Canoeing

 

Welcome to the section of explor8ion.com that's dedicated to one of my first real wilderness loves, before I moved to Alberta and fell in the love with the Canadian Rockies.

 

Since there's no mountains in Manitoba, I fell in love with a different brand of Canadian rock - the Shield country. This land of granite, water and pine trees is a paddler's paradise.

 

Canoe Tripping and Discussion Links:

 

 

Below is a listing of fly-in and canoe trips that I've done.

Atikaki - Shining Falls Lodge 2012 - Family Lake (MB)

Interesting Facts: 

"At Shining Falls Lodge we share your passion for fishing. That's why we chose this island lodge to establish a unique Manitoba fishing camp. It is ideally situated between the Atikaki Wilderness Area in Manitoba, and Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario." - from shiningfallslodge.com.

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Tuesday, July 3, 2012 to Saturday, July 7, 2012

When my dad did his last wilderness canoe trip with me in 2005, I was saddened that we would no longer be able to share this great privilege of traveling, fishing and sleeping in the heart of the Canadian wild together. We did many more canoe trips over the years since 2005, but I always wished we could have dad along. He claimed that sleeping on the infamous Canadian Shield rock was simply too hard on him at his age, but I suspect the grueling schedule that we chose didn't help any either.

 

Finally, in 2012 I had enough money to offer an alternative to dad, and my two brothers. Instead of the grind of a wilderness canoe trip, why not try a wilderness fly-in fishing lodge instead? This would offer us many of the benefits of a canoe trip such as great fishing, days on the water in Shield country, the call of the loon and some incredible relaxation and peace and quiet away from the humdrum of normal life.

 

The biggest barrier to fly-in trips for us was cost. The second biggest was pampering. The Dewit boys don't have a ton of cash and we don't like too much hand holding either. I managed to find us the perfect alternative at the Shining Falls Lodge, located on Family Lake on the very northern edge of Atikaki Provincial Park in north-central Manitoba. Shining Falls Lodge was the perfect compromise between cost and pampering because they have differently priced options for thier guests. They have an option called the "Housekeeping Package" that allowed us to bring in our own food / drinks, cook our own food and take out our own boats, wherever and whenever we wanted. We even managed to score the so-called "Honeymoon Cabin" (Cabin 4) which is the most private with a very nice, private dock as well.

 

What follows is a journal of our trip from Monday, July 2nd to Saturday July 7th 2012.

 

Monday July 02 2012

 

Originally we planned on driving up to the Blue Water Aviation base in Bissett, Manitoba the morning of our departure on Tuesday, July 3rd. After contacting the company it became apparent that this was a risky proposition since flying in the north is unpredictable and our flight times could be moved around at the last minute. We made a last minute decision to stay at the Northern Wings B&B in Bissett the night before our departure.

 

The drive up to the town of Bissett (population 125) was very familiar for Dad and I as we've done it several times for various canoe trips in the past. Once we got onto Provincial Road 304 it started feeling like our trip was finally going to happen! This is a gravel road that can be extremely rough, but we got pretty good conditions. It was a stifling hot, humid summer evening when we stepped out of the truck and checked into the B&B. The room was nice enough but the A/C was cranked so high we almost needed sweaters! We spent an hour or so checking out the waterport for Blue Water and scoping out the local gold mine (Bissett's main employer), before turning in for the evening.

 


[Driving up highway 304 it starts to feel like the north when we are sharing the road with ATV's!]


[The road changes to gravel but at least it's in good condition on Monday evening as we approach Bissett.]


[Sharing a laugh with some locals who were fishing off this rock.]


[A hot, humid evening with thunderstorms building to the east and the full moon rising over Bluewater Aviation's waterport and the local gold mine which was booming back in 2012 but now in 2015, is apparently in trouble.]

 

Our decision to sleep over instead of drive up the day before was justified when the owner of the B&B, Barry, passed on a message from Blue Water, letting us know that our flight would be leaving an hour earlier than planned. Sometimes being paranoid pays off! ;)

 

Tuesday, July 03 2012

 

After a friendly breakfast with Lim and Barry at the Northern Wings B&B we were ready to fly to Shining Falls. Barry told us a nice pre-flight story about a plane accident he had while taking off from the base a few years previous, which messed him up pretty good. That helped our jitters. NOT. We pulled up to the waterport just before 07:00 and instantly started loading our gear into a classic bush plane - a reliable workhorse of the north, the de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter. After a quick pre-flight check and conversation, we all piled into the plane and started taxiing down the lake. Dad got the front seat and Dale, Rod and I sat on benches along the sides in the back.

 


[A cozy breakfast with Lim and Sam at the Northern Wings B&B.]


[Our trustworthy air taxi - the Otter from Blue Water Aviation.]

 

The engines revved hard and very loud and before we knew it we were air born! Soaring over the wilderness that we've spent so many hundreds of kilometers canoeing and portaging through over the years was very special. I almost forgot my nervousness of flying (thanks to a mayday situation on my first-ever flight) with the gorgeous morning views we had and all the great memories it brought back.

 


[Dad gets co-pilot duties!]


[Dad and the pilot converse before take-off.]


[And we are airborne! Flying over Bissett on our way north.]


[The land I love - Canadian Shield country, dotted with hundreds of lakes and ancient aboriginal routes. Also some of the very best wilderness canoeing and fishing in the world. IMHO of course. :)]


[The plane's identity plate.]


[It's a very informal flight compared to most I've done!]


[Starting to bank into our landing at Shining Falls]

 

Less than 45 minutes after take-off we were already swooping over Shining Falls and landing smoothly on a calm Family Lake. A few minutes later we were unloaded on the resort dock and the plane was gone. Silence settled over the still morning like a warm blanket. We were greeted warmly by our hosts, Janice and Sam and their dog, Iggy. An hour after leaving Bissett we were checking out our new home for the next 4 days - Cabin #4 nearest to the mouth of the protected bay that shelters the Shining Falls resort. Sam went over the basics for the area, advising us not to interfere with the people of Little Grand Rapids located at the northern end of Family Lake, quite a ways from the resort. Apparently there was some bootlegging operations also taking place in the area and again, Sam sagely advised us not to interfere with anyone as it really wasn't our business. He kept asking us if we forgot gear - apparently most folks take a LOT more equipment than we did! We even had our own food and ended up taking half of it back with us! I told you we Dewit boys like things simple... ;) 

 

We really lucked out during our stay - we were the only guests in the entire resort which made it extremely relaxing and peaceful!

 


[The namesake of the resort - Shining Falls is quite large from the air. Unfortunately it was difficult to fish it from the top - we did catch some fish from the bottom later in the day.]


[Janice and Sam waiting on the dock for our arrival.]


[A steep turn into our landing on Family Lake.]


[Sam, Janice and Iggy welcome us while I load our rods onto the ATV for Sam to deliver to our cabin. He kept asking if we forgot some gear... I guess we don't pack as much as most folks do.]


[Iggy isn't convinced he wants us around but he'll tolerate us for four days!]


[The cabin was basic but plenty good enough for us! I ended up sleeping on the bench at lower left simply because it was cooler under two open windows than in the bedroom. Having a fridge and a barbecue was pure luxury compared to past canoe trips... ;)]


[The lovely and very peaceful view off our deck looking into the Shining Falls Resort's bay and main lodge.]


[At lake level - the water is calling our lures already.]


[Looking back up at cabin #4 from our private boat dock. This is also called the 'honeymoon cabin'. Awesome. :)]

 

Sam acquainted us with the boats and we chose a couple to use for the next 4 days. Every morning Sam would deliver fresh fuel to our cabin and every evening we took the empties back up the hill for him to pick up - it was a great arrangement. After loading our fishing gear and deciding that Dale and I would be in one boat and Rod and Dad in the other, we were ready to fish!

 

So where should we go? If you've ever fished a large, new body of water before, you know the challenges involved with finding fish and structure. Next fly-in trip I will inquire about fish finders and bring my own if they aren't offered by the resort. There is no better way than a fish finder to find underwater structure suitable for various fish. I think we all under estimated the size of Family Lake and how difficult it might be to find decent amounts of fish, especially during the hot summer days that we had. Our canoe trips are spent on rivers and streams where the fish are forced into small areas, usually around waterfalls, which makes them sitting ducks and very easy to find and catch. I'm not saying the fishing was bad - it just wasn't as easy as we thought it might be.

 

Also, on hindsight, Sam should have offered us the local fishing map (!!) on arrival and we should have communicated a bit more with him about the local fishing spots. Oh well. Not a big deal, but our first 1.5 days could have been a lot more productive with some more local knowledge and that fishing map.

 

Without too much planning, we decided to check out Shining Falls and try fishing from shore at its base for a while.

 


[Dale drives our boat from the main lodge area to our private dock. Look at the gorgeous beach behind him! This is truly a family resort, not just fishing.]

 
[Our fishing area the first day headed south of the lodge to check out Shining Falls and the surrounding bays. ++]


[It felt really good to be on northern waters again!]


[At the top of Shining Falls, tied to shore at the portage trail around the south side.]

 

Once we docked the boats at the portage around the south side of Shining Falls, we immediately noticed that this area is unsurprisingly, very well used. There was some litter and discarded machinery part way down the wide trail and some boats on the downstream side. Having a boat to navigate the bottom of the falls would undoubtedly be very rewarding as there is a huge number of large Walleye and other fish at the bottom of the falls. We could only fish one seam of water and even that was fairly productive in mid day heat.

 


[A well used trail around the falls]

 
[Having a boat at the base of the falls would make for a very fun day of fishing! ++]


[As it was, we could only fish a small part of the falls, but we did haul out some nice sized Walleye here.]

 
[The falls are quite large, this is a pano from half way up them. ++]

 

After fishing the falls for an hour or so, we spent some time hiking around the area, checking out the long expanse of white water before heading back out in the boats. The rest of Tuesday was spent fishing some nice weedy back bays with limited success, catching Northern Pike and Perch but not many Walleye and no great numbers of fish. We came back to the cabin for an excellent supper of barbecued burgers and cold beer. What a life! We headed out again after supper for a while, just fishing some local bays, again without great numbers of fish but beautiful weather and great terrain more than made up for that.

 

 
[More of the falls. ++]


[Some neat side channels around the falls.]


[We did catch some Walleye, here Dale releases one.]


[Fishing near Jackson Island]


[Late afternoon in some shallower, weedy bays on the southern tip of Family Lake.]


[The shallow, weedy bays had some very nice sized Perch!]


[A gorgeous, but very hot day.]


[Ahhh. This is the LIFE!! :)]


[A bit more luxurious than your average canoe trip up here... ;)]


[Heading out for some evening fishing on the lake.]


[Beautiful late day fishing on a glass-smooth Family Lake]


[A healthy Northern Pike]

 

A perfect first day was capped by a full pink moon, serenaded by the haunting call of a pair of loons just outside our sheltered bay. I have to say that the whole experience from the start to end of the day instantly made me want to do this sort of thing again!

 


[A gorgeous full moon rises over a pair of pelicans on the lake in this shot off our cabin deck.]


[Another shot of the full moon]


[Now it's really dark - but the moon is strong enough to cast a shadow!]

 

Wednesday July 04 2012

 

After an amazing first day, Wednesday dawned very warm, but much more unsettled than Tuesday. After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, we loaded up the boats and started exploring north of the resort, fishing bays and features such as cliff faces and obvious structures. About mid morning we found ourselves looking south at a nice bay, with a very strong wind whipping up some good sized waves. The waves looked big, but not tremendously so and we started into them. Almost right away I could tell that we were in for a rough ride! The waves were almost 3 feet high, which in a 16 foot boat feels very big! We managed to keep cool heads and got closer to the far shore - a sandy beach before Rod and my heart rate could normalize again. The good part about all the wind and waves was that the Walleye were active - they prefer waves since it knocks their prey off balance and hides them from predators such as Bald Eagles.

 

 
[A cloudy morning, looking across the bay towards the main lodge. You can spot another cabin on the right. ++]


[What a great way to start our day - breakfast on the deck!]


[Shoreline fishing. This area was protected by the wind.]


[This is a very deceptively peaceful picture. Just before this, we were fighting some big waves.]


[We hammered quite a few Walleye in this weedy, windy bay that was partly protected from the fierce south winds. We kept a nice stringer for supper.]


[A mating pair of Bald Eagles provided a great wildlife viewing opportunity.]

 

As the afternoon progressed, the wind got pretty strong and we became a bit nervous about sticking out too far from the resort on the choppy lake. We decided to head back to camp for early supper and to see what the weather would do. Thankfully we had a full stringer of Walleye to cook up and by 18:30 we were enjoying barbecued Walleye on our deck with the wind dying down very nicely. As we were cleaning our Walleye haul for supper Sam stopped by and we mentioned that although the fishing was pretty good, we were finding it tough to consistently find great numbers. Sam then mentioned a map that he could show us and we instantly perked up a bit! We agreed to visit him after supper at the main lodge.

 

After supper we visited Sam and Janice at the main lodge for a nice chat. Sam provided us with a local topographical map with some local fishing hot spots marked on it - this was information that would have been great to have the very first morning! Oh well, better late than never! After visiting for a bit, we again ventured out to fish around the resort area - there was a nice Walleye hot spot near a point just outside of the resort that seemed to consistently supply some action for us. The sunset was shaping up to be fantastic and I had to race our boat back to camp in order to grab my forgotten camera gear! I made it back out just in time to get some amazing sunset shots around 21:45. It was another great day on Family Lake.

 


[Back at camp around 17:00 to get out of the wind for a while. Sam was concerned about us - there were even trees blowing over at the resort!]

 
[Hands-down the best shot from the trip - sunset on Wednesday night just off the resort. Note Rod and Dad's boat on the left. ++]

 

We turned in after dark with plans to fish some of the hot spots on the map before checking out another tip from Sam. He mentioned that some folks ventured out to the Dogskin River which was rumored to be fairly productive. We planned to give it a try on Thursday.

 

Thursday July 05 2012

 

After another great breakfast on Thursday we headed out to try some of the local hot spots marked on the map we received from Sam. Unfortunately we didn't have much luck at the first few we tried and soon we were pointing the boats in the direction of the Dogskin River. This is where the GPS with built-in maps came in really handy - we found the river, no problem and started trolling and fishing along various bays and side channels. Before long we were catching much more fish than the previous two days! Often each boat would have one or even two fish on at the same time, including both Walleye and Northern Pike. The Walleye would seem to hammer our jigs as we trolled them out of the small side-bays, something I've never experienced before.

 


[A gorgeous day for fishing the Dogskin River - here we're fishing a little bay alongside it.]


[Basically every area we stopped and fished along the Dogskin had fish - and usually multiple catches along each stretch.]

 

We worked our way slowly south down the Dogskin until we found a deeper side channel that seemed to offer some great Walleye fishing in a weedy bay along with a great place to get out, enjoy lunch and stretch our legs. Of course within 10 minutes of stopping Dad was hammering Walleye again! :) After lunch we continued on down the river, enjoying a lot of bent rods and sharp teeth along the way.

 

 
[Stopping for lunch - Dad catches more fish! ++]


[Dad hammers another one!]


[Around 14:30 in the afternoon we found ourselves near another bay off the river, with some interesting structure and weeds. As we fished from shore we started to hammer Walleye again.]


[In the same bay as above, stretching the legs but still catching Walleye in all directions!]


[Interesting landscapes along the Canadian Shield.]

 
[In late afternoon (around 17:00) we found ourselves boating through this wide spot in the river. Note the two shallow rock shelfs right of center? Good thing Dad spotted these from the boat - we came very close to hitting them at full throttle! The bad part of boating in Shield country is that there are often shallow rocks in the middle of a body of water, where you'd least expect them. :(  This photo is taken from a high bluff near the entrance of this widening - we came in from the left. ++]


[Another view from the cliff with our boat docked far below. Don't slip!]


[Dad caught this monster at about 18:00 on the Dogskin. We still had over 1.5 hours of boating just to get back to the resort at this point.]


[NOW we're cooking with gas! Dad always manages to find the lunkers!]

 

After Dad caught the biggest fish of the trip so far, we decided to head back to camp for supper. It was a LONG boat ride back, probably over an hour at full throttle. We boated over 50km this day. We were very happy as we ate supper that night and relaxed around camp - checking out some of the local hikes and views over Family Lake. We were also very tired! We chatted with Sam, who seemed surprised at how great the fishing was for us in the Dogskin. He even agreed to leave us with extra gasoline for the next day as we planned to go all the way down the river to another rumored hot spot where some fast water provided a nice "fish factory".

 

 
[A beautiful view of Family Lake from a rocky bluff above the resort. ++]


[River Beauties and Family Lake.]

 

Friday July 06 2012

 

We got up early on our last day at Family Lake. We knew we had a long way to boat down the Dogskin River and based on Thursday's experience we were pretty excited to be going back there. With extra gas for the boats and a packed lunch, we were on the water by 07:30 and booking it towards the Dogskin.

 


[A Merganser Duck in morning lighting at 06:00 from our deck.]


[The duck flies away in morning sunrise lighting.]


[Ready for another day of great fishing!]


[Gunning across Family Lake on a surface of glass.]

 

Initially we cruised down the Dogskin, trying resist fishing too much as we wanted to make White Eye Lake, but we couldn't resist the perfectly calm water and great fishing spots! Sure enough, before long we were hammering fish again.

 


[Another gorgeous day for fishing.]


[Dale bags a nice Northern Pike.]

 

Eventually we arrived at White Eye Lake and fished our way across it until we hit the jackpot - a stretch of fast water where the Dog Skin River enters the small lake. This spot was certainly the highlight of the trip, producing countless fish and some really big lunker Northerns that were feeding on all the Walleye. We spent hours here - drifting in the current, jigging, casting and trolling the edges and even fishing from shore. More than once we all had fish on at the same time!

 

It looked fairly straightforward to boat right up the fast water but we didn't know what was after this spot and since it was so good here we didn't want to push it. We were also over 30km from the resort at this point and knew we were a LONG way from any assistance if something did go wrong. We never saw any other boats on the Dogskin, so we were way out there on our own. On hindsight we could probably have found even better fishing only a short way from this fast water at the so-called Whitefish Rapids coming out of Hutch Lake - maybe next time! After many hours of fishing we had to reluctantly tear ourselves away from the fish factory and start the long ride to the resort. 

 

 
[We hauled out fish after fish where the Dogskin River dumps into White Eye Lake. When the fishing slowed down in the rapids, we would simply start casting spoons along the sides for Pike. Everything worked here!]


[Looking through the fast water where the Dogskin River dumps into White Eye Lake. The old canoe was just sitting there - kind of spooky! We didn't realize it at the time but Whitefish Rapids lie just ahead out of sight in the distance to the left.]


[White Eye Lake was nice - but not very productive compared to the narrows...]


[Some last casts along the Dogskin.]

 

We got back to the resort fairly late and full of fish tales. After supper we relaxed and prepared for our return to civilization the following morning. Blue Water Aviation had phoned the resort while we were off fishing and told them to alert us to an 06:00 departure time, thanks to some unsettled weather arriving later. No rest for the wicked I guess!

 

Saturday July 07 2012

 

Saturday dawned clear and beautiful and by 06:00 we were packed and ready to go. We wanted to stay longer, but we felt that our experience at Shining Falls Lodge and on Family Lake more than justified the expense and time off.

 


[Sam and the main lodge.]


[A final shot at our cabin - I'm sure we'll be back.]


[Hard to be leaving on such a gorgeous morning...]


[Waiting for the plane.]


[Reluctantly loading our gear back on the ol' Otter.]


[Beautiful views of some small pot lakes on our flight back to Bissett.]


[Obvious signs of a forest fire from the air and a very interesting shaped lake.]


[Back in 'civilization' - as much as there is in Bissett! :)]

 

As I finalize this trip report, some years after doing it, I really want to do another one. Everything from the B&B to the flights to the Shining Falls Resort and Family Lake worked out perfectly and was coordinated very well. I felt like we got more than our money worth and can highly recommend all the parties mentioned here. Feel free to contact me for any details I may have left out.

Total Distance (km): 
60.00

Atikaki Provincial Park - Aikens Lake 2000

Interesting Facts: 

In 1985 the Bloodvein-Pigeon rivers region east of Lake Winnipeg was designated as Manitoba’s first wilderness park. Its 3,981 km2 is characterized by a landscape of rock outcrops and granite cliffs interspersed with a complex of bogs, fens, marshes, rivers and river bottom forest. The park features three river corridors and associated shorelines, including the Manitoba portion of the Bloodvein Canadian Heritage River.

 

(from Manitoba Parks)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Tuesday, June 13, 2000 to Sunday, June 18, 2000

Prolog

 

This is a journal of our exhilarating trip into the backcountry of Atikaki Wilderness Park in north central Manitoba in June of 2000. We are:

 

  • Canoe 1: Harold and Bill Slaa
  • Canoe 2: Dad (Fred) Dewit and Ron Vanderswaag
  • Canoe 3: Ryan Veldman and myself (Vern Dewit)

 

This is the way I remember it. This means that some of the details will be completely wrong according to whoever is reading them. This doesn't matter, because it only shows that for each of us this was a unique adventure even though we all went through the same action. I think that this was a wonderful trip and we did admirably. Nobody complained and we all got along fantastically even though the going got rough. Let's get into things!

 

Tuesday June 13 | 22:48 

 

First thought: "no rain"! I got up this morning with feelings of apprehension and excitement. The rain was pouring down. I wondered as we drove the 4.5 hours what we were getting ourselves into. Ditches were over flowing into fields, creating lakes and rivers where none should be. If fields and ditches were sporting class I rapids what was awaiting us? We got to Bill's place around 10:30 and after loading up his canoe continued on our drive.

 

Everyone kept spotting clear sky ahead, but we were always wrong, either that or the clear skies were avoiding us intentionally. Nothing could dampen our spirits though! We were going to Atikaki and the mighty Obukowin Portage and the bottom line? We weren't at work! After a bunch of Woody's burgers with side orders of onion rings and lots of coffee we continued on our journey. An old guy at Woody's told me that our trip would be awesome and the rain would end within 24 hours. We finally reached the last 80-km of wet, muddy road. In true character Dad drove at his constant 90 km/h, skidding all over the place making us all very nervous as Bill tried desperately to keep up. Harry kept reminding us that the new canoe trailer was very stable but I couldn't help thinking that a junior welder had put the extension on the hitch... ;)

 

At about 15:30 we pulled into the government campground on the Wanipigow River, our pullout at the end of the trip. We were leaving Bill's van here so we could pick up the truck from our starting point when we finished (this is reflected in the purple line on the maps). One look around in the pouring rain confirmed that this was probably a very convenient party location for all the local youth - there was every manner of Friday night detritus scattered around old fire rings. After we transferred all the gear to Dad's truck we piled in and headed off to Wallace Lake, Bill glancing back nervously at his abandoned vehicle. We got to Wallace shortly and began to unload the canoes and pack our gear. Then we noticed it - the rain had stopped! With renewed energy we paddled across Wallace and entered the Wanipigow River in short order. The river was much bigger than we expected because of the high water conditions. The size of the river, combined with our newfound dry conditions prompted us to set a good pace. The smell of pine, water and the great outdoors was like a powerful drug to our senses filling us with a sense of adventure and excitement.

 


[Getting ready to launch at Wallace Lake - the rain has finally stopped.]


[The launch point at Wallace Lake]

 

After what seemed like no time at all we were stopping at the halfway point for lunch in the canoes. The smell of nature gave way to the sharp draft of cigarettes and gummy bears. We pushed off again and continued our aimless wandering down the twisting, writhing path of the Wanipigow River. In a burst of rushing water we came out in Siderock lake and 30 minutes later were busily setting up our first camp on a prime location. The namesake of the lake, a huge wall of granite glared down at us from across the lake and the shrill call of the loon bouncing off of it reminded us why we were here.

 

 
[Our first two days were spent on this part of the map going from Wallace to Siderock on the first day (but via the Wanipigow rather than the portage) and doing the Obukowin Portage the second day to Obukowin Lake. ++]


[Checking out the route on the swollen Wanipigow River from Wallace to Siderock Lakes.]


[Camp on a small island on Siderock Lake - a very well used site.]
 

 

After setting up camp we explored for the Obukowin portage trail but couldn't find it. We were all desperate to fish so we will get up early tomorrow to find it instead. The stream we hoped to paddle is hopelessly choked with growth a little way up so we will be walking. Ryan Dad and Ron each nabbed a small Pike. I didn't land anything but had a few on. Harry and Bill each caught a couple of Walleye. I am laying in my sleeping bag; it's warm. My feet are a little damp; hopefully my sleeping bag stays dry. Harry and Bill can't get comfortable and I can hear them muttering. There is a bird chirping constantly, there is no wind and I can hear the sound of the creek gushing into the lake. It s a beautiful night and I'm very thankful that I have the freedom to enjoy it.

 

Wednesday June 14 2000 | 22:30

 

22:30 Happy birthday Ryan! First though today: "rain"! Ryan woke up at 06:00 and figured he'd sleep 'til it stopped. Well it still hasn't given up, and I'm pretty sure Ryan's awake, although it's kind of hard to tell after today, as we are all behaving like walking zombies. Sheets of cold water pounded us today as we exercised one of the most difficult physical endeavors of our lives: the torturous 5-km of the Obukowin portage in brutal conditions including driving, relentless rain, mud, cold winds, flooded trails and raging currents up to waist deep where we tripped over submerged trees and stumbled into hidden potholes.

 

[Editor Note: since the year 2000 the Obukowin Portage route has been detailed by both GPS and written accounts so that it's no longer such a beast and no longer so hard to find. When we did it initially in 2000 it was more of a route than a trail in places.]

 

The day started out with Harry reminding us every 2 minutes why we don t go fishing when there is a portage trail to be found. (For some cheap irony, please refer back to Walleye section from yesterday night.) Once we realized there was no "log cabin" to mark the start of the portage we expanded our search to where it "couldn't be". Dad and Ron finally found the orange marker an hour or so later and we were on our way. Ryan and I surged ahead, splashing noisily down the trail in ankle-deep water with firm ground beneath. We talked loudly to discourage wildlife and the mood stayed fairly light. The rain came down in bursts of moisture from the low gray clouds above us.

 

My hat kept the water off my face and promptly dumped it down my back. Within 30 minutes I was soaked, and only then realized that the hat should be worn over the rain jacket hood, NOT underneath it. We tramped back to our canoe after emerging on a flood plain where the small creek that we couldn't paddle up from Siderock should have been. Bill was a little pissed about his feet getting wet but we were all in good spirits at this point. The canoe carried quite well, although a bone in my neck seemed determined to carry the full weight whenever I wasn't paying attention. The first section of portage was 2500 paces and on the map it looked like we had already come half of that to the creek. Ryan emphatically declared that "it can't get much worse", so we piled our canoes full of gear, paddled across the raging creek and picked up the trail on the opposite side.

 

Grabbing a couple of extra packs I charged ahead on my own. Only then did I realize that we were in for it. Big time. The trail soon devolved into submerged trees and foot-eating bog. I struggled on and on in the relentless deluge, over rocks, through puddles, through little ponds over the trail and rivers 'til I thought I must be getting close to the end. I came to a section of trail where a boardwalk had been constructed. The walk was a jumble of logs and debris, buried in water up to my waist. Since I was already soaked and there was no room to go around the structure I simply charged right through it. My pack was getting unbalanced and carrying a 30 pound pack of food in one hand and a 15 pound in the other made for tricky navigating. The logs from the boardwalk threatened to snap an ankle or trap a leg. I made it through the mess to a sandy path on the far side, dotted with fresh moose tracks. I nervously glanced around as I leaned over, gasping for breath. The short shrubs and bushes that surrounded me seemed ideal shelter for a moose that might be a little perturbed at the weather, not to mention the stumbling purple and yellow apparition invading his territory, muttering and heaving for air!

 


[Yep! That's supposed to be a portage trail and it's now a flowing stream! This typifies the day we had on Tuesday...]

 

Since I thought the end of the trail had to be near at this point, I gave one last visual scan around me and charged on. Three hundred feet later I was stopped for another break. My pack was really becoming quite heavy; the rain was saturating everything adding unwanted pounds. I heard thrashing noises and Harry, Ryan and Bill came around the corner. I told them to pass me and continued on behind them. The end never seemed to come. By the time we finally stumbled out on the small lake at the end we were exhausted and I for one, was soaked right through, my raincoat keeping as much moisture in as out. After dumping our gear we had to repeat the whole exercise one more time to bring over the boats!

 

We paddled the small lake, which is simply a temporary distraction from the 5km long portage, and proceeded to look for the trail on the far side. I thought I saw a small orange ribbon off to the right in the back of a bog-choked bay but dismissed it as my frozen imagination. An hour later my image was proven reality, much to everyone's annoyance. As Ron was busy practicing his bog ballet he slipped and fell right in to the lake! I'm sure that from this point on he was the most wet and the coldest all of us. 

 

From here on my memories of the Obukowin Portage are a haze of swamp, rain, cold, wind, mud, trees and little flowers growing everywhere beside each section of so-called "trail". By the time we finally stumbled into Obukowin Lake we were almost too dogged to cheer, but cheer we did! Psyched up about finally finishing some of us started talking about making Caroll Lake before dark (it was 17:00). Caroll Lake is an 8km paddle from the outlet of the portage into Obukowin Lake, and we were bucking a very stiff and cold Northwest wind, still driving sheets of rain into our faces. To our credit we tried. We only managed just over 1 km, pushing ourselves within an inch of hypothermia. We coaxed each other to keep moving as we started to set up camp on barren rock, teeth chattering, rain pouring and wind howling. Once our tents were set up we quickly put on dry clothes and made a warm meal. No late night party tonight! We all turned in fairly early with a hard days paddling ahead of us tomorrow. We had conquered the Obukowin in the most brutal conditions imaginable. I thankful that nobody got hurt and for the privilege of experiencing the beauty around us. Hopefully the rain stops tomorrow. We are all on a limited supply of dry clothing. We have a lot of work ahead, but surely the worst is over?

 


[Camp was miserable on Tuesday night.]


[Setting up a wet camp - always a great time!]

 

Thursday June 15 | 22:08

 


[Some sunshine at camp in the morning on Obukowin Lake.]


[Our fire was warm Wednesday morning after a freezing and wet Tuesday!]

 

Fire! All six of us are sitting around a blazing fire drying out our stuff. We're on a point just in the entrance to Aikens Lake with a howling north wind buffeting our tents. We paddled a rough 23-km against the wind today.

 

 
[Wednesday / Thursday and part of Friday's route from Obukowin to the Gammon River, through Aikens and down the Broadleaf River. You can clearly see that Aikens Lake is huge and that northerly winds would impact our route big time! ++]

 

We woke up fairly tired and a bit stiff, with our drenched equipment laying all around on the rock beneath our tarps. The rain finally stopped and to our amazement the sun actually peaked through a few breaks in the low cloud cover. We snapped a few pictures to prove that the sun actually did shine on our trip and once again we were on our way. Pushing against a stiff wind we made our way up the lake and to the park boundary between Atikaki and Woodland Caribou in Ontario. We finally got to the falls delineating the boundary and fished for a few minutes. I caught a nice fat walleye.

 


[Dad and Ron enjoy some moment of NOT raining on Obukowin Lake.]


[Entering Woodland Caribou Provincial Park between Obukowin and Carroll Lakes.]

 

We pushed on into Carroll Lake and passed our previous nights intended camping location at around 10:00. No time to use that 18-dollar Ontario fishing license! We took a quick break around 11:00, relinquishing Ryan's gummy bear cravings. Always battling a stiff wind we entered into the Gammon River and exited Ontario. Ryan calculated that each cast he made in Ontario cost him about 4 bucks, but was totally worth it! My day was fairly rough; I couldn't eat and was in the bush at every portage. There is nothing quite like being crouched in the bush with the wind gusting around you, feet soaking wet from a leaking canoe (!!), rain coming down, stomach on fire - you get the idea! I took 6 charcoal pills from Dad and some rice from Harry so we'll see what happens. Apparently mixing pancakes in unboiled water isn't a great idea... ;) We went around some thundering falls today, including 30 ft Carlson falls where we got some nice pictures.

 


[Thundering Carlson Falls along the Gammon River between Carroll and Aikens Lake.]


[At the bottom of a set of rapids on the Gammon River - lots of Walleye at these spots!]

 

Most of the portages were short, allowing us to muscle the canoes over a steep hill of rock to the foaming tail-out of the rapid or falls. We saw a number of bald eagles, majestic and stately with their huge wingspan and white crowns. By the time we wandered into Aikens it was nearing 20:30 and we had a decision to make. The wind was churning Aikens up pretty bad and we were all cold, wet and tired from a very long day of paddling. We decided to camp on a point just inside the lake, once again not making our planned daily camping location, this time missing the mark by 3 km of 2 ft waves. We set up a cozy camp and proceeded to make supper and dry out our clothes as best we could. A storm slithered past us leaving a beautiful rainbow in its wake. Harry commented that this was a sure sign that the rain would stop eventually!

 


[Taking a break on Wednesday.]


[A rare peaceful moment in sunshine near a falls along the Gammon River.]


[Our fire at the camp on Aikens Lake. Note the rainbow from a storm that passed over in the evening.]


[Our camp on Aikens was nice.]


[A stormed passed us by on Aikens and left this nice reminder that the rain would end EVENTUALLY.]


[After the storm passed we got some nice lighting on the lake.]


[Aikens Lake is huge - this is a view from the west side of the island we camped on, looking north. You can see why any northerly winds would be uncool here...]


[Finally some clear skies as the sun sets over Aikens Lake on Wednesday night.]


[A nice warm fire on Wednesday night at the entrance to Aikens Lake near the mouth of the Gammon River.]

 

I can see the steam rising off the clothes of those standing by the fire. We are getting more cheerful as the night progresses because we are finally getting dry and warm. We have a very tough day ahead tomorrow but that s tomorrow. I caught 3 Pike and a Walleye today; at least the fishing is improving! Hopefully I can eat again tomorrow.

 

Friday June 16 | 11:25

 

Happy Birthday Hanneke! You're at home in a nice warm house sipping coffee and enjoying birthday treats while your hubby is 500 km away stranded on a rock in a large northern lake! We woke up to another day of rain and wind this morning on our rocky camp near the entry point of the Gammon River to Aikens Lake. After a hurried breakfast and breaking camp we loaded up the canoes and tarped everything in, glancing apprehensively at the very large waves crashing into the shore from across the lake. No one really mentioned that maybe the waves were too large, I think because we were already behind and didn't think we had any choice but to get in and paddle the 3 short kilometers across the bottom of Aikens.

 

Dad and Ron were the first to go. I watched as they pounded into the waves, bobbing off like a big green cork. Ryan shoved us off and we put our paddling into turbo mode. The waves were absolutely huge! They were so big that we actually crested them one at a time. Our canoe would ride up a wall of water, then crash down the other side. Since big waves tend to come in groups of three the canoe would bob over the first, crunch through the second and plow through the third, spraying us with ice cold water and threatening to swamp us. There was nothing we could do - once committed there was no safe way to turn around in the giant swells.

 

The wind howled, the rain drove into our faces, and our muscles burned and flexed in time to a panicked rhythm. I was so nervous after about 200 meters that I decided, "What the heck! If I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go hollering!" With that thought I started to yell like a wild cowboy on every wave, letting out some of the tension. I think that at this point Ryan was seriously doubting our success, but doggedly he slugged on, keeping us at a 30 degree angle into the waves so that we were kind of shuffling sideways to our destination which was a point that jutted into the lake, which we had to cut around before heading on to the SE side. Once we got close to the rocky point, it was supposed to shelter us for a quick break before pushing around it to the portage at the southern end of the lake. We passed Dad and Ron who were looking a bit rattled, and very concentrated on keeping their boat keel down. Harry and Bill were a good way back. Their tent takes a lot longer to fold; it's a lot smaller than any of the others. :) We finally hit shore and legs shaking we heaved the boat onto the rocks and waited for the others. All of a sudden I heard Dad shouting and one look confirmed that Dad and Ron were in deep trouble. Their canoe was half full of water and every paddle stroke made the water swish around inside the boat which made for a dicey situation; no stability; no steering; 400 extra pounds; all in waves that were hard enough to handle with a responsive craft. Sheer will power combined with lots of adrenaline saved them from ending up in the drink.

 

We helped a white-faced Dad and Ron onto shore. Dad s first comment, "I would like to see my wife again". Later he admitted that in all his adventures he had never feared for his life like on this occasion. Once Harry and Bill came in, it was already as good as decided. We were staying on this sheltered bit of land until the wind died down in a big way. We were all disappointed but more importantly we were alive and intended to stay that way. Sometimes you have to know when mother nature is too strong for you - especially if surviving is important to you. We set up a tarp for shelter and Bill proceeded to get a fire going. We made true scouts, lighting a roaring fire in the rain and wind. It helped that after a fruitless half-hour I remembered my emergency fire logs that started instantly!

 


[Making the best of a bad situation. At least we have shelter, fire and plenty of food. Too bad that I can't eat anything without getting diarrhea in the process... :(]


[It was tough to just sit there all day while the wind pounded us from the north.]


[At least we could dry some of our gear! This was by FAR the worst weather we've ever had on a canoe trip - before or since.]

 

Harry's wish: hot shower; Ryan's: steak and potatoes; Dad: quiet water; Bill: sunshine and pickerel; Ron: a kiss from his wife; Vern: peace in stomach-land. This is quite the adventure we have going. I think the guys are getting anxious and there's talk about getting home on Sunday. I think the wind will die down in 4 hours or so and we can get on our way. Slowly we're wearing down, a little mentally and a little physically every time we encounter rougher conditions than expected.

 

Friday June 16 | 15:35 

 

Conditions have improved but only about 5%. We want to get a message to the girls, so we're trying to flag down a fishing boat. Ron's quote upon waking from a deep slumber: "I went to sleep a man and woke up with nipples!" ;) We aren't sure if he'll make it! We want to go but don't want to risk it. We have 4200 paces to portage yet and will need energy for this. On a positive note we are now almost dry and well rested and fed.

 


[One thing about Ron - he can sleep absolutely anywhere! ;)]

 

Friday June 16 | 20:39 

 

We're setting up camp. The sky is clearing and hopefully tomorrow we can get under way. We will get up at 04:00 and put in a long day. The girl's fears should be alleviated, we flagged down a boat from the local fishing lodge on Aikens Lake and for 20 bucks he agreed to phone mom with our message. Sunday is now almost certainly our target date to get back to Wallace Lake. I'm hoping we can find the portage into the Broadleaf River system. Bill's infamous quote: "If it's on the map, it's gotta be there". Hmmm. Famous last words?

 


[Setting up camp on Aikens Lake for the 2nd evening in a row.]

 

This trip is tough but this land will certainly draw me back again - hopefully in much nicer weather!

 

Saturday June 17 | 15:25

I'm sitting on a large rock by a thundering falls, smoking my last cigar and enjoying a warm sun. We paddled on glass out of Aikens at 04:30 this morning and tackled the 2-km portage into the Broadleaf River system. The mist was hanging low over the water and only the silhouettes of the other canoeists were visible in the brilliance of a rising northern sun. We couldn't find the trailhead until Ryan and I scouted to the left of where "the trail should be" and found a cairn marking the portage.

 


[A gorgeous morning paddle out of Aikens Lake - conditions couldn't be more contrasting with the wild weather the day previous!]

 

The portage was very decent; a cakewalk compared to the Obukowin! No rain, no mud, warm temperatures and as always, beautiful scenery. We would clamber up a hill of rock and there off to the side would be a meadow, drowning in brilliantly colored flowers. Bill did a very nice vertical wipe out trying to avoid getting his Gore-Tex boots damp by balancing across a slick log! After the portage we fished for about 20 minutes and headed down into Kostec Lake, riding a wicked current. After seeing Dad and Ron nearly kill themselves yesterday it was amusing to see them charge fearlessly through a small rapid, without scouting or life jackets! They looked a little sheepish afterward. We saw a rainbow-ring around the sun this morning, very interesting sight.

 


[A gorgeous morning - finally!]


[Paddling the Broadleaf River.]


[Finally some time to enjoy paddling!]

 

I doubt anyone will match Harry and Bill's attempted reverse run on a class I or II rapid this morning. Harry's look of consternation and pure terror will remain with me for a long time! Thank you Ron for saving the day and leaping into the torrent to rescue our intrepid canoeing experts. We are rushing over many beaver dams, thanks to the high water. We must set an aggressive pace if we are going to make it back tonight, which we all hope to do now.

 


[Bypassing another portage thanks to the high water.]


[The Broadleaf was a raging torrent at each falls.]

 

Saturday June 17 | 21:17

 

No go! We're finally in Leaf Lake. Typical for this particular trip, things didn't go at all as planned. After lunch we paddled furiously for about 200 meters before spending an exhausting 3 hours fighting to get another couple of hundred meters. The raging Broadleaf River was high enough to bury not only beaver dams, but also many of the established portage trails. :( We would spend a while just trying to find the trail, beating through the dense bush and walking up the steep rocks alongside the raging river. This is very tiring, especially when you've had the trip that we've had so far! Fun, but tiring! On this occasion we actually ended up hacking our own trail through the bush. It's a good thing that the trees are growing on solid rock as this allowed us to simply push a lot of them out of our way. Next year everyone is vowing to bring bucksaws!

 


[The trip starts feeling a bit desperate as we hack our own way around a raging section of the Broadleaf when the regular portage trail was nowhere to be found.]

 

On one occasion Harry ran out of gas trying a trail that I had christened. The trail ended up belonging to a creature substantially smaller than Harry, which eventually made him give up. (He wasn't too pleased but the way I see it he got his exercise!) This was also a very long day. 14.5 hours of paddling 24 km, doing a 2-km portage and fighting to get to Leaf Lake has us completely tuckered out. It was to our great surprise when all of a sudden upon entering Leaf Lake, after a very long tiring day, Dad and Ron took off, kicking our butts to the campsite. Apparently Ron "found his stroke"!! We didn't even have a fire tonight, some of us fished for a little bit but after a few follow-ups and nibbles the action pretty much died down. The bugs are finally starting to come out after the first warm day with no rain. I can hear the mosquitoes buzzing outside the tent; this makes me very happy to be where I am! We are on an Island where some folks must live when they come here to harvest wild rice in the fall. The lake is glass smooth, the birds are chirping and it s another wonderful Atikaki night.

 


[Another short portage section on the Broadleaf.]


[Canoeing a nice calm stretch of the river - you can still see the strong currents.]

 

Sunday June 18 | 08:56

 

I'm sitting on a rock beside a tumbling waterfall. Small Ladies Slippers are growing beside me with their soft pink petals glistening with the spray off the falls. I can feel the warm sun on my face and the cool mist of the falls on my bare back. It was the most beautiful morning yet with the canoes sliding through the early morning mist on a lake of polished water. We slipped into the Broadleaf River, our paddles making small splashes as we disturbed the surface film. Ryan and I were in the lead and a large animal crashing through the dense growth at the side of the river to our right suddenly shattered the still morning air. That's the closest we came to seeing a moose I think!

 


[Some serious falls demanded we do a bit of fishing - even though we're a day late...]


[Taking a much needed break while fighting our way out of the wild on Sunday.]

 

We made excellent headway, hitting no snags till now. We thought we were done but once again the high water and our eagerness did us in. This latest disappointment was a real blow to the gut. The talk is now focusing on what happens if we miss our put-out and continue merrily down the Wanipigow not an ideal situation! We need this break and I think we'll be fine after it. I took some time on an early morning portage to clear my camera lens and photograph a dew-drenched red flower.

 

I'm hoping that my next journal entry is from the truck on our ride home. This trip had a lot of firsts:

 

  • 4000 paces of portage
  • An extra day
  • Obukowin portage
  • LOTS of rain and cold weather
  • Near hypothermia
  • Near drownings (not just Dad this time!)
  • Stranded for a day and hardly any fishing!

 

Sunday June 18 | 10:20

 

We just finished lunch and are stranded about 100 m downstream on a 300 pace portage that has proved very difficult to find. Ryan's quote of the day, "If everything was ok we still wouldn't have made it", oddly comforting but hard to interpret. One distinct memory from this little escapade is where I tell Harry where I think we are by pointing to a location on our map. His comment in true restrained fashion: "I don t give a CR_P. This map is F_____G useless!"

 

Sunday June 18 | 10:20

 

We're finally done!! Ryan: blank stare; Harry: "Most awesome canoe trip of my life"; Ron: "Give me a week and I'll tell ya what I think"; Vern: "Elation and regret, regret because it's all over and I have to go back to work soon. Elation because it's all over and I get to see my girls"; Dad: "Piece of cake, I did this every day when I was a kid!" (Authors note: that last one was made up).

 


[Wow! That was tough! The group celebrates arriving at the small campground on the Wanipigow at the end of our trip.]

Total Distance (km): 
95.00
Difficulty Notes: 

This is a remote trip, almost completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you portage out of Siderock Lake, other than a few fishing lodges along the way.

Atikaki Provincial Park - Aikens Lake 2003

Interesting Facts: 

In 1985 the Bloodvein-Pigeon rivers region east of Lake Winnipeg was designated as Manitoba’s first wilderness park. Its 3,981 km2 is characterized by a landscape of rock outcrops and granite cliffs interspersed with a complex of bogs, fens, marshes, rivers and river bottom forest. The park features three river corridors and associated shorelines, including the Manitoba portion of the Bloodvein Canadian Heritage River.

 

(from Manitoba Parks)

YDS Class: 
4th Class
Attained Summit?: 
No

In 2000 we completed one of the toughest canoe trips we've ever done in a loop from Wallace Lake over the Obukowin Portage route (5km) through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Carroll Lakes down the Gammon to Aikens and back to Wallace. This trip was so tough, mainly because of the horrendous weather conditions we had. Persistent rain, strong winds and temperatures of around 10 degrees hammered us for days, flooded portage trails and swelled rivers and creeks making them dangerously fast and high. To top it all off, I got some gut rot and managed to lose about 10lbs in a week! Good times... ;)

 

In 2002 we planned to come back and do the same trip in better conditions. Alas. The day we were leaving the weather was absolutely brutal again! As we camped near Wallace Lake on Monday night, trees were blowing down around us! Several guys actually slept in the vehicles due to the nasty weather. Only Steve and I slept in our tent and we ended up with a hilarious skunk story that I'll tell you about if you ask me sometime. We bailed on Aikens and drove to the Rabbit River in Nopiming Provincial Park and did a very easy Cole Lake canoe trip instead.

 

Finally, in 2003 we managed to get our luck together! We planned a full 5 night canoe trip to take full advantage of the loop - planning to camp at some gorgeous sites we'd hurried past three years previous in our race against the conditions and the clock. We were all stoked to see how this trip would hold up in good conditions and we weren't disappointed - it was fantastic!

 

I hate to admit it, but I can't find my journal from this trip - I'm not even 100% sure I had one. My photos are also very limited and I seem to have lost some of them since digitizing my collection. Writing this in 2016, there's no way I can remember the small details, but I will show / comment on the pictures I do have and they may help convince you that in good conditions, the Aikens Lake loop from Wallace Lake is one of Manitoba's premier canoe routes.

 


[Canoeing on Siderock Lake before the Obukowin. On this trip we camped part way down the Obukowin which nicely broke it into two distinct sections.]


[This was a rushing stream last time - now it's bog... The first section of the Obukowin ends at this point.]


[Welcome to the suck! At least she didn't give up without a bit of a fight. :)]

 

After the first long portage section we crossed a small lake and started the route past the "Stoneman" to the kidney shaped lake. This is where we camped on day 1 before continuing the portaging on day 2. This broke the 5km long Obukowin in half and worked very well. I can see it being pretty buggy where we camped though. You may not want to bother.

 


[A great camp site high up on the portage route - make sure you bring lots of water up!]


[Eating supper by the "Stoneman" (R)]


[We hauled a bunch of gear to the end of the portage to save some trips the following day.]


[Steve tries some casts before we head back to camp on day 1.]

 

Day 2 saw us complete the Obukowin Portage route before continuing across Obukowin Lake and into Woodland Caribou and Carroll Lake. From here my memory is a bit hazy as I'm not 100% sure where we camped on Day 2... Obviously, as you can clearly see from the photos, we had much better weather than the previous three years!

 


[Carroll Lake - notice how low the water is this year?]


[A nice stretch of river.]


[Beautiful camp site!]


[Awesome site.]


[What a difference from three years ago where almost every night was crawling into bed exhausted. You can see the flames reflecting in a nearby canoe - there isn't two fires!]

 

The third day saw us navigate the Gammon River back into Aikens Lake. It was spectacular, as always, providing excellent fishing and gorgeous scenery. In a highlight for the trip, we camped on a sandy beach after crossing a glass-smooth (!!) Aikens Lake, located right near the long portage from Aikens to the Broadleaf River.

 


[Dad finds a nice seat in one of the local guiding outfits boats just before Aikens Lake!]


[Another excellent portage around falls on the Gammon River.]


[Impressive and beautiful Carlson Falls - a Walleye hotspot for sure!]


[My favorite Atikaki flower - the purple Iris]


[Canoeing across Aikens Lake - much calmer than last time!!]


[An awesome, sandy beach camp site for Day 3, complete with our own cold, clear creek for water.]


[The sublime camp site on Aikens SW side near the portage to the Broadleaf River, with a glass smooth lake in the background.]


[This is the life!]

 

Day 4 we portaged the long (1.8km) trail from Aikens Lake to Kostec Lake and the Broadleaf River in perfect weather and continued our trip on a much subdued river compared to 2000! We camped at Leaf Lake again and caught tons of fish on our way across it.

 


[At least we can find the portages on the Broadleaf now.]


[A great fire again on Leaf Lake.]


[A nice fire and clear night on Friday again.]

 

Our last day was a nice paddle down the Broadleaf and Wanipigow back to Wallace Lake. As I stated earlier, this trip was so much different than in 2000 it seemed like a completely new trip. I can highly recommend this as a nice 4-6 day loop for experienced canoe parties.

 


[Running a beaver dam, after spending a ton of energy breaking through it.]


[Paddling through a beaver dammed Wanipigow River to Wallace.]


[Another excellent canoe trip comes to an end.]

Total Distance (km): 
96.50
Difficulty Notes: 

This is a remote trip, almost completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you portage out of Siderock Lake, other than a few fishing lodges along the way.

Churchill River 2014 (French / Ducker)

Interesting Facts: 

The Churchill River is 1609km long. It starts in a number of lakes in central-east Alberta before making it's way east through the Canadian Shield eastwards. The Cree word for the river is Missinipe which means Big Waters (from wikipedia).

