Paddle and Cycle St. Lawrence to Nova Scotia

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Welcome to the Saint Lawrence River, Ron. Quebec City is about 250 km downstream and then another 100 km to where I’ll leave the river and cycle to access inland Gaspe rivers. Here the river flow is giving a push of about 3 kph – I like that. Tidal flow will start to be a factor at Trois Rivière.

A day spent mostly in the flooded weeds hugging the shore of Lac St. Pierre to avoid the forecast 25kph crosswinds. After being windbound for two of the last three days I thought I might be making only a few km and not be able to get down the lake at all. Instead, it was gusty winds from all directions until late afternoon when the forecast winds kicked in.

Now the NW wind is blowing and I can only head into it, which is straight towards the shore, hoping that I’m going to find a dry piece of ground somewhere to pitch the tent. Being solo in an 18 foot canoe it’s not possible to turn back against the wind, once I’m swung downwind. Kayak paddling in reverse to a sheltered spot is the only way to recover. I’ve learned to just not let it happen.

The first look at dry shore wasn’t promising with the water right up to a steep bank all along this freeway. But then found this little peninsula. I won’t mind the noise tonight. Not only high and dry but a two km walk to an exchange that offered both a Tims and a Subway. Better winds, forecast for tomorrow, should allow me to make it to Trois Rivière. Provincial holiday, St. Jean Baptiste Day, here tomorrow.

I’ve been two days on this beach and won’t be moving on for at least two more. The halt isn’t due to weather, it’s due to me not being able to beat the impetigo I’ve had for a month; despite both antibiotic ointment and pills. I’m staying put until I heal. The good news since arriving is that a different antibiotic, after only three days has me symptom-free. It’s not a new prescription, it’s a very old one. Unused and prescribed for I can’t remember what, I threw them in my first aid kit when I left in 2013. They show an expiry of 2011 but Google says that’s hooey. Although I would say I have no allergies I’m pretty sure I was reacting to the original prescription. My face has been rather swollen such that my eyes could hardly open. That is subsiding now. There are a couple of dog walking ladies that come by, one of whom is a pharmacist. She’s been a source of good advice. When I said I’m staying until I heal, she asked what if you don’t heal? I looked at the beach and said, it’s easy ground for digging a hole.

Oh ya, I’ve played this game before on the BC coast. This is an early morning reveille because the incoming tide wants to give the tent floor a wash. I only misjudged by inches and might have been OK except for the waves. Now the tent is off the beach entirely, as is the canoe. Wednesday is a new moon and the river always reserves the entire beach for new and full moons. Big tide range here, 4.6 metres. When you stop for the day the canoe needs to be dragged, or carted above the high tide. Morning and night that’s a lot of extra work.

I did chance onto a good beach to spend this amount of time on. Drinking water is the number one need and this slate rock cliff has a trickle of good water. Dig a depression for the tarp, wait a bit and the trickle provides enough for many days and a clothes wash too. Another hole and the tent groundsheet provided the washbasin. This could be the first natural water I’ve been willing to drink since Lake Superior. To be sure I’m camped where there is no danger of rockfalls or slides.

A boat can go on a ship but a ship can never go on a boat. This big boy is not heading to Thunder Bay, but if he was, his route would be much longer than mine was. No, the St. Lawrence River does not look at all this azure.

Au revoir Quebec City. When I was camped upriver I rode the bike in and spent a day with the tourist throngs.

The river narrows at QC and the current picks up nicely. Here the paddle is down, the feet are up and the GPS is reading 7 kph. A sixty kilometre day.

It’s about enjoying the day, and the tides and shoreline further down the St. Lawrence were detracting from that. This would be my last camp spot on the river. Plan A was to paddle the river to Rivière-du-Loup, another 150 kilometres. It wasn’t just the extra work involved with getting everything above high tide. The shoreline was smooth rock, not sand. Getting the canoe above high water required finding enough wood pieces to drag it to higher ground. On this day I had been on the water for seven hours before I finally found this small bay with a sandy beach. The following day I paddled to the next marina and switched back to pedalling.

No more St. Lawrence River. I have been cycling for the last four days. Heading now for a lake at the head of the St. John River that will take me to the Bay of Fundy. It’ll be a steady uphill pull until I reach Lac Témiscouata but the height of land is at a reasonable elevation of 400 metres. Left the river because of the tides and a good call that was, as three of the last four days would have been too windy to paddle.

Porridge is my usual breakfast but lately, it’s been pancakes. I left Ontario with what was almost a full five-gallon pail of Ron’s Healthy Pancake mix. Like my porridge mix, it includes whey, milk powder, oatmeal, oat bran, wheat germ, ground flax, raisins and sweetened cranberries. Still, about five pounds left and I’ve been working on lightening the load.

