Glenorchy Conservation Area

Glenorchy Conservation Area, Oakville  Ontario, Halton Region.

What the …. is the Glenorchy Conservation area? and why you should be interested as a white water paddler?

It is a 401 hectare parcel  of land that includes a beautiful section of the 16 Mile/Oakville Creek valley in Northeast Oakville.

Well, as a young paddler who started paddling white water in 68 who witnessed the abuse of the GTA watersheds, this is a lasting gift to the future of what the rivers were like in the area.


This stretch of water from what is now Neyagawa Blvd./ 4th line to Dundas St. can be an amazing stretch of white water.  Even thought there are changes, this is still a river of my youth.  The Credit River use to have similar ledges and slides till they put the Trunk sewer down the valley in the Middle/late 70’s.

What makes this a great stretch of whitewater?  for one approx. close to 40m of vertical drop over 7.5 k and most of that drop happens in about 4k.  To put that in perspective, it is a 100m vertical drop from where I live on 16 Mile Creek in old Milton to Lake Ontario and it is almost continuous  rapids to the lake. So almost half the vertical drop over a very short distance.

This stretch has the vertical drop with numerous slides and ledges that makes for great whitewater!

I have only run it once in full flood and it was a very solid Class IV with a few Class V trees/sweepers thrown in for fun.

There is a link down below to show you the creek at lower levels.

The higher levels shown are digital pictures of film pictures, taken before the river gauges went on line & waterproof digital cameras did not exist.  Lower level pics can be found in the link below to water levels.

Downed trees and sweepers have always been an extreme danger on this run, some are easy to see, some are submerged just under the surface and sometimes there are log jams hidden from view as you round sharp narrow channels the require very precise moves to avoid them.

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And there has been paddlers who have lost their boats to these trees over the years.


Yellow arrows show the length and location of a hidden sweeper.


The old bridge at the put-in is no longer there having been replaced with a new one (no cars allowed )


The cliffs give a very nice Canyon view and natural regeneration has made almost all signs of past usages disappear and that also makes this part of 16 Mile Creek very special.

You really do feel a long way away from the urban environment.




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This rapid does not really exist anymore as the creek is going through major natural changes here.  We called it “the Banzai Pipeline” after the surfing spot.  At flood levels you could stick the nose of the boat into the river wide curling wave and fly completely hidden across to the eddy on the other side!


This pic is just below the “Pipeline” and is part of the major transition, there is now a channel forming and the tree that is upright in this pic is now  a river-wide sweeper in the new channel.


The short stretch  upstream of the 407 is the start of 2 km of river awesomeness in high water, river wide waves, ledges and holes!  But there  has been years where we have had to be extremely careful because of downed trees, and one year there was a land slide and over half the river was damed by the debris which was all gone by the next year.

Hint this guy is a “little” younger me 🙂



Just below the 407 the fun continues!



Last ledge in the “awesome” section and yes there is a paddler in there, you just can’t see them and you can see that we are in the bushes to get the pic.


From here down to Dundas again the Creek is in constant transition, there are channels that we ran that are no longer there and others the size and width and you never know were log jams and sweepers will be.

16 Mile/Oakville Creek trip report & levels Updated May 2017

This is not the first time I have written about 16 Mile Creek.  A number of years ago (1998) Halton Conservation published a fundraising coffee table book called “Halton –  Rising, Wild, and Beckoning” I wrote the introduction for Chapter 6 – “The Sixteen Mile Creek Mystery Tour”

What I wrote then still resonates today Quote ” During high-water conditions, Sixteen Mile Creek is known throughout Ontario as a premier  whitewater river.  Hidden away in the Golden Horseshoe, the creek retains much of its wilderness beauty.  I was introduced to its challenging rapids in the early 1970’s.  Twenty-five years later, during lower water flows, my children and I have encountered all kinds of wildlife, fascinating fish runs, and bird migrations that few people take the time to watch or even know exist.  When paddling from Hilton Falls to Lake Ontario, one encounters the many faces of Sixteen Mile Creek, from a fast moving trout team in a wilderness setting to a raging, unforgiving whitewater river. The best part is that it flows right through the heart of Halton, to be enjoyed, respected and I hope, preserved for future generations.” unquote

I have watched the slow development of Glenorchy Conservation area, and I am indeed very happy that this being preserved!


