Paddle Peterborough to St. Lawrence River

May 13/18 to June 1/18 Paddle New Lowell to Peterborough
Apr 15/19 to June 20/19Paddle Peterborough to St. Lawrence River
June 20/19 to Oct 25/19Paddle and Cycle St. Lawrence River to Nova Scotia

Ready to leave Peterborough for the start of my 2019 paddling season. Big thanks to Brian and Carol who made me feel very much at home during the week I spent there. An unexpected hitch in my plans though. Non-planner me didn’t realize the locks don’t open until May 17th. I decided though that I could handle doing whatever was required to portage past each of the eighteen remaining locks.

My first night’s camp spot below Peterborough. An, on river, provincial park was the destination, but it was totally flooded. Nobody home here at the next piece of high and dry.

Biking this 35 km, mostly rail trail route, allowed me to bypass ten locks. Thought I’d be up to my ankles in it when I saw these cattle ahead. Had to pull the canoe through by hand but managed to keep the shoes reasonably clean and dry.

Some sign humour, or at least it struck me as that. That some bureaucrat figured a ‘No Jumping From Bridge’ sign was necessary here (a thirty foot drop) or that it would do any good if somebody had their own very specific reason to want to do that.

A picture from Lock 3 north of Trenton. Adjacent to each lock there are dams. With the river at flood levels, they have things churning but the lock channel makes for a tranquil bypass.

Getting my barge past the closed locks of the Trent Severn Waterway proved to be too much of a chore. Instead, I cycled past most of them. This is Lock 1 at Trenton and I’m getting ready to switch back to paddling. This was a down, so not too difficult with a bit of planning – and rope. Did have to empty most of the canoe though. The plus was the water level right up to the level of the cement deck rather than two feet below it like it is at most of the locks.

That canal system is behind me now. The Rideau Canal from Lake Ontario to Ottawa is still ahead but doesn’t open until May 17th. I can wait, the lock systems are a pleasure to paddle. Not waiting it out in my tent though. Did some online looking and found a family farm looking for summer help. They accepted my offer to give them a hand in return for a place to stay.

Getting these five rows ready to plant took the better part of my two weeks of helping the farm family. First down was a layer of leaves, covered by a layer of barnyard goodies, then a complete layer of soaked heavy cardboard with the old hay on top. He’ll plant potatoes, but not until late June as he wants new potato size only. With a similar crop last year much of the crop grew within the hay cover – no dirt to wash off.

The pigs just arrived a few days before I left. Their arrival depended on when the cattle could be put out to pasture. They have the job of rooting through the four foot deep pile of cow manure, chopped hay, and wood chips from where the cattle wintered. Their reward is the kernels of corn that were hand sowed into the mix when each layer of fresh bedding was put down. I offered them some old carrots but they weren’t interested, the corn they have to work earnestly for is their only food supply. Once they have everything well mixed it will be spread on the pastures.

You can’t get more free-range than these birds. No chicken wire in sight. Home is where the ‘eggmobile’ is parked. There’s a goose among them too. He was raised with chickens and his job is to warn the flock of hawks and such.

The stop at the farm was an opportunity to do some maintenance on the cart wheels. They always show significant camber when the canoe is loaded but bent axles aren’t the reason for that. They were overdue for being replaced but I was surprised to find that one of them had actually bent. I had the time now to order all new axles and wheels. A shout out to Wike Bicycle Company in Guelph, Ontario who make this cart. Their stock version though is not intended for the weight I pull. My upgrade included replacing the aluminum axle with one of stainless and gusseting the plastic wheel support pieces with metal.

My two weeks with the farm family went quickly and I am paddling Lake Ontario from Picton to Kingston. However, this route is more like travelling the Inside Passage of the coast of B.C. Except for two short crossings, I was protected by a peninsula and an island from the open water. I did have to cover sixty kilometres on the third day though to avoid strong winds that would have had me windbound for two days. Wasn’t sure I would be able to make that but light winds allowed me to row for most of the final distance to the Rideau River at Kingston.

