Previous Post: Canoeing the Bloodvein Day 9 – X-Rock Island to Goose Rapids
DAY 10 BASICS:
- distance: 21 km. on the water;
- weather: sunny with a SW breeze; temp up in the 28°C (82°F) range – hot!!
- W29- P 450+ meters;
- ran W30;
- W31 – P 40m;
- lined pre-32 – 60m;
- W32 – P 310 m;
- ran W33 and W34;
- lined W35.
- campsite: W36b
The numbers refer to the numbering scheme on Hap Wilson’s maps. See the Bloodvein chapter of Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba for the ultimate guide to the river and rapids.
The previous day had been a leisurely one. Our goal for this day was to move at least 20 kilometres further down the river; anything more would be a bonus. We knew that the portage around Goose Rapids was the first order of business; 35 minutes or so would get the portage done and leave us with some easy paddling down to the confluence of the Bloodvein and the Gammon. We figured we’d do lunch at the spot colourfully named “Red Rock Cafe” in the Wilson guide-book.
Well, “The best-laid plans of mice and men…” and you know the rest! I spent almost an hour and a half creating the gps track you see on the map below; it would look even worse if I added my brother’s track – you’d see his path going most of the way to W29 and then around to the eventual end point! Talk about plans going awry!
Our mistake was following a very poor secondary trail which runs along the river’s edge instead of the broken black line that bypasses it all and heads overland to the put-in spot. We did this in spite of the orange flagging tape which we should have paid more attention to. As a result we got a workout we were not expecting – bushwhacking with packs and canoe up hills and over deadfall and through bush.
And here we were hoping to “git ‘er dun” in thirty-five minutes! We were pretty much done at the end of it too and relieved when the packs were back in the canoe and we got to paddle off.
We paddled right through the “Round The Bend” Rapids (W30) and dealt with the two following portages before being treated with some nice paddling down towards the Gammon/Bloodvein Junction.
Just before we came to the 310-meter portage which took us around what Wilson calls “Crater” Rapids we spent about ten minutes either lining or portaging what we labelled as pre-W32 on river left – our notes don’t say which!
Below the portage for W32 – our last portage of the day – we enjoyed the paddling and the feel of the river – and were also struck by signs of a recent burn that had passed through. It was just a hint of what we would see the next day on our way to Kautunigan Lake.
By two we had reached the campsite just below the confluence of the Bloodvein and the Gammon and stopped for lunch. Across from us was a rock face which put the “Red Rock” in the very scenic “Cafe” we were sitting at. A badly remembered saying came to mind – something about if you sat in this particular spot long enough, you would eventually see all the most important people in the world. Was it a seat of empire – a street corner in London perhaps or some corner in New York? I sat there as Ojibwe hunters, surveyors, prospectors, trappers, Selwyn Dewdney, and Hap Wilson floated by in their canoes …it was a beautiful sunny afternoon on the Bloodvein and we had put the Goose Rapids portage behind us!
Given the nature of the spot, I figured that we might be able to add “Ojibwe shaman painting pictographs” to the lists of passers-by. So – with lunch done – we paddled over to the rock face to see if anything was there. Well, sure enough, we saw the ochre lines pictured below –
Then it was downriver a couple of kilometers to the Stagger Inn, a trapper’s cabin still in use and with an “open-door” policy. We went inside and did what canoe trippers do these days – we signed our names to the guest book sitting on the table by the window you see in the pix below.
I leafed back to the beginning of the 2014 paddling season and counted ten canoe parties and a total of 35 people – who had dropped in and left a little message. If half the canoe trippers who were going down the river left a message, you could conclude that no more than two hundred people or so will paddle this stretch of the Bloodvein this year.
We did see the note from the group from Pine Crest Camp in Muskoka. Two late teen/ early 20’s trip leaders and six paddlers in their mid-teens had started out from Lund Lake a few days before us and were on their way to Bloodvein First Nation Village just like we were. We eventually caught up to them a couple of days later at W70. They would be the only other paddlers we would see on the rest of the Bloodvein.
We had planned to do at least 20 km this day. When we came to the portage around W36b and saw the great campsite above the falls, we knew the day was done.
We had really enjoyed our first three days down the Bloodvein from Artery Lake. Compared to a river like the Missinaibi with its rapids often crazy circus rides through a jumble of rocks, the Bloodvein with its ledge-style rapids seemed more bucolic, more pastoral, less raw. The Misehkow, the Albany, the Flindt, the Witchwood – to name a few other rivers we have paddled recently – are all more boreal and closed in than the Bloodvein and often with trees right to the shore, unlike the Bloodvein with its long stretches of rock face. We were enjoying the change. Fittingly enough, the following day the river would undergo a dramatic change in complexion and give us something new to appreciate!