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Friday, August 22, 2014 to Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In north-central Saskatchewan there is a town called Missinipe which is the base for a paddler's paradise of rivers and lakes nestled in the gorgeous geology that is the Canadian Shield which is the backbone of Canada and among the oldest surface rock on the planet. Long used by the Native Peoples of Canada and by the fur traders that paddled her waters for trade, the Canadian Shield is characterized by countless square kilometers of 3.96 billion year old Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rock, covered in a thin layer of soil which supports incredible numbers of spruce and  trees and water ways. The rivers and lakes are teeming with fish and support wildlife of many types from moose to bear to ducks and birds.

 

The authority on Canoe trips in the Churchill River area around Missinipe, Saskatchewan is Churchill River Canoe Outfitters. Ric Driediger has been wandering the Canadian wilds for a long time - most of it around Missinipe. For any details on the area, contact him - he's friendly and very quick to respond to email, something that a lot of northern outfitters don't do. I've bought several of his outstanding maps as well. They are a no-brainer for planning and executing trips in the area.

 

Planning the Trip

 

Earlier this year I bought my first canoe - a beautiful carbon / Kevlar Quetico 16 footer from Souris River Canoe. It's inaugural voyage was a 6 day trip into my favorite canoe paradise of all time (so far!) in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in north-central Ontario - also in Canadian Shield country. Part of my motivation for purchasing my own boat rather than renting one, was to increase the number of canoe trips that I do. I love climbing and hiking, but canoe trips have their own charms, including the ability to take a lot more gear along. :) You also get to fish and take a lot of different photographs than mountains. I seem to find more time to relax on canoe trips than while suffering up giant heaps of scree and ice in the Rockies... My 13 year old son expressed interest in a father-son canoe trip and I thought this was a great new tradition we could start so I began planning our trip for late summer 2014.

 

After emailing with Ric, I settled on a pretty easy first trip for Niko and myself. We chose the French-Ducker route that starts in Otter Lake and moves through French and Ducker before ending up back in Otter Lake. We decided to go in late August so that the water levels would be low and the bugs at a minimum. My secret plan was to get Niko hooked on canoe trips so that we can do longer ones as he gets older. This was to be a 4 day trip with driving days at either end. As with any new area, there were excellent things I didn't expect and not-so-excellent things I would do differently next time. We'll get to those in a minute but first I want to emphasize something.

 

 
[Our route as recorded by my GPS. We stayed at Camps 3, 9 and 21. ++]

 

The Drive

Canada is HUGE. Like freaking HUGE. I don't think most of us realize just how large our country is. Obviously I am interested in the Missinipe area because it's much closer to me than Woodland Caribou P.P. I live in Calgary, Alberta and the drive to WCPP is at least 18-20 hours! Driving to Missinipe should be much less, considering it's two provinces closer right? Well... Not as much closer as you'd think. Google said the trip was around 1000km. That didn't sound far until we drove it! Holy crap. We left on Thursday afternoon with the intent of driving to Prince Albert and hotelling it one night before getting up early enough to complete the drive to Missinipe and canoe to our first camp in French Lake. We left at 1pm and drove for 7 hours before finally arriving in Prince Albert! We drove from Calgary across rolling farm land before motoring through interesting hoodoos and badlands around Drumheller. From here we drove through more endless, rolling farm land around towns like Kindersley, Rosetown and Saskatoon. I must say that the roads were in excellent condition - I could clearly see the positive impact oil and gas growth has had on Saskatchewan's infrastructure.

 

Friday we drove and drove and drove north of Prince Albert. The road slowly started deteriorating as we drove further north. We passed Prince Albert National Park along the way - this is a park I'd like to visit some day. I'd never heard of it before we passed it on highway 2. The terrain was slowly changing as we drove northwards. More and more pine trees dotted the landscape until they were thick along the road. Along with the trees came tons of lakes, rivers and the odd outcropping of distinct Canadian Shield underneath. We drove past old burn areas where hundreds of acres were destroyed by wildfires. We even passed a mushroom picker's temporary camp! Eventually we rolled through La Ronge, a small northern town sitting on the massive Lac La Ronge, a lake that should be feared by canoeists thanks to it's immense area and potential for dangerous waves. There are many canoe trips starting in this area and all of them contain warnings about canoeing anywhere on this huge body of fresh water. One of the main reasons we were going even further north to Missinipe for our trip was to avoid the huge waters of Lac La Ronge.

 

 
[A very long drive from Calgary to Missinipe! ++]

 

Shortly after La Ronge our paved road turned to gravel. This is always a good sign that you're in the middle of nowhere. ;) My truck has seen it's share of gravel roads this year, including a brutal one to Leano Lake in Ontario and a couple of long forestry roads in the Rockies. The road was in decent shape as long as I slowed down every time a pink ribbon showed up tied to the trees alongside it. Pink ribbons mean the road could be anything from perfect to almost nonexistent just ahead. Those dang pink ribbons kept me very alert! The worst part is that most of them are marking road hazards that have already been fixed so you start ignoring them until one is legitimate. Then your truck almost snaps in half on a huge pot hole. Not to mention the carbon canoe perched on top... :(

 

At the very northwest end of Lac La Ronge Provincial Park lays the tiny community of Missinipe. It didn't take us long to find the headquarters of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters and soon we were chatting pleasantly with the two ladies who were tending shop while Ric enjoyed time at the back country retreat that he operates. It took some time (nothing moves quickly once you leave pavement...) but eventually I got my Saskatchewan fishing license and we had permission to use CRCO's dock to launch our adventure. Thankfully Otter Lake was calm at midday - something that we couldn't count on as we found out later.

 

Day 1 - Missinipe to Grandmother Bay to French Lake

We were both more than ready to leave the stuffy confines of the truck for the open water and soon we were off on our father-son adventure! Niko was a natural paddler (he takes up every sport he tries very quickly) and as we paddled out of the bay, dodging float planes landing and taking off from the local air base, he told me that he "loved paddling" already. This was a good sign. ;)

 


[Ready to launch!]

 

As we rounded out of the bay and started across a pretty big expanse of Otter Lake, I realized two things. First of all, Otter Lake doesn't look big when you compare it to Lac La Ronge, but it's a big lake nonetheless. There are kilometers of open water, depending where you're canoeing, and obviously the potential for big, dangerous waves. We were pushing a fairly mild wind and had to work hard to cross the lake into Grandmother Narrows and Bay. As we approached Grandmother Bay I noticed something else. The whole area on the northeast end and side of Otter Lake is a native reservation, coincidentally known as Grandmother Bay 219. The natives living here are apparently part of the Lac La Ronge band. It amazes me how remote this settlement is and was pleasantly surprised to realize that we were obviously not only allowed to cross the reserve but would even be camping overnight in it. In my experiences with native reservations (limited, I'll admit), I usually haven't found them to be very tolerant of outsiders. I don't blame them.

 


[On Otter Lake, near the Grandmother Bay reserve.]

 

I didn't realize when planning our trip, that we'd be paddling so close to a settlement. It's not a big deal and it didn't really hurt our experience, but it did make it feel less remote somehow. A huge radio tower near one of the houses, seeing cars driving around and hearing dogs barking somehow made me wonder if I'd really driven over 1000km just to camp in someone else's back yard. I guess in way this was exactly what we were doing - but remember, this is still a very remote back yard. This was the only disappointment I had on this particular route - it doesn't feel as remote as it should. There is also a fishing lodge on Otter Lake so this contributes to motorized boat traffic. (To be fair, Ric did tell me we'd see motor boats on Otter Lake and I should have realized about the reservation by looking closer at the map.)

 

As we paddled through Grandmother Narrows and into Grandmother Bay the wind had much less affect on the lake. It was time to pull out the fishing rods. I'd made the foolish mistake of promising Niko great fishing and now it was time to back up the promise that I couldn't possibly have any influence on. ;) Thankfully Ric was right when he said we'd have great fishing on this route (another motivating factor for choosing it) and within 50 minutes Niko landed his 6th fish, outdoing his goal of 5 fish for the entire trip within the first hour! I was delighted and extremely relieved.

 

As we drifted to the end of the bay I scanned the shoreline for our 400 meter portage into French Lake. Movement in the bush caught my attention and sure enough - there was a large group of canoeists coming towards us down the portage trail. As we drifted into shore we realized they were a group of girls - at least a dozen of them. We briefly chatted as we crossed paths and found out they were on the tail end of a 19 day canoe trip. We were the first people they'd run into in 12 days. I was very impressed and once again reminded that people are amazing and do adventures every day that make my simple wanderings seem like nothing. I've done 10 days of canoeing - these teenage girls doubled that! And they looked it too! They were covered in mud and sweat but also had huge smiles. I really admire them for what must have been a heckuva adventure. A trip leader indicated that they had caught NO fish the entire time. When we told her that we'd just landed over a dozen fish in the bay in less than an hour, she was shocked. I'm not sure how they didn't catch fish - they either didn't try very hard or they really didn't know how to fish.

 


[Niko hauls in another fish in Grandmother Bay]


[At the portage into French Lake (looking back at Grandmother Bay)]

 

It was on this first portage that I realized something amazing. We didn't need bug spray! This is very unusual for canoe trips - usually bugs are the worst part of these adventures. We never used bug spray for the entire trip, a fact that has me considering many more late summer / early fall outings as opposed to buggy and stormy spring trips with high water and potentially cranky fish.

 

The 400 meter portage to French Lake was easy. Niko carried his gear and his share of the canoe without complaining and soon we were loaded up and paddling up French Lake to our camp. The wind was strong enough to impact us on the relatively small French Lake (still not small compared to a lot of northern lakes) and we were happy to see an obvious camp site where I'd marked "camp 3" on the GPS - located on a point of land separating Mason Bay and Allen Bay.  Camp 4 was supposed to be really nice so we paddled an extra 500 meters to check it out but there was a hunter's shack sitting right near it so we decided to go back to the previous site - it felt more like wilderness without camping near an abandoned building. Camp 3 was awesome with lots of room. It was well used, but again - the French / Ducker canoe route is an oft-used one and I was expecting things to be a bit less bushy than I normally prefer on canoe trips. We were tired after a long couple of days of driving and now half a day of paddling but Niko was still game to try some more evening fishing in Allen Bay. We caught a bunch more pike (Niko was now officially addicted to canoe trips) and I even managed a Walleye before we got a nice camp fire going and settled in for the night. Loons serenaded us as our heads hit the pillows and we drifted off.

 


[Paddling Mason Bay in French Lake]

 
[Looking up French Lake (North) from our camp site. The next camp site (and old cabin) is located straight ahead on the visible bit of land across the bay. ++]


[More fish in Allen Bay!]


[Lovin' life]


[Black Spruce on lichen and moss covered 3 billion y.o. granite - typical Canadian Shield country]


[Looking down into Allen Bay from camp. Note the fall colors in the foreground bush!]


[We even had two fire pits. This sheltered one and a more open one if the bugs got bad. We never even saw one fly or mosquito!]


[Casting from camp in the evening]


[Our tent fits almost anywhere.]


[Night settles in around us]

 

Day 2 - French Lake - Fair Lake - French Lake - Ducker Lake

The second day of our trip was to be an exploration day around French Lake before proceeding the relatively short distance to Ducker Lake. The basic French - Ducker canoe trip can be done in 1-2 days by competent parties. To make the trip last 4 days we planned some side trips and this was the first one. Fair Lake was rumored to have great fishing so that was an obvious candidate for this day. We woke up to a fall chill in the air - we were very glad to have our toques and warm jackets along. My sleeping bag was a bit too light for the cool nights (as low as 4 degrees) so I wore all my layers to bed. The sun gained warmth quickly and soon the morning chill was burned off.

 

 
[The waves are already starting before we leave camp in the morning. ++]

 

We packed up camp, loaded up the canoe and paddled up French Lake towards the bay leading to an unnamed lake before Fair Lake. The wind was already very stiff from the north and I secretly worried what this would mean later in the day when we had to go further north to the 100 meter portage into Ducker Lake. After ditching most of our camping gear at the start of the short portage (unmarked but easy to find) into the unnamed lake we carried the canoe and only some lunch and fishing gear to the other side. The wind was very strong as we paddled against it towards Fair Lake. This unnamed lake seemed shallow and weedy so we didn't even bother fishing it.

 

As we carried our gear across another short portage (along the obvious stream) to Fair Lake I noticed the wind get even stronger. We were disappointed to find a very difficult and awkward launching spot into Fair Lake - made much more complicated by the large waves that were now crashing into the near shore. It wasn't worth getting soaked so we reluctantly turned around and carried the canoe back to the unnamed lake. As we drifted back with the wind we decided to throw out the spoons and see if there were any hammer handles (small Northern Pike) in the lake. To our great surprise there were TONS of pike and they were all very, very aggressive. Niko had one case where he pulled his lure out of the water and the fish literally jumped out of the water to grab it! That scared the crap out of us. ;)

 

After catching and releasing many fish we decided that it was time to portage back into French Lake and continue our journey to Ducker Lake for the night. The wind was still strong as it first blew us down the lake but when we turned the corner and started paddling for the NE corner to Ducker we encountered some pretty big rollers. Niko was a trooper and dug his paddle into the water. Thank goodness he's not afraid of water - he never once complained about big waves.

 


[A very large (and old) beaver lodge - must have been at least 10 feet high!]


[A gorgeous day to be paddling]


[Sitting at the portage looking back into the unnamed "Pike" lake]


[We hammered a ton of fish in this small, unnamed lake between French and Fair Lakes]


[Lunch on a warm rock as we paddle out of French Lake - this was a sheltered bay or there would be waves.]


[Paddling up the finger bay out of French Lake]

 

At the end of the finger bay out of French Lake we arrived at our next portage into Ducker Lake. I was excited to get to Ducker because I knew our camp was at the end of a waterfall - the one we were portaging around. This portage was also well traveled and the 100 meters went by pretty quickly. Sure enough, camp was situated right next to a beautiful set of gentle rapids coming down out of French Lake. We set up camp on the well used site (not much firewood left in the area, but the site was clean) and set off to fish for Walleye under the rapids. It took a while, but eventually we managed to start catching them, but not in the numbers I was expecting. I think this falls gets fished a lot. I was delighted that Niko even managed 2 or 3 fish - Walleye can be very tricky to catch with their light nibbles and fussy appetites, you have to have a certain fish sense to know when they are sampling your jig so you can set the hook in time. I managed to hook into a pretty large Northern Pike while jigging for Walleye. Niko's eyes got pretty big when he saw how large the fish could get and he was a bit nervous about latching onto one of these himself. 

 

The evening was capped off with a nice warm fire and some warm drinks. We hit bed around 21:30 - another perk to fall canoe trips is cool (cold?!) nights and early darkness, which makes sleeping much more enjoyable than hot humid nights filled with mosquitoes and thunder storms.

 


[Checking out the rapids as we portage around them]


[The rapids running from French to Ducker Lake]


[The open forest around our camp site. It's open because everyone's used all the firewood up... ;)]


[Niko battles his first Walleye ever!]


[Looking west down Ducker Lake from our camp site]


[Enjoying a warm fire - note the toques]


[Evening settles in around camp]

 

Day 3 - Ducker Lake - Stewart River - Otter Lake

Sunday began early for us. Niko woke up at 05:00 and had to pee, so we just decided to get up. We had to paddle across some big water on Otter Lake and wanted to fish the rapids before leaving, so it made sense to get up early anyway. There was thick fog in the 4 degree temps and I built a nice cheery fire for breakfast first. After packing up camp we loaded the canoe and fished the falls while the morning sun burned off the fog layer (so we could see where we were paddling!).

 


[The tent sits in thick fog]


[More fog around camp]


[The rapids is pretty gentle, but produces enough current to congregate Walleye and Pike]

 

We had more success with the Walleye than the previous evening and had to tear ourselves away from the fishing when the fog finally lifted. (I had an enormous Pike grab onto a small Walleye that I caught and Niko was really freaked out that he'd catch it after that!) We paddled down Ducker on glass before our 200m portage into Stewart River. This portage was a bit more rugged than the previous two. It went steeply uphill before going steeply downhill on muddy ground. We managed to carry everything through with no incidents. Stewart River had just enough current to make us happy as we continued to paddle on glass until we arrived at the pictograph site on an isolated cliff where another stream merged into the river from our left.

 


[Paddling on glass out of Ducker Lake]


[Looking back up Stewart River from the start of the portage]


[Approaching the pictographs on the Stewart River]

 

This was probably our favorite memory of the trip. Niko was fascinated by the thought that some First Nations boy may have sat in a canoe with his father looking at the same paintings we were now looking at, hundreds of years later from our own canoe. Tim Jones has written extensively about the rock paintings on the Churchill River and believes they were painted by ancestors of the Wood Cree, Ojibwa and Algonquian peoples who still live in the Shield today. The reason the pictographs are still visible today is due to a substance called isinglass that was mixed into the red ochre mineral paste, made from the bladders of fish. Maybe I'm just a romantic at heart, but I am deeply attracted to the First Nation people's view of life and nature where man is at the bottom of the pile, rather than the top. Respecting the land and it's generous resources is something we could all put our cell phones down and think about (or more importantly- practice!) for a while.  

 

We were especially lucky with our timing at the ancient site, thanks to a slight breeze and the angle of sunlight on the water, there was a shimmering reflection dancing on the rock wall around the paintings making them seem alive. We sat there for many silent moments thinking about stuff. A very special moment.

 


[The pictographs had shadows and light dancing over them]


[This is a beaver]


[Checking out the Caribou]


[Caribou - probably the clearest pictograph I've ever seen]


[Some of the drawings were faded almost beyond any recognition of what they were intended to represent]


[A very special place - protected by the overhang]


[Looking back at the pictograph cliff as we continue down the Stewart River]

 

With a stiffening breeze at our backs we continued down the Stewart River and into Rattler Bay on the NE end of Otter Lake. The waves were slowly growing in size as we continued to paddle into the larger Norris Bay. As we drifted with the wind and waves, we continued to catch large numbers of pike by casting into shoreline cover. We once again dug into the water with our paddles in an effort to beat the stronger afternoon winds as we had a ways to go to Robertson Falls at the east side of Otter Lake.

 


[The Stewart River was a wonderful place to paddle - especially as we were going with the current and had a breeze on our backs!]


[A small burn area to our right as we approach the exit of Stewart River and start of Rattler Bay on Otter Lake]


[There's a cross on the shoreline of this island - someone likely drowned nearby. A reminder that the lake is big enough to be dangerous.]


[An abandoned hunter's cabin sits on the shoreline as we enter Norris Bay]

 

We were surprised  to find ourselves paddling in fast currents around some of the islands on Otter Lake. This is where you realize that you're on a river that just happens to widen to a lake for a stretch. As we approached Robertson Falls I was surprised to see that they were flowing away from us. For some reason I thought we'd be camping at the base of the falls, not the top! This was unfortunate because we'd paddled a long way in some stiff wind already and Niko was just about done paddling. I didn't want to negotiate anywhere close to the fast water and on hindsight I now realize I should have done a bit more research into this part of the trip. What I wish we'd done, now that we're back and I've done some research, is at the very least docked our canoe on the left side of the falls and walked to the base of them. This is where the fishing lodge is located and we could have hammered Walleye and got some great photos. At the time we didn't have the energy and were looking for a camp site. 

 

(I'd highly recommend an extra day or even two days, paddling and portaging down North Falls, around to the lodge and back up Twin and Robertson Falls into Otter Lake if you're ever in this area. The fishing and scenery would be stunning. I regret not doing this on our trip but Niko simply didn't have the energy and I didn't prepare him for the extra portaging etc...)

 

Instead of exploring the falls, we once again paddled into the wind (backtracked) about 1km before zipping down a side channel past some more rapids (much smaller than Robertson with no trails that I could see) towards a campsite that was supposed to be pretty sweet on the southern tip of Naheyow Island. I smelled wood smoke as we came around the corner of the southern tip of the island. I thought we'd have to turn around and camp at a much bushier site just a ways back but amazingly the site was completely empty - save for some burning logs on the fire! Weird! When we looked off in the distance we noticed a motor boat fishing some narrow channel to the north and realized that they'd probably had shore lunch at this spot. This was confirmed when I noticed the remains of fish thrown into the clear water just off shore.

 


[Paddling through the side channel just before getting to our third camp.]


[A delightful camp with some 'issues', thanks to inconsiderate humans.]

 

As we scoped out the site and set up camp I was disappointed to find bullet casings all over the ground. My disappointment deepened as I went into the bush a bit and discovered human waste all over the ground, complete with unburied toilet paper and other not-so-pleasant hygiene products. It was a reminder to me that we don't all appreciate how special wild places are and that for some of us, a bush is just a handy place to duck behind to relieve oneself before getting back to the party. I hope my son doesn't turn out this way - I think he was pretty shocked too. I briefly thought about cleaning some of the waste up myself, but honestly I wasn't prepared to handle human waste and didn't have a shovel along. I did burn some of the TP so at least it didn't look as bad, but having human waste so close to camp (where we got water out of the lake!!) wasn't very healthy. It's too bad because without the mess this would have been the best camp site, hands down.

 

After setting up camp and relaxing for a few hours, Niko somewhat reluctantly agreed to join me in exploring our bay and the narrow waters to the north. The boat was still there so I surmised there must be some fast water or something keeping them there. I agreed to do all the paddling - Niko just had to fish! :)

 

We did catch more Pike in our bay before paddling through the faster water in the narrows. We didn't want to crowd the boat that was already there so we paddled back to camp for the night. Once again we had a very pleasant evening with a warm, cheerful fire and no bugs.

 


[Looking back at our camp as we fish the small bay that surrounded it]


[Yet ANOTHER fish for dad to take off the hook!]


[Evening campfire]


[Sunset from camp]


[This is why I love canoe trips...]

 

Day 4 - Otter Lake - Missinipe

Originally I had planned 5 days for our trip, considering how far the drive was and everything, but Niko was tired and wanted to head home so I wasn't going to push things too far. Remember, my master plan on this trip was to get a 13 year old city kid hooked on wilderness and canoe trips! :) So far my plan was working sublimely - Niko had almost 50 fish (his original goal was 5 for the trip) and was loving paddling and camping. The most important thing for me was spending quality time with my son doing something we BOTH loved - not pushing our physical and mental limits to the edge just yet. That can wait until he's a wee bit older. ;)

 

So, with that said, we decided to paddle all the way out to Missinipe on Day 4, rather than camp somewhere else on Otter Lake as originally planned. (Again - with the benefit of hindsight, I should have planned a route through the falls at the east end of Otter Lake instead of two days on the main lake.) Because we had to cross some big water, we got up early again and spent a few minutes fishing the fast water (I caught a couple of Walleye) before moving onto the main lake. We paddled around the north tip of Ball Island before passing the south ends of Paul and Bennett Island. We fished along the way and Niko was sitting at 54 fish for the trip! There was more fast water as we passed Taylor Island and the wind started picking up just as we started turning around the tip of land before heading back to Missinipe. We passed a group of four paddlers just leaving their camp site, heading up lake to Otter Rapids and Devil Lake. After a brief chat with them, we set off to catch Niko's 55th fish and then Missinipe.

 


[Another foggy morning]


[Otter Lake is pretty large. Plan your trip accordingly and be prepared for wind days, where you can't leave or get to camp. This is early morning - a great time to be paddling.]

 

Sure enough - soon Niko had landed his last Pike for the trip and we leaned into our paddles as the wind picked up considerably from the South. Good thing we left our camp early! We pulled up at CRCO's dock before noon, having paddled hard for almost 6 hours. We were tired but happy with a very successful trip and another father-son adventure. We drove many hours on Monday afternoon before stopping for the night and finishing our trip in Calgary on Tuesday around noon.

 


[Done! A great memory for Niko and I to share.]

 

Conclusion

I will be back, hopefully many times, to paddle, fish and relax on the waters of the Churchill River. This particular trip was about more than just wilderness and it was a huge success on every level. My son loved it and wants more. Our next trip will be longer and more remote and hopefully bit-by-bit we can spend many years exploring the vastness that is Canada's northern Shield country while deepening our bond with each other. After all - what point is there in any life adventure if it doesn't bring us closer to the people and land that we love?

Total Distance (km): 
65.00
Difficulty Notes: 

A great beginner canoe trip but there is big water on Otter Lake so wind can certainly be a factor.

Eagle / Snowshoe Conservation Reserve 2006 - Davidson Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve was selected for protection through Ontario's Living Legacy Land Use Strategy and was regulated on May 21, 2003. Conservation Reserves are established and regulated under the Public Lands Act. These areas are intended to complement provincial parks in protecting representative natural areas and special landscapes. The 'conservation reserve' designation provides management direction to permit many existing land use activities to continue.

 

(info from Ontario Parks and Planning)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Monday, July 10, 2006 to Saturday, July 15, 2006

The cold winter month of February found Harold and I planning another canoe trip. After much deliberation we decided on the Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve as our 2006 canoe trip destination. For this trip report I am not going to lay our in detail how each day went. Instead I will try to remember some key events and let the pictures do more of the talking.

 

The Trip Plan

 

Click here for a detailed map of our planned (not actual) route. The original plan was to start out at Davidson Lake early on Monday morning. From Davidson we would make our way through Coleman, into Bain and then through Bagley and into Wilson Lake. After spending Monday night in Wilson we would head up through Snowshoe Lake and up the Bird River towards Chase and Midway Lakes. Tuesday night would be in Chase Lake. On Wednesday we would head up through Midway Lake and take a very rarely traveled series of portages into Kangaroo and Eden Lakes. Wednesday night would be either in Eden or Wingiskus Lake. On Thursday we would head out of Wingiskus back down to the Bird River. Thursday night would be in Snowshoe and Friday / Saturday we would head back down the route we took to get in or do a different route back to Tulibi Falls on Bird Lake.

 

For reasons that will become clear, we did not end up taking the Kangaroo / Eden / Wingiskus route but instead we spent some time in the Eagle River before heading back home. This ended up being a rare, out-and-back canoe trip rather than a more traditional loop. This was not too surprising as the only reference we could find for the Kangaroo portages was in some backdated kayaker journal from some years ago.

 

 
[The actual route we took with approximate camp sites marked by the night we spent there (i.e. "1" is Monday). ++]

 

The overall route and Eagle / Snowshoe (E/S) terrain was challenging and fun. The portages were not very well maintained and in places there was a lot of blow down. Since this area isn't part of a provincial park it is not maintained with tax dollars and this is obvious. We didn't encounter any other canoeists except for one other guy the whole time. It was a very remote trip with no room for emergencies. The fishing was good overall, but the bugs were some of the nastiest I've ever seen.

 

Monday July 10 2006

 

 
[Our first 1.5 days were spent traveling from Davidson through Snowshoe. This route line is slightly wrong as we went from Davidson to Petch to Reynar, not directly from Davidson to Reynar. ++]


[On the narrowing of Davidson Lake on its eastern edge, already fishing!]


[A great start.]


[At the end of Davidson Lake]


[Interesting (and very short) portage into Petch Lake from Davidson - look at the elevation difference!]


[Getting used to portaging again... Note Jon's bare feet? That was a theme on this trip!]


[The Eagle / Snowshoe Conservation Area beckons - this is Petch Lake.]


[Fishing along the route to Raynor from Petch.]


[Catching fish in Petch Lake.]


[Finishing a short portage along the river from Petch to Reynar.]


[Finishing the portage into Reynar Lake from the creek running out of Petch.]


[Catching fish in Reynar Lake]


[Having lunch (at 14:00) on Monday somewhere on Bain Lake.]


[Gear on a portage]


[Fish on!]


[A cozy camp on Wilson Lake]


[A majestic Bald Eagle]


[Gorgeous evening lighting as we explore Wilson Lake.]


[Monday comes to a close around a very cheerful bonfire.]

 

The Bad Bugs

 

THE BUGS!! Whew! They were actually very, very nasty on this trip. We were originally quite hopeful that they would be limited because during the day they didn't bug (pun intended) us much at all - it was too hot! At around 21:00 on the first night we got an idea of what the rest of the evenings would be like. It starts with a droning sound. You can literally hear them coming out of the bush! First you get one bite that you dismiss with a casual flick. Then another. Then another. Then you make the mistake of going into the bush to relieve yourself away from camp and when you come out you bring along a mighty host of blood-sucking, high-whining, fast-flying friends and the peaceful night is ruined for you and everyone else!

 

The bugs were so bad that we couldn't even handle them with spray. We had mosquito nets and jackets on, but that was excruciatingly hot in the warm weather, and didn't even help! Eventually we would just go to bed after smoking a few cigars and trying to drown it out with a few drinks didn't work any better.

 

Mosquitoes weren't our only enemies from the bug world. Once we got into the Eagle River portion of the trip, we didn't even get relief during the day time heat, as the black flies started feasting on us - especially our ankles. They took chunks of flesh out of us and although spray worked temporarily, you would either sweat it off, swim if off, or scratch it off while portaging. Not to mention that with open sores from the bites, spraying yourself with bug spray hurt like h-e-double-hockey-sticks. The flies were almost worse than the mosquitoes because they really hurt and you are never fast enough to actually kill the little buggers so there's no satisfaction there.

 

Tuesday July 12 2006

 


[Chilling in camp on Wilson Lake Tuesday morning before starting the day. It's gonna be a hot one!]


[Already a warm morning as we paddle out of Wilson towards Snowshoe.]


[The portages are still reasonable, but not as used as WCPP.]


[Getting more bushy!]


[Trying to navigate down a small creek that's been dammed off by beavers. Jon maintained flip-flops on this one but his toes suffered!]


[Baking under the relentless sun.]


[Another portage - now they're getting nasty. This is between Snowshoe and Chase Lake.]


[A lot of work when combined with heat and bugs!]


[Can you say "rustic"?]


[On the way to Chase Lake]


[Another portage]


[Our camp on Chase Lake was delightful, very open and with the promise of the breeze keeping the bugs away. Alas, this didn't happen but some good bugs helped us here!]


[Vern making supper]

 

The Good Bugs

 

I never thought I'd write a section on 'good' bugs but here it is. One night we were all standing around trying to avoid the hordes of mosquitoes when Jon started shouting out. Jon is always making noise about something or another (!) so at first we simply ignored him but he sounded so excited we went to check it out. It turns out that when Jon went over to his canoe, near the water, a bunch of huge dragon flies found him. They also found the armies of mosquitoes around him and immediately started a feeding frenzy!

 

I've never experienced or even hear of anything like that before or since. Hundreds of huge dragonflies surrounded us, swooping in like world war II planes on a strafing run to decimate the biting mosquitoes. There were so many of them that there were regular mid-air collisions and you could hear them crashing into each other clumsily. They would delicately pick mosquitoes right off our faces! It was an amazing display of nature helping nature. We were the attractant for the dragonflies supper and they were our saviors for one night. I'll never forget it.

 

Portages and Turning Back

 

As I eluded to earlier already, the portaging was a mix of pleasant strolls on solid Canadian Shield granite and torturous bushwhacks through, over and even under dead fall. There were quite a few portages (40-50) in total. Because the Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve is not maintained by Ontario parks staff, the portage trails are only kept open by volunteers or through usage. Obviously this area does not see a lot of visitors because we hardly saw anyone else (less than 10 people all week) and some of the trails were just nasty. The portaging was hot and our packs were very heavy with all our supplies. Thank goodness the long ones were marked and we never had navigation issues - we always knew where we were.

 

So why did we have to turn around from the Eden / Wingiskus loop? We arrived at the first portage into Kangaroo Lake under a hot mid day sun on Wednesday, July 12. We were very surprised to spot a green, solo-sized canoe tied to a tree at the trailhead. There was fresh orange flagging on the trees and it looked like someone had been busy clearing the trail. We started unloading the canoes and proceeded up the very rough trail, following the orange flagging and appreciating how recently cleared it looked.

 

It didn't take long before we encountered a bushman. He was a bushman in every sense of the word. We were all in shorts and t-shirts but he was wearing heavy pants and a long sleeved flannel shirt to keep from getting bitten and scratched in the thick bush. He had a canvas sack thrown over his right shoulder and in it were all manner of trail clearing tools. He held a large axe in his left hand. He glanced at us cautiously as we barged past him on his freshly marked trail. Something about his look made me stop to engage him in conversation. It turns out that we were on a trail to nowhere! This guy has been coming to this wilderness for a month every summer for years. He temporarily traded the burdens of a civilized world for the hardships of maintaining trails and camping alone in this vast wilderness. Contrary to appearances, we had much in common.

 

As soon as he warmed up to us the bushman explained that our route would not go. We might make it into Kangaroo Lake - with great hardship - but anything beyond that was not maintained and had not been traveled in years. Since a major storm 3 or 4 years ago the trails were all impassible, if not gone entirely. What great fortune to have run into Mr. Bushman! As we reluctantly trudged our gear back to the trailhead we marveled at the incredible odds of running into possibly the only human being who knew for sure that our intended route would have us stranded in the bush, either wasting a whole day of bushwhacking or worse, not finding out till a day or two later when we would have to come all the way back! As we paddled away from the little bay we were already looking forward to exploring the Eagle River and possibly even the Talon River. Little did we know that we'd be turned around a second time this day...

 

Wildfire!

 

Ok so we couldn't do the Eden Lake route. We would head up to the Talon River instead, to explore that area. (Incidentally, we've since paddled through Talon Lake multiple times in 2009 and 2011). We stopped for lunch somewhere along Eagle Lake, past Midway Lake and on the way to the Talon River. It was very very hot and in the 35 degree heat we all sought shade for relief. After lunch we decided to paddle back a ways and look for a campsite for the night before heading out to explore the area a bit further. I glanced back one last time at our lunch spot as we bent into the paddles and my breath stopped for a second. Where there was clear blue sky not an hour before, there was now a very distinct and obvious column of smoke billowing up from the thick forest just behind where we took our lunch break! We found a good vantage point where we beached the boats and watched in amazement as a wildfire grew right before our eyes.

 

We were all growing a bit concerned as our situation seemed to be getting a bit out of hand. First there was the blocked route that we very nearly got suckered into trying. Now there was wildfire and even though we could probably run away from this one, who knew where the next one would pop up in this ridiculous heat wave? Since this conservation area wasn't patrolled or managed by the parks system we didn't even register for our trip - so no one really knew we were even there - or where we were! (We found out later that a complete backcountry travel ban went into effect the day before our fire but since we weren't registered we didn't get evicted. This explained why earlier in the day a small float plane kept passing over our campsite - they were probably wondering who the heck we were and making sure our campfire didn't spread.)

 

With concern on our faces we piled into the canoes and headed away from the growing inferno towards Chase Lake to set up camp for the night. That afternoon and night the fire continued to grow on the horizon and the sunset was spectacular against the rising columns of thick smoke. The setting was surreal as we hammered Walleye like never before and gave little nervous glances to the northeast every once in a while. Little did we know that our adventures were far from over and within 24 hours the fire would be long out and we would be shivering, wet and freezing cold!

 

Wednesday July 12 2006

 


[A small stream we portaged around between Chase and Midway Lakes.]


[There are some cabins on Chase / Midway Lakes]


[Trolling under a scorching sun]


[Nice fish Vern!]


[Time for swim.]


[Looking back after lunch and spotting a wildfire!]


[Impressive column of smoke - and scary!]


[We grow concerned as the fire quickly grows.]


[Back to Chase Lake for the night on Wednesday - outrunning the fire.]


[Cozy camp site on soft moss.]


[Camp on Wednesday evening.]


[Fire growing in the distance.]


[Hamming Walleye under the threat of wildfires!]


[Nature's fury]


[Gorgeous sunset thanks to the fire on Wednesday night.]

 

Natural Fury

 

We woke up early on Thursday, July 13 to a hazy, smoky morning and a couple of loons freaking out at each other (lovers quarrel, I guess). We couldn't see the column of smoke anymore, but that wasn't a big comfort because now we were enveloped in a thickening blanket of smoke. Even if another fire started up we would probably not notice because we didn't have any views of the horizon anymore.

 

As we paddled up the Bird River in the early afternoon, after a morning of portaging and fishing at waterfalls along the route, the faint rumble of thunder alerted us to an impending storm. We kind of got excited because we needed the rain and the land obviously needed it too.

 

The sky got darker and darker as we completed the last of a series of portages and made our way into the larger lakes system around Snowshoe Lake. As we paddled down the last section of small stream we realized that the lightening was too close for comfort and bailed out of the boats to a hastily constructed tarp-shelter to wait out the storm. The storm moved through quickly, smashing us with rain, lightening and peals of thunder. As it moved off to the northeast we continued paddling.

 

Suddenly Bill shouted. I didn't even hear what he said but I didn't need to. As we turned the corner into a large bay off the lake I looked straight up at a sight I'll never forget. The only thing I can compare it to is a cloud-shaped bullet train. A dark, and very distinctly green cloud was racing southeast straight at us! It was towering hundreds of feet high and was racing against the storm that had just passed by! It was the most obvious example I have ever seen of two pressure systems colliding. It was also one of the scariest things I've seen.

 

You have to remember that we are sitting on the water in see-through boats in the middle of nowhere. You feel like a sitting duck, only you're not waterproof and you can't fly away. You can only paddle and pray that the next bolt of lightening doesn't strike you. We all started paddling like crazy for the nearest chuck of land - a tiny island in the middle of the bay. We were all moving at a frantic pace because it was obvious that we were in for a heck of a storm and it was racing at us like some doomsday mushroom cloud. Harold stared barking out commands as we made shore and we all dug in. There was a small cliff that had its back towards the impending storm and we cleared a small area at its base and strung the tarp tightly so that it wouldn't blow away. The canoes were pulled up as high as we could and then as the storm exploded around us we dove under the tarp. Eric didn't even have time to grab his jacket out of the canoe!

 

The storm absolutely pounded us with more rain in an hour than I've ever seen. Sheets of water came down and even in the small bay there were whitecaps and swirling waves. Trees were bent from the wrath of wind as we sat nervously under our tarp and tried to laugh off what was happening. During the storm, Jon went out to the boats a few times to empty them of water because they were filling so quickly! Finally the storm passed, and we all got out of the shelter and hesitantly started out in the canoes again - looking for a campsite for the night. It didn't take long and we were again running for shore as yet another powerful storm bore down on us! This time we all got soaked and after the deluge we knew it was time to quit paddling and warm up. Storms were all around us as we paddled furiously down the shoreline looking for a campsite. It took quite a while to find one and even then it wasn't very much but we made it work. Just as we were finishing supper another storm chased us to our tents for the evening.

 

Needless to say the forest fire threat went down considerably!

 

Thursday July 13 2006

 


[Now we're with the current, running a small rapids back to Snowshoe Lake.]


[Checking out the route.]


[Our first clue that some bad weather is coming.]


[And now we in it!!]


[Getting hammered by the storm]


[Cold and worried but also glad we found shelter.]


[Rod helps Jon get back under the tarp after emptying the boats of rain water.]


[The storm is past, but we will encounter more of the same.]


[Yep! Back under a tarp - now we're all soaked.]


[Bailed onto a random chunk of rock - waiting for the next storm to hit - which it did!]

 

A Bear Encounter of the First Kind

 

After spending a day drifting down various bodies of water we came to back to Wilson Lake for the last night. We found an excellent campsite on a point of land just across from a large island and set up camp. We were just finishing supper when someone noticed a mother black bear and her cub across the water on the island, walking along the shore. We all ran out to take pictures and look and they soon disappeared back into the bush. We went back to eating supper. All of a sudden Eric made an alarming noise. The bears were swimming across the water straight for our camp! As the others took pictures and yelled, I quickly retrieved my bear-bangers. We had never used these on a bear before - only as fireworks on the last night! ;-) As the bears retreated again, I let loose a banger. It sailed across the water and blew up with a huge BANG right over the cub. The poor thing jumped out of its wits and that's the last we saw of those bears! (We did spend a rather nervous night there though, especially Rod and I because our tent was right where the bears were trying to get to...)

 

Friday July 14 2006

 


[Our camp site that we hacked into the bush on Thursday night - surprisingly good!]


[A lovely day drifting out of Snowshoe Lake.]


[Stopping for lunch on Friday]


[A nice tent spot on Friday evening back in Wilson Lake - at least 'til the bears came out to play...]


[Mama bear and cub retreat back into the bush.]


[One more look back from mama bear before disappearing back into the bush.]


[Another gorgeous sunset.]

 

The Good Stuff

 

Not that the bugs, nasty portages, storms and bear encounters weren't "good stuff" but there were a lot of memorable, pleasant, non-panicking moments on our trip too.

 

The fishing was fantastic - some of the very best I've seen. Rod caught the biggest pike and Harold the biggest walleye. We had some days of too many fish to possibly count and others that were a bit slower. One evening stands out in particular. As a forest fire raged about 15km away we were catching copious amounts of walleye in a shallow, weedy bay with a towering column of smoke rising into the sky above. Sometimes we'd have two fish on the lines in each boat - it was a lot of fun!

 

The scenery was spectacular as always. Bald eagles and Turkey vultures kept us company every single day. Loons serenaded us to sleep at night and woke us back up in the morning. We saw less than 10 other people all week and only 1 canoeist. Our cell phones didn't ring because we didn't have them along and we didn't care. We all shed pounds and worries for a week and that is why we'll keep coming back. Even with the bugs. The storms. The portages. The bears.

 

We were yet again reminded that in losing a bit of comfort we gain much more of ourselves.

 

Saturday July 15 2006

 

[Breaking camp on Saturday morning.]


[Interesting granite sidewalk on a portage on Saturday.]


[The view from portaging with a canoe on my head!]


[Another gorgeous day, finishing up another portage.]


[Lovely summer day on the water.]


[Another canoe trip comes to an end.]

Total Distance (km): 
100.00

Nopoming Provincial Park - Cole Lake 2002

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 to Saturday, June 15, 2002

I've been to Cole Lake 3 times now and loved it each time. This year we were planning another Atikaki trip but once again the weather forced our hand and we ended up doing a relaxing week at Cole Lake.

Here is a picture of part of the lake from the cliffs on it's Eastern shore.

The main reason you come to Cole Lake is to relax and catch a lot of fish like this one. Here Dad hoists a good size Northern Pike.

To get to the lake you have to go over about 7 or 8 portages. Here Harry and Bill are contemplating what to take out of the boat next. Compare to the rest of us Harry and Bill are very organized!

Because they're so darn organized Harry and Bill are always out in the canoe catching fish while the rest of us are still figuring out which gear to carry when! This is the new Duralite canoe that they bought this year. Their Grummen was stolen last fall.

Notice that you can see right through the canoe? These are the Duralite canoes that Ryan, Dad, Steve and I rented. They are exactly the same as Harry and Bill's except theirs is painted (and 3lbs heavier for it!) They may look flimsy but they're surprisingly tough.

There is really only one nice campsite on Cole Lake - I've stayed at it every time. It's a small island that only just fits three tents.

When it rained we huddled under the tarp and convinced ourselves that is still beat the office!

Another tarp picture. We spent some time under that tarp!

On the night before we came in to the lake a severe storm blew through. We had to drive around (and over) fallen trees on the road. Even our little island didn't make it through unscathed.

We explored beyond the cliffs on the east side of the lake to try to find a cairn that Steve and I put up 5 years ago. It was still there and we made it higher. Here Steve, Dad, Ryan and I pose for a picture.

The weather did improve for a couple of days and we enjoyed some very nice sunsets.

Once we discovered where all the Walleye were hiding Steve and I moved in and cleaned house.

We also snagged some good sized Pike.

It always amazes me how much firewood there is on the island. We did go to another island for some of our wood but here Steve is cleaning up some deadfall behind our tent. Who knows? Maybe some year 4 tents will fit!

Canoeing is one of the best ways I know to get away from it all. It is a good workout but you can also just sit and soak up the sun's warm rays.

Here Dad and Steve are wrestling with a huge pike that won't let go of Dad's lure.

Even Harry can catch big fish on this lake! (Ouch! ;-))

Harry and Bill impressed us with their fish cleaning skills. The good news is that we used them regularly on this trip!

Ryan managed to dunk Dad really good when he was getting out of the canoe. Steve and I watched with great amusement - they're luck it was a warm and sunny day!

The fire was a good time to reflect on the great time we had again that day and how fortunate we were to be there.

All-in-all a great trip!

Nopoming Provincial Park - Seagrim Lake 2001

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Wednesday, July 11, 2001 to Friday, July 13, 2001

It wasn't the toughest canoe trip ever, but it was a memorable one. We canoed into Seagrim Lake in Nopoming Provincial Park and camped on an island for 3 days. We made little excursions into side lakes for fishing. All in all a great trip with the boys!


Planning the 2011 WCPP Canoe Trip

Attained Summit?: 
No

A Grand Adventure!

 

The canoe trip for 2011 is shaping up to be one of the best we’ve ever done and I’m trying to ensure it is THE best we’ve ever done.

 

Because most of us are flying into Winnipeg shortly before the trip we will all need to be pretty organized for this one. Two members of the trip are also coming along for the first time so I want to be clear about what is needed so there are no unpleasant surprises! In the interests of time and smooth-sailing there are a number of things I’m asking people to take care of on their own, ahead of time

 

Please do take care of these things ahead of time

 

It’ll suck big time if half of us don’t bother getting fishing supplies or food ahead of time. Basically it means less time on the water and more time trying to cram last-minute shopping into a tight schedule before hitting Red Lake on Thursday...

 

Canoe Partners

 

Based on talking with people and previous trips I have us grouped as follows;

 

  1. Harold | Mike
  2. Vern | Rod
  3. Hentie | Jer

 

Costs

 

If you have incurred trip expenses (gasoline for the truck, propane for stoves, reservation costs etc) PLEASE keep track of these and bring them along on the trip. The last thing we do on the way home is calculate final costs per person and if you don’t have your costs we can’t include your portion for the group. This keeps things fair for everyone.

 

Cost Item Comments
$215 Canoe Rental Kevlar w/ paddles & life jackets.
$38 Canoe Shuttle To Leano from Red Lake.
$35 Fishing License Order ahead of time - if possible.
$100 Day permits (camping) Rod will pay in advance (phone 1.807.727.1329 pay with credit card - more details below).
$50-75 (estimate) Travel Expenses Gasoline / Costs
$150 (estimate) Food I think most of the food will be organized individually this year with canoe partners sharing some items (like soup works or whatever). 

I’ll talk specifics later...

TOTAL: $600-$650 'ish    

 

Before the Trip

 

Please try to take care of the following items BEFORE Wednesday, June 22. We are all spending considerable amounts of money and time to go on this trip and to wait while a guy spends an hour buying fishing tackle, picking up some booze and/or buying last minute groceries is going to get old really fast... ;-)

 

Item Comments
Ontario Fishing Licenses

 

UPDATE - We will have to buy these in Ontario this year as they have changed the way licences are processed and given out. We will do this in Red Lake this time, not along the way.

Snacks / Drinks / Perishables / Cigars Some of us may have to purchase this in Rod’s neighborhood on Wednesday night after flying in...
Propane / Stove Fuel Rod will have to purchase for the group ahead of time since most of us are flying in.
Food This is a big one. See the section on food planning for an idea of what to buy or not to buy. Shared food between canoe partners isUP TO THE CANOE PARTNERS to arrange who will buy / package what. This is especially important for the ‘new guys group’ to take note of! (Don’t worry though - ask questions and check out the food planning section.)
Gear Make sure you go over the gear lists and buy everything you need ahead of time including fishing gear, rain gear and general camping gear.

 

Itinerary

 

One of my goals for this trip is to make it feel like we’re on a route we haven’t done before. One way to make this happen is by doing it in reverse. I am also adding some variations - obviously these can be ignored depending on weather and other factors. Consider this itinerary a starting point.

 

Please note the rest days that are built into the schedule. These will allow for bad weather and give us much more time for exploration / fishing than we’ve ever had on previous trips. I plan on relaxing / fishing and photography / exploratory excursions with an empty canoe for these days - there’s lots of territory we haven’t seen or fished around our camps. 

 

Date / Time Event Comments
Wed June 22 Fly to Winnipeg, get to Rod’s house by around 6pm at the latest - hopefully. This gives time to pack propane bottles / tarps etc and get last minute items (perishable foods etc). Jer should drive to Rod’s house on Wed evening too. This way all our gear is packed and ready to go for 02:30. We may have to shop for some food (perishables) but that’s about it. We can crash in Rod’s basement.
Thu June 23 
02:30-12:00
Drive to Red Lake outfitters. Get fishing licences in Red Lake and some lunch (Subway). Includes time for breakfast. Note the time we are leaving... :-) We have Dad's truck and are going to try squeezing all 6 of us in there. Saves on gas.
Thu June 23
12:30-14:00
Drive from Red Lake to Leano Lake. I think this is plenty of time to drive that road.
Thu June 23
14:00-20:00
Leano - Kilburn We all want to stay at the 'luxury' site on Kilburn. This is a good idea even though it means moving a bit on 'slow day' the next day.
Fri June 24
 
SLOW DAY - Kilburn Area

If we’ve camped at the luxury site, we should move camp to Middle Kilburn - while fishing along the way of course!

Weather permitting, I also want to go into Upper Kilburn with empty canoes and explore out of Upper Kilburn to the northwest into Paull Lake.

If it's windy from the south we can take the 1km portage into upper Kilburn instead of paddling 6km against the wind. We can also camp in Upper Kilburn on Friday night if we do this option and will have tons of time to explore if we do this.

I do wonder if we should try to get into Dragon Lake for camp on Friday night - do we really want a rest day so soon into the trip? "Rest" is relative I guess. It really means we're moving camp 6km further down the lake and paddling Upper Kilburn with empty canoes - it doesn't mean we're sitting around all day...

Sat June 25 Kilburn - Talon

This could be a big day of paddling with all our gear (~20km). I recommend we get up nice and early and book it for Talon, especially if we happen to have good (dry!) weather.

We should try to camp on the south end of Talon as this is new territory and good for exploring further south on our next rest day. There's supposed to be more than one options for camps on the south end of Talon and the fishing should be good there too - some streams coming into the Talon River.

Sun June 26 REST DAY Enjoy some worship and some fishing / exploration on the south end of Talon.
Mon June 27 Talon - Welkin Lake

Depends on the weather. This is a long day (~20km) but we should be ready to rock 'n roll after a rest day on Sunday.

After this push we also get 3 very relaxing days in the Welkin / Wrist / Mexican Hat lake area so it's worth pushing it if the weather allows us to.

Welkin is a new lake we didn’t get to last time. It’s also very close to Beamish, which we’ve accessed from the MB side before...

Another option is to stay in Aegean instead of going into Welkin. This will depend more on our moods and the weather than anything else.

