Sunday, February 1, 2009

Obabika River Loop - Day 5

Taking a picture together before heading out from our
nice campsite on Lake Obabika

Yesterday evening the wind and waves started to pick up and I was wondering if a storm was heading our way. At some point in the middle of the night it stopped and became dead silent. I was happy thinking we would be packing up dry gear on the last day. Well luck would have it that at 06:00 in the morning the wind, thunder, and rain started - #%@k! It finally stopped a couple hours later at which point we got out to have breakfast. We tried as best as we could to dry the gear out with the intermittent sun and steady wind. The gear may have not packed totally dry, but we were just happy it wasn't sopping wet. (at least we thought)

Relieved to find our bug shelter intact in the morning
despite the storm and violent gusts of wind

We were soon paddling across Obabika to our first and last portage (l like the sound of that!), 870m to Obabika Inlet. This time we paddled straight east to the Northwest Arm of Lake Temagami before heading south. During this time, the skies clouded over again, covering our heads with uninspiring shades of grey. We stopped at one point to snack for lunch on a small rocky island when the all familiar thunder started to rumble afar. All I could think was, "Here we go again!" Hastily downing the food when it started to sprinkle, we cut our break short as we quickly donned our rain gear and packed the food away. Great!

Snacking on a small rocky island - this was the last picture
and smile until we got back to the vehicle

Jumping in the canoe, we paddled south through a narrow, which then opened up to the large Northwestern Arm of Lake Temagami. We wanted to be close to shore in case the storm hit, but we also had to get to the eastern shore at some point, so we decided to paddle quickly across since the light shower stopped - all the while keeping an eye out behind us. By the time we hit the halfway mark, the already gloomy skies rapidly started to darken as the wind and waves picked up. I could sense Marylou's uneasiness, but there was no time for inaction as lightning now joined the thunder. I couldn't believe how fast the calm lake just minutes before was now surging with swells and whitecaps. I shouted at Marylou to hit the afterburners as we still had almost a kilometer to go!

Paddling furiously without looking back, we began to hear the dreaded wave of millions of rain droplets shattering against terra firma behind us. Within seconds it was upon us, pelting us relentlessly while loud clashes of thunder resonated in our chest and lightning flashed angrily all around us. With even stronger gusts of wind that threaten to broadside us, rolling whitecaps that handily lifted the canoe with each swell, and the sound of rain deafening us, I yelled words of encouragement and comfort to Marylou that we would make it to shore and be okay! (while hoping and praying myself!)

Butterflies appreciate sunny days too!
- Wawiagama Lake

Our persistence paid off as we eventually approached shore, but the biggest problem we now faced was the surf violently crashing against the rocky shoreline. Where to land?! Marylou didn't care, just get to shore and off the water! A blind man's choice couldn't have been worse so I headed for the closest point. I thought about jumping out of the canoe close to shore, but it was a drop off rather than a shallow landing! Oh boy! With no choice, we slowed and braced while gently ramming the bow into the rocks as Marylou jumped out and attempted to steady the canoe. All the while being slammed wave after wave, as I gingerly got out of the wildly rocking canoe. Since the shore angled sharply upwards, we could barely drag the loaded canoe up (with water), so we ended up tying it to a tree partially in the lake - thank goodness for Royalex! The next 20 mins were spent huddled under spindly red pines providing little shelter from the elements. (trees and lighting?, hmmm - better than being out in the middle of the lake!)

Once the storm had passed, we emptied copious amounts of water from the canoe as we continued the determined paddle back to the vehicle. The rain did come back several times, but not nearly in the same dramatic fashion as it first did. We stopped once more by shore under overhanging branches when another big front hit, all the while amazed at how much water was coming down. All we could do was just keep bailing and look miserably at the sopping wet packs! It was hard enough to deal with the storms with both of us, so we couldn't even imagine what it was like for the solo paddler that was heading out the same way! Even all the motorboats were all flying past us to the docks so we knew we weren't the only ones wanting out!

One side benefit to storms is the dramatic display of clouds
- Obabika Lake

We were now in sight of the docks. The end was near. But once again, Mother Nature didn't want to see us go without a parting gift. Yes, more water! And I mean lots! We were in the middle of a large three way crossing when it hit. The rain came so hard and furious that we could barely see 30-40 ft in front of us. The demarcation between water and land was no more. It was just a blur of grey all around us. The rain was shattering the lake so hard that the equal and opposite force threw up millions of diamond-like droplets 6 inches up! They were dancing all around us, taunting us to grab them. There was also the constant rhythmic swells of the lake. The rocking motion made me believe that a giant sea serpent was moving under us. I was so mesmerized I told Marylou to stop paddling. (yes, she said "What!!!") To me it was all very beautiful and transcendent. The stark greyness of the surrounding, the symmetrical rain droplets doting the surface, and the soothing swells all had me in a trance. My only regret was not being able to catch it on film or video. It evoked not only all my senses and emotions, but was visceral in nature as well.

Of course, my reverie was soon broken by Marylou's demand to continue paddling. I finally relented, now paddling into the void blindly. Despite the extreme circumstances, I was truly thankful for that brief moment. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine I would be thrilled to be caught out in the middle of a lake during a massive downpour. The world outside never ceases to amaze me! Although, what also amazed me was how much water filled the canoe! There was a good 2-3 inches of water in the canoe making it feel like a log! After bailing since the the rain was lifting, we headed into the docks and finally ended our wet ordeal.

Marylou wishing she was back here!
- Wawiagama Lake

Looking like drowned rats while unloading, we were approached by the solo paddler and found out he is a doctor from Thunder Bay. He decided to cut his trip short due to the inclement weather as he wasn't enjoying himself, - no surprise! I have to say, I've never been wetter (if there is even such a thing!) on any other trip, despite being on some pretty wet ones before. Even with a full rain suit, when you feel a cold stream of water coursing down your chest and settling between your legs, you know it was all for naught! When you can't even protect those jewels, you might as well stay indoors!

The End

Forgetting the towel (Marylou's fault) can mean the
difference between changing or not,
- into dry clothes!
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