Thursday, 27 December 2012

An update!

Well, I've been working on this site for the past week or so and I finally have managed to post up all the trip diaries from the old website. If you look to the right side of the page you'll see a couple of buttons labelled winter/summer trips. The links to the trips are there so you won't have to scroll through the entire blog or look in the history section. It's been a long process of cut and paste, reformatting and finding all the old photos and getting them either into Picassa albums or onto the new Mac hardrive.

Oh yeah, that's why I've been doing this... the old site was done with an older version of Dreamweaver programming for a PC. We switched over to a Apple in 2010 and I lost the ability to add to the old site and consequently it's sat idle since. This new site will allow me to update regularly and to also start catching up an the backlog of trip diaries since 2010 :-)

Anyway, have a look and I'll start on the backlog next week! Cheers.


Marjorie Lake Loop Revisited, Solo - 2010

It had been a hectic spring and for various reasons I hadn't managed a trip all spring! Finally I had a few days available for a quick trip and I decided to head into one of my favourite haunts - the Chiniguichi area. I had gone looking for an old route in 2007 through the Marjorie Lk chain clockwise through Wolf-Chiniguichi lakes. I wanted to go see how the portages had been re-established by various folks since I had been through in 2007. A trip report of the 2007 trip can be found here - Marjorie Lake Loop, Solo - 2007

This time around I'd travel counter clockwise through the Laura Creek - Evelyn lake side and back down through Marjorie - Wolf. Since it was June and the height of bug season, I didn’t think I’d run into too many other folks and my assumption proved correct even though the bugs were not very numerous or onerous at all.

Day 1

I packed the vehicle and my wife dropped me off at the eastern end of the Crystal Portage between Matagamasi and Wanapitei Lakes where I loaded up and shoved off at 9:30. I headed northeast up McCarthy Bay heading for the portage that leads to the Laura Creek route, which is part of the popular Wolf Lake – Laura Creek loop.

The Marjorie Lake loop can be accessed from this loop from either direction for it runs between the two arms of the loop. Brian Back from has an excellent set of maps detailing the entire Chinguichi area - Chiniguichi Maps

It was a pleasant day and I headed north planning to spend the night on Evelyn Lake. The winds,  although in my face much of the time were light and of little consequence for a change. I spent some time looking at the logging flume remains on the first portage and then carried on arriving at the eastern campsite on Evelyn Lake around 4:00. I set up my hammock, cooked supper and relaxed with a book till it was time to turn in.

Distance paddled – 18.5 km   Distance portaged – 1890 m.

Day 2

My hammock had been hung close to the bank of the island site I was camped on and at around 6:00 am a family of mergansers swam giving me a “wake up call”. It was a warm sunny morning and I was packed and on the water by 8:30 or so but the possibility of some rain later in the day was evident in the clouds moving in from the west. I worked my way north up the creek system paddling and wading where necessary and with a lift over and 1 portage before I entered Laura Lake. The clouds moved in and it was now an overcast day but the rain continued to hold off. I was headed for the northwest corner of the lake and the portage over a height of land into McConnell Bay on Chiniguichi Lake.
This portage crosses a ridge between the 2 lakes but also crosses a bog or swampy area along the way. This stretch can be quite wet depending on the season and rainfall etc and we had experienced one of the dryer winter and springs in recent years however the bog portion of the portage was “wet”. In fact it was wet enough to float the canoe and my pack across the bog to dryer ground!

Once I hit McConnell Bay and had a bit of lunch I headed for the 1st portage to the chain of lakes that comprise the route through Marjorie Lake to Wolf Lake. I pushed on through to Marjorie Lake where I planned to spend the night. I arrived at the campsite around 3:30 and quickly setup my hammock and a small tarp as it was beginning to shower on and off.

Distance paddled – 16.5 km   Distance portaged – 1365 m.

Day 3

Day three dawned with a heavy fog settled in over the lake. It really hadn’t rained very much and the day promised to clear up and be sunny. I brewed some coffee and started packing up when a loon began to call with great gusto and regularity as he approached the campsite area. He swam out of the fog and put on a show for me calling and preening etc for about 10 minutes before continuing on down the lake calling all the while.

I packed up and followed him down to the next portage into Rathwell Lake. This portage begins at the end of the bay however it has filled in with floating mats of vegetation etc and you can pick up an extension of the port on the left side of the bay before you get into the floating mats. The fog had completely burned off by the time I finished the portage to Rathwell and it indeed was a beautiful day. 

I pushed on heading for Laundry Lake via a 2 part portage from Rathwell. I stopped to photograph a small boggy area along the port that was full of blooming Blue Flag plants. The black flies were out in greater numbers on this day so I had my lunch in the boat as I drifted on Laundry Lake.

The last time I was through here I didn’t have time to find and use the old traditional portage route out Laundry to Wolf Lake but the trail had been relocated and brushed out and I used it this time. A portion of the trail is under the Wolf Lake road now but both ends are the traditional portage route. It was a hot day so I had a quick dip in Wolf Lake upon my arrival and then headed down to the southeast campsite and set up for the evening. I amused myself with my book and a bold camp chipmunk who was evidently quite used to people as he would often run over my feet and up my legs looking for some more nuts and dried cranberries.

Distance paddled – 9.1 km   Distance portaged – 2100 m.

Day 4
It was sunny morning with a mist over the lake when I woke up. I quickly ate and packed up as it was my last day and my wife was to meet and pick me up at noon. I headed off down into Sylvester Lake and the portage around the cascades along the Chiniguichi River. There is another portage across a small chunk of the river but there was enough water and I ran this section that empties into Matagamasi Lake. I arrived at the take out about 11:30 or so and my wife picked me up at noon on schedule.

Distance paddled – 13 km   Distance portaged – 240 m.

An enjoyable trip and as I originally suspected the only people I ran into the entire time were on Matagamasi Lake on the first and last days. For a trip in June the bug populations were way down, much more like a late July trip.

The portages on the Marjorie Lake portion are all in good shape now that the route is being used a bit more. The ports are mainly marked with either a blaze or a small bit of flagging tape.


Postscript: The old Natawgan portage between Wolf and Laundry Lakes was re-established in the spring of 2012. and is shown on the Ottertooth maps for the Chiniguichi area. The Nastawgan is the most direct and alleviates the use of the road.

Spanish River Backcountry, Biscotasing to Sheahan - 2009

This trip was taken in July 2009 with our good friends Bob and Allie and our always willing and ready “Canoedog” - Lily.  Our friends Bill and Marg unfortunately were unable to make the trip but there’s always next year!  We wanted to do a trip that allowed us to use the Budd Car rail service from Sudbury to travel both to and from the route.

Day One

We used the Budd Car service from Sudbury to Biscotasing where we started our trip. The train left Sudbury approx. 1 hr. late due to a summer maintenance program on the tracks. Train was very busy with 2 coach cars plus the baggage car and many canoeists using the service this weekend boarding in both Sudbury and Cartier. Other than our group, the rest of the canoeists were doing Spanish River trips – one group from The Forks and the remainder doing the west branch of the Spanish from Biscotasing.

The train arrived in Biscotasing about 2 hr. later than normal. We launched along with the group doing the west branch from the general store beach and parted ways shortly after – the other group heading northeast for the Spanish and us heading south down Biscotasing Lake. It was a cool and showery day and as usual the wind was up and in our faces! Due to the lateness of the start and the weather we decided to stay our first night on Biscotasing Lake in a sheltered area before we hit the larger open area to the south. The campsite was freshly cleaned and a new thunderbox installed by Parks Ontario staff.

