Sunday, May 22, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 01

Day One: Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22

We left the Bolt Hole at 9:30 PM Saturday night, May 21 on our way to Cousol Base of Caesar's Outfitters on Clova Road in Quebec. There were four of us on this trip, John T., Joe M. and his son, David, and myself. Joe and I shared the driving of his Suburban. He took the wheel as we went up Route 12 to Watertown, there to pick up I-81 toward Canada. At the rest area south of the Thousand Islands’ Bridge, I took over to wind our way across the border, to (Chy 401, 416 and 417) and through Ottawa, northward to Grand-Remous (via Chy 5/105) and to Clova Road (via Chy 117).

We stopped at the end of the Clova Road to await the sun. Joe was to drive and he didn’t want to chance the run of 104 miles on this sometimes dangerous dirt road in the dark. (He was driving this stretch because if something went Kaplooee, a possibility with the 138,000 miiles on the Suburban, it was his responsibility.) After an hour of rest, the sun had lightened the sky sufficiently to make travel feasible and we were off. The first 5 miles or so were a little bumpy as the road had some washboard to its surface. Then things got better and there were miles and miles that were as good as a paved road. An occasional washout that had eaten into the side of the road made you stay alert—and near the center—and the one or two spots where beaver had flooded streams to cause water to wash over the road made you slow down below the posted 50 kph speed limit. There were even two spots where beaver had erected small dams along the sides of the road to keep water (unsuccessfully) from flowing across the road. The sky was clear but the morning dew kept dust from boiling up behind the Suburban. The last 15 miles were the most challenging with several very large washouts on either side of the road. The 104 miles took us just about three hours to complete and we arrived at Coursol Base at around 8 AM, well ahead of our estimated ETA of 10-11 AM.

Our early arrival was of little consequence as a quick radio call to Caesar’s Lodge got the plane and pilot to us by 9 AM. After the pilot, John, got us squared away with fishing licenses and such, we were on our way out to Lac Larouche about 45 minutes and 75 miles to the north-northeast. As we flew along at an elevation of 2100 feet (800 feet above the ground), John pointed out the town of Clova (30 year-round residents), and the outpost cabins on Goin Reservoir (Goin 3 & 4), Nancy’s Lake, Lac Simard, Lac Impossible and other sights to be noted. You could see many logging roads cut into the area and acres and acres of clear cutting sites. Some still had the logs stacked along the road. I don’t know if there was no activity because it was a Sunday or because they would take these logs out in the fall when the roads froze up again. Most of the wood taken out was fir and spruce destined for the chipping and pulp mills. Paper and oriented strand board would be the final product.
Upon landing and unloading our gear, John took us for a tour of our cabin and equipment. He showed us how the refrigerator, stove and hot water heater worked. (All were propane and had pilot lights that needed care.) Made sure we knew how to operated the water pump. (Water was pumped from the lake to two 50-gallon drums up on the hillside behind the cabin so gravity would create water pressure for the shower, sink and toilet. These drums would have to be refilled two or three times a day.) (Hey, I said we were going fishing in the wilderness area, I didn’t say we were going to rough it!) Then he made sure we knew how to operate the 9.9-horsepower Mercury outboards that would be mounted on our boats. By now the sky had become very overcast and John, in a break from tradition, told us we could expect some rain every day but especially after within 24-36 hours after the wind shifted from the north (from which it was blowing at the moment) to the south. I say it was a break from tradition because in four previous trips we had been cautioned about the drought conditions that existed—only to have it rain every day of our trip. This was the first time we were told to expect rain. Then, as he prepared to leave us, John made sure we knew we could expect a fly-over on Wednesday and possibly ever other day as well and we knew what signals to send if we had a problem. A two-foot square piece of plywood painted red on one side and yellow on the other was to be placed on the dock if there was any problem. Red would mean there was something wrong with the equipment and assistance was needed, please stop. Yellow would mean there was some other emergency and/or we were ready or needed to be flown out. His duty finished, John climbed in the plane, took off for the main lodge and we were on our own.
Outpost cabin on Lac Larouche.

It was noon. It didn’t take us long to get our gear squared away for the week. Food was unpacked and put in the refrigerator or freezer, sleeping bags were unrolled and bags stashed in the bunkroom, and fishing gear was assembled for use.
The gang of four.

Then we did what we had come for—we went fishing. Joe and David went in one boat, John and I in the other. We were exploring the lake but also getting comfortable with the boats. The wind was a problem. The lake was long and narrow running basically from the northeast to the southwest, which was exactly the direction the wind was blowing. Coming out of the northeast at around 20 mph, it had an opportunity to create a pretty good chop and wave action in the middle of the lake. I’d estimate the waves at a foot to a foot and a half with some white caps being formed. The strong wind made handling the boat in the open a slight challenge and also made trolling a matter for the wind, not the motor. Three hours latter we returned to the cabin. We had only caught three pike, one each for Joe, John and myself.

We had been on the road, in the air or on the water since 9:30 PM Saturday and after a meal of spicy sausage on a bun, we decided to take it easy and hit the sack early.

Total fish for the day: 3 pike

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