Thursday, 24 January 2013

Spanish River – Solo, July 2011

It had been a busy spring and I hadn’t managed to get a canoe trip in at all. I finally blocked out a few days in mid July for a trip. Of course the decision then becomes where to go? It had been quite awhile (2005) since I had been on the Spanish River, so I thought I’d use the Via Rail Budd Car train service from Sudbury.

I planned taking the train up to the Forks to access the river and then run all the way down to Agnew Lake, where my wife could pick me up at the Agnew Lake Lodge, north of Webbwood.   Agnew Lake Lodge 
This would be a 4-day trip – Thursday to Sunday.

Day 1

I was at the Sudbury train station in plenty of time to purchase a ticket and pay the extra fee for the canoe. Travel on the Budd Car is quite reasonable; it cost me about $65.00 for a one-way ticket plus canoe from Sudbury to “The Forks” where I planned to start my trip. The train was quite busy with a couple other canoe groups heading out as well from different starting points.

and so it begins
 A couple hours later the train let me off at “The Forks”. It’s a short walk down to the river from the tracks and I was quickly loaded and pushed off at around 11:30. It’s a gorgeous sunny day with a few clouds floating around. The forks access point to the river is on the west branch of the Spanish just north of the “fork” where the east branch meets it. The river is fairly wide and moving along nicely.

The first sets of rapids for the day are the Upper and Lower Athlone rapids about 5 km. from the put in. In spring conditions these can be quite pushy with large standing waves etc. but today I run both sets with no problems other than a bit of water over the bow. I stop at the bottom of Lower Athlone and take a lunch break and a quick swim to cool off. There are some small swifts between Athlone and the next set, Railway Rapids, which are just south of the trestle over Pogamasing Creek.

trestle at Pogamasing Creek
 Again it’s a short paddle to the Bridge Rapid just north of the old town site of Sheahan. This rapid runs under the railway bridge and I run it on the right hand side of the centre abutment. The river deepens and widens here for a section before you get to the Pogamasing siding area which is a series of swifts which parallel the railway tracks for 4-5 km. There is an old logging camp from the late 40’s, early 50’s on the east bank of the river just below a marked campsite where the river bends away from the tracks. I have stopped before both summer and winter and I don’t bother today.

I spend some time just floating with the river’s current and eventually I stop at the campsite on river left at Cliff rapids for the night. There is a new campsite on river right here as well that the MNR canoe rangers have established since the last time I stayed here. I putz around camp, set up my hammock and my small bug net and settle down with supper and a book. It’s been a great day on the river and a good way to relax from the pressures of work and daily life.

food barrel
 Distance traveled – about 30 km.

Day 2

The morning dawns warm and muggy with some clouds in the area. It’s going to be a hot and humid day and there’s not much of a breeze to speak of! I eat, pack and head off for the day. There’s a small swift downstream of cliff rapids and then the river broadens and slows somewhat as I move along. I reach Mogo Creek and there are 2 chaps in residence at the cabin plus 2 canoeists camped just past the mouth of the creek. These would be the last people I saw till I reached Agnew Lake in a couple days. The morning is warming up quickly and there are some convective cloud activity in the area, possibly bringing a thunderstorm or 2 later in the day.

Mogo Creek
 The next signs of human activity is the several camps on the shore of Spanish Lake, however there is no-one in residence. The next bit of excitement comes at Zig Zag Rapids. As the name implies you set up mid stream and then zig and zag right then left as you transit the rapid, always fun. The river narrows here and picks up some speed as you pass through some small rapids and swifts before the next larger set – Tofflemire Rapids. Past this set and you are now approaching the area known as the “Elbow” where the river makes a sharp bend as it heads to the “Graveyard Rapids “ area.