Distance traveled - 7.5 km

Day 1 Photos 

Day Two

Day 2 started out overcast with a southerly breeze, after a leisurely breakfast we packed up and were on our way south to Indian Lake. After a brisk paddle we arrived at our one and only portage of the day into Indian lake – you have 2 choices walk the portage about 200 metres or use the marine railway that the locals use to transport heavier boats back and forth. We decided to use the railway more for the novelty as it’s probably just as quick to use the portage if canoeing.

We headed south on Indian Lake stopping to have lunch in the boats along the way and the skies cleared. We headed down to the central portion of Indian Lake or the “hub” area and checked out several different campsites before settling on an island site near the east shore of the lake. It was a gorgeous evening and we again set up the bug tent and watched the sunset with a wee dram.

Distance traveled – 18.5 km    Portages – 1 – 200 m.

Day Three
The day began with clear skies with a few cumulus cloud build-ups to the west.
After another leisurely breakfast (beginning to detect a pattern here!) we packed and headed south for Mozhabong Lake. We reached the portage out of Indian Lake into Mozhabong Lake around lunch time – there is dam used to control water levels here and there are 2 portages – 1 on the right is short and steep (25 m.) and one on the left with 2 possible take outs at approx. 200 – 250 m. If water levels are high or low it is probably easier to use the ports on the left, as the port on the right is right at the base of the dam.

 After lunch on the Mozhabong side of the dam we headed off again. The area above the dam would be a meandering run through a swampy area if the water was low but with this years high water we could cut corners and not worry about the channel. You head south then southeast though a long bay before you enter the large portion of the lake and we then turned south towards some possible campsites in the middle portion of the lake.

Unfortunately the sites are heavily used by folks and are at best dirty with broken glass in the fire pits and cans, old furniture and bbq’s all left behind – seems to me if you can pack it in – you can certainly pack it out. We spent an hour and cleaned up a site as best we could before setting up tents and the bug shelter and settling in for the evening.

Distance traveled – 21 km   Portages – 1 – 200 m.

Day Four

It’s another beautiful morning and as per what turned out to be the normal morning routine we were again on the water around 9:30 am heading south. The winds were up this morning and we had to deal with a 20 km headwind whenever we couldn’t hide behind the islands and mainland as we made our way south.
After crossing the large open area of the lake’s southern end, we headed into the bay on the southeast corner of the lake and paddled our way to our first multiple portage day.

The narrow bay peters out into a small creek that enters from the south, we had to lift over a small rocky constriction into a small pond area covered in water lily’s – quite a pretty area. With the high water levels we were able to paddle right up to the beginning of the portage on the left of the creek entering the pond rather than wade through the last bit although I understand the bottom is solid! The portage runs along an rocky ridge for about 400 m. before heading down the hill to another pond area, we paddled about halfway down the pond and had lunch in the boats again, to stay out of the flies and mosquitoes – the wind was up and we drifted almost all the way back to our starting point.

The portage from this small pond to Dusty Lake crosses through a swampy area that in drier years would be certainly an easier slog than we had – with this summers abundant and regular rainfalls the swamp was wet walking from one side to the other!  You begin the portage on the right side of the swampy area and head easterly trying to follow the trail – we had to deviate through many areas, as the trail was wet and full of muddy areas, which you don’t want to step into! You cross a small rock outcrop about halfway across the portage but again you head down and through the bog till you reach Dusty Lake. This ended up being the hottest day of the trip with the most bugs just to make this small piece of northern Ontario a wee bit of hell! In drier conditions this portage although challenging would not be nearly as trying.

With everyone fairly spent, we paddled around the main portion of Dusty Lake looking for a campsite. There is a large site on the south end of the large island but there was a mess with trash and building materials so we opted for a rustic site on the small island off the northwest end of the large island.

Distance traveled – 14.5 km   Portages – 2 – 1100 m.

Day Five

We awoke to a blanket of fog covering the lake in the morning, which soon burned off with the promise of another beautiful day ahead of us. After a quick paddle to the south end of Dusty we managed to paddle and drag the boats through a narrow rock filled channel into a small pond, which leads to the portage into Landry Lake. Unfortunately the sun disappeared behind an overcast sky but the bugs didn’t leave! The portage was marked by a couple of overturned boats cached on the shore and again with the wet year there was a wet area to traverse in the first 100 m. or so of the portage which is about 300 m. long.

Once in Landry lake we headed north for about a 1 km paddle to an old bridge which you portage around for the short distance of 40 m. or so into Sinaminda Lake. We then headed in a northeasterly direction on Sinaminda stopping for a lunch break in the boats again. Once we entered the main southern basin of the lake we passed 4 groups of fishermen who access the lake from the dam at the southeast corner of the lake.

The next portage is along the east shore into Gilden Lake and you need to take the trail at the more northerly takeout to avoid some blow down etc. across the old trail. The portage is about 1 km long and is in good shape. The sun reappeared as the clouds cleared away and we headed off down Gilden Lake to the portage into Dennie Lake. The portage is well marked with a couple of cached boats on the shoreline and is also in good shape and about 350 m. long. Dennie Lake has a cabin on the northeast corner of the lake and it was in use as we passed by on the way to our last portage of the day into Little Pogamasing Lake.

The take out was a bit tricky as it is rocky and with a stiff breeze blowing from behind us it made for a bumpy landing. The portage into Little Pogamasing is also in good shape and about 500 m. long however with the rainy season we had to slog through about 40 m. of water to get to the canoeable water at the end of it!

We headed north on Little Pogamasing and camped at a site on the west shore about 1.75 km from the portage. The camp is up on a small rock point and had a downed tree crossing it however there was room for 2 tents in the bush behind and room out front for a fire and the bug tent.

Distance traveled – 20 km     Portages – 5 - 2200 m.

Day Six

We awoke to partly cloudy sky that promised of some rain to come later in the day but we held to our routine and managed to get away by about 9:30 or 10:00 again!
We headed north on the lake for the Pogamasing River, which is the route out of Little Poggamasing to Pogamasing Lake.

The river is actually more creek like in nature than a river but there is always sufficient water to paddle through however there are numerous lift over’s and portages to deal with along the way – 7 to be exact at the water levels we encountered but that could be more or less pending time of year and the water levels.

The first small obstacle was about 30 m. in length and there was sufficient water and enough suitable rocks on the shore that we lined the canoes down and carried on for about 500 m.

The next obstacle was a short stretch of rapids without a suitable opportunity to line the canoes so we ended up portaging across the rocks for about 50 m.

After another short paddle of about 800 m. we ran into a shallow rapid – we managed to bump along for a bit then took out river left for about a 250 m. portage to another pond area of the river. We stopped for lunch here as the bugs weren’t too bad.

After another quick paddle we portaged about 40 m. around an old logging dam before another short portage of about 20 m. around another small rapid/waterfall. As we set out again we paddled through a brief downpour to a very rocky and tricky takeout to the next portage to Pejeke Lake of 700 m. The portage splits about 30 m. along the way, stay left and it brings you around a series of rapids to Pejeke Lake. The trail was fairly overgrown in some spots and the rain made the footing somewhat adventurous in spots.
After the portage you have the longest paddle of this stretch – about 2 km to the last portage into Pogamasing Lake. This portage is about 600 m. long and had been cleared of deadfall by someone with a chainsaw just that day. By the time we finished the portage the sun had reappeared the skies had cleared and the wind had come up.

