Here is the account of the second week of Mike Kinziger’s solo canoe trip through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, in Ontario, Canada. If you missed the first week, you can find it in the Trip Tales Archive
WEEK Two (23 Lakes including Wrist, Streak, Amber, Nutria, Mexican Hat, Glenn, Hansen, Rostoul, Gammon, Upper Gammon, Joey, and Lightning)
September 6th (Sunday) – Camp # 8
A perfect day to paddle…. maybe too hot? I slowly paddled and fished Wrist Lake and landed three nice pike. I kept the 35-inch one and released the two 30-inchers. What a thrill to land good sized fish in a solo boat. The portage to Streak Lake was beautiful as was the lake itself. I paddled the full length of Streak west and then back east on glassy water. Along the way I caught three more fish that I released. It was early and Amber Lake was only 70 meters away. Once in Amber (and through Amber)…Nutria Lake became the next lake on route.
|But first, the portage to Nutria became the second most difficult one of the trip. Lots of “sucking” mud and slippery conditions. Almost not safe! There is nothing a traveler can do except walk through the mud and hope ones shoes don’t disappear. There was a very interesting (and different) connectedness between Nutria Lake and Mexican Hat Lake…a very narrow channel with weeds and two beaver dams to cross. A blue heron was particularly interested in me. He kept flying a hundred feet at a time in front of me while keeping a watchful eye on my progress. I also came across 30 mergansers that swam in front of me for nearly a half mile. They all seemed to be practicing the “wounded wing” routine. I ended up cornering them before they turned and “wounded wing” right by me. Interesting!|Some of the portages were quite difficult and bordering on unsafe. © Mike Kinziger
Mexican Hat Lake is spectacular. I’m so happy to be in the trees again. And I caught two nice walleye right before I got to a very well used campsite. There will be plenty of fish for dinner along with the rice and noodles. With the nice and dry conditions, I am choosing to eat the meals that require simmering time. The “one minute” meals can wait until I can use the stove.
September 7th (Monday) – Camp # 9
I lose about three minutes of daylight each day. That means that by the end of the trip, about 90 minutes of light will have been replaced by darkness. I’m used to getting up very early and retiring between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. Out here a person almost has to retreat to mosquito proof shelter when the sun goes down. I don’t think it’s possible for me to sleep for more than eight hours a day (I usually require five). That means that I have to find “tent time” things to do, i.e. writing in the journal, reading, reviewing the maps. Ninety more minutes will be a personal challenge.
I awoke this morning to fairly calm water. I decided to head in the opposite direction to visit a waterfall on Mexican Hat (east end of lake). It took a leisure hour to get to the falls. There is a campsite at the mouth of the falls that may be one of the best campsites in this wilderness. Great place! I casted a lure ten times into the outflow and caught five fish…and let them go…it’s too early in the day. I then paddled back past my previous campsite and headed toward Glenn Lake with three short portages required to get there. I started looking for a campsite with the idea that I would get up early the next morning to paddle through the big lakes of Hansen and Rostoul while the lakes were relatively calm. Guess what? No campsites on Glenn, so I made the 275-meter portage to Hansen and paddled through a short but exciting rapid with some fun standing waves. Amazing whitewater to walk around! Immediately into Hansen Lake, a number of cabins came into view on the southeast end of the lake. The waves on Hansen were a concern but I did not want to stop with a view of “civilization”.
Here’s a section of the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park map. Camp numbers marked on the map correspond to the numbers next to each day’s heading in the story. Click on the map to go to another page with a copy of the map that you can zoom on for more detail.
After the map loads, your cursor will be your guide point to trace the route in the larger image. The trip starts and ends at the left-center edge.
I paddled to the west shoreline and worked my way carefully to the north attempting to avoid the turmoil in the middle of the lake. Still no place to camp. On I paddled. Before I knew it I had reached the portage to Rostoul Lake. Efficiently, I completed the portage and immediately set out to find a home for the night. The waves on Rostoul made me uncomfortable. I hit my “challenge” limit but still could not find a place to camp. What seemed like miles later, I did find a nice little island site. Yea! What a relief. Not a fun afternoon. And I seem to be in a “race” to get around my loop. There is still no sign of rain, it’s very warm. There must have been a mosquito hatch. I enjoyed a fine meal of mashed potatoes, gumbo gravy and fresh walleye. Quite a day!