The Elbow looking towards the Graveyard Rapids
Graveyard rapids is actually strung out over about 1.5 km. of the river and consists of Little Graveyard, Big Graveyard and the Cascades rapids. These rapids can be Class 3-4 in certain water levels but some parts also can be partially run in some conditions. The water levels are not to bad this trip and I run some parts, line some parts and lift over the larger drops all the way down to the Cascades area. It’s about 2:00 and I decide to spend the night here. I set up camp and then swim and read the afternoon away. I check my small thermometer and it reads 28 Celsius, hot day-no bugs, you gotta love that. 

campsite at the Cascades
  Distance traveled – about 30 km

Day 3

Dawn brings some mist on the river and the promise of another beautiful day. After a leisurely breakfast I’m on my way again. Just downstream of the cascades is a large boulder plunked into the river. It’s huge and must be the remnant of the last glacial age! 

now that's a boulder!
Just past the boulder is the mouth of the Agnes River and the start of the Agnes Rapid. In the logging river drive days a rock dyke was built here to direct the logs downstream and keep them out of the shallow areas. This can be a tricky rapid as well but I have no problems today.

Carrying on downstream you come to  Cedar Rapid. The river makes a sharp right then runs on gently curving path to the left. Another kilometer brings you to a small rapid with a nice campsite nestled into some large pine on river left. The next section of river is known as the “Royal Ride”. It runs for about 20 km. down to the Wakonnasin River area. The river gains speed as it flows through here but in low water conditions it can be called the bumpy or rough ride due to exposed boulders and shallow areas. The water levels are high enough that the river is flowing quite fast but there is lots of water and no bumping at all.

along the Royal Ride
It’s another hot day and I stop at the Reynolds creek campsite for a bite to eat and a cooling dip. In fact it’s so nice I also have a 45 minute snooze! Feeling refreshed I head off again and poke along to the Wakonnasin River delta area. I spend some time exploring the swampy delta area and surprise a couple of Great Blue Herons. There is a campsite on river left, up on a bluff at the mouth of the Wakonnasin and I decide to spend the evening here as it’s a short run out to the lodge on Agnew Lake tomorrow for my pickup.

campsite at the Wakonnasin River
Distance traveled – about 30 km.

Day 4

It’s a different morning when I wake up – overcast, muggy and buggy and threatening to rain! I quickly eat and pack and shove for Agnew Lake. The river has broadened and slowed again and sure enough I get about 4 km. downriver and it starts to shower. I pull over and put on my rain jacket and sit under a tree till the worst of it is over. As I continue on my way the skies clear and the temperature jumps up to the hot range again. As I enter Woods channel on Agnew Lake I spot a deer swimming across the channel. 

swimming deer
I head out into the main part of the lake and head for an island with a beach where I stop and have a bit of bath/swim and put on a clean shirt. It’s about 2 km. to the lodge and as I pull up to the dock there’s Jan and our dog Lily sitting in the shade enjoying the view! I load up the canoe and gear and we head for Sudbury. 

Agnew Lake - view from the lodge
Distance traveled – about 16 km
Total distance – about 106 km.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Anima Nipissing Lake Loop - 2012

September is probably my favourite month for canoe tripping. The weather is still warm, the days long enough for making distance if required and a minimum of bugs. What’s not to like about that? I had mentioned to friend that if he was looking to do some canoeing to let me know. We talked about it over the summer and decided to try the South Muskego area of Temagami with a loop trip starting/ending from the public access point on Anima-Nipissing Lake.

The most common loop trip in the area loops through Turner Lake via Whitefish Bay (Lake Temagami) and Aston Lake. This is a 3-4 day trip, however I wanted to extend the trip a bit longer. To this end we decided to push up through Diamond Lake from Sharp Rock Inlet on Lake Temagami through Walsh and Sirdevan Lakes and then northwesterly through a less travelled route into Ferguson, Isbister and Barter Lakes before entering Turner Lake.

Day 1

I left Sudbury around 8:00 headed for North Bay to pick up Daniel. After a quick coffee we headed north on Hwy 11 for the Anima Nip access point. It was a typical September day for weather, warm and sunny with a light breeze. We loaded up the canoe and headed off at 12:30 or so. Anima Nip Lake has some cottages scattered around, mostly near the access point area and as we headed south we quickly lost sight of any development as we headed through the second narrows area of the lake. 

