Royal Lake - Marchand Lake 4km Above Whitesand Dam
Distance 27 + 8 km [255 km]
A day of mixed events. On water by 8.30am. The water was like glass giving the illusion of just slipping over the surface of a mirror and apart from several short bursts of head wind, just enough to give John reason for his cursing, it remained so.
These are the times that make you forget the rain and wind. We made excellent progress across Royal Lake and John remembered the whereabouts of the channel through the horsetails back into the Reindeer River – no small feat as the horsetails are continually spreading and distorting the shoreline when you compare it to the maps. The trip north up the Reindeer was lovely because of the still conditions and the ever changing sky, though not much sun. We had to battle the current in some spots but no real problems, paddled through our first horsetail meadow before lunch, it was not as dense as we remembered it possibly due to this trip having an earlier start.
On to Devil’s Rapids which proved to be a challenge. John started lining on the south side whilst I climbed over the steep and densely vegetated hill. Within a short distance he came to a sheer rock face with very deep fast water and a rocky ledge making lining impossible. I climbed down to him and we canoed against a strong current to a small rocky island all the while avoiding being swept over the rocky ledge. From there we crossed to a body of still water behind yet another rocky island, we made it with some very strong paddling, it is times like this that you realize how much we have learned over the past three years. John then lined the canoe through a gap of rushing water at an angle, finally we had conquered Devil Rapids and we were able to continuing paddling onto the complication of Fafard Lake.
Fafard Lake is very shallow with extensive horsetail meadows making it very difficult to find the channel to White Sands Dam Bay. As in 2010 we made good progress avoiding the worst of the horsetails but again we ended up in the shallows of the large sand bank before the entrance to the Bay. We had to get out and walk the canoe across the middle of the lake – looks ridiculous. Whilst we were walking in the water we again saw what we believe to be Trumpeter Swans. The waves at the entrance to White Sands Dam portage were not as large as I remembered but the water was thundering over the dam face. The portage entrance and exit are excellent, a sandy beach and boat ramp – it could be in the running for best portage of the trip!
It was only 4.30pm when we got through the portage so we continued 4 km up Marchand Lake and found an okay camp site. It was the usual problem of the actual tent site in this case the tent ended up on a relatively flat rock which meant John needed to gather rocks from far and wide to anchor the guys.
About 7pm, as I was getting ready to make dinner I realised I couldn’t find my little blue bag with my camera. I searched everywhere and John searched everywhere but NO BAG !! The last place I remembered having it was back at the White Sands Dam portage so despite it being the very last thing we wanted, we paddled the 4 km back to the portage taking only 40 minutes. The loss of my camera was especially concerning as John’s had finally died a week or so ago so I had the only record of our trip. There was no sign of the bag along the portage so we walked over to the dam keepers house on the far side of the spillway, unfortunately he had not seen the bag. The view from the spillway and the house was impressive, I kept wishing I had my camera to take some pictures. We were about to start paddling back to our camp, I was feeling despondent when I found the bag tucked under the rolled up spray cover. This was despite both of us checking the canoe before we left camp. I am definitely in the points lead for the wooden spoon at the end of the trip.
We were back in camp by 9pm dinner and bed, asleep by 10pm – too tired to write so this is being done the next morning.
Lining is a way of travelling against a strong current / rapid when there is no possibility of portaging. Ideally a rope is attached to either end of the canoe and these are then attached to a front person who guides the canoe around obstacles whilst the back person keeps it straight in the current. In our case my lack of co-ordination and poor eye sight means I am more of a hindrance than help so John lines alone. Lining is very difficult as you are walking on slippery boulders, the depth can vary from ankle deep to over you head in one step, there are hidden snags and overhead branches all whilst fighting to remain standing in a strong current.