We headed out into Pogamasing Lk hoping to head north to an island campsite but there were 2 foot high waves out of the southwest so we opted to head straight across the lake and camped for the evening on a great beach on the east shore of the lake.
A day of short distance traveled but with a lot of stop and go due to all the portaging but an enjoyable day due to the variety of terrain, water and scenery.

Distance traveled – 10 km    Portages – 7 – 1700 m.

Day Seven

Well it was our last day and as we only had to travel to the train stop at Sheahan, it was an even more relaxed morning than had been the norm for this trip! We packed and hit the water at about 11:00 heading for the portage to the Spanish River – a 2 km paddle and an 800 m.  portage along a road to the river took about 1.5 hr.

With plenty of time we had lunch on the east bank of the river before carrying the gear up to the tracks. As usual with the Budd Car it was somewhat late but other than a brief rain shower and dealing with the black flies and mosquitoes it was a pleasant enough afternoon.

Distance traveled – 3 km   Portage – 1 – 800 metres

Sheahan Train Stop

A list for "next time"

Total trip distance – 92 km   Total portages - 16 – 6200 m.

“This trip was planned using a trip report and maps from Erhard Kraus' website and who has canoed extensively in the area." See the links for further information on portage and possible campsite locations etc.

Kukagami - Carafel - Donald Lake Loop, Oct 2008

The Thanksgiving weekend had passed by with it's gorgeous summer like weather (I had to work) but the 3 day forecast for Thursday to Saturday following was for reasonable weather. It looked like cool with sunny periods and only a small chance of a shower. I quickly decided to book Thursday/Friday off and to do a quick loop in the Kukagami Lake area northeast of Sudbury. A firend had cleared some portages along part of a route from Kukagami Lake out through Carafel Lake to Maskinonge Lake, so I decided I head out that way and then loop back through a a couple potholes, Potvin and Donald Lakes.

Day 1

Left the house at about 9:00 and headed to Sportsman's Lodge on Kukagami Lake. Arrived about 10:00 and after quickly checking to ensure I could call Jan (2 pay phones available - 1outside/1 inside) I loaded the canoe was on my way by 10:30.

Its mid week after the holiday weekend and the lake is quiet. I see only a few folks along the way, most likely some of the permanent residents on the lake. Weather is cool, partly overcast and the wind is about 15 km/hr out of the northwest - all in all a good day for canoeing! I head north on Kukagami and soon turn east down Outlet Bay heading for the first portage into Carafel Creek. The port is easy to find and leads to a small pond at the bottom of the rapid where the sun appears and I sit and eat my lunch. A quick paddle across the pond and I'm at the second portage. I pass through two more ports bypassing small falls and rapids before entering Carafel Lake.

The creek is a winding swampy section from the last port to the lake and I scare up several flocks of ducks along the way. As I enter the lake a boat passes by heading to the south end of the lake - most likely a group of hunters. Carafel Lake is situated north/south and of course I'm headed north and into the wind again! There is a beaver dam across the outlet from the lake but its only a couple feet high and an easy lift over. The creek continues to wind its way through some swampy areas on its way to Maskinonge Lake. There is a set of bridge abutments with the bridge removed after the logging operation in the area and beavers have dammed the creek here. This is an ambitious affair and is a good 6' high.
the dam

I again encounter another small beaver dam about 100 metres shy of Maskinonge Lake. After lifting over this dam, it is readily apparent that the lake has been drawn down through the dams in the area as the water levels look to be about 5.5' lower than the high water marks. Its loew enough that I can't float the last section of creek and have to portage across the boulder field to the lake.

Maskinonge is part of the Chiniguichi River system and water levels tend to fluctuate depending on the time of year and demands for the water throughout the system. I head north  (into the wind!) as I'm headed for an island campsite about 3+ km up the lake. I reach camp about 4:00 pm as the skies clear off and set up for the evening. I sit facing the west with a book and a tea in the warm sun till it's time to make supper. I cook and clean up by 6:00 pm in anticipation of it being dark by 7:15 - 7:30. I sit around a small fire and watch an almost full moon rise over the lake in the clear crisp evening. The moon is bright and the stars put on a good show but I retire around 9:30 to the tent and a good book.

Distance Traveled - 18.5 km     Distanced portaged - 800 m.

Day 1 Photos

Day 2

It's a cool damp morning to wake up to and the lake is totally fogged in and the temperture hovers around -2 C. The fly on the tent is covered in frozen water droplets from the fog. As I was in no great hurry on this trip, I rolled over and stayed warm in my sleeping bag till 8:00 am. The fog was still thick when I arose and while I ate breakfast and packed up it started to dissipate and some sun and blue sky poked through. I was loaded and on the water by 9:30 heading north through some patchy fog conditions.. However no winds this morning and the sun continued to burn the fog patches off. It was a beautifully calm morning and the moon was still setting over the sunlit shoreline. It was about an hours paddle to the portage that leaves Maskinonge and takes the route west again through a series of ponds and lakes to Donald lake.

The route is a favourite of the camp in the area and they keep it maintained. The first port is short (140 m) to a pond but I carried around the pond ias it was quite low, add the 2nd port (320 M) for a total of approx 900 metres. The put in is just past an old rock and timber dam that is a remnant of the old logging drives in the area. The port actually passes through the dam in a section that has been cleared of rock. A quick paddle brings you to a short portage around a pretty little falls.

Another 10 minutes brings you to another short portage along a rocky creek bed into Potvin Lake. Here the skies start to cloud over, the temperature dropped and of course the wind came up and I had to paddle into it!

The west end of Potvin Lake presents a waterfall and rapids to portage around about 180 metres on the right. It was another 10 minutes up the creek to the short portage into Donald Lake. This is one of my favourite lakes and several nice campsites, particularily at the north end of the lake. As it's still early afternoon, I decide to push on and do the last portage of the trip back into Kukagami Lake.  It's about a 1000 metres but it is a well used and maintained portage.

Once on Kukagami I head for a campsite and the skies opened up for a quick 3 minute shower! The sun quickly reappeared and I dried out quickly. Once at the campsite I hung the tent and tarp to dry since it was packed wet but the sun and wind dried everything quickly.  After supper I enjoyed a fire, the stars till I headed to the tent and my book.

Distanced traveled - 15.5 km   Distance portaged - 2200

Day 2 Photos 

Day 3

Another cool night but without the heavy fog of the previous morning. There is a covering of frost on everything though, as the temperature was -4C. I stayed abed till 8:00 again before getting up for breakfast and tea. It was another beautiful day with no wind and clear sunny skies. I had aliesurely breakfast and was packed and on the water at 10:30. As I rounded the point to head south I spotted a Bald Eagle sitting in a snag.
Bald Eagle
Kuakagami Lake has 2 distinct parts - the northern basin is the undeveloped portion of the lake and is separated from the developed southern basin by a 1 km long narrows. I was in no hurry and slowly paddled along the shoreline past some of the cottages and such. I had lunch in a sheletered bay of an island and arrived back the Sportsman's Lodge around 12:30. I carried my kit and canoe up to the lodge office area and went in and phoned Jan for pickup. While I waited, I sat in the dining area warming myself in front of the wood stove and enjoyed a beer and some conversation with George, the lodge owner.

The Sportsman's Lodge offers canoe outfitting, trip planning assistance, shuttle services and secure parking for canoeists in the area. It sure is nice to finish a trip at the lodge with a cold beer!

