Day 36

Manitou Falls - Pilots Lodge, Fond Du Lac River

Distance 16.5 km [715 km]
Rapids 7
Portages 1

Woke just after 6am to a very cool, windy morning but before long it was sunny and the wind had abated some. We were expecting a warm day with a good run through seven mostly class 1 rapids. We were through the Manitou portage and had put out into the fast water below the falls by 8am. Soon afterwards it clouded over and we were fighting a strong headwind. Days when we have headwinds kicking up waves makes it really difficult for John to read the river at rapids. We ran the first successfully and entered the second a class 1 when we hit a large boulder and turned side on into the waves – the biggest no no of rapid running. We came close to capsizing but thank God righted ourselves at the last second and continued through the rapid. John beat himself up because as sweep he felt responsible though considering the wind which was whipping up high waves and making steering the canoe neigh impossible I think he is far too hard on himself.

We battled on through four more rapids but conditions continued to deteriorate, it became almost impossible to make any headway against the wind. It had become squally with short intense showers so hard you couldn’t see where you were going. We took shelter on a small bare island for an hour, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to improve but we decided to try and use the short lulls to make some progress towards our chosen camp site, just before Brink Rapids. It was a continual struggle, extremely difficult paddling, requiring us to stop and rest in the reeds along the banks before fighting on. By the time we ran our final rapid for the day we were back into the sandstone cliffs however the country had been burnt several years ago so we were concerned that we would not be able to find a camp site with sufficient shelter from the wind to erect the tent much less keep it up. We were both wet, cold and generally pissed off, this was definitely a no fun day. Even on these bleak day we have our moments of wonder. A one point when we were close to some very high sandstone cliffs we saw two Golden Eagle nests perched about six metres up on the rock outcrop , amazing to see.

Golden Eagle nest high above the river on the sandstone cliffs

Golden Eagle nest high above the river on the sandstone cliffs

Close up of the nest

Close up of the nest

We were still travelling through the burn when we came to a small basic fishing camp, the Pilot’s Lodge. It was the only unburned area around and therefore offered some shelter. There was no one there so we elected to set up camp in its grounds. We are now sheltering behind an A-frame building. The wind is getting stronger if anything, it is pouring rain and bitterly cold. It is so cold that we are both wearing everything we own, we ate in the tent with multiple hot coffees so will probably pay tonight when we have to go outside to pee. We have zipped our sleeping bags together to try and utilise our body warmth.

Camp at 'Pilots Lodge' during a brief break in the rain

Camp at ‘Pilots Lodge’ during a brief break in the rain

Diner at 'Pilots Lodge' after a long, cold and wet day on the Fond du Lac, thank goodness for Pilot Biscuits!

Diner at ‘Pilots Lodge’ after a long, cold and wet day on the Fond du Lac, thank goodness for Pilot Biscuits!