Tue June 28

SLOW DAY

Welkin - Wrist Lake or,
Aegean - Wrist Lake

We could rest in Welkin if we really want, but the distance to Wrist is minimal and gives us more options in case of bad weather.
Wed June 29 REST DAY on Wrist or SLOW DAY to Mexican Hat.

Totally new area. Very deep lake (200') Lake Trout anyone? There's sandy beaches here too -and options to explore out of Wrist to the NW. I think we can easily entertain ourselves in this area for an extra day!

If the weather is crappy and we want to travel a bit further we can go to Nutria or Mexican Hat Lake.

Because of the option to possibly do some travel on Friday evening to make Saturday more managable, I'm now leaning towards NOT resting on Wrist but rather going all the way to MH lake instead and resting there on thursday.

Thu June 30

SLOW DAY or REST DAY

Wrist - Mexican Hat 
Mexican Hat - East Lunch

There is a kick butt campsite right next to a walleye factory on Mexican Hat Lake. Need I say more? :-)

There is the option to take our REST DAY on Mexican Hat Lake. It's tempting simply because of the excellent camp site but I think should depend on the weather.

I also suggest that weather permitting, we have an early supper on MH (walleye!) before continueing on our route towards Bunny in the evening. If we have nice weather this could be a very pleasant way to shave off some distance before a long day on Friday...

Fri July 1 Mexican Hat - Bunny Lake

We can take a new route from Mexican Hat this time - more portaging but interesting. This will be a longish day but makes Sat much more manageable.

If the weather is nice on Friday afternoon / evening I think we should take advantage and move camp from MH to East Lunch. This shaves 4 hours off our travel time on Friday and gives us one more reasonable day in the wilderness without having to rush too much.

Sat July 2 Bunny - Leano Lake Short paddle, but a long drive home awaits!

 

Detailed Distances / Route Information

Here’s some more detailed distance and route information for each day of the trip.

NOTE: Kilburn is incorrectly labeled as 'Sydney' on my GPS topo maps for some reason.

Overall Route

Day 1 - Leano to Kilburn


Total Distance: 8km (Kilburn C1,C2 - see Day 2 for other options 19km to C6)
Paddle Distance: 7km (18km to C6)
Portage Count: 5 (6 to C6)
Portage Distance: 1020 | (350, 400, 120, 50, 100)


Map:

Fish Species: Walleye, Pike
Points of Interest: There's the bay where we hammered walleye on the first trip. There's also some terrain on the opposite side of the island that may be worthwhile exploring.

We should try to catch some walleye on the way to camp (after the 4th portage there's a nice walleye factory) for supper.

 

Day 2 - Kilburn to Middle Kilburn (SLOW DAY)


Total Distance: 11km (less if we do the 1000m portage option)
Paddle Distance: 11km (much less if we do the 1000m portage option)
Portage Count: (or 2 if doing 1000 meter option)
Portage Distance: 150 (Or 1080 depending on route...)


Map:

 

Detail of Upper Kilburn + Portage Option if there's a strong south wind or we decide to camp in Upper Kilburn and do more exploring instead of paddling on Kilburn for Friday.


Fish Species: Walleye, Pike
Points of Interest: Talus rock in bay at very end of western arm. Great walleye fishing in middle and upper. Lots of bear and moose to watch for.

Great camp halfway up west shore of west arm.

 

Day 3 - Kilburn to Talon


Total Distance: ~17km + 6.5km option.
Paddle Distance: 15.575 + 6.5km option
Portage Count: 4
Portage Distance: 1425 meters


Map:

Fish Species: Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest: Great camp on island at south end or northeast corner, depending on the time we arrive.


Day 4 - Talon REST DAY


Total Distance: ?km (Depends on amount of explor8ion...)
Paddle Distance:
Portage Count:
Portage Distance:
Map:


Fish Species: Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest: Mostly a day of rest but obviously do some fishing and exploring as well. The south end of Talon looks like a great place to explore and fish as we go.
 

Day 5 (option 1) - Talon to Welkin


Total Distance: 19km
Paddle Distance: 17.6km
Portage Count: 6km
Portage Distance: 1415m (160 + 375 + 80 + 150 + 550 + 100)


Map:

Fish Species: Pike, Walleye?, Lake Trout?
Points of Interest: Welkin is pretty close to Beamish, which is cool because we've been in Beamish before. Depending what time we get to Welkin, we could do some exploring to the east.


Day 5 (option 2) - Talon to Aegean


Total Distance: 18km
Paddle Distance: 17.5km
Portage Count: 3
Portage Distance: 615m ( 160 + 375 + 80)
Map: (Same as Day 5 option 1)

Fish Species: Lake Trout, Pike

Points of Interest: One of the main reasons to take this option instead of Welkin is to look for the pictograph site on South Aegean. Small cavern on west shore of a finger bay on Aegean. Good camp at narrows en route to the bulge part of Aegean. Great Lake trout fishing in the bulge part of the lake.

 

Another reason to go this route is half the portage distance so a much shorter day. Probably pretty good camp sites too.
 

Day 6 SLOW DAY (option 1) - Welkin to Wrist


Total Distance: 9km 
Paddle Distance: 8.7km
Portage Count: 1
Portage Distance: 300m


Map:

Fish Species: Lake Trout, Pike
Points of Interest: Very short day, so plenty of time to fish and explore on our way to Wrist.


Day 6 - SLOW DAY (option 2) - Aegean to Wrist


Total Distance: 11km
Paddle Distance:
Portage Count: 3
Portage Distance: 140m (20+20+100)
Map: (Same as Day 6 option 1)

Fish Species: Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest: If we didn't have time the day before, we can do some Lake Trout fishing or look for the pictographs. Is the sandy beach on the north shore near the 625m portage big enough to camp at?

 

Day 7 (or 8) - Wrist Lake REST DAY

Make this Day 8 to have a rest day on Mexican Hat instead. Depends on weather / mood.

Total Distance: ?km
Paddle Distance: ?
Portage Count: ?
Portage Distance:?


Map:

Fish Species: Lake Trout, Pike
Points of Interest: Explore to the northwest, fish for Lake Trout, look for sandy beach at the north shore near the 625m portage. 

 

Day 8 - SLOW DAY (or 7) - Wrist to Mexican Hat Lake

Make this Day 7 to have a rest day on Mexican Hat instead. Depends on weather / mood...

Total Distance: 9.4km
Paddle Distance: 9km
Portage Count: 3
Portage Distance: 770m (100 + 70 + 600)


Map:

 

Fish Species: Walleye, Pike
Points of Interest: Lots of Walleye! Make sure to try for walleye in Nutria too. Camp at the walleye factory for obvious reasons... There are also camp sites at the top of the hat with a small beach. If this is our rest day we should explore up the 3 portages north of the lake into the Glenn Lake area.

I'm pretty sure this is all Walleye territory.

 

NOTE - we will have lots of time to fish and sight see along the way, this is another pretty slack day as far as canoe tripping goes.

 

Day 9 - Mexican Hat to Bunny Lake


Total Distance (Long): 25km
Total Distance (Short): 19km
Paddle Distance (Long): 23.3km
Paddle Distance (Short): 17.55km
Portage Count (Long option): 10
Portage Count (Short option): 13
Portage Distance (Long): 1715m (800 + 60 + 150 + 40 + 200 + 150 + 70 + 80 + 150 + 15)
Portage Distance (Short): 1450m (325 + 80 + 40 + 140 + 60 + 100  + 40 + 200 + 150 + 70 + 80 + 150 + 15)
Map:


Fish Species: Pike
Points of Interest: Wolves have been spotted in Lunch lake. Bunny should have good fishing, lots of camp sites on this route.

 

I'm not sure why we would do the long option. It's way further and actually the total distance walked is more too... I do know that the 800m portage out of Mexican Hat is like a highway (really nice trail) but probably not worth all the extra distance.

 

I don't think it would be a terrible idea to eat an early supper on Mexican Hat (walleye, obviously) around 16:00 and pack up camp before traveling in the evening (weather permitting) to around "East Lunch C2" before setting up camp Friday night.

Day 10 - Bunny to Leano Lake


Total Distance:
Paddle Distance:
Portage Count:
Portage Distance:
Map:

Fish Species: Pike
Points of Interest: The long road home! :-)

Food List

 

I have a different idea from past trips for food on this particular trip. I think that for the most part we should organize our own food individually (instead of groups of 2 or 4) to make planning and packing before the trip much easier. Food is pretty simple the way we do it anyway. Snacks and lunch were always each person's own responsibility (Melba toast, granola bars, trail mix pretty much covers it) and suppers are usually soup and something instant (Lipton Sidekicks for example) usually with fish.

 

For items like soup (Lipton soup works is good) or fish batter you may want to pair up with your canoe partner so you don’t have too much (i.e. get each person to buy 4 Lipton soup works since they serve 2-4 people each). See the food list for an idea of what’s needed.

Because of the length of the trip I would suggest simple meals that don’t require a lot of prep and are light to carry and easy to pack, but of course it’s completely up to you! I would also highly recommend no canned food since it’s very heavy to carry and you have to pack out the junk. The exception to this may be fruit cups. On a 33 degree day that fresh fruit tastes very good!! And of course there's always someone who carries 12 cans of beer in for the first day or two. You're lucky because our second day is pretty much a rest day already! ;-) (To that end, you could carry in a couple of heavy meals for the first couple of days if you wanted to. Steak anyone?)

I recommend buying freeze-dried meals that simply require boiling water for supper (i.e. Lipton Sidekicks but make sure you don’t need milk or butter - or make sure you’re willing to carry the butter and/or dried milk powder!)

 

MEC meals are expensive but worth every penny for their excellent taste and easy-to-prep manner. Soups (Cup-a-soup or Sidekicks) with crackers or Melba toast with simple spreads (peanut butter and jam) work well for lunches. Make sure you package the spreads carefully (tubes work best) or your pack could get messy. Breakfasts are easiest if they’re granola or fruit bars (only issue is their weight) or packages of oatmeal (lightweight and very filling). Pancakes or bacon and eggs sound great but they are messy and very heavy. I’m NOT bringing syrup on this trip!! :-) If you bring any liquids make sure they’re double bagged against leakage. It sucks to have olive oil or syrup over everything in your pack and I'm speaking from experience on this one. 

I would also suggest bringing some kind of wrap for eating the fish we’ll catch. It makes the meal much more filling and easy to eat. Wraps work better than bread because they’re just as filling but take much less room in the pack. I always seem to pack way too many of these - they’re quite filling when stuffed with Lake Trout filets!! 1 wrap stuffed with fish is very filling. Add a hunk of cheese to your food bag and those fish wraps are to die for! Superstore has good wraps.

 

Make sure that your food is packaged in waterproof bags in your backpack if possible. I don't like how we store our food on trips and if we're off canoeing on rest days, we can't just leave food in camp. This year we're either going to start storing food in a canoe that's taken away from camp or more likely will try to hang it in trees - hence the need to use dry bags for it.

Here’s a sample meal plan (obviously lunch and supper can be swapped - we usually eat more fish for supper than lunch because it’s work to prepare and makes a bit of a mess);


 

Date Breakfast Lunch Supper
June 23 Restaurant Subway (Red Lake) Soup + Dried Meal
June 24 Breakfast dried meal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 25 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 26 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 27 Breakfast dried meal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 28 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 29 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
June 30 Breakfast dried meal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
July 1 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
July 2 Oatmeal Melba, fish & wraps Soup + Dried Meal
July 3 Breakfast dried meal Melba, fish & wraps Restaurant

Here’s a sample food list for ONE person;

 

Item QTY Comments
Melba Toast 20 2 / day
Wraps 10 1 / day
Cup-o-soup 10 1 / day
Sidekicks Soup 5 1 / day (enough for 2-4 guys in each package)
Crackers 1 Large ziploc crushed, for with soup - little more filling.
Packaged Suppers 10 1 / day - MEC freeze dried.
Packaged Breakfast 4 Not every day.
Oatmeal Packages 6 1 / day (I don’t eat much oatmeal...)
Breakfast Bars 20 2 / day
Granola Bars 20 2 / day - Usually I bring more of these but they’re heavy so I’m eating more soup / crackers / fish on this trip.
Fruit Bars 10 1 / day - A lot lighter than carrying apples around...
Trail Mix (nuts) 2 Bags for the whole trip - heavy but worth it!
Beef Jerky 5 1 every 2 days
Cigars 10 1 / day (is this a FOOD?!)
Instant Coffee / Hot Chocolate / Both? 30 Packages of instant - 3/day.Seems like overkill but if it’s raining and we have days spent huddling under a tarp this will not seem like enough!
Flavoring for coffee 1 Container (luxury item!)
Margerine 1 Tube for Melba and frying fish
Olive oil 2 Containers - should be enough? For frying fish?Rod, Jer (Don’t want liquids on the plane)
Fish batter 2 Containers - should be enough. HentieMike
Peanut Butter 1 Tube for Melba toast.
Jam 1 Tube for Melba toast
Chewing gum 2 You’d be surprised how much you need this after a few days in the bush... ;-)
Snacks (other) Various Pretty much anything you want to carry!
Booze Various Your choice!

 

Camping Gear

 

An important thing to remember with all gear is that you want to fit most of it in either your big backpack or a smaller day pack. You don’t want to be carrying sleeping bags or tents outside of your pack as a separate item unless you have a pack that is made for strapping things to it. Attaching things to the outside of your pack works, but you shouldn’t overdo it. Lots of portages are fairly tight through the bush and things on the outside will get caught on branches and stuff. 

Pretty much everything needs to fit into two packs - a big one and a smaller one. Another reason for making sure your sleeping bag is inside your pack is that it's easier to keep dry that way. If it starts raining you simply put a tarp over your two packs and you’re stuff doesn’t get soaked either while paddling or in camp. If you have 3 or 4 packs of gear this becomes much harder to manage. That being said, 2 small packs and 1 larger one can also work, as long as you’re willing to carry the big pack normally (on your back) with a smaller pack on your chest on the same carry. This is how Bill Slaa carries his stuff.

The reason you don’t want too much ‘loose stuff’ that doesn’t fit in your packs is because on portages we do two load carries. The first carry is usually your big pack (maybe a small one on the front) along with any ‘loose stuff’ like camp stoves, fishing rods, extra paddles etc. The second carry is the canoe along with your day pack on your back. Since your hands are balancing your canoe there’s no way to carry anymore ‘loose stuff’ on the 2nd carry. Three carries is simply too time consuming, especially on portages over 150 meters not to mention, exhausting!

For items that are to be split among the whole group, I’ve bolded names in the comments column with a first guess - let me know if I’ve made incorrect assumptions here or if you don’t have the gear I’ve put you down for.


 

Item Comments
Tent / Poles / Stakes 3-person for 2 guys is best - share the load. One guy gets the tent + poles and the other guy gets the fly + pegs. VernHaroldJer? have good 3 person tents.
Tarp / Twine 10’x10’ for each canoe. Don't forget twine / rope (100' at least). This tarp is for over the gear in the canoe if it's raining and possibly over your tent or in addition to the large tarp in camp - windbreak or whatever.
Large Tarp / Rope 10’x14' (approx) - Rod.
Rope Or twine. Don't need a TON but 50' or so is always handy for tying up loose stuff or Rod when he gets whiney...
Sleeping bag / sleeping pad / compression sack (sample) Not too heavy if possible. Vern has extra if someone needs a light one that packs very small... Compression sacks help to keep clothing items / sleeping bags very small in the large backpack.
Large Backpack (sample) I would say at least 75L. Mine is a 90L pack and I just fit everything! Doesn’t have to cost a lot. If possible, get a rain cover for it. Can also use the frame packs (like Dad or Bill's) and strap stuff onto them.
Day pack (sample) I use a pack that’s also a drybag so it can be dunked or rained on. This pack has my day gear (gps, fishing stuff) and food for the day in it as well as some camera gear. Will probably need 2 if you use a frame pack as the large one.
Wood saw / Ax We don’t need 6 of these but if you have a small / light one bring it. We can always leave one at the truck if we have too many. Saws definitely work better than axes and are lighter. (VernHarold)
Camp chair Well worth it! The more comfy the better, but make sure it’s easy to carry in one hand.
Canoe chair (sample) Not strictly necessary. I’m still not 100% sure that I’ll bring mine. It supports the back nicely but you can't lie down in the canoe which happens more often then you might think...
Map / GPS / Batteries / Compass Vern will bring a GPS and topo maps with campsites and portages marked on them. Harold - do you still have your topo maps from last year? If you have a compass - bring it.
SPOT satellite rescue beacon. Vern will bring - we can also update our families where we are throughout the trip on Google Maps.
First aid kit. Should have at least one - Harold? I’ll bring mine too but it’s not huge.
Camp stoves RodVern - if possible with a carrying case as this makes portaging much easier! Vern's is a tiny back country stove that works well for boiling water.
Propane Rod to purchase, we each need to carry 2 of these (10 total). I will carry fuel for my stove (2 more cans - but they're different fuel than the coleman stove).
Food (see food list) Carry in dry bags or sacks. We have a number of dry bags to be shared across the group (2 ea.) so don’t buy too many dry bags yourself. We'll do this packing on Wednesday night at Rod's house.
Clothing (see clothing list) Carry in dry bags or sacks. We have a number of dry bags to be shared across the group (2 ea.) so don’t buy too many of these.
Sunglasses / Sunscreen  
Headlamp / flashlight Headlamp is much easier to use when trying to brush your teeth late at night on a steep sided island... ;-)
Toilet Paper  GET YOUR OWN!
Fire starter / matches  Everyone should carry this!
Insect repellent DON’T FORGET THIS!!
Water bottles Bring two 1 litre bottles. The reason for 2 is that you can treat one with water treatment while you drink from the other one.
Water treatment (sample) One set per canoe should be plenty as you only need it for cool water, anything boiled doesn’t need to be treated. VernMikeRod can supply this for their canoes, or take some if you have it! (Harold?)
Knife  Everyone should carry a knife.
Bear spray / banger Probably not needed but if you have it anyway, bring it. Don't buy for the trip.
Notebook / pen Optional - I use for journalling.
Camera / lens / batteries Store it as waterproof as possible but you want to have it handy so you can actually use it!
IPOD w/ Speakers Vern will bring for Sunday worship and devotion. Could be handy for sleeping as we have some snoring monsters.
Bible Bring your own small one if you have it - else I think Harold has a nice small one?
Book / Playing cards Luxury item but you may actually have time to read it on this trip. :-)
Frying pan w/ flipper Harold? I think 1 is plenty.
Pots VernHarold? We need 1 small and 2 medium pots. I have 1 set so we only need 1 more medium sized pot.
Plate / Bowl / Spoon / Fork / Cup Lighter is better! Plate is optional as a bowl is more versatile.
Thermos cup This can be very handy for carrying hot soup around all day or coffee or whatever. I wished I had one on the last trip!
Camping Permit Rod is taking care of the permits.


Clothing / Personal Gear

 

This is a suggested list - modify as needed. Remember all this stuff needs to fit into one giant (heavy!) pack! I’m planning on washing my clothes on this trip to be re-used.

 

Item QTY Comments
Sandals / flip flops 1 Comfortable around camp except for the biting insects... Also good for in the canoe but you have to switch for runners if doing portages, unless you’re Jon Dewit. Then you do portages in flip flops until your toe nails are falling off!
Runners / Hikers 1 As long as they’re comfortable. I like runners because they’re light but hiking boots tend to have more support for long / slippery portages and are warmer if we get 10 days of rain... ;-)
Socks 5pr I figure these can be washed if necessary.
Undies 3 Ditto to the socks. Wash ‘em as needed. NO COMMANDO HENTIE!
T-shirts 3 Wash as necessary.
Fleece / Light Jacket / Long sleeved shirt 1 Even if it's scorching hot - a long sleeved shirt is good for keeping flies and bugs off the skin.
Convertible pants / shorts 1 I was going to bring 2 pair but they get dirty anyway and can be washed...
Swim trunks 1  
Sweat pants 1 Sleep wear
Rain Jacket 1 VERY IMPORTANT
Rain Pants 1 VERY IMPORTANT - could literally save you from having a really bad trip.
Cap 1  
Towel 1 Don’t make it too big - just takes longer to dry!
Take-out clothes. 1 For after the trip.
Deo 1 NOT OPTIONAL ;-)
Toothpaste / Brush 1  
Toilet Paper 2-12 ROLLS - depending on your habits! :-) And yes - this is already mentioned earlier. That should be a clue for the newbs...
Camp soap / shampoo 1 This will act as dish soap, body wash and laundry detergent. Try to get environment friendly stuff.


Fishing Gear

 

We generally do a lot of fishing on these trips. With 4 extra days it’s important to factor that in. We will be doing more fishing than ever before. This is just a suggested list, tweak to your liking. You do not need two rods / reels. I bring two because I have them and then I have a backup if one breaks.

 

One rod / reel that’s medium weight with 12lb line is perfect. I wouldn’t go too cheap because you get what you pay for and it sucks to fight with crappy gear when everyone else is hammering walleye or lake trout. This has happened before and like I said, it sucks. People get very protective about gear that's hammering fish so don't expect the guy next to you to hand out his last $9 blue Rapala because you didn't think it was worth buying your own. :-)

(For the guys who haven’t been on one of these trips before, we will have more than one evening where every boat is hauling in fish on almost every cast. We’ve even had times where 3 boats are hauling in 2 walleye per boat at the same time! Oh yeah. Fishing is just as important as the canoeing - maybe even slightly more for some of us right Rod?)

Don’t bother bringing a whole tackle box along - it’s a PITA to carry around and usually ends up busted anyway. I carry all my tackle in a stuff sack and put it in my small day pack. The lures and jig heads go in small containers like Tupperware or whatever. You need to bring enough lures but not too many either. Count on losing those expensive lures. When you're casting for those lunkers in tight cover you do lost some hardware.

I should warn you up front. Rod and I catch the vast majority of Lake Trout. Better prepare yourself for this reality ahead of time so you won’t be disappointed on the water. :-) (Now we probably won’t catch ANY - sorry Rod!)


 

Item QTY Comments
Fishing Licence 1 We will get these in Red Lake.
Walleye Rod / Reel 1 Light setup for walleye (6-8lb line). Get 12lb line if this is your only setup.
Pike Rod / Reel 1 Medium heavy setup for pike and trout (14lb line)
Pink (or mix up the colors) 1/4oz Jig Heads 12 Pink works best - don’t ask why... Doesn't hurt to have some white, green, orange or yellow too.
White 3 or 4” Berkley GULP jig tails (sample) 12-24 White works best - don’t ask why... GULP is expensive but it’s worth it.
Green or other color 3” Berkley GULP jig tails 12 For backup if white isn’t working. White always works though...
Spoons (variety) 5-10 Assorted for pike and trout. Don’t get too small. I wouldn’t get anything under 3-4” long.
Crankbait (blue and silver recommended) (sample) 3-4 Very expensive but even if you just get 2 of these, it’s worth it! I would get one that goes 15’ deep and another that goes 30’ deep. On every trip to Woodland Caribou these have been the main producers of lake trout and if you’re the only guy without one your life will suck... :-) Make sure you get at least two BLUE ones. Color is very important here!!
Wire leaders 12 Protect the line from getting chomped by lunkers!
Extra spool of line. 1 Could be worth it. Line gets very tangled over 5 days of trolling - 10 days could be interesting!
Fillet Knife w/ sharpening stone. 2 HaroldMike? We only need one or two of these.
Pliers 1 Very handy for taking hooks out and flattening barbs on hooks.
Fishing net. 0 DON’T BOTHER. I brought one once and it’s a PITA to carry around. Huge fish can be gently lifted out of the water since we’re in canoes anyway.


 

 

Planning the WCPP 2014 Canoe Trip

Attained Summit?: 
No

Preamble

I can't believe it's been 3 years since our last canoe trip already! Wow. At first I wasn't too excited about doing another trip for some reason - partly because we're back to a 6 day trip from a 10 day one last time and partly because it's still the middle of winter... :) But as I work through the maps and the photos from past trips I am getting excited.

 

Just like last time we planned a trip, there are many of us (most!) coming from out-of-town. This means we have to be fairly organized ahead of time. Please do take care of anything you can ahead of time so that we're not scrambling last minute with fishing gear, licenses etc, any more than we have to.

 

Last time I wrote one of these plans, we had two newbies along (Hentie and Jer) so please forgive me if some of this stuff sounds too detailed. This year we are a pretty experienced bunch. I just like organizing, so let me have fun OK?! :) Obviously everything is simply a suggestion, or proposal. Routes, gear, food can all be negotiated either ahead of time or on the water.

 

Let's dive in...

 

Canoe Partners

Partners for 2014 will be;

  1. Harold | Bill
  2. Vern | Hentie
  3. Rod | Tim

Costs

If you have incurred trip expenses (gasoline for the truck, propane for stoves, reservation costs etc) PLEASE keep track of these and bring them along on the trip. The last thing we do on the way home is calculate final costs per person and if you don’t have your costs we can’t include your portion for the group. This keeps things fair for everyone. The following is a cost estimate per person;

Cost Item Comments
$187 Canoe Rental Kevlar w/ paddles & life jackets.
  Canoe Shuttle To Leano from Red Lake.
$35 Fishing License Order ahead of time - if possible.
$60ish Day permits (camping) Rod will pay in advance (phone 1.807.727.1329 pay with credit card - more details below) Can we get these from the outfitter too?
$50-75 (estimate) Travel Expenses Gasoline / Costs
$125 (estimate) Food I think most of the food will be organized individually this year with canoe partners sharing some items (like soup works or whatever). 

I’ll talk specifics later...

TOTAL: $500-$550 'ish    

Before the Trip

Please try to take care of the following items BEFORE Monday, July 07. We are all spending considerable amounts of money and time to go on this trip and to wait while a guy spends an hour buying fishing tackle, picking up some booze and/or buying last minute groceries is going to get old really fast... ;-)

Item Comments

Ontario Fishing Licenses
 

This can be done online - make sure you do this early enough to allow for mailing etc.

Snacks / Drinks / Perishables / Cigars Some of us may have to purchase this the week before or when we fly in.
Food This is a big one. Shared food between canoe partners is up to the canoe partners to arrange who will buy / package what.
Gear Make sure you go over the gear lists and buy everything you need ahead of time including fishing gear, rain gear and general camping gear. Just like last time, we do not want to be shopping for gear the day we drive to Red Lake. Being prepared ahead of time makes things go a lot smoother!

Overall Plan

One of our goals for this trip is to make it feel like we’re on a route we haven’t done before, even though for some of us this will be the third time in some of the areas. One way to make this happen is by doing it in reverse and adding new sections in between. I am also working in some variations - obviously these can be ignored depending on weather and other factors. Consider this itinerary a starting point.

In WCPP I have found our canoe trips are a bit different than we've done in the past. Because of the excellent fishing we tend to canoe trip a bit less and fish more. This isn't a bad thing - I only mention it because I found it interesting when looking at older trip reports. In WCPP a 15-20km day is considered a full day, whereas I've been on trips where that would have been the rest day! :)

Detailed Route Plan

Here’s some more detailed distance and route information for each day of the trip.

NOTE: Kilburn is incorrectly labeled as 'Sydney' on my GPS topo maps for some reason.

Overall Route
 

<Insert route map here...>


Day 1 - Leano to Upper Kilburn

Comments: This will be a bit of work - there's over 2km of portaging... The nice part is that we get into the far backcountry already on Day 1. Even though Hentie caught a MASSIVE walleye in Upper Kilburn, they are considered rare for that lake.

Total Distance14km (UK-C2)
Portage Count6 
Portage Distance2020 (350, 400, 120, 50, 100, 1000)

Map (click for full size):

Fish Species: Walleye (very few), Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest:

  • There's the bay where we hammered walleye on the first trip which is just before the 1000 meter portage. Depending on our mood we could fish there for a bit on approach, since there's very few walleye in Upper Kilburn.
  • We should try to catch some walleye on the way to camp (after the 4th portage there's a nice walleye factory) for supper. Our next day or two will be non-Walleye country - 'only' Pike and Lake Trout in Upper Kilburn, Paull, Aegean and Wrist.
  • If we're feeling great and have good weather it may be worth pushing to a camp site closer to Paull Lake, 1 or 2km further.

Day 2 - Upper Kilburn to Paull or Aegean

Comments: Depending on the weather, we should try to push to Aegean if possible. There are a number of good camp sites there and it will make day 3 much easier. If the weather is dismal we can stop in Paull Lake.

Total Distance: 15km (PA-C5) or 19km (Aegean Lake) or 23.5km (AG-C5)
Portage Countor 9 or 9
Portage Distance740m (100, 10, 30, 150, 175, 275) or 1520m (previous, 30, 300, 450) same for AG-C5

Map 1 - Upper Kilburn to Paull (click for full size):

Map 2 - Paull to Aegean (click for full size):

Map 3 - Aegean (click for full size):

Fish Species: Lake Trout, Pike
Points of Interest:

  • Rock paintings in Paull

Day 3 - Paull or Aegean to Wrist

Comments: This day will be much shorter (more time to fish for monster pike on Wrist) if we camp in Aegean on Day 2. I think it'll depend on the better weather day. Good weather means we should push further on day 2.

Total Distance: 19km (PA-C5 to WR-C1) or ~13km (Aegean to WR-C1)
Portage Count6 or 3
Portage Distance920m (30, 300, 450, 20, 20, 100) or 140m (20, 20, 100)

Map 1 - Paull to Aegean (click for full size):

Map 2 - Aegean to Wrist (click for full size):

Fish Species: Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest:


Day 4 - Wrist to Glenn or Mexican Hat

Comments: We have many options for day 4, more than I've shown here. If the weather is not cooperating on day 3, we could even bypass the entire Wrist, Hansen loop and just go straight for Mexican Hat and stay there for two nights! More realistically, our options for day 4 are;

  1. If the weather is nice and we're feeling up to exploring new terrain, take the loop variation through Hansen and Glenn, camping in Glenn. We are back in Walleye factories for both Hansen and Glenn, there is a lodge on Hansen. The downside is much further distance than option 2, with rougher portages, depending on water levels.
  2. Option 2 is to go back to Nutria and Amber lakes and into Mexican Hat that way on day 4. The upside is a much shorter day and more walleye fishing on MH, but the downside is we don't get to experience the LARGER walleye or new terrain on Hansen and Glenn. But if the weather is nasty, it's nice to have options. This option is not represented on the following maps or distance calc's because it's an emergency backup plan and is well travelled and marked on our maps of the park already. We've also travelled that section at least twice now.

Total Distance12km (GL-C3) or 18.5km (MH-C5)
Portage Count: 6 or 9
Portage Distance: 1900m or 2190m

Map (click for full size):

Fish Species: Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout
Points of Interest:

  • Fishing lodge on Hansen
  • Chutes coming from Glenn to Hansen (near the lodge) should be excellent fishing, but may meet lodge guests there.

Day 5 - Glenn or Mexican Hat to Lunch or East Lunch

Comments: Again, we have options on day 5. We can do less portaging by taking an 800m option from MH, but this will involve more paddling. We can either push almost to Bunny if we want, or hang back and fish a bit. After Jake Lake we are only in Pike territory. MH is our last chance at Walleye, so let's fish that factory before leaving (another good reason to do the route outlined here rather than the 800m portage...).

Total Distance15km (GL-C3 to LU-C2) or 17km (GL-C3 to EL-C2) or Less (MH-C5 to either LU-C2 or EL-C2)
Portage Count: 12 or 9
Portage Distance1425m (100, 150, 40, 325, 80, 40, 140, 60, 100, 40, 200, 150) or 1135m

Map - Glenn to Jake Lake (click for full size) :

Map - Jake to Lunch and East Lunch (click for full size):

Fish Species: Walleye (MH), Lake Trout (MH, Jake), Pike (All)

Points of Interest:

 

Day 6 - Lunch or East Lunch to Leano Lake

Comments: Coming from East Lunch Lake, we should be able to make it to the Leano pull out in around 4 hours. If we leave camp by 08:00'ish, this gets us there around noon. Obviously if we're feeling up to it we can leave earlier too.

Total Distance: 14km (EL-C2 to Leano pullout)
Portage Count: 5
Portage Distance: 615m

Map - East Lunch to Leano (click for full size):

Fish Species: Pike
Points of Interest: The long road home! :-)

Food List

I think that for the most part we should organize our own food individually (instead of groups of 2 or 4) to make planning and packing before the trip much easier. Food is pretty simple the way we do it anyway. Snacks and lunch were always each person's own responsibility (Melba toast, granola bars, trail mix pretty much covers it) and suppers are usually soup and something instant (MEC dried meals for example) usually with fish and wraps.

For items like soup (Lipton soup works is good) or fish batter you may want to pair up with your canoe partner so you don’t have too much (i.e. get each person to buy 4 Lipton soup works since they serve 2-4 people each). See the food list for an idea of what’s needed.

I suggest simple meals that don’t require a lot of prep and are light to carry and easy to pack, but of course it’s completely up to you! I would also highly recommend no canned food since it’s very heavy to carry and you have to pack out the junk. The exception to this may be fruit cups. On a 33 degree day that fresh fruit tastes very good!! And of course there's always someone who carries 12 cans of beer in for the first day or two... Steak is also a good idea for day 1, although we have over 2km of portaging, so you'll be working it off before you even eat it! ;)

MEC meals are expensive but worth every penny for their excellent taste and easy-to-prep manner.

I would also suggest bringing some kind of wrap for eating the fish we’ll catch. It makes the meal much more filling and easy to eat. Wraps work better than bread because they’re just as filling but take much less room in the pack. I always seem to pack way too many of these - they’re quite filling when stuffed with Lake Trout fillets!! 1 wrap stuffed with fish is very filling. Add a hunk of cheeze to your food bag and those fish wraps are to die for! Superstore has good wraps.

Here’s a sample meal plan (obviously lunch and supper can be swapped - we usually eat more fish for supper than lunch because it’s work to prepare and makes a bit of a mess);
 

Date Breakfast Lunch Supper
Monday Restaurant Subway (Red Lake) Soup + Steak / Fish
Tuesday Bacon & Eggs Melba / Soup Soup + Dried Meal / Fish
Wednesay Oatmeal Melba / Soup Soup + Dried Meal / Fish
Thursday Oatmeal Melba / Soup Soup + Dried Meal / Fish
Friday Breakfast dried meal Melba / Soup Soup + Dried Meal /Fish
Saturday Oatmeal Something greasy!!  

Here’s a sample food list for one person;

Item QTY Comments
Melba Toast 12 2 / day
Wraps 6 1 / day
Cup-o-soup 6 1 / day
Sidekicks Soup 2 0.5 / day (enough for 2-4 guys in each package)
Packaged Suppers 4 MEC freeze dried.
Packaged Breakfast 1  
Oatmeal Packages 3  
Breakfast Bars 12 2 / day
Granola Bars 18 3 / day - Usually I bring way too many of these, but they do keep energy levels up.
Fruit Bars 6 1 / day - A lot lighter than carrying apples around...
Trail Mix (nuts) 1 Bag for the trip - heavy but worth it!
Beef Jerky 2  
Cigars 12 2 / day (is this a FOOD?!)
Instant Coffee / Hot Chocolate / Both? 24 Packages of instant - 3/day.Seems like overkill but if it’s raining and we have days spent huddling under a tarp this will not seem like enough!
Flavoring for coffee 1 Container (luxury item!)
Margerine 1 Tube for Melba and frying fish
Olive oil 1 Small container or share with group.
Fish batter 1 Bag each, share with group so we have 1 / day total.
Peanut Butter 1 Tube for Melba toast.
Jam 1 Tube for Melba toast
Chewing gum 2  
Snacks (other) Various Pretty much anything you want to carry!
Booze Various Your choice!

Camping Gear

An important thing to remember with all gear is that you want to fit most of it in either your big backpack or a smaller day pack. Lots of portages are fairly tight through the bush and things on the outside will get caught on branches and stuff. 

Pretty much everything needs to fit into two packs - a big one and a smaller one. Another reason for making sure your sleeping bag is inside your pack is that it's easier to keep dry that way. If it starts raining you simply put a tarp over your two packs and you’re stuff doesn’t get soaked either while paddling or in camp. If you have 3 or 4 packs of gear this becomes much harder to manage. That being said, 2 small packs and 1 larger one can also work, as long as you’re willing to carry the big pack normally (on your back) with a smaller pack on your chest on the same carry. This is how Harry and Bill carry their stuff.

For items that are to be split among the whole group, I’ve bolded names in the comments column with a first guess - let me know if I’ve made incorrect assumptions here or if you don’t have the gear I’ve put you down for.

Item Comments
Tent / Poles / Stakes 3-person for 2 guys is best - share the load. One guy gets the tent + poles and the other guy gets the fly + pegs. VernHaroldBill? have good 3 person tents.
Tarp / Twine 10’x10’ for each canoe. Don't forget twine / rope (100' at least). This tarp is for over the gear in the canoe if it's raining and possibly over your tent or in addition to the large tarp in camp - windbreak or whatever.
Large Tarp / Rope 10’x14' (approx) - Rod.
Rope Or twine. Don't need a TON but 50' or so is always handy for tying up loose stuff or Rod when he gets whiney...
Sleeping bag / sleeping pad / compression sack (sample) Not too heavy if possible. Compression sacks help to keep clothing items / sleeping bags very small in the large backpack.
Large Backpack (sample) I would say at least 75L. Mine is a 90L pack and I just fit everything! Doesn’t have to cost a lot. If possible, get a rain cover for it. Can also use the frame packs (like Dad or Bill's) and strap stuff onto them.
Day pack (sample) I use a pack that’s also a drybag so it can be dunked or rained on. This pack has my day gear (gps, fishing stuff) and food for the day in it as well as some camera gear. Will probably need 2 if you use a frame pack as the large one.
Wood saw / Ax We don’t need 6 of these but if you have a small / light one bring it. We can always leave one at the truck if we have too many. Vern (ax)Harold (saw)
Camp chair Well worth it! The more comfy the better, but make sure it’s easy to carry in one hand. Get a GOOD QUALITY chair! In 2011 our chairs fell apart after one day on the uneven rocky surface. :)
Canoe chair (sample) Not strictly necessary. I’m still not 100% sure that I’ll bring mine. It supports the back nicely but you can't lie down in the canoe which happens more often then you might think...
Map / GPS / Batteries / Compass Vern will bring a GPS and topo maps with campsites and portages marked on them. Harold, Bill, Rod - do you still have your topo maps from last year? If you have a compass - bring it.
SPOT satellite rescue beacon. Vern will bring - we can also update our families where we are throughout the trip on Google Maps.
First aid kit. Should have at least one - Harold, Bill?
Camp stoves RodVern - if possible with a carrying case as this makes portaging much easier! Vern's is a tiny back country stove that works well for boiling water for soups / drink. I don't think we need two huge campstoves do we?
Propane Rod to purchase, we each need to carry 1 of these (6 total). I will carry fuel for my stove (2 more cans - but they're different fuel than the coleman stove).
Food (see food list) Carry in dry bags or sacks. We have a number of dry bags to be shared across the group (2 ea.) so don’t buy too many dry bags yourself. This packing should be done before Monday morning as much as possible.
Clothing (see clothing list) Carry in dry bags or sacks.
Sunglasses / Sunscreen  
Headlamp / flashlight Headlamp is much easier to use when trying to brush your teeth late at night on a steep sided island... ;-)
Toilet Paper  GET YOUR OWN!
Fire starter / matches  Everyone should carry this!
Insect repellent DON’T FORGET THIS!!
Water bottles Bring two 1 litre bottles. The reason for 2 is that you can treat one with water treatment while you drink from the other one.
Water treatment (sample) One set per canoe should be plenty as you only need it for cool water, anything boiled doesn’t need to be treated. VernHaroldHentie can supply this for their canoes, or take some if you have it! (Bill?)
Knife  Everyone should carry a knife.
Bear spray / banger Probably not needed but if you have it anyway, bring it. Don't buy for the trip.
Notebook / pen Optional - I use for journalling.
Camera / lens / batteries Store it as waterproof as possible but you want to have it handy so you can actually use it!
Frying pan w/ flipper Harold, Vern? 2 would be handy for fish fries...
Pots VernHarold? We need 1 small and 2 medium pots. I have 1 set so we only need 1 more medium sized pot.
Plate / Bowl / Spoon / Fork / Cup Lighter is better! Plate is optional as a bowl is more versatile.
Thermos cup This can be very handy for carrying hot soup around all day or coffee or whatever.
Camping Permit Rod is taking care of the permits, or we will get them at the outfitters.


Clothing / Personal Gear

This is a suggested list - modify as needed. Remember all this stuff needs to fit into one giant (heavy!) pack!

Item QTY Comments
Sandals / flip flops 1 Comfortable around camp except for the biting insects... Also good for in the canoe but you have to switch for runners if doing portages, unless you’re Jon Dewit. Then you do portages in flip flops until your toe nails are falling off!
Runners / Hikers 1 As long as they’re comfortable. I like runners because they’re light but hiking boots tend to have more support for long / slippery portages and are warmer if we get 6 days of rain... ;-)
Socks 5pr  
Undies 3 NO COMMANDO HENTIE!
T-shirts 3 Wash as necessary.
Fleece / Light Jacket / Long sleeved shirt 1 Even if it's scorching hot - a long sleeved shirt is good for keeping flies and bugs off the skin.
Convertible pants / shorts 1  
Swim trunks 1  
Sweat pants 1 Sleep wear
Rain Jacket 1 VERY IMPORTANT
Rain Pants 1 VERY IMPORTANT - could literally save you from having a really bad trip.
Cap 1  
Towel 1 Don’t make it too big - just takes longer to dry!
Take-out clothes. 1 For after the trip.
Deo 1 NOT OPTIONAL ;-)
Toothpaste / Brush 1  
Toilet Paper 1-12 ROLLS - depending on your habits! :-)
Camp soap / shampoo 1 This will act as dish soap, body wash and laundry detergent. Try to get environment friendly stuff.


Fishing Gear

We generally do a lot of fishing on these trips. This is just a suggested list, tweak to your liking. You do not need two rods / reels. I bring two because I have them and then I have a backup if one breaks.

One rod / reel that’s medium weight with 12lb line is perfect. I wouldn’t go too cheap because you get what you pay for and it sucks to fight with crappy gear when everyone else is hammering walleye or lake trout. This has happened before and like I said, it sucks. People get very protective about gear that's hammering fish so don't expect the guy next to you to hand out his last $9 blue Rapala because you didn't think it was worth buying your own. :-)

(For the guys who haven’t been to WCPP before, we will have more than one evening where every boat is hauling in fish on almost every cast. We’ve even had times where 3 boats are hauling in 2 walleye per boat at the same time! Oh yeah. Fishing is just as important as the canoeing - maybe even slightly more for some of us right Rod?)

Don’t bother bringing a whole tackle box along - it’s a PITA to carry around and usually ends up busted anyway. I carry all my tackle in a stuff sack and put it in my small day pack. The lures and jig heads go in small containers like Tupperware or whatever. You need to bring enough lures but not too many either. Count on losing those expensive lures. When you're casting for those lunkers in tight cover you do lose some hardware.

I should warn you up front. Rod and I catch the vast majority of Lake Trout. Better prepare yourself for this reality ahead of time so you won’t be disappointed on the water. :-) Bill catches an annoying number of Walleye and Hentie will have his work cut out for him if he's going to beat his record for SIZE of walleye from last year. Rod will also have a tough time beating his 20lb pike...

Item QTY Comments
Fishing Licence 1 We will get these in Red Lake or through the outfitter. Can we get them online this year?
Walleye Rod / Reel 1 Light setup for walleye (6-8lb line). Get 12lb line if this is your only setup.
Pike Rod / Reel 1 Medium heavy setup for pike and trout (14-20lb line)
Pink (or mix up the colors) 1/4oz Jig Heads 12-24 Pink works best - don’t ask why... Doesn't hurt to have some white, green, orange or yellow too.
White 3 or 4” Berkley GULP jig tails (sample) 12-24 White works best - don’t ask why... GULP is expensive but it’s worth it.
Green or other color 3” Berkley GULP jig tails 12 For backup if white isn’t working. White always works though...
Spoons (variety) 5-10 Assorted for pike and trout. Don’t get too small. I wouldn’t get anything under 3-4” long.
Crankbait (blue and silver recommended) (sample) 3-4 Very expensive but even if you just get 2 of these, it’s worth it! I would get one that goes 15’ deep and another that goes 30’ deep. On every trip to WCPP these have been the main producers of lake trout and if you’re the only guy without one your life will suck... :-) Make sure you get at least two BLUE ones. Color is very important here!!
Wire leaders 12 Protect the line from getting chomped by lunkers!
Fillet Knife w/ sharpening stone. 2 HaroldBill? We only need one or two of these but bring it if you have it and especially if you know how to use it. More people filleting is good when the bugs are bad.
Pliers 1 Very handy for taking hooks out and flattening barbs on hooks.
Fishing net. 0 DON’T BOTHER. I brought one once and it’s a PITA to carry around. Huge fish can be gently lifted out of the water since we’re in canoes anyway.

 

Planning the WCPP 2016 Canoe Trip

 

The time is here. Time to plan another canoe trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP)! This year is going to be a bit different for me. I'm planning to fly into the central area of WCPP with my 15 y.o. son and spend 9 days canoeing down from Know Lake to the Glenn Lake area before meeting up with the rest of the group for the second week of canoeing.

 

UPDATE May 22 2016 : Wildfire is currently raging through the bottom 1/3 of WCPP! Around May 6th a fire started on the Manitoba side of the park and on May 12th it suddenly flared up into a pretty respectable wildfire and quickly consumed many thousands of acres in WCPP. Thankfully nobody has been hurt so far, but several buildings have been lost and many decades of portage trails must be rebuilt. For updates on the fire conditions in WCPP check here and here. For updated fire forecasts and areas affected by the burn click here (don't forget to click the "today" link to make it current). Our plans will definitely have to change because of the fire, as our planned Edge Route goes right into the heart of the burn around Talon River / Lake. Until the fire is under control, there is really no reason to do detailed planning of the second week. Of course, fire is a natural and necessary component of the ecosystem in WCPP but selfishly I am mourning the loss of several Manitoba access points to WCPP and some gorgeous forests around Donald and Talon Lakes.

 

UPDATE June 08 2016 : Thankfully, the wildfire has been out now for a week or so. Damage assessments are being conducted and we might be OK to travel through some sections of the park near Leano Lake. We'll find out soon and I will update the plans accordingly.

 

UPDATE June 14 2016 : We have updated our route to eliminate any travel in the recent burn area. See below for details.

 

I will include all my planning here for overall trip planning information, but for folks who are interested in only the 2nd week (i.e. the group trip), you can click here to skip to that section.

 

Week One - Vern and Niko

Preamble

Niko and I are doing a fly-in, drive-out route as a special father / son canoe trip in 2016. This is going to be a two week endeavor where we meet up with a second group after 10 or 11 days traveling by ourselves first. Our first plan was to try a southern loop through Landing Crane, Sylvia and Talon before looping back up to Leano this year as this is the only part of WCPP that we haven't done yet that is realistically accessible for a 6 day loop from the Leano Lake parking lot. This is also known locally as the "Edge Route" because it follows the southern boundary line of WCPP exactly. Due to a wildfire (see above), our plans had to change for the second week to a more central aspect of the park.

 

A more central park trip suited me fine, since this is the part of WCPP that I haven't explored yet and paying for a float plane isn't cheap. Might as well make it worthwhile! :) After some deliberation I settled on flying into Knox Lake and following the Bloodvein River for a bit through Murdock before dropping down towards Poodle Lake and part of the Minjim Route towards Constellation and Royd. From Royd we'd take our time through Gammon and the Gammon River, possibly taking a day to venture into Haven (I've been dreaming of the Walleye there for a while now!) before continuing through Hanson and Glenn where we'll link up with the second group and finish our trip through Optic, Telescope, Embryo and the Johnson Lake egress. 

 

After severely injuring my foot 2 weeks before our departure date (making me seriously wonder if we should even bother going!) we changed our plans yet again, on the morning we left Calgary. Instead of flying into the park, we would now be departing from Onnie Lake, just in case my foot couldn't handle the portages - at least we'd be close to the road. The updated route would be two loops, the first around Onnie. Telescope, Hatchet and Douglas back to Onnie and the second from Optic to Glenn, Hanson, Rostoul, Haven, Wrist and Mexican Hat back to Glenn.

 

Overall Route - Niko and Vern 14 days

 
[135km of WCPP goodness! Our overall route. ++]

Day 1 - Onnie Lake

Comments

Leave Kenora at 6am, get to Red Lake around 9. At the Onnie Lake put-in at noon. We have 8+ hours to get 2.5km and this will test the foot right off the bat.

Total Distance 2.5
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 1005m (350, 30, 625)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike
Other

 

 

Day 2 - Onnie to Telescope

Comments

With a west wind, this will be an 'interesting' day. Definitely should be ready for a very early start. There are pictographs between Onnie and Telescope in the unnamed (Hjalmar) Lake about half way down the lake on the north shore.

Total Distance 14km
Portage Count 4
Portage Distance 625m (150, 125, 150, 200)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike
Other

 

 

Day 3 - Telescope to Glenn

Comments

Glenn is pretty large - depending on conditions try to paddle west on the lake before setting up camp. Great fishing, lots of interesting terrain. If the foot is really bothering, this will be where we start to change plans.

Total Distance 14 km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Walleye, Lake Trout, Pike
Other

Can easily add some distance and a few more portages, even all the way to Hansen if things go a bit smoother than predicted, because we will be back in Glenn later in the week.

 

Day 4 - Glenn to Hansen

Comments

A fairly short day, depending on weather and the foot we can either push it to Rostoul or even take a rest day already. The portages were a little messy last time through. There are pictographs on Hansen on the rock wall before the portages leading towards Wrist.

Total Distance 12km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 410m (60, 300, 50)
Fish Types Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye
Other

 

 

Day 5 - Hansen to Rostoul

Comments

This should be a delightful day. It's very short and Rostoul is a gorgeous lake with great fishing. Could push on to Cyclops or even Haven if we really wanted to or if it makes sense with the weather. This is where I have to seriously assess the foot before possibly doing the route down to Jigsaw and Wrist or staying around Rostoul / Hammerhead / Gammon which has less portaging and more paddling.

Total Distance 7.5km
Portage Count 1
Portage Distance 275m (275)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike
Other

 

 

Day 6 - Rostoul to Haven

Comments

Depending on the weather and conditions and my foot - we can stay on Rostoul or move to Haven and set up camp there. Haven is supposed to be a pretty magical place and has a TON of camp sites.

