2015 Trip 7: the weather funnel called the Ottawa River

Long weekend, and this should come as no surprise, rain is in the forecast. We have had a week of hot humid weather, where sitting at the water would be perfect, yet come the weekend, it has cooled off a bit and rain is on the away. Typical of Mother Nature this summer.

There were a couple of micro bursts of rainfall before we pulled out, perhaps just a taste of the near future. Traffic was actually moving quite nicely for a long weekend, where sometimes it seems that everyone with a car is heading out of town at the exact same time you are. We are heading for one of ours favorites, Driftwood P.P.

Past the town of Pembroke we can see a huge band of black clouds ahead of us, and they look just laden with water. Angry looking too, with sharp, swirling layers, itching to let loose a deluge. Sure enough, it did.

Heavy pounding rain, where wipers on high don't even begin to make a dent to the water flowing over the windshield. The traffic slowed right down and on came everyone's 4-ways. You see that more and more now, when the driving gets dicey, people putting on their 4-ways to make themselves more visible. Certainly a welcome idea, anything to help catch the attention of the moron that is texting behind you, oblivious to the weather conditions. As we were approaching Chalk River, we pulled over into a parking lot to wait it out, better to sit safe somewhere for a few minutes than it is to continue with the death grip on the steering wheel.

We were lucky though that the edge of the rain cloud soon appeared, and the sun actually made an appearance. Made the turn into the park, and actually filled the fresh water tank this time, our memory aided by the big post-it-note I stuck on the dash before we left! New site this year, just down from the one we usually reserve, and a nice site it is. Backed in and angled the door side so it looks down the river. A beautiful view, other than that big black cloud making its way down the river. We could be in for another dump of rain.
coming right at us...
Got the Alto all set up, cracked a beer, and wandered around a bit outside.

We got a few drops from that cloud, but the other side of the river got the bulk of the down pour. It's neat to watch a heavy rainfall go by, knowing there is only a few hundred yards between a few drops and getting soaked. The cloud did bring a big drop in the temperature, so it may be a cooler evening.

Dull and overcast pretty much sums up what we woke up to. Seriously dull. Good bit of wind as well coming down the river. Wind is simply a fact of life at this park, but the beauty is that if you keep your eye on the west, you will get a good idea of what is headed your way. This can be a bit confusing though, as just when you think a large cloud is coming right at you, it will shift directions and head more northerly. We have seen a band of rain almost make it to our side of the river, only to abruptly shift and head the other way.

The wind is up, and the river is quite rough, I doubt the kayaks will make it in the water today, just a tad too rough. Relaxed around the site in the morning, we were getting just occasional glimpses of the sun, but enough to warm things up a bit. We had forgotten a few things at home, most notable limes for our G&T's, and wine for Dale. There is a corner store a bit west of here, in Stonecliffe, which is also an LCBO agency and has a gas station. We took a scoot up there, able to cover a number of bases in one stop. Dale spotted home made samosas on the counter, so a few of those came back with us for lunch. Filled up with gas as well, to avoid that stop in Deep River on the way home.  On the way up here Friday night, the head wind as incredible. The Santa Fe was sucking gas like there was no tomorrow. I noticed that the transmission was unable to get into overdrive at all, which certainly does not help gas consumption. We were also being buffeted around a lot...a challenging drive.

The sun was out a fair amount in the afternoon, so Dale was able to brave the water and get in for a swim. I waded around a bit, but it was still a tad too chilly for me. Relaxed on the beach, read a bit, then we noticed there were some serious clouds bearing down on us from up the river.
food, beer, tunes and a funky piece of driftwood...pretty sweet
We were not the only ones to see this, as everyone just started to buckle down the hatches.  The wind picked up a lot, not howling, but damn close. The other side of the river looked like it was getting rain, but not us...yet. Then, as quick as it was bearing down on us, it shifted direction and was gone. The wind calmed, the whitecaps on the river disappeared, and everyone re-emerged. Fired up the Q, some nice kebabs from Farm Boy and an arugula/quinoa salad made up dinner.

Since the wind died down, we started a fire, or at least attempted to. We got a bag of wood, all of it birch, which I split up earlier in the afternoon. It as a little damp, and our kindling had a hard time getting the wood started. Our neighbour wandered over, an older man, probably in his seventies, who I had been chatting with a little earlier. He and his wife have a little camper next door. He had in his hands a couple of wedges of red pine, you could almost smell it as he approached, and he told us to build a fire around these pieces, and they would burn a lot faster than the hardwood. What he said makes a ton of sense, it is soft wood, and the pine tar would keep the fire burning. The wood smelled almost too good to waste on a fire...it was awesome. We sat the pine chunk vertical in the middle, and leaned the birch against it. Sure enough, the pine caught right away and burned nicely, eventually producing enough heat and flame that the hardwood had no choice but to follow along. Soon we had a nice fire going, nothing compared to our neighbour's fire, which was going real nice.

