Friday, November 10, 2017

Part III - Agawa Canyon Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2017

One of the rules of paddling white water, just like hockey, "Keep your head up!"
You never know when  and where changes will take place.
This year a large tree was blocking the entrance to the rapid below the old logging dam.

When I started to run this rapid it was a very clean and fun run because they had cleaned out the river  to run the logs through.  Now as floods have broken the dam down rocks have rolled into the channel making for a little more manoeuvring because there are a couple of rocks in there you could easily wrap around.  But it is still a fun fun, even though the second half is very boney.  There is a historic portage here just above the logging dam site.

I pulled into the sandbar above the two falls set up camp and then carry the boat down to the put-in for tomorrow.  The water was low enough to do the readers digest version which makes for a very short carry here. I tied off the boat in case of storms and went on a short photo hike up the river. What makes this rapid hard is that it was blasted for logging and there are still some very sharp points jutting out of both drops.  These could quite easily tear you hull or if you landed on them give you a very nasty cut.  You can't tell by this image but it is a knife edge.

But it is still very pretty! 

And as much as I wanted to go bush wacking for the views I kept my ego in check and stayed along the river bank close to camp.

I got off to a good start the next morning and the forecast for the day was very promising.
Looking back up stream.

I was about 250m above Agawa falls when the Murphy's law of photography came into play.  An Osprey with a Pink Salmon in it's talons flew straight at me about 10 m over my head. Considering that that the portage trail is 100m above the falls I avoided temptation and did not reach for the camera barrel.  The good news was that was evidence that the fish were still running!

The goal here was to take my time and not rush and take plenty of rest for my foot. There are two steep descents were I would put the gear back in the boat and using my old climbing rope to slowly lower it down (there are no rocks showing) But of course there is always new deadfall  😆

Which is why a good ax is worth the weight! 2.5 lbs. head.  It was easy enough to step over with the packs on and with the canoe I just used it as another rest stop.

 I did find the slow deliberate foot placing to be very tiring but the ankle came through with no new issues.

If not camping at the falls I just throw in the camera gear and check to see if anything new is happening there.  No sooner had I started to paddle towards the falls when a large  Adult eagle took off from the other side of the island.  Which even though a missed a good shot, it was a good omen for what could be downstream. Nothing new at the falls this year just pretty.

Looking downstream.

I was definitely missing the bush wacking to the many small falls that are in the Canyon, but that is just another reason to return next year.
This small falls is right below Agawa falls and what you can not see from the river is really quite interesting.

800 metres down stream there is a major change taking place.  Even at this reasonable level, what was a 70 m wide main channel is completely dry.
I am always very cautious on this channel. Since 2005 there has only been once where it was a clean run.

The first time we ran this channel was 2005 and in this image this large White Pine was across the river.

What makes this log jam really dangerous this year is a combination of several things.  The  narrowness, the forest growth, the forest overhang, a slight turn to the left with a CII rapid and no eddies on either side of the river.  This log jam is perfectly camouflaged .
Looking upstream from the log jam.

What you don't see is much scarier,   There are 2 trees underneath of what you see here.  The one on top is an old logging dam part with huge metal spikes sticking out.  The one the logging dam piece is on is the same White Pine from the 2005 image.  Also what you don't see is the bank on both sides the river at this level are about 1.5 m high with loose gravel sides.  I was not overly excited having and extra bush carry even as short as it was.  

Usually just below here the Eagles hang out looking for easy pickings, but I think my "effort" through   the bush chased them away.
But there is always a great view after work.

I was now seeing dozens of Eagles, both juveniles and adults, but they where awfully skittish this year.  One of my dream shots is getting a pic of an Eagle scooping a fish out of the river with one of the cliffs in the background.  
At this point I decided that when I stopped for lunch and get a weather forecast for the next day.  The reason being is if it was going to be nice I would be able to hide at one of the shallows and wait.  If it is going to be dark and rainy, the Eagles will not hang around because they can not see the fish.
I stopped at the second last major rapid like I always do see what the plan would be.

I have had really good luck getting Eagle pics from this point down, so I knew there would be opportunities.  And survey says "rain, clouds and winds" 
So it was time to take advantage of the photo conditions.

Just after taking this shot, I got my chance.

I had just turned around and this adult flew low over top and landed in a tree just down stream of 
me.  Trouble was it was a shot right into the sun. So I just let the river float me down and hope the big bird would stay around.  Trying to be stealthy is pretty tough, but the Eagle stayed and this is where the practice holding the big lens without the un-ipod  or tripod paid off.

No fish but I did get to see a nice show of flight.

A little stop at Burnt Rock pool for some eye candy.

And a little further down the river a juvenile helped me out some more.

Since I was now coming out early I just floated the rest of the river really slowly so I could breathe in the Canyon.

I had hoped that I would be able to paddle to the Agawa Bay campground, but the big lake had other ideas.  I paddled to the mouth of the river and turned around.   It would mean another hike to wait for my wife to come back to the trailer.
So turned back by the lake paddling towards Hwy. 17.