Total Distance 5.5km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 805m (150, 80, 575)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike
Other

 

Day 7 - Haven Lake Rest Day

FISH. FISH. FISH.

Day 8 - Haven to Jigsaw

Comments

This is where I need to be really honest about my foot. Worst case scenario we turn back to Rostoul at this point. This day is pretty short distance-wise. If we feel really good we could push to Wrist. Jigsaw looks like a really cool lake so I would rather stay here than even in Wrist.

Total Distance 6.5km
Portage Count 2
Portage Distance 875m (300, 575)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike
Other

 

 

Day 9 - Jigsaw to Wrist

Comments

This is a short day with one long portage and a kick ass camp site on Wrist. Depending on conditions, if we really think it's necessary we can push on to Mexican Hat, but I'd rath

Total Distance 4.5km
Portage Count 1
Portage Distance 825m (825)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout
Other  

 

Day 10 - Wrist to Mexican Hat

Comments

Another pretty short day and we could probably take another rest day on Wrist if we wanted to. Depending on conditions.

Total Distance 12km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 695m (100, 70, 525)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout
Other  

 

Day 11 - Mexican Hat to Glenn

Comments

This day can be split into two days, we can camp either at the eastern or western end of the lake or use it for a rest day if we know the following day is much better since it's a rest day anyway. Lots of good fishing and camp sites on Glenn.

Total Distance 10km to 15km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 300m (60, 150, 90)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout
Other
 

Day 12 - Glenn Rest Day (Meet with other group)

FISH. FISH. FISH

PreambleWeek Two - Group Trip

Just like last time we planned a trip, there are many of us (most!) coming from out-of-town. This means we have to be fairly organized ahead of time. Please do take care of anything you can ahead of time so that we're not scrambling last minute with fishing gear, licenses etc, any more than we have to.

 

Obviously everything listed here is simply a suggestion, or proposal. Routes, gear, food can all be negotiated either ahead of time or on the water to some extent. We're all fairly experienced in the group this year, but I believe it's been a while for Jon and Dylan and WCPP trips are always a bit more 'out there' than some of the ones we've done in the past.

 

Canoe Partners

Partners for 2016 will be;

  1. Harold | Bill
  2. Vern | Niko
  3. Jon | Dylan

 

Costs

If you have incurred trip expenses (gasoline for the truck, propane for stoves, reservation costs etc) PLEASE keep track of these and bring them along on the trip. The last thing we do on the way home is calculate final costs per person and if you don’t have your costs we can’t include your portion for the group. This keeps things fair for everyone. The following is a cost estimate per person;

 

Cost Item Comments
$ Canoe Rental Kevlar w/ paddles & life jackets. Harold will pay up front through RLO.
  Canoe Shuttle To Leano from Red Lake. Harold will pay up front through RLO.
$35 Fishing License Order ahead of time - if possible. Individual. Can be purchased at RLO too.
$60ish Day permits (camping) Harold will pay up front through RLO.
$50-75 (estimate) Travel Expenses Gasoline / Costs
$125 (estimate) Food Food should either be done individually or offline with your canoe partner.
TOTAL: $    

 

Trip Resources

Following are some trip resources, links, documents etc to help with planning.

 

  • Lakes and Fins (PDF) - A list of fish species by major lake in WCPP.
  • Campsites in WCPP (PDF) - An approximate marking of some camp sites in WCPP - note that these are random sites, not necessarily well used.

 

Before the Trip

Please try to take care of the following items before the trip. We are all spending considerable amounts of money and time to go on this trip and to wait while a guy spends an hour buying fishing tackle, picking up some booze and/or buying last minute groceries is going to get old really fast... ;-)

 

Item Comments

Ontario Fishing Licenses
 

This can be done online - make sure you do this early enough to allow for mailing etc.

Snacks / Drinks / Perishables / Cigars Some of us may have to purchase this the week before or when we fly in.
Food This is a big one. Shared food between canoe partners is up to the canoe partners to arrange who will buy / package what.
Gear

Make sure you go over the gear lists and buy everything you need ahead of time including fishing gear, rain gear and general camping gear. Just like last time, we do not want to be shopping for gear the day we drive to Red Lake. Being prepared ahead of time makes things go a lot smoother!

 

Don't assume that someone else will be bringing an item like camp stoves or cooking gear - ask the group via email before assuming anything.

 

Gear List

Following is a recommended gear list based on many past canoe trips. Obviously YMMV, but this a good place to start.

 

Gear List Comment Who's Responsible?
General Gear   ind = everyone for themselves.
     
Map / Compass No need to buy if you don't have one. We can pick a map up in Red Lake if you want one. Vern / Harold
GPS / Batteries I have this with the route plugged in. If anyone else has a Garmin GPS I can send you the route. Vern
Sunglasses   ind
Sunscreen   ind
Head lamp Much better than flashlight but both work. ind
First Aid Kit I think we have enough of these - maybe bring a small one if you have it. Harold
SPOT Transceiver I will also have a satellite phone from my trip with Niko. Vern
Toilet Paper I would bring two rolls in case Jon does any of the cooking. :-) ind
Matches   ind
Fire Starter Fire logs or paste works great. ind
Knife   ind
Insect Repellent   ind
Water bottles Bring two so that you can always be treating one while drinking from the other. ind
Camera / Batteries   ind
Lenses w/ Covers   ind
Notebook / pen If you want to journal. ind
Sandals Work better than flip-flops unless you're Jon... ;) ind
Runners / Boots For long portages or around the fire - keeps the bugs out if they're really bad. ind
Soap Biodegradable if possible ind
Camping Permit Outfitter is supplying these ind
Camp Saw / Ax Ax is good for splitting wood, saw is quicker for cutting logs. Vern, Harold
Bear Spray For Rod when he's grumpy in the morning... ind
     
Clothing Make sure you put all clothing in waterproof sacks in your backpack.  
     
Socks 4 pair ind
Sleep wear   ind
Base Layer T-shirts (2) (quick dry if possible) ind
Mid Layer 1 Fleece Jacket ind
Shell jacket Rain gear ind
Shell pants Rain gear ind
Underwear 1-5 pair (!!) ind
Shirts 1 long sleeved for bugs. ind
Pants Convertibles work great 1 pair is good enough. ind
Shorts / Swim Trunks 1 pair ind
Cap DON'T FORGET THIS ind
Towel 1 quick dry ind
Bug shirt / mesh May be nice to have - at least some netting for around your face. ind
Take-out clothes For the ride home. ind
     
Camping    
     
Backpack 60-90 liters if possible, the less 'loose stuff' the better and easier it is to do portages. ind
Tent 3 man is nice for every 2 guys. Vern, Harold, Jon / Bill
Sleeping pad   ind
Sleeping bag   ind
Tarp / Rope 1 / tent Harold, Jon, Vern
Large Tarp / Rope We should bring at least one extra 8x10' for the group to huddle under in heavy t-storms! Jon?
Rope 100 feet each should about cover our needs. ind
Stove / Fuel 1 stove and about 8 propane canisters. I'll have my white gas stove and another emergency backup for Niko and I. I think we only need one more camp stove. Harold, Vern
Frying Pan Two should be plenty. Vern, Harold
Pots 1 medium and 1 small per stove. Vern, Harold
Water Treatment Every canoe should have their own. I recommend the drops you can buy at MEC. Iodine is nasty - I would avoid it. Jon, Vern, Harold
Utensils Spork / Knife is good enough. ind
Bowl Plastic ind
Cup Insulated works well. ind
Toothpaste / brush   ind
Deodorant NOT OPTIONAL ANYONE :-) ind
     
Fishing    
     
Rod Two piece is nice. 6ft medium action. ind
Reel Spinning / bait casting - I recommend spinning with 8-10lb test line if you're only bringing one. If you're bringing two (and you should), I personally go with a light spinning system with 6lb line for walleye and a medium weight baitcast system with 20lb spectra. ind
Backup Rod / Reel If you're paranoid about breaking a rod or a malfunctioning reel, you should bring a backup rod / reel or a different rod for pike / walleye fishing. ind
Jig heads Your favorite variety, we've had great luck with pink 1/4 and 1/8 ounce. Bring at least 12-24, you will lose some. ind
Jig tails Your favorite variety, we've had great luck with flavored white. Worth the extra $$$ for flavored and / or salted. ind
Spoons For pike / trout. Bring around a dozen of these. ind
Crank baits Your favorite, we've had some luck with larger blue Rapalas with catching Lake Trout. ind
Tackle box Remember, you have to carry all this stuff! I use a thick see-through dry bag for mine - easier to carry than a tackle box and I can see where that stubborn hidden lure is! ind
Ontario fishing license Get this before the trip - online. ind

 

Food List

Obviously this will vary for each canoe partner pair. Following is an idea of what I'm bringing for 14 days for Niko and I.

 

Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
         
7/2/2016 N/A PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Smokies, Cheeze, Wraps. Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/3/2016 Bacon & Eggs Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/4/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/5/2016 Bacon & Eggs PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/6/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/7/2016 Bacon & Eggs Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/8/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/9/2016 Bacon & Eggs Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/10/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/11/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/12/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/13/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/14/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/15/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/16/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J N/A Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy

 

Overall Plan

Our original plan was to complete the so-called "Edge Route" of WCPP along the southern border of the park before looping up through Talon Lake and then back through Dragon and Kilburn to Leano. Thanks to the wildfires of 2016, we had to change plans. Rather than deal with the recent burn area, we decided to completely avoid the areas around Leano Lake and instead take advantage of having two vehicles (since Niko and I are heading up there earlier) and do a route from the Onnie Lake access point to the Johnson Lake access.

 

Detailed Route Plan

Here’s some more detailed distance and route information for each day of the trip.

 

Overall Route - Group Trip

 

Day 1 - Onnie to Telescope

Comments

This is going to be a very long day for the folks driving up from Manitoba. I'd recommend waking nice and early (03:00) for the drive as with most years. Getting to Red Lake around 10:00 is a good thing as you want to be putting in at Onnie around 11:00 if possible. (Don't forget to pick up my truck on the way through Red Lake and drop it off at the Johnson Lake parking area!! :)

 

Don't forget to look for pictographs in the unnamed lake between Onnie and Telescope on the north shore about half way along the lake.

 

The real challenge on Day 1 isn't the distance (only around 10km) but rather the portages. A mile of portages is long, but energy levels should be high and 1000m are done within the first few hours. Fishing should be an excellent distraction. :)

Total Distance 10km
Portage Count 7
Portage Distance 1630m (350, 30, 625, 150, 125, 150, 200)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike
Other

Another option is to stop in Hjalmar and save two portages for early in the day on Tuesday. If the weather is good I'd suggest pushing it on Monday.

 

Day 2 - Telescope to Glenn (or Optic)

Comments

The longest paddling day of the trip, setting us up very nicely for a casual rest of the week, with an option to stay in Optic Lake instead of going all the way into Glenn.

 

Glenn is a fairly large lake, I would suggest that Niko and I set up a nice camp somewhere on the eastern end of it so that when the group comes through the nice falls section our camp is close enough to fish that part in the evening. Part of me wonders if it's worth camping in Optic and just portaging empty canoes into Glenn on Tuesday afternoon / evening for supper / fish fry and then heading back up the falls to camp in Optic? Optic and Glenn have fantastic fishing.

Total Distance 17-20km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike
Other

There is an option to make this day a bit easier and stay in Optic Lake. Setting up camp here in early afternoon and then descending the Gammon to Glenn Lake for an evening excursion / fish fry wouldn't be too bad! Otherwise we just need to reverse our route back out of Glenn the very next day...

 

Day 3 - Glenn to Optic or Telescope

Comments

We have options around this day. We can either explore Glenn and / or Optic and keep our camp on Optic if we decide to stay there, or move it from Glenn to the upper reaches of Optic or even Telescope to make subsequent days easier. 

Total Distance 7km
Portage Count to 5
Portage Distance 500m (250, 250) or 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout
Other

 

Day 4 - Optic to Upper Hatchet

Comments

A nice day with some great fishing on the way. We could start to run into boat traffic here but probably not a ton. Not a lot of campsites marked on the map but I think there's plenty of choices. These lakes aren't tiny, so I think we should be prepared to get up pretty early to avoid afternoon winds.

 

Anchor Lake would be a cool side trip which makes the day quite a bit bigger, but we could do it with empty (light) canoes after setting up camp. Maybe an evening excursion?

Total Distance 18km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 880m (70, 60, 100, 200, 450)
Fish Types Pike, Walleye, Lake Trout
Other

 

 

Day 5 - Upper Hatchet to Onnie

Comments

Another day that involves some pretty large lakes and very good fishing. We will probably see other boats on Douglas. There's a ton of camp sites on Onnie.

Total Distance 18km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 630m (450, 150, 30)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Pike, Walleye
Other

 

 

Day 6 - Onnie Egress

Comments

This will be a relatively energetic exit with a few longer portages - but the gear should be light at this point... :)

Total Distance 3km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 1005m (625, 30, 350)
Fish Types Pike, Walleye
Other

 

 

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2004 - Wallace Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

This northern wilderness "where nature still rules" is so remote that canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts can penetrate its interior and reach its backcountry campsites and outpost lodges only by water or by air. Home to one of the largest herds of woodland caribou south of Hudson Bay, this weathered Arctic watershed, once traveled by fur traders, promises ancient pictographs, howling wolves under starry skies, soaring eagles, solitude and adventure.

 

(info from Ontario Parks)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Monday, June 7, 2004 to Saturday, June 12, 2004

Monday, June 07 2004 | The Drive

 

The day started out predictably with Dad's attraction to bizarre adventures. Just as we were pulling onto the road destined for Wallace Lake we noticed a strange noise from the left rear of the truck. We chose to ignore it for a while but when the smell of rubber started competing with the weird noise we knew that the fun was over. Sure enough, when we stepped outside the truck we noticed instantly that we weren't going to be driving any further on the rubber that used to be the left rear tire. Of course 6 guys should be able to change a tire in no time.

 

Yeah well. If you consider the fact that the old ford is, like old than you will quickly realize that the spare tire would be so completely rusted to it's holding bracket on the bottom of the truck that it would be near impossible to remove. Near impossible translated to about 20 minutes with Steve and a chunk of iron and within the hour we were carefully bouncing our way into the Wallace Lake campground.

 

Things always operate on a different level of reality up around the Bissett / Wallace Lake area and today was no different. It turns out that guy who runs the campground actually has a thriving - are you ready for this - little business in all things related to tires and tire maintenance. This seems like the quite the little coincidence and we start to wonder if that rock that conveniently happened to wreck our tire was really placed there 500 million years ago as part of Lake Agassiz or if it gets placed there every morning at 05:00 by a guy named Bob who runs the only tire repair place within 200 kilometers. But neither here nor there we left the truck in Bob's very capable and experienced hands while we started preparing for our departure across Wallace Lake.

 

 
[An overview of our route with camps added roughly (i.e. "1" is Monday night). ++]

 

What follows are my journal entries which I recorded on the trip, along with photos corresponding to the entries.

 

Monday June 07 2004 | 22:17

 


[We started out from Wallace Lake and were soon paddling across Siderock - our last lake before entering WCPP in Ontario.]


[A beautiful day to be paddling!]


[Fishing before a portage.]


[Dad and Ron are fishing for 'tree bass' again... :)]


[Gorgeous, calm waters of WCPP]


[Finally settling in for the evening in camp at Crystal Lake after a long first day driving and canoeing.]

 

We are at Crystal Lake. The sound of the falls is setting a nice background lullaby. The frogs are out in full force and Night Hawks are swooping low over the water, eating just some of the countless insects that are trying their best to give us a rough time.

 

We canoed a long way today. On the way down we were once again inundated with rain and just before Wallace Lake I though I heard a strange noise from the back of the truck. Ryan barreled on down the rough road but soon the noise was very obvious and we found ourselves glumly staring at a flat tire. Funny how adventure always seems to start early with us! We finally managed to wrestle the spare out from under the truck only to find that it was also quite flat.

 

Monday June 07 2004 | 23:45

 

 
[Our first and last days route from Wallace to Crystal (lower right). There are two routes from Wallace to Siderock, one follows the meandering Wanipigow River and can be painful in low water. The other route is a portage that is simple enough - but almost 1.5km long! ++]

 

We are now sitting by a warm fire. Harold is like a squirrel, eating his pistachios. I'm falling asleep so I'll continue writing in bed...

 

Monday June 07 2004 | 23:56


That didn't take long! The wind is catching our lofty dome pretty good but at least it's a nice cool night. Hopefully there won't be too much more rain. We came over 18 kilometers today - still amazed that we came that far on the first day! We were starting to get a bit discouraged but finally realized that we'd made it when we saw the Woodland Caribou sign. Ron and Dad are already sleeping soundly but the rest of us stayed up for a while enjoying the still night atmosphere. Tomorrow should be pretty relaxing. I caught the first fish today, trolling out of Wallace Lake. I totaled about 7 pike and 1 walleye. Walleye don't seem to be biting very aggressively.

 

Tuesday June 08 2004 | 13:36

 

If rain, wind and the occasional burst of sunlight is considered a nice day than we are experiencing a beauty! We woke up at 0530 to the sound of a heavy wind and the sight of the roof of our monstrous tent caving in. I find our predicament kind of funny because there was "no bloody way" Jon was going to get up early today.

 

We immediately broke camp and started paddling to get warmed up. We stopped about 2 hours later for breakfast on a small island out of the wind. We negotiated a very long, twisting river and finally came out on a small lake. We caught lots of small pike already today but no Walleye.

 


[A blustery day as we dock for lunch on Tuesday in a nicely sheltered area.]

 

Jon is wondering why he's having a hard time catching quantities of fish but as far as I can tell if he would try for a few less tree bass he would increase his odds of success. We have two more portages yet today before we set camp for the night. So far the trails have been excellent with easily found pullouts and decent trails. Some trails are slightly over-grown but is only every few years that they get cleaned up so this is not a huge surprise. I'll take the solitude and the remoteness over the cleaned up trails any day.

 

It actually seems to be getting even more cloudy right now, with a light, misty rain every once in a while. Hopefully it will clear up a bit yet today.

 


[Lunch on Tuesday]


[Looking off our lunch spot.]


[Another break while portaging to the Haggart River on Tuesday.]

 

Tuesday June 08 2004 | 20:55

 

We are now on the Haggart River and settled into camp for the evening. It didn't really clear up but it certainly did calm down a bit. The bad news is the fish are not biting tonight. Jon and I tried to fish for a while but aside from a tiny pike there was no action. This is really not surprising on hindsight. We were obviously experiencing some rapidly changing weather patterns and this never helps the fishing.

 


[A nice viewpoint near our camp on Tuesday evening.]

 
[More views of the Haggart River area. ++]


[Time for some relaxation at camp.]


[I love the flowers that thrive in the harsh WCPP environment.]

 

Tomorrow we have to go about 25 kilometers with 9 portages so we are planning to get under way on time. We hope that the weather will improve and that we can get onto some walleye action.

 

Highlights of the day would be hammering fish by a small falls and a nice wipe out by me on a portage trail while trying to leap like a Gazelle past Jon and Harold. I also caught a decent size pike around 24 inches that put up a good fight. The fish that we caught were aggressive and swallowed the jigs deeply. Right now there is a chill in the air but there is a cheery fire crackling and laughter is echoing softly off the rocks across the water. Some Night Hawks are back at the bugs again tonight.

 

Tuesday June 08 2004 | 22:22

 

 
[Tuesday we paddled out of Crystal (lower right) and up towards the Haggart River which we then followed north. ++]

 
[On Tuesday we went north up the Haggart and camped somewhere along it. ++]

 

We turned in a bit early tonight due to a long day gone behind us and another one staring at us for tomorrow. The birds and frogs will be putting me to sleep. We'll see what's in store for tomorrow.

 

Wednesday June 09 2004 | 23:18

 


[A cool but clear and calm morning on Wed]


[Are these guys tired of tree bass yet?!]


[Taking a rare break on Wed to fish near a perfect waterfall. Unfortunately the fish aren't biting thanks to the changing weather patterns...]


[As usual, there's a portage around the falls, Harold and Ryan and Dad and Ron have already completed it.]


[Normally we'd hammer a good 2 or 3 dozen fish out of an area like this, but not today. We did catch a few whitefish here though, which was odd.]


[This is what it's all about]


[Another gorgeous falls that we portaged around. I believe this is where the Haggart dumps into the Gammon, but I'm not sure.]


[Shield Granite]


[Enjoying lunch on a gorgeously clear and calm day - good thing too, because we went at 'er pretty hard!]


[We paddle past cabins (L)]


[Another portage around a small falls.]

 
[Into the wild... ++]


[The sun is starting to set as we continue paddling towards camp on Wednesday - it was a long day on the water!]


A long time ago we left from our cozy camp on the Haggart River. Since then we've done 9 portages, gotten lost, backtracked, got lost again and then forward-tracked all the way back to where we originally thought we were lost! We then had lunch and figured out that next year we'll bring a GPS and consulted the map to find out where we should be going. In all we paddled about 28 km today under a gorgeous clear blue sky with a cool south breeze blowing gently in our faces. Fishing was decent but we can still only attract the slew sharks or 'snook' as Harold calls them.

 

 
[On Wednesday we started heading south towards Donald Lake and ended up camping at it's extreme southern end. ++]

 

Finally after supper around 22:00 Jon broke the walleye curse. Jon and I had gone out in our canoe around 21:00 and were immediately spotted by every mosquito on the lake! They were so bad that after about 30 minutes we headed all the way back to camp just to anoint ourselves with copious amounts of bug spray. When Harold saw how much fun we were having not catching fish he decided he wanted to give it a try. Since he didn't have a paddling partner Jon and I tied his canoe to ours and proceeded to try to tip him over by going as hard as we could at a 90 degree angle with a slack rope. Sadly we didn't accomplish our goals and had to try fishing again.

 

After another fruitless 30 minutes we were paddling back to camp. Jon decided to take one more cast into a small bay when he nailed the one. For the next hour Harold, Jon and I caught and released some 40 walleye from that small area! It was great fun as we would all 3 have a fish on at the same time, which made for some interesting fishing line tangles. This was definitely a highlight moment of the trip.

 


[After supper, Jon and I head out, determined to find some darn Walleye on this trip!]


[Darkness settles in as we FINALLY hammer some walleye near our camp on Wed evening.]

 

Highlights of the day were catching 4 whitefish by one waterfall on the Haggart River and one massive Walleye about 22 inches long where the Haggart dumps into the Gammon River. The cry of the loon is breaking the still night air just off our campsite. It's quite chilly which is keeping the hordes of bugs at bay.

 

It was an action-packed day and the muscles will be feeling it tomorrow!

 

Thursday June 10 2004 | 13:50


We are having lunch on a small island about 20 meters long and 15 meters wide. We've done about half the portages today and navigated Adventure Creek. It wasn't as bad as the name suggested and an eagle flew so close above us that we could hear the wind going through his wings as he soared over. We've caught a number of fish today including several pike, some walleye and I even managed to land a decent lake trout just past the last portage out of Adventure Creek.

 


[Morning at camp, ready to leave for the day.]

 

The weather is definitely great again today with a strong southeast wind and a sky filled with wispy cloud and sun. The cool wind blowing into our faces off the water is so refreshing that I'm forgetting to keep hydrated. It's really nice to not have to worry about heat stroke or hypothermia on a canoe trip for once! We have a number of portages left today, about 850 meters total.

 


[Morning fire warms us up.]


[Canoeing in calm water again.]


[A short portage around this small stream.]


[Now a beautiful day, preparing to continue paddling after a portage.]


 

 

Thursday June 10 2004 | 22:07


Wow. That was a LOT of paddling! We went 4km further than where we had planned to stop so that tomorrow we don't have to go quite as far. I had another couple of great fishing experiences today, which is rather funny because we are paddling so much that we aren't even fishing as much as usual. We were drifting into Bulging Lake, a deep cold lake about 4km long and 3km wide. Jon and I spotted some dead fall from an old forest fire lining one of the shores so we quickly navigated the canoe over to investigate.

 

 
[On Thursday we paddled down Adventure Creek from Donald Lake and through Bulging, camping somewhere on Haggart Lake. ++]

 

I was almost instantly rewarded with a large swirl following my lure followed by a tremendous pull on the end of my line. The pulling stopped along with my heartbeat. I quickly pulled my mauled hook out of the water and cast into another small area near the debris. I was again rewarded with a swirl and was not denied a steady pull this time. It's hard to explain the rush of adrenaline that courses through your body when you spot a dark shadow lunging through the deep, cold water of some northern lake and realizing it's on the end of your line. The fight was over quickly and we released the fish before doing it more damage.

 

According to Harold we went about 28 km today with 11 portages. Good thing we had cooperative weather again today. On Bulging Lake 1 foot swells carried us 4 km down the lake. The sun was hot on our skin and the breeze coming off the water was cool. This trip is rapidly becoming another one to remember but aren't they all? I can hear the loons calling again tonight and the south wind is sending waves onto the rocks just off our campsite. I'm going to bed now, another 25 km and some portaging tomorrow.

 


[A baby turtle]


[Getting windy now - at camp on Thursday.]

 

Friday June 11 2004 | 21:33

 

We are camping back at Crystal Lake. We had a very interesting day today First we paddled 10 or 12 km with a very strong south wind. We are very fortunate to have good weather most of this trip and today was no exception. We crossed some big water today but had the wind at our backs. Some of the waves were over a foot high and Jon got good a soaked a few times.

 

We were drifting with the wind down some windswept shore on Haggart Lake when Dad's lure stopped dead in the water and his rod bent quickly and smoothly downward with a hard thrust. The line started screaming off his reel and the other canoes gathered around to see what sort of monster dad had roused this time. After a few blazing runs back and forth under the canoe and back to the safety of the dead fall against the shore Dad was holding a 15+ lb northern and our lunch.

 


[Drifting down Haggart Lake with the wind!]


[My favorite WCPP flower the Ladies Slipper.]


[An interesting portage marker.]


[Now the wind is really blowing! Good thing we're with it...]


[That's a nice fish dad!]


[Fileting the fish for lunch]


[When the sky gets strange over WCPP you know something is about to break in the weather.]

 

Just when we were coming out of the last portage into Crystal Lake it started to rain. Lucky for me my Gore-Tex jacket decided to wet out and so there I was huddled in the cold rain and generally feeling very miserable. As the others sat miserably in the drizzle, Jon and I scouted for a different camp with better shelter options than the exposed island that we stayed on the first night.

 

We actually managed to find a much better campsite just around the corner from our first one where we could set up tarps and take some shelter. The fish were really on tonight and Harry actually caught 10 fish on 10 casts. The rain finally stopped and the frogs are back at it full throttle.

 


[Cozy camp in the rain!]


[Very cozy...]


[Drying out gear as the weather clears.]


[At least the fish are biting now.]


[Another trip comes to a close with a nice evening camp fire.]

 

Saturday June 12 2004 | 15:35

 

 
[Camp on Crystal Lake as seen from a high point nearby - we stayed here on Monday and Friday nights. ++]


[Nobody wants to move too quickly on the last day...]

 
[Panorama of Crystal Lake. ++]


[Ready to leave camp.]

 

Well, we're done. Today was the obligatory rainy, misty dreary sort day that we always experience at least one of on our trips. It wasn't too bad actually, especially since it's the last day. When it rains on the first few days of the trip you have to be really careful that your gear doesn't get dirty or wet but on the last day you don't have to worry so much which is nice because you can keep moving at a good clip. Also, when the weather sucks on the last day it prepares you for getting back to civilization and a warm home-cooked meal.

 

Just because it was the last day doesn't mean we didn't have any excitement though. Just as we were paddling up to a portage through past a shoreline choked with vegetation Jon and I spotted a black shape moving quickly off of the bank further onto shore. Sure enough, it was a mother black bear. The reason I know it was a mother was that while she stood on shore and made disquieting hissing noises at us, her two cubs were busy climbing to the very top of some nearby trees. It was pretty cool till we realized that our portage was only about 300 meters further but the bears wanted nothing to do with us and thankfully left us alone once we did the same to them.

 

Our adventures didn't stop there. Once we maneuvered the boats out of the Wanipigow River into Siderock Lake we found ourselves bucking a major head wind. Good thing for me that Jon ate lots of breakfast because we needed some major caloric burn to make it up the lake. It's always a bit intimidating to push into some good-size whitecaps on some lake in the middle of nowhere. If you're just playing around at the beach it's something but out there you really don't want to flip into the freezing water along with all your gear. The thought that you can't tip no matter what sharpens the nerves a bit but it was quite fun to really strain the muscles for a while. Eventually we go to what I refer as 'the polluted island', an island on Siderock Lake that has seen far too many humans.

 

We stopped for a stretch and to re-fuel ourselves for what we knew would be a good paddle on Wallace Lake. We were not disappointed. Wallace Lake was a boiling pot of wave action and even though we tried our best to navigate around small islands and shoreline breaks we were pounded incessantly by whitecaps all the way across the lake. After what seemed like hours we finally pulled into a quiet bay on the opposite shore and breathed a huge sigh of relief - that was hard work!!

 


[Another great adventure comes to a close.]

 

It was good to know that Atikaki / WCPP hadn't wimped out on us and it was even better to realize that we hadn't wimped out on her. All-in-all it was a great way to end the trip and after inverting Ron's car door in the parking lot we were all more than ready to eat something greasy and go home to the comfort of our families.

 

Of course an hour later we had our next trip planned already but that's a story for next June...

Total Distance (km): 
126.00
Difficulty Notes: 

This is a remote trip, completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you paddle out of Siderock Lake.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2005 - Garner Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

This northern wilderness "where nature still rules" is so remote that canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts can penetrate its interior and reach its backcountry campsites and outpost lodges only by water or by air. Home to one of the largest herds of woodland caribou south of Hudson Bay, this weathered Arctic watershed, once traveled by fur traders, promises ancient pictographs, howling wolves under starry skies, soaring eagles, solitude and adventure.

 

(info from Ontario Parks)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Monday, June 13, 2005 to Saturday, June 18, 2005

In early 2005 the emails and phone calls started circulating amongst our canoeing group again. When the dust finally settled we agreed that another trip through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP) was in order. The trip in 2004, with an entry through Wallace Lake at the north end of Nopiming Provincial Park, was one of the best trips so far. Some members of the group felt that it was a bit long (over 120km!) and so we shortened the 2005 trip by roughly 20km. Another difference was the entry point. Instead of Wallace Lake, we would start at Beresford Lake and enter from Garner Lake, a more southern approach to WCCP but still from the MB side.

 

As in other trip reports, this one will be from actual journal entries that I've made along the way, with photographs scattered throughout. Enjoy!

 


[Putting in at the Beresford Lake boat launch. A typical start to a canoe trip - clouds and wind!]

 
[An overview map of the entire trip, with approximate camp locations marked. ++]

 
[A closer look at our first couple of days on the water. First we put in at Beresford before winding up the Garner River, which was quite wide. Even motor boats can go up here. Garner Lake can have large waves, but we stuck close to shore with no issues and camped on the eastern edge at a well used camp site. ++]

 

Monday June 13 | 21:06 - 21:46

 

Back from fishing already - not much luck on Garner Lake tonight. It was a typical first day with clouds and wind. The waves were fairly large on Garner but we stuck close to the north shore and didn't run into anything too extreme. It felt good to power the paddle again. The loons were already out calling at each other.

 


[A well used but comfortable camp on the eastern edge of Garner Lake. Since Garner is accessible via motor boat, it doesn't feel remote but the sandy beach and large fire was nice.]


[Evening settles in at camp]


[Eric is a rookie canoeist so he lights the fire!]


[Supper time]


[There's nothing that says "Canadian wild" like the call of a loon.]


[Rod and Vern come into camp after getting pretty much skunked for fish on Garner Lake.]

 

Night birds are chirping away and evening is settling in around camp. I think Jon is already done most of his beer! The fire is warm and cheerful and everyone is excited for another trip. Dad and Ron are already in bed. I wonder if this could be Dad's last trip? I hope not. Time for some schnapps...

 

Monday June 13 | 23:13

 

Ahhh. A nice warm fire is roaring again after replenishing it with wood. The crackling fire is competing with soft laughter of the guys conversing around it. We are reminiscing about past trips and tackling big issues already, such as politics and religion. There is a light rain coming in off Garner Lake and we are going to be going to bed soon. I'm staying up for a bit and then I'm turning in too.

 


[This is what it's all about...]

 

Tuesday June 14 | 06:00 - 19:00

 


[Dad and Ron after a good night sleep.]


[Another dark, misty day ahead.]


[Preparing to leave our comfortable Garner Lake camp.]


[After canoeing a short stretch of the Garner River, we came to the border of Ontario and Manitoba and the entry to WCPP - which required a portage around a set of falls.]


[Vern and Rod are happy to be back in WCPP!]


[Eric surveys a small lake along the Garner River from another portage.]


[Ready to paddle again after a portage on the Garner River.]


[The Garner River]


[This colorful moss thrives on Canadian Shield granite for some reason.]


[Note the t-shirts and clearing skies!! YES! Coming up to another portage on the Garner River.]


[Looking back at Bill and Harold completing another portage.]

 

Tuesday June 14 | 19:55

 

I'm sitting on a little point of rock that is jutting out into an unnamed lake along the Garner River. I'm waiting for Rod to finish up his supper dishes so that we can head out to try a bit of fishing. As we drifted into this lake, I immediately cast my lure towards shore and had a 7lb northern on! Rod had a much larger fish on Jestor Lake, but mine still put up a pretty good fight.

 

We were drifting along the shoreline of Jestor, earlier in the day, when Rod nailed an absolutely massive northern pike on his 6lb walleye rod! It took a bit to reel it in, but eventually Rod won the battle and after some photos, we released it back to fight another day.

 


[MUCH warmer than yesterday evening!]


[A very nice camp site along the Garner River. Note the clear sky now! We're happy.]

 

Tuesday June 14 | 22:04 - 00:50 (!)

 

I'm waiting for my water to boil after going out for some after supper pike fishing. There doesn't seem to be any Walleye on the Garner River system, which has been pretty disappointing, but at least there's Pike. Fishing was good, but not great. We startled an Osprey which was pretty cool as it was not happy with us and spent many minutes screaming above us until we moved off.

 


[This Osprey was not happy with our fishing in its territory!]


[Another great night in WCPP]

 
[The sun sets around 22:30 at this time of the year. ++]

 

It's now after midnight - a bit too late, but the fire was too good to leave earlier. Rod is blowing up his self-inflating sleeping matt. Hmmm. Apparently it doesn't actually "self inflate"?! ;) Good thing his alarm is going off too... We had another fabulous night around the camp fire. Having Eric along definitely helps with the conversations and laughs. One of tonight's hot topics was dealing with what the human spleen is for. We also dealt with heavy topics such as chickens and all things related, and the location of the North Star.

 

We are situated on top of some really soft moss, which is making sleep very hard to resist. I think I'll continue journaling in the morning - oh, it IS morning! ;) Fine, I'll continue a bit later this morning...

 

Wednesday June 15 | 07:33

 

Well, it's officially a bit later this morning! The fire is still going and the sky is still clear. I got up around 06:45 followed reluctantly by the rest of the camp after a very late night previous. The wind is from the east today so that will not impede our progress into Mather Lake by too much. Time to pack up the tent before making pancakes and bacon for breakfast.

 

 
[On Wednesday / Thursday we navigated through Mather Lake, Irregular and on to Beamish Lake. ++]

 

Wednesday June 15 | 08:00 - 18:00

 


[A much nicer start to the day on Wednesday.]


[Planning our route as we continue down Mather Lake.]


[Dad]


[Vern and Rod on Mather Lake]


[Camp is all set up, somewhere on Beamish Lake.]

 

Wednesday June 15 | 18:55

 

Wow. Just done a fantastic supper of fried fish, garlic Alfredo spaghetti and tomato wrap, topped off with a cup of hot chocolate and some M+M's. The sun is burning down on us as Harry and Bill dump their extra food on top of a growing pile on the yet-to-be-lit fire. It's even too hot for the bugs to come out! My thermometer says 27 degrees in the shade.

 


[A hot evening eating supper.]

 

We didn't have much luck at first, fishing today. Mather and Beamish are deep, cold lakes so that wasn't a huge surprise. We really haven't had luck with Walleye either (on hindsight, after doing some research, there is no Walleye along most of our route on this trip). We're heading out again after supper to try fishing on a perfectly calm surface.

 

Wednesday June 15 | 23:04

 

Jon got skunked. For the rest of us, it was an amazing night of fishing! We were out and about on Beamish Lake, just casting for Pike along the shoreline when I decided that lures weren't working. I attached a mid-size blue Rapala and cast into shore. Nothing. I switched to a 3" blue deep diving Rapala and tried again. WHAM! First fish on! Rod said if I caught another one he would switch too. One more fish later and Rod was also using a Rapala. The action died down, so we continued paddling around the corner of the island we were fishing. Half way around the corner my rod bent deeply and I was onto a monster fish of some kind!

 

When I finally got to see the fish, I let out a double "moose call" to call over the other boats. Over the next hour we caught and released over a dozen large lake trout using everything from deep diving Rapalas to 1oz tube jigs to small Walleye gear. It was a very memorable experience - a first for all of us. Fishing rods were bending double in every boat as the fish went snake-crazy on us.

 


[Yeah baby! Lake Trout fishing!]


[Beautiful fish that fight harder the close they get to the boat.]


[Another beauty]


[Eric with a large Lake Trout]

 
[Evening settles in over camp.]

 

Now we're sitting around the fire with the loons serenading us as we relive the experience. We are going to get up at 06:00 tomorrow to do some more Lake Trout fishing.

 

Thursday June 16 | 06:00 - 15:00

 


[We got up early on Thursday morning to give Bill a shot at Lake Trout too. He was delighted to catch his first one!]


[Packing up camp Thursday morning.]

 
[On Thursday / Friday we canoed from Beamish to Haggart Lake and then back to Garner. ++]


[Walking along another portage with my favorite flower - the Ladies Slipper]


[Beautiful WCPP forest in morning lighting.]


[Jon and Eric settle into their canoe after another portage on our way to Haggart from Beamish.]


[Dad and Harold on another portage.]


[Bill and Ron]


[Typical WCPP portage includes forest, bog and rocks.]


[On longer portages we do a half-carry before going back and then complete the carry.]


[Another hot day as we complete another portage.]


[Vern and Rod]

 

Thursday June 16 | 15:11

 

We're sitting on a point camp site in Haggart Lake, eating freshly caught Lake Trout with wraps and ice tea. It's Hanneke's birthday today and instead of getting her a present, I caught 3 or 4 Lake Trout for my own present... :) It's another clear blue sky above us, cooking down with very little wind. I caught the first Lake Trout as we entered Haggart Lake and we nailed a few more before continuing on 3km to our present camp site.

 


[Another excellent camp site in Haggart Lake.]


[Eric and Vern wash their dishes at camp on Haggart Lake. Much later this evening, Eric will fall into the lake in this exact spot after brushing his teeth in the dark! :)]

 

Thursday June 16 | 15:11 - 19:27

 


[Another Lake Trout in Haggart Lake]

 

After a 'hard' afternoon of nailing Lake Trout we are sitting down to a meal of Trout, whole wheat wraps and vegetable beef soup. We caught the Lakers by trolling deep-diving Rapalas at high speed past a section of cliff bands and deep bays. We are heading out for some more of this fun after supper.

 


[Ron relaxes with a magazine.]


[Supper time at camp - it's a nice cozy point of rock. Note how calm Haggart Lake is?]


[Cleaning Lake Trout for supper.]


[A very calm lake for fishing after supper.]


[Heading back to camp after another fun evening fishing.]


[A calm, peaceful sunset from camp.]


[Another huge bonfire to end the day.]

 

Friday June 17 | 08:58 - 19:00

 

After a late night party which saw Eric in the lake while attempting to clean his cup (!), we took our time waking up. I am now in an after-breakfast doze while everyone else is busy preparing for launch. It's hard to believe it's already our last full day on the water, this trips always pass by so quickly after all the planning and excitement that goes into them. Last night was another good time with a cheery fire and many good laughs.

 


[Another perfect morning from the camp kitchen.]


[The camp kitchen wildlife.]


[Along one of the portages on the Garner River I spotted my first white Lady's Slipper - these are pretty rare and are considered "endangered" in Ontario.]


[The normal, purple, Lady's Slipper but these two are in love!]


[Navigating the Garner River.]


[Finishing up a portage along the Garner River.]


[Ron and Dad run a small rapid.]


[We arrive at our final camp for the trip in perfect weather / conditions again. This is also another great camp site somewhere along the Garner River.]

 

Friday June 17 | 19:26

 

After paddling most of the day and a number of portages we are now settled into another great camp. The weather was beautiful again today - probably some of the best weather we've had on a canoe trip for a while. Today had some fun moments with pushing trees over on portages (Jon!) and a solo paddler giving us the stink eye as he paddled past our camp in the morning before we cleared out. I think we were a bit too noisy the previous evening, probably when Eric fell in the drink at midnight... :)

 


[Another great camp]


[Last night in WCPP]

 

Friday June 17 | 23:22

 

Everyone's sitting around the fire trying to off load their left over candy and snacks so they don't have to carry them out tomorrow. We're telling stories and enjoying more good times with Eric regaling us with tall tales. Of course, we also let off the obligatory bear banger fireworks in the trip ending tradition. Naturally we're also discussing the next trip already...

 

Saturday June 18 | 06:30 - Noon

 

As usual, I have no journal entries for the final half day of paddling and the drive home. Needless to say, this was another great canoe trip where we spent more time than usual around the camp fire and learned how to catch Lake Trout. The only disappointment was the lack of Walleye, which we should have researched ahead of the trip.

 


[Dad douses what could be the last morning fire of his canoeing career.]


[What?! A WALLEYE! This is the only Walleye we caught on the trip - caught in Garner Lake.]


[Saying goodbye to Woodland Caribou.]


[The Woodland Lily]
 

Total Distance (km): 
101.00
Difficulty Notes: 

This is a remote trip, completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you portage out of Garner Lake.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2009 - Leano Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

This northern wilderness "where nature still rules" is so remote that canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts can penetrate its interior and reach its backcountry campsites and outpost lodges only by water or by air. (more at this link)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Monday, July 13, 2009 to Saturday, July 18, 2009

Video of the Trip

 

Some video of the trip can be downloaded here (217MB - it takes a while but will download in a separate winder or you can right-click and "save as" to save it locally.)

 

The Plan

 

The summer of 2009 was a special summer for me. I needed a break from the drudgery and politics of the office and decided that a summer off was what I needed. Part of the 12 weeks off would be spent on a canoe trip in my favorite canoeing park - Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada

 

On previous trips we have accessed this largely pristine wilderness via routes out of Manitoba. This was largely due to time constraints (6 day trips) and the fact that we rent our gear and drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Driving to Red Lake and accessing the park via Leano Lake was a dream for many years and 2009 seemed like the perfect time to fulfill this dream.

 

Harold and I planned out a route that would take us from Leano Lake, up through Bunny and East Lunch Lakes before camping on Monday. On Tuesday we would go through Lunch, Jake and Burnt Rock Lakes before setting up camp in Mexican Hat. Wednesday would have us going through Nutria, Amber, Streak and Aegean before setting up camp somewhere between Aegean and Talon Lakes. Thursday we would have the option of either paddling only 12km and camping on Talon Lake or pushing through Boomerang and Dragon Lakes possibly all the way to Middle Kilburn Lake. Friday would either be a super casual day if we pushed things on Thursday or we would work our way from Talon to Kilburn Lake. On Saturday we would only have around an 8km paddle up Kilburn Lake to the Leano Lake put-in.

 

 
[Our planned route. ++.]

 

After the emails went out with invites to previous canoe trip attendees the responses were tallied and we ended up with 4 canoes. Out of the 8 members there would be 2 new canoe trip members (Mike and Josh). The canoe teams would be:

 

  1. Harold and Bill
  2. Vern and Rod
  3. Mike and Josh
  4. Clarence and Greg

 

Each team was mainly responsible for it's own gear and we split into two food teams, team 1 and 4 and team 2 and 3 would share camp stoves and supper meals. Cars were organized and Canoes were rented from Wilderness Supply in Winnipeg. Because we rented our gear in Winnipeg we needed a trailer and truck to pull it all the way to Leano Lake. On hindsight we should have rented in Red Lake but this is a "lesson learned" for next time...

 

We agreed that with an 8 hour drive on Monday to Leano Lake we should leave around 4:30AM.

 

Day 1, Mon Jul 13 - Winnipeg --> Red Lake --> Leano Lake

 

After a restless night's sleep at Rod's house in Winnipeg (Josh, Mike and I just crashed in his basement to various degrees of comfort) we groggily woke up at 03:45 on July 13 2009 and struggled our gear up the stairs and out the door to the waiting trucks, trying not to waken the entire neighborhood in the process! With only 3 hours of sleep I almost felt a bit 'drunk' - not the best feeling in the world but the excitement of finally starting this dream trip overrode any of the negative feelings.

 

Harold, Bill, Greg and Clarence showed up right on time and we piled into the vehicles and drove off towards Ontario.

 

When you're excited about something, it's amazing how fast the time flies by. Before long we were cruising over the border and turning north onto highway 105 to Red Lake. Highway 105 is typical Canadian Shield driving. Trees. Bedrock. Gravel. More trees. More bedrock. More gravel... you get the point! After hours of driving through this terrain you really feel like you're in the middle of nowhere - which is precisely where you are.

 


[This is what you look at for 3 hours on the way to Red Lake.]

 

Since our first trip to WCPP I've had dreams of driving through Red Lake and to the Leano Lake entry point. I don't know why but the thought of driving down that logging road in the middle of nowhere had my imagination doing over time. Like most things unknown, it isn't nearly as exciting or 'bad' as I was imagining either.

 

After a brief stop in Red Lake to confirm our route and notify the park staff of our intentions we set off for Leano Lake, continuing out of Red Lake on hwy 105 heading west. Something quite funny happened at this point.

 

Because our imaginations were running high on the trip to Leano Lake, we ended up on some tiny back road heading off randomly into the bush! It was amusing and humbling when we finally had to admit that we were completely off route. The road we ended up on was so tight to the trees that we couldn't even turn the trucks around without backing up first. OOOOPS. We weren't even at the first portage and we were getting way off route already! Good thing that cooler heads prevailed and soon we were back on Hwy 105. It turns out that we went too far when the paved road past Madsen junctions with the gravel road (105) at coordinates N50 57 26, W93 55 39. We kept going straight here (618) and missed the turn to the right. We were somewhere in the bush around N50 56 60, W93 56 2 before we noticed and turned back. If you encounter signs for 'Starratt-Olsen" you've also gone too far and should head back up the road to the 105 junction. The sign for the turn off will say "Suffel Lake Road".

 


[You get this for about 1 hour.]


[The road is interesting in spots.]

 

Hwy 105 becomes a gravel road after the turn-off, but it's a surprisingly well traveled and graded road for the first while. We traveled quite a ways (past the actual 'Red Lake') before the road started to deteriorate a bit. Soon we were driving through 12-18 inches of water on the road - courtesy a recent rainfall and eager beaver. This felt more like we were expecting on this road. The trucks / trailer had no issues, although the rocks were pretty loose and things were banging around pretty good. With a low clearance car you could have issues on this road. A van should be no problem in most conditions other than spring thaw and after heavy rain. We passed a couple of alternate places for canoe entry to Woodland Caribou along the way to Leano - these were clearly marked in July 2009.

 

The road was much better than I was expecting, but you should treat it with respect. There are dips and turns and water flowing across it in places. We had two 4x4 trucks which helped the confidence levels. If I wasn't in a 4x4 I wouldn't have been nearly as happy with this drive. Along the way we startled a HUGE black moose that trotted down the middle of the road in front of us. Mike tried to take a photo but since he didn't realize the lens cap was still on, all he got was black! We'll just pretend we were that close to the moose. ;-)

 


[Now the road is really narrow! This is "Mile 51 Road".]

 

At N50 47 55, W94 22 13 after passing the Johnson Lake entry point we came to the turn-off to Leano Lake - mile 51 road. This road was definitely a bush road! No room for two vehicles here. The mirrors on the trucks were touching the bushes as we entered further into "no-mans land". It felt great. The sun was shining and puffy white clouds were floating lazily above us. We rolled the windows down and started to feel the stresses of regular life melt away.

 

We pulled into the parking lot to see 2 or 3 other vehicles but when the engines shut off all we could hear was the delicious sound of mosquitoes, the ticking of hot engines and birds - nothing else.

 

It took us roughly 8 hours to drive from Winnipeg to the Leano entry parking lot, including all stops.

 

Leano --> Bunny --> East Lunch Lake Camp

 


[Getting the gear organized.]

 

Since we knew we had around 15km to go before setting up camp on Monday, we wasted no time getting the gear organized and setting off on our first portage. Yep! When you start at Leano Lake you start with a 350 meter portage just to get you all warmed up. With the afternoon sun beating down on us and zillions of bugs giving a hearty welcome we certainly warmed up quickly. It's amazing how heavy the pack feels on the first few portages and the canoe never feels as light as it should either but soon we were finished locking up the trucks and were throwing gear into empty canoes in Leano Lake. I can still feel the excitement as I type this report. There is nothing quite like paddling into the unknown on a lake where very few people manage to get to. After months of planning my paddle took its first of many dips into the cool waters of WCPP.

 


[The paddles dip into Leano Lake.]

 

The first afternoon we had originally planned on paddling all the way into Lunch Lake. In the end we decided to camp at East Lunch Lake instead - the day was long enough with 8 hours driving, 15km of paddling and 920 meters of portaging over 6 portages!

 

Even short portages take time since we do 3 trips over the length of the portage each time. First we carry as much gear as humanely possibly (pun intended). Then you walk all the way back to the canoe and carry that over the portage. Sometimes we got lucky with very short ones and could essentially carry the loaded canoe over with 4-6 guys but this is usually not worth the risk of injury that comes from 4 guys carrying a unwieldy and very heavy canoe over slippery rocks with trees and roots trying to trip you every step. It's best to take portages slow and steady. With 4 groups vying for spots it's usually worth either going ahead of the others or hanging back. Rod and I like to hang back and fish while the others scope out the route for us. ;-)

 


[Chillin' with the fishin' poles.]


[I never get tired of these!.]


[We just fit at camp on East Lunch Lake.]


[Very peaceful after supper.]

 
[A gorgeous night - click to view full size. ++.]

