Saturday, November 4, 2017

Agawa Canyon Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2017

Yes it was that time of year for my annual pilgrimage down the Agawa, but this year was the first in many where I thought I would not be able to make the trip.

And of course this is a long winded, pic heavy story! 😃
So long and winded I am going to have to break it up into parts.  😇

Here is a little bit of insight what it do to prep for a trip.
Do to a fairly severe ankle sprain I was hardly walking in July at all, I could not even carry my canoe to put in the bed of my truck.
By the first of August I was able to start to paddle again because where I paddle at Mountsberg Conservation Area has a boat ramp where I could pull right up to the water and that felt great!
It is also a great area to work on your bird photography from the canoe and that kind of practice comes in very handy.  It is a skill like your various other bush craft skills needs to be worked on so when you do get a chance you are somewhat ready and having a big lens is very helpful and shooting with it when it is off the tripod or uni-pod can make things very interesting, both from not getting blurry shots to balance in the canoe.

Here I saw the Blue Heron and got into a position where the wind would carry me in closer.  The less motion on your part the better.

Also training your eyes to spot the critters is important.  Blue Heron in the trees about 50m from the edge of the lake.

And being ready for surprises,  a Blue heron having a catfish lunch.

With bike riding, lots of therapy stretching and yoga stretches it was getting stronger but still very weak. As it strengthened over the two month prep period I slowly parked further away so see how I would handle carrying my 45 lbs. solo boat and worked my way up to about 150 metres with no real issues.  Paddle wise I got back up to doing my 10 km. loop in just over 1.5 hours (double blade), unless of course I stopped for bird practice.

Bike riding was great as I got up to over a 30 minute hard ride (at least for me) along the trail system they now have in Milton which also gave me some more bird practice at he storm water retention ponds.  I am very impressed with how bird populations have come to hang around these areas.

Common Tern

And Sometimes you get lucky with who is visiting.  Great Egret

What was really weird with this injury was I could ice skate and it would not bother the injury, which was great as I could exercise a lot of leg muscles  that were not being worked by my slow paced, deliberate walking style.

Walking was still an issue and was a lot slower in the recovery, but I got up to 4 km on city streets and did one 4 km test hike  on one of the easier trails at Rattlesnake Point with a 15 lbs pack.  
The test went well, except for the fact I could feel the weakness in the one spot in my foot and that was concerning since I knew I would have to be carrying heavier packs and a canoe on the portages.
Since this was a solo trip and I was not able to round up a young Sherpa I had to think this through a little bit.
For one it is shoulder season in Northern Ontario, temperatures and conditions change very quickly, and in the deepest part of the Canyon it is it's own micro climate so you have to have the appropriate gear for what you may encounter.  I took clothes and rain gear so that I would be more than reasonably comfortable if the temperatures got below 0c  and I would be okay at -10c or if I had a good and wet either by rains or an unexpected swim, being solo you need to cover the bases as much as you can.

At this time of year I usually take half my winter down bag, which is big, bulky but ohhhhh so warm, but this year I opted for a smaller, lighter summer bag a a very nice compact-able down blanket which worked out perfect for saving space and still be comfy at night.

I like to eat well, and I am not really fond a a week long diet of dehydrated foods so the only way to lighten up there is t make sure my portions are much more reasonable than I usually take, and with the farmers market in Milton I was able to acquire small vegetable sizes so I would not have waste.

With my camera gear I opted to be a little more frugal with what I brought along, the biggest bulk saver was not bringing my camera pack pack, it just meant packing all the odds and ends that I may use in separate zip lock bag so I "might" be able to find things when I needed them.

In the end I opted for more bags and barrels so I could spread the weight around and that would mean 5 carries on every portage and the only loose gear was paddles, ax and the 2 safety ropes and pin kit.
And that worked out well since I knew I would be going at a very slow deliberate pace on the carries.
(2-120L dry bags but not close to full, 1-60L barrel and 1-40L barrel for camera gear; plus canoe)

I had several goals for the trip and planned for 7 days, weather conditions permitting with lots of rest time for my ankle and photography.
I opted to use my 15.9 Discovery canoe because the the river gauges in the area said it should be close to what my son and I did in 2015 and the Discovery is a great boat in low level conditions, but it also my heaviest boat at around 70 lbs.
The Agawa itself does not have a gauge so you have to base the levels on the Batchawana and Wawa Creek gauges, but local rains can make a big difference.  The river was actually not at a bad level not low but not nearly as high as last years runs, but both gauges showed that river  should have been  around the levels I ran it in 2015 with my son and it was because of the lower levels that I opted for the Eton to Agawa bay route.
It is a long drive (just under 3 hrs) in on the logging road and a haul was in progress so you have to be on your toes! If you had a car you would not make it,  besides typical rough rocky roads there were two flooded stretches by beaver dams with one over 50m long.  There was fresh truck tracks going through so it made scouting these stretches much easier. 
It was such a bonus having a sunny very warm day with very little wind, it sure did not feel like October.

Anne's Traditional pic of me starting the trip just downstream of the Eton Logging road bridge.

