Day 8: Tidewater Provincial Park to Home
I wanted to sleep in. We had no significant mileage to paddle today—just a quick jump across the river to catch the train. Despite my best efforts to stay in my tent, a week of early rising combined with the turf war a couple crows were having next to our campsite made that dream impossible.
For breakfast, we feasted. We filled our bellies with all the chocolate and granola bars we had reserved for emergencies. It felt strange carrying an empty food barrel on my back down to the dock to put-in.
We had some time to explore, so we paddled around the north end of Charles Island to Moose Factory. Nathan and I wanted to log a Geocache this far north so we followed the coordinates to shore. We pulled up on the rocky waterfront beside some local motor boats.
We thought we had found a community centre so we walked right in, only to realize we were in a classy eco-lodge. After a week on the water we were anything but classy but the employees were kind.
We left, found the Geocache, and set our bows west with dreams of cheeseburgers and ice-cold water.
Geocache: “Wachay! Moose Factory’s First Cache”:
N 51° 15.519′
W 080° 37.028′
On our way across to Moosonee we paddled around the south edge of Charles Island. We encountered a water taxi who was not interested in sharing the water or even waving!
Acting on a tip from the people in Moose Factory, we found the entrance to a creek that runs right beside the train station. It was high tide, so we were able to paddle across what would later be Islands we would need to paddle a long way around. We found the entrance to the creek and started picking our way up.
After many days of near-pristine wilderness, it was discouraging to see shopping carts, lawnmowers, liqueur bottles, fire extinguishers, and bicycles choking the creek. We pulled over a few dams of logs and garbage and met an excited (and very intoxicated) man under the road-bridge.
When we made it to the train bridge we pulled our gear up the hill and found ourselves right next to the station. This saved us portaging our canoes and gear through town.
With our gear at the station and our tickets confirmed, we hit the streets of Moosonee. It was a very hot, sunny, and dusty day!
The lady at the train station informed us that the best restaurant in town was the Sky Ranch. We were a little apprehensive when we saw the place. Signs reading, “absolutely no hoodies allowed” and “absolutely no baby strollers allowed” didn’t convey the friendliest vibe. It didn’t matter. We feasted on cheeseburgers and cold drinks, chatting about life in Moosonee with our waitress. We were actually the second group of canoeists in the place. Another team had just finished paddling the Harricanna River out of Quebec. They had a night to clean up in a lodge before arriving in Moosonee, though—they smelled much nicer than us.
We wandered around the small town for a bit, eating ice-cream from a convenience store and chatting with the Town Clerk while trying in vain to find some souvenir to take home with us. We explored the grocery store, marveling at the prices of every day goods. Many people fax their grocery order to the supermarket in Cochrane and pay the train to bring it up as freight to save money! This was the only grocery store I have ever seen that sells ATVs in the aisles.
We climbed onto the Polar Bear Express about an hour before it left, enjoying the air conditioning.
The ride was not very exciting and the meal prices were near-insane. We played cards and napped. The highlight of the ride was the Moose River Crossing where the train slows down from its regular speed of about 70 km/hr to give passengers time to soak in the view. It felt surreal coasting over the water we had paddled through just a few days earlier.
When we made it to Cochrane, things got confusing. Despite it being a Monday night, the hotels were all full! We ended up locking our canoe to a picnic table behind a hotel and driving a couple hours back to Mattice to drop off Brian and pick up my vehicle. After a quick farewell, we drove all night to get home at just after 10 a.m. Not exactly the way you want to spend your first night after a canoe trip, but it was nice to be home. I’d like to personally thank Monster energy drinks for the ability to drive all night.
This truly was the trip of a lifetime. We’ve reached the point in our tripping career when we cannot go bigger and better any more. There’s no real way to conceivably “top” the Missinaibi—just different waters to paddle.