Second Narrows ahead
 We stopped for lunch at the island campsite in the second narrows area. Anima Nipissing is a scenic lake with ample opportunity for camping and fishing, plus it has several loops that enter/leave the lake giving various trip options in the area.
We spent some time in the area of the portage into Whitewater Lake searching for some native pictographs on the rock face near a campsite. We didn’t spot the pictographs but did find a wasp nest on the rock face - something neither of us had ever seen before!

Wasp Nest
 We continued south heading for a campsite at the narrows from Anima Nip into McLean Lake. This is a small site but since we were using a small tent (Daniel) and I had my hammock, space wasn’t really much of a concern through out the trip. We set up camp, gathered some firewood and enjoyed a steak and potato dinner – doesn’t get much better that that!
Day 2

Morning dawned with mist hanging over the lake with heavy dew coating the camp! 

Morning mist
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, packed and hit the water with the intention of making a Sharp Rock Inlet campsite. We paddle south through the narrows into  McLean Lake to the first portage of the day into Carrying Lake.

narrows to McLean Lake
 The portage starts up the creek a ways from the lake and follows a ridge for about 700 m. before dropping down to Carrying Lake. A quick paddle down the lake brought us to the longest portage of the day, 1000 m., to Red Squirrel Lake. We headed south around a point and then northwesterly to the Anima Nipissing River. A short distance down the river is a portage left for 780 m. around some rapids etc back to the river. You then paddle out to Ferguson Bay on Lake Temagami passing a canoe camp sprawled over both banks of the river - Camp Wanapitei.

Anima Nip River
 From here we headed west to the Napolean Mountain portage from Ferguson Bay to Whitefish Bay. The Napolean portage is about 800 m. with a fairly rough and rocky takeout and climbs quickly. We stopped for lunch here watching a houseboat circle the bay before tackling the port.

The more popular loop, heads north from here through Whitefish Bay to the portage into Aston Lake. Once we were back on the water we headed almost due west through a channel into Sharp Rock Inlet and headed for an island campsite about a kilometer from the portage into Diamond Lake. The campsite is nestled into the northeast corner of the island under a stand of Red Pine. Several canoes passed headed for Diamond Lake but we are in no great hurry and have settled into a relaxed pace, enjoying the scenery and the weather. 

Sharp Rock Inlet campsite view
Day 3

Morning arrived and after another leisurely breakfast we hit the water around 9:00 a heading for the portage into Diamond Lake. The port is about 80 m. long and crosses the Red Squirrel Road. With the low water levels it is a bit tricky to find a launch point amongst the rocks. 

Diamond Lake
We paddle north on Diamond heading for the lift-over into Lady Evelyn Lake. Once we hit the hub of the lake the wind springs up a bit more but it isn’t very onerous once we pass through hub. Along the western shore of the north arm of the lake is one of the premier native pictograph sites in the Temagami region. It is well worth it to spend some time here absorbing some of the ancient history of the area.

Diamond Lake pictographs
 It’s a fairly quick paddle to the lift-over into Lady Evelyn Lake from the pictograph site and the next portage of 520 m. into Walsh Lake. Walsh Lake is a fairly open Lake and the southerly winds are kicking up a bit of a chop as we head across the bottom of the lake to the 80 m. portage into 3 Knob Lake. This lake is also open and exposed to the south winds and we quickly head for a stand of red pine on the eastern shore looking for a lunch spot. 

After lunch and a rest we head for the Tundra Portage - longest port (1100 m.) of the trip. This portage encompasses as mix of terrain on it’s way to Sirdevan Lake. It starts of rolling but drops down into a large lowland area consisting of deep mosses and Black Spruce trees. There is a fairly extensive network of log boardwalks constructed by the Temagami MNR Canoe Rangers that cross the wettest areas of the portage. With the dry summer we have had the boardwalk is actually 2-3’ above the ground in some areas, but you can readily see the value of it if the water levels are higher J. As we approach the last section of boardwalk, I find the initials A.S. carved into one of the logs – Alison Smith, my cousin, who worked as a canoe ranger in Temagami for a couple summers!

Sirdevan Lake has 1 campsite on an island in the north end of the lake and we decide to spend the night here rather than push to Isbister Lake because after all this is a pretty relaxed trip! There is an outpost cabin on the northwest shore of the lake and Lakeland Airways Beaver is tied up at the dock and there are a few folks fishing for the evening. 

