Hattie Cove to Michipicoten River Ontario July 25- Aug 5 2013

Sep 2, 2011
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Raymond, ME
Pukaskwa National Park and Pukaskwa Highlands July 25-August 5, 2013.

!2 days and 11 nights. He in a low volume Wilderness Systems Shenai kayak. Me in a Mad River Monarch sea canoe. Guess who got to carry the big heavy stuff? So essentially this trip was a paired solo.
We launched at the usual spot at Hattie Cove in PNP July 15 in a cold rain. We had Naturally Superior Adventures shuttle us to the put in and their driver returned our truck to their base at the mouth of the Michipicoten River.
We had done this trip before in seven days six nights in a canoe. A big canoe ; a Wenonah Odyssey. We had big waves the trip before and felt that two solo craft might ride the waves better and give us less fright than a tandem boat that tends to get pinned in the waves. I think that was a good decision. This twelve days had far rougher seas. We had always paddled early and if we were off lake by early afternoon we were golden. This year Superior was far crankier.. Rainy, cold, foggy and the winds rose by ten am.
We were determined to not push for distance each day. It seems that adhering to a schedule, as one sometimes has to do when working, leads to poor decisions on this big lake. Some days we paddled 50 km and others 14 on this trip. We had the gift of time, being retired.
When you launch at Hattie Cove conditions always seem calm. However there can be raging seas past Campbell Point. We were warned of “high wind warnings” before setting out and advised not to. We set out anyway to poke noses out of HC. No wind. Not many reflecting waves at Campbell. The Park Staff relies on wind warnings from Environment Canada. Those winds are for offshore. Local nearshore winds can be far different. Some days we had no wind warnings and yet bouncy seas. Some days with high wind warnings had pretty calm conditions to start. The moral is not that EC is not accurate but believe your eyes before your ears. I managed to break the ON-Off button on the radio so it ceased to work by Cascade Falls. We were OK even after that by watching the sky (more on that later!) and noting when the waves were apt to kick up. The lake, after getting unruly, did not calm before 8 PM.

We were using the new Chrismar Map of Pukaskwa National Park as well as their online paddling guide and an old guide (most useful..) titled Exploring the Pukaskwa Coast which details the hazards along the entire stretch from Hattie Cove to Michipicoten River..not just the Park. Over half our journey was outside the Park. I would like to see a reprint of this book..its fairly old.
This is their new guide. I feel it does NOT stress enough the danger areas and how to cope with them.
http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/on/pukaskwa/activ/activ3/c.aspx. That said if you under take this sort of big water paddling you cannot hold any other party responsible save you.
Day1 July 25 2013. To White River. Light winds. Drizzly with some rain cool temps. We ventured into Pictured Rocks Harbor but did not like the beach campsites as the tents would be almost in the water.

The mouth of the White River is all rock. Ergo with high discharge there is no sand to erode. Standing waves can get big. Last time there we nearly bought the farm. This time with gentle winds we were fine with the small (<1 meter) standing waves. Do not get deceived! We were lucky. Two weeks later a gent died here!

Near our campsite at the mouth of the White ( south campsite) a typical old cobble beach

Day 2 July 26 . Woke to POURING rain. I am a total wimp to breakfasting in the rain. The wind was up too. Day to READ! And the trail to the bear locker and outhouse was underwater. We did have to go there to get oatmeal eventually and found that MICE had drank 4 liters of boxed wine. Little gnaw hole in the corner. Hope the little bturds have a headache. Bear lockers are not apparently mice lockers.

Day 3. July 27. Weather not much better but its only drizzly so its time to go. I think I forgot to mention that the temps were about 7-9. We would have to live with that off and on for the trip. Fleece and tuques in JULY? Yep. We set off for Oiseau Bay some 20 km distant.

Arrived in the rain of course. The campsites are now across a brook.

Bridge engineer husband trying to fix some ”floating planks”. There is a cabin at Oiseau Bay that welcomes overnight use if you are respectful. It is a privately owned cabin open to the public. We did not notice it till we had already set up our camp.

Soggy. The following morning it was still pouring ( day 4). A day to read (again) and hike some of the Coastal Trail that passes through. Now we are losing time at a fast pace. At this rate I don’t have twenty five days of food. I do have fifteen. We gotta get going soon. There is at sunset a promise.

Day 5 July29. We boogie to Cascade Falls. Past the danger of the Ramparts. Past the cave.
Its calm at the beginning

We pass a terraced beach that demonstrates isostatic rebound( it’s not really tilted)

The ride is actually somewhat rolly with a headwind from the prevailing direction SW. With poking around we cover about 50 km. We notice wild cirrus clouds indicating some inclement weather in the next two days, though it is currently fair. I get landsick after dinner at Cascade Falls and have to go lie down. The falls are rising and falling…ugh. This campsite is not that great. The tentsite is cold and wet with spray from the falls. Worse the latrine is near the calmest beaching area. Farthest from the tenting area. In between are masses of driftwood and large cobbles. We figure ten minutes each way between campsite and privy /boat.

The next day goal is the Pukaskwa River. Heck we did that last time in a day in a canoe so why not, eh?
Last time we did not poke around Otter Island. This time we did.