When I got down to the falls at Eleven Mile Creek I got started on one of my trips goals and that was taking images with my cell phone.  Since my cell phone can shoot in RAW I wanted to be able to make comparisons to my DLSR, both present conditions and with images I had taken in the past.

I hiked up the first falls and found a little too much water to hike up higher without getting really wet.

I find myself a little to self conscious when doing selfies.

I got to the start of the narrows of the Canyon and began to portage the 800m down to my first campsite.  The Rapid has been known by several names, the early ACR called it the Goudge Gateway, after one of the early executives (the name really fits) The loggers knew it as "Princes Rapids" short for Prince of Wales Rapids, I have talked with the Missinaibi Cree First Nations Group that is trying to re-start the ACR passenger service about any original names they have for the area and that is something they are looking into.
I look so forward for the train, because it makes it so much easier to access this area.

When I got to the path to the camp site it was great to see the flagging tape on both sides of the trail down to it, even better was to see the big pile of dry firewood I left from last year, which meant I would not have to gather any wood for the first night and give me a chance to rest my foot.

First night, corn on the cob, baked potato and Rib Eye Steak.  When you camp here your are camping with a lot of those who stayed here before.

When you have it in your mind  that you are just going to trip in slow motion it really takes the edge off  where you need to get "stuff" done and having a hot summer day in October makes it that much easier.  When I went down to the river after dinner, after the shadows filled the canyon it was amazing  to feel the heat radiating off the the boulders that were not in the river.  As I pumped to fill my water bottles it was like sitting in a heated chair.  
Even though we were going into a full moon this week the orbit of the moon further to the south would mean the canyon would not that really special look when the moon is overhead.  It is still very bright but photography wise just not as good.

It was a pretty cool night, but because the ground was so warm it was a warm sleep and with very little wind a temperature inversion layer formed and it kept out the cold air so you had a layer of fog filling only about 3/4 of the canyon.  Once the sun started to rise, a gentle breeze kicked in and made for a mixing of the air.
Today was going to be a play with the camera day so I set off to a Lawren Harris location to do some time lapse movies.  Along the way the for made for some good photo practice.

So I set up for the time lapse and played with my other cameras while waiting for the magic of the sun and shadows to do their work.  This year I brought my tablet along, not only to bring copies of G7 paintings with me but it also takes a pretty good movie and the sound recording is really good.

While waiting for the times lapse I got to play with the tablet and I filmed some of the mists of the river, and the mists really do give you a chance for great photographic opportunities.

I have some good fall shots of Group of Seven Member Lawren Harris's "On the Agawa"  To really enjoy this spot you first have to be here at the right time of year and some nice sunny weather because with the shadow you really get to feel you are there for when the painting was being done.
Time Lapse

My Still shot.

Link to Painting

One of the really neat things about the Canyon is that fog/mists can occur anytime during the year making for surreal landscapes and photographic opportunities.  The many deep side canyons and how the sun warms these areas up at different times helps cause these neat mystical views.  As pretty as the mists are it can be a pain in the butt with moisture collecting on the lenses.

From the tablet, while taking the time lapse.

The neat thing about sitting around waiting for just the right photo conditions you get to watch the world and sometimes other thing pop up.
I had been asked earlier this year if I knew this spot Lawren Harris - Algoma Sketch CXLVI 10.75 x 13.875 Oil on board (1920)

Instead of having lots of paper copies of paintings it was easy to go to the folder on my tablet for reference and in this case it looked very familiar and being able to put painting on a photo was a great bonus.
I showed Jim Waddington the images when I got back and he agreed it was a pretty good match.  By the time I got up higher to take a pic I was shooting into the sun, and the lack of colours on the hill just means another reason for a trip in the fall!  😁

With the Painting inserted.

After the shadows finished with their show I walk south to another Lawren Harris, George Agnew Reid and an unknown photographer spot, sadly not a lot of wildlife sounds just a few northern Boreal forest birds, but it is all eye candy,

On the way back to camp I scouted the 2nd. rapid down from the campsite like I always do.  This rapid has changed a lot over the years with new features from year to year because some of the quarried rock can dislodge from the river right side.  I did notice a new feature river left near the bottom of the rapid, it "looked" like just a "clean" wave hole running from the river left shore out to about 3m.  but it looked like a clean run.  More to follow on this feature.

So back to camp to have another coffee (no instant "stuff" for this guy 😜) and enjoy this great spot.

I already knew of of several painting locations but had been unable  to find signs of the campsite.
Location of one of Surveyors Sidney Johnson's paintings from around 1901. And just so you know the one section just left of centre of the painting was dynamited away for a power line in the 1950's that was removed in the early 2000's and it was the removal of those power lines and the regrowth that brought back to life many of the G7 paintings that were done in the Canyon.

I did notice signs of a recent rock fall at the narrowest part of the gorge from the top of the canyon wall.  It is something you have to respect and be very aware of anywhere in the Canyon, it is constantly changing and this rock fall had happened between last years trip and this years.

One of major goals of this trip was to try and find evidence of the camp site that  had been used by the surveyors when they put the ACR tracks through and just the story of what I was looking for here was worthy of it's own post and how I found it was quite humorous.

The Shadows reveal a secret.

See you at Part II 

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