New YouTube video

New video is live! A short one on one of the trips from last year we took with the kids through Temagami. Thanks for watching.

Tips Tuesday #2

We’re back for another tips Tuesday.

Who makes a trip plan?

Who then leaves the details with someone they know? It’s a good idea to leave a detailed version of your trip plan with friends or family. Marking where you’ll be staying and when. This way if something does happen to you help can be sent out right away and search and rescue can target the areas you were supposed to be traveling through? Now some folks might say “wait I have a spot device for emergencies like that!” True it’s great to have a spot device but electronics break so it’s always good to have a backup plan.

Do you take proper precautions before you head backcountry?

What are some other good safety tips that you take before heading out?

Tips Tuesday continues! This time we’re heading back to the basics.

In this day of electronic gadgetry and SKYNET like computing its easy to forget about the basics. Electronics can and will break, run out of power or turn on you and blow you out the airlock. We’d strongly recommend working on your map and compass skills this year. Many classes are held online and locally (I took a course just last year to hone my skills) A great thing to have on your belt as a Canoe tripper. Use the blood thirsty human hating GPS unit but have the skills and tools to back you up if and when T1000 tries to ruin your trip.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their day, I don’t know why but I have a strange urge to watch Space odyssey or Terminator.

Aha! You knew this was was coming . So here we go with some PFD tips for sizing as well as care! Remember to share your photos with us here on FB as well as Instagram with the hashtag #wearapfd and #leadbyexample

Aren’t PFDs uncomfortable?

Long gone are the days of the hard foam strangling boy oh bouy PFDs . There is an insane range of different styles , colours , weights , ect in PFDs now. Not only are they a life saving device but some models are basically 90’s Dad cargo shorts for your chest! Pockets in pockets allow you to become a Swiss Army knife while paddling. Clif bar…top pocket. Knife..side pocket. Compass…oh room for that to. Map?…clip to the front. Fruity Pebbles? Eat your cereal at home you feral animal the canoe is no place for cereal.

Make sure to try them on before you purchase. Roll those arms , crouch, sit, do some burpeees. Make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it’s a proper fit. If not you’ve just purchased yourself a $200 seat pad which is basically the same as cutting your car seatbelts off and stuffing them in your back pocket…which if that’s your thing all the power to you just seems a like more work than just wearing it.

How do I care for my PFD?

Water and feed it three times a day….wait I’ve mixed up my notes here.

Store it somewhere dark and dry. UV rays will degrade fabric and the foam innards.

Try not to sit on it. Compressing the PFD is actually bad for it and will shorten its lifespan. If you’re a clean freak you can wash it with warm water and mild soap just make sure you dry it completely before putting it away, because moldy PFDs are gross. PFDs do have a lifespan so if you’re still rocking that 1970’s was once yellow but now is kinda brown and smells likes Nana’s basement PFD…get a new one.

Forgot yours? Ontario Parks actually has a PFD lending program. See here https://www.ontarioparks.com/pfdlending

It’s your choice though folks we’re not here to judge you on what you wear and don’t wear. My only suggestion is that if you’re promoting canoeing , if you’re taking out new individuals to the life, if you’re teaching a new generation about backcountry canoeing and camping #leadbyexample and #wearapfd.

PRIZES???

Thanks for participating in another great tips Tuesday. As always if you’d like to see some of your tips featured drop us a line at

Paddle.in.ontario@gmail.com

Here’s our final tip for the day and it’s an important one. Something huge is coming this summer to the Paddle In page. Wanna get in on it? Really simple just head on over to our YouTube channel and subscribe. That’s it nothing else fancy log into your account and hit the subscribe button. We’ll be rolling out more hints very soon but I can tell you this you do not want to miss this one.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/

UC0cuWVUvGCpgorWujMk0ZCg

Ode to the Black Fly

“I’ll die with the black flies picking my bones. In North Ontario”

-The black fly song –

So if you’re like me your FB feed is full of people who have already got out for their first paddle as they live further south or are lamenting about the remaining ice and dreaming about paddling a northern lake. I’m just here to remind you what follows iceout just a few short weeks later. Those are not birds in the photo , nor is it a fleet of airplanes soaring in the skies of Temagami. They separate the dedicated from the fair weather, the complaints change from to cold to to buggy, they crawl in your eyes, nose and ears. But truth be told I miss them a little. That constant buzz, the tap tapping on the tent fly, the black halo around your bug net on the portage. The super resilient ones who manage to somehow crawl inside the bug jacket, and you’re not sure if they’re inside or out till you feel that familiar pinch. They’re waiting right now, just for you, they’ve missed you and if you think about it and are honest with yourself you missed them a little as well.

