The following is a list of resources for the trip from updated portage trail conditions to maps to fishing licenses etc;
This year will be something new for us. In all previous years, the group has driven to the trailhead and canoed a loop of some sort, always arriving back at our starting point at the end of the trip. This has worked out very well for most of our trips out of Red Lake, somewhat less well for some of the Manitoba trips where there's a longer shared approach (i.e. Wallace or Garner Lakes). This year we hope to do a fly-in, paddle-out trip.
The first 6 days will be a group trip with 4-6 of us, while I plan to continue on for another 7-9 days solo afterwards. The main highlight of the route outlined below are the amazing landscapes we'll paddle through - most of it is brand new for Rod and Hentie, the first half will be new for Harold and the first day or so new for myself. I'm really looking forward to the Gammon River to Hammerhead Lake, Rostoul and Haven Lakes areas. Another huge bonus of this route will be the FISHING. There is world class, ridiculous Walleye fishing the entire route, minus one or two lakes (Wrist). You will be SICK of Walleye by the end of this thing - I guarantee it.
[Day 1.Total length of 7-12km and 6 or 7 portages totaling 800 or 950m depending if we land in Royd or Gammon Lake. There's also a slightly more easterly set of portages directly into Rostoul from Gammon Lake that are shorter if necessary. ++]
[Day 1 campsite options are plentiful in Gammon, Hammerhead and even Rostoul depending where we end up. ++]
Our first day is usually pretty long and involves driving for 6-7 hours to Red Lake, followed by another dusty drive to either the Onnie or Leano Lake parking spots along the Suffel Lake road. Thanks to forest fires in early 2016, Leano Lake is likely not a great area to trip in for at least a few more years. The portage trails need clearing and the sites will be mostly burnt (although lots of trails in the burn area are apparently cleared already). Onnie Lake is a great starting point and even has loop options - but they're very limited, hence our desire to fly in and paddle out.
If we can be in Red Lake around 10:00 - which I think is possible if we start from Rod's house bright and early on Monday morning - we should have more than enough time to prepare for our early afternoon flight. Right now we're looking at a departure from Red Lake around 13:00 which puts us paddling on either Royd or Gammon by around 14:00, with at least 8-9 hours of daylight remaining. Because we always have lots of energy on Day 1, I see no issues with making a campsite on Hammerhead Lake by late evening. There are a lot of portages down the Gammon River, but these should be well traveled and will be spectacular scenery. If the weather is not optimal there are shorter options including flying directly into Rostoul or Gammon, or taking a different set of portages that don't follow the Gammon River from Gammon to Rostoul Lake.
If the weather is crappy and we can't fly in on Monday we have a tough choice to make. Wait for better flying weather later in the day or even Tuesday morning, or drive to the Onnie Lake put-in? No wrong choice per se, but hopefully not one we have to make. If we chose to wait for later in the day or Tuesday, we simply fly into Rostoul or even Haven Lake. If we put-in at Onnie, then we will have to do some sort of loop similar to the 2016 trip, but maybe with some more exploring in Embryo and Hatchet / Douglas Lake rather than going west to Glenn Lake.
[Day 2 maps. Total length of ~18km and 6 portages totaling 1770m camping in Jigsaw Lake. Obviously shorter depending where exactly we fly-in or camp on day 1. ++]
[Day 2 campsites on Jigsaw (lower left with 4 sites). ++]
We should spend some time on day 2, fishing through Rostoul, especially under the first set of rapids out of Hammerhead Lake. There's Walleye, Pike and Lake Trout everywhere here. Rostoul is a gorgeous, old growth lake. I've only been through the southern tip from Hansen in 2016, so I'm excited to paddle more of it. The rest of the way to Haven is a bit of a mess, but not horrible. First there's a creek to navigate - count on getting wet feet here. The final portage into Haven Lake definitely has boggy sections and is buggy too. But it's all worth it! Once you get onto Haven, you'll quickly forget the muck and bugs. This is a very interesting landscape with tons of Walleye everywhere and lots of great campsites to have a late shore lunch on. Originally I wanted to camp in Haven, but this makes for a very long day on Wednesday, so I think we should push on to Jigsaw, which is also a very nice lake loaded with Walleye.
