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Ottawa River - Labor Day Weekend

Friday-Monday Sep 2-5, 2016
Kayak: JimP, PaulC, SueS, ChuckM, JohnA, BrockR, SarahC, JamieD, JohnG, TonyS, ChrisW, KenE, DanM, KyleC, MarkM, BorisG
Open Canoe: TonyS
Raft: KerryW, CherylG
Doing Own Thing: DawnD, BarbD, TinaS, DebK, CooperG, ChristineB, CindyM, Kala the Dog
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low
Author: Jim Poulin

Twenty five folks and a dog named Kala made the annual journey to the Ottawa River in Forester Falls Ontario to test their mettle against these might rapids. As usual, there were some interesting stories but the vast majority of the weekend was spent with good friends enjoying whitewater as well as non-whitewater time together.

But you, my trusty reader, do not want to read about how Boater Bill made a clean run down Death & Destruction Rapid. You want the fun and interesting details. So I will provide both!

So let’s start with a description of our more illustrious dirt bag boaters this year. For this edition we had two unemployed boaters (world traveler Sarah and recently retired John) and one homeless boater (soon to be Connecticut resident Brock).

Then some new milestones for 2016. First off, the largest crowd ever! 25 strong! Plus on either end of the spectrum, we had our oldest participant – Barb at 85, and our youngest – Cooper at 8! Then we had that person with boater identity issues, Tony ran with both a kayak and a canoe over the course of the weekend. Finally, we are starting to look like a real paddling club when John showed up with a boat trailer hauling 6 or 9 boats!

Friday, September 2nd

River Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 70

The early arrivers (Brock, Ken, John, Sarah and Jim) took in an afternoon run on the Middle Channel. While McCoy’s rapid did get everyone’s heart beating a bit faster, the Middle provided a good opportunity for a warm up.

This was a burner run that included no scouting (other than McCoys) and no mishaps on any of the major Middle Channel rapids. There was one incident of note. After Big No Name and technically the end of rapids for the day, there were some adult beverages cracked open. Brock decided that his run through Black Velvet didn’t require a spray skirt to be attached or his beverage to be stowed. This combination caused his boat to fill with water and Brock was unable to brace appropriately while hanging on to the can. So Brock had the good fortune to swim a rapid he had never swum before! And the beverage was not lost so Brock has his priorities straight!

Back at camp others started to filter in and dinner was prepared in the waning Ontario light. The clear dark night put on a stellar show!

Saturday, September 3rd

River Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 75

Morning Run

The gang’s all here!

Since it is easier to list who wasn’t on the water, I’ll do that. Mark, who had not yet joined the group, was the only one missing from the morning run. So we have 17 paddlers on this run!

We opted for the Middle Channel for a warmup for the entire team.

There were a few newbies and we spent a good amount of time reviewing McCoys rapid and all its various features for them (Satlers, Phils, Corner Wave, Left & Right Horseshoe, Baby Face). Some ran the meat while others decided the Zoom Flume might be the most prudent first rapid of the weekend.

After that, it was a glorious run down the Middle with fun and play had by all.

Got back to camp for lunch and naps. Then it was time to head back out!

Afternoon Run

There were twelve hearty souls ready for round 2!

We shortened the run by bypassing the long flat water slog from McCoys to Upper Lauren (Garburator wave). A few jumped on Garb, which is in at this level. Mark jumped on Garb and then ended up swimming off and downstream. His wife, Cindy had hiked in to take in the action. Mark mentioned later on down the river that he was sure Cindy was on the phone with the Canadian 9-1-1 folks as the last she saw of him he was swimming for his life. I countered that Cindy was on the phone alright – with their life insurance agent – and was already planning that Caribbean island purchase!

A few of our team more took turns at Push Button and then we were off to run the rest of the river – Butcher’s Knife, Normans, Coliseum, Dog Leg and Blacks.

All had great lines and a wonderful time. OK, maybe a certain paddler did spend a bit more time in the river left eddy in Coliseum. But who’s counting!

And to make the evening even more complete, we were greeting at the takeout beach by many of our non-paddling contingent.

Another beautiful Canadian night with bright stars and inflated stories around the campfire.

