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.
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 Ottertooth.com 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.
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 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.
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.