Paddle Tales: Sea Kayaking and Whitewater Kayaking in the Laurentians
We're heading to another place that can best be described as a wilderness paradise with beautiful rolling hills, countless lakes, and wild rivers. It's a region that features endless opportunities for outdoor adventure along with one of Canada's top adventure sport destinations. In this episode of Paddle Tales we're exploring the Laurentians.
Sandwiched between Canada's capital city of Ottawa and the never sleepy city of Montréal, the Laurentians, known as les Laurentides by French Canadians, takes its name from the chain of mountains that run through it. Although it's the most accessible region of Quebec, it's a land with an amazing amount of ecological diversity and wide open spaces. Smack dab in the center of the region, Mont-Tremblant is a resort town that draws countless visitors. And for good reason, it's a beautiful and lively place. But although it's probably the most popular destination in the Laurentians, there are so many other places worth exploring in the area.
Looking to get off the beaten track a bit, my adventures are getting started at Lac Poisson Blanc, a regional park with incredible canoe and kayak camping. To show me around, I'm meeting up with Fabienne Hervé, a local paddler who loves exploring the world by kayak as much as I do. This is a pretty big lake I love how many different islands there are.
- [Fabienne] Yes.
- [Ken] It's almost a maze of islands.
- [Fabienne] Right it's amazing. Actually it's 30 kilometers long, four kilometers wide,
- [Ken] Yeah?
- [Fabienne] More than 80 islands. We have the opportunity to camp, um about 35. And there is about 45 camping sites,
- [Ken] Oh wow.
- [Fabienne] some on private islands. I don't know, could we buy an island? (both laugh)
- [Ken] I know, I would love an island
- [Fabienne] It would be nice.
- [Ken] I want that island.
- [Fabienne] And it's like you see it's summertime, it's busy I mean all the islands are occupied by people now but you don't see them.
- [Ken] No, no that's the amazing thing is there's a lot of vehicles in the parking lot but there's not a lot of traffic out here.
- [Fabienne] No, no.
- [Ken] Although Lac Poisson Blanc is definitely a beautiful lake, it's beauty isn't what makes it unique, because the Laurentians are packed with gorgeous lakes and rivers. What's so awesome about it is how accessible they've made it. You don't need to be a hardcore canoeist or kayaker to enjoy the place. In fact you can rent canoes, kayaks, or paddle boards and you can even have your luggage delivered to and from your campsite. Now I can tell you there was definitely a time when I would have laughed at the idea of someone carrying my gear to camp for me. But age has delivered more than an aching back and a redistribution of body hair. It's also come with the acceptance that there's nothing wrong with giving up a little bit of the hardcore to make your adventures a little cushier.
What I love about a lake like this is that you can pretty much take anything you want out here. You know it's big so if it was windy, you know it'd be nice to be in a kayak. But even in a canoe there's so many islands you always can stay sheltered behind the islands and find your way. It's a great canoeing lake, it's great kayaking lake.
- [Fabienne] Yeah, right right.
- [Ken] I mean I love kayaking but there's something really cool about loading all sorts of stuff in a canoe. And showing up in camp with lawn chairs and.
- [Fabienne] Yeah, right and usually you see people who are canoeing here. They have everything on the canoe.
- [Ken] Oh that's awesome. It's been an absolutely amazing day on the water and it's only getting more beautiful as the sun starts its final descent. But our stomachs are starting to rumble and so we're both excited to get to camp to get dinner going and to wind down for the night.
Tell you what, the only thing better than a good day of paddling is finishing a good day of paddling camping on an island. Although we had a beautiful time on Lac Poisson Blanc, one of the things the Laurentians is well known for, is having great white water. And so next on the list is a trip to the Rouge River, one of the most popular white water rivers in eastern Canada and home to New World Rafting.
New World has been running trips on the Rouge for 38 years and offers both high and low adventure rafting experiences depending on what you're after. But what New World is really proud of is the experience and passion of their guides. Many of these guides are lifers who absolutely love sharing the river experience with people. And so they travel around the world to work on the best rivers which brings them back here to the Rouge every spring and summer. To join me for a run down the river I've met up with Derek Klapka, a life long river guide and kayaker who knows the river as well as anyone.
- [Derek] Hey my name is Derek Klapka, I am a senior river guide on the Rouge River and have been for about 23 years. I showed up here in 1996 looking for a job. I ended up working in the kitchen and then kinda found it funny that people were paying people to go down the river so I thought that was a pretty cool idea. So I started going down the river, did a lot of duckying or sportyaking then started going down on a raft more often and then more kayaking. And then by the end of that season I was guiding a boat and 23 years later I'm still doing it. I don't know, I like it. I love it, I guess I love it. Yeah if you did this for this long nonstop for like more than 300 days of the year it's not because you like it, it's because you love it. I spend a lot more time now in New Zealand. There is a saying in Whakatane that's called "Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au" I am the river, the river is me. It's more like feeling I guess in my case it is a connection or a symbiosis with something that you have an affinity with. So whether I'm in a kayak or a raft I just like going down the river. It is probably one of the best ways to ever travel or discover the heart of a country. Because you could walk beside a river, you could fly over a river, but being within or on the river you're running through the veins or the arteries of a country or a continent.
- [Ken] So this is it.
- [Derek] Yeah, so this is the washing machine section but the real washing machine. The pit is over there.
- [Ken] Yeah, are you going to go into it?
- [Derek] Uh, I'll think about it right before
- [Ken] That's very non-committal.
- [Derek] It's very non-committal. It's like it's actually at its, almost at its crunchiest right now. And if you hit the washing machine here semi-right you could end up in a spin cycle. So it's a bit of a Maytag kinda thing happening.
- [Ken] I like it.
- [Derek] And then swim to the right and there you go.
- [Ken] Swim to the right?
- [Derek] Yeah if you're not in your boat
- [Ken] What the heck?
- [Derek] If you're not in your boat or if you're not
- [Ken] You swim to the right.
- [Derek] If you're not in your boat keep your paddle and I'll catch your boat.