Nessa and I arrive in the small town of Montreal Falls, Ontario, a town that was once centered around a waterfall. Where the waterfall was, a dam now stands with the fourth longest bending train trestle in the world going across the top. Behind this dam, the Montreal River spreads out through various gorges. For the next couple of days, we will be spending our time up this river.
We begin at the Base Camp. We arrive here, and we meet our guide of this journey. He gives us the information about the river and the various points of interest. Once the meeting is over, we go and get our things that we will need for the journey, and we take our things and load them onto a pontoon boat. This is where the real journey begins.
We look over and see the train trestle going over the dam. There is no train currently. This is just a landmark that is used to let you know that you are back at the Base Camp. We begin to head upriver, and we pass by a few coves before we come to Mount Sinai. There is a mountain in Egypt with the same name, but this one is in Canada. The mountain does not look very high, but it is a straight climb up almost vertical cliffs to the top. Our guide tells us that this mountain is a rock climber’s dream. He continues to tell us that it is also one of the best ice climbing spots in the world. Since neither Nessa nor I are ice climbers nor rock climbers, we just enjoy the view of the mountain.
We go up the river a little way, and we come upon the Isle of Patmos. This is not the same Isle of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. This one is the largest islands in the Montreal River about eight kilometers long, three kilometers wide, and the highest point is about seventy meters high. Our guide tells us that we will spend our first night here in a cabin near the easternmost point on the island. We approach the cabin, and our guide unloads our things. Once we unload everything, our guide says to us, “I will be back early tomorrow. Have a good night.”
Our guide goes back onto the boat and goes away. We go to the cabin and set up our beds. The cabin has no running water or electricity. Our only lights are sunlight, our flashlights, and a fire. Although there is a stove in the cabin, we choose to cook our food over the fire. Since I am not a cook, Nessa does the cooking. We eat very good on our first night in the wilderness, and we spend the rest of the night just sitting by the fire. When night comes, we head into the cabin and go to sleep.
I wake up in the morning, and I see that Nessa is already out of bed. I get up, get dressed, and go outside the cabin. I look around, but I do not see her. I yell out, “Nessa!”
“I’m over here,” she replies.
I go over to the river, and I see her sitting on a log with her feet in the water. She smiles at me and says, “Come and join me.”
I make my way over to her. I put my arms under her and lift her up. I ask her, “Do you need a lift?”
“As long as you are the one carrying me,” she replies.
I carry her back to the fire pit, and I set her down on a log. I then start a fire. Once the fire is hot enough, we cook breakfast. We enjoy our first morning in the wilderness by the fire.
Later in the morning, our guide returns. We put our things onto the boat, and he takes us further upriver saying goodbye to the Isle of Patmos. We go a few kilometers, and we arrive at Ten Mile Falls. The guide tells us that the name comes from the fact that it is exactly ten miles from the Montreal River mouth into Lake Superior. We stop here, and our guide takes us to the top of the falls, which is only eight meters high. We decide to eat lunch here. We finish eating, and we head back to the boat and continue up the river.
We pass by many islands. Some of the islands have cabins on them. The guide tells us that the cabins are mostly inhabited during the summer, but some of them are inhabited all year round. As he explains to us about the area, Nessa and I think about how it would be to live up here all year long. We look at the beauty of the area, but we think about the winters and how brutal they are.
We arrive at a place called Blackhawk. Our guide tells us that we are fifty-five kilometers from the nearest road and seventy kilometers from the nearest town. It is here where we will spend our next two nights. We offload our things from the boat, and we say goodbye to our guide. As he goes away, we look across the river, and we see a very high cliff. This is the same view from the front porch of the cabin. If we only had this view from our own home. This will be our view for the next two days.
Our guide told us that we could possibly see the Northern Lights if the sky was clear enough. We sit by the fire that night, and we look up, but we do not see the Northern Lights. We see a few stars and some clouds. Neither of us has ever seen the Northern Lights before. It looks as if we will have to try again the next night. We spend time by the fire before we start to get sleepy and head out to bed.
We get up in the morning, and we see the calmness on the river. The sun is rising. This is a great time to have breakfast. We finish eating, we get our things together, and we head down to the river to get into a canoe. We paddle our way upriver, and we pass by the Cow River. We were told by the people at base camp that the Cow River goes out for a few kilometers, but we need to save our energy for our destination. We continue to paddle our way up the Montreal River until we come to a place where we cannot paddle anymore. This is the beginning of what is known as the Golden Staircase. The Golden Staircase is a series of waterfalls along the Montreal River. The name comes from the color of the water as they pass through each waterfall.