We see and smell old time fish camps in Davies Harbour

The Lighthouse on Otter Island

No we did not try and get out. Then we paddled to Otter Point and got blasted by two meter seas and a forty kph wind. We retreated to Deep Cove. Despite our lack of progress we investigated the campsite there. Refer to the Planner. It sucked. The beach is all driftwood and the one tent site is 10 meters up a steep incline. Emergency use only. We ate more dreaded Clif bars and waited…. Took a run…retreated..took the final run.. blasted over the waves and wound up at Bonamie Cove.
Despite a party of three motorboats and some20 people on the beach on the other side of the point…aaah.

Now the Puk River is in our snatches. Its early. We round Cap La Canadienne famous for reflecting waves in peace. We poke around the remains (less and less each year) at Pukaskwa Depot. An hour of bushthwacking..back to the boats. We launch in mild surf and continue the few (3 or so) kms to the river. And happen to look back.
The world is ending. I panic. I have never seen such a black cloud. All the way across the horizon to the west. We are pretty sure our lives are at stake. We paddle like hell. We reach the Pukaskwa River just as we figure the cloud ought to arrive.
Only it disappears. And leaves us with this for the day.. and all night..and part of the next morning. I have never seen this sor t of cloud phenomena before.

What to do? Endless Sudoku of course!

Digressing into poop disposal, there were boxes or outhouses at all the sites we stayed at prior to the Pukaskwa River. We simply did not find the box that was indicated on the guide at the river. We buried. We did not see any TP blossoms or poop flowers nevertheless.
Now we go east to Michipicoten, out of the Park into what I think is called the Pukaskwa Highlands whose protection is being worked on . Thanks to Joel Cooper of CCR we were able to find crap disposal boxes and pristine campsites. He puts the boxes in! The paddling is even more challenging with winds coming out of the south. The mouth of the Dog is a potential hazard, though its is widened this year with flooding rains that widened the channel if you want to land a little inland on the lagoon. Approach any river mouth with a wide berth and if you have to go upstream for a non surf landing set your approach far from shore and paddle directly in. Any approach from the side with too wide an angle of approach will upset you.
We set out in the fog from the P river and had an at first calm then a wild ride some 30 km down to the Pipe River/Petit Morts rocks. Not a photo during our journey. I do have a mental image of my hubby coming off a two meter transparent green wave surfing but was unable to get in position to take a shot. (currently am taking donations to the Go Pro personal fund). Here is the cocktail hour view at the campsite. The best sunbathing during the whole trip!)

We had paid for six days Crown Land Camping and were not in a big rush. Point Isacor and Isacor Cliffs were our next obstacle with potential reflecting waves. Being some 20 km distant they could be something we met later in the day. Having time we decided to camp on The Flats. Superior had a hissy fit early that day. We were glad we camped before noon. And had brought books ( somehow we were tired of dancing numbers)

The Flats are the last large safe camping site before Point Isacor and the cliffs. Up and at’em early we could touch the cliffs. Don’t trust our report. The cliffs can always be a bad area.

Second to last day. We are now aimed at the Dog River. We look at a campsite in Dog Harbor that is listed as a large campsite. Very overgrown and buggy. But made a good lunch stop with soup. It was cold. Wow..the channel of the Dog ( only a km distant)is huge with recent flooding. We paddle upstream easily and don’t flip. There are TWO latrines here and the camping pristine. Thank you to Joel Cooper of CCR.. the king of… People have been wind/wavebound here and with the abundance of small pebbles we enjoy a tent patio!

Outdoor slum. What more can I say?

Homestretch.. Only 30 km to go. It’s August 4. We have a nice day.. Along about 9:30 AM the wind shifts a little to due south and here we go a rolling.

We land in mild surf at at Minnekona cove and over the afternoon watch the wind blow the waves and water higher on the beach. That long southern fetch from Michigan sure shows the power of even a mild wind over distance. We were glad that this day we did not try to get all the way to the end. The daymarker at the mouth of the Michipicoten River must have had wild waters.
An old wooden timber shows that once someone got stuck?

Grim reaper threatens cook. It was still windy

Finally the calm

Next morning we think we are up early enough and on the water by 8:30 to make Naturally Superior Adventures before noon and dawdle around Dore Bay. Not a good idea. The seas kick up quickly around Perikakwa Point and big rollers break on us.. We followed a little more shoreward course and not quite a direct crossing. It’s a bit dicey.. We really can’t see each other well.
Nevertheless we arrive at the infamous day marker at the mouth of the Michipicoten River at 12:30 to find Ontario Hydro has a nice gift for us. A release. Standing waves make surfing the game of the day even though I don’t want to play.
That last 100 meters was the toughest of the trip and my hubby just about lost it on the last curl. It was Aug 5 my birthday. For a while I had thought it might be my last day.
On Aug 6. We retrace our steps by car to Hattie Cove so I could buy some joujou souvenir at the Visitor Center. That’s when we noticed the trio of older gents getting on a boat shuttle. Two had the wood canvas canoe and the other was going to hike back from N Swallow River. That seems to be the party who lost one at the White River.

You just never know what the Lake will throw at you but you try to make your best decisions based on your circumstances.
Feb 1, 2013
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Burlington, Ontario
Hello yellowcanoe: Amazing report! Great pics and write up! Thanks for sharing. If you would have brought a litre of scotch or grand marnier in a Nalgene bottle, you could have avoided the mice.

Take care,
Cousin Pete