Saturday, 19 October 2013


Someone asked me the other day how I planned the canoe trips I've go on. They remarked that it seemed like I got myself pretty far off the beaten path and just where did the ideas come from. I use several different resources when planning a trip some are online such as the Canadian Canoe Routes website,, peruse the routes section or the forums for a wealth of information and the Ottertooth site,, which has some excellent interactive maps for the Temagami Canoe area.There are route guides such as the Kevin Callan books or my favourite the Hap Wilson Temagami guide, mostly because I spend much of my time canoeing in the Temagami area.

However my favourite is to use the 2 large Temagami area maps I have. They are both a detailed depiction of the routes in the Temagami area. 

One is the Craig Macdonald map that shows Temagami as it was in 1900.  Craig Macdonald is an ethno-geographer, Cree-Ojibwa place-name linguist and trails expert who spent 27 years doing research in the area. He interviewed over 200 Anishinabai elders and traveled over 1,000 miles in the backcountry exploring the nastawgan and methods of travel on them. Craig estimates that the nastawgan have been in use for over a thousand years. Temagami Nastawgan Map.

The other is the Friends of Temagami Adventure Planning map. For the past two decades, the Friends of Temagami has been documenting, restoring and promoting lost, forgotten and underused canoe routes in Temagami. This map is the result of a comprehensive review of existing information coupled with on-the-ground explorations. Temagami Planning Map.

It's neat to trace routes out on the Nastawgan map and then the Adventure Planning Map, you quickly realize that the routes have been in constant use for a long time. I have used the nastawgan map to go looking for older routes that have fallen into disuse over the years such as the Marjorie Lake route which has been remapped and the portages re-established, putting the route back into use. Marjorie Lake Route.

I have the maps mounted on a wall and it's the first resource I turn to when I get the itch to get out canoeing again. I use it for the general layout of the route etc and then start researching the other resources mentioned for further information. Anyway, it's getting close to winter these days andI've now turned to winter camping trip planning - more maps!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Deep Freeze 2011 - Smokefox Lake

Smokefox Lake
2011 – the 10th annual Deep Freeze! A group of winter enthusiasts has been getting together since 2002 in the Sudbury, Ontario area and indulging in their passion for winter camping. The first group of  7 camped for a weekend along the banks of the Vermilion River. The following year at a canoe gathering of folks from the old Canadian Canoe Routes forums it was decicded to use the Budd Car train service out of Sudbury to access some remote areas to camp. The group was 20 strong in 2003 and the attendance over the years has fluctuated as high as 44 one year but mostly in the 25-35 range with folks coming and going.

The plans for the 10th annual were settled upon and the Nitro creek area was again our destination. The group all showed up at the Sudbury station early Saturday morning only to find that the train was cancelled! What to do? The group discussed options and plans evolved. One group (9) consisting of the fathers and kids decided that  the intermittent  train availability wasn’t acceptable and opted for heading to Killarney Provincial Park to camp for the week. The rest of the group (23) decided to head north on Hwy 144 and strike out across country via some lakes and trails to the Nitro Creek  campsite and then use the Budd Car to get out later in the week.  Vehicles were left at the Cartier train station in anticipation of the plan coming to fruition.

We headed north and headed west for Smokefox Lake for the first night. We crossed the first pothole from the highway, busted a trail into Sideburn Lake and headed for Smokefox. We found a trapper’s portage trail cleared into Smokefox and we all found a place to setup for the evening. The plan was to break a trail into Nitro creek the next day and take some of the heavier supplies across as a group effort. Well, that worked and we cleared a trail about ¾ of the way and stashed some supplies. Some of the group had planned on attending on the Tuesday train and we found out through some satellite phone messaging that the train was cancelled again due to mechanical problems. It was decided that we would just stay at Smokefox Lake for the week, which turned out to be a good call as the train didn’t run at all that week!

The Tuesday folks were all contacted and headed into Smokefox and we carried on with on normal deep freeze activities of hiking, skiing, ice fishing and socializing etc.
A celebratory party (with fireworks) in honour of 10 years of “freezing” was held along with the “Dawg House’s” annual wine and cheese on another evening.

All in all, another great trip with a great bunch of fellow campers. We planned to again try using the Budd Car the following year so that the families could also attend once again. It’s always great to have the kids along learning new skills and helping to keep us all younger!