Our neighbour is what I would call old school. His age certainly helped that thought, but he also had that aura of common sense knowledge and wisdom. In chatting with him, he came across as a guy who was very relaxed, could handle most anything that crossed his path, and could converse with anyone. I have to admit, I saw a glimpse of Dad in him. Just the way he was chatting, relaxing, sipping a beer and absorbing everything around him. Even though he could not see our firepit from his site he somehow knew we would have problems starting our fire, and simply wandered over to give us a hand.

Not long after we got our fire going, a couple approached us from the road. I had seen them walk by a little earlier, and I guess now they got up the gumption to actually ask us to see the trailer. This was the second little tour we did, the first with a group of younger people, nice, but one young woman was a little too smitten with the Alto, which had her boyfriend asking her if she was willing to choose between getting a trailer, or having her "destination wedding". Both, was her rather assertive response. Pity the poor guy.

This couple would be in their early 50's, semi-empty nesters, and tired of tenting. They are huge mountain bike enthusiasts, actually now heading towards the Gatineau's to do a bit of cycling. They loved the Alto...everything about it. We talked for the longest time, it's always nice when complete strangers instantly fall for the Alto, their enthusiasm matches our own choices we make way back.  We could certainly see them as future owners, as they had the exactly same thoughts towards camping and trailers that we saw in us and see in our fellow Alto owners.

As they were leaving, another chap wandered in, from a few sites down from us, and now camping in a tent. He too was super excited to see the Alto up close and chat with us. We got back to sitting around the fire, by this time, it had some nice coals and was burning well. I sliced up some chunks of chorizo sausage, and grilled them over the red hot embers. Nothing like a little heat and infusion of smoke to add an extra dimension of tastiness to an already yummy bit of sausage. Washed down with a cold beer...hard to beat.

When the fire died down we turned in. What started out to be a dull overcast day, became a real nice day to be hanging around at a campsite.

Slept in till 9:00, although Dale was up and out early snapping a few pics of the early morning dawn, before returning for a few extra zzz's. High wispy clouds this morning, the wind is gone and the water is calm. We grabbed a quick coffee and breakfast, then got the boats into the water. Conditions were quite nice so we headed west up the river. Dale's mission is to find a few nice pieces of driftwood along the shoreline, and we are certainly in the right place for that. We headed further west than we ever had before, mostly because the weather and the water conditions were excellent. As well, the clouds passing over provided regular respites from the heat of the sun, a welcome relief, as there is no shade when sitting on the water. Dale was able to find a few pieces of driftwood that she liked, so they were fastened to the outside or stored in the cockpit for the paddle home.

part of Dale's driftwood haul
a couple of classics...jack pine and a loon
a little too early for this leaf changing nonsense
A swim was definitely needed when we got back, out came our trusty noodles and there was no difficulty getting used to the water, it was a welcome cooling relief. We floated aimlessly for quite a while, until the growing cloud cover started to cool us and the water. It started to really look like it was going to rain, and sure enough, it did. At first it was just a drizzle, then it came down hard enough to drive us inside. Not real hard, but it was making the perfect sound on the roof of the Alto, the kind of sound that simply says time for a little nap before dinner, which we did.

Salmon on the Q this evening, with our go to rub of the summer, 'B.C. Salmon Rub'.  A repeat of last night's quinoa salad rounded out the plate. While the grill was still hot, we placed a couple of butter tarts, closed the lid and let them warm in the residual heat. They were wonderful, with just a nice hint of grill to them.

We were tempted by a fire, but instead we took our chairs to the water's edge and just looked out across the bay. A nice way to close out the day. Being a long weekend we are fortunate to take in a fireworks display taking place across the bay, we think it may be at one of the two camping resorts further down the road. Quite the nice little display across the water and the interesting part is the sound delay, after a set of fireworks finishes we hear the sounds of the explosions a few seconds later as it travels across the bay. Pretty cool.

Rained most of the night, not heavy, but certainly continuous. It has stopped by morning, but from the clouds looming overhead, we will get more. No real rush to leave too quickly, we put on a pot of coffee and lounged around, a little reading, a little surfing the news. The sky cleared just a bit, the sun peeking out, so we headed out for a power walk. There is a great walking loop here, by heading back along the road to the camp office, the first part is a dandy hill, quite steep, which definitely gets the blood moving around, then the road slowly descends just a bit to the park office. A quick left turn takes you in the direction of the public swim area and the boat launch. You can also loop around the second campsite area, which are the electrical sites. At the other side of the beach is a path that takes you up a wooded trail and over a ridge and you end up at the far end of our camp road. A nice little hike.

Sure enough, it started to rain again, as a large black cloud emptied as it passed over. We waited it out, as we can see some clearing in the distance. Out popped the sun so we started to pack stuff away and hitch up. We skirted a few rain clouds, drove under a few others, and made it into Ottawa just ahead of another dark cloud to the west. Again as our drive up here was, another windy drive, and the traffic was pretty heavy.


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