Did I mention campfire? Staying in Pet Haven afforded us the ability to do some “trail maintenance” and gather almost all the firewood one would need. So we had fires not only in the evening, but in the morning too to ward off the chill! (or the effect of the evening before? Either way)

Sunday, September 4th

Water Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 80

Morning Run

Someone had the great idea of getting going early for a quick Park & Play (Park & Watch?) at Baby Face before breakfast. Eight of us rose to the challenge. We were on the water about 8:30am with a foggy mist leading us to McCoys. It was quiet and beautiful. Then all heck broke out.

Jamie flipped in Baby Face and his camera (which is secured to his life vest for easy access) came lose and bonked him in head. He rolled up all bloodied from a small head wound near his eye. Sarah, our resident river nurse, advised she and Jamie should head back to camp to clean up the cut and get it closed.

The rest of us hung out a bit longer, but once the rafts starting coming around the bend we knew our time was up.

Back at camp Jamie got patched up and we all tucked into some breakfast. Then some serious lounging was starting to happen!

Afternoon Run

There did not seem to be heightened energy levels so the group opted for an easier Middle Channel run. Chris was not feeling well so sat this one out. This meant we had 17 paddlers as Mark was now at camp.

But we had a group of “non-paddlers” paddle down to the island by McCoys so they could see what all the fuss was about. This included Deb, Cooper, Tina and Christine in various water crafts. They watch us run through McCoys and stuck around to see a few surfs on Baby Face before they paddled the flat water back to the put in.

Another great afternoon on the Ottawa in warm water and sunny skies. The group made its way down all the Middle Channel rapids. Brock managed to keep his skirt on for a successful run of the mighty Black Velvet rapid. Again, there was a continent of folks who were waiting at the takeout to greet their heroes.

The Sunday night tequila tradition ensued and stories were exaggerated and maybe even some stuff was made up. But it was a great night with good friends in the wilds of the Canadian woods.

Sunday, September 5th

Water Level: -1.35

Weather: 85 and sunny

Some folks had a long drive, some folks left the night before and, I am sure, some folks had just had enough. Enough of the Vermonter’s shenanigans, whitewater, tequila, I am just not sure. So not as many participants for the Monday morning run.

There is a saying that a trip leader that ends with the same number of paddlers that he/she started with had a successful trip. So by that measure I did great! Now there is that one little detail that the 9 paddlers that started were not the same 9 paddlers that finished…

We picked up a new paddler at the campsite, Brian from Wisconsin, to run the Main today. He had never done the Main Channel and I was up for showing him the lines. We were in the staging eddy discussing the line at McCoys (no scouting on this trip!) when something caught my eye. There was a beaver swimming down the rapid. No wait, that’s not a beaver, that’s a helmet. Hold on, that’s one of our group! Hey, that’s John!

So three things to point out here.

1. I have been coming to the Ottawa for 30 years now and have never seen someone swim the entire McCoys Rapid. Most folks at least make it to Phil’s Hole upright before heading into the drink!

2. We all know (or have heard) about the infamous Phil’s Hole. Well John floated right into the meat of Phil’s Hole. While John didn’t stay long, Phil did manage to suck the spray skirt right off John!

3. This was a new First Swim Descent at least as far as I know. This caused Brock a bit of a concern as he likes to be the first one to swim certain portions of a rapid. For a moment I thought Brock was going to jump out of his boat and swim McCoys top to bottom in solidarity with John. But he came to his senses and instead, nail it!

So by now you are wondering how John managed to get into this predicament. He was trying a few practice rolls at the top of the rapid. Hind sight tells him he was too close to the flow as when he missed a practice roll and needed to swim, he was already committed to the rapid. There is some cruel irony in there somewhere.

We then did the flat water paddle down from McCoys. Everyone made it through Upper Lauren without issue. John had a bit of difficulty after the Upper and before Lower Lauren and decided he had enough for today and took out. Fortunately another one of our Pet Haven neighbors, Pasqual (sp?) joined us. She had walked into Push Button with her husband and baby. They were taking turns playing on the wave and watching their son. But the plan was for her to join us for the remainder of the run. So as trip leader I was still able to count to 9!

We ran all the rest of the rapids without scouting or issue. Fun was had by all!

Then it was back to camp to pack up and head back home. Sad, but we were all filled with a wonderful weekend memories.

So who’s in for next year!


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