations village.

Atikaki Park -west side corridorsDay 12 would mark the first of five days we spent paddling this final stretch of the Bloodvein. Still to come were some scenic sets of falls and rapids and the best campsites of the entire trip!  While there were times when we thought that we were paddling on the prairies and not the Canadian Shield,  we continued to enjoy the river and its many twists and turns – and a whole bunch of rapids yet to come – as the day’s maps below illustrate.

Day 12 - first section

Day 12 – first section

Day 12 - to campsite  and beyond

Day 12 – to campsite and beyond

DAY 12 BASICS:

distance: 31 kilometers

weather: wind and rain in the morning, giving way to a sunny and hot afternoon and overcast evening

rapids/portages: 

Day 12 Rapids run + portages done

campsite: perhaps our nicest one so far – just above Gorge Rapids (W56)

_________________________________________________________________________

I walked back to the tent site for one last look-around for stray gear and then it was off.

a last look at the campsite before we set off

a last look at the campsite before we set off

While we did pass a few rock faces like the one in the pix below, for the most part the rock outcrop was horizontal as opposed to vertical!

rockface on the Bloodvein shore above Chap Falls

more vertical rock - but no pictos!

 

 

 

 

 

As we paddled down towards Chap Falls and the day’s  first portage – and major photo opportunity – we did pass a few potential campsites. Given the great ones further down the river, these would be emergency sites only. Here is the front of one of them – you’ll also get an idea of the look of the river in this stretch -

checking out a portential campsite 3 km above Chap Falls

checking out a potential campsite 3 km above Chap Falls

And then it was on to Chap Falls. Another quick carry – by Day 12 our food weight had been reduced by 50 lbs.! – and we took some time to watch the water tumbling down and creating foam that collected to the sides.

Chap Falls foam and water

looking back up the Bloodvein at Chap Falls –  foam and water and awesome scenery

Max assumes the paddlers’ version of the classic Ken Dryden “leaning on his goalie stick ” pose – except he’s got our four paddles, still tied together from our ninety-meter portage.

Chap Falls - W48

Chap Falls – W48

The Bloodvein's Chap Falls - W50

The Bloodvein’s Chap Falls – W48

The Bloodvein's Chap Falls - foam at the bottom

looking downriver at the Bloodvein’s Chap Falls

After Chap Falls we paddled for another hour and a half, stopping once or twice to stretch or legs or answer nature’s call.  The next two pix come from one of those stops – Max  is getting the next bit of the river straight while I focus on a mushroom from my seated position!

the Bloodvein before Sekak Rapids - Max reads the charts

the Bloodvein before Sekak Rapids – Max reads the map

the boreal forest floor

the boreal forest floor

Every once in a while we did paddle by some vertical granite complete with natural red streaks in them which, from afar, looked (to me, at least) like potential pictographs.  Max humoured me by agreeing to paddle over, knowing full well that his brother was suffering from a bad case of Picto Fever.  The rock face below is just one of the many he called correctly while I kept insisting on illustrating the maxim – “Believing is seeing!”.

Bloodvein Thunderbird Pictograph - not!

Bloodvein Thunderbird Pictograph – not! Picto Fever strikes again…

lining Sekak (Skunk) Falls (W50)

lining a stretch of  Sekak (Skunk) Rapids (W50)

After dealing with Sekak Rapids – a combination of lining and portaging – we figured it was time to stop for lunch at the put-in spot. Out came the peanut butter jar and the Wasa bread, as well as the butane stove and the pot to boil some water for the soup and tea.  It was downright hot as we relaxed by the side of the rapids; it was also sunny enough that we moved our camp chairs to the shade of the trees you see on the right of the image below.

lunch at Sekak Rapids after lining the canoe

lunch at Sekak Rapids after lining the canoe

After lunch we paddled another couple of hours, dealing with a few portages, a couple of runnable rapids, and lists of swifts which moved the proceeding along nicely.  The flat wetlands look- as in the pic below – predominated.

The Bloodvein - Where did the rock go?

The Bloodvein – Where did the rock go?

We knew we had found our campsite when we approached Gorge Rapids (W56). On the right hand side was a nicely sheltered campsite and a flat rock outcrop. Even better was the view down river – on river right a vertical rock face that lined the river.

Day 12 Bloodvein Campsite just before W56 - gorge with swifts and CII

Day 12 Bloodvein Campsite just before W56 – gorge with swifts and CII

looking towrds W56 and the gorge section

looking towrds W56 and the gorge section

sunset over the Bloodvein

sunset over the Bloodvein

The Bloodvein at sunset - looking towards the Gorge (W56)

The Bloodvein at sunset – looking towards the Gorge (W56)

sunset on the Bloodvein

sunset on the Bloodvein

Next Post: Canoeing the Bloodvein Day 13 – Gorge Rapids to Sharp Rock Rapids (W73)

Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 11 – Below the Gammon Junction to Kautunigan Lake

Previous Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein  Day 10- Goose Rapids to Below The Gammon Junction

DAY 11 BASICS:

distance: 30 kilometres from bottom right to top left

weather: windy and overcast

rapids/portages: not really a big deal on this particular day

We were a bit overwhelmed on first seeing all eighty-nine of the Bloodvein rapids on the Wilson maps. We were to find out that not all of them need to be portaged and the ones that do can usually be dealt with fairly easily.  This day’s menu is proof of that!