Waterfalls Hunting in Algoma

This is for the Waterfall hunters/wilderness paddlers out there, it is as much as a warning to be careful as it is a taste to get you to visit the area.

This is really a simplistic introduction and hopefully it will inspire you to learn a little more about map reading and being off the beaten path.  Having been wondering around the woods since I was 5 ( I am a wee bit older now) has had it’s benefits, some through the Scouting program, some with my parents, and a lot on my own just getting out there.

There are dozens of waterfalls easily accessible by road, such as the Sand river, Silver Creek, and High falls.  There are dozens more that take a little work and time to get to, such as Bridal Veil Falls and the two Black Beaver falls at Canyon park and there are thousands more that are on the extreme side to get to.

For one the area is huge! with many different watersheds.


Even though I have been visiting the Agawa Canyon for thirty-two years now, sometimes 2 and 3 times a year, it does not make me an expert, it only makes me familiar with the area.

Sometimes changes happen fast and sometimes just slowly over time.  I depend on my local contacts up there for anything new that might have occurred, but even they acknowledge they only know what they saw on their last trip in.

This area is beautifully rugged and this is just to drive the point home that you must be prepared and aware of where you are going in. You also have to be aware communication with various modern devices also do not work when you are in most of these deep canyons.

To drive this point home.

Quote  “I took a SPOT satellite messenger (a GPS tracking device, which lost or stranded people may use to send out distress messages) and I fired off a mayday signal with that, but it didn’t get through”

Here is a link to the story from Dec. 2016, from the Sault Star.

To say Algoma is ruggedly beautiful is an understatement but you need to understand the topography so you know what you are getting into.  It is much easier getting maps and info than it was even 10 years ago, which is great, especially with the ease you can now get Satellite photographs.

Again you got to keep in mind some of the map information and SAT. photos can be a little dated and will not show the real the terrain actually is.  SAT. photos being 2 dimensional can give you a much better idea what is there, but many areas the resolution may not be that good and do not show the true depth of the terrain.

A good free site for Ontario is “Make a Topographic map”

The site can be a little funky and slow but it is good.

To give you an idea of a well known waterfall, here is the topo of “Bridal Veil Falls” at Canyon Station in Agawa Canyon.  The blue dot is the base of the falls.

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Here is the SAT image.

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And my image of the falls.

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Here is another Creek entering the Canyon.  Again just the maps and SAT. shots do not truly show the topography, let alone how thick the bush is in some of these areas.

Topo. Blue dot is the falls.

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SAT shot.

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Bottom of the Falls

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Above the bottom falls, as you can see the topo and SAT shots do not really show what you are getting into.

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A little less drastic, this is a Lawren Harris Location in Lake Superior Prov. Park.  Getting here is not easy either way you look at it.  On the maps it just does not look as big as it is.

Blue dot is again the bottom of the falls.

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What looks like a road is actually the ACR tracks.  There is no hiking trail to this location.

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The Bottom of the falls, This is just a whole series of falls that goes up above the ACR tracks.

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Which brings to the old question “If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound”

“Stuff” happens in the woods, sometimes you just can’t tell what trees are sound, and sometimes the storms are so violent they will take down trees you would never suspect.  You just have to choose an area to camp that you think is the safest.

Going to this area fairly often does give me some insight into what might change or what to be aware of.  You know with the hills this steep the slopes can be and are unstable.  So if you are hiking you need to leave enough space between  hikers should anything give way, and yes it has happened to me and that space was a saving grace.

This is a image of a recent rock fall face that happened sometime between my fall 2016 and fall 2017 trips and as you can tell by the fractures in the rock, there will be more here in the near future.  This was shot with my 50-500mm lens.

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So as we get into the cold/hard water season it is a good time to work on some of these skills.

Winter……. it is a whole different beast up here, and un-forgiving is an understatement. Bridal Veil Falls at – 30c


Be a Gord!

Be a Gord.

This posting short, sweet and to the point.

Even though this is pretty saturated with the passing of Gord Downie I have a challenge for you.