The Black Fly.

Food Barrel Friday #3

What’s the one piece of kitchen/cookware you can’t leave at home on a backcountry trip? Let us know in the comments below or better yet show us a photo.

Food Barrel Friday continues….

As some of you may or may not know it’s Canada Water Week . Now I think we can all agree that without water we wouldn’t get very far as Canoeists. We travel on it, we fish from it, most importantly we drink it.

So here’s a question for all of you. With choice of beverages in short supply on a canoe trip. What do you do to your water for a change of pace? Add crystals? Lemon? Wintergreen? Whisky?

Let us know in the comments below.

What’s your go to snack on the portage?

Candy?

Jerky?

Are you a die hard blue berry addict?

Let us know in he comments below.

Here’s one of our favorites around the Paddle In homestead

Maple Trail Mix

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup oats

1 cup mixed nuts

2 cups whole natural almonds

1/2 cup golden raisins, a couple of handfuls

1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 sunflower seeds

1 cup M & M’s or Reese’s pieces

Pre heat oven to 375

Warm and combine Maple syrup and vanilla extract

Mix wet and dry ingredients (except the m&m’s they’ll melt!!) . Spread on a baking tray and bake 15 minutes. Remove cool and try not to eat it all right away.

Backcountry with the kids

Do you bring your kids backcountry?

Having a bit of a walk down memory lane with my son this morning. Eating away at breakfast he asked when and where we’ll be headed out on our first family canoe trip this year. As some of you may remember Finn’s love for tripping really blossomed last year. Spurred on by learning to solo paddle in Temagami and ending in a week long trip across Algonquin , last fall, where he really shone and impressed the hell outta me. As of this morning he’s settled on five father and son trips he wants to do. Three new routes in Temagami, the French River, and anywhere he can catch his first trout. Looking forward to warmer weather and more stories to share with all of you.

The trip posts can be seen here

Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1470761652959455

Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1471649276204026

Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1472602379442049

Part 4: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1473044886064465

Part 5: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1474258765943077

Part 6: https://www.facebook.com/PaddleIn/posts/1475494305819523

Any plans to bring your kids out backcountry this year?

Part 5 Woodland Caribou

Ohhhhhh Day 9. Anyone reading this who’s had even limited portaging experience has suffered through a day like this. The terrain, distances and/or environment may vary, but the common factor is that times like these push you to your limits and beyond. Tempers run short, and while the physical toll is typically exhausting, it’s the mental drain on such days that really make you question your choice of masochistic hobby.

It was overcast and threatening to rain. A strong wind had kicked up by the time we broke camp on Lightning. We’d gone over the day’s route several times before leaving the site, with the words “…and then some creek,” muttered in a low, foreboding tone by each of us. At this point we knew it would be a difficult day of travel, but we settled into a business-like mentality to begin the push: little talk, paddle through it, get the job done. Surprisingly, the wind didn’t end up being much of a challenge for the first part of the day, and what ended up being the most physically rigorous portage of the entire trip also ended up being the most enjoyable. It was a very steep ascent and decline, with a maze-like plateau of boulders and brush on top. We were all reminded of the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail from the summer before. A beautiful landscape, and a testament to the truly varied terrain of Woodland Caribou. Following our relatively successful morning, we were perhaps a little overconfident when reaching our next portage. It had started to drizzle, but we had rain gear and we were making good time. We stopped for a quick snack while looking directly through the path labelled “NP” on the map, which represented “No Portage”. Piece of cake. Needless to say, this is where the day turned.

Our “No Portage” ended up being a few dozen meters of trail leading into a marsh. In higher water this may have been quite passable, but we stared out over at least a half kilometre of boggy weeds between us and open water. We thought it was simply a case of finding a hidden route through the tall growth, but each attempt to navigate an imaginary path ended with the same result: waist deep in marsh after only a few dozen steps. It was basically a reverse minefield. Instead of being blown upwards when taking the wrong step, you had to blindly fumble along until you were inevitably sucked down with the weight of your gear to hold you there. The frustration of making little to no progress over such small stretches of ground proved too much for an unnamed member of our party (RIP Dan), and a mid-bog break was needed to regain our composure after the better part of an hour through the swampy mess. F-bombs aplenty, I tells ya. Not for children’s ears.