Distance traveled - 8 km   Total trip distance - 42 km

Day 3 Photos

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Matagamasi - Sturgeon River - Laura Creek Loop - 2005

Left home in Sudbury around 11:00 am with Rick and his partner “Casey” an energetic Brittany spaniel for the put in. Travel east on Hwy 17, north on the Kukagami Lk road to the public access point on Matagamasi Lake. It took about ½ hour to unload and pack the 2 canoes, park the van and we hit the water at 13:30. As usual, we had to paddle into a strong north wind making for a long afternoon. Along the east shore of the North Arm of Matagamasi Lake we passed a cow and calf moose. After 2 portages from Matagamasi into Silvester Lake and a short lift over into Wolf lake, we reached our intended campsite on the east side at 18:30. 

Distance paddled – 16 km   Distance portaged – 710 m

Day 1 Photos 

Awoke to a beautiful morning and were on the water at 08:00. Short paddle across Wolf and portaged into Dewdney Lk where we met a couple canoeing the Chiniguchi – Laura Creek loop heading south. After portaging into Chiniguchi Lk we again encountered a fairly stiff headwind. North end of Chiniguchi and there is a short 10m portage across a road into Sawhorse Lk. The portage to Adelaide Lk can be confusing as there are roads and trails throughout the area. Access the portage on the north shore of Sawhorse – ATV trail – left along trail to road – follow road to intersection of another road – turn right then left down an old grass covered road to Adelaide Lk. North on Adelaide, we did lift over into the small creek and a second lift over at old bridge into Button Lk. There is a portage (R) from Adelaide to Button if water levels in small creek are too low to float through. North then northwest on Button to the portage into Dougherty Lk. This is strenuous portage in spots – rocky takeout with a steep climb and a steep and rocky descent to Dougherty, exercise caution if wet. We paddled a further 1.5 km and camped for the night on an island site facing the west at 18:00.

Distance paddled – 24 km   Distance portaged – 1,945 m

Day 2 Photos 

Another gorgeous day and we’re on the water at 08:00 again. Northwest across Dougherty, portage 160m into Frederick the bugs (black flies and mosquitoes) are fierce in the absence of any wind this morning. Hap’s book shows a bridge and portage on Frederick Lk but the centre section of the bridge is gone and you float right through. It is an easy 190m portage into Stouffer Lk. The portage from Stouffer to the river rises fairly steeply from the lake and then is a generally long easy downhill trail to the Sturgeon River. We stopped for a quick lunch before heading down river. We followed Hap Wilson’s descriptions of the river closely from this point onward. The water levels were adequate but not as high as one would expect due to an extremely early and dry spring. Hap's descriptions were bang on for the portion travelled.. The only change was for the CII rapid that he identifies as “The Gorge” it had a tree across the river right at the top of the rapid so we had to portage instead of running it. Some of the portages are steep and rocky and all have exposed tree roots so caution must be exercised when carrying equipment etc. We camped on a point at UTM E531840N5208610 at 17:30. 

Distance paddled – 25 km  Distance portaged- 2,240m

Day 3 Photos 

Awoke to an overcast morning with many bugs! We were on the water at 08:00 with an immediate 255m portage around a falls. The river from here down to where we left the river is a pleasant run consisting of C1-2 rapids and swifts. The river widens out into lake like area then narrows again with 3 sets of rapids between another wide area. The river slows and levels out from here to the next portage off the river. About 1 km downstream from the 2nd wide area you will see the remnants of an old sawmill on river right. Just past an old “jack ladder” that carried logs up the bank into the mill is the mouth of Halleck Creek and a road ending at the river, this is the beginning of the portage leading west to a series of lakes. This is the longest portage on the route, 1,475m but is mostly on old roads. Head west for about 200 m them you take the older road branching to the right. Eventually you come to a clearing with an old truck body and an old VW, turn right down the hill, stay left and the portage carries on along a swampy creek area to the put in. Paddle west to the creek into Hammend Lake and paddle/wade/line into Hammend Lk. 

We got caught in a thundershower at this point and it continued to rain on and off till roughly midnight. Southwest on Hammend to the creek from Halleck Lake, the portage is up the creek 250m on the right and has a tunnel like opening in the bush line. Portaged 305m R into Halleck Lake, paddled southwest to the beginning of the portage into Sunfish where we set up camp for the night, at 16:30.

Distance paddled – 22 km  Distance portaged- 2035m

Day 4 Photos 

Awoke to a damp and foggy morning; however we packed up and began the portage to Sunfish Lk. at about 08:00 again. Portage is 560 m to the creek put in, paddled a short distance and lifted over a beaver dam and continued on into Sunfish Lk. Southwest on Sunfish to the 695m portage R into Rawson Lk. The portage rises steeply out of Sunfish but levels off halfway to Rawson. By the time we are again paddling west on Rawson the fog has completely burned off. You turn north into the northwest arm of Rawson to the portage into Laura Creek. The portage climbs steadily up for about half the portage and then steadily downhill to the put in on Laura Creek.

 Paddle northwest for a short distance and then turn south down the creek system. Portage 160m L, portage ends at a small metal bridge. South along the creek to lift over, 5m. South to beaver dam, lift over and paddle/wade through Laura Creek to Evelyn Lk. South across Evelyn through narrows and portage 800m L into Irish Lake. Paddle south on Irish Lake and then portage 500m L to Bonesteel Lake. Paddle south on Bonesteel to portage 100m R around an old logging dam into Wessel Lake. Paddle south on Wessel to portage 190m R into Laura Creek again. We camped on the ridge to the right at this portage for the night at 16:30.

Distance traveled – 18 km  Distance portaged- 3,355m

Day 5 Photos 

Up early and portaged 190 R into Laura Creek (8:00am), paddled south on Laura Creek to portage 700m L into Matagamasi Lake, then southwest on McCarthy Bay and south on Matagamasi to the public access. Off the water at 12:30.

Distance traveled – 15 km  Distance portaged – 890m

Day 6 Photos

Chiniguichi - Marjorie Lake Loop - Solo 2007

I often spend time looking at maps of different areas always on the lookout for something new or off the beaten path to go and explore. This past spring one such area not too far from home caught my eye. I asked around and although a few folks I talked to knew of the area they had not tripped through the area, so that settled it and I decided to go check it out.

I left home in Sudbury around 8:50 in the morning and after picking up a coffee I was at the put in on Matagamasi Lake at 9:55. A quick 10 minutes to unload the canoe and gear and I was on the water by 10:10 and heading north. As is my usual luck when paddling this lake there is a stiff headwind for about 4 kms till I pass the north east arm of the lake and then I'm more sheltered and the wind slackens off. 

It is a gorgeous spring day, temperature is running around 20 Celcius and the blackflies are out although they are not as bad as some trips yet I do use some DEET on the portages. After Matagamasi Lk. there are 2 portages around a series of rapids and waterfalls on the Chiniguichi R between Silvester and Matagamasi Lakes. Although it is only mid May the water levels are the lowest I've seen for this time of year. With the great paddling conditions I opt to head up through Silvester-Wolf and Dewdney lakes and cross the portage into Chiniguichi Lake and stay at the first campsite in southeast bay about 3/4 km from the port. I arrive at 17:30 and set up camp, eat and enjoy the loons and the sunset.