 

The first night of a wilderness canoe trip is always a little weird. Only hours earlier we were in the middle of civilization and now we felt very much alone under an immense prairie sky. The weather was fantastic on Monday and the evening was very pleasant. We didn't catch very many fish, although Harold and Bill claimed that they hit a hot spot and got 17 pike out of some fast moving water after supper somewhere on East Lunch. We're not sure we believe them but I guess we'll give them the benefit of the doubt this time! With such a pleasant night we didn't turn in to our tents until almost midnight.

 

Day 2, Tue July 14 - East Lunch - Jake - Burnt Rock- Mexican Hat Lake

 

Tuesday, July 14 2009 was probably the best day of the trip. The weather held up for us very nicely throughout most of the day. We started with a leisurely breakfast and soon were breaking camp and heading out of East Lunch Lake and through the upper reaches of Lunch Lake towards Jake Lake. Fishing wasn't great through here and we kept paddling pretty good under a sky that was gradually darkening.

 


[This falls went behind a huge flake of rock, which was cool.]


[A great portage trail - the first few days had very good trails.]

 

After a few portages we found ourselves in Burnt Rock Lake. Rod managed to nail a couple of Laker Trout here and Mike also caught one. We didn't catch much of anything else though. As we ate a late lunch on Tuesday afternoon we noticed that the blue sky was gone and we were left under a light gray sky with clouds slowly moving towards us. After lunch we noticed the wind starting to pick up.

 


[Rod with a nice Lake Trout caught in Burnt Rock Lake.]


[Lunch on Burnt Rock Lake.]


[Paddling towards the final portage of the day from Burnt Rock into Mexican Hat - 800 meters. You can see that the wind is picking up now.]

 

The 800 meter portage from Burnt Rock Lake to Mexican Hat Lake was a bit rushed. This portage was also a bit rustic. Nothing terrible, but not the open 'highway' of the first few either. We were getting further away from weekend travelers and you could tell. The sky was getting more and more threatening and sure enough! By the time we loaded into the canoes on Mexican Hat Lake we were being hit with wind and rain.

 

We didn't linger around on Mexican Hat but rather rushed to find a suitable camp for 4 tents. This was one of the biggest challenges of such a large group. We did manage to find something though (right after the portage at N50 51 49, W94 38 20) and after setting up a good tarp system and our tents we settled in to eat supper and stare out at the wind and rain. I was getting an uneasy feeling of deja vu. We've spent canoe trips in bad weather before and it's not nearly as much fun as 'normal' weather. A few rain storms are not an issue but when the cold fronts of June / July move in for a week at a time it can be down right BRUTAL. We've even been stranded for a day before!

 

I tried not to get despondent about things and without the benefit of hindsight, we always had high hopes that the weather would "clear soon".

 

Rod and I defied the weather and set off in our canoe after supper to try to bag some of Mexican Hat's famous walleye. It wasn't raining very hard and with a stiff breeze from the east, we decided it would be best to paddle into the wind so that we'd have an easy ride back to camp later that evening. As we paddled we trailed lures behind the boat - something Rod and I always do! It's a bit of a pain but we do catch a lot of extra fish this way. We caught a few pike and then we perked our ears a bit. Could that be the sound of a waterfall in the distance? Or was it just wind? As we progressed further east we started to get excited. A waterfall was definitely out there somewhere and if experience has taught us anything it's that waterfalls in WCPP mean walleye - and in the evening hours when they are feeding in the shallows it usually means a TON of walleye!

 

As we rounded a corner of the lake, we both got huge smiles. There was a gorgeous falls coming into a small cove with fast flowing water. I have never seen a more perfect walleye feeding area. And boy did we hammer walleye! Interestingly enough, there's a perfect camp site right off this cove at coordinates N50 51 46, W94 37 0. Next time we come through here, this will be our camping spot for sure! After catching more than 30 fish we were joined by Clarence and Greg who also caught a bunch of fish.

 


[The gorgeous walleye feeding grounds (main part is off to the right out of the picture).]


[Rod with some bounty.]

 

After about 1.5 hours of fun we reluctantly headed back to camp with our boat smelling like fresh walleye and the rain starting up again too. We brought some walleye back to camp and enjoyed a very nice snack by a roaring fire that Josh and Mike built.

 

It rained steadily all night. This was not good! The steady rain, cold temperature and wind from the east indicated that a strong (and long) cold front was settling over top of us. Our worst fears were being confirmed that this was not a temporary situation. It seemed that for once the forecasts were true and we were in for a bit of an 'epic' week, weather-wise.

 

Day 3, Wed July 15 - Mexican Hat - Nutria - Amber - Streak - Aegean Lake 

 

July 15 2009 we woke up to pouring rain and a very strong west wind on Mexican Hat Lake. The west wind was not a good thing since we were going to be paddling west all day! We bundled up camp after a huddled and quiet breakfast. We were trying to stay positive but already our moods were a bit down. It's always an adventure but it's so much more pleasant when the adventure is spent under a lazy, warm sun than horizontal sheets of rain.

 


[Packing up camp on Wednesday morning during a lull in the rain.]


[Mike eats a snack during a portage on Wednesday. He didn't bring rain pants - it's not actually warm enough for shorts but he braved through it anyway.]


[Finishing up another portage in the nasty weather.]

 

I'm not exaggerating about the horizontal rain either! The wind and rain were so bad on Wednesday that all we did was paddle and portage. There was very minimal fishing or relaxing. We could only think of getting through a section of lake and then completing the next portage. This is why my next trip to WCPP will be longer than 5.5 days. I would like to do 9.5 days next time so that we can just sit in camp during nasty weather and relax instead of fight it. There was one section where Rod and I were on the lee side of a small island, taking a paddling break when Mike, Josh, Harold and Bill passed us in their canoes. I told Rod to watch them as they came out of the protection of the island and straight into the wind. It honestly looked like they weren't paddling at all! Their canoes were barely inching forward into the gale but their paddles were bending with the effort of straining forward. It was nuts.

 

The strangest and funniest moment of the day came on our portage from Amber to Streak Lake. As we approached the muddy start to the portage we could see a couple of people moving around with a dog. They looked positively wretched! It was an older couple in their late 50's or 60's. The women looked reasonably OK in a rain coat and pants but the man was looking pretty tired. He was just finishing a solo carry of their canoe and was slipping and sliding around in the muck in sandals. He beamed out at us from behind a large hat and we exchanged some pleasantries. They were spending a few weeks in the area so I told them about the great walleye camp on Mexican Hat Lake. I was very jealous of them knowing that they could paddle with the wind to a great camp and spend the next few days hunkered down in the storm while we'd be fighting onward.

 

The portage was very rustic with bog, mud, mosquitoes and the ever-constant, pouring rain and wind.

 


[I manage to snap a quick photo between down pours. This is a very pleasant section of paddling compared to most on Wednesday.]


[Taking shelter from the wind. It's still beautiful country - just harder to enjoy when you're fighting for survival! :-).]

 

By 17:00 we were getting tired of fighting wind, waves and rain and began looking for a suitable camping spot. We eventually found one that was a bit tight for 4 tents but after Rod and I found a spot off in the bush somewhere it was just perfect. We built a massive, warm fire and set up a good wind break / shelter with the tarps. Thank goodness for cheap blue tarps!! Rod and I had the perfect little spot for our tent, on about 4" of moss. I slept like a baby all night, waking up to pouring rain a few times. I would just give my head a little shake and go back to sleep. I used to get nervous while sleeping in a tent off in the bush but I think I've spent so much time doing it that now I'm almost immune to the night noises. I don't freak out now until I hear grunting noises close by. Thankfully it's only been Rod so far. ;-)

 

Another reason for our remote tent location, relative to the others' was the night sounds drifting from Mike and Josh's location over the past few evenings already. I don't know who was worse but I don't know how those guys are still married! They put out enough sound to be annoying in the middle of a wind / rain storm and that says something. Ear plugs would not be out of line if you're ever camping close to either of those two locomotives. I'm not kidding. Seriously. No, really - I'm serious.

 


[Rod and I set up our tent well away from the others on a deluxe bed of soft moss. I get sleepy just looking at this photo.]


[Camp on Wednesday night, somewhere passed Agean Lake. Notice the tarp acting as a wind break.]

 

Day 4, Thu July 16 - Aegean - Talon - Boomerang Lake

 

July 16 2009 was no better than the day before. As a matter of fact, it was even worse! Don't get me wrong. The adventure was great on hindsight - I really wish I was back there - but at the time it was a bit of a struggle. The country we were passing through was absolutely gorgeous. The best canoeing country I've been in, and we've seen some mighty fine country over the years.

 

WCPP is another level of canoe trip experience. From soaring cliffs to small waterfalls and orange rocks to gliding eagles and the cries of vultures there is no doubt that this place will call me back again and again if I'm given the opportunity to go back. The problem with our trip in 2009 wasn't the lack of beauty around us, it was the distraction of the brutal weather conditions that didn't allow us the proper time to soak it all in that dulled the experience a bit.

 


[Wow! The weather is even worse on Thursday than on Wednesday! We're on our way to Talon Lake here - somewhere after the 350 meter portage.]


[Eating lunch on Talon Lake. We're in the trees to avoid the driving wind / rain. We don't know it yet but in another 2 hours we will be completely lost.]


[My favorite image from the trip. Our Talon Lake lunch spot.]

 

Once we finished the wet 160 meter portage into Talon Lake we settled into the canoes for a nice long paddle. The wind and rain were still constant but there were breaks between squalls and we tried to do some fishing during them. The odd fish decided to make us happy and we actually caught more than I though we would, given that cold fronts and fish do not generally mix very well. We weren't catching very many walleye or lake trout but the northerns were keeping us happy enough.

 

After a lunch break on Talon Lake on a sublime rock outcrop (too bad it was so windy that we had to bail into the tight spruce trees) we pointed the canoes southeast for Boomerang Lake.

 

Boomerang Lake was pleasant enough to paddle through - it was small enough to protect from most of the wind and fish were biting. Eventually we found ourselves at the east end of the lake, looking for the two drops that would take us into Dragon Lake and our camp for the night. We'd already had a long day of paddling and portaging (20km paddle and 1.5km portaging) and were feeling the effects of fighting the weather for another day when we entered the marshes at the northeast corner of Boomerang Lake at coordinates N50 43 21, W94 42 26. This is where things got a little 'interesting'...

 

From the northwest corner of Boomerang Lake we were supposed to negotiate a small stream (the maps indicated a 'drop' here) before coming on a 375 meter long portage into Dragon Lake. We started up the small (and I mean small) stream.



[The tiny stream between Boomerang and Dragon Lakes.]


[Greg and Clarence 'bull' their canoe over a stubborn beaver dam on our way to Dragon Lake.]

 

We worked our way very slowly against the current and up the stream. We were looking forward to setting up camp and getting out of the wind and cold rain so when the water way opened up a bit the race for the far end was on! Sometimes on these canoe trips you'll suddenly find men acting like children and in this case it probably contributed to our temporary demise... After the race for the stream on the opposite side of the clearing was over, we continued to push on, further and further into a smaller and tighter stream.

 

After pushing over a final beaver dam we were in a small lake. Hurrah! We made it. NOT.

 

Our 375 meter portage was NOWHERE to be found out of this small lake. Even the small lake itself wasn't on the map near where our portage was supposed to be. Since the beaver dams had obviously changed the landscape we weren't too concerned at first and we began tramping up and down hills, just off the lake, looking for a trail.

 

After about 1 hour we started to get worried. The cloudy sky was contributing to earlier-than-normal dusk and our afternoon was quickly and steadily slipping away to early evening. And we were in the middle of a swampy mess with no idea where we were and definitely no trail and no portage anywhere around. Experience caught up with us and eventually we agreed that we should back track to where we knew we were on the map. From there we would take things very slowly and find that darn portage trail!

 

After going back and forth (not easy to do when you have to go over 2-3 beaver dams on a stream that you can NOT turn a canoe around on) a few times we were getting seriously distressed. Finally Harold (our map expert) basically declared in no uncertain terms that the portage "has to be right around here somewhere". It wasn't - but it HAD to be.

 

Rod and I took off, ahead of the other boats, to enter the area we had raced through on our first pass. This was now our third time in this small pond / opening and we gave things a very close look. I stood up in the boat and mentioned to Rod that there was actually another stream entering this area - an even smaller one than the obvious one that got us lost after the boat race. This is around N50 43 14, W94 38 12 and was no longer open water like the map (and Google) showed. It was tight reeds with a tiny trickle of water coming through. Rod and I literally pulled our canoe up this small trickle of water and after about 150 meters, sure enough! There on the left was a ribbon tied to a tree marking an obvious portage trail! What a relief.

 

Suddenly we were no longer forced with the thought of being completely lost and possibly having to turn around on our trip or take an alternate (less traveled) route but we could finish the day with a portage and grab a camp site on Dragon Lake. We yelled for the rest of the group and they pulled their boats through as well.

 

(Our analysis after-the-fact was that we ended up in a small pond - and a dead end - at roughly N50 43 26, W94 38 14 after racing through the open area and not paying enough attention to the map. This cost us almost 3 hours and a lot of extra energy / sweat! This is one case where the GPS would have been very handy but since my GPS doesn't work with my MAC computer I didn't bring it.)

 

It turns out that our troubles for Thursday weren't completely over yet. We still had to find a camp site and it was getting dark now. The rain was still coming down too. Again - experience paid off. We ended up bailing onto an impossibly steep rock face that had no room for 4 tents, much less an eating area. But somehow it worked. We really didn't have a choice and sometimes that's when you make the tough ones and just live with it.

 


[When you are forced to bail for the night you can't be fussy with your camp site.]


[This was not a deluxe camp! Bushing it big time on Thursday night in Dragon Lake.]

 

Day 5, Fri July 17 - Dragon - Middle Kilburn - Kilburn Lake

 

Originally we had considered going through a new 1000 meter portage from Upper Kilburn to Kilburn Lake to make a very short paddling day on Friday, July 17 2009. But with the dawn of a new day and with less rain and finally a chance to maybe do some fishing we decided instead to take advantage of a southerly wind and paddle down to the south before letting the wind take us up Kilburn Lake to our final camp site.

 


[Packing up our desperate camp in Dragon Lake on Friday morning.]


[Remember - it's mid July here.]


[Portaging into Middle Kilburn from Dragon Lake.]


[Bald Eagle.]

 

While drifting up Kilburn Lake (in a northerly direction) we started seeing some brief sun ('sucker') holes in the sky. These soon turned gray again but the rain largely stopped. We fished our way slowly towards camp. Along the way we met up with two park employees in a canoe heading south. They chatted with us a while before we parted ways.

 

The fishing was decent but not spectacular and by mid-afternoon we rolled into the most deluxe camp of the trip on a moderate sized island at around N50 44 9, W94 28 22. This was a great site! Next time we do this loop (probably in reverse) we will have to spend our first night here. We easily fit on the flat rock / dirt site that had just the right number of trees for tarps / shelter and open enough to allow a breeze to keep the bugs at bay - temporarily anyway! We laid out gear to dry, made supper and then headed off for some long overdue evening walleye fishing.

 


[A deluxe camp site on Kilburn Lake.]

 

We found a bay at N50 44 29, W94 29 30 that had two streams running into it. Sure enough! The walleye were plentiful and eager to bite. The unique thing happened when the streams were fished out (we released all the walleye due to their small size) and we started trolling deep running Rapalas for lake trout in the same bay. Soon we were hauling in LARGE walleye - the largest we've caught on any recent canoe trips. This was fun! It sort of made up for the previous 2.5 days of bad weather, at least we'd end on a good note.

 

After hauling in a ton of fish we decided to head back to camp for a nice late night snack of fresh walleye filets. Nothing tastes as good as a shore lunch of fresh walleye. The bugs were horrible as we fileted the fish but soon the taste of pure walleye meat shut out a lot of the pain of the last 2.5 days. We went to bed with full tummies.

 


[Josh tries for fish near camp. I think he got a small pike here. NOTE: No rain jacket!.]


[The setting sun casts some God rays over the walleye factory. This is the first sun we've seen in 3 days.]


[Fresh walleye for a late night snack.]

 

Day 6, Sat July 18 - Kilburn - Leano Lake

 


[The group from left to right, Vern, Harold, Bill, Rod, Greg, Clarence, Josh, Mike.]

 

Saturday morning, July 18 2009, dawned a bit brighter than the previous 3 mornings but the sun had to fight to make it through! We reluctantly packed up camp one last time and headed out of Kilburn Lake with some lingering glances back at the 'walleye factory' bay as we paddled past it one last time.

 

As we completed the last portage into Leano Lake the sun broke through. It wasn't hot but the warm sun felt so good we took a break on a large rock at the south end of Leano and everyone took their first swim / bath for the week. It was VERY cold but felt refreshing and clean. None of us bothered putting bug spray back on - it felt too good to have clean skin for a bit.

 

Paddling up Leano Lake was a bit surreal in the warming weather. It sucked to be leaving now that the weather was finally getting back to normal. I think it's at this point that I swore to myself that next time I came on a canoe trip here I would give it more time. Because of the 2.5 days of 'survival' canoeing the trip seemed really short and compressed. There simply wasn't enough time to relax and enjoy the amazing wilderness around us because we were too busy trying to simply survive it.

 

The final portage out of Leano Lake back to the parking lot was hot and very buggy. The only advantage of the rainy / cold weather was that the bugs didn't like it either. Now that the sun was out they were back with a vengeance and tore chunks out of our unprotected skin without mercy.

 

The ride home went well. Other than a trailer that was ready to bust in half thanks to the rough roads. :-) The sections of road that were flooded on the way in were recently patched on the way out so it's nice to know that the roads are maintained in this area - to a certain extent anyway!

 


[Where was this for the past WEEK?!.]


[Are we really leaving today? The SUN is back!.]


[A cold, but very refreshing swim in Leano Lake.]


[All packed up and ready to go. Well - not really ready but...]


[The patched up road.]

 

Prolog and Thoughts

 

As you probably detected in my report, I came away from what should have been the best canoe trip of my life somewhat disappointed. The weather had about 85% to do with that and the problem with weather is that you can not change it! When you live 2000 km away from the canoe route and you have to plan and coordinate vacation times for 8 guys you can also not be flexible on changing dates at the last minute.

 

The other 15% of my disappointment had to do with the amount of time we had. I realized on this trip that in order to truly "get away" from it all, and to allow for some bad weather days, the next trip simply has to be more than 6 days. By the time we drive 8 hours each way we only spend 5 days on the water - maybe. More like 4.5 really. This doesn't give us any rest days where we don't have to tear down camp. Tearing down and setting up in the rain and wind is a pain. My next trip will be a minimum of 7 or 8 full days on the water, probably at least 10 days total time. I wouldn't go any further, maybe a total trip length of 100km with some options to extend slightly, but would simply spend 2 nights in most camps. If the fish aren't biting or we feel like paddling for a couple of days we can always spend 3 nights at a camp, especially if the weather closes in on us.

 

I will also rent gear in Red Lake next time and avoid pulling a trailer all the way out there. This makes economic sense (take cars and catch a shuttle ridge to Leano) and makes for a much more stress free planning and initial drive - especially once we're on the rough back roads past Red Lake. A broken trailer with rented gear would quickly ruin a great trip.

 

Overall I was very impressed with the maintenance of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. The portages were fairly clearly marked and even the ones that hadn't been visited recently were pretty good. We've experienced far worse! The park is clean and we only met 6 or 7 other people all week including a couple of fishermen on Kilburn.

 

2011 - here we come!!

Difficulty Notes: 

Woodland Caribou is well off the grid. You should be prepared for remote travel and know how to survive in the wilderness on your own.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2011 - Leano Lake Entry

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Thursday, June 23, 2011 to Saturday, July 2, 2011

What follows is my journal entries along with photographs from a 10 day canoe trip in 2011 in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in northwest Ontario, about 300km north of Kenora. The reason I didn't type up my report earlier is that I originally put together a couple of videos (end of the trip report) and simply never got around to it. It's been a great way for me to relive the adventure myself, as I went through my journal entries and reprocessed the photographs.

 

(You can read the planning / route decisions here.)

 

Enjoy reading something a bit different for once - not involving a summit, but rather a different sort of wilderness. Canada is home to such a variety of beautiful wild country, I can't think of living anywhere else.

 

June 22 13:28 - Calgary Airport

 

Just finished a hot chicken sandwich at Montana's with Mike and Harry as we prepare to fly to Manitoba. We're ready to go through security and board our flight.

 

June 22 14:52 - Flying to Manitoba

 

We had a good takeoff (bit bumpy) and we're now officially on our way to an epic canoe trip! It's still a bit hard to comprehend that we're actually on our way after all these months and months of work and planning and dreaming about it. We have been doing these trips for a long time but never one quite like this. We were chatting about our first trips with garbage bags for rain coats and beer cases being hauled over portages. We remembered trees falling (or being pushed over) and skunks in tents. A political discussion on Pakistan is currently in the works between Harold and Mike.

 

June 22 22:45 - In bed at Rod's House

 

This'll be the last time I'm in a real bed for a while. The weather is still looking decent for the next 1.5 weeks so we'll see what happens. There's lots of excitement in the air, Jer and Hentie are in for a nice ride on their first trip! Time for me to see if I can doze off for a bit now...

 

June 23 05:00 - Driving to Red Lake

 

We've been driving for over an hour. I can't believe it's light enough to write already! It's a cloudy day but we expected some of that. There's lots of chatty conversation going on. I was up at 02:30 and didn't really sleep much after that. Too excited I guess. There's tons of water in the ditches... Sound familiar? :)

 


[We stopped along the way for a good breakfast]


[A familiar road now - this is the Leano Lake road to the parking lot - almost there!!]


[Off loading the gear at the trailhead. This is the most exciting part of the trip since everything is still ahead of us here.]


[We're off!!]

 
[Day 1 detail map - click for full size. ++]

 

June 23 22:02 - Camp on Kilburn

I'm sitting by a roaring fire. Mike is getting the walleye filets ready. It was a beautiful day today and the night is gorgeous. There was no wind as we paddled into Kilburn. The portages were in great shape, a bit muddy but not bad at all. The funniest part is that I've honesty lost count of the number of fish I've caught already! Even funnier is that the vast majority of them are walleye. Kilburn is a walleye factory. When we had to find a new campsite 3 km past our preferred (and occupied) one, I cast a jig and caught 5 walleye just off our new camp in 5 casts! Within minutes I had a dozen walleye. We set up camp and had supper. After supper we went for a fishing excursion but weren't really that motivated to actually catch anything. Rod and I just sat there and listened to the sounds of the lake - it was very sublime.

 

Now we're all sitting around a cheery fire, eating fresh walleye and listening to a pair of loons off somewhere on the lake around us. Their haunting cries echo off the hard rock of the Canadian Shield. It feels like we've been out here for a few days already, which is kind of like getting 2 days for the price of half a day! It always feels surreal to finally be out on the water. The guys in Red Lake were super nice and chatty. We had to give some strong hints that we've waited two years for this trip and wanted to rock 'n roll as quick as possible. The drive was great too. Everything has gone perfectly so far. Considering I was awake already at 02:30, I think it's time to hit the sack. :)

 


[I remember this moment clearly. It's hard to believe how fast time goes and we're standing back on familiar shorelines.]


[Paddling from Leano to Kilburn]


[One of a few small portages on the way to Kilburn]


[Finally - we're on Kilburn Lake]


[Camp on Kilburn]

 
[Pano of our camp - note the glass water! ++]


[Hammering walleye]


[Losing count already]


[The quiet night]


[Enjoying the stillness]


[The campfire is cheery on our first night in WCPP]

 

June 24 08:03 - Camp on Kilburn

 

Phew! What a morning I've had already! I woke up at 04:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. When I heard a canoe moving outside I decided to get up and check it out - Hentie was up and at 'er already too! As I stood there trying to decide what to do next, I heard consistent splashing noises somewhere down the lake from camp. I loaded some fishing and camera gear into a canoe and paddled solo towards the noise on a lake of glass.

 

A cow and bull moose were feeding in the marshy area across a bay about 1km from camp. I've never seen moose feed this way before. They would submerge themselves completely into the water for about 1 minute - eating like crazy from the bottom - before raising their heads for a breath. Every time the bull would raise his head, there would be a lot of splashing due to his giant set of antlers. I photographed and videotaped them for over half an hour all by myself in a gentle morning fog with birds chirping and serenading us.

 

I did some half-hearted fishing on the way back to camp and caught another dozen walleye. It's a beautiful morning now, the sun is almost hot already. We have a short day today, there's lots of exploring to do!

 


[Hentie is already in the boat at 04:30]


[A bull moose comes up for air after feeding on the bottom]


[The cry of a loon is always proof for me that I'm really out there now.]

 

June 24 13:46 - Camp on Middle Kilburn

 

We're at camp already, eating a nice lunch in the breeze and warm sun on a pointy island in Middle Kilburn Lake. We're actually roasting in 25 degrees, but nobody is complaining. We were initially laughing at how easy today would be but then we spent about 2 hours looking for the one trail we needed! Mike and Harold apparently thought the moose were using blazes on the route they initially found, so we went on a wild goose chase looking for it somewhere else. :)

 


[Back in the boats - headed for Middle Kilburn camp.]


[The weather is beautiful]

 

June 24 19:20 - Camp on Middle Kilburn

 

I'm sitting on a warm rock above camp. I have a grape flavored Backwoods cigar lit up and some instant Via Starbucks coffee sitting on the rock beside me. It's been a great first full day in Woodland Caribou.

 

After setting up camp and eating lunch we went exploring into Upper Kilburn Lake. The fishing wasn't that great, especially when compared with the main lake but after a slow fishing period we got into a long, narrow bay. It was here that Hentie caught the biggest walleye I've ever seen. Rod actually managed to haul in a lake trout and I managed a few medium sized pike. We enjoyed sunshine and a breeze on our backs on the way back to camp. Now it's time to feast on walleye and lake trout. I always bring too much food on these trips. I couldn't even eat my supper meal today, snacking on fruit bars, jerky and granola bars keeps me fueled - not to forget the peanut butter and honey, mini-bagels and wraps with fish!

 


[Exploring Upper Kilburn Lake]


[You can always tell when it's hot because we start dangling our legs in the water every time we stop paddling]


[The variety of mosses and lichen is incredible in the Canadian Shield country]


[Hentie with his giant walleye and a lake trout that Rod caught]


[Hentie and Harold go to another shoreline to clean the fish. It's best not to clean fish near your camp if you can avoid it.]


[Enjoying a coffee near camp]


[Jer sketching]

 
[Day 2 detail. ++]

 

June 24 22:27 - In the tent on Middle Kilburn

 

Wow! It's an oven in this tent! Oh well. Better than wet. It's time for bed after two nights in a row of 4 hours of less sleep. Hopefully I sleep a bit better than last night.

 

June 25 07:15 - Breakfast, campfire on Middle Kilburn

 

We're pretty much packed up and ready to go already. It's a dead-calm, beautiful morning. Birds are chirping energetically, Mike and Harry are packing their tent and the rest of us are eating breakfast. I have the feeling that today is going to be a real scorcher. There is humidity in the air and it's so dead-calm that the surface of the lake is absolute glass-smooth. The sky is kind of breaking up over the horizon. I can't get over how light it is already at 04:00 and even as late as 23:00 out here. It's awesome how long our days can be with that kind of day light. I'm looking forward to today's adventures.

 


[I love these little flowers and all the flora in WCPP that scrape a living out of the harsh landscape]


[Harold is ready for the paddle to Talon Lake]

 
[Day 3 detail - click for full size. ++]

 
[Pano off our Middle Kilburn camp. ++]

 

June 25 13:15 - Boomerang Lake

 

We're sitting on Boomerang Lake in the hot sun, eating lunch. We all jumped in for a dip after negotiating the tight creek from Dragon Lake (where we got lost coming the other direction last trip.). The portages have been getting a bit tougher since Kilburn since less traffic goes through here. Talon will most likely have some moderate sized waves since the wind is now stiff from the west. All I know is that right now my cigar and coffee are going down really well.

 


[Let the work begin! The portages are getting a bit tougher between Upper Kilburn and Talon Lake]


[My absolute favorite flower - the Iris!]


[This is where we got hopelessly lost in 2009, coming from the other direction with darkness approaching. It was much easier this time around!]


[Taking a break along the way to Talon]


[Another favorite of mine - the woodland lily]


[There were many more Iris' than usual]

 

June 25 17:30 - Camp on Talon Lake

 

We're on an island in Talon Lake and have set up camp for the next few days. Our location is awesome. The sun is back out after flirting with some thunderstorms that passed us by. The wind is fairly strong from the west, I have waves splashing up against my feet right now. Today was a tough, but reasonable, one - we made camp by 16:00 and had a nice long break. There is nobody else around me right now. A few turkey vultures are circling over my head and I'm out taking photographs of wild flowers. It's a good day.

 


[Sending the SPOT message - letting our loved ones back home know we're safe.]


[Our camp on Talon is awesome]


[We always have time for a little fishing after supper... :)]


[It feels so good to relax after a long day in the boats]

 

June 25 22:34 - In the tent on Talon Lake

 

I am in the tent while the others are still sitting around the fire. I'm feeling a bit tired after getting very little sleep the past few nights. It's a bit cooler tonight so that may help. The mosquito army is trying desperately to get in the tent but so far I've managed to keep them at bay.

 

After supper Rod and I left camp around 19:00 to some fishing and puttering around. We caught some decent size pike and I even caught a very nice lake trout - it was a very dark color. I caught it on a shallow diving Rapala which was kind of weird for a lake trout. Today a lot of the guys felt tired from the work but I didn't find it too bad. After clouding up, the sky cleared off again tonight so we'll see how tomorrow shapes up. It should be a good day, with the full day spent on Talon and no changing of our camp.

 

I can hear the fire crackling the low voices of the guys around it. I miss Hann and the kids already.

 

June 26 07:13 - Camp on Talon Lake

 

I'm sitting on a rock in Talon Lake early on Sunday morning watching gentle waves lap at the shore while a warm sun rises on the horizon and kisses my face with it's rays. The natural world is such an amazing thing. It was raining this morning when I first awoke at around 06:00 so I slept another 20 minutes before getting up.

 

Today feels like a great day. Only Hentie and I are up (this is becoming a morning trend) and he is studiously trying to fix his crappy Canadian Tire camp chair which has already fallen apart on him... It's so much easier to connect with the natural world out here than when I'm buried in the concrete jungle back in Calgary. I'm starting to realize that a large part of humanity's stress is caused by our constant fight against things over which we have no control.

 

I have to resolve to fight less with my world and simply accept what I cannot change and embrace what I can change.

 

 
[Day 4 detail map - click for full size. ++]


[A windy start to Sunday in Talon]

 

June 26 12:00 - Rocky island in South Talon Lake

 

Right now I'm sitting on a rock in south Talon, enjoying lunch and a conversation about RPG's (don't ask). We've been catching decent sized pike in bays along our route and are now heading back to camp.

 


[We did a half day excursion to south Talon]


[Vern]


[This pair of nesting Bald Eagles were along the way to South Talon]


[Harold]


[Jer]

 

June 26 18:11 - Camp on Talon Lake

 

A few rain drops are falling as we prepare supper. We had a great day on Talon. The fish weren't exactly attacking our hooks, but when they did bite on they bit hard. I caught another lake trout, which is the 2nd one I've caught in Talon, and it was also very dark compared with other one's we've caught in WCPP.

 

The weather was a bit strange today - we all got sunburn even though it seemed cloudy most of the day! Tomorrow we hope to go around 20km or so - into Welkin Lake. A highlight of the day will be finding the 550m portage out of South Aegean as it's not considered a very straightforward trail...

 


[Our first need for a tarp! Some rain drops started falling on Sunday evening.]


[An incredible sunset and rainbow display followed the rain storm]

 
[Sunset from camp. ++]


[Sun sets over our camp]

 

June 26 22:00 - Campfire on Talon Lake

 

It just finished raining and we were treated to an extremely beautiful double rainbow and sunset. I was looking at pictures of Hann and the kids on my camera and realized I miss them already.

 

June 27 08:00 - Breaking up Camp on Talon Lake

 

We are all packed up and ready to start our day! It was more work than usual to break camp after getting good and soaked yesterday evening. We have a very nice day ahead of us today, paddling into Aegean. I had my best sleep of the trip last night even though I did dream of work. Haven't thought about work for at least 4 or 5 days now. I hope I don't bring it up again on this trip. :)

 

June 27 12:04 - South Aegean Lake

 

We're having lunch in South Aegean just before an 80m portage into Aegean. What a beautiful morning we've had! There is zero wind and it's 18 degrees - absolutely the most perfect paddling conditions you can get. We're moving along in our boats, paddling past rocky outcrops, serenaded by loons and having our senses rocked with the wild beauty all around. I've never seen so many Iris' flowers as this year so far - they're absolutely everywhere we look! We aren't catching very many fish today - it's probably too cool after yesterday's cold front moving through. On a day like today, when we're paddling quite far, it doesn't hurt to have less fishing action.

 


[Fishing remains pretty good as we paddle to South Aegean Lake]


[Spirits remain high as the weather holds and we keep finding good portage trails]

 
[A nice rest stop in Aegean - a beautiful lake with many islands. ++]

 

June 27 18:43 - Welkin Lake Camp

 

We've just finished eating supper at our delightful camp on Welkin Lake. The day was trickling along just fine until we approached the 550m portage from Aegean to Welkin. We passed from a mature forest to a fairly fresh burn just before the portage - it was remarkable how the burnt area just appeared from nowhere. We were warned beforehand that this portage could be tricky to find / follow which made it ironic that our trouble was the ease with which we found it! Sometimes expecting something to be hard makes the whole enterprise much more difficult than it would have been otherwise. This was one of those times.

 

Harold and Mike were the lead canoe and emphatically declared the trail "found". Their assumption was well founded because as we approached the burnt out shore there was very clearly a few cairns on the bare rock indicating the start of a portage trail. We landed our canoes and proceeded to charge through the burn area, following cairns along the rocky, charred landscape. The burn was very interesting to walk through and by "interesting" I mean "challenging" - especially with a large pack and arms full of gear. When we lost the line of cairns in a small swamp things got really "interesting". :)

 

When a sudden, severe thunderstorm smashed into us from nowhere as we struggled around the burn without a trail things got elevated to the "this isn't fun anymore" level of interesting!

 

It must have rained at least an inch in 10 minutes as the (thankfully) small thunderstorm moved through. Lightening strikes were uncomfortably close as we did our best to stay dry during the deluge - a task made more difficult by the fact that most of us left our rain wear back in the canoes! Now that the burned area was soaked, we were slowly turning black the further we walked - still urgently trying to determine where the heck we got lost!

 

I finally found a line of pink ribbons tied around burnt tree stumps and fallen debris and followed them through a swamp that led to the edge of the burn and through a very wet area. When I reached open water on the far end I was delighted to have found a way through! Something was weird though. There were 3 canoes bobbing against a rocky shoreline near my exit... It actually took me a few moments to realize that these were our boats and I'd found the 'official' trail and followed it back to the boats, rather than forwards to a small lake between Aegean and Welkin! :)

 

Now that we had a line of ribbons to follow, we managed to find the 'route' (certainly wasn't a trail!) through a small draw and ending up at a gorgeous little bay on the other side. It was a tough portage because we were mentally exhausted at this point, soaking wet, covered in soot from the burn and stumbling around on the wet rocks while trying to negotiate around, over and through the debris.

 

After finally completing the toughest assignment of the trip we were faced with a difficult 2km paddle directly into the wind before completing a very scenic 100m portage into the main Welkin Lake.

 

Now we are enjoying a pleasant conversation on various topics from what Mike likes to eat, to politics, to voting methods and of course all of it leading to in-depth discussions on bodily functions of some sort. 

 

 
[Day 5 map detail - click for full size. ++]


[Getting close to our epic portage into Welkin - note the burn area just ahead and the thunderstorm?]


[Our portage is just ahead]


[Harold doesn't look convinced yet... This is just before the fireworks started!]


[The burn area was beautiful. Until you had to walk through it.]

 
[The burn area. ++]


[Finally back on the water.]


[We had another short portage to get into Welkin.]


[Thankfully this portage was short and obvious - but steep on both sides!]


[Don't trip!]


[View from our camp on Welkin. We camped just outside the burn. ++]


[Another cool view, this time from just off our campsite, looking back at it. Note the edge of the burn area is right where we're camped. ++]


[Finally at camp on Welkin with a warm fire.]


[Drying out our gear after the storms and wet portages took their toll.]


[Sunset over the burn across from our camp. ++]

 

June 27 22:25 - Camp on Welkin Lake

 

Time for some reflection. I miss Hann and the kids - I hope they're having fun and staying safe.

 

June 28 06:54 - Small Island in Welkin Lake

 

It's a very calm, warm and gorgeous morning. I've been up since 05:00, paddling solo around the lake and taking photos. Welkin is not teeming with fish but it sure is a pretty place to call home for a few hours! As I paddled slowly on a glass surface, the fog was lifting all around me and a pair of loons was calling loudly to each other. I was looking for the 20m portage leading into Beamish Lake since we've come through Beamish from the Manitoba side before and I wanted to make the 'link' officially.

 

I spent some time fishing the falls running out of Welkin. Surprisingly there were no walleye to be had but I did catch 8 pike. It was a bit spooky being all alone, far from camp with the mist and the rushing water all around me. When I do my solo canoe trip I am going to have to get over the spookiness of being all alone out here. I've been purposely heading out on little solo paddles whenever I can on this trip to get a feel for how it'll be when I finally manage to get in a (long) solo paddle. I think the biggest challenge for me is going to be dealing with the absolute solitude of this place. We haven't met a single other person since Kilburn.

 

I'm enjoying the silent stillness of this morning, perched on a small island that didn't burn. I think I'll try fishing for a bit yet before heading back to camp.

 


[Very early morning sunrise on Welkin - probably 04:30 here.]

 
[A calm, peaceful and clear day dawns. ++]


[I think it's gonna be a scorcher today!]


[The small falls coming out of Welkin and into the Beamish area]


[Contemplating life and purpose on a rock in Welkin.]


[Lake trout on!]

 

June 28 14:00 - Campsite on Wrist Lake

 

I'm sitting on a rocky outcrop in Wrist Lake near one of the best campsites I've ever seen. We have fire rings, a great kitchen area, a sleeping area tucked away in old growth forest on a mossy carpet and tons of great fishing all around - this is heaven.

 

This morning was great too. After my little reflection time on that rocky island I decided to troll a deep diving Rapala to the opposite shore just for kicks. Sure enough! A quick hit ensured me my first Laker in Welkin. I quickly caught another, larger one and yet another lake trout closer to camp.

 

Our travel from Welkin to Wrist was awesome. Sunshine and a light, cool, breeze in our faces gave us a wonderful paddling situation. The burn ended at Wrist Lake, thank goodness because Wrist is one of the nicest lakes we've ever seen in WCPP with gorgeous old growth forests and many rocky cliffs plunging into clear water. I nearly broke my ankle while being stupid and excited on a portage trail, proving yet again that there's no room for error out here! Thankfully I 'only' sprained it - when I felt the tendons tear I honestly expected it to be a LOT worse. :(

 

When I do my solo trip I'll have to be much more aware of not taking stupid risks like this.

 


[Back on the water - heading for Wrist Lake on a gorgeous, clear, warm day.]


[Paddling through Welkin on an outstanding morning]


[Out of the burn area]


[A few easy portages on the way to Wrist - much easier when it's sunny and warm.]


[This is NICE!]


[Jer and Hentie finish up a portage]


[A snack break]

 
[Paddling across the northern part of Wrist to our camp on smooth glass in mid afternoon. It doesn't get better than this does it? ++]


[At our camp on Wrist - note the journal by my feet?]


[Doing laundry]

 
[Probably the best camp I've ever had in WCPP so far. ++]

 
[Looking down on our kitchen and docking area from the path to our sleeping area in the thicker forest. ++]


[We go exploring in Wrist.]

 
[Day 6 map detail - click for full size. ++]

 

June 28 20:38 - Campsite on Wrist Lake

 

I'm enjoying another Starbucks and cigar moment, sitting above our kitchen area while photographing eagles who are doing their best to salvage what they can from Rod's 20lb northern pike! Yep - you read that correctly. Rod pulled a giant pike out of a point on a bay near camp trolling a copper / bronze red and white Len Thompson lure behind our boat. We were fishing for lake trout when the bay got too shallow for our deep diving Rapala's. We pulled out the casting rods and proceeded to catch a few smaller pike before canoeing back out of the bay to fish some deeper water. I mentioned to Rod that maybe we should have our lines in the water, in order to troll past the ponit between the shallow bay and the lake since I'd read that big Northern's can be found in this terrain.

 

Rod agreed with the plan and as we trolled out of the bay his rod bent nearly in half and the fight was on! The fish actually pulled our canoe around for a while before I finally glimpsed what Rod had hooked. I nearly fell out of the boat when I saw a dark mass over 3 feet long! After some nervous moments I managed to finally heave the monster into the canoe and Rod could breathe again.

 

Hentie cooked up some nice Pike steaks for supper - good times! I'm hoping that after Hentie's giant walleye and Rod's giant northern, maybe it's my turn for a giant lake trout soon! We left the fish carcass out for the eagles and gulls and now I'm taking some wonderful shots of the chaos that is nature consuming itself.

 


[Rod fighting his giant Pike]


[Rod wins! I think we'll let the next one go - we couldn't even finish all the meat!]


[Hentie cooks up Pike steak over the fire]


[Supper.]


[Our tent site]


[Tucked away perfectly in the forest on a soft matt of moss and leaves.]


[Let the feast begin. A turkey vulture competes (and loses) to eagles for Rod's pike leftovers.]


[A very nice evening at camp]


[Sunset in WCPP]

 

June 28 22:10 - Tent on Wrist Lake

 

I'm tired and a bit nauseous. My ankle is bothering me. Time for sleep.

 

June 29 07:54 - Camp on Wrist Lake

 

I woke up around 04:45 this morning and Hentie was already up. We treated ourselves to some coffee while witnessing an incredible sunrise. Afterwards we headed out to fish and managed to land a bunch of small pike and some trout. Hentie caught his very first lake trout which was kind of cool.

 

Today is windy with a mix of sun and cloud. We've been so lucky with the weather so far. Compared to our last WCPP park trip this is a dream-come-true. I remember wondering after the last trip in 2009 if I'd ever bother with another canoe trip - that one was so wet and cold! Of course, that's why we're on a 10 day trip this time - to give us more bad weather days. Well, we haven't needed one yet. Today is a medium-sized day of canoeing before setting up for another 2 night camp, this time on Mexican Hat lake, hopefully right beside the walleye factory of all time!

 


[Hentie's first lake trout!]

 

 
[Wrist to Mexican Hat Lake detail map - click for full size. ++]

 

June 29 15:00 - Camp on Mexican Hat Lake

 

I'm laying on my ThermaRest with the sound of a waterfall in the background and a gusty wind blowing over me keeping the bugs at bay. We have set up camp here for the next two nights. This is a dream camp, right next to a walleye 'factory' in the form of a long set of waterfalls flowing into a small bay right beside a thin peninsula of rock where we're camping. I've already hauled around 20 fish out of the falls, casting right from our camp kitchen!!

 

We're taking a siesta after a fairly strenuous paddle from Wrist Lake this morning. Our first two portages into Amber Lake were fairly easy with wide trails and dry conditions. We were wondering what the third portage would be like... In 2009 the portage from Amber to Nutria was a messy affair, this time it wasn't bad, most of the boggy sections had dried up nicely. The tough part today came in the form of a shallow bog between Nutria and Mexican Hat which we paddle right through in 2009! Our paddle along Mexican Hat to camp was also tough, we found ourselves fighting a fairly stiff wind. I remember when Rod and I found this area in 2009 after sitting out (yet another) rain storm at our desperate camp about 1km west. We were paddling along and heard a waterfall. When we rounded the corner and spotted this camp we vowed to return some day and stay at it. Well - here we are! And we're here for TWO nights.

 


[Paddling out of Wrist Lake]


[Ahhhh. A muddy bog. No canoe trip is complete without one of these! On our way to Mexican Hat Lake from Nutria.]


[The bog]


[Walk on water.]


[Rod]


[Hentie and the walleye factory!]


[Painted turtle]


[The reason for the factory is this stepped waterfall coming down the opposite side of the little bay near camp.]


[Camp]


[The camp is very well used - almost too used...]

 
[Looking out from the camp kitchen on Mexican Hat. ++]

 
[Pano from the point at the end of our camp, showing the bay and the falls along with our kitchen area. ++]


[Sunset on the falls]


[A late night dip - you know it's hot when you're doing this!]


[Setting up for the campfire]

 
[Sunset from camp.]

 

June 29 22:30 - Campfire on Mexican Hat Lake

 

We're listening to some cranked up music with a roaring camp fire, the sound of a waterfall nearby and the setting sun. What a great ending to yet another perfect WCPP day! We are planning to head into Glenn Lake on an exploratory trip tomorrow. I think I'll try to get up for sunrise again tomorrow - but the sun rises very early at this time of year! By 05:00 the sun is already cresting the eastern horizon.

 

 

June 30 13:00 - Island on Glenn Lake

 

We're perched on a lovely, rustic island in Glenn Lake after taking 3 short portages from our Mexican Hat campsite. It's hard to believe but we've found better fishing here than anywhere else in WCPP so far! Harold is buy fileting 6 fat walleye for lunch while Mike cooks them up mere seconds after they are skinned! It's an extremely hot and windy day and we are really feeling paradise out here now. Glenn is a wild, beautiful spot that sees very few visitors. We've been on our own since last week Friday - not running into a single other person since then! It amazes me how utterly devoid of people WCPP is - I really hope it stays this way for a long, long time. The canoe trip back to camp is going to be interesting in the strong winds we're experiencing, hopefully we can simply ride the waves.

 

I must have over 50 fish already today and will probably have another 50 by the end of it. I guess that's why folks are willing to dish out $1000 / day for access to this country. Hansen Lake is connected to Glenn and has a fishing lodge on it. Time to eat some fish now.

 


[I got up early and watched this turtle lay eggs near our camp]


[I paddled across the bay and explored the falls for an hour or so]


[Incredible beauty]


[Looking down the falls towards our camp (blue tarp)]


[Looking back up the falls from the rock shelf that guides them at the bottom]


[Fishing on the way to Glenn Lake - we hauled so many fish out of here it was nuts. Big walleye.]


[Vern on Glenn Lake]


[Looking down the falls into Glenn Lake]


[More fishing]


[The boyz and our haul... (and lunch)]


[Fish fry!]


[Waiting for scraps]


[Looking back at the falls coming into Glenn Lake from MH Lake.]


[Mike]


[Harold]


[Vern takes a dip in the searing heat]

 

June 30 17:15 - Mexican Hat Campsite

 

We made it back safely. The wind wasn't too bad and we paddled hard. Now we're sitting back in camp after a very refreshing swim 'enjoying' the ferocious company of black flies and horse flies. 

 


[Back at camp after a very good day on Glenn]


[Sunset near camp highlights the colors of WCPP]


[Wild sunset]

 
[A very nice way to end the day. I thought we were in for some wicked t-storms but once again they missed us. ++]

 

June 30 21:53 - Tent at the Mexican Hat Camp

 

Wow. It's blazing hot in this tent and extremely humid. I'm surprised we're not being hammered by thunderstorms right now. I am getting ready to go home so I guess this trip has accomplished what it set out to do. So far it's been an absolutely outstanding adventure from start to finish. This trip has more than made up for the crappy weather in 2009 - that's a fact! I miss Hann and the kids - I keep looking at their photos on my camera.

 

July 01 07:00 - Mexican Hat Campsite

 

I've been up since 04:30. I got maybe 4 hours of sleep - the tent was smoking hot last night. Right now it's 24 degrees in the shade and the rising sun is throwing off some serious heat already. Good thing we have around a dozen portages today! ;)

 

July 01 15:00 - Bunny Lake Camp

 

We made it to camp with a nice wind on our backs again (!!). The sun just came out for an hour or so but now I see more threatening clouds building up in the west. I wouldn't be shocked if we get some thunderstorms at some point this afternoon or evening.

 

Today was another great, relaxing day so far with 13 portages and 16km of travel that we did in about 5 hours thanks to great weather and good spirits! There was some half-hearted conversation about going home already today but I think that one more night will nicely cap the trip.

 

 
[MH to Bunny Lake detail map - click for full size. ++]


[On our way again]


[Hentie walks on water. Sort of... :)]


[A nice little waterfall we passed]


[Resting]


[A good campsite on Bunny Lake]


[The kitchen area is nicely elevated. The bugs were HORRIBLE though.]


[Out, exploring Bunny Lake with Rod]

 

July 01 21:00 - Bunny Lake Camp

 

Harold is out fileting the final lake trout of the trip (who knew we'd catch a lake trout in Bunny?!) on the opposite shore. Rod and I had a good time fishing around for some pike and chatting about life. This has been an outstanding trip on many levels, but especially the weather has been stellar. A new system seems to blow through every 24-36 hours but so far they've been mostly harmless and dry. The sunset is shaping up to be a good one, so I'm preparing for one last solo paddle to take some photos of it.

 


[An incredible last sunset of our trip on Bunny Lake]

 

July 01 22:23 - Tent at Bunny Lake Campsite

 

Time for the last night of the trip. I doesn't feel like 9 nights have passed already, but I do feel ready to go home now. The mosquitos are so brutal tonight in the windless, warm air that I've decided to bail on the fire and hit the sack already.

 

July 02 06:03 - Bunny Lake Camp

 

It's the final morning of our trip. Thoughts of work and the "real" world are pouring through my mind, mixed with thoughts of the silent wilderness and song birds currently surrounding me.

 

This trip has taught me some things about myself, some things about life and some things about other people. I know I will be back in this place in a few years. I'm not sure yet if I'll be alone or with others but that doesn't matter much.

 

The wild always calls me back.

 


[My last journal entry on Bunny Lake]


[Heading to Leano Lake]


[We were rounding the corner to camp within 2 hours of leaving Bunny already!]


[Another trip comes to a close in the Leano Lake parking lot.]

 

Day 1-5 Video

Woodland Caribou 2011 Day 1-5 from Vern Dewit on Vimeo.

Day 6-11 Video

Woodland Caribou Canoe Trip Day 6-11 from Vern Dewit on Vimeo.

Total Distance (km): 
130.00

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2014 - Leano Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

This northern wilderness “where nature still rules” is remote yet accessible. Canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts can reach the parks’ interior backcountry campsites and outpost camps by waterway or by air. Home to one of the largest groups of Woodland Caribou south of Hudson Bay, this weathered Arctic watershed promises ancient pictographs as part of its cultural landscape, howling wolves under starry skies, soaring eagles, solitude and adventure.

