The Now Famous Dossier of the Moose River

The Now Famous Dossier of the Moose River

A few weeks ago I got back from a 7 day trip up the Moose River in Northern Ontario with Sean Rowley from Paddling Adventures Radio. Some of you may have heard about our trip, some of you may have talked to Sean about the trip or heard about it on his Podcast.  I will be telling my view of the trip next week. However, I wanted to tell you about something I found really interesting about the trip. I am going to take you through the experience of going on a canoe trip with someone who actually plans things! Why? This is something very foreign to me. Who plans things?!!?!?!

I heard about Sean’s yearly solo trip that he does every fall and this year happened to be the year that he was going to paddle the Moose River up to Mooseonee/Moose Factory. It sounded like an incredible trip and just what I needed… a big adventure! Sean asked me if I wanted to go and without hesitation I said “Yes! Absolutely Yes!”. After I committed to the trip, Sean broke out the rules to his trip. I was allowed to go with him as long as I was solo. Yup, we were both going on the river in our own canoes to solo paddle. Odd.. But who am I to say no to an odd adventure! I’m still in.

Once the trip got closer, Sean and I met up for a few beers to talk about the trip. This is where things got weird. Well, weird for me. We sat down at a restaurant for wings and beer and out came the maps. Nothing strange about that… Any canoeist or adventurer of any sorts can look over maps for hours.. days… weeks without hesitation. It’s called Map Porn in our world! But after the maps… this strange manila folder appeared on the table followed by a second one that was identical. It was the first appearance of “The Dossier”.  I have never seen such a sight. It turns out – Sean is a planner. A planner of everything! He had a CIA-like dossier about everything you can think of: Tide charts; a day by day schedule of travel; a spreadsheet of meals by day and time; a detailed budget of how much the trip will cost;a printed description of the route we were taking; train schedules; packing lists; some rather in-depth personal information; criminal background check; DNA samples; internet browsing history on a profile of me that I am not sure how acquired.  Sean has planned everything almost down to the paddle stroke. Lol – I was at a loss for words. We have very different ways of prepping for a canoe trip, which turns out, was the best situation we could have been in.

The Now Famous Dossier of The Moose River Canoe Trip

The Moose River Canoe Trip Itinerary

The red marker lines = ManCamping’s attempt to show Sean all the stuff that we wouldn’t plan lol.


Sean Dossier Rowley – Plans as much he can and gets all the information that can be collected before going on a trip.
Scot ManCamping Robinson – Knows where he is starting & when and where he should be ending – The adventure is in between those two points. Premeditates his choice of Scotch for the trip.

The idea of ManCamping is to plan less (or not at all) and rely on yourself, your skills, your brawn and your brains to travel from point A to point B and take in the adventure that happens along the way. In our experience, the planning usually goes out the window once you’re out in the wilderness anyways. So to us planning, much like worrying is like a rocking chair: Fun for a little while, but doesn’t get you anywhere. Some of you may disagree and that is fine, it’s OUR way of thinking. So this trip will be interesting.

Since Sean is the planner, I left the purchasing of train tickets and all the rest to him, transferring him some money whenever something was paid for.  All I knew was when we were leaving. I packed up my gear in my usual packing fashion…. Do I have the gear to sleep? Eat? Poop? Be safe? Paddle? Be warm? Do I have my Scotch?  That should ensure all my gear is packed and off we go.

Skip ahead a few days, Sean and I are on the Moose River

As I expected, our plans rapidly changed once we started to paddle the Moose River. Our second day was supposed to be paddling down river (against the flow) 16km. We changed the plan and decided to take one canoe and make it a day trip due to the flow rate of the river. After about an hour of hard paddling and yelling at each other to DIG HARD!!!! We had made it less than a km and were no longer moving forward. Lol Not happening. We should have listened to the old guy who heard about our plan and asked what size engine we had on our boats lol.  We changed up our plans, deciding to float back to our campsite with the current and fished all the way back to camp.

Sean’s Tide Charts – No Bueno. We started marking the tides with sticks on our first campsite and they didn’t make any sense. Turns out this one was our fault… It wasn’t tide waters at all. Instead it was storm serge from further down river.  We used our heads and made sure we didn’t get swept away by the current in the middle of the night.

Canoe on The Moose River

Meal Planner – We both came home with roughly ¾ of the food we brought on the trip. This one we both knew would happen as we never eat as much as we normally do when in the woods. Not a bad thing to have extra food in case we get stuck for a longer period of time. This is something I always do and it has come in handy on multiple occasions. I even came home with 3 of the 7 pounds of beef jerky I made!  

Planned Camp Sites – The Moose River had done some planning of its own long before Sean started lol. The Moose River has very little in the way of campsites. The banks of the river are almost always cobblestone followed by a 4-6 foot high bank, impassible brush on top and then dense northern Canadian forest beyond that. Have fun camping in that. We kept our heads leveled during rain, hunger and even running rapids with impending darkness managing to always find a good sight.

