I came across this rather humorous report on BCWA about a 2011 trip in Quebec. I trust you will enjoy it and realize how important maps and contingency plans can be. This is one of those trips you would never forget.
CP, Montreal PQ --
Questions are being raised about certification for outdoor guides following the release of a police report on a canoe trip that went very wrong.
According to the Gagnon, Quebec police report, a guided group of American tourists set out on a canoe trip on Manicougan Lake. As the Full Circle Tours group of 12 prepared to launch at Gagnon, the guide suffered a hernia lifting a cheap canoe off a van and was rushed to hospital in Baie-Comeau. According to the assistant guide who took over the group, the senior guide had time only to instruct him to "take the group to the put-out at the dam". Manicouagan #5 is located 60km south of the lake, on the Manicouagan River. The guide was not the only resource they lacked. It turned out they also left a bag in a rented van -- a bag containing what turned out to be the group's only maps, GPS and satellite phone.
"We looked for the gear for two days before facing the fact we didn't have it." said Paul Addled, the assistant guide. "We all discussed the matter and agreed the route was simple enough that it wasn't worth going back and ruining the trip." Little did they know what an adventure they were in for. The group was totally unaware Lake Manicouagan is a donut-shaped reservoir, formed when the dam filled an ancient meteorite crater.
Had the group headed south down the east shore, they would have reached the lake outlet and the river. Unfortunately, they chose to parallel the west shore, which is actually the east shore of a huge island that fills the center of the lake. At 75km in diameter with rugged shores, the lake's gradual curve is not apparent from the water. Addled said they became utterly perplexed as some of the group noted and insisted the position of the sun, which, as they unwittingly turned west, then north, started rising in what they thought was the west, and set in the east. "Yeah, it just made no sense whatsoever." said Addled, "Who would imagine a lake shaped like a circle? We had some very forceful personalities that insisted nothing was wrong. Those who disagreed with them had no explanation for what was going on, so it seemed best to just keep on going and see what happened. We started to question our sanity, and the atmosphere of the trip got quite strange at times."
Because the group had food and time to reach the dam, they got all the way to the north end of the lake again before being reported missing. "We never dreamed something like that would happen, and we thought we were on schedule," added client Sally Forth contacted by phone in Shinekteky, New York. "So we weren't running out of food or anything like that. The sun thing seemed a bit odd, but I trusted the others knew what was best."
The alarm was raised when the group failed to show up at the dam. Several days were spent searching the east side of the lake for aftermath of a canoe accident. When no trace of the group was found, the search area was expanded, eventually to the west side of the lake. The group was found, a little hungry but healthy, still on the central island's coast, but just opposite their starting point in Gagnon and now headed southeast. "The lake got narrower, so we thought we were in the river." added Addled.
"I've never seen so much confusion in my life." said bemused Gagnon QPP officer Marc Soleil, describing the surreal scene as the group tried to fathom why they were being rescued and how they had somehow returned to Gagnon. The group was rushed to the town clinic for checkups and symptoms of poisoning as a result of their confusion and incomprehensible bizarre stories about "bad water" and the sun's orbit reversing.
Some of the clients said they probably won't book with the company again. Apparently however, other clients fully enjoyed what they called their "altered state adventure". Some of them, including Forth, have already signed up again with the company for a trip described on Full Circle's website as being a "Forest Wander" in northern Saskatchewan's boreal forest.