Mens Canoe Retreat – Tobeatic 2011

Almost every year for the last 22 years, the Tatamgouche Center in Nova Scotia has hosted a Mens Canoe Retreat in various areas of Kejimkujik National Park and in the Tobeatic Wilderness  or .  The Tobeatic consists of 103,789 hectares of protected lands and is adjacent to Kejimkujik National Park.   The Tobeatic contains an unbelievable number of interconnected lakes, streams, rivers, bogs and wild areas to keep any outdoors person quite happy.

The trip this year was a 5 day venture and started in Weymouth at Hinterland Adventures and Gear where we met up with Hantford Lewis who owns the company and will once again be our guide.   Hantfords’ place sits on the Sissiboo River just below the dam at the bridge.

Once Tatamagouche has received your registration and payment, they send out an email with a welcome letter, packing list, medical waiver form and directions to where the trip will start.

DAY 1 – Wednesday Sept 28

I had flown into Halifax yesterday and stayed downtown.  I had arranged a ride with Phil who was one of the guys that was on the last trip I was on.   I took a cab in the morning to meet him at a library just off the highway exit near where he lives.   We drove along for a while, stopped to grab a coffee and a bite to eat, then headed on to Hantfords – following the directions we were provided with – these were thorough directions and we had no difficulty finding his place.

Once everyone had arrived (the 12 of us came from all over, although the majority were from the east), we made sure everyone had paddles and lifejackets, and stowed the gear into various vehicles before heading out.  We left Hantfords on Hwy 340 to Southville, then Riverdale then turned onto the JD Irving logging road, we followed this to Third Lake dam and stopped for a bit of a break.  We then turned onto an older, narrower logging road and continued on to Sporting Lake Stream.

Getting ready to leave

We arrived at the put in spot at Sporting Lake Stream close to supper time, and the plan was to unload and stay the night here, then head out in the morning.   Part of the group worked on getting tents and other shelters erected, some got the fire going,  a couple dug a latrine and the rest prepared supper.

Cooking supper

View from tent up Sporting Lake Stream

For this trip we pretty much followed Sporting Lakes Stream through Rush Lake and on to Sporting Lake.

The first trip I was on with Tatamgouche was 2 years ago on their 20th Anniversary 7 day canoe trip.   On that trip I did not know anyone, but on this trip there are 4 people that were on the last trip.   It is always interesting to be on a trip where you meet people for the first time.   Normally in an outdoor setting, everyone gets along well as things just don’t work unless everyone is pulling in the same direction.  Nobody heads down the river or lake after a portage till everyone has their gear across and is loaded back into the canoes.   To do otherwise is just not safe.  Everyone here looks like they will be good to have along on the trip.  3 others have been on previous canoe trips and 2 or 3 have not been on any previous trips.  Besides our guide Hantford, we have Brian Braganza (facilitator) and Jason Blanch (resource staff) who will be leading the trip and the various evening activities.

After everyone introducing themselves with a bit of their background, one of our first activities is conducted with us all standing in a circle and passing (more like throwing) objects back and forth across the circle, while calling out the name of the person you think you are throwing it to.  After a few being mis-named, we all pretty much got a handle on who was who – now lets see if we can remember the names in the morning 🙂  On this trip we have Brian, Hantford, Jason, Pierre, Phil, Wilf, Keith, James, Ed, Curtis, Jim and me.  Should be easy to remember all the names.

Both Phil Moscovich and I are writing in our journals – he noted that last time we were both writing in the same type of book as this time.  It’s a “Rite in the Rain” All-Weather Journal #393 and works in all weather.   We were both writing down by the River – he on a upturned tree stump and me on a rock a bit out in the water.  It sure is quiet.   Where I am sitting, I am facing the setting sun and looking at the mirror-clear water with a faint hint of colour.   A few late day dragonflies and a kingfisher are about all that is moving about.

View from my writing rock

uprooted tree

There are a few bugs out – black flies, no-see-ums and mosquitos – not very many, just enough to pester.  In front of me there is a massive overturned tree with the roots sticking up in the air.   You can see all the stones embedded between the roots – an indication that there is little in the way of soil here.  The only sound other than bugs buzzing are the crickets.