(From ontarioparks.com)

YDS Class: 
Hiking
Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Monday, July 7, 2014 to Saturday, July 12, 2014

Planning

Early in January 2014, a group of us started throwing around the idea of another canoe trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP) near Red Lake in North-Central Ontario against the Manitoba border.

 

We've done many trips into the southern part of the park, accessing it from Garner Lake, Wallace Lake and even from the southwest, through the Eagle-Snowshoe Nature Reserve. This trip would be no different, considering a time constraint of around 5.5 days. Due to holiday / family schedules, I think the only way we will ever experience the northern part of WCPP will be via a one way North-South fly-in canoe trip or a much longer excursion in a loop from the south. 

 

In 2009 we made our first trip through Red Lake and into the park via the Leano Lake access. While that trip was very memorable, it was also a disappointment, with terrible weather for 3/5 days and not enough time to savor the environment and relax. In 2011 we were back, this time armed with more days (10), more time and a better understanding of which circuit we wanted to do. This was probably my all time favorite canoe trip with plenty of time to take photos, catch fish and relax. It is not the last time I'll spend more time than a week in WCPP! The weather in 2011 made up for the crap-fest in 2009 - we had 10 days of the most perfect weather possible. The one day we got rain was a planned rest day on Talon Lake. The fishing was sublime for most of that trip and we navigated through some amazing terrain including burnt out areas of the park around Welkin Lake.

 

Unfortunately we were back down to a 5 day trip this year. Even though I swore I wouldn't do all the driving / expense of such a short excursion through Red Lake again, I found myself pulled into another trip - they're hard to resist after 3 years and sitting in an office tower in Calgary during a January snow storm! I also found myself realizing that since I love canoeing so much I should probably own my own boat and start taking my kids on some trips too. I've also had dreams of doing a much longer, possibly solo, trip into WCPP or the Lac La Ronge area (Saskatchewan) some day sooner rather than later and would need my own boat for that. After researching, I decided to go with an excellent Canadian canoe manufacturer, Souris River Canoes. Originally I wanted their Quetico 17 Red Le Tigre but after researching some more and keeping my future solo trips in mind, I went with the more exotic Quetico 16 CarbonTec instead. Rather than ship the canoe all the way to Alberta, I decided to buy it through our outfitter for the 2014 trip, Harlan Shwartz of Red Lake Outfitters.

 

A flurry of emails went out and once the dust settled we had a group of 6 canoeists - Bill and Harold Slaa, Hentie Jordaan and myself and Rod Dewit with Tim Vanbeek. Rod coordinated the gear rentals with Harlan and we sat out the remainder of a long, cold winter looking forward to the trip.

 

Trip Report

Monday, July 7 2014

 

After a restless night's sleep I awoke at around 02:20 and packed up the truck with a final few bits of gear before driving into the humid Manitoba night to meet Hentie and Harold at Mom and Dad's place nearby. After picking up Rod, Tim and Bill in Winnipeg we continued the long drive to Red Lake. We saw a pair of wolves near the Kenora turnoff, but thankfully moose and deer stayed off the highway while we drove past. Our usual breakfast stop was no longer open for breakfast (only lunch and supper now) so we simply kept driving up hwy 105 through Ear Falls and on to Red Lake. A brand new Tim Hortons quenched our hunger and thirst for coffee (!!) before we pulled up to Red Lake Outfitter's at 09:45. There was a hand written note on the door, letting us know that "we will be returning at 10am" - so we started getting our packs prepared with the group gear and getting ourselves organized to save time at the Leano Lake trailhead.

 

Just after 10, Harlan showed up and we organized the rentals. I also got to pick up my brand new canoe - still unscratched and a "black beauty" for another few hours before it would finally make contact with the hard granite of the Canadian Shield... :) It's slightly shocking how much such a simple thing as a canoe can cost - but the boat was so light when we packed it on my truck that I couldn't quite believe that either! It is a superbly built craft - I can not recommend Souris River canoes highly enough. They are a Canadian company who knows their stuff. They make some darn good canoes. Every moment I paddled that canoe was a good moment - put it that way ;-).

 

Harlan understood that we were in a hurry to get on the water and graciously accommodated us in this effort. He also supplied us with new WCPP maps - apparently some of the portages have been updated and changed from the original (we verified this first-hand on our trip). Some of my distances will be slightly off because I used the old map to plan and GPS our route.

 

Soon we were barreling down the Suffel Lake road in a cloud of dust. Red Lake had been getting quite a bit of rain over the past few weeks and the road wasn't in very good shape - especially once we passed the first Red Lake boat launch turnoff. Here the road narrows significantly and for the next 10-20km it was extremely rough. Especially on uphill or downhill sections, the rain had washed any gravel fill off the road and only big gravel and stone remained, along with some good run outs from the running water. I had to slow down to 5km/h on many stretches, especially considering my brand new canoe was on the roof! It's a good testament to the cinch straps I was using that the canoe stayed on the truck! Ironically enough, when we passed a sign warning us that the road was "not maintained after this point", the road improved noticeably... ;) This part of the ride always takes a long time. It's 'only' around 70km from Red Lake to the Leano Lake put-in, but it's a rough and long ride. Count on at least an hour in reasonable conditions and longer in ones like we had. It was noon when we finally turned off the Mile 51 road and into the Leano Lake parking area. After 3 years, we were finally back...

 


[Ah yes! There's nothing quite like a CarbonTec SR 16' Quetico on top of my truck... ;)]


[I knew that it would never look like this again so I'd better document it.]


[Black Beauty]


[One more shot of a pristine hull]

 

We were surprised to see activity in the parking lot already. Normally there aren't many folks in WCPP (only 1000 or so paddlers each year with 20 access points including fly-in points) so seeing others already in the parking lot felt different. Soon we realized that the three were all solo paddlers with their own vehicles, so really it was just 3 them and us! They were all from Wisconsin and looked pretty experienced with barrels of gear and an experienced outdoor "look" to them. Since they were soloing their gear and boats, we easily managed to pass them on the 350 meter portage to Leano Lake and once we were paddling we never saw them or anyone else on the remainder of our trip.

 

Looking out over Leano Lake as my paddle dipped into the cool, clear waters once again, I was reminded yet again how short life is and how much of it we waste on doing things we really don't like doing. As a society we put way too much emphasis on things that don't matter and consume way too much time and resources. I wonder why that is? The canoe moved effortlessly through the water and the mood was light amongst the group, the way it always is when the weather is cooperating and the trip is just starting. The forecast had some rain for the first few days so even a little shower on the ride in hadn't worried us too much. We were very concerned about the bug situation, but after camping with our families the previous week in the Whiteshell (Manitoba), we knew that even the bugs were toning down a few notches compared to a few weeks previous. The bugs certainly didn't seem ferocious yet anyway.

 


[We're back!]


[Bill hasn't been on a canoe trip for 5 years]


[Completed the first portage, paddling down the stream to the second one (120m)]

 

The first few portages to Kilburn Lake are always more involved than we expect. They are fairly well marked and traveled, but it's still wilderness in WCPP and there are boggy sections, trees on the path and bugs flying in your face. They felt long, especially with very full and heavy back packs. We can never find the first portage out of Leano and many people mistake the same "path" for a trail. It's quite funny actually, there's a distinct trail forming that goes nowhere due to people like us always taking it first. The portage trail is located against a small rock wall, tucked away to paddler's left from the "obvious" (and incorrect) one. Thanks to the recent rain, the trails were soaked and muddy and even the foliage soaked us pretty good. It sure felt good to be back though. I soon caught and released some nice fat walleye - the trip was officially underway after that.

 

 
[The first set of lakes / portages kept us busy the first afternoon in WCPP. Combined with getting up at 02:30 and driving 9 hours this was plenty of work for day 1! ++]


[At the bottom of the falls after the 100m portage into Upper Kilburn Lake - I caught a couple of fat walleye here.]

 

Initially I had mapped out doing the 1000 meter portage from Kilburn to Upper Kilburn, rather than paddle all the way down Kilburn and through Middle Kilburn before portaging into Upper. We've never camped in Upper Kilburn before, only doing a day trip there in 2011 from a camp in Middle. Upper Kilburn doesn't have native walleye (although there are some in there - Hentie caught a huge one in 2011) but is on the way to Paull Lake, our destination on day 2. Harold would rather paddle than walk, so he managed to convince us to paddle all the way around but as we approached Kilburn, two factors changed our minds back to the original plan. Firstly, the sky was darkening and there were even peels of thunder in the distance. Harold wisely pointed out that it would be better to be nailed with a t-storm on portage rather than while paddling. Secondly, on a close inspection of the map, we realized how much further it was to paddle around the portage. Add in 3 shorter portages (which still take time and energy) and all of a sudden the 1000 meters didn't seem so unreasonable anymore. 

 

The park staff have advertised this relatively new portage fairly aggressively to us in the past - I guess they want people to start using it now that they've built it! It was a bloody long portage, but to be perfectly honest I enjoyed it. Walking through the Boreal forest is a pleasure for me since I'm used to hiking in the Rockies out west. The granite rock is colorful and hard, the forest floor is covered in a layer of spongy moss and there are different smells and flowers than I'm used to. I was surprised by the cacophony from the local bird population too. My pack was heavy but carried well. Going 1000 meters with a canoe on your head is never going to be easy, but thanks to my carbon fiber purchase, it was about as easy as it's ever going to be! Hentie and I are about the same height and walk the same pace so that made it easier too.

 

As we neared the end of the first carry (we do 2 carries, the first is usually the packs / paddles / fishing rods and the second is the boat) we saw black clouds racing across Upper Kilburn straight at us. We went back for the canoe with the sky rumbling threats all around. Just as we finished our 2nd carry the rain started and within 5 minutes it was a full-on down pour. The timing was perfect, we managed to get our rain gear on and spent 30 minutes huddled on the west end of the portage until the storm passed before loading up the boats and looking for a camp for the night. We paddled past the first two candidate sites before settling on what I'd labeled as "UK-C3" on the planning map.

 

 
[Looking at the impending storm from the end of the 1000m portage. Note how quiet the water is? That didn't last long! ++]


[Hentie walks back for our 2nd carry and meets the other guys carrying their canoe.]


[Back in the boats with the t-storm just passed over us. At least the lake is calm again...]

 
[We stayed on UK-C3 on the first night - a delightful camp with good fishing nearby thanks to the islands / structure. ++]


[At least we're dry!]

 

After setting up camp, including tarps for the impending rain that looked imminent and laughing at Rod and Tim's tiny "play" tent, Hentie and I headed out for some fishing. We didn't catch much but a few Lake Trout did get released which was another great way to start the trip. After circling the island a few times we docked the canoe for the night and enjoyed a cheery bonfire with rain peppering the tarp above. 

 


[Supper time]


[Hentie was the master of starting fires, even with wet wood]


[Ready for anything]


[A beautiful evening - it started raining again a bit later]

 


[A cozy camp]

Tuesday, July 8 2014

 

It rained significantly our first night in WCPP - we even stayed in bed an extra hour thanks to the down pours. I wasn't too keen to start the day after waking up to the patter of rain on the tent (remember - 2009!) but we were expecting some rain at the beginning of the week and had to deal with it so we eventually rolled out of bed. The rain stopped while we ate breakfast and cleaned up camp and we set off under a cloudy sky for the nearby 100 meter portage out of Upper Kilburn. Hentie and I tossed out spoons and trolled out of camp, each of us catching a sizable northern pike. Hentie's got off but I managed to land mine - probably around 10 lbs. A great way to start the day!

 


[We're starting in rain gear but the bugs aren't bad and it stopped raining for breakfast]


[A nice fat pike to start the day on Tuesday - caught trolling a spoon]

 

The portages were fairly easy to find on Tuesday but many were rather swampy and wet thanks to high water and the over night rainfall. It was obvious pretty early in this trip that maintaining dry feet throughout the day was a losing proposition. Hentie and Tim were the smart ones as they didn't even bother with boots / shoes but wore sandals or less. Tim does a lot of hiking in bare feet and as crazy as it seemed to me at first, he did many of the portages without even sandals on! I have to admit that I still think he was a bit crazy - one sharp object from disaster - but he made it and enjoyed it. In a first, even Bill took extra boots along and didn't even try very hard to keep his feet dry.

 


[A grey morning to start our day but perfect paddling conditions and the wind wasn't a factor either]


[Gorgeous Canadian Shield country on our way through Paull Lakes]

 

I found Paull Lake to be one of the nicer lakes in south WCPP. Along with South Aegean I think it's my favorite for scenery with sharp, rocky cliffs and plenty of gentler rock leading to excellent camp sites. If there's one downside it's that there's no walleye in Paull - but there's plenty of pike and the odd Lake Trout too. As Hentie and I paddled ahead of the group past a nice cliffy area, Hentie spotted a black object that looked a little too black to be rock. Sure enough! It was a black bear foraging for food out in the open. We negotiated the canoe closer and I managed to put my 600mm lens to good use. Getting a sharp photo out of a canoe at 600mm is almost impossible, but I did manage a few decent shots before the big bruin noticed us an shuffled off into the forest.

 


[A very nice (and large) black bear was the reward for being in front of the group for a while]


[Some rustic portages]

 

The sky started to clear around 11am and soon we were paddling in warm, sunny temps. We found a delightful spot for lunch around PA-C2 (on my map) that was also a great campsite. The tent pads were perfectly flat and soft and the fire area was elevated and subject to wind from almost any direction - key for keeping bugs at bay when you're eating. After enjoying a wonderfully relaxing lunch we continued on our way, hoping to spot our first pictographs in the park.

 

Previously we've been near pictographs (we paddled right past some on Welkin) but we didn't know how to find them. Harlan supplied us a map with some locations marked on it - not exact locations but at least areas and cliff bands. I've also found a great web site since our trip which shows almost exact locations. Now I'm bummed at how close we've been to other sites without realizing it. I guess we'll have to go back! :)

 


[The sun comes out as we take lunch on Paull Lake]

 
[A sublime lunch spot - a good camp site too! ++]


[This is what it's all about]


[The paddling through Paull Lake was extremely scenic. One could easily spend a few days in this area exploring it's many nice shorelines.]


[Light play on the rock]

 

As we neared the channel leading to the 80m portage near the NW end of Paull Lake we started looking for the pictograph that was rumored (and shown on the map) to exist on the south side of the north cliffs in the channel leading to the portage. We had never looked for a pictograph before, but I'd read of people spending an hour or so searching before finding them so I knew they can be pretty obscure. We went up and down the entire length of cliffs for at least 45 minutes with two boats, to no avail. There were lots of spots that looked perfect for a pictograph but we simply could not find them! One mistake we made (on hindsight) was looking at dark rock and light rock. The pictographs are only on light rock. We also found a photo on-line showing the pictograph in Paull and it is indeed very slight, although I'm still surprised we didn't find it. The water levels were high, but even then they should have been visible. I think I'd be able to find them now that we know what we're looking for.

 


[We spent quite some time looking for the pictograph on Paull.]


[Tucked in near the pictograph cliffs]

 
[This line of cliffs has a pictograph somewhere. We couldn't find it though... ++]


[Heading into Aegean Lake]

 

After a ending our pictograph hunt we were slightly bummed but still had a ways to paddle for the day. It was feeling like a long day, but the further we got on Tuesday, the more fishing / relaxation we could do on lakes that we knew would have kick ass fishing - namely Wrist, Glenn, Hansen and Mexican Hat.

 

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit bagged already on starting the 300 meter portage out of Paull. Knowing that we also had to do a 400 meter and then find a camp site was pushing it but we didn't really have a choice once we left Paull behind. On hindsight, a camp around PA-C6 would have been pretty good too. As it was, once Hentie and I portaged into Aegean it soon became obvious that my "AG-C1" site wasn't going to work (it's a tiny island with no room for camp sites) so we pushed on. Radios would have been handy at this point, because in our determination to reach camp we got quite a bit ahead of the others and they didn't realize what we were up to. I think Harold and Bill started worrying that I was trying to finish the whole trip on Tuesday already! After pushing on for a bit we waited for the others to catch up and proceeded to look for camp site "AG-C3" which was also marked on an island. Again, we were rebuffed. Reluctantly we paddled across the channel and to our surprise found an excellent site at "AG-C2". This site hadn't been used for years, indicated by plants growing in the fire ring, but was an excellent spot with plenty of room for our 3 tents and a kitchen area.

 

In the evening I went out for a short paddle on the dead-calm lake to check out the fishing and how my new canoe paddled solo. The paddling and scenery were great, the fishing was not. I managed to get some decent sized pike but the sight of a huge beaver waddling around on shore stole the evening experience for me. I've seen very few of these creatures out of water and in the open - he obviously didn't know I was there. Once again the 600mm lens came in handy.

 

I returned to a cheery camp fire which Harold quickly built BIG. The night was going to be clear and cold (for July). Amazingly the bugs stayed away (probably due to the cool weather) and we enjoyed laughs until late into the night. Sleep came quickly after a long day on the water.

 

 
[The end of our day on Tuesday saw us pushing to AG-C2 - the first viable camp site after Paull. ++]

 
[A view from our camp at "AG-C2" on Aegean ++]


[Rod and Tim try to waterproof their tiny tent after getting a bit wet in the rain on the first night. It's hard to believe that two guys over 6ft tall fit in that thing... ;)]

 
[Evening calm descends on Aegean ++]


[It's pretty rare to see these creatures out of the water - they are instinctively very shy of humans - probably thanks to a booming trade in their fur 100 years ago!! :)]


[The sun casts some last rays before disappearing]


[A cheery fire and cool evening - the best combo for bugs / sleeping.]

 

Wednesday, July 09 2014

The third day of our trip would be a relatively short tripping day. Whereas Tuesday was over 21km of the paddling and over 2,000 meters of portaging, Wednesday was lining up to be a measly 13km with a maximum of 3 portages, possibly only 2 (due to a possible pull-through). The longest portage on Wednesday would be the 100 meters from Streak to Wrist Lake! Our destination would be the deluxe camp from 2011 - "WR-C1", situated on a delightful island near our first portage on the north end of Wrist on Thursday.

 

The plan was to get to our camp by noon and then spend a full afternoon / evening fishing for the famous Wrist Lake Trout, followed by a nice fish fry - assuming we were successful of course.

 


[The tripping on Wed would be minimal, thanks to a long day on Tues. The two 20m portages could be pull throughs and the 100m wasn't much either]

 

The day started out warm and sunny. We were in no hurry but still managed to be on the water by around 08:00 thanks to the beautiful (dry!) morning conditions. We fished our way slowly up Aegean, which is another gorgeous lake in WCPP. The wind was once again cooperative and light. It seemed like every time we turned a corner we were either with it or it wasn't a factor at all. This is why you need to do more than one canoe trip - the bad weather trips fade into memory when you get a few good ones.

 

Despite warnings about the worst mosquito and black fly outbreak in years, we were experiencing very low bug counts. Sure, there were clouds of mosquitoes in the obvious places (swamps, wet forest etc) but in the canoes we were pretty much bug-free and even at camp so far, there were minimal biting insects. Bug spray was working, unlike many trips in the past where even spray wasn't enough to keep them at bay.

 

As we paddled towards the first 20 meter portage we witnessed something I've never seen before. A brilliant flash of light burst across the blue sky above, ending in a fire ball!! We all looked at each other, speechless! "Did you guys see that?!" Apparently we saw a pretty large meteor during the day - a pretty special moment and another great memory.

 

The 2nd 20m portage ended up being a rock garden that we paddled carefully through. We didn't lose much paint but if the water was lower it would have been a pull-through rather than a "paddle over". As expected, the 100 meter portage from Streak to Wrist was easy and quick and soon we were paddling north up Wrist Lake - headed for camp. Rod and Tim nailed a couple of lake trout coming out of the small bay near the portage but didn't land them. This was good news as at least the fish were biting. Wrist Lake was just as calm as it was in 2011 when we paddled across glass at noon. We arrived at camp to find it empty and just as awesome as we remembered it with one disappointment - the excellent, mossy camp sites in the bush were under a few inches of water! Oh well. We found good spots on the rock above and proceeded to set up camp.

 

 
[Hentie and I were ready a bit early, so we started fishing while the others cleaned up camp. ;)]


[A gorgeous morning for paddling - note the quiet water. This is right after we spotted the meteor.]


[The 2nd 20 meter "portage" was actually a careful paddle over submerged rocks - a benefit to the water being a bit high for July]


[At the Wrist camp - she's getting scratches but still looks gorgeous IMHO... ;)]


[Lunch time on Wrist under the cool shade of our kitchen trees]

 

Just because we were at camp already by noon, didn't mean we were going to sit around the rest of the day! We were here to FISH. ;) And fish we did! The various canoes scattered across Wrist, most trolling Rapalas in an effort to land some Lake Trout for supper. Sure enough. It didn't take long to start nailing them, especially around structure such as islands or channels on the west end of the lake. We caught them a bit too early in the afternoon and ended up releasing quite a few before we started worrying that we wouldn't catch enough for supper.

 

It was a beautiful day. There were zero biting insects to bother us. A cool wind kept us from over heating although the sun was warm and quite intense out on the water. We witnessed some birds fighting and enjoyed the incredible fighting power of Lake Trout - a fish that seems to be made entirely of muscle. Compared to lake trout, walleye are wimpy and pike are predictable. A lake trout half the size of my big pike from Tuesday morning would put up almost twice the fight, especially once they're close to the boat. As usual, a deep diving Rapala in the 15 to 30' depth range was the way to catch the trout. Spoons worked well for pike, which we also caught fairly regularly on Wrist. By around 17:30 we were ready for supper, tired from the wind and sun and with a stringer full of lake trout. (We caught close to 20 lake trout between the 6 of us so they are definitely quite numerous in Wrist Lake.)

 

Supper was, as expected, delightful. Even though the day was rapidly cooling, most of us took advantage of the nice weather and went for a refreshing swim after supper. I went for a solo paddle again in the evening, on a calm lake. Fishing had slowed considerably but the canoe handled great and was a pleasure to command with my paddle. Once again we were treated to a delightful camp fire and lack of evening bugs. We all stayed up 'til midnight again, enjoying cigars, fine whiskey and many good laughs.

 


[Lake Trout!]


[The west side of Wrist is burnt out - this is where we paddled out from Welkin in 2011]


[Supper!]


[Bill was our fish-cook and did a wonderful job]


[A gorgeous evening in WCPP at our camp]


[Looking back at camp as I go for an evening paddle]


[The sun sets as I paddle near the place where Rod landed his monster pike in 2011]

Thursday, July 10 2014

 

After a fairly leisure day on Wednesday we were headed into more unknown territory on Thursday. After paddling through Nutria and Amber lakes to Mexican Hat the previous two trips, we were deviating north into Hansen and back to Mexican Hat through Glenn on this one. Hansen is known for it's walleye and lake trout fishing (there's a lodge on this lake) and we knew from a day trip out of our Mexican Hat camp back in 2011 that Glenn has some of the best walleye fishing you can get. Naturally this meant camping on Glenn this time around... ;)

 

The only issue? The portages from Wrist to Hansen aren't done that often and we read some stories of boggy conditions. We could only find a few trip reports on this section online and it didn't sound that easy, but we don't do these trip because they're easy right? So, off we went on Thursday morning, under a burning hot sun.

 

 
[Our planned route for Thursday included 4 portages from Wrist to Hansen that we weren't sure about... ++]

 

The 625 meter portage out of Wrist was an absolute delight for the first 620 meters. We found ourselves in an open forest of aspen trees (quite rare for WCPP) and walking on a path of pine needles and soft moss that wound it's way through small glades and patches of dappled sun light. As we walked our first carry I mentioned to Hentie that there simply had to be a "sting in the tail" of this delightful portage. I was right! The last 5 meters were down a steep, loose washout that ended in water - there was no way our feet were staying dry here! Oh well. The first 620 meters were worth the hard ending. After awkwardly shuffling the canoes down the washout we managed to load them up and continued through the small lake beyond. Hentie and I both commented that this would be the perfect place for a private, fly-in cabin. I'm sure very few people go through this lake each year and it is a very scenic place with towering rock cliffs and old growth jack pine on all shores.

 


[The last 5 meters were interesting... At least the sand was soft enough to walk down safely.]


[Hentie and I both agreed that we would love to build a private cabin on this lake!]


[Hmmm. This next portage looks interesting...]

 

After a very pleasant paddle through the small lake after Wrist and the short 90 meter portage afterwards, things got interesting. Hentie and I led the way down the 275 meter portage that seemed to cross a stream. NOTE: On the new map this is marked as a longer portage and does NOT cross the stream.

 

I'm already making it sound too easy. We didn't do the typical portage thing where we pull up to a marked tree and start off loading gear right away. In this case the portage was marked by a small rock cairn on an outcrop of rock, but when we went to investigate there was no obvious trail anywhere. We've learned over the years that even very rarely traveled portage trails are obvious compared to game trails and if nothing else they should have tree blazes along the way, so when we find a "portage" that isn't marked pr obvious we know we're not on one and should look again.

 

We looked around a bit and I noticed a faint track and an orange flag along the base of the rock, submerged in swampy water (input to the marked stream) on the left. The path disappeared into low bush flanking the left (west) side of the stream and was obviously our route. This was starting to look like an adventure already and we hadn't set foot on it yet. Some of the group was pushing for a paddle down the stream, which seemed tempting at first. Again, experience paid off when we realized that even the new map didn't mention anything about "navigable in high water" or "pole through" or anything of the sort. We've learned that in WCPP, if people bother building a portage trail, it's for good reason. There had to be falls, beaver dams and other obstacles in this stream or nobody would bother building a trail around it. So we did the prudent thing and started down the trail with our packs to see what we were in for.

 

Well. We earned this route - that's for sure. A wind storm must have hit this part of WCPP quite hard, because trees were felled all over like match sticks. The trail started pretty innocently after a bit of a swampy start. After descending back to the creek (where the old map and my route planning shows the trail crossing the stream) we lost the trail for a bit. I decided that rather than wade the stream, I'd check a bit further along it and sure enough! On the west side, about 100 meters further north I found a ribbon hidden off in the bush (not visible from where the trail came out into the marsh). At this point the trail was ribboned and obvious, but affected very heavily by blow down. We should have taken the packs off and the axes and saws out, but instead we began to wade through the debris with heavy packs. This was dangerous and I almost broke an ankle while stepping off a particularly large tree into a gnarly pit of dead branches and tangled debris. Various members of our party started abandoning gear at certain points, just to try to bash through to the other side!

 

Eventually we did get through to the other side, which ended at the next lake. Phew!! What a slog that was! I took the ax off my pack and did a rudimentary clearing job over the debris field - knocking off top and side branches and clearing a bare minimum of a path through so that we could get back with the canoes without injury. I also cleared some of the overhanging trees and branches from the first section and we moved the ribbons at the swamp so that they were more obvious. This section needs a chainsaw before I would say it's navigable again. Other than some bleeding legs and sore ankles we did make it through OK in the end.

 

After a short paddle we came on the 500 meter portage into Hansen. This portage started out rather well but quickly deteriorated into one tangled mess of trees after another. Thankfully these were mostly overhead (affecting a canoe carry) and not the ankle / leg breaking mess we dealt with on the previous portage. There was no way a canoe could be carried through though - so out came the ax again! This time we spent well over an hour clearing the trail properly. Blood blisters quickly appeared on my hands and the blistering heat / bugs made the job even more pleasant. I was actually having a lot of fun - finally some real work to do! I guess I'm still a farm boy at heart. Rod and Harold helped out and cleared trees as I chopped through them. Most of the dead fall was small diameter stuff and most of it was fairly fresh so it chopped easily. There's no feeling like carrying your canoe through a freshly cleared portage that you just spent a lot of hard work clearing. It felt great.

 


[This is the only shot I have from our trail clearing efforts since we were too busy to take photos.]

 

After the 500 meter portage we were finally on Hansen Lake. It had taken us 4 hours to go from Wrist to Hansen - a short distance on the map - thanks to the portage clearing and conditions. This is where doing some research ahead of time pays off. We knew that the Wrist to Hansen portages weren't done often and we gave ourselves lots of time to do them early in the day when we'd have the energy. Worst case scenario would be more fishing if we completed them faster than expected.

 

Rod had informed us earlier that there was supposed to be more pictographs on Hansen. Still disappointed that we didn't find the Paull Lake ones we were determined to find these. Hansen is a gorgeous lake with old growth pines on shore and colorful rock faces dipping steeply into the cool water below. We slowly trolled our Rapalas next to the line of steep cliffs that the pictographs were supposedly on. Harold and Bill were slightly ahead of us and soon Bill was yelling that they'd found them! Sure enough - there was no doubt when we saw them that we were looking at a relic made by human hands. I was delighted to discover these stunted and dimmed paintings on rock and I think I've found a 2nd favorite thing to do on canoe trips behind fishing. ;) After taking photos we continued drifting and paddling lazily down Hansen, past the seemingly empty lodge and toward the "Hansen Chute" marked on our maps. We stopped for a late lunch on a outcrop of rock directly across from the lodge and enjoyed a much deserved rest under the shade of a well placed tree and a nap in the sun for most of us.

 


[Bill and Harold at the pictograph site on Hansen Lake (lower left)]


[This was a canoe with people in it - they were faded and worn.]


[Hard to see from a distance - if you didn't know they were there I'm not sure you'd spot them. Note how light the rock is that they're found on.]


[A slightly wider perspective on the site]


[Blowing down Hansen on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon!]


[The lodge looked very quiet, we saw no boats on the lake and no movement on shore. This was a relief because I was slightly concerned that we wouldn't have the "Hansen Chute" all to ourselves for fishing. ;)]


[The start of the "Hansen Chute"]

 

The fishing was, as expected, out of this world at the base of the Hansen Chute. We hammered large Walleye and the occasional Pike - I lost count somewhere around 18. The only trick to fishing the falls in WCPP is not getting too many snags on the bottom. When you're busy retying your line after breaking it on a snag, your boat buddy is hauling in fish - a very frustrating experience.

 

We decided to keep some of the walleye for supper since we weren't guaranteed enough time to fish on Glenn after setting up camp there. We were catching so many fish that only Harold and Bill kept about 15 minutes worth - and only the bigger ones. The reason this section of the park is called a "chute" is due to a series of falls that comes down between Glenn and Hansen. Originally I figured this would all be very well traveled from lodge traffic between Hansen and Glenn but this was an incorrect assumption. This was also the first time that the new WCPP map varied considerably from the old one (that I had used in planning). Harold and Bill bullied their canoe up the lower falls, bypassing what I thought I had marked as the first 350 meter portage. The new map had a 50 meter followed by a 300 meter portage with a break in between... It turns out that the first portage was only about 200 meters and even though it was obvious and well marked, it was MUCH more rustic than I was expecting. Due to the nature of the chutes, Rod pointed out that the lodge would have to boat cache at several intermittent ponds (that we portaged around later) between Hansen and Glenn, meaning that lodge guests do not fish in Glenn and these portages aren't traveled nearly as often as I thought they'd be.

 

So, the first 200 meters weren't on either map (I guess more people do what Bill and Harold did - when the water is lower it's probably much easier. I think the first 50 meters is pulling around the small falls they bullied up. The next portage was the full 300 meters and was pretty decent, although much less traveled than I was expecting - lodge guests cannot make it to this trail either (unless they swim or portage there).

 

A short portage after this brought us finally into Glenn Lake - our destination for Thursday evening's camp. The site marked "GL-C2" proved to be a gem of a camp site and we proceeded to set up after arriving around 5 in the afternoon. The weather was changing from the previous few days. On Thursday it was hot and windy, like a storm might blow in any time. Thankfully we got lucky with wind direction and paddled with it most of the way. When we got to camp the wind picked up considerably and buffeted our point from the south, threatening to blow our tents away if we didn't anchor them properly.

 

At around 18:30, with camp set up and just before fish cleaning time, Rod and Tim decided to check out a bird behind camp that had been diving at Rod as he explored a small game trail behind our tents. Apparently Rod was trying his hardest to sneak up on the bird to get a photograph and Tim was sneaking up on Rod to see what all the fuss was about. Initially Rod heard Tim stepping on the branches behind him and had a brief panic moment - thinking there may be wildlife in the area. When he saw it was Tim, they resumed bird watching together. The bird fell strangely silent as they followed it further into the forest. It was only then that the two guys heard rustling and the snapping of branches in thicker bush, just ahead of them. Tim began feeling a bit nervous about being in the forest, without making any noise and started clapping his hands. That's when a very large black bear reared onto its hind legs from behind a fallen tree about 20 meters in front of them and looked them both straight in the eyes!!

 

After (nearly?) soiling themselves Rod and Tim thankfully watched the bear fall onto all fours and jog away, further from our camp and into even thicker bush.

 

Tim had a previous experience with bears on a solo hike which resulted in a man being attacked by one and air lifted out of a back country campground that Tim had stayed in the night before (solo), so he was understandably a little bit shaken up by the close encounter. Rod was a bit more nonchalant about the whole affair since he's done a lot of hiking with me in grizzly territory in the Rockies and has run through bear encounter scenarios in his head many times before. This was his first time face-to-face with one though. Our camp was on the tip of a long peninsula - I was surprised we even ran into a bear on such a small piece of land! The wind had picked up considerably and the waves were crashing against the shoreline, which was why our setting up camp didn't chase the bear off earlier. The wind was also blowing our scent north - directly away from the area behind our tents.

 

Of course the whole encounter could have been bad. Rod had already been back in the area once before, checking out the trail (when he first noticed the bird) and was intentionally sneaking around which could have resulted in a much closer and more surprising solo encounter (usually not good for the human). I had already taken a bathroom break back there too - and had heard snapping branches but assumed that was caused by the strong winds! I could easily have been caught literally with my pants down by the bear!! The lesson in this encounter is to always be ready for wildlife - no matter how slight they may seem or how unlikely. Murphy's rule of thumb applies - the least you expect to see something and the less likely you think it is, the more likely you will run into something.

 

What made the bear encounter a bit more humorous was the blue tarp that Tim decided to bring as a rain shelter for his pup tent. Apparently Tim decided that a tarp was an expensive item ($4.99?!) and he'd reuse one that his DOG DIED ON. We didn't want to be insensitive to Tim losing a childhood pet but boy did we get a few good laughs out the "dead dog tarp"! There was also a suspicious reddish / brown stain on the tarp that Tim insist was from varnishing furniture but we strongly suspected had something to do with the dog's death... LOL. This was not a good item to bring on a canoe trip if you're worried about bears sniffing around your tent at night. ;)

 

If I was solo and had this type of close encounter, I'd probably move my camp rather than risk another close call. The game trail was obviously used by the bear more often and Hentie and my tent was right near this trail and also a patch of berry bushes (not quite ripe - but close). The forest behind us was full of dead fall which the bear was tearing apart and eating insects from. Being with 6 guys and having camp all set up made us less inclined to leave. The bear had run off and didn't seem too aggressive. We were all tired and didn't feel like moving - plus the bear had LOTS of other places to roam - we weren't trapping it in the terrain. We decided to go into the bush with all 6 of us (hands on our bear spray and bangers) to make sure he was scared off and reassure ourselves that we weren't scared of one measly black bear (!). We found plenty of prints in the soft moss and evidence of foraging but there was no sign of the bear. With occasional glances back into the forest we continued prepping for supper and the evening. Harold and Bill went to a small rock just off the point to clean the walleye we'd kept. The wind would blow the smell away from camp and the local birds were already clamoring for a spot as soon as they left with the filets.

 

After a delicious supper of fresh walleye on wraps we started a cheery fire and enjoyed another late night under the stars in WCPP. The moon was very orange and fish flies were starting to accumulate in large numbers. (Fish flies are bad for fishing because the fish stop going for our jigs and start eating on the lake surfaces. Thankfully they only last for a week or so but we didn't like seeing them.) When bed time came we snuck a few last nervous glances into the darkness behind the tents before shrugging off our fears and going to sleep for the night. Once again, the bugs were almost nonexistent and the air was cooling off nicely as we turned in.

 


[Fireweed behind our tents near where Rod and Tim scared off a large black bear]


[Supper!]


[A small island just across from our kitchen]


[Our tent was in the middle of a berry patch (unripe) and a game trail running right past it.]


[A great kitchen area beneath our elevated sleeping section.]


[Cleaning the walleye on a small rock across from camp - never clean fish in your camp! Especially when there's a hungry black bear roaming nearby. :)]


[Once again, Bill cooks to perfection]


[Another delightful WCPP evening bonfire.]

Friday, July 11 2014

 

After a very eventful day on Thursday, we had a pretty tame day planned for Friday. In order to avoid getting to the parking lot at Leano Lake too early on Saturday (in 2011 we were there at 08:00!!) we didn't want to paddle too far but rather take advantage of excellent walleye fishing opportunities in both Glenn Lake and Mexican Hat. We even planned a shore lunch at the prime Mexican Hat "fish factory" before we would push on to camp in Lunch Lake.

 

 
[Part of our route for Friday. Lots of portaging out of Mexican Hat but we did these in 2011 and they were pretty easy and quick back then.]


[Our goal was to make Lunch Lake, somewhere before the 150 meter portage to East Lunch]

 

Friday (my 17th wedding anniversary) dawned a humid day with the promise of potentially more severe weather moving in. In another omen of possible bad weather, the sky was very ominous and I caught 3 walleye just casting into the lake from camp - usually catching fish this easily in these weather conditions tells me that something is brewing.

 

As we packed up camp and ate breakfast I kept sneaking some glances at the shoreline just to the northwest of our camp. I had a feeling... And sure enough! Would you believe that I spotted a large black bear picking its way slowly along the shore?! Yep. That bear hung around all night near our camp and obviously wasn't that scared of 6 guys... I could see why too. I tried taking some photos (it was a long way away) and as I watched through my 600mm lens I saw the bear effortless grab a huge rock (hundreds of pounds) and flip it aside before snuffling around for insects underneath it. After that bit of excitement we continued to break down camp before canoeing off for the Glenn Lake walleye factory. Harold and Bill apparently thought they didn't need their tent fly but thankfully Rod and Tim were there to snag it for them... That's the thing with old guys - they start forgetting stuff! ;)

 


[Sure enough! It's the same (I'm assuming) bear from the evening before, casually eating his breakfast beside our camp. So what was he doing all night and more importantly, where was he?!]

 

As we paddled from camp a long peel of thunder echoed over the lake behind us. This was not great timing (since we were already on the water) but at least camp was cleaned up already. We decided to make a dash across the main part of the lake (2km or so) to at least get close to the more sheltered area around the falls where our portage and fish were waiting. We didn't quite make it. As the storm got closer we bailed onto shore in order to avoid the lightning that was becoming alarmingly close. The downpour that ensued was enough to make me wish I'd put my rain pants on - I quickly got them on once on shore. Around 20 minutes after it started, the rain slowed down and the lightning moved on so we piled back into the boats and resumed our morning paddle. At this point we were all expecting a long day of continual t-storms and slow travel, but at least the fishing should be excellent.

 

The Glenn Lake fish factory did not disappoint. We hammered walleye in great numbers - sometimes 4 fish were on different lines at the same time! The walleye were also quite large with the occasional big fish caught. We spent almost 2 hours fishing the factory before deciding we should probably move on. While we were fishing the weather surprised us by starting to clear up. By the time we did the scenic portages (some minor blow down) from Glenn to Mexican Hat we were under a hot, sunny sky with clouds in the distance, but not affecting us. We spent another hour or so fishing the second falls on the way to Mexican Hat - this one was producing much bigger walleye than it did in 2011.

 

The wind picked up considerably as we paddled down Mexican Hat Lake towards the walleye factory and prime camp site on its southeast "brim". As we rounded the corner we could see that Mexican Hat Falls was about 4 or 5 times bigger than we'd ever seen it. The water was raging down in beautiful cascades before rushing around the corner into the small bay where we've always found walleye to be stacked up in great numbers. We pulled into the camp and set up for lunch. Bill and Harold pulled out their filet knives and the rest of us set off to catch our meal. There's nothing like catching a fish and fileting it within 5 minutes. The fishing wasn't the best we've seen at the falls, but we still caught 5 for lunch in no time. 

 

Lunch was delicious. We spent almost 2 hours at the camp site, fishing, relaxing in the warm sunshine and marveling at the huge whitecaps that were now rolling past us on the lake - the wind was fierce. Eventually we decided it was probably time to move on and prepared for the 325 meter portage up the falls, directly across from the camp.

 


[The storm is long gone and we're still hammering Walleye in Glenn]


[It is amazing how the walleye in WCPP stack up under waterfalls]


[A beautiful waterfall along the route from Glenn to Mexican Hat lake - another place to hammer walleye.]


[Mexican Hat Falls are 3x bigger than in 2009 and 2011]


[Another gorgeous afternoon in WCPP]

 

We weren't too concerned with the remaining portages up MH Falls and into Jake and Lunch lakes, since these portages are traveled more frequently due to their proximity to the parking lot. Maybe we should have been more concerned... ;)

 

Due to the extremely high water around MH Lake and on the falls, the portage trail around the falls was diverted near the top. The diversion was a great idea (there was almost no safe way to cross the normally empty channel to the end of the portage) but it was also very messy. We ended up wading through a deep channel near the top of the falls to bypass the normal landing area.

 

Thankfully the next few portages went well, Hentie and I started a method of short-cutting the smaller portages by doing a single carry rather than 2. This cut them by 2/3 since we only had to walk once but put more strain on our bodies since we'd put the big packs on our backs and then just carry the canoe with all the other gear still in it. It's hard to say if it saved much energy in the end, but it certainly saved us a lot of time. We didn't get too far ahead of the others as we used the extra time we gained to have a quick nap in the canoe or a cigar (or both!). We also spent some time casting for pike, occasionally getting lucky and not caring too much if we didn't. It was a beautiful day and we knew our trip was coming to an end already so we just relaxed and enjoyed it.

 


[Wading the top of the portage around MH Falls]


[This channel is normally nearly empty in the summer and the trail crosses it on a ledge just above this shot... ;)]


[Gorgeous section of portage trail]


[Mexican Hat Falls was raging]


[Another messy ending to a portage - this one was after the MH falls]


[The "flake" falls was going over the rock flake, both times previous it's been behind it.]

 

By around 5 in the afternoon we finally made camp on Lunch Lake. It was our must rustic camp yet on the trip (LU-C3), but it worked well and was protected a bit from the gusty winds that were out of the west now. It was hot in the sun but soon much cooler weather started blowing it. We thought we were for sure in for more storms and set up an elaborate tarp over the fire - just in case. We were all fairly tired and fished out and after a good supper and camp fire we retired for the night - our last in WCPP for 2014.

 


[Hentie falls asleep at camp]


[This is a rustic camp - but it worked well and we had TONS of firewood just laying around]


[A gorgeous sunset just off camp]

Saturday, July 12 2014

 

Our last morning in WCPP for 2014 was a gorgeous one. Sunny and warm, just the way you want to end a trip like this. We still had a ways to go on our last day, not to mention the 9 or 10 hour trip back to Carman, MB where most of us were staying. We paddled out of Leano in a fairly fierce wind and ended the trip riding some nice big rollers to the final portage back to the parking lot.

 


[Another gorgeous morning in WCPP]


[A nice summary of the trip - colorful flowers, blue sky, Jack pine, calm water and Canadian Shield rock]

 

As usual for canoe trips into WCPP, I felt like 5 days was too short. I put over 4,200km on my truck driving out from Calgary, Alberta to WCPP and back again. There was a family camping trip involved too, but 5 days on the water for so much driving, expense and 6 months of dreaming and planning is just not long enough for me. We had the best weather we could have asked for, conditions were almost perfect in every way with lots of water (but not too much), great fishing, great camp sites, wildlife, great wind conditions, cool nights and almost no bugs (compared with how bad it can get). We didn't see another soul the whole time either.

 

The way I look at it, we should go canoeing one week for each year we are gone from WCPP. So in this case a 2 or 3 week trip would have been the perfect length. Like my kids always say, Y.O.L.O. You Only Live Once. ;)

 

Whatever the length of my next canoe trip here, there is one thing I have no doubt about. I will be back in my canoe in the waters of WCPP - hopefully sooner than 2017... 

Difficulty Notes: 

Woodland Caribou is true wilderness. We did not see another person in the 5 days we were on the water. Plan accordingly!

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2016 - Onnie Lake Entry

Interesting Facts: 

This northern wilderness “where nature still rules” is remote yet accessible. Canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts can reach the parks’ interior backcountry campsites and outpost camps by waterway or by air. Home to one of the largest groups of Woodland Caribou south of Hudson Bay, this weathered Arctic watershed promises ancient pictographs as part of its cultural landscape, howling wolves under starry skies, soaring eagles, solitude and adventure.

 

(From ontarioparks.com)

Attained Summit?: 
No
Trip Date: 
Friday, July 1, 2016 to Saturday, July 16, 2016

Table of Contents

 

 
[Camp on Haven Lake. ++]

 

  1. Preamble
  2. Planning the Trip / Gear Lists
  3. Driving to Red Lake
  4. The Trip - Day by Day
    1. Onnie Lake
    2. Onnie to Telescope 
    3. Telescope to Upper Glenn 
    4. Upper Glenn to Hansen
    5. Hansen to Rostoul
    6. Rostoul to Haven
    7. Haven to Wrist
    8. Wrist Rest Day
    9. Wrist to Mexican Hat
    10. Mexican Hat to Middle Glenn
    11. Middle Glenn to Upper Glenn
    12. Upper Glenn Rest Day
    13. Upper Glenn to Telescope
    14. Telescope to Upper Hatchet
    15. Upper Hatchet to Onnie
    16. Onnie Egress
  5. Lessons Learned

 

Preamble

 

As I sit here in Calgary, back in the concrete jungle, typing up this trip report, I still can't believe it happened. There's a number of reasons for this surprise, including the fact that two weeks before embarking with my 15 year old son on the longest canoe trip of my life, I came within a hair of fracturing a bone in my right foot. Between forest fires changing our route a few times and the painful foot injury, I have never had such a fluctuation of high and low moments while looking forward to a wilderness trip before.

 

Changes kept happening, including right up until the very morning of the day Niko and I left Calgary for the 1900km drive to Red Lake, Ontario. As I limped around the house on Wednesday morning, I realized that our original fly-in plan to Knox Lake was not going to work. This plan called for us to be dropped off 100+km from nowhere and I didn't have any confidence that I could even do several portages, never mind the tens of difficult and remote carries on this route. I called Harlan from Red Lake Outfitters and he readily agreed that it was a good idea for me to change plans and simplify our route. Instead of canoeing down from Knox and Murdock Lakes to meet up with another group in Glenn Lake 12 days later, Niko and I decided to do two loops starting from the Onnie Lake WCPP entry point along the Suffel Lake / Iriam backcountry road. The first loop would contain Onnie, Telescope and then later, Hatchet and Douglas lakes with the group. The second loop involved Optic, Glenn, Hansen, Rostoul, Haven, Wrist and Mexican Hat lakes, which Niko and I would do with the two of us only if my injury allowed it. This would give me the chance to bail or cut back our distances on the first 12 days if my foot couldn't handle the rigors of wilderness canoe tripping.

 

For more details on the planning of our trip, see the planning page on explor8ion.

 

Day 0, Wed June 29 and Thu June 30 - Calgary - Kenora

 

I've said it before and I'll likely say it again. Canada is a BIG country! I remember on our drive from Calgary to Missinipe and the Churchill River we thought how big Canada is - and that was only driving one province east. The trip from Calgary to Red Lake and the access to Onnie Lake along the Suffel Lake road would involve almost 2000 km of driving one way! Other than the apprehension at the condition of my foot, we were super excited as we drove out of Calgary on a warm, sunny Wednesday afternoon on June 29, headed for Swift Current, Saskatchewan for the first night.

 


[Ready to leave YYC! Note the crutches? I still needed them to walk at the time of departure.]


[Driving the 5 hours from Calgary Alberta to Swift Current Saskatchewan on a lovely summer day.]

 

After a good night sleep in Swift Current we started a long day drive to the beautiful city of Kenora, Ontario - honestly one of the nicest cities I've been to in Canada so far. We drove along the Trans Canada Highway, taking in the vastness of the prairies through both Saskatchewan and Manitoba (where I grew up on a small farm in the south) before slowly transitioning to the familiar boreal forests and rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield in eastern Manitoba / northwestern Ontario.

 


[Thursday, June 30th was another nice day for driving - then strong winds which threatened to blow my canoe off the truck every time I passed a semi on the TCH!]

 

As I limped horribly around our hotel room in Kenora, Niko said that I should try to "walk more normally". After 2+ weeks of hobbling around, trying to avoid the pain in my heel, I'd developed a bad limp that was now injuring my ankle as I limped and hobbled around. I took his suggestion seriously and was happy to note that by consciously trying to walk as normal as possible, some of the pain was diminished. The bonus was that I no longer attracted quite as much attention either - Niko said people were staring at me like I'd been hit by a truck as I limped my way around the hotel! ;) Feeling a bit better about my foot, I slept wonderfully in the last comfortable bed for the next 15 nights.

 

Day 1, Fri July 01 - Kenora - Red Lake - Onnie Lake

 

We checked out early on Friday morning and drove the remaining 3 hours to Red Lake. The morning was another bluebird, gorgeous summer day and we were pumped to finally be starting our trip after months and months of planning and looking forward to it. After picking up the obligatory Tim Horton's coffee in Red Lake, Niko and I proceeded to Red Lake Outfitters to chat with Harlan, pick up our Satellite phone and finalize our trip plans with him. The mood was already more relaxed than previous trips as Harlan and I chatted about the trip and life in general. It was nice to experience the benefits of a longer trip already before even really starting it. The whole point of a 16 day trip was to allow us plenty of time to chillax and slow down from our busy lives in Calgary. Especially lately, I've started to feel that I haven't been slowing down enough to suit my mental needs. Even climbing mountains can become work if you're not careful. :|

 


[The long, lonely drive up highway 105 to Red Lake from the TCH. To make the drive longer, the speed limit is only 80km/h, thanks to the many moose in the area.]

 

I can't recommend Harlan and Red Lake Outfitters (RLO) enough for your WCPP canoeing and tripping needs. From planning to supplying, Harlan and RLO will take care of you. I'm always impressed with the chill attitude and willingness to be flexible for their clients. RLO also has a lodge on Olive Lake in WCPP - something I hope to try one day sooner than later. Once we paid for our wilderness passes and the sat phone (not cheap but certainly worth the security it provided), we started the final drive from Red Lake to the Onnie Lake put-in along the Suffel Lake / Iriam backcountry logging road. In a funny moment along highway 518 heading west out of Red Lake, I received my first text message on the sat phone from an unknown lady calling me "babe" and letting me know she was glad I was out of the bush. :) Obviously this message was for a previous user of the phone! I didn't realize it at the time, but this was a hint of the biggest issue with the phone - delayed incoming messages would plague us for the rest of the trip. Niko was a bit nervous when Harlan and I showed him the red button that he should press to connect directly to a nearby Canadian Forces base in case of emergency but this was a very necessary precaution considering we'd be out there alone with only the two of us.

