Portages: 670m (Jeff’s Map) or 700m (Ottertooth Map), 380m (Jeff’s Map) or 360m (Ottertooth Map), 105m (Jeff’s Map) or 100m (Ottertooth Map), 70m (Jeff’s Map) or 150m (Ottertooth Map), 520m (Jeff’s Map) or 580m (Ottertooth Map)
We woke up to another beauty day. Our plan was to paddle down to McCarthy Bay on Matagamasi Lake (the lake we started out on). The first portage wasn’t too bad with a few rocks to scramble over near the end, and the chain of lakes Irish, Bonesteel, Wessel and Flume were all very pretty.
Portages were pretty straight forward. Wessel was a beautiful lake with 2 campsites up on big granite rocks. The portage although 100m, was straight up. When you get to the top, make sure you look for the flagging tape to the right. Follow that path down to Flume Lake. 2 group members didn’t see this tape, but followed another trail that led them down to the water, but they then had to portage around logs.
Flume is as it looks on the map. Long and narrow. Our last portage of the day was into McCarthy Bay. It was in decent condition. There were a few neat spots to portage through. The site on the island across from the put-in was taken, so we rode the tailwind over to the next island. There wasn’t really a whole lot of space for 3 tents, but would be an excellent site for a smaller group.
We made it to the last island in the bay and stayed there. Jeff’s Map shows it on the northeast side of the island, but it’s actually on the southeast corner. There is a sand beach under jack pines. We landed, walked the path through the trees, over an old pile of bear scat and into a stand of many birches. The site had a weird vibe to it, but it had been a long day and we didn’t want to paddle across the bay to the last site near the dam. It also looked as though there was a campsite directly across from us on the peninsula.
Our friends Jen and Ian were supposed to come along on this canoe trip, but unfortunately were unable to. So, we brought them along in spirit. Missed you guys on this trip, Ian and Jen!
We had a full moon this night. And, without a tripod it was hard to capture.
Portages: 305m (Jeff’s Map) or 230m (Ottertooth Map), 150m, 110m (Jeff’s Map) or 120m (Ottertooth Map), 860m (Jeff’s Map) or 1000m (Ottertooth Map)
We were off to a great start with our hearty oatmeal for breakfast with Tinder’s mix-in’s.
The 305m into Gold Lake was somewhat difficult with the rocks to balance over. If there is one thing I learned at this point in time on our trip, is that small portages don’t necessarily mean they’re easy.
The 150m into Gold Lake was interesting. It was basically bushwhacking with no clear path to get to Colin Scott Lake. You had to jump down about 3.5 feet from a boulder, and scramble over fallen trees while going down another boulder. It was tough for sure. Don’t under estimate the time to do this portage and watch your footing! I went down once with the food barrel and ended up staying with Banjo. I think I watched all 4 come down to the lake a different way.
Colin Scott had turquoise water. The portage from Colin Scott to Donald was a stunner. You climb a little and once you’re over, get ready for a view! Donald Lake is beautiful!
I really wanted to camp on this lake, but it meant for a long day paddling out on our final day on big Kukagami Lake. We decided as a group to push on to Upper Kukagami Lake. But, we stopped for a swim and lunch here.
We were battling a pretty good headwind. With the difficult 150m portage before, and paddling down Donald to our final portage that was 1 km long, it made for a long day. But we did it!
We got to the second campsite in Kukagami with an awesome view of the lake. And it had a thunderbox! We hadn’t had a thunderbox since Wolf Lake! Jeff’s Map shows another campsite but paddling by on our way out, it didn’t look too good. It also doesn’t show on Ottertooth, so I wonder if it has a thunderbox or not.
The site did have a lot of broken glass, but was in great shape other than that. Someone had cleaned it up. It rained a little when we arrived, but then cleared up.
It was a really nice final campsite to be on, considering the one on McCarthy Bay wasn’t the best.
Have you ever seen a storm approaching?
Watch it through the peripheral until it becomes centre focus
Watching the danger come, expecting the wind
Stepping quickly to stay dry, but not quick enough to avoid the rain
Have you ever carried home on your back?
Blistering steps and sorting bones
Through bruised and battered bodies
Transfixed on traversing roots and rocks in obstacle
Staying alert, a moving mindful meditation
Surefooted, stepping the slippery stones and boulders
Sticky root blood seeping
Moving as strong as an ox, slowly at a snail’s pace
Home and kitchens shouldered along
It hurts to get back here
The back hurts to get back here
But this sweet paradise, this country back here
Is so very worth all the pain
Have you ever slept beneath a canopy?
Heavy heart lightened by heavy eyes under thick blinking stars
Red pine star bright sheltering a bog ache
Muscles tender from self-weighted travel
J-stroke memories propelling new directions
Full moon nostalgia shaking up digital notions
White pine lessons and masqueraded desktop screensavers
Clean water by your own arm and flyless visions of the past
A reminder that the roots in the back
Are the real roots that got us here
That birch bark ignites fire, re-igniting wilderness passion
That sound of saw-toothed elbow grease
Is the sound of long-sleeved warmth and full stomachs
That fire starters come in all shapes and sizes
That matchsticks break like toothpicks break like heavy branches
Breaking like sunrise cresting on the horizon
That warm rock pillows are the softest
That clean air leaves minds refreshed
Have you ever travelled by water?
Using the same strength that carries homes on shoulders
To move water and vessels
From one water to the next, and across each water
That same greased elbow that lights fire
Stressing, pulling, and moving a weight of water they couldn’t even lift
But a weight that can be measured in movement
That can be measured in speed
Gliding over diamonds glistening
Repeating strokes in unison and counting blessings
New muscles learning new lessons and
Older ones reminded, remembering, and teaching.
Have you ever sat quietly under the moon?
If you sit silently enough, you can hear the moon rising.
– Poem written by Eitan Gallant, our Nature’s Poet
Our last day! It was good to be on the water early, because the wind on this lake kicked up! As we paddled further and further away from our last campsite, the more civilization we started to see. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, but there was some weird orange coloured thing on the water in the distance. It was a trampoline on the water. Lots of cottages and boats, but the lake wasn’t lined in them.
We paddled down to the 20m portage into Klondike Bay, it’s a sandy path to a beach on the other side. Waves were crashing pretty hard here, but we only had 0.6km to paddle to the Sportsman Lodge.
We met the owner at the beach who mumbled good morning after I had initiated the effort. That was all he said to us. I wasn’t sure if he was going to help us carry our gear up to our cars considering the launch fees we paid at the beginning and end of the trip, but he didn’t. My dad asked about a potential fishing trip here, but because of his standoffish behaviour, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was way too expensive to park our cars here along with all the other fees, but it gave us piece of mind.
We had been thinking of Kate’s Kountry Kitchen since day 1, and knew we had to stop on our way out. Instead of splitting a piece of pie we all ordered our own, and we had that before breakfast. The young waitress was happy to see us again. What a great spot! It’s been nominated as one of the best breakfast places in Ontario.
All in all, it was an incredible trip. I couldn’t believe how clean the campsites and portages were. They were in better shape than what I’ve seen in Algonquin. The group was incredible. We laughed so much, never complained and somehow came up with an idea to launch a line of camping gear called “Grandpa’s”. Most of it was basic, like “Grandpa’s Cook Pot Handle” just being a twig, or “Grandpa’s Torch” being two lighters banded together. It made for some deep-gutted laughs, and we ended up with a 6th group member after all.
Lasting memories for sure. What a time. What a land. What a place.
Thank you so much for reading and following along. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Thanks again! 🙂