I would say I am a fan of his music, I am much more a fan of  the man who gave his name and his effort to save our waters.

I have long been involved in the fight to protect our rivers.

One of the things I felt most disheartened by was the lack of passion of people to put their names on the line.

Gord DID!

Even before his diagnosis.

He was a board member of Lake Ontario Water Keeper.

For those of us involved to protect our watersheds, it was something that we do not see.

If you are passionate about your rivers and lakes this is the challenge I have for you.

Be a Gord!

Put your name and voice on the line!

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A look into Gord the Waterkeeper

Grand Manan Island, N.B. July 2017





All good questions, and we will answer them, and then we will give you a thousand reasons to visit!

And if you are looking for Exotic! this is one of those special places in Canada!

I was in New Brunswick the last week of June and the first two weeks of July to visit PJ and hopefully paddle a N.B. river together.

A lingering severe ankle sprain quickly put that to rest, even having my son being the Sherpa, it was not a good idea to risk, considering I was walking with a cane, and even then short distances were a huge effort.

So plan “B” was to go to one of the National Parks either Fundy or Kouchibouguac, but being the first week of July there was news reports of heavy use there, and the popular areas were more than full.

So that led us to plan “C” which was check out the Provincial parks and see what was available.  One was to be able to paddle and two, some sort of other activities we could do together.

PJ is very good at finding neat stuff to do on line, were as I being an older fuddy duddy am a tad slow. (but getting better)

He came across the Anchorage Provincial Park and it had lots of vacancies, but it was on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy.

The red lines are the ferry routes.

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So how do you get there, well you take a 90 minute ferry ride from Blacks Harbour on the main land.  So right here we figured this idea was D.O.A. as a ferry ride like that must be prohibitive.  Then looking up the price we were more than shocked!  Not only did we double check the online info, we also phoned to confirm the price.

$60.oo round trip for the car and the two of us, plus you could also use the small ferry to go from Grand Manan to White Head Island….. wow! we where sold on that alone, and we had not even began to look at what else was on the island.  So we booked our departure and return trips on line, and that was super easy.

Then we started to look just what there was on the island,  we were surprised, but not nearly as shocked we became once on the island and realizing that we have found a little known treasure island.

Initially we thought we would camp at Anchorage, but the description of “Hole in the Wall” private campground  tweaked our interest, especially the “cliff side” camp sites both walk in and drive in.  So a quick exchange of emails and an explanation of my walking and ankle problems, we had a site and the owner assured me I would not have to walk far.

Lets stop here and introduce you to the down to earth, laid back Easterners,  I could put a whole bunch more adjectives in here but you really need to experience their unique hospitality.  If you want to get off the freight train of life for a bit, this is a breathe of fresh ocean air.  And it is so different coming from the GTA.

Well back to the story!  We were all set, not really knowing what to expect considering this island is fairly remote.

Disclaimer part 🙂

There are some sea kayak outfitters on the Island, and if you are unfamiliar with tidal currents and tidal rapids, it is a good way to go.

Even out at this end of the Bay the tides are over 3m (20′) There are certain parts around the Island were the currents can approach 10 knots (that’s 18.52 kph), So be prepared and get as much local knowledge as possible.

The area is also prone to incredibly thick fog banks, which adds to what else you must be aware of. It is also a very active fishing community so you must be aware of the boats as their windows for going in and out of their docks is small.

The place is eye candy though!

We left PJ’s place in Florenceville/Bristol at 6:30 am for the 3 hr drive to Black’s Harbour so we could arrive the 45 minutes early you need to for the ferry.  The ferries run every two hours, so you have lots of choice for your arrival time on the Island.

We where lucky! great photo conditions on our arrival at the docks

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The ferry arrives.

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The ferry ride was un-eventful, but we did spot some dolphins along the way,  but our first view  of the Hole in the Wall campground was impressive and made us excited to get there.