Banks of the Moose River

Bank of the Moose River

Mother Nature can be a bitch – Sean had a print out in The Dossier, however everyone knows that the weather guys can’t be trusted.  Mix a wind storm with 90 km/h winds and 40mm of rain and no decent campsite to ride out the storm on… plans change and a hustle to make it to a known refuge at Tidewater Provincial Park had to be made. Our original plan was to stay and adventure around James Bay, Mooseonee and Moose Factory but another storm coming in combined with dropping temps made us make the hard choice of getting out of Mooseonee a few days early as a safety call.  Normally not something either of us would do, but we had made our destination, finished the river and spending days upon days inside our tents just didn’t seem like the right move. Sean’s tarp was already destroyed in the first wind storm so we didn’t even have a way of staying dry!

Now The Dossier did have it’s finer moments, not Sean, but The Dossier lol. Sean had made a call to the Tidewater Provincial Park’s Superintendent before our trip. The park was closed for the season before we would arrive there. Chris Caldwell made some calls on our behalf and got us permission to to camp in the park from both himself and the Moose River Cree First Nation that owns the land that Tidewater is on. Wow! That was incredible!

(Side Note: Thank you Chris Caldwell for your work to get us permission, leaving us 1 Picnic Table, 1 Open Outhouse and 1 roll of TP. You have no idea what luxury that was for two cold paddlers trying to outlast a wind storm! I can’t thank you enough… and Sean – I will high five you and the Dossier for this one)

Maps – I hate to speak bad about maps. I love maps. To the map gods – I apologize about this. The maps are bullshit! Lol. Gravel bars… freezing cold water that must be waded through and more Rockopotatmus than I have ever seen before.  The maps and the suggestions given to Sean during his planning went out the window. Below I have properly labeled a section of the map. If you would like a full set of MANCAMPING LABELLED maps of the Moose River, I would be happy to provide them to you.

Moose River Canoe Trip Notes

A little ManCamping Modifications to the Moose River Maps

The obstacles that the map shows VS what they actually are, vary wildly. It’s a good thing that we have now realized that we are ManCamping. We deal with each obstacle with hard work and creativity with a good healthy amount of curse words.

Hudson’s Bay Staff House – Sean’s ManCamping abilities came in handy here (I like to think the ManCamping luck played a big part here too). While visiting the Hudson’s Bay Staff House, a historic site to say the least, the house was locked up. You need to make advanced plans with the site to get in the building. Since we didn’t know when we would arrive there, we were unable to do so. We wandered around taking some pictures and reading the plaques. It just so happened that a gentleman (who’s name escapes me at the moment.), who runs the Moose Factory Youth Center and who is the tenant for the Hudson’s Bay Staff House came home for lunch and offered to let us inside for a look around while he was there! What luck! It was incredible to wander through this site.

Hudson's Bay Staff House in Moose Factory

Hudson’s Bay Staff House in Moose Factory

There is way too many incidents to tell you about on this trip but the last one you need to know about is probably our most hap-hazard one. Leaving our campsite on Tidewater at 11 am, we decided to paddle to Moose Factory to see the sites and planned to take the ferry back to Mooseonee in order to catch our 5 pm train back to Cochrane.  This would allow us to see Moose Factory and Mooseonee while avoiding the strong current, winds and heavily traveled boat lanes to get to Mooseonee. We had only a small target to hit on the Mooseonee side of the river before we were swept up river and into James Bay.  We paddled to Moose Factory, toured the areas we wanted to see and made it back to the ferry in time for the 1:30 pm ferry. Which unknown to us… was no longer running until 5 pm. After this information was confirmed by a phone call to the ferry company, we didn’t have much time to make it to the train in time to get our boats and gear loaded on and get out.  Water taxi’s were not an option with two canoes and all our gear…. “Pack up your shit Sean! We’re making a paddle for it! We can still make it!”. Sean and I packed our gear and paddled like hell making the entire crossing in pretty damn good time. Long story short. We made the train.

Turns out that the two very different planners make an excellent pair of paddle mates. Sean Dossier Rowley wants to plan as much as possible and I don’t plan at all. However, Sean is much more of a ManCamper than I expected changing plans, pushing through obstacles and making decisions on the fly without hesitation (Or at least he faked it like nobody’s business lol). I had the pleasure of enjoying Sean’s prep work with things like the Tidewaters Campsite, soaking wet – freezing cold boots, tang & vodka and many others lol.   

While I will stick to my ManCamping way of life, I can see why some of you plan ahead. Just be sure to be flexible enough to change your plans on the fly because plans will go out the window at times.

If you see or talk to Sean Rowley …. Please start calling him Sean Dossier Rowley. I am determined to make this name stick. If you get the chance to go on a trip with him – Do it. I would trip with a planner like you any time buddy. Lol.

Next week I will post a full trip report of the trip!

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