Distance paddled - 22 km    Distance portaged - 1400 metres

Day 1 Photos 

I awake to a cool morning and the mist burning off the lake around 6:00 am. After a liesurely breakfast, I pack and leave around 8:30. The lake is dead calm but I know that will change later in the day, however my route will be taking me into some smaller lakes that shouldn't be as affected by the winds. This is a popular canoeing area north east of Sudbury and my route is taking me north on Chiniguichi into McConnell Bay. The route most folks take is over a portage into Laura Lake and down through the Laura Creek system. There is another route possible from McConnell Bay down through a series of small lakes into Marjorie, Rathwell and Laundry lakes back into Wolf Lake. The route is marked on Craig Macdonald's historical map of the Temagami area Nastawgan or canoe routes. Craig Macdonald's Nastawgan Map

Chiniguichi Lk - spotted some Lake Trout on a gravel shoal along this shoreline
It is not a well used route and I had been unable to find any mention of it or anyone who has canoed it recently so I decided to just go explore the route and see if I could find the old portages etc. The first portage out of Chiniguichi is in the southeast corner of McConnell Bay. I headed to the area and found an old portage on the right hand side of the small creek flowing out of the lake (70 metres) although the Nastawgan map has it on the left. It was marked by an old piece of flagging and although the trail is getting overgrown it was discernible but not used much very recently - maybe by a local trapper in the winter months in the past.

I continued south for about a km to a large beaver dam and portaged left around it (40 metres). It is about 3/4 km to the next portage. I paddle up to the base of a small series of waterfalls and find a rough overgrown trail on the right up to the next lake. It is a steep takeout and not a lot of room but it is only about 75 metres long. There is an old blaze on a large pine on the upper end of the portage but it is quite overgrown through the middle section.

Again, it is only about 3/4 km to the next portage which is in a low swampy area, I paddled in as far as possible and I checked both sides and elected to go to the left side as it was not as overgrown and somewhat drier. This portage is approx 200+ metres long. I just picked the path of least resistance though to the the other side through the fairly dense undergrowth. I didn't find or see any blazes or old tape that marked a possible portage here but then I also didn't walk the right hand side of the creek either!

The other side is the north end of Marjorie Lake which is over 4 km long in and lies in a north-south orientation. As it is now afternoon the winds are up and as usual in my face again. The north end of the lake is separated from the main body of water by a 300 metre narrows and the winds are quite brisk as I head into the main lake area. I had planned to spend the second night here and I head down the eastern shore looking for the old marked campsite. It is found on the east shore where the lake narrows again. It is on a rock shelf about 20' higher than the lake level and with the wind it is virtually bug free. I set up my hammock and then snooze in the warm afternoon sun. I arrived here about 15:00 in the afternoon so it was a relaxed pace and the portages were'nt to difficult although the blackflies were more plentiful than the previous day.

Distance paddled - 15 km    Distance portaged - approx. 385 metres

Day 2 Photos 

Another nice morning with a hint of a breeze and some high wispy cloud that indicates a front will passing through the area later today. I eat and pack up and head off to the south end of Marjorie Lake. The next portage will take me over a small height of land into Rathwell Lake. The water in Marjorie flows north to Chiniguichi while the next couple lakes flow south into Wolf Lake. The south end of Marjorie Lake is low, swampy and slowly filling in with floating bog type vegatation etc. I choose to begin the portage on the left as it is lower and flatter than the right side. It is about 70 metres to the end of the bay where I find an old blaze and some ribbon that marks the portage. It is overgrown and a bit of a bush thrash to the next lake (500 metres) but I can see that it is going to be long day of trying locate the old ports and then get my canoe and gear across them. The other side is a bit flooded and there are a couple of downed trees on the shoreline as well.

The next lake is Rathwell Lake and it too is a beautiful lake with granite outcropping and lots of mature pine surrounding the lake. The west shore is a fairly high ridge and the east shore is dominated by rock shelves covered in pines. The exit from Rathwell is from a long narrow arm in the southeast corner of the lake. Once again I find an old blaze at the south end of Rathwell Lake, however the trail is even more overgrown through here. Someone has placed a few flagging tapes which help as the trail is not really evident or worn in the least. The trail dives down a side hill through a balsam thicket and another small boggy area that you need to canoe across. There is another old blaze across this small pond area that is quite evident.

old blaze south of Rathwell Lake
 From here I managed to find enough old blazes and old flagging tapes to find a route across to the next put in on Laundry Lake. This interrupted portage I'd estimate at about 7-800 metres in length through some thick brush in places. On a warm muggy day in mid May it becomes readily apparent that a bug net and DEET are your best friends! 

Laundry Lake is the last lake in this chain before you once again portage back into Wolf Lake. The old portage to Wolf Lk. is supposed to be located on the south west shore of the lake. A quick look at any topographic map of this area makes it readily apparent that this will be one tough portage as the contour lines are tightly packed between the lakes. There is an outlet with a small creek that flows down into Wolf Lake but it is not navigable and very overgrown and rough. I did find some old blazes on the shore but the trail was not visible and the undergrowth was fairly thick and with the approaching weather I opted for another route out of the lake. Just to the south of the lake is an old logging road that is used by ATV'ers which is only about 100 metres from the end of the southeast arm of the lake, unfortunately it is also straight up! Someone has cut a rudimentary trail and I used it to get up to the road. I used the road to portage along till I reached the creek flowing into Wolf Lake which is only about 175 metres from the road. However, you portage your gear for about 1.5 kms and you gain and lose over 250' in elevation, twice!! - fortunately there was a breeze and the bugs didn't feast too much. I leap frogged my gear along the road and I'd say it took me about close to 90+ minutes to complete this portage. Once you are back in the canoe you must also deal with a large beaver dam at the lake proper before you are free and clear to paddle down Wolf Lake. I headed for the campsite at the southwest end of the lake for the night as the winds increased due to an approaching cold front. I set up and ate supper and the front rolled through with rain and a signifcant temperature drop - probably + 20 to + 5 Celcius or so. It did take care of the blackflies however. This campsite is in some old growth red pine and suitable for a large group. There are also the remains of an old log cabin on the point in this location. This was a long tiring day of paddling and searching for the portages and then bushwhacking through them, upwards of 3 times due to the searching for the trails plus carrying my gear- I had left at 8:30 in the morning from Marjorie Lake and reached my campsite on Wolf Lake at 16:30.

Distance paddled - 7.5 km     Distance portaged - estimated 2900 metres

 Day 3 Photos

I awoke around 6:00 to a cold northerly wind, rain and fog and a temperature of about +1 Celcius. Since I didn't have too long a day ahead of me I stayed in my hammock warm and cozy till the rain quit and the sky began to break up around 9:30. After a couple cups of hot tea and breakfast I packed up my soggy, damp gear and headed for the takeout as the skies cleared and the sun came out at 11:00. The wind stayed up all the way down Matagamasi Lake but I was paddling with the wind for a change and I was off the water and headed home by 15:30.

Distance paddled - 12 km     Distance portaged - 650 metres

A nice loop that gives canoers another option in an area used fairly heavily. The portages are fairly overgrown but they are there! The route I took to get from Laundry to Wolf Lake is not the traditional Nastawgan and there are a couple places on the southwest shore of Laundry with blazes that may or may not mark the start of the old traditional portage. I will probably go back and spend some time and effort and see if I can locate the old portage. In addition there is a portage into the north end of Marjorie Lake that I didn't find and it may well have been on the other side of the small creek and it would be good to locate and confirm this as well. Some of the portages start/end at the end of small bays that in low water are filling in of have some downed tress etc so some small amounts of bushwhacking was/is necessary to get to the portages or canoeable water. It wouldn't take a lot of effort to clean up the portages to make it somewhat easier to locate and traverse them.
It appears that at one time this was a more travelled route that has since fallen into disuse, although there was the odd sign of passage along the way in addition to the blazes and flagging tape that I found that led me to believe I wasn't the only one through the route in the last few years. "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going" - anon.