When I first noticed this I thought it must be an optical illusion. The weight in the canoe couldn’t possibly be making it bend like it looks to be bending. I found some wooden slats and placed them on the cart frame to lessen the strain. But I’m still not believing that it could bend as much as it appears to be here.

Caramel apple pie for breakfast!? Allowed when every calorie is a good calorie. It’ll take more coal than this to chug chug my 200 pound load over the 1400′ hill between me and the St. John River. I got half the elevation beat yesterday and the grades are at least friendly. With this full load, anything over 5% has me off and pushing. When I’m able to ship my unneeded items ahead I have ridden up 8% grades. I recall making it through Rogers Pass without ever having to push. Indeed, there were many stops to suck wind.

Happy to say I’m done with, what was about my 30th bike portage. I am now camped on Lac Témiscouata and taking the day off. Ahead is about 450 km of the St. John River, which will get me close to Moncton. (Who knew there was a St. John River going my way – not me until about a month ago.) Two more bike portages from there will have me on New Brunswick’s east coast.

An easy portage around a dam on the Madawaska River and now on the St. John River at Edmundson, New Brunswick. For the next 60 km to Grand Falls, the river is the border between NB and Maine. That limits camping spot selection to north side only but the water is low making for lots of gravel bars.

The Grand Falls require the Grand Portage. I’m told I’ll be walking it four miles! At least I get to refuel. It’s where all my veggies come from. I like the chilli and bagels at Tim’s too so for either I go ashore and hike as needed but this time it was right along my portage route.

This one, at Beechwood, rates as a damn dam. Didn’t know it existed until it showed up in my rowing mirrors. Ah well, my butt was wanting a break after three hours of rowing.

Getting my legs stretched. No place to put back in without emptying everything out of the canoe and making multiple trips down the very rocky bank. There’s a rail trail adjacent the river and I’m told there’s a boat launch at a community seven kilometres downriver. I expected that I would find a way down the bank sooner than that. I didn’t though and as I hadn’t bothered to hook up the bike, it might have been quicker to unload and access the river here. However, being solo, safety is another issue to consider. Being prudent says better to take the long way and avoid any chance of a stumble packing a load down this bank.

Just my dam luck, the river dropped three feet overnight and not a stick in sight. Had to cut some wood to get safely back afloat. Nice river though, but you have to read the shallows right or risk hitting the rocks. Got one wrong with that test yesterday. Chose the wrong side – you always want to go where the flow looks fastest, where any rapids look worse. I ran into shallows on bedrock and despite the fast flow the canoe ground to a halt. Then it’s necessary to step out into the fast flow and very carefully so as not to slip, walk to deeper water.

Happy happy, to have the boat out of the water and covered, at the next dam portage, just as the rain from a cracker of a thunderstorm started. Figured I’d be waiting it out with only my poncho for cover but took what shelter I could under the eves of a small power company shed. As the rain picked up, hand goes to doorknob and brain says ‘don’t even bother trying, they wouldn’t leave that open’. Wanna bet! Happy happy! 

It’s not another selfie. I’m wanting to have a look at just how bad the hull damage that I can feel is. It’s bad and needs repair but nothing too serious. I use JB Weld epoxy to fill any scrapes or gashes. I had an upcoming two day delay at Cambridge Narrows, while I waited for new bike tires I’d ordered to arrive by mail. Plenty of time to unload everything and turn the canoe over so a proper repair could be made.

Back to wheels, my river has run out of water. Now about 60 km of quiet road to reach a river that will get me to Moncton. Had time to get the tent set up and everything stowed before an intense thunderstorm passed directly overhead. Assume that being on an air mattress would offer some protection when you’re otherwise out on open ground during lightning?? By habit, I start counting with each flash. Didn’t get ‘one’ out of my mouth before the boom with one of those. That made me laugh. No doubt if you did get crisppied you wouldn’t see the flash.  

Oldfartitis strikes again – I guess. Where oh where did my pedals go? They are quick release, like an air hose chuck, and I take them off before I fold the bike and store it in the bow. Inconceivable that I could have taken them off, set them on the beach, and paddled away. But I’ve all but turned the boat upside down and they are not to be found. Fashioned these substitutes, from the rowing unit mount, to get me the 80 km to Moncton. Rotation causes the left side bolt to tighten and that caused its plastic knob to break off but by then I’d learned the technique of pedalling with a very stubby pedal. Feeling dumb, but that will be even dumber if they eventually show up.

I won’t be forgetting my stop in Salisbury, New Brunswick, anytime soon. The good folk of Salisbury have a community Facebook page which I got a mention on last night. Today I decided I’d finally get around to boxing up, and mailing some unneeded items to lighten my cycling load a little. I did that at the post office and can’t believe the number of people that stopped to chat, having learned of my travels from reading the article. It was past five before I finally got out of town. I just looked at the hits on my journal page. The previous high was about 150, now yesterday shows 500, and today over 600.

