|Day 7 - 24.1 miles
I left my camp and paddled around the top and east side of Bottom island. Too late I noticed some white gel coat on a rock I was fast approaching, and I left a streak of my own on the shallow rock, impossible to see in the low angle light and slight ripples on the surface. Just around the corner I saw my co-depositor and two fellow kayakers camped on the rocks.
I turned up into the main channel of the French River and continued upstream against a noticeable current until stopped by the falls and chutes of Big and Little Jameson Rapids and the Devil Door Rapids, both of which are in the video above. Just off the rapids is a very secure harbor where more boats were anchored in multi vessel rafts. There is a portage here but I didn't see it. I think it is in one of the little coves off the harbor.
With the help of the chart I soon found it and followed Wicks Channel north in ever decreasing depth of water. When the channel reached Strawberry Island, there was only enough water both in depth and width to literally scrape by. I turned southwest and then north following the little piece of blue on my chart indicating water. With just 10 meters to go I finally ran out of luck as the little tiny channel was not deep enough to allow my heavily loaded boat to pass.
I reversed course and paddled out to the bay and then southeast to the Bustard island Rocks. I wanted to spend some more time in the islands that I had passed through just a couple of days prior. today the lighthouse was bright and easily seen from several mile away with no sign of the fog I had experienced before. I crossed to the north of the lighthouse and around o the southern tip of Burnt Island where i pulled out on a rock for lunch. Even with the help of my life vest I still left some white gelcoat on the rocks. After a swim and some lunch it was back in the kayak and onto a hunt for a small passage around Burnt Island called Wicks Channel.
I got out and pulled several dry bags of heavy gear out and walked them to the other side of the passage. Then I walked my boat over and reloaded. It was a pain but faster than paddling back and going all the way around.
On this side of Strawberry Island there were 10 or 12 yachts anchored in a small protected harbor. I paddled through and out into a even larger area where more boats were anchored. Continuing east I passed another narrow restriction which only a kayak or small dinghy could get through. I came across more boats in a harbor open to the east with a small passage to the north. I went out this passage and turned back west following the boat channel through the Northeast Passage.
Leaving the Bustard Islands I headed north into the main outlet of the French River. I paddled up the river to rejoin the inside portion of the small boat channel which I followed through some tight twists and turns with a few other boats making the passage. I followed the channel until Fox Island, where I broke off to paddle north along the west side of the island looking for a place to camp.
Well I was wrong. The skies got darker and the clouds got closer. Soon I could see a wall of rain headed down along Fox Island toward me. I was soon enveloped in a downpour. Magical silver droplets popped up out of the water and stood for a short moment on the surface before the tension broke and their forms merged back into the flat surface, only to be pounded out again with the next droplet several inches away. The hissing sound of the heavy rain on the water is very pleasant and I always enjoy it immensely. I like paddling in the heavy rain. When paddling you are usually dressed appropriately for a little water so the rain really isn't a problem, especially the warm rains of summer.
I stopped at one site to check it out. On the rock looking over the water was this gorgeous twisted pine scratching out a life in a crack in the otherwise impervious granite. It was the perfect little natural bonsai, and older and more twisted version of the little tree I had seen days before. To the north and west another set of dark clouds were building, generated once again by the mountains of Killarney. The dark skies behind and the late sun shining under the cloud edge made a spectacular scene. I thought that like the day before these clouds would stay in the west or pass to the north, so I got back in the boat and to continue on hoping to find a better camping site.
But soon I was hearing a sound that was not so pleasant - the boom of thunder. Counting the seconds between seeing and hearing the lightning, I calculated that the strikes were about ten miles off. That is not safe as a strike can easily cover that distance. And the strikes kept getting closer, first eight miles then five. I started looking for a camp site more urgently, and naturally there wasn't anything to be found. A bolt of lightning lit up the surrounding shores with a pink glow and an almost instantaneous crack of a nearby strike. This was getting serious. While I wasn't looking to get ashore and sit under a pine tree on the top of some little island, I wasn't exactly thrilled to be out in the middle of the water, the highest thing around for several hundred meters. I made my way over to a small island and located a small patch of granite away from the trees. I pulled out my RidgeRest rubber thermal pad and crouched over top my Mion rubber sandals, pulling my hood up over my head while I waited for the storm to abate. Torrents of water gushed down the subtle little channels in the granite, confirming my early tent siting decisions to not camp in any of them. The hard rain just ran off of everything and only the moss and trees soaked up any of the water being dumped on this little hunk of rock.