We pull the canoe onto dry land, and we walk over to what is called the first step of the Golden Staircase. We see two separate waterfalls, but the water level is low. We were told at Base Camp that it is one waterfall, but when the water level is down, it makes it two separate waterfalls. We look at the falls for a little while before it is time to hike again. We first climb a cliff that is five meters high. As soon as we get to the top, we look down on the First Step, and we can see the falls with a much better view, and we see the Second Step just over the First Step. We then continued our hike.
We hike on a trail that is very narrow. We step over rocks and fallen trees, and we get to the basin behind the Second Step. We look at the basin for a little while, and we then continue the trail. We go up a very steep hill, and the trail gets narrower. We grab onto trees and roots to pull ourselves up the trail. We climb and climb and climb until we come to Snake Rock. Snake Rock it a pile of rocks. We were told that the rock gets its name from the fact that snakeskin was found beside the rock. Nessa is terrified of snakes, and although we were told that they are very few and that they are neither poisonous nor venomous, she is still terrified of them. We decide to rest here since we are tired from climbing up that steep hill.
We continue our hike, and we come along side of a chasm. The Third Step is located inside this chasm. We hike down, and we see the top of the waterfall. The Third Step is hard to see because it is so into the chasm. After a short while, we go back up to the trail and continue.
We come to an overlook, and we get a good look at the Fourth Step. The waterfall is so close, but we have a long way to get there. Just below us, a river feeds into the Montreal River, and we must cross this river to get to the Fourth Step. In order to cross this river, we must travel about one kilometer up this river. We continue this trail along the river, and we come to our crossing point. It just happens that we must go across a waterfall, but it is a small waterfall. We arrive at the waterfall, and we see a few steppingstones to walk across. I cross first and make it to the other side. Nessa starts to cross. She gets most of the way across when her right foot slips off the rock and goes right into the water. I grab her arm and pull her up. Her right foot is soaking wet, but the hike to the Fourth Step is very easy from here.
We arrive at the Fourth Step of the Golden Staircase. Although there are many more steps along the Golden Staircase, it is here where our hike ends. Nessa finds a place to sit down. She takes her wet shoe and sock off, and when she rings her sock out, a heavy amount of water comes out.
“Your sock holds more water than my canteen,” I say to her.
She looks at me and asks, “Would you like a drink?”
“That’s O.K.,” I say to her. “I think the water in my canteen is much nicer.”
She takes off her other shoe and sock and says, “My feet are aching. I am going to cool them off.”
She gets up, walks over to the water, and puts her feet in, and she enjoys the feel of the cool water. I just sit down on a nearby rock and enjoy the view of the scenery around me. We stay here for a good while before making our trek back to the First Step and back to the cabin.
That night, we sit outside and look up at the sky, and we see clouds with a few stars. We see no Northern Lights. Despite that, we still enjoy the view on the sky knowing that we do not see this back at home. We sit out here for a little while until we decide to go into the cabin and sleep.
We wake up early in the morning. We eat our last breakfast in the wilderness. We pack up out things, bring them down to the river, and we wait. As we sit there, we look around, and we get a last look at the scenery around us. We see the high cliff across the river. We look up and down the river. We see the trees surrounding the cabin. We were here for just two nights, and it feels like it was our home. Our guide arrives, and we load the boat and make our return to the Base Camp.
At the Base Camp, the first thing we do is head for the showers. After three four days in the wilderness, it feels so good to be clean again. We later eat dinner, and eventually go to bed.
We wake up in the morning, and we take a walk down to the boat dock. We look around and take a final look at the wilderness around us knowing that we are going to leave this place very soon. We see the river and the mountains and coves, and we feel sad about leaving this place, but we know that we must return to our normal lives back at home. Nessa takes her shoe off. She dips her toe into the water, and she moves it around making ripples in the water. I look at her, and she looks at me. Currently, we are thinking that maybe we are at home, and this is our normal life.
Be warned. If you ever come to the Montreal River, you may never want to leave here. The beauty of this wilderness will overcome you just as it overcame us.