Circuit77 La Vérendrye
Left Ottawa after 08:00. Stopped at Le Domaine to update maps and register.At 100k past Le Domaine, took Road 38 Baie Barker. Another 44K on decent gravel to our put-in. The intention is to bypass the linear part to/from Baie Barker by putting-in at Lac Graham. Arrived at Lac Graham about 2:00. Take-out is to be the bridge over the creek between Baie des Missionaires and Lac Graham. Road into Lac Graham requires a vehicle with clearance. Dropped the gear and canoe at Lac Graham, drove the truck to the bridge, then spent an easy 40 minute walk back with no gear. Beats a 965meter portage with full gear up and over an esker.
Hit the water at 3:30 and got to campsite 77-82 around 4:30. Landings on both sides of the esker. What a beautiful campsite. A definite 8/10. Lots of room for tents, good landing and high enough on the esker,that bugs weren't a problem. A last decent meal of curry and couscous before the freezedried stuff. Barrel not hung but put into the bushes on the way to the thunderbox. A pretty sunset followed by a typical fall morning. Lots of morning mist and dead calm. Spent a couple of hours with the camera so got a late start about 10:30.
The 130m portage simple easy and straight forward even without a marker. The 650m portage was a little hard to find. It's about 100m to the left of the creek. Again, easy at 12 minutes each way for a 2 pass portage. Stopped for lunch at 12:20 when the canoe repacked and ready to go.
The creek empties into Lac des Baies in a very sandy area. Had to line the canoe for a while to get deep water.
The 90m portage from Riv. de L'original to Lac Hawkesbury has no marker and not very obvious. Keep a close eye on the shoreline. Two fiberglass fishing boats are stored on the Lac Hawkesbury side,and took up much of the put-in.
Camped at 77-78 about 5:30. Large but not really great but has a large sandy beach streaching 30m out into the bay.
Another clear morning. Six portages ahead of us today. Departed at 09:45 (Now that's lazy!). This is the area with active logging that the Le Domaine staff warned us about. The short 75m portage had a large aluminum fishing boat stored at the end taking up some of the put-in. The next two, the 190m and the 50m in and out of Lac du Bac were straight forward, nothing of note. The logging road over the 260m portage into Lac Fard doesn't look used. A second road over the 140m portage into Lac Cafetan looks very lightly used - grass in the middle and only a small truck's tracks. Our last portage of the day, the 95m portage into Lac Hénault, was the pits. The low water levels and large rocks made it very awkward to land and move gear. In the half hour it took us to move gear and canoe the 95 meters, 3 logging trucks and a half-ton passed on the logging road! We stopped at the channel into Lac Hénault for a quick snack and drink before hitting the larger lake. The logging is close enough we heard chainsaws as well as heavy equipment. As the wind was at our backs and the weather fair, we turned up the lake and headed for the Chute.
Low water at the Chute made for an easy approach which is on the left only a few meters from the bridge. In high water, hugging the shoreline would be a very good idea.
Constant heavy equipment noise from the SSW all night. The 77-47 campsite is actually an old logging road right beside an old bridge. The only night we had mosquitos, probably from the heavy growth of grass. A trapper's cabin is located just to the east of the bridge. Interestingly, we found a 30 dollar bottle of Shiraz wine bottle in the cabin. Only the empty bottle unfortunately. This trapper likes his wine. The old road, which is now the campsite, shows evidence of recent activity - tire tracks flattening the grass. Has to be an ATV, nobody in their right mind would take a truck across that old bridge.
The 77-45 campsite on the other side of the Chute is nicer as the noise of the logging is drowned out by the sound of the cascading water. However one of the 2 tent sites is taken up with one of those standard backyard 2x4 picnic tables. There is also a relatively new but well-used fish cleaning station as well.
Had a good wind at our backs heading up Lac Cawasachouane. Paddling hard the GPS said 9.1 kph. Not bad for old farts!
Stopped at campsite 77-31 for lunch and swimming break as it has a very pretty view. Very interesting rock erosion as well. I can't see it being a 2 tent site. One site is quite low and could be a real pool in a rain. The other has about an inch of moss over rock so staking could be problematic, but hey, that's what rocks are for.
We had to line the swift under the bridge between Lac Cawasachouane and Lac de la Triple Baie. Very rocky. So much rock that portaging is problematic as no real putin on the eastern side.Besides, lining is easier anyway.
Hurried to campsite 77-27 as a thunderstorm is coming in from the South-west. Arrived about 2:30. A large site for lots of tents, a picnic table and a firepit. The storm hit about 3:30. What a lightening display. Thunder so loud I put in earplugs. Time to stay on the Thermorest and catch up on the trip log. Rain and wind very heavy at time. Two solid hours of it. The T-storm finished in time for supper but a light rain kept up into the night.
Back on the water by 09:30 the next morning. All geared up for the 360m and the 1550m portage. Rumours have that the 1550 is not an easy one. The 360m was easy. The 1550m however lived up to it's reputation. Let's see now. The footing is a little treacherous for the first 500m - some muck, roots, rock and quite closed in with underbrush. The next 500m is great and fairly open. Paralleling the last beaver dam are a couple of muck holes about 30m long - real boot-sucking knee-deep muck. We managed to skirt the edge when carrying gear and coming back empty. For the canoe we floated the canoe in the muck and used the 15m heaving line to line the canoe threw the stuff. I've portaged many a trail; I have lined many a place where there was no portage but this is the first time that I actually had to line the portage! Actually it couldn't have been that bad as it took 25 minutes with packs and only 35 minutes with the canoe. Time for a nice lunch and break before Grand Lac victoria. Not sure why the map says "devastated by logging" when all we could see was "devastated by beaver dams".
This was the first time on Grand Lac Victoria (aka Grand Lac Vent) where wind wasn't an issue. So rather than stop, we just kept paddling right back to the truck near Lac Graham. Got to stop this hurry-hurry attitude.