It’s rare when I can take a picture during anything of a blow. This time though it’s a 30 kph tailwind and I don’t have to be concerned about the wind taking control of the bow. This is the forecast wind that would have had me windbound had I still been out on the lake. A fast 4 km stretch of what I call consorting with the enemy before I reached the lock.

About to cross under the 401 freeway. A whole lot of people hell-bent on getting somewhere quick. You take the high road and I’ll take the slow road thanks. Happy to not be one of them anymore!

I am at the first set of locks at Kingston Mills on the Rideau Canal. The canal is a World Heritage Site and is maintained as close as possible to its original state. Noticeably more so than the Trent Severn lock system. To reach Ottawa I will need to pass through 40 locks at 24 stations. Multiple locks at one station, like the four here, were deemed safer to construct than a single deep lock. I’m told ten days is the average time taken to paddle the 200 km to Ottawa although I expect to be sitting out some of the wet and windy days forecast.

The Rideau is run and maintained by Parks Canada. Camping is permitted at the lock sites for a very reasonable $5 per person. I’d gladly pay that just to have the luxury of a picnic table rather than my usual of ground level only. Here I have almost everything out of the boat while I dry things out. Water in boat not from the thunderstorm the night before, but because of a total moron in a forty-foot cruiser who ignored the ‘no wake’ signs, and passed close by where I was camped. I should have been more alert to the possibility of someone being so irresponsible. I was loading up, with the canoe spray skirt open and bags on the beach. I was at the tent, and not paying close enough attention when his huge wake washed into the canoe. It was clearly visible and he would have had to be aware of what his wake would do. There were also three rowing sculls nearby. Ah well, it’s only water, and he’s only the third true bonehead I’ve crossed paths with, in six years.

Another form of up the creek without a paddle perhaps.

A rainy day had me staying put yesterday at Smith Falls. A chance to replenish the groceries and research my route beyond Montreal. That research led me to an interesting find. I found Glenn and Carol, a retired couple from Kingston who are about to embark on the third leg of their cross Canada canoe trip. (Canoe for Change). From Ottawa, I will be doing the route to Nova Scotia that they completed in 2017. Meanwhile, they will be resuming the B.C. to Ottawa section they completed last year. Starting from Fort Francis that includes the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior – the route I did in 2017. We have had a phone chat and will be staying in touch to offer mutual route advice. Oddly too, they noticed my canoe from their home when I passed Kingston. They have cart wheels, for their road sections, but no bicycle, so getting over the likes of Crows Nest Pass was a pushmepullu footslog.

A phone call chat with Glenn and Carol chanced upon another oddity. When I left Lake Ontario at Kingston looking for a camp spot right at dusk, the spot I picked was in view of their house. During the chat they asked ‘say was that you then that camped …’

Not so quiet here when I arrived. Twelve canoes of First Nations cadets enrolled in the Royal Military College at Kingston were preparing to depart on the week-long trip to Kingston. My good timing resulted not only in a dinner invitation, but I was also welcomed to join a smudge ceremony that included the tradition of offering the river tobacco to ensure safe journeys. The path not taken. If you read my high school annual it would tell you that Kingston’s RMC was in my future. 

Another departure is taking place in this picture too, that I would have missed except for this picture. Against the far shore, there’s a yellow kayak heading in the opposite direction. That is Eleanor who I met when she arrived at Smith Falls the same day as I did. Eleanor regularly paddles the Rideau and she might just hold the record for doing that the most times.

The count was at five when I first noticed this rock. They were bailing fast, except for one who held his ground as I passed. Earlier, the same day I inadvertently disturbed a nesting loon on a similar rock. My first look at a loon’s nest. Two largish greeny grey eggs.

