Day 3: May 31st (White Gravel Beach to North Swallow River, 17 km)
Wake up to gray overcast skies and rain drizzle. With light winds only, Dave’s tent on the exposed rock point easily survived the night – more annoying are the wet nylon tents that will be packed up today. The blue kitchen tarp is set up lean to style, the white gas stove steams hot drinks and breakfast (oatmeal again).
After 2 days as the kayaker, I insist that someone else give it a try today. Dave takes first crack but launching the kayak directly from the steep beach into the on coming waves is a challenge. The uncooperative spray skirt fights just long enough for a wave to wash over the deck and soak his lap. Furious, Dave paddles back to shore, cursing kayaks. Ron just says ‘no way’ – thus looks like the kayak will be my baby for the duration of the trip. My black thoughts mirror the dark clouds in the sky…
Yuk! Paddling in the rain is no fun…perhaps with more appropriate rain gear, I’d be OK. Cold water dribbles down my hat, soaks my hair and wicks into my polypro turtle neck. Brrr, I’m chilled. Paddling helps to keep me warm but I’m still do jumping jacks to warm up. Lunch is at pretty Hideaway Lake, a small cove tucked around the corner, away from Superior’s west winds. It’s a tiny camp site with a tough landing spot amongst large shore rocks. Not recommended except under dire straights. Pink showy lady slippers more than make up for the dreary weather and gloomy sky.
Nobody is inspired to paddle today with a late morning launch, a late lunch and dismal weather. English Fishery Harbour provides the last bit of sheltered paddling before we head out into the main lake and pass by ‘the Ramparts’. This 1.5 km stretch of sheer cliff is known for the heavy refracting waves that can test skilled and for sure, novice paddlers. With some trepidation, I follow Ron and Dave. In the tandem canoe, they seem to ride the waves well, under control and balanced at all times. I feel unstable as waves unexpectedly rock the kayak from several directions at once. Luckily, the wind is low to modest and the overall wave confusion reflecting back from the Ramparts is manageable.
By 3pm we are tucked into a campsite where the North Swallow River dumps into a small bay. This is also the terminus for the Coastal Hiking trail but no hikers or paddlers are to be seen. Driftwood is randomly scattered around the C-shaped cove. Landing is easy with a broad sandy beach. We camp further into the trees, not wanting sand to jam tent zippers. Again, the tarp goes up. Dave makes wickedly hot tacos for dinner, which fires me up. Much to Ron’s annoyance (being a noncard player), Dave and I engage in a rowdy game of crib, playing late into the night.