Bloodvein Day 11 Rapids-Portages

campsite: windy spit just after the north end of Kautunigan Lake

To read this map start at the bottom right at the Day 10 Camp and work your way downriver  to the Day 11 Camp at the top left.  To quote that contemporary Canadian urban folk poet Drake, when you get to Day 11 Camp you should be able to sing – “Started from the bottom now we here/ Started from the bottom now my whole team here…”

Day 11- second half to camp

Day 11 - W36b Camp towards Okeegee FallsIt wasn’t too long after leaving our Day 10 camp that the landscape that had captivated us for the past three days was replaced  by a more wide-open wetlands look with very little vertical rock lining the shores.  Add to this the evidence of a recent fire that had swept through the area and the river took on a very different feel.

the look of Day 11 - marshland

the look of Day 11 – evidence of a burn in the marshland

The red zones in the fire burn map below show the most recent fire activity along the Bloodvein in the stretch we paddled after leaving our campsite. Next to the section of the river between Murdock and Larus Lakes, this was the one where the impact of fire was most noticeable.

Bloodvein Burn Areas

Bloodvein Burn Areas – see here for the source of the  map and zoom in or out for more detail

Oddly enough, moose seem to benefit from the kind of fire pattern which the above map indicates. Unlike a fire which devastates an entire area, the new vegetation growth in the patchwork of fire areas along the Bloodvein actually provides the moose population with more feeding opportunities.  We paddled by the following structure – a sign of active moose hunting in the area.

hunters' hanger

hunters’  hang on the shore of a vast marshland section of the Bloodvein

When we got to Bloodvein First Nation a few days later, I was walking along a very dusty Main Street near the Nurses’ Clinic when an SUV stopped. The window rolled down and the driver leaned out and, after a quick welcome, asked if we had seen very many moose upriver.  I told him we’d seen a few but none really close to the village. It was mid-July and moose hunting season opened in mid-August so we missed the action.

the basic look of the morning's paddle

a floodplain view from the morning’s paddle – we were missing the rock!

As we paddled in a more northerly direction the evidence of fire declined and we were look ing at terrain more like in the pic below.

Bloodvein break time - above Kautunigan Lake

Bloodvein break time – above Kautunigan Lake

The wind and overcast conditions perhaps explain our focus on paddling on this particular day.  That, and the less dramatic landscape,  meant we took very few pix.  At times we thought we were already on the prairies, given how flat the surroundings were!

Our goal for the day was to find the pictograph site at the north end of Kautunigan Lake and then find a decent campsite.  First up were the pictographs – the images below capture what we saw. It is definitely one of the humbler collections of pictographs on the Bloodvein and it would seem that the expiry date for these rock paintings is not too far away.

barely discernible Kautunigan pictos

barely discernible Kautunigan pictos

Kautunigan pictos -close up

Kautunigan pictos -close up.. click to enlarge

 

Dewdney- missinaibi images

Dewdney- missinaibi images

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hate to read too much into the vague lines on the granite but here goes! The squished circle seems to have the same legs on its bottom as does a pictograph at the other end of the Anishinaabe world at Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake. The line below the circle could be a serpent - or not. We are a long way from the riches of the Artery Lake or Murdock-Larus sites; the headwaters of the river in WCPP has all the great pictograph sites.

Kautunigan Lake, picto site, and campsite on spit

Kautunigan Lake, picto site, and campsite on spit

Leaving Kautunigan Lake, we paddled for another fifteen minutes along an uninviting  shoreline before approaching a spit on river left that has probably seen its share of campers.

(Not implied by that statement is any suggestion of garbage or defacing  by previous passers-by.  Indeed, all down the river we were amazed at how pristine the various sites were. It was only in the last 20 kilometers before Bloodvein First Nations Village that the litter and other signs of human thoughtlessness started becoming visible.)

Day 11 campsite - spit after Kautunigan Lake

Day 11 campsite – spit after Kautunigan Lake

I figured that somewhere on our trip down the river I would get some great shots of the red  granite veins found in the  river bedrock.  Well, I am not sure where those great shots are!  The two shots below are from our Day 11 campsite and give you some idea of the “blood vein” look that in all likelihood explains where the river got its name.  Another account involves a supposed attack by a Sioux (i.e. Dakota) war party on the Ojibwe community at Bloodvein Village in the early 1700′s.  The blood is said to refer to the colour of the water after the battle – a bit fanciful given the probable number of warriors involved.

the blood veins in the granite- a common site along the river

the blood veins in the granite- a common sight along the river

We were happy with the 30 km. we had paddled and hoped that the next day would bring us better weather – and more vertical rock face on the shore line!

Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 12 – Kautunigan L. to the “Gorge” Rapids (W56)