September 8th (Tuesday) – Camp # 10
Infected toe that is causing lots of pain on the portages. © Mike Kinziger |Happy birthday brother John. We are both 61 until September 25th. The wind was gusting when I got out of my sleeping bag at 6:15 a.m. Thoughts of big wind and difficult paddling on Rostoul had stayed with me most of the night. I only had a mile to paddle and then I would enter a bay to be out of the big water conditions. My plan was to travel to Gammon Lake…another large body of water…with hopes of locating a campsite immediately and then crossing through Gammon early the next morning. The weather slowly deteriorated. More wind, light rain and some thunder in the background. There were two portages along the way, a 650-meter and then a 550-meter that followed. The portages were well maintained through the big lakes. Actually, a nice hike if you can enjoy carrying the canoe and loads of gear. No mud! I’ve been experiencing pain in both feet from the rubbing of my shoes and my toes. Add this to a very sore and tender big toe on my left foot, especially on the descents.|
There was good elevation today. I enjoyed the paddle on the three-mile long no-name lake between Rostoul and Gammon. The winds were howling as I entered Gammon Lake and rain drops were beginning to fall. I refused to go out into the main body of water after looking for a camp area to the east and west. I climbed a rock close to the portage and decided that I would make it work as my camp spot for the night. It was only around noon. I am concerned for a few “widow makers” near my tent site but would rather take that chance then deal with the high winds. An afternoons rest will do me good. I have one nice pike that I will fry for dinner…Not sure of the main dish yet.
September 9th (Wednesday) – Camp # 11
It rained for nearly ten hours last night and into the early morning. I didn’t sleep well. The throbbing pain in my left foot is almost intolerable…extremely sensitive. At first light, I began packing and carrying gear down the steep, wet and slippery slope…the pain in my left foot almost preventing me from walking. Before long, the boat was loaded (lots of wet gear) and I was off on Gammon Lake with the plan of paddling four miles east up Gammon Lake before the winds picked up. A high pressure system had moved in. Clear skies, cooler temps and gusting wind. It was wise leaving so early. I headed off east and paddled into the sunrise. Choppy water but enjoyable. I caught five nice pike along the way and filleted two of them for dinner.
|I stopped at the end of Gammon Lake for a cup of coffee and oatmeal. It was a restful and needed stop. The paddling continued to be enjoyable in the channel between Gammon and Upper Gammon Lake. I entered Upper Gammon Lake after a 30-meter portage. I only had to paddle three quarters of a mile on Upper Gammon but was so distracted with the breaking waves on the lake that I overshot the channel heading north. My GPS helped me make the necessary correction. I located the channel and the rest of the day was special. I entered a no-name lake nearly surrounded in marsh and set up camp early in the afternoon. It may be one of my favorite sites to date. Just enough room and it doesn’t require me to walk around very much. A clothes line was erected and the drying process begun. I even indulged in an afternoon cup of coffee. There was some sewing to do on the tarp to keep the fabric from “balling up” in the middle. I then carefully sat down with that sewing needle and lanced that area on my foot that was causing so much pain. It oozed and oozed and oozed. Within an hour I could walk much better.|Fish frying in the pan. You can almost smell it.
© Mike Kinziger
The sun is still shinning, the wind still blowing. The wind should not be a factor tomorrow because I begin to explore and paddle up a very small creek that flows to a no-name lake that some people call Joey Lake. It’s not a long paddle but I expect beaver dams and debris to be congesting up the stream. I’m excited to be where I am right now. There is almost no possibility that I will see anyone for the next few days…not that I’ve seen anyone so far.
September 10th (Thursday) – Camp # 12
A large beaver lingered outside my campsite and slapped down nearly a dozen times. Bird life seemed to come alive as the sun set and dusk prevailed. What an excellent place to camp. The morning brought hazy skies but comfortable conditions. I was slow getting packed and just wanted to enjoy my coffee and take pleasure in the morning. I have always enjoyed “saving the best for last” and today was a day that I had been looking forward to. A four or five mile jaunt upstream on a marshy creek. I located the outlet and immediately began the vicious cycle of 90 and 180 degree turns on this old age meandering stream. At the beginning, the stream was never wider than the canoe (15’4”). Back and forth, around and around…good thing I know and enjoy how to paddle. Lots of cross draws and sweeps with an occasional back draw. The current wasn’t strong but it was still difficult keeping the bow facing the upstream direction. About one-third the way up the stream, the main channel headed east. There appeared to be a trickle of water flowing from the north. This was the way to Joey Lake.