 

The sun was hot and the sky was "summer blue" as we drove the dusty, bumpy, rocky road that starts out as an easy 80 km/h drive and gradually slows to a 20 km/h crawl or even less on rougher sections past the first 18km off highway 518. We were in excellent moods as I parked the truck on the sandy parking area off the road at the Onnie Lake entry point. We were a bit surprised to see three vehicles parked there already, but on inspection we noticed they were all from Wisconsin and one of them was pulling a large canoe trailer so they were obviously all part of one large group. With feelings of anticipation and trepidation about how my injured foot would handle things, we prepared for the first portage of the trip - 350m right from the parking lot. Hundreds of "house" flies buzzed us and our gear - Harlan had warned us of this - but at least they aren't biting bugs. We quickly unloaded the truck and double checked our gear one last time before hiding a key nearby and locking up.

 


[After the first 18 kms the Iriam Lake road deteriorated quite a bit. It's hard to see here, but it was pretty beat up thanks to the RED03 wildfire earlier in the year and fire crews extensively driving it.]


[Extremely pumped to finally be starting out trip after months of looking forward to it and planning.]

 

Due to the length of the trip, we had very heavy packs compared to what I was used to from all my many other wilderness excursions. Back home in the Rockies, I generally carry very light packs even on multi-day trips but I couldn't afford to go too light with a teenager along! ;) I also had to double carry packs and also had to carry the heavy food barrel when we carried the canoe. To keep things safe, we usually completed three trips on each portage over 30m long. The first was the heavy packs, camera case and paddles / fishing rods if they weren't strapped in the canoe. The second was the walk back with no gear, obviously. The third was the canoe with some gear strapped in it and day packs or the food barrel on our backs.

 


[Our day 1 route and portages. We would stay in Camp 1 with the group on our exit from WCPP, 15 days later. Stats: 6.92km including 3 portages totaling 1005m x 3.]

 

As we started the 350m portage, I could already see that Niko was going to struggle a bit with the double pack situation. His backpack was stuffed with much of our packaged food, including all the granola bars, instant meals, drink mixes and even 30 fruit cups (a very heavy item as they're packed in water)! Adding another pack to the front was just too much. I also quickly noted that portaging with my injured foot was going to suck but it was also going to work far better than I'd hoped for. As long as I used a hiking pole in my right hand to balance and help take weight off the right foot, I would be able to limp through the pain. I wasn't sure how it would feel the next day, but I knew almost right away that I'd be able to make Onnie Lake on Day 1. This was excellent news and we both felt like kids at Christmas as we walked back for the canoe along the excellent trail (complete with boardwalk) to the truck. As we put in and packed the canoe I noted that we certainly didn't bring too much gear! The canoe was balanced very well and I had to double check to make sure we had everything we needed before we dipped our paddles and officially started our father / son 2016 canoeing adventure.

 


[The first 350m portage is pretty deluxe. Don't expect this in the main park!]


[Carefully balancing across the creek along the 625m portage into Onnie Lake. This was tougher once we had a canoe on our heads.]


[Doesn't look like much gear for two people to live for 16 days off the grid does it? We had a food pack, a food barrel, a shelter / tent / clothing pack and two day packs. I like to travel as lean and efficient as possible. I have pretty compact gear too, like sleeping bags etc. All the packs were 100% waterproof which made traveling in a wet environment much more efficient. The two white packs are from Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) and are highly recommended for their comfort, strength and weight.]

 
[I clearly remember standing in this spot, looking at the first unnamed lake after the 350m starting portage. Life passes by so quickly - why do we not spend more time in places like this?! With only ~1000 paddlers per season, this paradise is not known or experienced by many. ++]

 

Sitting here, typing up the report, I can clearly remember the feeling of that first paddle dip in the first, small unnamed lake - it's always the same on these trips. Time flies by so quickly, it's a shame that we spend so much of our lives worrying and dealing with things that don't make us happy. Instantly we were in another zone. For the next 15 days we would be disconnected from the distractions of city life. No email. No Facebook. No Instagram. No Twitter. No work. No distractions. The stresses of life slowly began to lift from my shoulders and with each stroke of my gorgeous new Badger paddle, I left more and more of them behind with each ripple of water.

 

We didn't even bother unstrapping the rods from the canoe for the first set of small lakes before the 625m portage into Onnie Lake. The 30m portage was instantly Niko's favorite of the entire trip (!!) and soon we found ourselves humping heavy packs on the longish 625m portage to Onnie Lake. I decided to take slightly more weight to help Niko, which made my carry harder but I didn't want him to resent me too much at this early point in the trip. The trail was in excellent condition and easy to navigate other than a tricky balancing act across a stream on a shaky rock. A fallen tree provided a nice handrail to assist with that section. Before long we were dipping our paddles in Onnie Lake! We couldn't believe our good fortunes regarding my foot and the gorgeous day we were experiencing. After passing a pretty nice camp site (that we'd stay on 15 days later), we choose to set up on a tiny island site for the evening - only about 3 hours after leaving the truck. Things were progressing incredibly well, considering I was using crutches only the day before in the hotel. My foot was sore and swollen but it had held up much better than I expected. We knew that the 1000+ meters (3+ kms of walking) of portaging on day one was the longest in the foreseeable future, so making this first set was an important and rewarding milestone.

 


[Onnie Lake!]


[Nothing feels better than a dip in the lake after a hot day of portaging and paddling.]


[Our camp on Onnie was on a pretty small island but worked well for one tent.]


[Exploring some cliffs near camp after supper.]


[The hammock was one of our better ideas! Very compact and light, it provided hours of YouTube watching and reading.]


[One of my favorite shots from the entire trip. This is what canoe trips are all about for me. Perfect tranquility.]


[A great day ends on a positive note. Not just one rainbow but two! And it didn't even rain on us.]

 

After setting up camp we managed to catch some pike and Walleye before setting up a nice warm fire for our first evening in the wild. It didn't rain on us, but a double rainbow formed to the east of our camp giving us great sunset views.

 


Journal Entry - July 01 21:51 - Onnie Camp 

 

Wow. I can't believe we are actually here! A small fire is crackling at our feet while we observe a double rainbow off camp. I can hear a gazillion bugs above us in the forest but somehow other than non-biting flies we've managed to avoid the bugs today. Niko is watching cached YouTube videos on his phone while I journal with a delicious cup of decaf coffee. He managed to forget his brand new headphones so for the next 15 days I get to listen to loons and YouTube together... I feel so privileged. ;)

 

As I sit here on this rock, I'm recalling the moment of almost complete mental breakdown I had on the very day Niko and I left for our trip. Wednesday morning I still couldn't walk without the use of crutches and I became convinced that I should cancel the whole trip. It seemed ludicrous and unsafe to take my 15 y.o. son into the backcountry in my condition. After thinking about it and talking it over with Niko we obviously decided to go anyway - but changed our fly-in plan to the current one. Finally, by the time we drove into the RLO parking lot I allowed myself to start feeling pumped for the trip. The foot was feeling better than the previous few days. The first few portages hurt like hell, but I'm here and can't get over how good it feels to be sitting on this warm rock at 10 pm enjoying the absolute stillness of Onnie Lake. Night birds are starting their chorus as they compete with Niko's YouTube video and the bugs. I'm heading off to the tent to read for a bit as the mosquitoes are biting now that the sun has set.


 

Day 2, Sat July 02 - Onnie - Hjalmar - Telescope

 

Our first full day and second day of the canoe trip dawned clear and calm. Four loons were calling to each other just off our tiny island, welcoming us to WCPP. We paddled out of Onnie around 08:00 in good spirits after a healthy breakfast of bacon and eggs - the luxuries of the first few days already dwindling. The four portages went fairly smoothly, other than forgetting my hiking pole after paddling to the third portage from the second one! :( We had to paddle all the way back to the 125m portage before picking up the critical piece of gear and paddling back to the 150m portage against the stiffening wind for a second time. Grrr. That was a waste of time and energy. Niko and I had a team meeting after that, noting that we should each take extra care after every portage that ALL the gear was accounted for before paddling away. We also managed to get wet feet on the portages. It's kind of a pain, but allowing yourself to get wet feet makes for much easier and safer exits and entries into the canoe, especially with rocks near the portage entries. I already wished I had brought my sandals along on day two - I left them behind because they didn't have much support for my sore foot. Runners are great, but they stay wet much longer than sandals do.

 

 
[Our day 2 route with portages and points of interest marked. Telescope has many great camp sites. Stats: 12km including 4 portages totaling 625m x 3. ++]


[Four loons welcome us to WCPP on Day 2.]


[Paddling out of Onnie on a perfect summer day.]

 

The pictograph in Hjalmar Lake was very faded and looked to represent a turtle. Maybe we missed some others but we looked pretty closely because we knew it was there.

 


[The sunlight reflecting off the rippling water made the pictograph site come alive.]


[An ancient representation of a turtle.]


[All the portages from Onnie to Telescope were well traveled and in good shape.]


[With a limited number of paddlers each year, even popular portage trails aren't highways like in other canoeing destinations.]


[Gorgeous Telescope Lake welcomes us with calm water and a clear, blue sky.]

 

We made our camp on Telescope Lake, passing two other camp sites with large groups on each, probably the Wisconsin group from the Onnie parking lot. We found a nice small site, tucked out of sight of the other camps and out of earshot too, which made us feel alone on the lake despite at least 12 other people nearby. As I was fileting a fat Walleye I caught trolling near camp in the afternoon, another couple came by looking for a site. They were from Red Lake and had approached from Embryo Lake. They were very surprised with how busy Telescope was as they usually end up with the lake to themselves even on long weekends! They went off to the NE end of the island we were on to try to make camp.

 

It was great to get out for a paddle after supper, not just because it netted us a Walleye but also because we got to see a Bald Eagle and a beaver up close. Niko was just commenting how he'd never seen a wild beaver, or a beaver slap its tail when we found one that wasn't as shy as I'm used to. We could hear it chewing and when we got too close, it obliged with at least 5 or 6 good tail slaps. The Bald Eagle was nesting near the river mouth leading to a small lake just off Telescope. We canoed down the river until it was blocked - I didn't realize there is a short portage into George Lake nearby, but we were running out of time anyway and headed back to camp to enjoy the evening.

 


[The closest I've come to a beaver in the wild before.]


[The entrance to a short section of river between Telescope and George lakes. A lovely, still evening.]


[The shot alone made my purchase of an 800mm equivalent lens worth it!]


[Our site on Telescope was a bit rustic, thanks to some other groups nearby, but we didn't mind.]

 


Journal Entry - July 02 22:30 - Telescope Lake Camp

 

It's still way too warm for a fire, so I'm writing this in the tent while Niko lays next to me with his YouTube video blaring in my ears. Life is good. :) Just before turning in I spent some time sitting at camp watching over a calm lake. Birds are singing, bugs are droning and a loon is calling nearby. We had many good moments again today including a close-up beaver encounter, a wonderful photo opportunity of a majestic Bald Eagle and a sublime moment around 21:30 when I watched countless Mayflies doing their mating dance on the still waters of Telescope Lake in front of a setting sun, while enjoying a cigar and decaf cup of coffee. I'm getting up at 05:00 tomorrow, hopefully we can make it to Glenn Lake.


 

Day 3, Sun July 03 - Telescope - Optic - Upper Glenn

 

Our third day was one of the longest travel days of the trip. We found ourselves paddling against a stiff west breeze as the day progressed. The day started pretty good as we paddled on glass out of Telescope Lake and spent several moments watching a loon dance his way into the heart of his partner while morning mist rose into the cool, still air all around us.

 


[Morning mist rises over a lake of glass in this shot from our camp on Telescope Lake, early on Sunday morning.]


[There's nothing like paddling on a mirror as the sun rises behind you in WCPP!]


[We spent a few minutes watching these loons flirt with each other before continuing to the first portage out of Telescope Lake.]

 

The telephoto lens I purchased just before the trip had already paid off in the first 3 days. You can never have too much reach for wildlife photos when you're on a canoe trip. I packed 3 cameras for this trip! I had two micro four-thirds cameras along, an Olympus Pen-F and a Panasonic GX8. The two cameras share lenses and I had the Pen as my go to camera with an Olympus 14-150mm (28-300mm) lens attached and in my waterproof day pack. The GX8 was pretty much permanently attached to the Panasonic 100-400mm (200-800mm) lens in a Pelican waterproof case so that I could grab it quickly when spotting wildlife rather than switching lenses in a hurry. I also had my iPhone 6s which I ended up using much more than expected, simply because it was always with me. I had the iPhone in a waterproof LifeProof case and was also using it to navigate so it was always in my pocket.

 

 
[Our third day in WCPP included 5 portages and the gorgeous Optic and Glenn Lake. Stats: 18km including 5 portages totaling 730m x 3. ++]


[The 60m portage out of Telescope towards Optic.]


[A lovely waterfall that the 60m portage between Telescope and Optic goes around (left hand side of photo).]

 

The heat really started to get to me on Sunday. I didn't burn, thanks to wearing my cap and a liberal use of sunscreen, but the relentless hot sun beating down on us started to wear me a bit thin as the day progressed. I probably took my shirt off too early and kept it off, it felt so good I forgot that it can also be draining. We were sort of taking our time until we stopped for lunch on Optic Lake and got our daily weather update text on the satellite phone from Kaycie, my 17 y.o. daughter. The text indicated rapidly changing weather and we could see cloud banks to the west. The text combined with the stiffening west wind and likelihood of a storm considering the heat and humidity kept us paddling hard as we portaged the two 250m portages into Upper Glenn Lake.

 


[The fishing outpost on Optic Lake is part of a chain of outposts operated by Viking Outposts.]

 
[A hot paddle down Optic Lake. ++]

 

I managed to catch a giant pike on the way out of Optic but unfortunately we also didn't fish the falls towards Glenn as much as I would have liked, due to the impending storm. I stuck a couple of Walleye on the stringer from the last falls despite being in a hurry - it's never hard to catch dinner in WCPP if you know what you're doing! As we paddled by the first camp on Glenn I wondered if we'd regret not stopping there. As it turns out, we'd end up there later in the trip on return.

 


[Another lovely set of rapids along the Rostoul River which one of the 250m portages between Optic and Glenn goes around.]


[Niko takes a small break before we try to beat the incoming weather on Upper Glenn Lake.]

 

We rounded the corner north of the first camp and had to dig the paddles deep to buck a very stiff west wind that was rapidly blowing a weather front towards us. Thankfully the 'cold' front had much less bite than it's bark and we managed to find a delightful camp for the evening. A trend started on this evening which would last for much of the rest of our canoe trip - the wind didn't die down much in the evening. This wasn't a huge deal but made evening fishing excursions rare from this point forward. Journaling, reading and just relaxing at camp became the norm - certainly not a bad thing but much different than I'd planned.

 


[Another cozy camp - this time in Upper Glenn on the Peninsula site.]


[Niko gets some reading done in the hammock before the weather moved in and it started to rain.]


[A perfectly calm lake in the late afternoon with rain clouds moving towards us quickly.]

 


Journal Entry - July 03 21:17 - Glenn Lake Camp

 

I'm sitting under a small blue tarp at our delightful camp on a rocky point on Upper Glenn Lake with light rain coming down and a cheerful fire burning at my feet. As I sit here in the wild with just my son, I am humbled by the wild beauty, solitude and remoteness of our situation. If I wasn't so experienced in wilderness travel and canoe tripping in general I would think we were absolutely crazy to be all the way out here with just the two of us and me on a bum foot! When I think about it with a level head, on my own terms, it doesn't seem so crazy though. I know what I'm doing. Over thinking these things would result in never leaving the house! ;) The way I see it, Niko and I don't always enjoy the same things in life. This is a special memory that we can share for the rest of our lives.

 

Thinking about our day today and lengthier canoe tripping in general, I'm realizing that any paddling distances over 12-14km with more than 2 or 3 medium length (over 250m) portages is almost too much when doing more than 6 or 7 days out here. The shorter canoe trips are all about maximizing the experience with full days of 20+ km of paddling and evening excursions from camp whenever possible. Longer canoe trips are all about relaxing, slowing down and absorbing the wilderness around us - detoxing from a busy life that seems a million miles away when you're in a canoe or sitting on pre-Cambrian rock with waves lapping gently at your feet and not another distraction within 100 miles or more.

 

The old me would have been so bored just sitting at camp for hours on end, but I'm quite enjoying it so far. Tomorrow could be an interesting day if the rain doesn't stop or at least slow. The forecast from Kaycie says only 2-4mm but I'm not entirely convinced that t-storms aren't in the picture.


 

Day 4, Mon July 04 - Upper Glenn - Hansen

 

Despite being a rather short paddling day, our fourth day in WCPP changed the course and mood of the rest of our trip. We packed up a very wet camp early on Monday morning and proceeded paddling west out of Glenn Lake bucking a surprisingly strong wind already early in the day. I was feeling a bit "off" already while paddling for some reason - probably just not eating quite enough and the fact that I didn't trust the weather.

 

While paddling through the narrows on Glenn, between the Middle and Lower sections of the lake, we met another canoe. We briefly chatted with the two guys powering it, who were on their way to Optic Lake "on a supply run" while on an extended trip. There's always folks who are so much more hardcore than me! ;) They told us their main camp was at the 'bear site' on Lower Glenn and there were two more members of their party still there along with the majority of their gear. We wished them good luck as they didn't seem to have tents or other overnight gear along - just two blue food barrels, presumably for the supplies they were picking up. Shortly after meeting them we really had to dig the paddles in thanks to a very stiff west wind along the NE end of Glenn Lake just before the portages into Hansen.

 

 
[The days start to get slightly easier on our 4th day of the trip, now that we're well into the park and away from the crowds (!). Stats: 14km including 3 portages totaling 410m x 3. ++]


[Bidding Lower Glenn Lake good-bye as we head down the Rostoul River into Hansen.]

 

The portages into Hansen were much better than I remembered them from our 2014 trip through the area - we had no issues with any of them and were soon fishing the very productive bottom chute running into Hansen Lake itself. I'm going to let my journal pick up the story from here.

 


[A recent burn along the Rostoul River between Lower Glenn and Hansen Lake.]


[A set of rapids along the Rostoul River between Lower Glenn and Hansen Lake.]

 
[Niko walks the 300m portage trail along the Rostoul River. Note the nice blue sky? That won't last much longer...]


[Looking down the set of rapids that the 300m portage between Lower Glenn and Hansen avoids.]


[The very productive chute that is the entry of the Rostoul River to Hansen Lake. Lots of Walleye in here but difficult to position the boat thanks to the strong current.]

 


Journal Entry - July 04 15:51 - Hansen Lake Camp

 

I'm in the tent with Niko, listening to pouring rain and blasting thunder! We're being absolutely hammered by scary tstorms this afternoon. We had rain most of the night last night and it was tough to pack up a wet camp but we managed to do it anyway. So far on this trip we've been having good luck getting up at either 05:00 or 06:00 and leaving camp by 07:00 or 08:00 and today was no different.

 

As we paddled through the narrows on Glenn's NW end we met up with two guys in a canoe doing a "supply run" to Optic Lake! Given what we've experienced since then I can only hope they are sheltered in the Optic Lake Lodge right now. I told Niko we were getting him 20 fish today since he hasn't been catching as many as I expected him to - partly because it's been so bloody hot every day and raining last night so we couldn't get out after supper. By the time we were ready to paddle north up Hansen Lake he was at 17 Walleye so we were doing very good. Alas, I think that's going to be his total for today...

 

We paddled up a glass surface on Hansen - much calmer than earlier on Glenn when we were fighting a nasty west wind. Something about the building humidity and clouds made us both nervous as we dipped paddles into a quiet lake. Niko even commented that he couldn't hear as many birds anymore and we both mentioned a "calm before the storm". As we got to the north end of the lake we started scouting around for a good camp site. Of the three potential ones marked on my park map, of course only the last one seemed any good and we started off loading our gear there and setting up the tarp as the clouds were quickly building and getting more ominous by the minute. It still didn't seem bad until a nearby crash of thunder scared the crap out of us.

 

The storm must have built up right on top of us since we didn't hear or see any sign of lightening until "BOOM" - right over our site!! As I rushed to tie down the tarp I was temporarily frozen by a sound that you will only recognize if you've ever been stuck on a lake in a heavy tstorm. At first it sounds like a waterfall but then it starts getting louder and louder and you realize to your chagrin that it's heavy rain / hail coming across a body of water straight at you! Lightening was now splitting the hot, humid air all around us as I desperately finished erecting the tarp and Niko started throwing the gear underneath it. We just managed to get our butts on top of the gear, in the center of the tarp when all HELL broke loose around us.

 

There's something to be said about the experience of huddling under an 8x10' blue tarp with your 15 y.o. son while the fury of a tstorm breaks out right on top of you. WOW. The storm didn't move quickly either. I realized about 5 minutes into it that we forgot to turn the canoe over and that a gust of wind or tons of rain could put it back in the lake. I ran out for 2 minutes to secure the boat and came back as wet as if I'd just jumped into the lake - it was pouring so hard!

 


[All hell breaks loose around us as we huddle under a very hastily set up tarp.]

 

Niko hates storms and managed to keep it together pretty good through the first one. His question to me was a good one - "What do we DO?!" My answer probably didn't help his nerves any - "There is absolutely nothing we can do other than sit here under this flimsy tarp and rely on the statistical improbability of getting fried by lightening or hit by a falling tree..." As a second - and even more intense - storm slammed into our tiny rock outcrop of rock, Niko lost it a bit. I can't blame him either. Hailstones were part of our second serving of storms, and some of them were getting alarmingly large at golf ball size! I was losing it too but just couldn't show him. ;) I'm super proud of my son. He worked through it and I believe came through a stronger person for it. The lake was still dead calm as the countless number of hailstones hit the surface and suspended their splashes in a wild dance to the tune of deep thunder and sizzling electricity. I started getting worried when the hail started getting large and bounced off both the canoe and our flimsy tarp violently. It got to the point where both Niko and I were burying our heads in our rain jacket hoods just to avoid seeing the intense lightening strikes coming down all around us! Thankfully the second storm moved on but we weren't done yet.

 


[Hail was not a welcome sight as we huddled under that flimsy, cheap, thin blue tarp.]


[I tried to lighten the mood a bit by telling Niko to give me his 'worried face'. Trust me though - at this point we're still pretty worried because there's more storms headed our way and we need to get the tent up ASAP.]
 

 

Before the next storm could body slam us exposed under the tarp, I hastily set up the tent so that we could shelter properly and at least feel a bit safer. I just managed to get camp set up and secured and make a couple cups of soup for us before the third storm violently rolled in. As I've been writing this journal entry and sipping hot soup we've been hit by two strong storms with many more going off all around us in the distance. It's sure nice to be cozily warm and dry in the tent compared to exposed outside! Pretty soon I'll attempt to go make us some supper.

 


Journal Entry - July 04 20:15 - Hansen Lake Camp

 

I'm sitting by a dead-calm lake, listening to thunder roll in the distance somewhere. Bugs are strangely absent and some brave song birds are tentatively serenading me through the nervous evening air. Niko is laughing periodically at his ridiculous YouTube videos in the tent behind me. A solo loon is cruising past my rocky vantage point giving me the eye but not looking overly worried. I'm sure that we'll get hammered all night be tstorms as it's still humid and heavy out here. It's so bloody quiet now!

 

As I sit here I am musing to myself that it takes 4-6 days for most city folks like myself to detox into backcountry mode from the busy, artificial and self-centered lives we normally lead. We're so damned plugged in all the time - it's a rude shock when you find yourself out in the wild with absolutely NOBODY around to help or distract you while nature lets you know rather emphatically that you're nothing but a tiny, insignificant organism in an ocean of natural processes and probabilities that couldn't care less how much you're paid or what you imagine you're worth back in the manufactured reality of the concrete jungle. I've had some sharp moments of strong doubt about this trip since starting out four days ago but I feel like getting through this stormy afternoon was a turning point for me and I'm finally settling into my new reality out here.

 

 
[The dead-calm lake (Haven) from our camp showing the stormy skies that are all around. ++]


[Despite the storms, there is still tranquil beauty all around us.]

 

Tomorrow would normally by Thursday already - the 2nd last day of the trip on a regular 5.5 day excursion. I remember usually finally settling into trips by Thursday / Friday only to encounter the rude awakening of civilization crashing down around me already on Saturday. There is a reason I am very opposed to short canoe trips. I simply don't find the amount of effort involved in planning and executing them to be worth it for me. The next 3-5 days should be significantly shorter than the first 4 have been. On hindsight maybe I was too aggressive for the start of the trip. Lesson learned for next time. A cool wind has picked up so I'm off to the tent - I'm not in the mood to find dry wood tonight!


 

Day 5, Tue July 05 - Hansen - Rostoul

 

By a stroke of good luck we made it through our 4th night with no tstorms after a wild afternoon and evening of them the day before. The next few days were to be unsettled and after our bad experience on Hansen Lake, Niko and I would be a bit too cautious regarding the possibility of tstorms for the rest of the trip. Another lesson learned is to relax a bit more about weather - sudden tstorms that happen out of nowhere are extremely rare and when they have happened on canoe trips in the past we've always managed to find shore and escape the worst of them. People always ask me how I sleep in the wild with all the bears and wolves and other wild creatures and I always reply that no matter where I am in the wild, weather is a much scarier phenomenon than anything that walks, flies or swims! Put it this way - giving a tstorm a shot of pepper spray or a 6" blade to the jugular isn't going to make a whit of difference on whether or not a bolt of lightening strikes me, or a large tree blows onto my tent! :)

 

Fearing more tstorms on another cloudy, humid day, we got up at 05:00 and started our short paddle to Rostoul Lake. While planning the trip, I was super excited about canoeing Rostoul Lake, which I'd never paddled before. It's a big, beautiful lake and like Glenn and Hansen, it hasn't burned recently and it's shoreline is covered in old growth Black Spruce, Jack Pine and Birch trees with the distinctive pink and green Precambrian rock peeking through every once in a while. I was also very excited to fish the rapids running into the lake from Hansen, sure to be a Walleye hotspot! Alas, Niko and I were both too nervous about potential storms to properly enjoy fishing the falls after a delightful 275m portage around them. It took 5 casts to get 4 nice sized Walleye, 2 of which ended up on a stringer behind the canoe as we paddled across calm waters on the extreme south end of Rostoul. We found a delightful, protected camp site tucked off the main lake and sheltered against northerly winds where we set up a cozy camp for the day and by 10:00 in the morning we were settling in for a nice relaxing day of reading books, eating fresh Walleye and watching for more storms. It's a tough life... ;)

 

 
[Our 5th day was very short. Unfortunately we didn't fish the rapids as long as we should have. Stats: 4.5km including 1 portage of 275m x 3. ++]


[Quintessential Canadian Shield rock meets the waters of Hansen Lake as we paddle towards the 275m rapids along the Rostoul River.]


[The 275m portage between Hansen and Rostoul Lake goes around this lovely set of rapids on the Rostoul River.]

 
[Walleye heaven at the base of the rapids!]

 
[It doesn't get much better than this! Our delightful camp on the south end of Rostoul Lake - the main part of the lake is at right and our exit up Haven Creek is at center left. ++]

 

Thanks to the rapidly changing weather, I sent Kaycie an update on how we want the forecast texted to us. Rather than sending the afternoon of the current day, it makes more sense to get the evening of the current day along with the morning and afternoon of the following day. The format of the texts was straightforward but worked well. The information I wanted included, high temperature, wind strength, wind direction, sun / mix / tstorm, P.O.P., total mm precipitation.

 


[An example forecast from Red Lake would result in a text message that reads: 21, 10, N, Mix, 10, 0mm | 15, 10, NE, Sun, 10, 0mm | 22, 10, N, Sun, 10, 0mm. Unfortunately most of our texts didn't read quite this positive on our trip! ;)]

 

I was quickly becoming an expert at producing boneless, delicious Walleye filets and we enjoyed the freshly caught Rostoul Walleye for lunch before heading out for a fishing excursion in the early afternoon. Tstorms were looming all over the place, so we didn't stray far from camp! I'll let some journal entries describe the rest of our day on Rostoul Lake.

 


[We went out in the canoe again in the evening, thanks to some clearing skies and I took this shot of a Female Merganser.]


[In the evening the tstorms were done and peace returned to our little piece of heaven.]

 
[Night settles in over WCPP and Rostoul Lake. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 05 18:09 - Rostoul Lake Camp

 

After thinking we were in for several direct hits from nearby tstorms, we've managed to avoid every single one of them! Just goes to show that a direct hit is still not a common thing with localized thunder storms - yesterday was simply bad luck. As two large tstorms rumbled by to the north of us, I was surprised to look up and spot two groups leaning into their paddles crossing the lake just north of our hidden camp site! I'm not sure if they hit shore or kept going once the storms passed by. They were only visible for a few minutes - it's weird to think that I would have completely missed them passing by if I didn't happen to glance up. So far we've seen people every day of the trip other than the first day to Onnie. By no means does this mean a crowded WCPP though.

 

The weather forecast is calling for sun tomorrow for our trip into Haven Lake. We've already decided that if the weather looks really good on Thursday we may not rest on Haven for the scheduled day but rather push on a bit. What yesterday and today showed us was that traveling on good weather days makes much more sense than racing potential storms. Taking stormy days off is much smarter. I've already caught 3 good sized Pike off our camp site and we're going fishing around 19:30 to try for some Walleye.

 


Journal Entry - July 05 21:09 - Rostoul Lake Camp

 

It's a gorgeous evening on Rostoul Lake. Birds are singing all around our camp and bugs are at a minimum. I have a cheery fire crackling at my feet as the sun sets to the west over a calm lake. The humidity is way down from earlier today. We went fishing for an hour or so after supper and I managed a few Walleye while Niko caught a large Pike. Another sublime day on the waters of WCPP is coming to a close. It's hard to believe that on a 'normal' length, 5.5 day trip, tomorrow would be the last full day already. I'm glad we have more time than that. We both feel the stresses of the outside world falling off our shoulders more each day we're out here. I mean, Niko is READING his book in the hammock as I sit here with my cigar!! When does that ever happen at home?! ;)


 

Day 6, Wed July 06 - Rostoul - Haven

 

Our forecasted "sunny day" started out suspiciously cloudy as Niko and I paddled the short distance from our camp on Rostoul towards the Haven Creek outlet about 1km away. As we started up the creek I wondered what it would be like. I've learned the hard way that the word navigable on a portage map doesn't mean the same thing as pleasurable. Once again, Haven Creek reminded us of this fact... Sure! It was certainly navigable but we were wet, muddy and covered in mosquito bites by the time we finally hauled the canoe up to the first 150m portage leading to Cyclops Lake. There are two portages around small rapids on Haven Creek before Cyclops and neither of them was very pretty. Thanks to the rain and humidity the trails were sloppy and the mosquitoes were out in full force for the first time on the trip.

 

 
[Day 6 was another short day but involved some difficult portages including a very shallow Haven Creek and boggy 575m from Cyclops to Haven. Stats: 6.5km including 3 portages totaling 805m x 3. ++


[Entering Haven Creek from Rostoul Lake.]


[Getting our feet wet first thing in the morning kinda sucked! Lots of canoe paint on these rocks too...]

 

We saw another magnificent Bald Eagle sitting on a steep cliff in Cyclops Lake. He watched us impassively as we paddled underneath him. We felt like his subjects as we passed by. 

 


[Cyclops Lake - you can see the shore has been burnt.]


[The king of Cyclops Lake surveys us coldly from a cliff.]

 

We also met two canoe teams coming out of Haven Lake just as we finished the 575m portage into it. They had flown into Haven a few days previous and were singing its praises as a Walleye factory. They'd also been into Adventure Lake to catch Lake Trout. Apparently the whole area was burnt but they obviously made it through. I'll pick up the rest of the story from my journal entries for the day.

 


[Some of the 575m into Haven were quite nice.]


[Some of the 575m into Haven Lake weren't that nice. ;)]


[Seeing Haven Lake for the first time ever, as we finish our first carry.]

 
[A calm, lovely Haven Lake. Note the toque and fleece Niko is wearing! ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 06 12:06 - Haven Lake Camp

 

I'm sitting on one of the nicest sites I've seen so far in Woodland Caribou Park on the gorgeous and almost mythical Haven Lake. I've waited many long months since I first started planning this trip to sit in this very spot on this very moment. Soon Niko and I will test her reputation for Walleye. I can tell you this though - Haven Lake is not for the meek or the weak!! She didn't come easily to us! We are obviously here early, but we fought a shallow, rocky and muddy Haven Creek to Cyclops Lake, followed by a very boggy 575m portage from Cyclops to Haven afterwards.

 


[Looking at our protected island camp as we go for a canoe around the lake.]

 

After the first wet, muddy and mosquito infested 150m portage under a disappointingly cloudy and humid sky (we had a sunny day in our forecast...), Niko had another "oh crap" moment. His first was two days ago with lightening striking all around and ping-pong sized hail pounding our blue tarp! For a 15 year old city kid, I have to say he's doing amazing out here. We're going to have more tough moments and so far he's 2 for 2. I'm incredibly proud of him - not every adult, much less 15 year old kid could do 15 nights in the true wilderness. Right now he's in the tent laughing out loud at more of his silly YouTube videos.

 

 
[Views south from our camp - Haven is dotted with many small islands like the one just across from us here and including the one our camp was on. ++]

 

I certainly never pictured myself sitting in Haven Lake listening to chirping birds, haunting loon calls and some dudes swearing on YouTube! Life is strange that way, isn't it?. ;)

 


Journal Entry - July 06 15:44 - Haven Lake Camp

 

We just finished a fine afternoon snack of Haven Lake Walleye on wraps with cheese. No bones for the 2nd time in a row! There does seem to be Walleye everywhere on this lake - just like its reputation implied. We have caught them pretty much everywhere we cast on anything we cast including spoons, jigs and Rapalas. There are obviously some giant Pike in here too - I caught and released a nice 8lb specimen earlier in the day.

 


[Our lovely camp site on Haven.]


[This is the life! Fresh Walleye fillets and a lake front property where the lake is populated by only the two of you!]

 
[A gorgeous evening in Haven. This cliff is a shore lunch spot or even a camping site but access from the lake is sort of steep. ++]

 

Haven is a gorgeous lake with little islands and tons of shoreline and water structure. It's so unique it almost seems fake - like it's manmade or something. The sky is still heavy with some ominous clouds but so far no storms again today. I think the nervousness from Hansen Lake is finally fading for both Niko and I.

 


Journal Entry - July 06 20:58 - Haven Lake Camp

 

Finally some sunshine! The forecast was calling for a sunny day with 0% POP and we awoke to solid clouds which didn't part until around an hour ago - just before the sun started setting. The weather continues to look a bit unsettled so instead of resting tomorrow, we're going to push to Jigsaw. Friday could be rest day there, or possibly Saturday on Wrist Lake.

 

I had some moments of doubt this afternoon. My digestive system is acting up a bit and it made me nervous for some reason. Sometimes I wonder what the HECK I'm doing out here on my own with a 15 year old city kid!! It's crazy, but it's also not crazy. I planned this trip to be reasonable and so far, despite a bum foot (that continues to hold up somehow) and non-optimal weather, we're still bang on the planned schedule. If tomorrow works out we'll actually be a day ahead of schedule already!

 

I'm also starting to realize just how long 15 nights in the wild actually is. Considering I've never gone more than 10 nights before (in 2011, also in WCPP on a canoe trip), I really ramped it up this time - increasing the number of nights by a third. My thinking was that when you only do these trips every few years, it makes sense to maximize the time spent on them. We rush so many experiences in our lives, I want to start slowing them down and taking longer to do them than I did when I was younger. I've climbed over 500 Rockies peaks too and spent far to little time on many of them. Life goes quick enough. Why go quicker than absolutely necessary on the parts that are supposed to be the most fun?

 

 
[A telephoto / panorama of the south and west end of Haven at sunset from our camp site shows the remnants of the 2005 burn and the levels of re-growth after 11 years. ++]

 
[Honestly, one of the premier lakes and premier camps in WCPP that I've stayed at so far and I've been on quite a few of them over the past 10 years! ++]


[A gorgeous evening by the fire.]

 

Niko is having fun for the most part, but I highly doubt he'll do another trip like this one any time soon. He's a great kid but this level of solitude isn't really is forte. I don't mind either way. We are creating a special lifetime memory that we'll both have for the rest of our lives and that's all that matters to me. The family is growing up fast and it won't be long before I'm either doing these longer trips solo or probably not at all. I think these trips are a bit too "bush" for Hanneke. ;)


 

Day 7, Thu July 07 - Haven - Jigsaw - Wrist

 

As you can see by the title, our 7th day in WCPP went a bit differently than originally planned out. Originally the plan had called for a rest day on day 7 at Haven Lake - we were supposed to be fishing for Walleye the entire day! Thanks to an iffy forecast and the weather not being too conducive to fishing anyway (too windy to keep the boat still and a new moon affecting the fishing negatively) we decided to head to Jigsaw Lake on Day 7 to set up a camp there. Obviously that didn't work out but I'll let my journal do the talking once again.

 

 
[Day 7 passed through some interesting terrain - most of it being recently burnt in either 2005 (Haven / Jigsaw) or 2015 (Wrist). It's somewhat of a miracle that most of Haven is unburnt and the camp sites in Wrist are unaffected too. Both of those lakes are well known for excellent fishing. Harlan and others have kept the portages from Haven to Wrist well maintained and when we traveled them they were in excellent condition. I am unsure of the route north of Wrist Lake to Hansen, which we took in 2014. Harlan of RLO walked the 600m trail and said it was cleared fairly well but he didn't go beyond it. Stats: 12.8km including 3 portages totaling 1700m x 3. ++]

 
[Paddling out of Haven Lake. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 07 15:00 - Wrist Lake Camp

 

Yes. You read that title correctly. We are camped on Wrist Lake at the deluxe camp site, two full days ahead of schedule now! How the heck did that happen? Well, we were initially supposed to spend toady fishing around Haven Lake. Due to some extenuating factors including Niko not being quite as into fishing as I expected and yesterday's disappointing weather, we decided that if the weather was decent today (i.e. not raining), we would go to Jigsaw Lake to camp instead of hanging out at Haven. Both lakes are supposed to be loaded with fish so it seemed like a good idea to get 875m of portaging out of the way if the weather was good.

 

After doing both the well maintained 300m portage into the lovely Gulch Lake and then the well marked 575m (more like 600) into Jigsaw, we could clearly see right away that camping anywhere around these lakes was only an option for the truly desperate paddler. Forest fires have gutted all of the shorelines and islands on Gulch and Jigsaw and it will be many, many years before anyone willingly sets up camp at either of those two lovely and unique lakes. After witnessing this devastation we were forced into a conversation about going on towards Wrist Lake. This would involve another 825m of portaging and I seriously doubted Niko would be impressed. When I mentioned we'd get a rest day in Wrist Lake for SURE, he was all in! We have now gained another rest day, which we'll likely use on Mexican Hat Lake. It will be lovely to sleep in tomorrow since I've been waking up at 05:00 every day of the trip so far.

 

The 825m portage was long after already doing 875m of portaging but my injured foot held up amazingly well. Traveling through the burn was interesting. The portages today were actually very nice, especially considering the burns they pass through - FAR better than the manky mess from Rostoul to Cyclops to Haven! Niko hooked a Lake Trout on his 20' Rapala on the way across Wrist's northern end but it got off. In a surprising twist, despite almost all of Wrist being burnt since 2015 - including islands - the deluxe island camp site has been unaffected by fire. Most of the trees there are dying anyway, thanks to a beetle of some sort. Nobody was camped here, thank goodness, and we have the whole lake to ourselves for 2 days. This solitude is what makes WCPP so special. With all the recent burns in the area, I think Wrist Lake will be much less traveled than it was a few years ago. The only access points in and out of it are now burnt, including the popular Mexican Hat / Nutria / Amber corridor. It sure looked different only 2 years ago when we came through here.

 


[Thanks to Harlan, there's an orange ribbon (right of center) indicating the start of the portage from Haven to Gulch Lake - hard to spot with the re-growth.]


[Thanks to regular maintenance the portage through the 2005 burn is fairly open and easy to follow.]


[Entering the lovely Gulch Lake and the apocalyptic landscape of the 2005 burn area.]


[The 'gulch' in 'Gulch' Lake? The portage to Jigsaw is just ahead and left down the gulch.]


[Looking back at our gear and Jigsaw Lake from the end of the 575m portage from Gulch to Jigsaw.]


[Walking back along the interesting 575m portage trail from Gulch to Jigsaw Lake. There are plenty of rock cairns to guide you along the route.]

 
[More of the interesting terrain on the 575m portage between Gulch and Jigsaw. We're walking back towards Gulch Lake to pick up the canoe here - you can just see the lake right of center. ++]


[If you pay attention, there are plenty of clues to guide you along the route.]


[Gorgeous Gulch Lake and our canoe waiting for us to carry it almost 600m to Jigsaw from here.]

 
[My lovely Cherry, handcrafted Badger Tripper paddle. For the first time ever on a canoe trip, my hands stayed clean and blister-free the entire trip!]

 
[The amazing landscape of Jigsaw Lake. Doesn't make for good camp sites though... ++]


[A magical place, I can't imagine how awesome it must have been to camp and fish the Haven / Gulch / Jigsaw area before the burn. There are literally dozens and dozens of small islands and TONS of structure in each lake.]

 
[Wrist Lake and the end of the 825m portage from Jigsaw to Wrist as we start back to pick up the canoe. ++]

 
[Some of the most interesting terrain we portaged through on our trip - the apocalyptic landscape between Wrist and Jigsaw Lake. ++]

 
[Looking ahead to Jigsaw Lake from part way back along the portage from Wrist. ++]

 
[A very familiar place - the excellent and huge camp site on Wrist Lake. It's looking a lot different than last time though - thanks to recent burns in the area and the devastating Pine Beetle. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 07 20:28 - Wrist Lake Camp

 

I'm sitting by a warm fire, which is actually needed tonight thanks to a stiff, cool, Northerly breeze blowing directly into our kitchen area at camp. Niko's wrapped up in the hammock behind me, watching more YouTube videos.

 


[Reading by the fire as evening settles in around us on Wrist Lake. Once again, we have a whole back country lake all to ourselves.]

 

One thing I forgot about when planning this trip is that time is different out here in the wilderness than back home in the city. In the concrete jungle our lives are always on the move, which makes time go much quicker. Out here I'm 'stuck' on a rock in a lake with absolutely nothing to make time go by quicker - which is a good thing of course! There's no schedule that must be followed. We've only been out here for 7 days now but honestly it feels a LOT longer than that. I'm remembering our 11 day trip in 2011 - how we didn't know how to handle the down time that is inevitable on longer trips. I didn't realize at the time that knowing how to handle boredom and how to appreciate it and slow down is an essential skill of lengthier wilderness trips.

 

Time is such a personal resource that we all only have limited control over, I'm always surprised that folks seem to waste so damn much of it on pursuits they don't even seem to enjoy that much. I feel that I've only just begun to understand that rather than running from "thing" to "thing" trying desperately to "enjoy it ALL" - there is much more peace and deep contentment in enjoying where I am right NOW. Having more time to enjoy things tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. When I was younger I chased things and various goals because I thought they had some grand purpose that was bigger than me but made me somehow special. I no longer believe in any "grand purpose" behind my life, and I know that I'm not special, which makes time a much more precious resource for me now than ever before. I must continue to learn how to use it wisely.

 


[Another day in WCPP comes to a close.]

 

What I've discovered for myself is that what gives my life meaning isn't some thing or some goal or even some grand experience. It's very simply sharing time with those I love and maximizing the time I spend doing things that make myself and others happy. Small experiences are just as valuable as large ones. Enjoying a coffee or a walk on a sunny day with Hanneke is just as valuable as spending 16 days in WCPP with my son.


 

Day 8, Fri July 08 - Wrist Lake Rest Day

 

After pushing ahead of schedule by two days, thanks to the burnt shorelines on Jigsaw Lake, we almost had to take a day off on Wrist Lake at risk of having way too much time on our hands before meeting up with the other group in Glenn Lake on day 11. With only Mexican Hat being the major lake between Wrist and Glenn, we were left with plenty of time to do relatively little paddling over the next 3 or 4 days. Once again we had to deal with stiff winds on Wrist, slightly demotivating any major fishing excursions. We did go out for a short paddle around noon. Niko was fairly unmotivated to fish for some reason - partly because his casting rod sucked for cranking spoons. In the afternoon we had a much nicer paddle and caught some good sized Pike while fishing along shore.

 

 
[A tele-pano of the burnt and bug infested shoreline north of our camp site on the northern end of Wrist Lake. ++]


[Niko with another large Wrist Northern Pike.]

 
[Exploring a small island near camp on Wrist Lake. ++]

 
[Looking down on our camp kitchen from the upper tent-pad level on the deluxe island site on Wrist Lake. ++ Compare this shot with this one taken in 2011, only five years earlier to see the devastation the Pine Beetle has been doing to this special place. :(]

 
[Looking south from the deluxe camp's second (!!) kitchen. Yes. It has TWO of them. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 08 09:08 - Wrist Lake Camp

 

Wow. That felt good. Sleeping in until 09:00! I've been getting up at 05:00 for the past week so this was a much needed break for me. Niko is still sleeping. It's another cloudy, cool morning. I have a nice little fire crackling near my feet and loons are going off in the distance. It's a quintessential canoe trip sort of day in WCPP. Some years ago I would have been slightly disappointed by all the cool, cloudy days we've been having but honestly now I'm rather appreciating them for the most part. Canoeing is hard work without too much heat and humidity. The first 2-3 days were under oppressive heat and even sleeping was tough, never mind humping gear through the bush and mud! We are also enjoying the almost complete lack of any biting bugs thanks to the cool nights and the billions of non-biting flies have also dropped in numbers with the drop in temperatures.

 

When you're living outside 24 hours a day you gain an appreciation for what folks in this great country of ours used to do full time. It brings us back to the humble roots of our ancestors when all of us lived under the sky. Minus the carbon fiber canoe and satellite phone of course. :)

 

I woke up this morning thinking about my injured foot. It's such a wonder that we're out here at all. Nobody else has a clue how close I came to either calling off the entire trip or changing it dramatically from what it has become! Last week Wednesday I came within a hairs width of canceling the entire plan - I could barely hobble on flat ground with no weight on my back. I was at a very, very low place back then. Yesterday's 1700 meters of portaging proved to me that I should be able to finish this trip with no serious foot issues beyond some manageable pain.

 


Journal Entry - July 08 18:14 - Wrist Lake Camp

 

We're just done eating supper. We had a nice warm afternoon with a mix of sun and cloud and a gusty, cool NE wind to blow the bugs out of our camp kitchen. Niko started the day feeling pretty low, which surprised me considering he got to sleep in until 10:00! He is missing his mother and the dogs - it's been a long time away from them for him. I think this trip is proving much longer than it sounded back in February when he agreed to do it! ;) He's being a trooper though and I'm proud of him for sticking it out with a pretty good attitude so far.

 

We went out fishing for a couple of hours this afternoon and Niko's mood improved dramatically when we started catching quite a few large Northern Pike along the NE shores of Wrist. It is amazing how long the days are out here - they're easily twice as long as days seem back home. I took a food inventory earlier today and figured out that while we'll make it on supplies, they are a bit lower than I'd like. Some of the flat bread is molding but the wraps are OK and we are back in Walleye country tomorrow. I texted Harold and asked if he could bring snacks for us which he readily agreed to do.

 


[Vern after a week in the wild! ;)]


Journal Entry - July 08 21:24 - Wrist Lake Camp

 

I'm sitting on a warm rock having my evening cigar and decaf cup of coffee, watching the sun set in the west, reflecting off my gorgeous black Souris River Quetico 16. It doesn't get much better than this! The wind has almost completely died down and the bugs haven't realized that fact yet. I'm wearing my fleece jacket due to the cool weather - we should sleep great tonight. It's going to be a 05:00 wakeup tomorrow to try to beat the forecasted SE winds out of Wrist (we'll be against them).

 

Sitting here now, in the still quiet of a WCPP evening, all alone in Wrist Lake, it's hard not to think, "this is the life". But I can assure you that when I was huddled under an 8x10' flimsy blue tarp four days ago during a lightening storm I was thinking that I was an idiot for being out here! In a lot of ways this trip has been schizophrenic like that. Moments of fear, doubt and insecurity are followed by moments of absolute peace, happiness and contentment. I guess that's the whole point isn't it? When there's nothing to distract from the keen sense of survival, the senses and mood swings are very in tune and focused on each moment. I'm learning that life is all about finding inner peace when it's available and riding out the storms of life when it isn't.

 


[Another peaceful evening in Woodland Caribou Park.]

 

I keenly miss Hann and Kaycie at this point. I think they would both love this evening and this camp site. The mosquitoes have apparently just realized that the wind is gone and it's time for me to hit the sack and escape them.


 

Day 9, Sat July 09 - Wrist - Streak - Amber- Nutria - Mexican Hat

 

On our 9th day in Woodland Caribou we woke up early to try to beat the persistent winds that were forecast to once again be against us, this time from the east. We paddled out of Wrist Lake against a slight SE breeze at 07:30 in the morning, heading for the 100 meter portage into Streak Lake. After nailing a few pike near the portage, we completed the short carry through the fairly recent burn that didn't affect the portage. As we put in on Streak Lake I noticed that the entire area seemed to be burnt - I didn't remember this from our 2014 trip and think this must have been part of the June 2015 lightening fire that started around Wrist. Paddling through the burn was interesting and so was the 70m portage into Amber Lake from Streak. The fire had burnt through the portage but thankfully it was still functional. As we struggled along the always-manky 525m portage into Nutria from Amber we noticed that the portage itself was unaffected by the fires due to its muddy, damp nature but everything around the portage trail was burnt!

 

 
[Our 9th day in the park included paddling out of Wrist and through Streak, Amber and Nutria lakes towards the familiar and always friendly Mexican Hat Lake. Due to 2016 fires to the SE of Mexican Hat, it will be much harder to access this popular spot from Leano than it has been in the past. Stats: 12km including 3 portages totaling 695m x 3. ++]


[Paddling out of camp on Wrist Lake.]