Sirdevan Lake
 Day 4

Sirdevan Lake has two routes out of it – the most used route is east through Bates and Ottley lakes into Lynx Lake which is part of the loop from Aston Lake into Turner Lake. We however are headed out through the northwest corner through the less used Ferguson, Isbister and Barter Lake link to Turner Lake. The portage out of Sirdevan is part of the old Nastawgan network and has only been recently reestablished from Sirdevan into Goss and Ferguson lakes. The port is hard to find but it is around the corner from the outpost camp and you need to push through the bulrushes in a small bay to find the port’s beginning on the shoreline. It’s about 600 m. to Goss Lake and then a quick paddle to the next 460 m. portage into Ferguson Lake. Goss Lake is a pretty lake surrounded by pine-covered hills. 

Goss Lake
The port into Ferguson basically follows the old creek bed up to Ferguson and the port crosses the boulder covered creek bed a couple times.Here's a map from the Ottertooth site showing the route we took from Lady Evelyn Lake through Walsh, Sirdevan and then northwesterly through Ferguson Lk. etc - South Muskego Canoe routes

The next portage (180 m.) heads east up and down over a ridge to a small pothole with a short paddle and a 50 m. port into Isbister Lake. This lake is a long and narrow lake running basically north-south and has a nice red pine covered campsite on a point in the south end. We push up the lake and stop for lunch on the west shore. Most of the portages that connect the lakes and potholes between Ferguson and Turner lakes cross over ridges. Consequently they are not excessive in length but you do gain and lose a fair bit of height in between the water bodies! 

portage out of Isbister Lake
 The portage out of Isbister is quite steep on the ends and somewhere along this portage I stretch out a calf muscle or tendon and find my mobility hampered. I have to take small steps and not stretch my leg too much. We have been single portaging all through the trip and this just means things have to slow down from our/my previous pace. The portage from Dead Tree Lake goes up over a ridge and then across a swampy area and then downhill again to Barter Lake. We decide that this has been another good days travel to this point and we set up camp on a point across from a log cabin for the night. This makes for an early day but I soak my leg in the cool water and eat some ibruprofen to relax the tendon/muscle cramps in my leg.

Day 5

Well, it’s clouded over and humid when we get the next morning. Good chance of some precipitation today! My calf is still somewhat sore although not near as tender as it was. We eat and pack up and head off, stopping to have a look at the cabin across the lake. 

Barter Lake cabin
From here it’s a short paddle down a creek between Barter and Avery Lakes. The creek meanders a bit and there are a couple beaver dam lift-overs along the way. The next portage (550 m.) as has been the case, heads up, over and down another ridge into Turner Lake and is accessed via a floating mat about halfway down the eastern shore of the lake. we pass a nice, large campsite on the northern tip of the island in Turner Lake on our way to the next portage. We meet a couple here who have entered Turner using the more popular Aston Lake route and are headed back towards Ferguson Bay, where they started their trip.

From Turner it’s a 170 m. portage into Curt Lake and then a short paddle to a 1000 m. portage into Eagle Lake. There is a high ridge on the east shore of Eagle that would have a spectacular view but we decline to climb the ridge and push onward. 

Eagle Lake
 The next portage (240 m.) is along the creek flowing out of Eagle into a small pothole and then back into the creek. There is a portion of the creek, crossed by a few beaver dams, which necessitates some wading and lift-overs on our part. Once clear of this it’s a short paddle to a 60 m portage over a small ridge into Little Eagle Lake where we have lunch on the campsite by the next portage.

The next 3 portages connect Little Eagle to Whitewater Lake, which is our objective for today. So far it hasn’t rained on us yet and we’re hopeful we can make camp before it does. The 870 m. portage from Little Eagle to Zee Lake crosses the Little Eagle Rd which can be accessed from the Red Squirrel Road. The Little Eagle Rd is gated just south of where the portage crosses the road and could provide another access point for this loop. A quick paddle and another 340 m. portage brings you to Birch Lake, which has a remote cabin on the northeast corner of the lake. From here it’s another 410 m. portage into Whitewater Lake.
As the skies continue to threaten rain, we paddle down the lake, through the narrows and land at the campsite on the east end of the island in the main part of the lake. We move our gear up to the campsite on the hill and set up camp. We manage to set up everything including a tarp, gather wood for supper and breakfast before it begins to shower. 