This is impetigo and it’s not something a solo traveller would expect to catch. It makes your face feel as miserable as it looks. I knew I was going to have to find a doctor and get a prescription. An hour’s paddle got me to the only canal lock in Ottawa where camping was allowed. I had the wheels under the canoe and was moving it to a camp spot when a couple on bicycles stopped to question me about my journey. Eventually, they asked what my Ottawa plans were. I said, first I would be finding a walk-in clinic and get something for my face. She replied I’ve been noticing that you have impetigo, but you don’t have to find a clinic. I’m a pediatrician, we’ll find a piece of paper, and I’ll write you a prescription right now. Dr. Karen on bike patrol, getting me on the road to relief a day sooner than planned. Gotta love that!

Look at me heading into the capital city all decked out in my new pageantry. Provincially I’m displaying the international marine protocol of flying the flag of your destination country, along with that of the country you’re passing through. Thanks to Ottawa’s ‘Flag Shop’, my Canada flag is now on the stern, B.C. on the bow, Newfoundland portside and presently Ontario starboard. People from ‘The Rock’, who see their flag quickly identify themselves. I would not have known Newfoundland’s flag. No doubt the country as a whole would flunk provincial flag identification. One fellow asked about my destination and I pointed to the Newfoundland flag and told him. Then I added that the flag on the bow was where I was from. ‘Oh Quebec’ he replied

The last set of Rideau Canal locks is beside Parliament Hill and attracts plenty of tourists. Eight locks, very close together here and, I was kept busy answering questions about my travels. One fellow didn’t quite get the concept. He asked if I stayed in hotels.

My only look at Parliament Hill during my three days in Ottawa. I did visit the War Museum and a couple of others. The final eight ‘flight locks’ of the Rideau Canal are to the left.

Ron’s Towboat Service. It’s the Ottawa River. The line he’s holding is my stern line attached to his bow. When I noticed him, he was on his bow with a single paddle, motor kaput, attempting to paddle to shore. I offered him my kayak paddle but his progress was still slow and he was tiring. So I suggested I would tow, using the kayak paddle, and with the addition of my canoe paddle he and his wife could each take a side in the stern. It took about a half-hour to reach a beach with vehicle access.

Singing for my supper. On the Ottawa and it was getting late and I had not yet found a spot for the night. Also was in need of water. I don’t like knocking on doors but the Ottawa had recently flooded and the only safe water now was from pipes. It’s never the intention (honest), but like many times before the request for water resulted in an invite for supper and a bed. Spent two enjoyable days at Lucie and Serge’s. Played a little guitar for them one evening and was videoed doing it. Having a guitar along and time spent rain and windbound makes for opportunities to learn good old tunes like this one. Lonesome 77203

Clean drinking water doesn’t have to come from a pipe, it can also come from the clouds. I was rainbound at this spot for two days and this 4’x6′ tarp, set into a natural depression, easily provided all the water I needed.

The Rivière des Mille Iles. (Thousand Island River) is a means of bypassing the St. Lawrence at Montreal. I thought it would be best to avoid what there could be for marine traffic in Montreal. I spent the night prior to entering this river camped in a Quebec national park. Illegally camped in that park, as in I just picked a spot along the shore and camped. I did earlier pass a very large campsite in the park but other than legal camping a campsite there didn’t offer anything I needed. It would also not have allowed me to camp at the shore making it necessary to move the canoe to the campsite area. There was a road near the shore that ended and I picked a spot beyond that thinking I would not be seen. I should have added a bit more distance though as in the morning I was confronted by a park official. His English was not great and the word he was saying most was ‘infrakcion’. I did my best to explain my situation although the signs I’d seen made it clear I was in violation. He had me follow him to his vehicle where he called somebody to report my wrongs. I expected to be fined but after a long conversation in French and he was off the phone he told me ‘he said you should just leave’.

A portage to get around this last weir on the Rivière des Mille Iles. Helped with finding the best place to take out by Jean-Guy, who provided a meal and bed as well. We met in Haiti, in 2016, when we both stayed in the orphanage volunteer house on Ile a Vache for about a month. Rapids, below where I put back in, had the spray skirt put to use some. That doesn’t happen often and might not have, had I done a better job of hitting the waves straight on.

Next up, the St. Lawrence River.