The canoe bugout requires a tank of gas for the car and a canoe. Travel time is about 4-5 hours to the headwaters. The first portage is about an hour or so after putting the canoe in the water, which is about 3-4km away.
The canoe is a great way to bug out for (1) it allows you to get deep in the bush away from hiking trails or roads; this almost guarantees isolation; (2) a canoe can literally allow you to move hundreds and hundreds of pounds of supplies over great distances, so you can prepare for a lengthy time out.
To begin, we lash the canoe onto the car and begin the run north:
We set the canoe by the shore of the first lake and start to load it up.
In a canoe one will get wet. It is only a matter of 'how wet' rather than 'if'. Certainly, wet feet will be had from entering and exiting the canoe at portages and at places along narrow rivers or creeks where the beavers have built dams. So, it is important to have some good canoe shoes that will dry fast, make kneeling in the canoe possible without cramping, not work like mafia cement loafers in case of a capsize and to provide some traction and protection when labouring the canoe over obstacles. I use a pair of these:
While my more fashionable friend employs these:
I still had regular hiking boots packed away – these may be needed for long portages; but hiking boots are better kept dry and are a bit clumsy in the canoe.
It is easy to die. More so on the water. So, we have life jackets:
A guy near my home, a paramedic, “died after his canoe capsized.” He “was not wearing a life-jacket.” This happened when I was out on my bugout, though not anywhere near where I was. My advice is: don't be a dumb-ass.
The black things hanging in the tree with the life jacket are soft knee pads. Kneeling in the canoe helps prevent my back from getting grumpy while also allowing one to easily be in the kneeling 'action position' for handling the canoe. These pads are contractor's knee pads.
As I was saying, in a canoe one will get wet as will one's gear, more so if it rains. So dry bags are necessary. The large blue bucket is a dry bucket – it snaps shut with a tight seal to keep the shelter and sleeping gear dry; it is 30 litres. I also have a larger, 60 litre one, but it remained at home. I have a backpacking harness which attaches to the 60 litre bucket for portages; but I don't usually use it with the 30 litre version for it is easy to hand carry. When lashed into the canoe, buckets and dry bags will also provide buoyancy to help re-float the boat should a capsize occur.
I've got my HF radio stored in the green ammunition box and secured it to the rear seat's support for I wished to try and get a contact when deep in the bush.
My big, black main pack drops nicely behind the canoe's centre thwart; my comrade's packs drop afront the thwart. The brown bag is the Dunamis Gear bag that was the prize for the winter 2014-2015 mock bug out. This is an awesome bag! It works great in the canoe for a day bag given its size, the way it opens and the many ways it can be secured. So it got constant use. It held snacks for when paddling and was used to store all our fishing gear. There are two versions of the map of the area I was heading into, both in waterproof cases (one large and clear, one rolled up in the OD green map case). One map was 1:32000 and the other 1:50000; both are topographic maps. Attached to the centre thwart in the red bag is an emergency throw line.
After an hour or so heading upriver from the first lake we came to the first portage:
This had an elevation of about 15 metres; the portage was only about 100 metres long:
Every portage makes us less likely to encounter anyone beyond it. Portaging can be laborious; but, I do a lot of hiking, so I am used to carrying a pack. The trick is not to make any one pack heavier than what one would if one was merely hiking. It is also important to have things loaded in the canoe efficiently – easy to get the packs in, easy to get out, and not having many things flopping about loose in the boat. A light canoe makes a big difference too; ours is about 35 lbs. The new carbon fibre versions are even lighter, but, new, cost 3000 or more; I have a piggy bank getting filled for one of these new ultralight carbon fibre versions for next summer's plan was to have a journey about at least a month long; I just hope the piggy is fat enough by then.
After our first portage ended we had to make a quick escape for it was like we had entered Conan Doyle's Lost World:
(click here for a larger image.)
Sadly, or luckily, we did not see any more dinosaurs during our bug out.
A couple of hours further on we settled on a camp:
My friend's large, yellow dry bag is 144 litres! We thought it would make a good emergency boat if we destroyed our canoe.
This camp has had a few visitors in the past given the ample proportions of the fire pit:
One could pit-bake a horse in it!
For shelters, both of us used Hennessy hammocks, which I I bought up after reading one of Woodswalker's posts here five or so years ago:
There was a low probability of seeing a bear in this area but raccoon are more likely to be a nuisance so we hung the food aloft a tree:
I had some other preparations for bears though, just in case:
I don't have bear bells in spite of the evidence or lack thereof of their utility. I don't want to sound like a court jester when marching in the bush nor scare off things I would like to see.
I climbed the small hill aside the camp and snapped a shot of the environs:
As the sun set and my friend stood pensively while listening to the weather station tuned in on the HAM radio, I shot this:
I was trying to capture the call of the loon on the other side of the lake – a classic sound of the woods in Canada, but I think I was too slow getting the camera ready.