We should try to get into Haven Lake as early as possible to give us time to fish for Walleye and have a break here. I think we should be able to get to Haven by early afternoon. We should fish Haven for a while in the afternoon, but take the 300m and 575m portages into Jigsaw Lake in the later afternoon or even the evening (weather permitting), in order to make Wednesday a lot more bearable. There seems to be up to 4 campsites on Jigsaw now (see the map above). If the weather isn't good, these sites could be challenging as this area is burnt and I don't remember seeing many tall trees when we paddled through it. (I've confirmed with Harlan that there are some workable sites in Jigsaw.)
[Day 3. Total length of 12km and 5 portages totaling 2465m, if we start from Jigsaw Lake. There is also the option of staying in a site between Wrist and Hansen which would shorten the day by up to 850m of portaging. ++]
[Day 3 campsites, either all the way on Hansen or somewhere in between Wrist and Hansen Lakes. ++]
I think it's fair to say that day 3 could make or break us with portaging! ;) I hope we've camped in Jigsaw the day before but if we have bad weather or anything else that required us to stay in Haven Lake, we might need to totally rejig this part of our route at the last minute or have a really long day! The portages through Jigsaw and to Wrist are well marked and pretty easy travel over bare rocks, and through a burn and were even maintained last year. We've done the route from Wrist to Hansen before, but it was very tough even without the recent burn. Thankfully trail crews have been through here in 2017 to clear the route for us - this should make a big difference! (http://canoeing.com/forums/topic/canoe-route-conditions-august-2017-update/) I'm happy to note that there are at least two campsites in between Wrist and Hansen Lake, which could come in handy in case of inclement weather or tired bodies.
[Day 4. Total length of 19km and 5 portages totaling 910m. Note that if we camp in between Wrist and Hansen on day 3, we increase our distance paddled and portages by up to 850m. ++]
[Day 4 campsite on Optic Lake - there seems to only be the one! It is further south than I indicated on the route map above, but that just means a bit less paddling. ++]
After day 3, day 4 will feel much easier despite being a bit longer in total distance. The portages should be well traveled and Harold and I have done them all before - multiple times on different trips. The only fly in the ointment would be a strong easterly or northerly wind later in the day - that would suck! According to the new campsite map of WCPP there is only one site on Optic Lake, so hopefully we get it. Also note that it's likely that on day 3 we will camp in between Wrist and Hansen, making days 3 and 4 more equivalent.
[Day 5. Total length of 13km and only 3 portages totaling 230m if we stay in Telescope. Total length of 19km and 7 portages totaling 855m if we push on to Onnie Lake. ++]
[Day 5 campsite options include three on Telescope Lake and four on Onnie. ++]
Just as day 4, we don't want easterly winds on Friday! Westerlies would be fantastic. We could blow across one lake after another without even paddling. We did this paddle in 2016 and the portages get more and more traveled the closer to Onnie Lake we get. Once again, these are all Walleye lakes with tons of great fishing at all the prime spots (i.e. fast water). Telescope Lake is pretty nice. We have the option of camping in Telescope Lake, which makes Friday pretty short and easy - lots of time to fish on our way out of Optic and all the way to Telescope. Of course, this makes Saturday longer, but it's up to us what we prefer.
[Day 6. Total length of 9.5km with 7 portages totaling 1630m or 2.5km with 3 portages totaling 1005m if we camp in Onnie Lake. ++]
I think we were back in the Onnie parking lot before noon in 2016 when we camped in Onnie Lake. This is fine, but makes for a very short Saturday. Either way, it's very straightforward and well traveled between Telescope and Onnie.
After bidding the rest of the group "adieu" at the Onnie Lake parking spot, I am going to do something I've never done before.