Wednesday, 26 December 2012

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

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