Soon the storm began to abate. The sun once more shown in the west and the storm moved off to the northeast. I got back in the kayak and paddled up to the north end of the island where in a small little pool I found the camping site I was looking for. With lilly pads and blossoms and a chorus of frogs, I ran off two Canadian geese with my approach and claimed their evening spot as my own.
Day 8 - 17.6 miles
The next morning an even greater than usual squadron of mosquitos awaited my emergence from the tent. I got out and put on the chemical defenses and packed up quickly. I left the little pool where I had camped and paddled through the reeds and shallow water to start down the east side of Fox Island. About half way along the two mile long island I began to smell smoke from what I presumed was a camper's fire. As I got closer I could see that the smoke was coming from too big an area to be just a campfire. When I got to the source I could see that there was no one there and I feared that someone had left a smoldering fire that had started to burn out of control. I got out of the kayak on a tricky little ledge, depositing some more gel coat on the rocks and headed over to where the smoke was coming from. When I got there I first noticed small flames licking at the base of a pine tree and two others next to it. I went back to the kayak and got out my 6 liter water bag and began hauling water up the slick rocks to douse the fire. After six round trips I had got the flames out and most of the smoke. When I went around to the other side of the fire, I saw a big fresh split in the bark of the middle tree. It had been hit by lightning, probably the very bolt the had startled me with its loud crack of thunder during the storm. The fire was burning deep down in the moss and crevices of the thick forest floor and it was soaking up water like a giant sponge. I could not tell if I was really making much of a difference anymore and I concluded that I would just have to let this naturally occurring fire do what it was going to do. I packed up my meager fire fighting equipment and left. If the fire did reignite at least it would be contained to that little island and maybe even to just the small contiguous patch of moss and trees where it had started.
I paddled along among the islands generally following the boat channel until I got to Key Harbor, a once prospering logging town which now is limping along on the cabin and tourist trade. From there I headed south into stronger winds past Champlain Island where I paddled out to the outside and set up camp in the early afternoon on a relatively barren island on the edge of the open bay. This island and its neighbor had many rocks with the bright orange lichen on them.
On this nearly treeless rock out on the edge of Georgian Bay I had few mosquitos and spent a pleasant evening and early morning.
I spent a windy afternoon relaxing and exploring the little island. I found a patch of red raspberries which I think may have been infested with chiggers as I soon developed a bunch of itchy little bumps. I had not seen any poison ivy although I am sure there is some here somewhere. Some ointment from the medical kit soon had that problem under control.
Day 9 - 18.7 miles
This was my last day of paddling and I left Porcupine Island where I camped and headed south between the boat channel markers and the rocks, past the lighthouse on Byng Inlet until I came to Bayfield Inlet.
I turned in a followed the inlet back to the little ramp where I had launched. The inlet seemed much longer on the way back than on the way out.
No one was parked in front of my car and there were a few other double spaces open, although there were still no single spaces to be had. Quite a few cars were parked along the edge of the road before one reaches the ramp so I guess that is allowed. But the chances of getting a parking space in the Bayfield free lot seem to be slim.
I packed up everything and was on the road by 3:00 PM.
Killarney has a kayak outfitter, Killarney Outfitters. Their store is five miles up the road from the water however and they charge $10.00 per boat for delivery to the ramp. Parking is available for $5.00 per day in back of the church. The marina has charts for sale. There is a small campground with an open field for tents, Laundromat, and show. They charge $22.00 per night for a tent site and laundry and shower use coin fed ( looney ) machines. It was worth a dollar for the four minutes of hot-water and the first shower in a week and a half.
Continuing northwest up Highway 69 I came to the turn for Killarney and 70 km later I was in Killarney. This little town, which looks like was once a commercial fishing hub, now seems to cater to the tourist and yacht trade. There were two highly contrasting types of visitors walking about the town, well dressed and manicured retirees off the many yachts docked and anchored in the harbor and young scruffy looking, pierced and tattooed college age kids hanging around the docks swimming under the "No Swimming" signs and around the public telephones. There are several restaurants here, from fish and chips on the deck over the water to a linen table cloth sit down at the hotel.
The next morning I drove back up the road to Killarney Provincial park and purchased an $11.00 day pass for a hike to The Crack, a 3.5 mile hike along mostly flat trail through the woods and along a lake shore ending in a short scramble up 400 meters on one of the white rock mountains.
At the top is a great view in all directions especially along the ridge of the mountains too tough for the glaciers to grind down. The ridges are all aligned as is everything else here in the northeast southwest direction of flow of the great ice sheet that retreated at the end of the last ice age.
I got back in the car and headed south to Maryland. Stopping to sleep for seven hours in a parking lot of a defunct Ames market, I arrived home in the early morning of the next day.
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