It is now November of 2008 and the portages on this route have been re-established by a friend of mine, Mike MacIntosh this past summer.  In addition Brian Back of has posted an excellent overview map and brief history of the "lost" but newly re-opened Nastawgan Here.

Deep Freeze 2010 - Nitro Creek

This year saw a total of 33 hardy campers attend the 9th annual Deep Freeze north of Sudbury. It was a milder winter with little snow so the conditions were quite benign overall. The Budd Car was running on time for (or as close to ontime as we've seen it!!) As usual people came and went according to the train schedule with most of the group heading in on Saturday this year and the bulk of the folks leaving on the following Friday and Sunday.

The week was taken up with lots of hiking, ice fishing, socializing and lots of camp chores - wood gathering/splitting, water hauling etc. Next year, 2011, will be the 10th annivesary of this gathering and we plan to head back to the Nitro Creek area again to enjoy another trip with good friends and times. If you're interested, anyone is welcome and you can find information on the trip in the  Winter Camping forum at

Here are a couple links for two YOU Tube video productions from the trip plus a slideshow with photos. Enjoy.

Photos by S. Bredin

Deep freeze 2008 - Return to Scouter Lake

It was in October of 2007 when a few of us again started thinking of winter camping! Where to go, when to go - the usual questions. Five of us did a quick recon trip via the Budd Car from Sudbury to the north end of Pogamasing Lake. We took a couple canoes and portaged up into the lake at the northerly portage along the Pogamasing River. A nice weekend trip but it showed us that while a trip in the area was possible there was really not a lot of firewood to be found. The Deep Freeze gathering has grown over the years and so has the number of attendees with "hot tents", so firewood is always a major determining factor on the gathering's location.We discussed other possibilities and decided to head back to "Scouter Lake", an area we had used before that we knew had an adequate supply of firewood as preliminary planning indicated that possibly 10 -12 "hot tent" would be attending.

Scouter Lake is located in the hills south of the railway line between The Forks and Metagama near the Spanish River. We have been using the Via Rail Budd Car service from Sudbury since 2003 to access the back country remote areas we prefer for winter camping. The gathering is a basecamp setup so a fairly large area and wood supply is required. This has to be one of my favourite winter camping areas, lots of smaller lakes connected by old portages and the local trapper has an extensive network of trails thoughout the area. The lakes contain mostly pike although there are several lakes within 5-6 km from camp where we usually can catch a lake trout or two! The area is fairly rugged with several high ridges surrounding the lakes that make for a good hiking and offers some great views of the surrounding area.

With the rail service out of Sudbury to White River running upbound on Sat, Tue and Thursday and back to Sudbury on Sun, Wed and Fridays, folks again planned their attendance around the train schedule. This allows for folks to attend from 3-8 nights depending on which days you choose to travel. Saturday arrived with a clear, sunny and cold forecast and the first group, 19 plus Sam the dog, gathered at the Sudbury train station for the expected 9:00 am departure. Well, the Budd Car is over 50 years old and probably 15+ years since it's last major overhaul and it was experiencing some mechanical problems again! Long story short we left at around 11:15 and arrived at our get off location at about 2:00 pm. We quickly unloaded the sleds and toboggans and headed down the trail for our camping area. Over the course of the week several other groups of folks would be joining in on Tuesday and Thursday and others would be leaving on Wednesday and Friday. Well it was a bad week for the Budd Car service, the Tuesday group was also late in arriving at around 4:00 pm and the train was again late picking up the 7 folks leaving on Wednesday. The Thursday group never did make it as the train didn't run and the group leaving Friday was picked up late as well and only because we used our emergency satellite phone to ensure that VIA Rail knew of the folks who had to get out to go back to work. Saturday morning a frieght train derailed north of us by about 10 miles which shut the entire rail line down again till the following week. Fortunately the sat phone again came in handy and VIA managed to pick the last 12 of us up on Sunday, it was a good thing we happened to be on the Sudbury side of the derail otherwise we would have had a longer trip back via Chapleau! So with all the interuptions only 27 folks out of a total of 36 actually made it to Scouter Lake. The 9 Thursday arrivals decided to carry on with a revised plan and all went north by vehicle and camped at Halfway Provincial Park for a couple nights. It certainly helped us that we had a sat phone available and that my wife and a couple friends managed to rattle VIA Rails cage and they in turn did their best to get everyone out of the bush on the proper days. 

The week was filled with lots of hiking and ice fishing thoughout the surrounding area. Some of the kids and their dads did some tobogganing and 3 of the kids built themselves a survival lean to from sticks and a woven roof of spruce and balsam fir boughs - a great job and a handy skill to have! Once again Al, our resident entertainer brought along his guitar and played for a few hours at - 20C!! He started off playing outside but we soon moved him into the doorway of the "Smokey Lounge" beside the woodstove where he and his hands were much happier while we stood around a bonfire and sang along. An excellent evening all round. The following night we also entertained - by mother nature this time. We were treated to a full "lunar eclipse" that peaked around 10:30 for our location. Quite a sight seeing the shadow moved across the face of the moon although it did allow us to actually see some of the dimmer stars in the night sky since the moon was so bright all week that it was masking all but the brightest stars at night.

It was another good trip with a mix of regular attendees and some new folks along who I suspect will be seeing again. Even with the problems with the "Budd Car" service this year we will again be looking for an area for next years Deep Freeze using the service. If you have an inclination that you may like to try something like this out, you should keep an eye at in the winter forum section at Canadian Canoe Routes where a conversation will start usually in late Oct-Nov regarding anyplans for a Deep Freeze '09. 


 Photo credits:SB - Sid Bredin, BP - Bill Poort, CR - Cliff Rhodes

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Deep Freeze 2007 - Florida Lake

Lets go to Florida in February! I imagine most folks may have heard that once or twice. Well that’s exactly where we decided to go but it’s not the “Florida” most folks think of! This was “Florida Lake” the scene of Deep Freeze 2006 and we decided that we hadn’t yet exhausted all the possibilities for winter camping and hiking/exploring the area plus it had lots of firewood, a sheltered camping area and water. Dates were decided upon and plans were made and changed till it was time to go.
As usual folks gathered in Sudbury for the trip in using the Via rail service known as the “Budd Car”. The train is scheduled to leave at 9:00 am but fortunately it was a few minutes late and Linda and Brian who travelled up from the Toronto area managed to make train despite being 15 minutes late! The winter of 2007 was a milder winter with very little snow accumulation in the Sudbury area so the trail into the camp was decidedly rougher than the previous year, especially in the thicker bush areas, however through a team approach we managed to get everyone and their sleds and gear up to the site in only a few hours. The “hill” on the way in certainly hadn’t gotten any smaller or shorter since last year’s trip.The Budd Car runs 6 days/week, 3 days “up” or Sudbury to White River and 3 days “back” with Monday off. This allows folks to tailor their attendance to whatever their schedules allows.
Two of the attendees, Andrew and Dusan, decided on a slightly different approach this year and hiked into camp from Hwy 144 and then used the Budd car to head back to Sudbuury at ther end of their stay. They traveled across the lakes in Halfway Provincial Park and met up with a trail that Joe and some of the folks made from the Florida Lake side. 
With the comings and goings the Thursday was the day with the most folks in camp and we topped out at 41 total attendees. Once again Al Marcon entertained us all with an evening of song as he played his way through his song book. It was a very enjoyable evening spent around a large campfire with old and new friends and topped off with Al’s great rendition of Stan Roger’s “Northwest Passage” sung acapella - brought shivers up my back!
All in all another great trip filled with camp chores, hiking, visiting with old and new friends and even another couple vain attempts at catching some fish. “Wait till next year” was a common refrain from the fisherman and with the thought of heading back up the tracks to an area we refer to as “Scouter Lake” for the 2008 gathering, it just may happen!