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The campground is less than 5 mins. from the dock.  The registration process is rather unique, and it works well for them.  The firewood, ice and showers are all on the honour system, and you do not pay for your campsite until the day before you leave.  It seems that people love the cliff side sites and you don’t have to leave your site, till you leave.  Which explains why you can reserve a site, but not a specific site.  Lets just say we were really happy with ours!  (Families with young kids are not allowed to camp on the cliff side sites. There isn’t a lot of safety barriers)

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It was threatening to rain so we got the tent and tarp and we decided to go for something to eat, even though the paddle conditions were favourable it was getting a little dull for good pics.  We got pizza at the Post office Pizza, just a little down the road from the dock. It was great.  We brought some food, but the idea was to eat locally as possible. We then suffered our only disappointment on the trip, we went to the North Head Bakery near closing time and they were just about sold out, but what they had left was amazing,  We did not show up late the rest of the trip.  This place would be a 5 star bakery no matter what kind of town it was in!   We then scouted out the boat launch on Whale cove so we would know where to go the next morning if the weather worked out.  we picked up some firewood to enjoy the evening and while we were waiting for dusk PJ hiked the trail to the  Hole in the Wall.  Did I say we had a really great site, and after the showers past we had an stunning sunset.

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Loved how the different colours looked drawn on the water.

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And if the campsite, and the sunset and the fire on the edge of the cliff were not enough, it was so calm after we went to bed that we had a National Geographic moment.  You could hear the whales surfacing and breathing, oh way cool, so cool I didn’t even think of recording the sound.

The next morning brought just amazingly calm conditions, It was hard to imagine that this was the Bay of Fundy.

Looking north at Whale cove.

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Looking south towards Nova Scotia.

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We had the tide charts and we wanted to get on the water 1 hr before high tide. The plan was to paddle to the Hole in the wall and if it was calm enough paddle out and around the point we where camped on, and our timing was perfect, very little current as we rounded the point. and no wind.

Our Campsite, right of centre in the image.

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View from the canoe.

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We paddled a little more around the point to the light house but the wind got a little funky along the cliffs and with the tide starting to go out the currents where starting to swirl and get stronger.  So we headed back towards the hole in the wall hoping the sun would be overhead enough to get some good images.

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Whale cove was still super calm so we decided to paddle across to the point on the north side of the cove, and we heard these guys long before we could see them, they were about 200 m out further than us. Shot with my 50 – 500 lens.

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The cove itself was still very calm and very hot in the sun.  We saw several types of Jelly fish.

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This one was neat and if you look close you can see a small fish that was eating whatever little things that grown on it.

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Northern end of Whale Cove.

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When we got to the end of the cove we stopped on shore for a snack and to take in our surroundings.  With the tide going out the canoe was quickly high and dry.

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Looking south.

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We saw a couple of seals here, and a local fisherman warned us about the point.  He said be careful as the currents here are never less than 4 knots. ( 7.41 kph)  We paddled up and put ourselves between a couple of boulders along the shore so we could get of pics of the currents, and we watched a young seal struggling to get back into the bay.

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On the way back to the boat launch we passed a couple of small water falls.

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Herring season was just getting set to begin so the fisher people were out repairing their traditional herring traps and this Cormorant was just hanging around looking for an easier meal.

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What started as a 2 hr planned paddle became a 5 + hour over 12k, in just unbelievable conditions.

Now just for second lets talk about small communities and what they see is going on.  It was not only funny but pretty amazing how many locals knew who was out paddling in Whale Cove, funny because we felt watched, protected and amazed because just how many knew.

Nothing is very far on the island but the services are scattered a bit so we needed a grill to BBq so we headed off to the local Home Hardware, we got a very good grill he can use on his trips  and I found some glass fuses that I needed back home and  I could not find anywhere else unless I bought a multi pack of various sizes.  It was a multi pack but only of the size I needed, I bought 2 packs. 🙂   All the prices were very reasonable (similar to GTA)  considering the effort it takes to get supplies here.

Then we invaded the bakery! No disappointment this time! We wanted an early supper so we could go to the Long Eddy Point light house for Sunset.  This is one of the typical Herring boats, this one nice and new.

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And it was a great Sunset!  Looking to the neighbour to the north, the State of Maine.

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Day 3 was very windy and the winds accelerate along the cliffs, no go on the paddle today.  So we decided to head out to check out the rest of the island.  We passed the road that takes you to the small car ferry to White Head and then realized it would be a good thing to go in the morning.  It is a first come first served and we where # 4.