As I got back to the bridge I was very lucky as my wife drove by!  No walking this evening!
So another trip in the Canyon in the books, I managed to get in most of the things I wanted to do the most important one finding the Baker tent site in the upper part of the canyon, realizing that the Little Agawa Camp site was also a Baker tent site, or course more incredible photo conditions and did not manage to mess my ankle any more 😎
Add to that a "typical" Agawa Bay sunset and you have another perfect trip!
Till Next Year!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Part II - Agawa Canyon Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2017

Well the morning of day 3 started off pretty cool with the temps just below freezing with an overcast sky and typical fog.  It was this poor light thad led to the "discovery" while I was contemplating life.  😎
One of the few improvements in running the Canyon in recent years is that the weather radio receives a strong signal. So I knew it was going to warm up, so I chose to go with a couple of layers that I could peal off as the day wore on.
I usually wear a hard soled wetsuit boot, but they do tend to be a little sloppy so for this trip I went with a wetsuit sock in a running shoe, along with taping my ankle up which ended up working very well the entire trip.

Ready to go, even on a cloudy, dark start, it is still beautiful.

I got out to re-scout the 2nd rapid, with the water a little lower I wanted to make sure my lines.  It is a technical C III.  When I was ready to go I kneeled in the middle of the boat and made sure I was very bow light  so I could stay on top of the one wave and drop that usually puts a fair amount of water in the boat, I was admiring how little water I shipped when I entered the "new" feature near the bottom on river left.  The boat was straight so punching through a wave hole that is only about a foot high is usually no concern.  I then proceeded to "piton" a rock inside the hole that was not making any visual signs so that it could avoided.  I then proceeded to immediately spin fast to the left and into the hole and to get stuck sideways on the rock and started to take on water.  Once I was stable I was able to give a slight push backwards and get off the rock, with a good load of new found refreshment. So much for keeping dry on a cool morning, but all was good.

After the 3rd rapid (the Shadow spot) I really liked the photo conditions so I decided to play with the cell phone movie function and have you look through my eyes on a paddle into that G7, George Agnew Reid and unknown 1920's photographer location.

Did I say how fast the conditions can change here  😄
Just seconds ago looking downstream and overcast and this is on the way.

I love paddling through Canyon Station when the tour train is not in, 1- so I don't get in their shots, and 2 - I love having the area all to myself!  By the time I got to Bridal Veil falls there was still enough cloud cover to get those "milky" water falls shots, (with out special filters and depending on photoshop) 

The clear skies were catching me quickly.

From the canoe it is such an advantage for really feeling the area.

Natural lighting is just the best!

All finished and time to run the first rapid below Canyon Station just as the Tour Train pulls in.

I was going to try and meet Shaun Parent at his Ice Climbing tent, but I missed him by about 5 minutes, (he left me a note) but we did meet up for breakfast on my way home from the Park.  We met on my 1991 trip to the Canyon and we have kept up our contact over the years.  If you want to winter camp in the Canyon Shaun is the one who can really help you.
Shaun is on the left.

The first rapid below Canyon was a little boney at the bottom and the same with the rapid just above where the river turns west, but overall just a nice paddle down to wear the Little Agawa enters the main river.  The Little Agawa was actually running pretty high and is a great example how local rains can affect the watersheds.
Some years I use this campsite, sometimes I don't, it just depends on where I may want to hike.  What is funny is now that I know what to look for to to recognize these old camp sites, that at tis site everyone who has camped here has most likely set up their tent in the middle of the Baker tent location.  The evidence was there all the time, along with the old wall remnants.  I had known they used this point because of the old wood stove down here on the either side of the creek.  I first saw it on our first trip in 85, I got some good pics of it a few years later and this year it was showing some age.

It was just doing this simple bush wacking around looking for the stove that I realized that my foot/ankle would not handle the off trail activities that I had planned, only just about 30 minutes of this and I had enough.  I would have to really rethink my hiking plans.
I got back to camp made some coffee.  Since the skies were clear I decided on an early supper and to be ready for the good evening light for some photography.
Tonights menu was Blue dragon Pad Tai, (stir fry) Their sauce kit and rice noodles and I added some dehydrated beef with fresh onions, carrots and mini bell peppers, this is a definite take again meal.

By the time I was all cleaned up the light was just  getting perfect.
View looking upstream from the campsite.

Great lighting conditions, especially for those of us who don't like fake it

 Hiking up the falls on the rocks did not really bother the foot, but again any thing off  where the ground was soft was a pain in the.... foot!  😔

Another gorgeous morning in the canyon which brought me time to contemplate what I would do about my foot.  I knew I had to make sure it was good for the 2 portages to come downstream. 
I had already gathered enough firewood the day before.

2 of the waterfalls Lawren Harris painted as a member of the Group of Seven.

Having a morning coffee sitting on the rock that he probably sat on to paint, it is a perfect natural chair what better way to figure out what I was going to do.

So in the end the answer was easy, I needed to make sure my foot was sound for the portage around the falls and instead of doing both the Old Logging dam and Agawa falls in one day, I would camp at the smaller falls below the Old Logging dam and break things up to make it easier.

And when the conditions are like this, it just makes you happy to be out there.

And this takes us to part III, thanks for following.