A small fish jumped out of the water in front of me, leaving an ever expanding circular set of ripples spreading across the glassy surface of the bay.   The kingfisher has now flown back across the bay.

The call comes at that point for supper.   Tonight we have chicken fajitas, refried beans, tortilla chips, tomatoes, avocodo spread, lettuce and cheese – and chocolate chip cookies.  By the time we are done eating there is no food left.

Supper time

After supper we had about 45 minutes to do whatever we wished, while some cleaned up dishes and put things away.    Some discussion and guitar playing around the fire completed the evening and then we were off to our tents, shelters, tarps or bivvysacs.   Pierre and I shared a tent.  Others split up among the rest of the accomodations.

Day 2 – Thursday Sept 29

Curtis is having back spasms since he woke up and has decided it might be better if he doesn’t go on the trip. It is easier at this point as we are still at the vehicles, so after a breakfast of bacon and eggs with crumpets, apples/oranges, Hantford takes him back out and returns around noon, so we adjust our plan to spend some time doing canoe safety, proper entry and exit and a few other pointers around types of strokes during the morning.  This is necessary as some do not have as much experience canoeing as some of the others do.

Hantford arrives just as we are having lunch – hot dogs, chili tofu dogs on pitas with oranges and apples.

Just after 1  we get on the water and head for Rush Lake which is along Sporting Lake Stream.   I immediately remember what I liked so much about the Tobeatic 2 years ago – there are erratic rocks all over the place as we paddle – some are just submerged a bit below the surface and if you are not paying attention, you end up leaving a bit of paint behind.  Sporting Lake Stream is a nice wide meandering stream with some beaver dams and a short portage before we get to Rush Lake.   It is nice and peaceful and everyone is chatting as they paddle.  I notice that the colours are not as brilliant as last time and in fact many of the trees have lost most of their leaves already.  Guess that is the type of fall they have had here.

Just starting down Sporting Lake Stream - with rocks everywhere

Navigating through a tight spot

approaching first portage

Pulling canoes out at portage

A very short portage so we just carried the canoes

Loaded up and pushing off

Typical view along river

Our first beaver dam

To navigate over a beaver dam, typically you paddle the canoe right up to the dam, the bow paddler gets out on the dam and pulls the canoe up onto the dam – not so high that water comes into the stern.  The stern paddler then moves forward and gets out on the dam on the other side of the canoe from the bow person.  All the gear stays in and both pull the canoe over the dam.  Once over, the stern paddler holds it steady and the bow paddler climbs in and over the gear to the front.  Once safely seated, the stern paddler steps in and pushes off.  This actually only takes a few minutes.

Both paddlers out and pulling canoe over dam - with one on each side

Stern paddler holding canoe steady as bow paddler gets back in

Heading along river

First real sign of fall colour

We get to Rush Lake and discuss whether to stop at this side for the night or go across the 1000 metre portage.   After some group discussion, we decided to take the food, gear, pots and whatever else we could carry first so some could stay on the other side and start cooking while the rest of us returned for canoes and the remainder of the gear.   If we have to leave anything at this end it will be canoes, and we can come over in the morning to grab them while breakfast is being made.  Supper tonight was pita pizzas with onions, peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, pepperoni and mozza cheese, all followed up with coffee, tea and ginger snaps.   The cheese melts way better if you put a pot lid over top of your pizza.  We had pretzels to eat while waiting for our pita pizzas to cook.

Supper served a la canoe

View from 2nd nights campsite

Tents and tarps are up - and it's supper time

Canoe carry on 1 km portage

View from the back on a portage

Our evening discussion was around relationships – good and bad that we have had.  It was a good discussion between all of us, with lots of variety in life experiences.   As we had set up our tents earlier, we headed off to bed, but not until Brian passed around the cookies and leftover pretzels.

DAY 3 – Friday Sept 30

Good morning 🙂

Breakfast today was Oatmeal with berries and sunflower seeds.   Very tasty.   Some of us had tea and the rest made camp coffee.

It was a nice day when we got to Sporting Lake.   We went canoeing up the lake and Hantford bet that nobody could get on top of a big boulder without assistance.   3 of them made it up, but we think there was some shenanigans in the attempt behind the boulder.

This one's self explanatory

We then went on to an ecological reserve,  aptly called Sporting Lake Island, that nobody is allowed to overnight on.

