Update Major Wildfire Impact to WCPP - May 2016
The Boreal Forest requires fire to ensure it's survival and in May of 2016 there was a big one in Woodland Caribou! Selfishly, I am saddened that I will never again experience this western part of the park in the glorious old growth state it was in during our mid-2000's trips.
[The approximate area affected by the huge RED3 wildfire in May of 2016. Note that the area affected most is the exact areas we paddled in 2004-2006. ++]
In early 2005 the emails and phone calls started circulating among 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 35km. 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 just before the 300m portage. ++]
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!]
[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
[Day 2 was all about portaging and making our way up the Garner River before turning south towards Mather Lake. ++]
[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 300m 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 is lovely.]
[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 we camped somewhere in Mather Lake and spent the afternoon fishing for copious amounts of energetic Lake Trout. On Thursday we portaged over to the Haggart River and on to Haggart 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.]
[Vern and Rod on Mather Lake.]
[Camp is all set up, somewhere on Mather 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 is a deep, cold lake 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 Mather 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.]
[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 we portaged from Mather to Haggart Lake via a 475 and 300m set of carries to the Haggart River before camping at the northern end of the lake. ++]
[On Thursday we camped somewhere on the north end of Haggart Lake. ++]
[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 the Haggart River from Mather Lake.]
[Dad and Harold on another portage.]
[Bill and Ron.]
[Typical WCPP portage includes forest, bog and rocks. This is the 300m portage into the Haggart River.]
[On longer portages we do a half-carry before going back and then complete the carry.]
[Another hot day as we complete another portage into the Haggart River.]
[Vern and Rod on the Haggart River.]
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.
[Friday morning we started portaging and paddling from Haggart Lake (top right) towards Jestor Lake. ++]
[Friday afternoon we continued paddling and portaging back down the Garner River before setting up camp in Jestor Lake. ++]
[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 in Jestor Lake for the trip in perfect weather / conditions again.]
Friday June 17 | 19:26
After paddling most of the day and a number of portages we are now settled into another great camp on Jestor Lake. 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. Jestor Lake has some great Pike fishing.]
[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
[Day 6 saw us paddle and portage out of Jestor Lake before going across Garner Lake and back towards Beresford Creek and Lake. ++]
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]