Ferry pulling into White Head.

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On the ride you get to see why it is called White Head.

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The roads on this island are very good and they are working on a hiking trail that goes all the way around the light house.  To get to the light house was quite the walk for me and my ankle, but my Sherpa carried my camera gear as I gingerly and very slowly made my way along. You can not see it in this image but about 300m to the right of the light house is one of those tidal rapids with extreme currents,  They are constantly changing, waves, holes and whirlpools. not something to be trifled with.

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There is a little general store/snack bar by the ferry dock on White head, and it is typical of what you would expect from any remote town, but the burger we had was pretty amazing fresh homemade patty with the option of fresh or fried onions! we took the fried!  Another wonderful surprise.

So the next stop of the day was the Southwest Head Light house. Be warned:  If you come here there are NO Safety Barriers. Which is great for un-cluttered views.

As much as my ankle was hurting I was going to slog up the trail the  500m to the first lookout,  and yes if was worth it.  Looking south at the light house.

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Looking north towards the next lookout point.

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The little dot is PJ hiking to the next point.

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And through the big lens zoomed in, showing PJ following the rules of taking pictures in vicarious places by getting strongly anchored before even setting up for the pic.

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Next stop…. “Flock of Sheep” A group of erratic rocks that from the water look like a flock of sheep.  The main trail is not short or easy, we did not find a lot about this until after we got back, it took some more digging, but it seems it would be better from the water.  We did not go the whole way in but we did find one ladies sandal in a mud pit. You need good hiking shoes for this one.  But the sign showing the start of the trail was priceless and worth the stop alone.

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Next stop was the historic fishing village of Seal cove with many of it’s old Herring smoke  houses still intact, with some being converted for tourism.  Found out after we got back that Grand Manan is an Arthur Lismer (Group of Seven) painting location, and one paintings looks like it could still be here.  We would have looked a little harder had we known.  It would be a great place to paddle at high tide, but it was beautiful.  Like stepping back in time.

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The old harbour break walls of Seal cove.

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We headed back to the bakery on our way back to camp for dinner and to get one last stop on our last night here.  The Swallow tail light house. The goal was to catch it with the setting sun and catch the departing ferry in the image with it.  This is immaculately maintained and worth the visit.  Away from this point it was windy, but once on the point it was nuts!  Such an amazing example of what the cliffs, the point and the water do when they come together, this was it’s own weather zone, and you could see why they anchored the light house down with wires.  You get to walk from here to the light house.

Good thing I had my camera Sherpa to drag all  my gear around!

Light house in Golden hour light – Check!

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Light House and Ferry – check!

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Light house in perfect photo conditions – no filters needed – Check!!!!

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We had been truly blessed with the weather we had, even the locals said it was amazingly good,  but that was all coming to and end.  We had planned and booked the late ferry so we could spend the day exploring some more but once we heard the forecast we decided to see if we could re-arrange our spot, Bonus! we could!  The weather they were calling for was so bad they cancelled the trips for those that were going to visit Seal Island, (Puffin and bird sanctuary, and a manned light house on a tiny island that is contested with the U.S. )  and if you had been on the waiting list for up to 2 years you would have been really disappointed.

Last night camp fire, and that look tells you just how well the trip went!

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The last morning was nice enough and reasonalby calm and we saw more whales, which had moved into whale cove where we had paddled, dolphins, seals and a “Common Elder” a goose that is on the “threatened” list.

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Once the weather turned we had a few more errands to run.

1 Raid the Bakery & stock up!

2 Pick up some Dulse, (famous local edible sea weed)

3 Pick up some smoked salmon from the Post Office pizzeria!  (they do more than pizza! )

(I bet you are hungry now 🙂 )

Then we signed in for the ferry and had a nice meal at the restaurant  beside the dock.

This place is an amazing jewel! and you really should visit it if you have chance before it gets discovered by the hordes.

There is a ton of stuff to do, even if you have some mobility issues

I give Grand Manan 5 stars!

It is exotic as any place I have paddled over the last 50 years, and that is just a “few” locations. 😉