It’s a landmark day! This morning I arrived in Shediac, New Brunswick and looked out on the Atlantic. My coast to coast across Canada has been accomplished. A land’s end but by no means a journey’s end. The rest of this season will be in the Maritimes and intend to spend all of next season in Newfoundland. The kilometres for the lines on my map add up to 9800 km paddled (in yellow) and 5000 km (black) towing the beast with the bike. Shorter-term (after some hull repair) I hope to paddle down the coast to the Confederation Bridge and when conditions permit make the 14 km crossing to PEI. Will likely then set up the bike for touring and leave the canoe behind for a time

That’s the Atlantic and I did put in and paddle along the coast – but for only 15 kilometres. I’ll call it a celebratory paddle cause otherwise it wasn’t worth the three-hour switch over two times. The prevailing wind is a southerly crosswind and that had me paddling all one side. Too much like work. Too much to see here to waste time paddling the coast. I’ve found a place, two days southeast, to store the canoe and I plan to leave it behind for a month while I cycle tour.

An absolute beauty of a day yesterday cycling a portion of the Confederation rail trail on Prince Edward Island. Today looking good too, but overnight the remnants of tropical storm Erin will be crossing the island. That will have me, at the least, finding a structure to camp within. Expect to make the east tip of the island so storm watching a possibility, although the weather will clear again tomorrow morning.

Better than I’d hoped to find for extra protection from the inch and a half of rain and 50kph winds forecast for past midnight. The rail-trail museum, at the end of the line, has a miniature train. As long as I wake up before the 10:15 rolls!

Cycling here has been as pleasant as in Scotland and New Zealand. Another similarity though is the roads with no paved shoulders.

Hurricane Dorian timing her Nova Scotia visit to coincide with mine. I’d never experienced a hurricane so I tried for a front-row seat. The blue dot on the photo is where I rented the necessary cottage pretty much directly in line of the projected track. Only a few trees down in the neighbourhood though. Other places, not directly in the path fared much worse, like Shediac NB, where boats and docks were tossed ashore at the marina.

Best I check in case I lose cell. Power still on but already 30,000 have lost power. Picture from this morning when I went for a walk. Winds then we’re only about 50 kph with spotty rain. Lashing rain now and guessing the wind to be about 70kph. Now the wind is strong enough to lift spray off the bay. It reminds me of drifting snow being blown across a frozen lake. I took this picture while standing on a breakwater visible from here. Now the waves are constantly sending spray across it. Purpose of the walk was to take pictures of some ‘before’, of things that any decent hurricane should topple. My abode all secure and dry so far.

Very odd, is it not, that three best friends, for sixty years, from B.C. would have a totally unplanned reunion in Nova Scotia. I met Curt in Halifax on Sept 11th. He’s here because his daughter is attending university in Newfoundland. (The bike and my gear are in the trunk of his rental car and I’m touring with him for a couple of weeks.) Vance and Kathy arrived on the 12th to visit their son. The timing of our visits is 100% pure coincidence. But our actual coming together was even odder. Yesterday, Vance and Kathy drove 123 kilometres to pick up their granddaughter in Baddeck. She had been visiting her other grandfather who caretakes the Alexander Graham Bell museum there and they were to pick her up at the museum. Meantime yesterday Curt decides we should drive 88 kilometres and visit the same museum. Bizarre that we would all converge there having not yet made any plans on where or how we’d meet.

My timing was good, the Bluenose II had just arrived back in her homeport of Lunenburg and I was able to book a two-hour sail – with fifty others. Not real sailing though. With a deck full of tourists they only allow her sails a sniff of wind and keep everything on an even keel. The Bluenose story is of special interest to me as the original schooner struck a reef in 1946 off the coast of Ile a Vache Haiti, where I spent the winter three years ago. A shame that the government of the day didn’t purchase her, and instead she met her demise hauling bananas. Her racing fame was such that she has been on the Canadian dime since 1937.

Bluenose in racing form in 1921. The Fisherman’s Cup was awarded to the winner of an annual three race series between Canada’s fastest cod fishing schooner and the US rival. Bluenose was built in Lunenberg after the American entry won the first challenge in 1920. She was never defeated.

A stop at a bakery in Alma NB. My cycle tour of the Maritimes almost complete.

My cycle route after leaving the canoe behind. Google indicates this adds up to 1400 kilometres. That is only 50 km shy of the mileage I put on the bike touring back from Alaska.

Crossing my paddling path of early August on the St. John River. Effortless travel now though. The canoe is stored until next year and I’m on an overnight bus to Montreal. Will then use Amtrak to return to BC. Making plans to return to Nicaragua mid-December. Or so said my Facebook post at the time. Last-minute I opted to return to New Zealand instead, where an intended three month stay was stretched to two years due to covid. Two years pretty much covid free with NZ’s successful elimination of the virus for fourteen months after the original lock-down.

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