Rafted up while Hantford explains the history of the 3 islands that are ecological reserves

It is a protected ecosystem, so we had time to wander around the island and once everyone was back at the canoes we had lunch – pepperoni, cheese, bagles, various spreads (hummus, cream cheese), tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

where we entered the 1st island

A wanderin we will go

Large erratic on the island

With all the quiet there is plenty of time for reflection

or maybe a nap in a patch of soft moss

View along the shore

Burl on tree

An island off to the side as we headed down lake

We then left the island and stopped at a rock in the middle of the lake with a split going all the way down.  Jason wormed his way into this crack and managed to get all the way through to the other side.   After some additional paddling we headed back to camp to start supper.

Afternoon break - tough place - good for swimming and rock collecting - and eating GORP

Small islands with trees growing on them

Tonight supper was Pasta with textured vegetable protein , sauce, peanuts and cheese.  After cleanup we discussed who some of our mentors were and how they had influenced who we are, what we do, or what we aspire to be.   We also talked about some of the ways in which we mentor others without even realizing it.

This is usually the night where we have an option to do a solo night away from the camp.  Phil was the only one this year who headed off to a spot he had seen earlier that day.   We wished him well, sat around the fire for a while then headed off to our tents.

DAY 4 – Saturday Oct 1

I was up at 7 this morning and as I was first up, I got the fire going.  We had heavy rain during the night so most of the firewood we had gathered was now rather wet.   Well a pyro like me likes a challenge and after a few minutes had a fire going (lots of hissing and smoke – the hissing was the fire not me), put the water on to boil and enjoyed the fire till the rest woke up.

An early morning walk on a leaf littered trail - wet too

After a breakfast of bannock with peanut butter and jam and dry cereal, we discussed whether it made sense to take the tents down to move to another camp site this evening or whether it was better to leave things as they were (everything was dry at this point) and do day trips from this campsite.   After bantering it back and forth, we decided it made more sense to stay put at this campsite and continue with day trips – so first things first – we headed out to gather more firewood to last another day or so.

We spent the morning investigating an old weir dam that was in place back in the day when they did log drives on this river system.

View along river where logs were driven - standing on old weir dam

Root mass over rocks

A beautiful view on a drizzly day

Wooden portion of original dam

Rock portion of dam

One more view from the dam

Curly lichen

After lunch (pita sandiches of tuna/kippers, cheese, cucumber, spreads and soup), we geared up and got into the canoes for our first foray into a side stream that turned out to be for naught as the beaver dam that would normally elevate the water further up was broken open and there was not enough water to get the canoes any further.

Mushrooms growing in floating bog

Pitcher plant growing along edge of bog

Getting out was not an option as it was nothing but floating bog in all directions.   So we turned around and made our way back to the main lake and stopped at the 3rd island (in a group with the ones from yesterday) and walked around for a while.  This island was completely different in tree species, age of trees and types of trees than the other two.  Interesting as they are so close together.

We headed back to camp and it was still raining (rained pretty much all morning and afternoon).  We changed out of any wet clothes, hung them in the tents to maybe dry, kept the fire going and had a snack (cookies & Gorp) with tea in the afternoon.   Supper today was rice and bean curry.  It contained rice, chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, onions and garlic, veggies and cheese.   Very tasty and a bit spicy.  Oatmeal cookies with coffee and tea rounded out the meal.

DAY 5 – Sunday Oct 2

Still wet out this morning.   We have a breakfast of porridge with raisins, sunflower seeds and coconut and began the task of packing our gear and tents.   Everything will be wet but we are on our way out today.  Looks like it will be a dreary paddle – but a good one nonetheless – there is no such thing as a bad day paddling.

Morning view

A wet portage

This trail had no leaves on it 2 days ago

The rain sure brings out the colours of the leaves covering the trail

Heading down the last stretch of Sporting Lakes Stream on our way to the vehicles

And back at the start

And with that, this ends another excellent canoe trip in the Tobeatic.  It is good to have a variety of weather, and rain when you are canoeing doesn’t really cause any problems.  It lets you wear your rain gear for one, rather than take it home unused.  I really dislike packing something and then never using it.

In closing all I can say is:


About trailsandtrips

I am a consultant in the forestry and environmental fields and spend my recreational time in a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
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