There is something magical paddling up a tiny stream with barely enough water to navigate or to make the extreme meanders. The creek narrowed to three to five feet wide in many places. There were also numerous beaver dams that I had to pull the canoe over and into the next pool. How many? Fifteen to twenty? There were times that I thought that the channel would actually end. I had to stand in the canoe a number of times to determine which direction to go. Mile after mile. This was not “how the crow flies” miles.
Campsite on Joey Lake. © Mike Kinziger |Eventually, there were downed trees… many downed trees that required the paddler to get out and walk in the stream pulling the canoe behind him. And then there was the rocky rapid with little water but a mandatory portage. I walked upstream, in the water, to discover that about 30 meters upstream was a large beaver dam. I made three trips up to that beaver dam using the stream as my trail. It was worth it! I was in Joey Lake. It was early in the afternoon. I decided to paddle the southeast portion of the lake to look for a campsite. For the first time all day, I threw out the fishing line and before I could find a campsite, I had landed three nice walleye including one 30 inches long. Camp is set up…a very nice view. I took a very well deserved swim, washed some clothes, charged some batteries and attended to camp. What a beautiful place! And to think that I may be one of the first people to paddle all the way up this creek and perhaps only one of the few to ever visit this lake. Beef stew and walleye tonight.|
September 11th (Friday) – Camp # 13
No loons, no geese…But I did hear the distinct howl of a young wolf as it called out for nearly half an hour last night. It was so quiet that the wolf’s howl and presence may have been much closer than I could tell. Some lightning and thunder last night and into the morning. The tent and tarp set-up work well. Nice warm fire this morning…not sure of the weather but it does seem threatening. I will prepare for rain. If the wind stays mild, I will circumnavigate Joey Lake and fish along the way. It’s a big lake that is surrounded by numerous jack pines, all attempting for eventual supremacy (lots of dead young trees).
|I needed this lake. A layover…it can be a very good thing, especially for a body pushed hard for twelve days. It was also fun to spend a day in the canoe with no gear. The “Wilderness” is a fun and responsive boat. We (the canoe and I) left for a fishing and exploring trip. We accomplished both. About a half mile north on Joey, I diverted into a channel that led me first to a beaver dam and second to a beautiful, narrow lake with high rock walls on the north end. Back on Joey to complete my clockwise paddle around the lake, I observed that the north end may have some of the best camping options. My exploring was interrupted 12 times by walleye with a few finding their way onto my stringer. About three forth way around the lake, a light rain began to fall but it was not significant enough to alter the day’s plans. I did pull out on an island and stood under a tree looking back toward my campsite. So small! So distant! Today is “9-11”. There was plenty of time to reflect on events that have happened in the world….important events…but out here the most immediate concern was staying dry, being well fed and the overwhelming feeling of awe for the view in front of me all day.|One of the nice Walleye that came to dinner. © Mike Kinziger
September 12th (Saturday) – Camp # 14
Morning…no sound, quiet, very quiet all night long. I emerge to “pea soup”…murky, foggy. I can’t distinguish the shorelines that were so clear to me yesterday. Eerie…that’s what it is. The colors emitting from the campfire…the reds and yellows stand in such stark contrast to the colors of the wilderness, like a little color TV compared to large screen black and white.
It’s late afternoon. I’ve packed and moved. I’ve portaged and paddled to a camp on Lightning Lake. Not many miles traveled but many miles paddled. Exploring is like that. There is a slight tint of green in the distance but for the most part, the day has remained foggy and dreary. The wind has shifted to the north and it has cooled down considerably. The early portages were not long but with the humidity at 100%, perspiring is a problem. No fish today…I did have a nice northern pike on line but couldn’t get him in the boat. This will be my first evening without fish. The weather and wind direction changes must be factors. I located a trapper’s cabin off in the woods. It was made of logs but had a secure tin roof. The varmints and rodents have found their way inside but a padlock kept me only looking though the small window at the interior. This certainly wouldn’t have been my choice of a cabin location. It made me think more about isolation and solitude. Those early trappers were hardy men. Makes one wonder how they ended up on Lightning Lake in the middle of the Woodland Caribou?
The feet are healing. The big toe has stopped being infected. I’ve been attempting to take it easy and that seems to be working. Navy bean soup, broth and perhaps some hot jell-o for dinner.
Mica Mountain, Idaho
To be continued…