Whitewater Lake campsite
 Day 6

It’s still raining lightly with lots of fog and mist in the air when we get up in the morning. This will be a short day as we have one portage of 150 m. back into Anima Nipissing Lake and a couple hour paddle back to the vehicle at the access point. After breakfast we’re off wearing rain gear for the first time since we left 5 days ago. Whitewater Lake is popular with the fishing crowd and there must be 40 boats cached at the landing area for the portage. We’re quickly across the port and off down the lake in the mist and showers. 

back on Anima Nipissing Lake
We stop for a break from the wind behind a small cliff and finally arrive back at the landing around noon. We meet another pair of canoeists just heading out and chat briefly with them. They are planning to do the more traditional loop through Aston and Turner Lakes. We wish them well and load up our stuff and head for home. I dropped Daniel off in North Bay and headed for Sudbury, managing to see Jan after she finished work and before she headed off to an artist’s retreat for the weekend with friends on Manitoulin Island.

This was an enjoyable trip with some excellent weather and scenery. Although we saw people everyday that we were out on the trip, it wasn’t excessive due to the time of the year and the fact that we traveled through a less used area for a portion of the trip.

Post script: One of the 2 paddlers we met at the Anima Nipissing access point has also posted a trip report of their adventure  at - Chris Lawson's Turner Lk. Loop Report

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Stouffer Lake - 2011

It had been awhile since Jan and I had gotten away for a canoe camping trip. We didn’t have a lot of time so I suggested we drive up to the north end of Chiniguichi Lake and access an in/out route to Stouffer Lake. It took about 2.5 hr. to drive on the old logging roads to arrive at the put in on Button Lake.        Map

We quickly loaded up the canoe and headed off for the portage into Dougherty Lake. This portage rises up steeply from Button Lake and climbs over a ridge before descending down to Dougherty Lake, a 480 metre distance. Dougherty is one of the prettier lakes in the area – pine covered shores and the water is an aquamarine colour and very clear. 

Start of portage to Dougherty

Frederick Lake
 We continued up the lake to the portage into Frederick Lake. This portage bypasses a creek blocked by an ancient beaver dam and is about 220 metres long. We head in a northerly direction and pass through the remnants of an old logging bridge about 1 km up the lake. Just past this old bridge is an island, which has 16 distinct quartz veins running through its rock. After about an hours paddle we reach the 200 metre portage into Stouffer Lake.

Stouffer Lake
We pause to refresh and then head off to the island campsite in mid lake. We set up camp and spend the afternoon poking around and reading. Supper, a glass of wine, a small fire along with some stargazing finished the day.

Jan enjoying the afternoon
Dawn brought some scattered clouds and a calm lake. The clouds soon disappear and we pack a lunch and head off to explore the lake. 

Stouffer Lake morning

I’ve been though here before and show Jan the portage that connects with the Sturgeon River. We also find the beginnings of the portage that leads to the “Backdoor Route” from Stouffer up to Kettle Falls on the Sturgeon River. Jan has a bum ankle but I walk the port to Puddle Lake for a look. It’s a hot day and we find a nice rock and have a swim and clean up before heading for camp and a glass of wine with supper.

glacial erratic
We packed up the next morning with the intention of paddling out to Dougherty Lake and spending a night there before we had to head for home. Once we arrived on Frederick Lake we spent some time looking for possible campsites but the only real viable site is the one marked on the Ottertooth map. There are 2 sites island sites on Dougherty Lake and we spent the night on the larger southern island. 

Island campsite
Dougherty Lake sunset
The next morning arrived with some overcast and we packed and headed for the port back into Button Lake and our vehicle. We experienced a couple of light showers on the way back to the truck but it cleared off as we drove home.All in all a nice quick and easy getaway for us. It's sure nice to live in the heart of canoeing country!