The next morning we packed up early and headed out; we had several portages to perform and wanted to get these done before noon so we could spend a fair amount of time on the next large lake which was several kilometres long and where we wanted to establish a camp. We came to our first portage aside a small waterfall:
I keep the binoculars at the ready for scouting the route ahead - there is no sense wasting time and energy searching up close for something that could have been easily seen far away. A yellow rope betrays an idiot string to my lighter; another attaches my fire-steel in my back pocket and a third connects my knife in my right pants pocket.
When we finished these portages we got to a lake at which we would spend two nights. The start of the large lake had steep rock down to the shore:
It is always worth the effort to labour in order to paddle in a place like this:
It took a bit of searching but we found a spot where, though the bank of the lake was still steep, there was an easy climb up to a large flat place for our camp; this time, my friend used his tent rather than my extra hammock; my extra hammock is a Hennessy bottom entry rather than a top zip and even I find the bottom entry too much of a PITA for regular use:
There was an ample supply of rain the entire time we were out; so, we positioned the shelters in such a way that my hammock's tarp provided a little shelter for us both:
Since we had the canoe we were not obliged to make every ounce count vis a vis the packs' weight; so, it was pan fried steak with potatoes and mushrooms for our supper:
The next morning it was time for a day trip to scout further north for a route to a large lake many kilometres away, a lake we wish to try to get to on another trip. The little rivers start to get super narrow between solid rock banks rising almost straight up; we explored for most of the day until it was time to turn around and make for camp with sufficient time to beat the setting of the sun; on the way back we had several portages to re-complete as we headed back to camp:
At this point the rain broke so we stopped for a late afternoon lunch. We had been fishing as we travelled north at strategic points where we thought a fish might be had; I had an ample degree of either skill or luck:
Here you can see the knee pads in use and the Dunamis bag which we used as a day bag and a tackle bag. We fried up that fish – a small mouth Bass I think, with butter, salt and onions. Being able to get food in the bush is of prime importance. We boiled up a mug of tea, a bowl of soup and hydrated while we rested:
After lunch, I sat in the bow, my friend the stern, and we headed back; usually it is vice versa. The river wound its way back through the trees in the background for several kilometres; we went through many swamps and pulled the canoe over 5 or 6 beaver dams. But before all this happened the canoe capsized along the shore – my friend tried to get in the stern while I was looking forward at the bow and did not have the boat stabilized (for I was not aware that he was about to step in the boat). So, I ended up the drink, soaked. It is important to communicate between bow and stern man in a canoe for, though it appears stable, a canoe is super easy to tip; getting in and out, messing about fishing or fuddling with a pack requires the procedures to be followed: make sure the other man knows you are about to enter or adjust your weight so a stabilizing brace along the shore or across the water can be made. "You have the boat." "I have the boat." These declarations keep you dry and prevent expensive, or worse, mistakes. When entering or exiting, place the paddle across the gunwales to spread the weight and provide stability. Don't just step in while standing up. As I noted above, an unstable canoe has caused many deaths; and an injury in a place like we were at would require a massive effort to get evacuated. Maintain situational awareness and beware the 'normalization of deviance'!
“Social normalization of deviance means that people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behavior that they don't consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for elementary safety.”
See this or this for more about the normalization of deviance. I first came across this expression when doing some SCUBA training for deep, decompression dives. The cost is high when procedural norms are not followed; as I noted above: don't be a dumbass.
It rained and rained then rained some more on the way back to camp; and though I was soaked through the temperature and the wind cooperated and I froze not, luckily. After getting back to camp and changing clothes it was time to think about dinner. More fresh fish was desired so we again loaded up the canoe and set out on the lake. Twenty minutes later we had captured our prey, one for each man:
I myself hooked another, my fourth on this trip:
We cleaned and filleted the fish then fried them up with pepper, salt and butter. They were caught and cooked within an hour; so, that's about as fresh as fresh can be:
We were satiated and happy that we managed to feed ourselves on more than one occasion.
After dinner it was time to break out the radio and try to summon a station:
But the fates did not cooperate and a contact I could not make.
The next day we packed up and started our return journey. We had 3 portages to make before we spotted a camp on an isthmus extending out into the last lake. As we were only one portage out we started to see signs of previous visitors - an old chair, some lumber hastily hammered up into a little table. We set up camp, ate, relaxed, looked at the stars (for the rain had departed and we were granted one clear night) and listened to the radio. I again tried to make a contact; but, again, my efforts at using the radio were far less stellar than my efforts at securing dinner. But one cannot eat the radio:
The following morning, after another portage, we were at the last lake and paddled into a mild head wind to the shore where we left the BOV; after promptly mounting the canoe back on the car for the return run home, we departed.
Besides being dunked in the drink and not getting a radio contact all went well; the only thing lacking was more time to spend out on the land. But that seems to be something that plagues every trip.