 Photo credits: SB or unattributed- S. Bredin, BP- B. Poort, CR- C. Rhodes, DD- D. Doyle

Deep Freeze 2006 - "Florida Lake"

Another year had passed and it was once again time to begin thinking about the annual winter gathering, well ok a year hadn't passed it was August, but hey, it's never too early to start planning an outdoor adventure! I did some pre-scouting at the office - I look at a map of the CPR railway line from Sudbury to White River and look for an area that might be interesting enough to spend 9 days in February living in a tent. In 2003/4 we had camped on a small lake south of Metagama and in 2005 we pushed a trail up into the Nitro Creek area. The Path creek drainage area north of Nitro Creek looked pretty promising for 2006. 

I had been using the Ontario basemap series and found a series of old roads in the area that might be possible to use to gain access to a small lake about 2-3 kms from the railway track. I mentioned to Scouter Joe that I was thinking of a quick trip on the Budd Car to the area to scout and he agreed to come along. We headed up on a Saturday late in October to see what we could find. We hopped off the train at the Pogamasing light switch and found a spot to camp for the night. The maps indicated the trails or old road we were looking for, ran east from the river for about 1.5 kms before intersecting a road that ran in a north south direction. Well after wandering around a bit we found the old road on the west side of Path Creek and followed it up to where it petered out in some heavy alder growth along the creek. We crossed the creek and again we wandered around trying to pick up the road on the higher ground. We eventually came across the road that run north and south and turned north. We were trying to find a small unnamed lake that was part of a drainage system that flowed into Path Creek about 2.5 kms from the railway. We crossed the small creek flowing out of the lake and turned east again to the lake. The beavers had dammed the creek in a couple places between the lake and Path Creek creating a very sheltered open area surrounded by 50-60 year old jackpine stand. The area had the 3 requirements we needed - space, water and standing dead trees for the woodstoves! As it was late in the day we headed back to the tent planning to clear and mark the trail the next day. 

After a good breakfast we spent 3-4 hours clearing and marking the trail up to the lake area. The one section where the old road disappeared into the tag alders near the creek we just left as we decided that we could pick the trail up by using the creek when frozen to walk down. We cleared the trail into the campsite area, gathered up some tent poles for use in February and picked an area for our tents - all in all a productive day. We wandered back out to the tracks and waited for the Budd Car to pick us up for the ride back to Sudbury.

Throughout the fall and winter, folks made their plans for the gathering and finally February 17th arrived along with many of the folks leaving on the 18th for "Florida Lake". It was a sunny and cool Saturday morning as approx. 25 folks met at the train station for a 09:00 departure, however, it was not to be as the Budd Car was late as it had some minor repair problems to sort out first. This turned out to be a preview of the week to follow but the train arrived we loaded up and were on our way only a couple hours late. The winter snows in the area didn't really come till the end of January but there had been a major snow storm every week for the previous 4 weeks and there was probably in the order of 4' of light fluffy snow to negotiate on our way to "Florida". Suffice to say it's a long day getting everyone and all our sleds to the camp area through the deep snow. However, tents sites are quickly chosen, tents erected, firewood cut and everyone is taken care of before darkness really sets in.

This year there was a much larger contingent that came in on the Saturday, usually there have only been 10 - 12 who come in for the full 8 night stay. This year many folks wanted to experlence the trail breaking aspect of the trip and also due to personal committemnts etc some will be leaving on the Wednesday and Friday trains while more folks will be arriving on the Tuesday and Thursday trains! With the train running 6 days a week it is easy to customize your stay at the gathering to whatever length of stay works for you. With people coming and going on various days we had a total of 44 attendees this year but we never had everyone in camp at the same time as some folks left on Wednesday before the Thursday gang arrived!

As usual the week is taken up with hiking, camp chores (firewood etc), eating, visiting, comparing equipment and tent setups, ice fishing (but not catching) and the odd wee nip. The Budd Car had mechanical difficulties all week and the group leaving on Friday and Sunday actually were picked up in a makeshift train - 2 passenger/bagge cars pulled by a separate locomotive. The normal Budd Car train consists of 2 cars - a coach car and a bagage car with the engines underneath the cars and driven by the engineer from a small cab at either end of the cars, much like a subway car. As can happen with the train, especially in the winter, pick up times aren't always as scheduled. One group waited trackside in the cold and the dark huddled around a fire for an extra 5 hours! However, it's all part of the adventure for sure.

The weather was fairly typical for the time of year, temps ranged from -5 to -12 C during most days and averaged about -20 to - 26 C at night. We also experienced a day and night of snow and blowing snow with an accumulation of about 10" snow, It made for interesting hike back to camp from an ice fishing afternoon with visibility down to 5 -10' at times. The last night in camp was also the coldest with temps at about - 32C to -34C on Sunday morning depending on which thermometer you chose to believe! 

We had a good cross section of attendees with both new and old campers attending, 3 of the regulars brought their kids along and we had 4 in camp this year. Great to see and hear them having a good time doing something outdoors and they think it's cool as they are'nt in school!!!
So if this type of activity catches your interest and you think you might like to give it a go, then set aside some time between February 17th and the 25th, 2007 and come along to "Florida" with us. You can find information on the Canadian Canoe Routes website - look in the Winter camping, snowshoeing forum under Deep Freeze '07.


Photo Credits : SB or unattributed - S. Bredin, BP - B. Poort, MG - M. Graves

Obabika Lake - Temagami

I’m sure that most folks have a few places that seem to get under your skin somehow and the song becomes strong and calls you back again and again. The Temagami canoeing area and the Obabika Lake area in particular is one such area for me. It is a land of clear water, majestic trees and high cliffs. 

The following photos are from various trips and focus mainly on the old growth forest area known as the Wakimika Triangle located on the north end of Obabika Lake. There are a series of hiking trails that one can use to explore the old growth pines and the area has a rich aboriginal history as well. 

Further information on the Temagami area and the old growth area etc can be found at the Temagami section of the Ottertooth wesite -

There is also a group that is working to help promote, rehabilitate and preserve the recreational experience in the area - 


photos are an amalgamation from several trips to the area

Spanish River, Duke Lake to "The Elbow" - May 2006

Day 1- Duke Lake to Tenth Lake
We left from our house in Sudbury at around 1:00 in the afternoon for the put in at Duke Lake. Tony and Rick plus his dog Casey in Rick’s van and myself, wife Jan and a friend Dave in my vehicle. Jan and Dave would be shuttling Rick’s van from Duke Lake back down the highway and through the bush roads to the “Elbow” where the 3 of us would finish our trip. It was a gorgeous spring day and we quickly unloaded the canoes from the vehicles and said goodbye to Jan and Dave and hit the water. As it was later in the day we planned to only canoe down to the first campsite on Tenth Lake and setup for the night.