[One of my favorite flora in WCPP - the Iris.]

 

Niko was very nervous about the "seasonably shallow" section between Nutria and Mexican Hat. He really didn't like our experience on Haven Creek in similarly marked terrain and I'd warned him about knee to thigh deep muck and beaver dams through this section. Of course, due to our apprehension, we breezed through it with no troubles whatsoever! ;) The beaver dam was very well established and involved a 3 foot drop that we unloaded the canoe for, but other than that there was good water flow and zero mud. Excellent. As we paddled against a stiff east wind to the Walleye factory camp site at the east end of the lake, we both crossed our fingers that it wouldn't be populated. It wasn't. For the 4th day in a row we had a lake completely to ourselves. I guess one of the reasons I'm willing to drive 1900 km to Woodland Caribou Park is that having a back country lake to yourself is common place there - even in peak summer season. Since our 2nd day in Telescope we'd only met a few other paddlers and never camped with anyone else nearby.

 


[The burn went through the portage between Streak and Amber Lake but didn't really affect the portage.]


[The landscape through Amber Lake is pretty dismal due to fires and bugs.]


[The 525m portage from Amber to Nutria Lake was as manky and muddy as usual. The fire burnt all around it but it was too wet to burn the trail!]


[On Nutria, heading towards Mexican Hat Lake and the infamous bog area - that was pretty kind to us this year.]


[On Mexican Hat Lake, once again bucking the wind, but not too bad.]

 
[The Walleye Factory from our camp on Mexican Hat Lake - the 2016 fire burnt the left edge of this photo but somehow missed the right hand side. Niko is fishing for Walleye at far right. ++]

 
[Tele-pano of the NE shoreline on Mexican Hat, showing the recent 2016 RED03 wildfire burn scars. ++]

 
[This is one of the more popular (and used) sites in WCPP, thanks to the Walleye Factory at left. 'Popular' means something different in WCPP though, as I've never met another canoe party on this lake! ;) The beetles have destroyed most of the trees but it's still holding up - for now. With the recent 2016 fire interrupting the routes to Mexican Hat from Leano, I think this site will get much less traffic than usual for the next while, which is a good thing. ++]


[Lots of this at the MH camp!]


[The falls across from camp that provide the Walleye Factory (our camp is visible in the distance). There is a set of portages from Mexican Hat Lake to Jake Lake and Niko and I scouted the first set until the fire damage turned us back.]


[The moisture from the waterfall at right kept the burn from crossing the portage trail here!]


[The lovely set of rapids and falls that cascades into Mexican Hat Lake.]


[The stark contrast between burn and moist is very noticeable at the top of the portage trail. The falls are oos at right here.]


[We could easily smell the recent burn.]

 


Journal Entry - July 09 15:39 - Mexican Hat Camp

 

I have found the most delightful spot on a small rock ledge at the Mexican Hat camp that allows me to soak my injured foot in the cool water while I enjoy a cigar and a full view of the lovely falls across the small bay. It feels great to be back in one of the most popular and familiar spots in WCPP - the so-called Walleye Factory Site which accommodates catching fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner right from camp!

 

We had no issues getting here today and were in camp by noon. The portage from Amber to Nutria was as wet and mucky as ever but the mudfest from Nutria to Mexican Hat was nonexistent. We've been paddling against the wind for most of the trip and today was no different. Thankfully it was only moderate though. The forecast has been calling for rough weather early next week so Niko and I are trying to plan where we should rest while waiting for the other group. Monday and Tuesday are both looking grim at this point and have been for a while already. Niko woke up in a great mood today. He wasn't amused recently when we set up the hammock only to have a bird crap on it within 5 seconds! He says it "smells". ;) He's also nervous about all the spiders we've encountered. Sometimes he'll stop paddling for a few seconds before stabbing something near his feet - it's always a tiny spider of some sort!

 

We are slowly running low on some food. Harold is bringing us some snacks as we've run out of them for a few days already. Teenagers eat a lot more than I expected. I was just chatting with Niko how today feels like one of our best days so far - even though it's now well over a week since we put in to Onnie Lake. We agreed that most folks need a week or more to detox from their normal lives and settle into wilderness life. Weekend and week long trips are still awesome, but they simply don't do for the human soul what a good long 10+ days out here can do. It's hard to explain to folks who have never done a trip like this what it does at a "soul level". Many people are scared silly by the thought of being out here all alone in the wilderness but they don't realize that once you get over that fear you become part of it yourself! That experience cannot be shortcut - it needs time and experience to soak in and permeate you. It is earned through huddling under a tarp through tstorms, sleeping on numerous rocky camp sites, struggling through muddy bogs, millions of mosquitoes and flies and thousands of paddle strokes. It is earned by catching and cleaning your own food and setting up new camps, day after day.

 

I believe that many people do want to feel the deep sense of peace and satisfaction that I'm experiencing as I write this but very few are willing to put in the necessary time and effort to earn it. Even Niko isn't fully aware of what this trip is doing for me, but some day he'll realize it too. I've seen him go from extreme homesickness to giddy happiness within hours so he's learning the value of getting off the grid. At the very least he's learning that if you stick with it, you can achieve amazing things that are difficult to attain.

 

The forest just north, east and south of our camp site is blackened from the recent 2016 fire that swept through much of southern WCPP this year. There are patches of green where the fire avoided healthy Birch trees but the bug-infested pines have all been turned to ash. I'm not sure how our site avoided the burn - probably thanks to the falls nearby. Most of this site is dead anyway - thanks to the pine beetle.

 


Journal Entry - July 09 20:12 - Mexican Hat Camp

 

Niko has finally reached 60 fish! The weather has also done another 'switcheroo' on us and like always on this trip - it's not for the better. The forecast changed within hours from a sun and cloud mix to an 80% chance of tstorms starting at noon tomorrow. :( I have texted with Harold and we have agreed to meet on Tuesday at the camp site closest to the Optic to Glenn portages on Glenn. Niko and I have a lot less distance to travel than the other group so we won't complain too loudly about the grim forecasts for early next week! Initially we were going to sleep in tomorrow and leisurely make our way to Glenn Lake later on but now I think we'll be up early again to beat the weather coming in at noon.


 

Day 10, Sun July 10 - Mexican Hat - Middle Glenn

 

After planning to move camp on our 10th day in WCPP, I changed my mind just after writing the last journal entry the night before. I realized that with only 15km left to travel before getting to the east camp on Upper Glenn and 3 days to travel there, we were getting too worked up over the potential for tstorms and should chillax a bit more before starting over there. We woke up to clear skies and a gorgeous morning and I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing around camp with coffee and cigars while fishing for Walleye and reading my books. I'll let my journal do the talking from here.

 

 
[Our unplanned Day 10 in WCPP, proving that flexibility is key on long trips. I've paddled most of this section many times now and we rejoined our first loop at the northern end of Glenn after a week on the second loop. Stats: 12km including 3 portages totaling 300m x 3. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 10 09:57 - Mexican Hat Camp

 

Yep! You read the title correctly! We're still at MH camp. Last night I started thinking that we were getting all worked up about tstorms today and traveling when we only have 15kms left to the camp site on Glenn Lake and essentially 3 days to do that distance. We could easily do the whole distance today but what's the point? Then we sit there for 2 more days waiting for the other group! Of course, I assumed we'd wake up to clouds today but instead it's a perfectly blue sky and sun even though our last forecast said cloud and 90% POP with tstorms. Hmmm. This could be a reverse repeat of the Haven Lake travel day when we had 100% opposite of the forecast with clouds instead of sun! I still don't trust the weather despite the sun - the pressure has been dropping steadily over the past 24 hours or so.

 

Niko woke up and told me that we only have 4.5 more "work days" left on our trip. He's right! 1 more day to Glenn and then 3.5 days with the group and WCPP 2016 will be over. Amazing how quickly these trips fly by despite their length.

 


Journal Entry - July 10 17:43 - Glenn Lake Island Camp

 

WTF?! Yep again. You read that title correctly! ;) We are on a lovely island site in Glenn Lake right now. So what happened to waiting in MH? Well - as usual, the weather happened. Or in our case this time - it didn't happen! Niko is currently competing with a local loon, singing to himself in the hammock but a few hours ago he wasn't quite so content and happy.

 

Yesterday afternoon we got a weather text telling us that today would be a perfect travel day - sunny and warm and clear. A few hours later, another text for the longer term forecast seemed to indicate that there was a 90% chance of precipitation with tstorms for today. The changing wx made it very hard to plan what to do so we decided that if it was cloudy at 05:00 we would rest at Mexican Hat on Sunday and proceed to Glenn on Monday. Well, at 05:00 the sky was cloudy so that was that. When I later woke up at 07:00, the sky was completely cleared out but I decided to wait and let Niko sleep in a bit. Niko got up at 08:00 and we puttered around camp, both of us commenting often on how unlikely tstorms and precipitation seemed in the perfect weather.

 

Finally at noon, an updated wx went back to assuring us that we were 'wasting' a perfectly good travel day. CRAP. Here we were with a HELPING WIND sitting on our butts when the forecast for Mon / Tues was pretty grim and we had some distance to go! We made a hasty decision to pack up camp and get the heck outta Dodge! It wasn't easy to pack up and start paddling in the heat of the day at noon, but soon we were bending the paddles with a nice helping SE wind blowing us to the portages from Mexican Hat to Glenn under a blazing summer sky. We got through the last portage into Glenn around 14:00 and caught some much-needed Walleye for supper - we are low enough on food that we are relying on fish to keep us full now! (No pressure like hunger to catch fish!)

 

 
[Paddling out of Mexican Hat at noon on Sunday. ++]


[Lots of dead trees between Mexican Hat and Beck's Lake.]


[The excellent 150m portage between Mexican Hat and Beck's Lake.]


[Niko on the excellent portage trail between Beck's Lake and Lower Glenn Lake.]


[This set of falls between Beck's Lake and Lower Glenn Lake produce some of the best (and biggest) Walleye you're likely to catch in WCPP.]

 

I managed to put 4 smallish fish on the stringer and we paddled off for the delightful "Bear Camp", so-called thanks to our 2014 experience where a stubborn black bear hung around our camp the whole time we were there. While we blew towards camp, I decided to check other options on Glenn, considering that the SE winds could help blow us all the way to the northern end of the lake - why stop only half way down? I found a potentially excellent island camp and we immediately decided to go for it. The extra 4km went fairly easily and obviously now we have a pretty short distance to our final camp before meeting the group on Tuesday. We can either stay on the island tomorrow and travel Tuesday, or more likely make the 6.5km dash to the east camp tomorrow and take a day off on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure this is the only island camp on the large and gorgeous Glenn Lake. It's nice to be back in mature pine forests again after being in burnt or partially burnt areas since Haven Lake.

 


Journal Entry - July 10 20:31 - Glenn Lake Island Camp

 

We are many days now since seeing another human being. It feels wonderful. A cheery, warm fire is being stoked by the ever present SE winds that are finally dying down a bit but still stronger than normal for evenings in the park. On hindsight, we've lost a lot of evening fishing and scenery paddles thanks to stiff evening winds on this trip. Not a huge deal, but I do like going out for evening paddles which usually reward with wildlife, fish and nice lighting. Rather than being humid, like earlier today, it's rather chilly now.

 


[Our tent site on Middle Glenn - island camp site.]


[Looking south off our Middle Glenn island camp.]


[Looking north from the toe of our island - the tent is hidden so well you can't even see it from here!]


[This local resident freaked out on us every time we moved in camp!]

 

I did some reviewing of maps today and realized that the group trip is quite short this year at only around 75km! Considering a normal trip length for the 5.5 day option is over 100km, it's no wonder Harold initially wanted to paddle further west on Glenn. I think, given the weather this year, they will be happy to have a closer camp on Tuesday. The big unknown is mother nature who is looking grim at this point to be honest. We'll see. In the end it's all about playing the cards you're dealt which is exactly why we're in a completely different camp than planned tonight! There's a poor Osprey screaming constantly at us every time we move in our site. Thankfully it calms down when we don't move or sleep could be an issue. Time for one last cigar before bed...


 

Day 11, Mon July 11 - Glenn Island Camp - Upper Glenn - East Camp

 

 
[Day 11 was pretty easy. Stats: 5.5km of paddling - no portages. ++]

 
[Looking back at the Middle Glenn island site (l) as we paddle away from camp at around 05:30 in the morning. ++]

 


Journal Entry - July 11 08:06 - Glenn Lake East Camp

 

Even though it's only 8 in the morning, we've already arrived at the east camp site in Glenn! We are completely set up and hunkered down for whatever is getting thrown our way today. I already texted Hanneke a "Happy Anniversary" message, which she replied to in surprise! ;) She totally forgot about it but pretended she remembered. Boy - we didn't feel like paddling this morning but I woke up at 05:00 and saw that the wind was blowing against us again, but thankfully still relatively calm. The skies were reasonable so we made the decision to grab a couple of granola bars and book it the 5-6km eastward to the east camp site before anything could blow in. Ironically, the day after moving camp the latest we will on this trip (noon), we have now moved the earliest. In a clear demonstration of my healing foot, we once AGAIN forgot my darn hiking pole when we left camp this morning! This time, instead of turning around for it we left it there for someone else to find. We just didn't have the energy or will power to paddle that kilometer twice. :|

 


[My Black Beauty and our camp site on Upper Glenn - East Site.]

 

I wasn't sure we made the right decision but now the clouds have gone solid gray and have lowered considerably and the wind has increased dramatically again from the SE. We're looking like genius' now! Niko is relaxing in the tent and I have some dry wood sitting under a well-tied down tarp. When we first spotted camp our hearts fell when we saw gear sitting on a point nearby - indicating someone was already there. Thankfully the gear was a boat motor and some cached fuel - presumably from Optic Lodge. That's probably why this camp is so deluxe too.

 

We have two days here now, so we're going to read and journal and fish as much as possible. Another few hours and this is officially the longest canoe trip of my life! :) In 2011 we did an 11 day trip that ended in the Leano parking lot at around 10:00.

 


Journal Entry - July 11 16:05 - Glenn Lake East Camp

 

After a delightful snooze in the tent and some early supper, I'm feeling pretty darn good about life. :) I'm sitting here on a rock near camp watching the potential storm clouds soar overhead. Somehow it hasn't rained or stormed yet today - I'm super happy for the group coming in that it's turned out so well for them considering the grim forecast. Despite always trying to be positive, it really sucks to start a 5.5 day trip with rain and storms! It's bloody humid though - it's like looking at smoke when I gaze into the distance.

 

I'm now officially on the longest back country trip of my life. So how do I feel about it? Well, surviving on packed goods and off the land for over a week is a helluva lot longer and harder than it seems when you're planning the trip from the comfort of home! Time slows down significantly out here when you're outside 24x7 and up from dawn to dusk with no major distractions. Take today for example. We are 'stuck' at camp for 12+ hours. Nothing to do but read, sleep, fish and journal. This is fantastic, of course, but it makes for a very long day. How many folks could do this at home? In the hustle and bustle of a large city like Calgary, 45 minutes goes by in one boring meeting. Another hour to and another hour back home from work each day. Another hour making supper and then another working out to burn it off. ;) The hours just melt away when you're constantly on the move.

 

The pace of this trip has been MUCH slower than what I've ever done in the past, on any trip whether canoe or mountain. Overall I'm really enjoying it. The slow pace has forced me to relax, meditate, journal and read - all things that de-stress and re-motivate. As I continue to age (!!) I will almost certainly keep slowing down in pursuit of enjoyment. To be honest, I don't even remember why I used to go so hard and fast in my climbing pursuits. I mean, they're almost all exactly the same, so what was the damnable hurry to see the next peak or lake or fish? I think there's a simple and a more complicated answer as to why younger people rush from objective to objective in life. The simple answer is that they are looking for validation in quantity rather than quality. The deeper answer is that they are running from themselves and from the things in their lives that are stressing them out without an easy way to resolve that situation. When I was younger I had to impress more people, make more money and figure out why I existed. Now I don't care what others think, I no longer need as much money and I no longer care much why I exist, only that I continue to exist! ;)

 

One obvious result of me slowing down my approach and pace on this trip compared to others, is the significantly reduced amount of fishing I'm doing. I've still caught way over 100 fish so far but I find myself choosing a cigar and my book over going out to catch yet another Walleye or Pike most evenings. Over the past year or so I've come to accept the fact that I'm not a hardcore adventurer or climber like so many others on social media seem to be. I'm more into endurance and scenic adventure than risk and great selfies I guess. Oh well. This trip has given me a good vibe for solo paddling in the future (in some ways paddling with a 15 y.o. son is harder than going solo). I'm also starting to realize that while loved ones around me are happy and healthy I should take advantage of that rather than only going solo. Ironically, being in a prescribed life previously made me want to run away from it all much more than nowadays with my new found freedom. There's nothing for me to run from anymore! 


 

Day 12, Tue July 12 - Upper Glenn Lake - East Camp Rest Day

 

Tuesday, July 12 was also the 12th and final day of Niko and my father / son trip in WCPP. We were both extremely satisfied with the trip so far, but were also looking forward to meeting up with Harold, Bill, Jon and Dylan for the final four days of our adventure. For Niko it meant hanging out with more than one other person - he's a team player. For me it meant sharing the everyday stresses of wilderness travel including food, setting up camp, dealing with potential injuries or illnesses and decisions about routes and weather. Things we take for granted in the civilized world, like medical care and shelter simply aren't available in a world of rock, water and trees.

 

The weather on Monday was far more lenient than the forecast suggested in our area! Later we learned that Kenora got hammered by storms, as did other parts of central and northern Ontario, so we got very lucky. Tuesday was kind of the reverse of that good fortune. The wx called for a mix of sun and cloud but starting about mid day rain squalls started blowing through every hour or so. The good thing was a lack of tstorms and the sporadic nature of the rain, the bad thing was the strong SE winds that the group would fight down Optic Lake. It was bad enough at some points during the day that I questioned if they'd make Glenn Lake - but then I remembered their experience and figured they'd have no trouble.

 


[We got lucky with some sunshine on Tuesday morning which allowed me to wash my shirt (l) and Niko to read in the hammock at our cozy camp on Upper Glenn.]


[Rain squalls moved through every hour or so on Tuesday - but they moved quickly. You can even spot a patch of blue sky at upper left here.]


[Waiting for the other group near a nice, warm fire.]


[Part of the day on Tuesday was pretty soggy.]

 

Finally, around supper time I spotted two tiny dots at the far south end of Glenn Lake! I pulled out my 800mm lens and confirmed that it was indeed our group, bending their paddles as they finally got a strong wind at their backs. It was pretty darn cool to meet up with them all the way out there on a tiny rock point in Glenn Lake. What was even cooler was the 4 or 5 nice sized Walleye they brought along for supper! After greeting each other and confirming that they were having a blast on the trip so far - including severe wind and waves on Optic - they proceeded to set up their tents and I started cleaning and preparing the fish for supper. Camp was much noisier and busier than we were used to, but in a good way as the team settled under our tiny blue tarp (we hardly fit) and dug into the fresh Walleye that I was cooking up for everyone. We swapped stories about their first 2 days and our previous 12.

 


[Here they come! Bill, Harold, Dylan and Jon paddle into Upper Glenn from the Optic portages to the south of our camp.]


[Bill and Harold paddle for camp on Glenn.]

 

One thing I immediately noted when the other groups arrived was the casualness they displayed with their boats and gear compared to Niko and I over the previous two weeks. We were used to being very, very cautious with our only means of travel and our precious gear! Every time we weren't physically connected to the canoe it was either pulled way up on shore or tied off to a tree - usually both. Traveling solo puts much more pressure on consequences like a canoe blowing off it's mooring or spilling a bottle of cooking gas! The other guys casually pulled their boats onto the rocky point and simply left them there despite a pretty stiff wind blowing against them, not something we'd even consider when it was only the two of us.

 

 
[Camp is much busier with 3 canoes and 6 people! ++]

 
[A gorgeous evening settles in with the promise of much clearer skies than we actually got. Note the rainbow in the distance at center. ++]


[Niko, Dylan and Bill sit under the tarp at camp.]

 


Journal Entry - July 12 14:18 - Glenn Lake East Camp

 

The weather is sure a mixed bag lately - and today is no different. We awoke at 06:30 to rain on the tent. WTH? It's supposed to be a mix of sun and cloud today with little chance of precipitation! Two hours later I was sitting under the tarp with warm sunshine hitting my face... ;) It was starting to look like a nicer day again and we even hoped to get out fishing when the winds increased again from the SW and the clouds came back. An updated text warned of more rain this evening and tomorrow with SW to NW winds. Oh well. Whatever comes, we'll deal with it as always. It's been 6 full days since we last saw another human being - way back on entry to Haven Lake. I love this park for that very reason!

 

As the father / son portion of our trip wraps up and we enter the last 4 days, nostalgia is already setting in for us. Niko and I were chatting about how awful my foot was at the start of the trip when I could barely hobble around on it. This morning I noticed I could almost walk normally on it now - the rest days certainly helped that situation. It's hard to fully appreciate how amazing it is that not only did we make it out here, but we also managed to do the full loop that I'd planned as an absolute best case scenario! I still don't know if it was wise or foolish to embark with such an injury, but nonetheless, here we sit. This trip has reinforced that no matter what else, you have to be willing to push through mental and physical challenges in order to accomplish special things - even when it seems foolish and impossible. I clearly remember how depressed and overwhelmed I felt the morning of the day we left Calgary - dealing with the injury and doubts that it was giving me. Now I'm swaying gently in a hammock on Glenn Lake with about 2 dozen flies, song birds, loons and some guys on YouTube keeping me company, feeling more relaxed than I have in at least 2 years. Some days life is good.

 


Journal Entry - July 12 22:30 - Glenn Lake East Camp

 

Well, they made it! Niko and I were sitting under our tarp peering into the distance when sure enough - there they were! The first people in 6 days were a sight for sore eyes, especially when they came bearing snacks and even freshly caught Walleye! ;) I cleaned and cooked the fish while the others set up their camps. Now we're sitting under a smoky, but cheerful fire with light rain spitting on the tarp above us.

 

It has re-energized Niko and I to meet up with the group. We are prepared for another rainy day tomorrow but at least it's warm and the rain has been sporadic so far. Wrapping up the trip on Thu / Fri / Sat with good weather would sure be ideal... We'll see I guess. It's strange that the trip is rapidly coming to an end, but it's the best way to end it, namely with a group of friends.


 

Day 13, Wed July 13 - Upper Glenn - Optic - Telescope

 

Finally, after almost 48 hours 'stuck' at the Glenn Lake East Camp, Niko and I joined the group on Day 13 for the start of the last half of a loop we'd started almost two weeks previous when we first put in to Onnie Lake. There were two loops on our 140km route. The first was only half completed when we started and completed the second. The first loop involved Onnie, Telescope, Optic, Glenn, back to Telescope, Hatchet, Douglas, Spider and Onnie. The second loop included Glenn, Hansen, Rostoul, Haven, Jigsaw, Wrist, Amber, Mexican Hat and back to Glenn again.

 

It felt good to be paddling again as we bid adieu to Glenn and started up the two 250m portages into Optic Lake. The weather was humid and wet but we avoided most of the lingering rain showers for the morning at least. Another benefit of meeting the group was sleeping in until 07:00 every day and not paddling until at least 09:00. Niko really liked that part. Optic Lake was a bit choppy and of course we were partially against the wind, but we managed to paddle across it fairly quickly. As I trolled a 20' Rapala out of the narrows, just SW of the lodge, I hooked a large fish. It was the biggest Walleye I've ever caught. We also caught Pike by trolling, but alas, no Lake Trout. We watched a couple of float planes take off - carrying clients out of the wilderness with them. The lodge looked deserted as we paddled closely past it and entered the Rostoul River towards Telescope Lake.

 

 
[Day 13 found us re-joining our first loop into Telescope Lake. Fishing was great along the way and we had shore lunch between the 60m and 100m portages just west of Telescope Lake. Stats: 13km including 5 portages totaling 730m x 3. ++]


[Wednesday morning at Upper Glenn Lake camp.]


[Father / son selfie!]


[Paddling out of Upper Glenn Lake under some ominous looking skies.]


[Entering the Rostoul River towards Optic Lake from Upper Glenn Lake.]


[Paddling the Rostoul River out of Glenn Lake towards Optic.]


[It was nice and sunny for our first set of falls along the Rostoul River to Optic Lake from Glenn, where we managed to bag a number of Walleye.]


[Jon and Dylan go old school on one of the 250m portages out of Glenn towards Optic Lake.]


[Harold is loaded down with gear!]


[Bill's gear weighs more than he does... ;)]


[It's wet but thank goodness it's cleared!]


[Jon on a wet 250m portage between Glenn and Optic.]


[The lovely Rostoul River between the two 250m portages out of Glenn to Optic.]


[Paddling up Optic and watching a plane take off in front of us.]

 

The day was still fairly young as we paddled from the 60m towards the final 100m portage from Optic to Telescope. We had a stringer of Walleye and wanted to stop for lunch, so that's exactly what we did! We found a convenient 'bush site' cut into the trees just past the 60m portage and happily set up a large tarp and started fileting the fish for a shore lunch. At first the tarp seemed a bit superfluous but within 30 minutes we were being hammered by a pretty violent rain storm and were very happy to have it! This was just the start of a somewhat chaotic weather system.

 


[Starting the 60m portage between Optic and Telescope.]


[The weather starts to turn - not for the better.]


[An Optic Lake Walleye for lunch!]

 
[Our lunch spot between the 60m and 100m portages into Telescope from Optic. ++]

 

After our casual lunch we completed the 100m portage and dipped the paddles into the now-familiar Telescope Lake. Niko and I took one glance behind us and leaned into our paddles HARD! The sky to the NW looked very ominous and dark clouds were building and racing towards us. We didn't want to take undue chances and despite not hearing thunder we really dug into the water and heaved the canoe towards the 3km distant island that we planned to camp on. The other guys weren't ready for our aggression and we quickly left them in the dust. :) They weren't as gun shy as we were about storms I guess. We managed to make the island site before any rain and even got our tent and tarp set up before the other two canoes even touched rock! Sure enough! Within ten minutes the skies were opened up and sheets of rain and wind were slamming our camp from the NW. Talk about good timing. We even heard one peel of thunder but thankfully that was it for tstorm action. The rest of the day was characterized by rain and a strong north wind which rapidly cooled into the evening.

 

 
[This is what Niko and I were running from after our last 100m portage into Telescope Lake! ++]


[Still sunny in this direction as the other members of the group finish up the 100m portage into Telescope - we never looked back from here to camp! ;)]


[At the group camp on Telescope Lake waiting out a storm that we just beat, under a very hastily erected tarp - somewhat of a theme for this trip.]


[It's pouring!]

 
[Dark skies continue to threaten our camp as we quickly continue to set it up. ++]

 
[Lots of tarps are key to a good, comfortable camp in rainy / stormy weather. ++]


[At least we're sheltered from the north winds here, but unfortunately it started raining again later.]

 


Journal Entry - July 13 17:22 - Telescope Island Camp

 

Phew! We just out ran THAT storm! Niko and I started out from our last portage into Telescope Lake when we made the mistake of looking at the clouds building up behind us. Dang. Black, ominous clouds were building quickly and moving our way. I guestimated we had 3km to camp and should bend the paddles and outrace whatever was going to obviously slam into us sooner than later. After our lunch time experience with an intense downpour, we knew what was likely coming and we both suspected there could easily by a tstorm embedded in the next rain event. We probably crested 8km/h across the lake! We even managed to get our tent set up before the storm blasted through. The group huddled under the large tarps the other guys brought through several rain storms with some thunder peeling overhead - but not much, thankfully. Now it seems to be settling a bit. Today's weather was much better than we were expecting for the most part. I'm going to cook up some supper.

 


Journal Entry - July 13 22:00 - Telescope Island Camp

 

The barometric pressure is rising steadily but the clouds are still low and grey and despite finding a great place for an evening fire out of the stiff / cool north winds, the rain has chased Niko and I to our tent. It's nice and cozy in here with the sound of wind in the trees above and waves crashing into the shore below. The other guys are still up - Niko and I are so used to waking up early that I'm the first one up each morning even without setting an alarm. We're really hoping for stable weather the last two full days in WCPP.


 

Day 14, Thu July 14 - Telescope - Lac Lammont - Embryo - Upper Hatchet (Caribou)

 

The two week mark of our trip proved to be an excellent day in WCPP. The evening of the 13th and morning of the 14th were so cold most of us were in toques and fleece. This trip was quickly becoming the story of wild weather swings. Monday night was so hot nobody could sleep, and now Wednesday night was so cold we needed layers to sleep! I've certainly never worn a toque on a canoe trip as much as I did on this one, I'll make sure I continue to bring warm clothes even on summer trips. A stiff north wind was still blowing on Thursday morning, but the sky was clearing to the north and the cloud cover slowly dissipated until it was completely blue sky around noon.

 


Journal Entry - July 14 08:44 - Telescope Camp

 

I'm sitting on top of a rock cliff about 20 feet above Telescope Lake on the south side of our island camp, ducking the stiff and cool north wind that's still blowing at us. It was so cool last night that the bugs aren't even out and Niko still has his toque on! The past 5 or 6 days have been extremely unsettled. It's worked out OK for us but it would be nice to get some sunshine and pleasant breezes before our trip concludes. I am experiencing mixed feelings about the trip ending. It now seems to have gone by so quickly when only 4 or 5 days ago it seemed like it would never end.


 

 
[Niko contemplates life before we leave Telescope Lake on Thursday morning. ++]

 

Originally I had very high hopes for the fishing in Embryo Lake. On day two, while Niko and I were camped in Telescope, a couple in a canoe had assured us of excellent Walleye fishing there and had the evidence on a stringer in their boat. Possibly due to the cold front that was clearly moving through, or the stiff wind we were canoeing against, or maybe just some bad luck, we didn't do that well fishing on Embryo. We caught some pike, but even trolling Rapala's across the lake didn't result in (m)any fish. The SW portion of the paddle was through some pretty sublime canoe territory though, including a short, but gorgeous river section between Lac Lammont and Embryo Lake. We drifted slowly through this section, enjoying the warm sunshine and lack of waves. The west end of Embryo was surprisingly shallow for a long way - apparently there are floating islands on that end too.

 

 
[Paddling out of Telescope towards Lac Lammont and Embryo Lake. ++]


[Bill and Harold on the 200m portage out of Telescope towards Lac Lammont.]


[The gorgeous river section between Lac Lammont and Embryo - on the WCPP canoe route map there is no "Lac Lammont" marked.]


[A gorgeous day as we paddle between Lac Lammont and Embryo Lake.]

 

The paddle up the main section of Embryo was (of course) against the wind, but the waves weren't as big as I was expecting, thanks to our route up the west shoreline. We spotted some of the lodge's buildings as we paddled across the middle of the lake towards Embryo. This would be the start of a very "lodged" section of WCPP - far more than I was expecting, but not a huge deal. Upon arriving home I did some more research and realized that all the lodges and boat caches we spotted from Onnie to Telescope, Embryo, Upper Hatchet (Caribou), Hatchet and Douglas were from the Viking Island Lodge on Douglas Lake.

 


[Beautiful shorelines on Embryo Lake.]


[Enjoying a gorgeous day on Embryo Lake.]


[We mostly avoided big waves as we paddled north (against the wind!) on Embryo.]

 
[This map is provided by the Viking Island Fishing Lodge, based out of Douglas Lake. Click the map or here for a downloadable PDF.]

 

The boat caches made finding the portages ridiculously easy. All we had to do was look for shiny aluminum boats and we knew where the trails were! ;) Of course, the trails were all in excellent condition too - being kept open and regularly maintained for guests of Viking Island Lodge. Despite there being no camp sites marked on our map on Upper Hatchet, aka, Caribou Lake, we managed to find one almost right away! Originally we were going to look on the large island at the center of the lake, but thanks to the persistent wind, when we found a perfectly good camp on a rocky point just past the 450m portage from Embryo, we thought we might as well stay there. We met a couple of guests from Viking Island Lodge just as we were wrapping up the 450m portage. They'd come all the way from Douglas Lake, using boat caches and portage trails the whole way. They mentioned catching 63 Walleye out of a fishing hole on Douglas that morning and were off to Embryo to try their luck there. Obviously they had a few maps from the lodge, showing them where the good fishing was! They came cruising back later in the day, telling us of another 18 Walleye caught on Embryo and suggesting we go back there to check it out. Obviously they didn't realize that there's a difference between human and motor powered travel... ;) Nobody in our group felt like humping an extra 1km (450m each way) with a boat on our heads just for a few more Walleye. 

 

 
[Our 14th day in the park was through some gorgeous lakes with great weather. We started running into boat caches and outposts from the Viking Island Lodge too. We stayed at 'Camp 1' on Upper Hatchet which is also called 'Caribou Lake'. Stats: 15km of travel including 3 portages totaling 550 x 3. ++]


[Having lunch at our camp on Upper Hatchet - or Caribou - Lake.]

 
[View from our peninsula camp on Upper Hatchet. ++]

 

Despite the wind, we decided to check out Robertson Lake after getting camp set up early and with excellent weather conditions. Robertson is a shallow lake located just off Upper Hatchet and is accessed via a short 100m portage. As Dylan and Harold soon found out though - the map didn't indicate that this portage is rarely traveled and contains a nasty little surprise part way along it in the form of a hornet's nest! :( After paying for the entry with pain, we hoped the fishing would be good and it was - but only for small to medium sized Pike. After a short, but enjoyable stay in this small lake, we delicately tip-toed back past the hornets and bucked some large waves back to camp for supper.

 


[Looking back at Jon and Dylan as paddle into Robertson Lake from the 100m portage out of Upper Hatchet.]


[Robertson Lake is quite scenic and loaded with Northern Pike.]


[Launching into waves after coming back from Robertson Lake and looking towards our camp about 1km from here in Upper Hatchet.]


[Looking back at Harold and Bill finishing the 100m, somewhat manky, portage back from Robertson to Upper Hatchet Lake.]

 

Thanks to the strong evening winds, we didn't venture out that evening (a common theme for the trip overall) but enjoyed a great fire, lack of bugs and some excellent conversation. Late that night we even spotted some northern lights! I was planning to capture the Milky Way over the lake but the moon and lack of a completely set sun even at midnight ruined those plans. So far, our hopes for an excellent final couple of days in WCPP were coming true.

 


[Camp on Upper Hatchet.]


[Note the jackets and toques! It's a cool evening on Upper Hatchet and another gorgeous sunset.]

 


Journal Entry - July 14 15:40 - Upper Hatchet Camp

 

The wind is still quite stiff from the north as we prepare camp, set up tents and get ready for an afternoon fishing expedition to Robertson Lake. I have now settled into a pattern where I don't miss showers, burgers or social media one bit. I miss Hann and KC but that's about it. The rest of the group seems to be starting their "detox phase" where they are noticing the lack of greasy food and beer - proving my point that it takes 4-6 days for city folks to get used to the wilderness after being away from it for a while. I'm not sure I will be satisfied with a shorter canoe trip again! I think there's a huge difference between surviving 5 or 6 days in the wild and coming back to civilization tired and sore and living under the sky for 2+ weeks and finishing relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated.


 

Day 15, Fri July 15 - Upper Hatchet (Caribou) - Hatchet - Douglas - Spider - Onnie

 


Journal Entry - July 15 07:15 - Upper Hatchet Camp

 

I'm 'enjoying' a hot cup of instant oatmeal (!!) while listening to a million chirping birds, an early rising fly and a distant loon. Float planes are cruising the southern sky, presumably flying guests in and out of Douglas Lake. This is definitely the nicest morning we've had in over a week. The sun is shining, there is a gentle breeze and there are no clouds in the sky. I was reflecting earlier to Harold and Bill that  an earlier version of me probably would have been a bit disappointed in the weather we've experienced over this entire trip. Right now I find myself not caring though. The only negative thing the weather produced was a lack of evening excursions due to stiff winds, which I'm not sure Niko would have felt like doing anyway.

 

So how does it feel to be on our last full day in WCPP for possibly a few years? I have mixed feelings right now. I'm happy to be going back to Hanneke of course, but I'm not ready to return to the rat race yet either. :( I can honestly say without hesitation that  being completely off the grid for over 2 weeks now has been by far the best part of this trip. The goal of this trip was to lose both physical and mental weight. I'm worried that re-entering the concrete jungle is going to start adding to both almost immediately.

 

I will certainly do more of these longer trips. I'm not sure yet if I'm ready to do long solo trips. I might have to work my way up to it by doing shorter ones first.


 

Our 15th and final full day in WCPP proved to be one of our longest as well. Thankfully we spent it under a gorgeous sky and perfect canoeing conditions. As we trolled our Rapala's out of Upper Hatchet Lake I finally managed to catch an elusive Lake Trout! The crappy part about catching it was that we wanted it for lunch, so I had to lug it around for a half a day! ;) 

 


[Niko and I before we head out from our Upper Hatchet camp to the Hatchet portage.]


[Harold and Bill leave camp on Upper Hatchet.]


[Paddling on glass across Upper Hatchet.]


[The one and only Lake Trout of the trip - caught in Upper Hatchet.]

 
[Niko and I walk back to our canoe on the 450m portage from Upper Hatchet to Hatchet Lake. ++]

 

As we finished the excellent 450m portage into Hatchet Lake we agreed that we should go slowly and fish our way south to the next portage to Douglas. We wanted to take advantage of the perfect wind and weather and didn't want to get into Spider Lake too early. Harlan had assured us there was camping available on Spider Lake and that was our destination for the day.

 

For some reason our plan to slowly drift and cast down the lovely Hatchet Lake didn't quite pan out but Hatchet Lake is a place I will certainly revisit in the future. It's a deep, cold, clear lake that must have some big fish on it! I caught a couple of nice sized Pike while casting and trolling deep diving Rapalas. As we completed the excellent portage into Douglas Lake we met an older gentleman and young boy who were cleaning up a gasoline spill at the boat cache on Hatchet. Apparently a bear had been into the gasoline supply there! This confirmed Harlan's caution to me about gas - apparently black bears really like it. We also ran into two canoes launching into Hatchet, coming from Douglas and Onnie Lakes. They assured us there was good Walleye fishing in both Spider and Onnie and one lady even told us to look for some "rocks out in the lake" in Spider which apparently housed hungry Walleye! Things were looking good for a camp in Spider. We enjoyed the Lake Trout I caught in Upper Hatchet on a deluxe camp site just after the portage into Douglas Lake. It was a very warm day already at this point.

 

 
[A gorgeous day on Hatchet Lake - perfect canoeing weather! ++]


[There is some tricky footing coming down the portage trail into Douglas from Hatchet Lake.]
 

 
[The end of the 150m portage into Douglas Lake. ++]


[Heading to our lunch spot just past the portage into Douglas Lake.]


[Lake Trout for lunch!]


[Looking back at the nice lunch spot / camp site on Douglas as we prepare to paddle across the southern portion of the lake to Douglas Creek.]

 

We canoed across the south end of the large (and thankfully very calm) Douglas Lake, evening spotting the Viking Island Lodge in the far distance. I used my telephoto lens to get a picture of it. We noted a few nice camp sites as we paddled towards the outlet of Douglas Creek which drains from Spider and Onnie Lakes and was our exit route from WCPP. Douglas Creek is a gorgeous, typical WCPP stream with some fairly shallow and rocky sections that sport lots of canoe paint! We managed to paddle against the moderate current through some narrow and shallow sections, but didn't quite make it to Spider Lake without getting wet feet. A highlight moment was spotting a cow moose feeding underwater and then wading up stream away from us. Good thing it was warm out anyway. As we finally entered Spider Lake around 15:00 I was ready to set up camp and relax for a bit. Alas, the probability of finding a decent camp site looked grim. The shoreline was too swampy and bushy and I started to have serious doubts about camping there. We decided to canoe ~1km to the far SE side of the lake after rounding a corner and spotting what looked to be the only possible camp site. My 800mm lens couldn't pick out an obvious fire ring but I reluctantly followed the others.

 

 
[Our 15th day in the park was also our longest at almost 20km of travel including 3 portages at 630m x 3. A caution on the 'Camp' marked on Spider Lake - it's rustic and will not fit many tents. ++]


[A telephoto from the south end of Douglas Lake, looking north towards the Viking Island Lodge.]


[Entering the lovely Douglas Creek, heading upstream toward Spider and Onnie Lakes from Douglas Lake.]


[Dylan and Jon in Douglas Creek.]


[A great day to be on the water.]

 
[The 30m portage along Douglas Creek goes around these falls. ++]


[A cow moose feeds in Douglas Creek.]


[Moose are so ugly!]

 

A closer inspection of the lake proved my gut feeling correct. If we were truly desperate the site could work, but it looked bushy and wouldn't easily fit 3 tents. 1 or 2 tents could probably fit but with Onnie only 5km or so away it wasn't work bush camping for our last night. We turned the boats back to Douglas Creek. On our way out of Spider I spotted the only rocks that weren't attached to land and yelled to the guys that we should try for some Walleye. Sure enough! Niko caught a nice sized one on his very first cast to the shallow structure! We spent the next 30 minutes catching our supper before heading back up Douglas Creek towards Onnie. I was tired and hot at this point, but we dug the paddles in and enjoyed the lovely scenery to Onnie Lake. By the time we finally rolled up to a deluxe island site on Onnie at around 17:00 we were more than ready to set up camp and enjoy the Walleye from Spider for supper. Ironically the last full day in WCPP was also the longest at almost 20km.

 


[Leaving Spider Lake, paddling on to Onnie.]


[A beautiful evening to end our trip on a deluxe island site on Onnie Lake.]

 


Journal Entry - July 15 21:05 - Onnie Lake Deluxe Camp

 

Well, 15 days later and we are back in Onnie Lake! We were originally planning to camp in Spider Lake but the only reasonable camp site wasn't very reasonable so here we sit, on a deluxe site in Onnie. I didn't drink enough today and as a consequence I have a bit of a headache now. It was a gorgeous last day in the park though, so I'm definitely not complaining. We had blue skies, great winds, big fish and lots of paddling through old growth and up Douglas Creek which was very nice.

 

We are sitting by a nice camp fire with a cool evening breeze blowing through. You know it's a successful trip when it's a perfectly calm, great night to go out fishing and exploring and we're all sitting here together around a fire, eating and sharing any remaining snacks and simply enjoying the evening atmosphere. I've commented several times in this journal already, that this is the first canoe trip where I didn't feel the need to fish all the time but rather felt like taking more time to simply be in the moment and enjoy relaxing for a bit. I guesstimate that I still must have caught around 200 fish this trip, which isn't too shabby anyway! ;) I certainly cooked and ate more Walleye than on any previous trip.

 

It's strange, but I also don't feel nearly as exhausted as I usually do after a 5.5 day trip. Niko and I have been out here long enough now that it doesn't register that there's another life waiting for us at the truck - which is only around 3km away from us right now. It might as well be a million the way I'm feeling right now. A very large part of me certainly doesn't want to go back tomorrow. The concrete wilderness that awaits me can't touch this rocky, watery, treed one in terms of mental solitude and relaxed focus. It's hard to get across to folks who have never done a trip like this, away from the 'comforts' of modern city life, how the focus of survival and living under the sky 24x7 forces you into a state of happy repetition where life is simple and the days are wonderfully long.


 

Day 16 - Onnie Egress

 

After paddling all the way to Onnie the day before, we awoke to perfect conditions again on Saturday, July 16 and reluctantly packed up camp for the final time. Sure! Niko and I were happy to see Hann, Kaycie and the dogs again, but I also sensed that even Niko was also sad to be leaving our now-familiar wilderness home. My favorite part of this trip was obviously spending precious, focused time with my son in the beauty of the Canadian wilds, but a close second was seeing how he went from a city kid to a confident canoeist, catching and releasing his own fish, eating food he wouldn't normally touch and growing into someone I don't think he realized he could be. There's not much more to say except a last journal entry and a statement of simple fact. I'll be back.

 


[Our day 16 route and portages. We stayed in Camp 2 on our first day in the park, 15 days earlier but Camp 1 is much larger and even nicer, especially for larger groups. Stats: 6.5km including 3 portages totaling 1005m x 3.]


[Another bluebird day on the final morning of our trip as Bill and Harold leave camp on Onnie Lake.]


[Bill and Harold on Onnie Lake.]


[Over two weeks later, now Niko's a pro at portaging! His pack's also much lighter... This is the stream crossing on the 625m portage out of Onnie Lake.]


[The final 350m portage back to the truck - over two weeks after leaving here it's strange to be back.]


[Looking back at Jon coming out of the 350m portage to the parking lot.]

 


Journal Entry - July 16 07:57 - Onnie Lake Deluxe Camp

 

These trips always end the same way. In this case, it didn't seem like our trip would end for the 15 days we were out here and now, way too soon, it's coming to a close. At the end of the longest self-supported wilderness canoe trip I've done, the sun is shining and reflecting off the waves of Onnie Lake, seemingly beckoning me to forget the portage trail to the road and re-enter Woodland Caribou Park for another two weeks! Honestly, I could do it at this point. If it was feasible, I'd go another two weeks. And maybe two beyond that even! ;)

 

Niko is sitting next to me and we're chatting about the trip. It's amazing how he's changed from the first few days we were out here. He's gone from tentative and worried to confident and strong. I'd paddle with him any time, any where. I don't have any illusions that this trip has changed his entire course of life or anything but I think we bonded very well on this little adventure and I'm sure that we'll talk and think about it many times over our lives. I only hope that in some small way he learned the incredible value of disconnecting from society and using the peaceful tranquility of the wilderness to reconnect back with himself. Even if he never does another canoe trip!

 

I certainly feel re-energized from this experience. Another week of 'glamping' in Whiteshell Provincial Park with family will get me a long way to feeling ready and able to work another year and support the people that I love more than anything else. Until next time, Woodland Caribou Park, I bid you a fond adieu.


 


[Can't believe it's over already! A great experience comes to a close.]


[Man, that tastes GOOD!]


[Sorry, but mine's nicer. :)]

 

Lessons Learned

 

I thought I should include a lessons learned at the end of this trip report since it's not long enough as it is! ;) Actually, I've had a number of folks ask about the fact that I took my teenage son along and I know people are often interested in gear too.

 

  1. Tripping alone with a fairly inexperienced teenager. This was probably the biggest risk I took. Other than a trip when Niko was 13 (which we ended a day early because he wanted to go home), my son had no previous experience with a wilderness trip like this one. On hindsight, I think tripping with another teen and adult would have been perfect. I tried to get others to join, but many people can't (or won't) get two weeks off for a trip like this. In order to keep him interested and engaged I made some adjustments on this trip over others I've done;
    1. Less fishing and exploring after getting to camp to conserve energy and enthusiasm.
    2. Letting him bring electronics and supplying charge devices for them and putting up with them (!! - YouTube cached on his phone and no headphones).
    3. I did most of the camp set up and all of the cooking etc., so that he wouldn't have to stress about it - different kids will have different attitudes towards this as some will want to do more around camp and some will want to do less.
    4. Much shorter days than usual - we were at camp by noon most days.
    5. More junk food - he's a teenager!! ;)
    6. Very secure camps and daily updates via a satellite phone to allow for better planning and less nasty storm 'surprises'.
    7. Talk to him for months before the trip, include him in the planning, get him excited about tripping.
    8. By him his own gear as much as feasible. This made him invested in the trip and he took care of his own stuff like knives, fishing equipment and camping gear.
    9. More comfortable camps including a hammock and a good tent.
    10. Be willing to assist him with tasks that might get annoying after a while like taking ALL of his Northern Pike off his lures! ;)
    11. Be very supportive and loving even when he wants to quit and when he gets grumpy - as every teenager will do at some point.
    12. Remember he's 15 and not 25. There's a difference. Respect him as a fully equal canoe partner but don't put the stress of an adult on his shoulders, as that's not fair.
  2. Waterproof packs / gear. A very positive lesson learned was that packing everything in waterproof bags / cases / packaging is a brilliant idea on canoe trips. It sounds obvious, but most people don't have waterproof backpacks as they're very expensive and sort of rare. Not having to put any packs under tarps and being able to simply place them anywhere on portages - even on wet surfaces - made tripping much easier and more stress-free.
  3. Fuel. I used two 950ml and one 625ml of white gas with my brand new Dragonfly MSR stove over the two weeks. I thought this would be plenty of fuel but it was just enough. Phew! Cooking lots of pancakes, fish, eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches used quite a bit of fuel while simmering.
  4. Food. More snack food would have been welcome. More time in camp means more eating. Also, I brought some flatbread which is only good for the first week. Dry bread / crackers would be better for week two. Wraps seemed to last two weeks but not sure how they would have been if it was hotter. Cheese lasted full two weeks in the food barrel but again, it wasn't hot most days. Peanut butter, Nutella and cheese were all great food to have along. Fruit cups were bloody heavy but gave us 100% vitamin C every day and tasted very good. Dried meals were good, as was instant oatmeal.
  5. Drink. As usual, having hot and cool drink mix was essential. We had the right amount.
  6. Footwear. Sandals and either light hiking boots or runners are best for canoe trips. Big, heavy, waterproof hiking boots aren't really worth it since they still get wet and take forever to dry off, even with a fire. Unless it's brutally cold, good closed-toe sandals are good for 95% of the trip (including most portages) with dry runners at camp for comfort (and for long portages). YMMV on this one.
  7. Clothing. Don't take too much! Being surrounded by water means you never go thirsty and you can always do laundry! We took very few cloths and I didn't even use some of them - we could have taken less. Gore-tex jacket / pants are essential. A fleece jacket and toque - even in summer, are life saving and then all you need is a few socks (4 pair) and undies (2), a pair of zip-off pants and a couple of shirts and that's it.
  8. Satellite Phone. I was very happy to have a satellite phone but I will change the way we use it on the next trip. For emergencies and the occasional phone call, I would say it was 100% worth it. As a weather forecast tool it really sucked. I realize now, after the trip, that we spent way too much time and energy trying to change plans based on crappy weather forecasts than we would have without any forecasts at all. At most, I would arrange texting only for weather warnings - and even that should be done sparingly. It's much better to simply use your eyes and "wilderness smarts" to make decisions, rather than wait for the weather man to tell you something different than you already know. :)
  9. Cameras. If you use more than one camera, make sure they're all time synced. My iPhone switched time zones on me and was 1 hour ahead of my other cameras. This was a major pain when putting together this trip report!
Total Distance (km): 
145.00

Difficulty Notes: 

Woodland Caribou is well off the grid. You should be prepared for remote travel and know how to survive in the wilderness on your own.