My daughter cried when last week's canoe trip was over - a good sign I guess. I noticed the tears the moment we pulled away from Nature's Harmony Nature's Harmony, an off-the-grid retreat we used for shuttling our vehicles to the launch site and lodging at when we finished. According to her, she was going to miss the two kids from the other family (Alissa and Dalton) who joined us for eight days of paddling from Lake Timiskaming to Mattawa . She was also going to miss the new friends we had met at Nature's Harmony - Jen, Tzach, Ralph and Carlos the dog. But most of all, she was going to miss being on the river: swimming, camping, catching frogs...
The trip was definitely a success. But it wasn't perfect. We traveled a total of 120 kilometers; that's a long way to travel with kids and gear jammed into a boat. It's also extremely stressful when having to deal with the notable rough waters of Lake Temiskaming; something we had to content with the first day of our trip. We launched at a public dock just south of Ville-Marie in Quebec and almost immediately were being tossed about in similar conditions that drowned 12 boys and one leader from St. John's Anglican prep school in 1978.
This lake deserves the same respect given to places such as Lake Superior or Lake Nipigon. It's definitely not something to be flippant with, especially the lower half. This section seems less menacing on the map because it's a narrower stretch. But don't be fooled, high rock walls funnel winds from any direction and the waves build and build over elongated stretches of open water. This was the case when we headed out. Huge troughs had formed from a strong northwest wind and the brown silt-laden water of Temiskaming, reminding me of the turbid waters of the St. Lawrence, bounced our heavy-laden boats back and forth. I'm sure Jen and Zark from Nature's Harmony, who had dropped us off and watched as we paddled off, were questioning are sanity of heading out in such wild conditions. We played it safe though. The waves weren't breaking yet and it was quite possible to ride the troughs long enough for us to find camp as long as things didn't worsen. It can get quite hazardous on Lake Temiskaming when the wind comes from the south, going against the downstream current (Temiskaming is part of the upper Ottawa River). Also, Temiskaming may be similar to Lake Superior and Nipigon, but it's also a miniature version of those lakes and has a tendency to sculpture waves closer together and with steeper sides. An hour into our paddle we had enough of the rough, deep water and drifted up to the backside of an island to make camp.
Canoes and gear were hauled up on to a slab of rock slick with the crashing waves and then tents were placed behind a stand of thick cedar, away from the strong winds. The kids ran about the island, tossing chunks of driftwood into the breakers and the adults poured a round of double gin and cherry Kool-Aid.
Our adventure had begun.