Day 2 - Tenth Lake to Expanse Lake
We awoke to another beautiful day and after a leisurely breakfast we packed up and headed off for the day’s paddling. This section of the Spanish River, the “East Branch”, is a series of narrow lakes nestled in amongst hills on either side of them as you travel downstream. The lakes are connected by narrow channels of moving water. Duke Lake is the starting point and you next enter Tenth Lake and travel downstream through to First Lake and then into Expanse Lake. From here it is about 3 kms of river travel to “The Forks” where you meet the “West Branch” of the river which flows out of Biscotasing Lake.
After we passed through into Ninth Lake we detoured to the northeast corner of the lake to look for some native pictographs on a small cliff. The water levels are high and many of the connecting channels between lakes are little more than a few riffles with a noticeable current pushing the canoes onward. The forest cover is typical of this section of Ontario, which lies between the Boreal forest to the north and the St Lawrence - Great Lakes forest to the south. It contains species from both zones such as pine (white, red and jackpine), spruce, balsam fir, cedar, white birch, poplar, maple and ash. The leaves are only beginning to flush on the hardwoods and the ferns and wildflowers are easy to pick out as we travel along. We finally reach Expanse Lake in late afternoon and stop for the night at a campsite about ½ way down the lake on the east shore. We enjoy a couple cold beers and chicken quesedillas for supper. The evening sky shows some high cirrus clouds and the wind dies away leaving the lake like glass.

Day 3 - Expanse Lake to Lower Athlone Rapids
The morning brought an overcast day. The past 2 days had been fairly benign when it came to the bugs, the mosquitos and blackflies had been quite manageble with just enough breeze to keep them at bay. This being spring in Northern Ontario they can be quite fierce but we’d been fortunate to this point. We were prepared with bug dope, head nets, bug jackets etc and of course my Eureka VCS 12 bug tent. The ability to get under cover from the bugs while cooking and eating makes a trip like this bearable. However, today was to be a different story! The winds were light, the humidity and cloud cover spoke of possible rain later and the bugs were out in force and looking to feed! We didn’t dawdle too much while packing up and headed on our way. The trip changes once you leave Expanse Lake as it becomes much more of a down river trip from this point on with only Spanish Lake to cross before you reach our take out at the Elbow. After leaving Expanse Lk. you travel through the Kingfisher Swifts down to the Forks where the West Branch meets the East Branch and you begin to see the CPR railway line. We arrived at the forks just in time to see the Budd Car heading west on it’s way to White River. It’s about 3 km from the Forks to the first serious whitewater of the trip - Upper and Lower Athlone Rapids. The rapids are runnable however caution and scouting are required especially in spring high water conditions. The first set is the most difficult with a large standing wave river centre and a chute available river right. We headed out and to make a long story short - the gods decided we needed a bath! We missed the chute and the standing waves filled the tandem and Rick’s solo as well. We all swam ashore and picked our gear out of the eddy and repacked the canoes, lined down stream to get across the break and ran the rest of the rapids sucessfully. It’s a short haul down to the Lower Athlone Rapids and here discretion carried the day and we portaged the set. There’s a nice campsite at the end of the rapids and we decided to spend the rest of the day here as it was mid-afternoon and it had been raining a bit off and on. We changed into some dry clothes and took stock of our gear. Everything came through mostly dry and the only losses were a sponge and my hat.
Day 4 - Lower Athlone Rapids to Cliff Rapids
We got up to a grey sky and more bugs! The plan for today was to head for the campsite at Cliff Rapids with a stop along the way to explore an old logging camp just south of Pogamasing. Water levels are high and we encounter no difficulties with any of the rapids or swifts along the way today. Once passed Sheehan I began to look for the area where the abandoned logging camp is situated. It is located below Pogamasing and before the mouth of Path Creek on river left. The area has grown up considerably since the late 40’s when the camp was active and can’t be seen from the water. I stumbled across it the previous fall when in the area on foot doing a reconnassance for a winter camping trip. We landed on the bank of the river and had lunch and then wandered into the bush to find the camp. We spent an hour or so poking around the old building remnants and looking at old bottles and cans found laying around the area. From here it was only about another hour to Cliff Rapids and our campsite for the evening. Cliff Rapids is aptly named as there is a high cliff river right as you enter the rapids. The campsite is also river left at the bottom of the run. We pulled in set up for the evening. The sky had cleared and the sun was once again out making for a pleasant late afternoon and evening. Once supper was out of the way Tony and I decided that the cliff must be climbed. We found a way to scale to the top and were rewarded with some great views of the river valley from the top. 

Day 5 - Cliff Rapid to the “Elbow”
Our last day on the river would prove to be the nicest day weather wise. We were under a huge high pressure ridge and the temperatures climbed to the mid 20’s and there was hardly any wind at all. The river was like glass in it’s calmer, deeper areas. We stopped for lunch on the campsite at the north end of Spanish Lake and the lake was a huge mirror. After lunch we headed off for the last stretch to the Elbow. This consisted of Zig Zag and the Tofflemire Rapids interspersed with swifts and fast flowing water from Spanish Lake to the Elbow. We stopped above Zig Zag to scout the rapids and picked a line although with the amount of water flowing downriver there wasn’t a huge need to do much of any zigging or zagging. The Tofflemire Rapid was just as much fun and consisted of one long wave train after another. Soon we arrived at our journeys end and reluctantly pulled the canoes and gear up to the van for the trip back to Sudbury.  
It was another great trip with good friends and considering that it had been snowing and raining on the weekend before we did the trip, the bugs and a couple of light showers along the way wasn’t much of a hardship at all for the excellent conditions and trip we had.
Photo credits: RP - Rick Pargeter, unattributed - Sid Bredin

Deep Freeze 2005 - Nitro Creek

Another paddling season had ended and talk of the next winter gathering began in the fall of 2004. Once the dates had been settled a new area was chosen for the gathering - the Nitro Creek watershed. This is an area north of Sudbury accessible by the Budd Car rail service. This area lay between Highway 144 and Halfway Provincial Park and the railway/Spanish river to the west. The area consists of typical pine/spruce/poplar and birch forest and several small lakes are connected by small creeks and drainages. 

As in the past, folks opted for a trip of varying lengths - 3,5 or 8 nights in duration. There was the regulars who have been attending for the past 4 years, some folks who missed a trip and as usual some hardy new attendees, out for a new experieince. This year a total of 26 people attended with some late last minute cancellations.

 A new twist for this adventure was a sub zero "Hawaiian Night" under a tarp complete with a guitar and much singing and laughter - I wonder what anyone who had stumbled across this bunch of apparent lunatics in loud shirts and grass skirts would have thought!!

As usual the time was spent doing camp chores (firewood), exploring the surrounding areas and the drowning of minnows in the vain attempts to catch some speckled trout. The weather was clear and cold for the most part (several nights at the -30C range) with a couple of very light snowfalls over the 8 nights. 

All in all another enjoyable trip with a bunch of enjoyable folks in a beautiful setting. The upcoming winter gathering for 2006 was also discussed and hopefully we'll find a place to catch some fish for a change! We seem to get to a spot on even numbered years where folks actually catch fish and '06 hopefully will be similiar - maybe even Georgi can catch a fish bigger than his minnow!!!


Unattributed photos taken by Sid Bredin, those initialled BP were taken by Bill Poort. Thanks Bill.