Archive for April, 2016

August 17, 2015 Churchill River Canoe Trip

April 25, 2016

Day 2 of 5

Got up around 7, the groundskeepers for the historic church site arrived by motorboat from town around 8 while we were eating breakfast. They were very friendly, and one of them offered Sarah a ride back to Town to buy bug spray when we realized we forgot to pack it (a tiny bottle for $10), as they didn’t have any on hand.

On the water by around 9:30, enjoying another sunny day with a light wind. We made note of several future campsite options.


Paddling through the channel approaching Stanley Rapids

I cautiously approached Stanley Rapids* around 11:30 a.m., not recalling exactly where the take-out was. Maneuvering to the take-out was a bit tricky, as it’s close to the entrance of the rapids. The water level through the rapids was very low, compared with photos from my trip in the 90s. The rapids have a wooden ramp with plastic rollers, which allows the canoe to be conveniently portaged without unloading. About half the rollers were seized and the wood was looking quite weathered compared to my previous trip.

* Sadly, I wasn’t able to find the First Nations name for Stanley Rapids.


Scouting the take-out at Stanley Rapids


Stanley Rapids



We ate lunch after the portage. We found lunches consisting of peanut butter and jam on thick naan bread (plus baby bell cheese, trail mix, etc.) to be very convenient and wished we had packed more naan bread.

After lunch, a strong SW wind picked up and brought dark, grey clouds (without lightning). We cautiously crossed the expansive Drope Lake using the south shore and islands for wind protection. We did not take in much water from the waves beyond a few splashes. We put our rain gear on, then off again after a light drizzle.

The sun returned when we exited the east side of the lake, although dark clouds were following close behind us with scattered showers in the distance.


Somewhere in the passage from Drope Lake to Purmal Bay

We were now paddling with the wind at our backs along Purmal Bay, so Sarah took this opportunity to sneak in a nap.


Catching a nap at Purmal Bay with the wind at our backs


Rain clouds approaching at Purmal Bay

Soon after we passed through the fast water passage from Purmal to McMorris Bay, a heavy downpour hit for about 15 to 20 minutes. Not knowing how much longer the rain might last, we looked for a suitable campsite along the shoreline. The rain gear kept us dry for the short shower.

We ended up choosing the first site we checked out on shore around 2:30 p.m. after the rain quit. The site was located at the SW corner of McMorris Bay. The site had a few perks: a nice elevated view, open to the wind to keep the bugs down yet still somewhat protected by the trees, and what initially appeared to be a level tent site with moss at least 6 inches thick.

However, over the next three days we came to discover the downsides as well: we grew weary of climbing up and down the rock slope, gear had a tendency to roll down the sloped rock toward the water, my back became sore from the repeated reaching down the sloping rock steps and into the canoe for gear, and minimal level surfaces for campfire and preparing meals. And while the moss was incredibly soft and comfy on the first night, it gradually compressed onto very lumpy, not-very-level rocks by the third night, and sloping up at our feet.

We later discovered much better sites in the next bay to the east *facepalm*, on a point across from Hall Island about 1 km NE from Nistowiak Falls (which we could have made it to today), and on some of the islands on Drope Lake (although this would make a long day trip to Nistowiak Falls and back again).


Mossy campsite overlooking McMorris Bay


Looking SW from campsite toward unnamed creek entering SW corner of McMorris Bay


Taking a break to read a book after setting up camp, around 4:30 p.m.




The gear storage area was awkwardly sloped and not back-friendly, although there was a handy rock-chair


Plush moss-carpeted bedroom

I had purchased the new Terra Nova Hoolie 2 tent at a discounted ~$160, selecting it for the advantages of low weight/bulk (minimal poles) and an attached fly which allows for setup in the rain without exposing the inner liner to the rain. I planned to use the tent for paddling and cycling either solo or with a second person. The tent has a few downsides: you can only sleep one-way (head at door) due to the ceiling sloped down to just above the knees and feet, it requires front and back staking (not free-standing) and the screen in the door is very small and at the top of the door only (minimal ventilation and claustrophobia-inducing for some).


The new claustrophobia-inducing tent (for some — I found it comfortably cozy)


While attempting to make supper with the Coleman Peak II single-burner campstove that evening (purchased used at a garage sale many years ago), I discovered the air pump shaft was jamming. Figuring the gasket needed oil we attempted to add coconut oil to the pump shaft, to no avail.** We barely managed to boil the water and cook dinner. We had to use campfires for cooking for the rest of the trip — thankfully I had brought the grill.

We used dehydrated meals purchased at Canadian Tire and instant soups from Co-op, supplemented with veggies dehydrated at home.

** Adding a petroleum-based oil to the stove pump at home after the trip solved the problem. However, I plan to get an MSR Whisperlite, as the Coleman Peak tends to leak fuel while in transport.