On this trip, we decided to head to one of my favourite places to paddle, the French river. I wanted Marylou to see and experience some areas that I had paddled through last year along the Main Channel, but I also wanted to paddle the Pickerel river, an area that seems to be underused by canoeists. The plan was to start at Hartley Bay and head south on the French river to Georgian Bay and then paddle back upstream along the Pickerel river. Normally, the Pickerel river gets very shallow and challenging to navigate during the summer, so we took advantage of the high water levels to guarantee our passage through there.
Knowing that we were leaving late and not going to have too much time to paddle, I scanned the map and decided to head to Sturgeon Chutes to camp for the first night. It was somewhat out of the way, but it sounded interesting and I wanted to see what was there. We paddled west along Hartley Bay, but instead of turning south on Wanapitei Bay, we continued west through a narrow channel to Wanapitei river and then turned north to Sturgeon Chutes. At first, paddling along the narrow stretch was a cause for some concern - flooded grassy banks without any real shoreline as the bare trees were underwater. The sight was dreary and uninviting. At times there was the odd outcropping of granite and pines that resembled the usual look of the French river, but that was it. Heading north on the Wanapitei river produced more of the same bleak landscape. Was our campsite going to be underwater?! As we approached the chutes, we not only felt the strong resistence of the current, but heard the low rumbling of water far ahead. It was heartening, as I wondered whether we would just find a small pathetic chute draining water into a flooded plain!
The next best thing to paddling a canoe is sleeping in one!