We eventually slogged our way through. The rain was coming down harder now, and we soldiered along saying little. Several more portages and lakes brought us to the last leg of our day: We’d travel northeast towards North Prairie Lake via 300m portage and creek travel, instead of southeast into Prairie Lake with a 1900m into North Prairie. Harlan had advised us that the 1900m was an endless tangle of blowdown, so we took his word and entered the creek following the quick 300m. Appropriately, the thunder began to boom in the distance not long after we had our boats in the water. The sides of the creek were so high that pulling off to the side was out of the question. The water level was surprisingly high though, so we decided to dig in and paddle as fast as we could. The rain came down harder, and the sickening question of why the water levels were so high lingered in the back of my mind. It had to be one or several beaver dams keeping the creek full. We’d come across a few that we needed to pull over, but none of a size that would account for the water depth we were paddling. There had to be something we hadn’t seen yet.

We found the dam. The Hoover Dam of beaver dams. More importantly, we found what wasn’t beyond the dam: water. Our stomachs sank as we looked at what we had in front of us. Several kilometres of winding mud twisted into the horizon, forcing us to remember some of the potential downfalls that we all signed up for with this trip. There was literally no way that we could feasibly drag our canoes the length of what remained. Right on cue, a massive crack of lightning touched down just beyond the treeline to the north of us and the skies opened right up in a torrential downpour. We were completely exposed in the wide open creek, with the only possibility of shelter sitting hundreds of yards away from us on either side. Kids: Don’t try this at home. We had to make a spur of the moment call in the name of safety, so Fulton and I leapt from the canoes and began dismantling the top of the beaver dam to flood the rest of the creek. This wasn’t my proudest moment; I’d never advocate altering animal habitat for ease of travel, but we were in an increasingly dangerous situation and needed to get moving. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much dam deconstruction (maybe an afternoon’s worth of beaver rebuilding) to release enough water downstream for us to get back in the boats and continue the trek towards North Prairie. (Harlan informed us later that someone camping a few km’s away from us that afternoon had been struck by lightning at their campsite and had to radio in to be flown out of the park.)

We got in the canoes. We paddled for a few yards. We got out of the canoes. We dragged for a few yards. This continued endlessly for longer than I’d like to remember. We would have just stayed out of the canoes and dragged for the remainder of the creek, but the tiny sections of water that punctuated the shallow weed beds and thick mud were beyond chest height in depth. The creek was flooded now, but not flooded enough. We persevered through several hours and kilometres of this in&out/drag&paddle monotony, accompanied by an impressive symphony of profanity (courtesy of Dan). Oh, and the leeches. Yes, the creek was full of leeches.

Nick and I reached North Prairie a few minutes before Fulton, Dan, and Crispy; barely able to muster enough enthusiasm for any sort of celebration or congratulations. This was because we knew we had a choice to make. Our initial plan was to camp on either North Prairie or Indian House (a 975m portage to the east). We were soaked and exhausted. North Prairie didn’t have any campsites, and we’d have to find/make our own. Indian House had campsites littering the south shore right off the end of the portage. We managed to convince a VERY RELUCTANT group of guys to push on to Indian House, with the promise of a comfortable campsite waiting for us.

The 975m was relievingly flat (albeit inhabited by finger leeches, as Fulton discovered) and after a short paddle we found our campsite for the night in the continuing downpour as we were quickly losing light. We did our best to get the tarps up quickly and change into some dry clothes. I hadn’t been bothered that much by being wet for most of the day, but began to shiver as soon as we stopped at camp. People took turns setting up their tents under the tarp to keep them dry, and we did a reasonable job of making camp in the approaching darkness. I’d remained fairly calm in the midst of the day’s miserable events, but lost my temper for a few minutes when I knocked the tarp while setting up my tent under it, flooding the interior with the rainwater that had pooled on top of the shelter. Tantrum aside, we gathered under the tarp to warm ourselves with food and booze. Crispy had been changing into a dry sweatshirt, when an audible *crunch* and an ear-piercing scream broke the silence under the tarp. “PUT IT BACK IN!!! PUT IT BACK IN!!!” came from underneath the sweatshirt over Crispy’s head. Fulton, standing right beside him, alarmingly replied, “PUT WHAT BACK IN?!?!” Before the words left Fulton’s mouth, we all knew what had happened: Crispy had dislocated his shoulder. Again.

The next few hours were spent sipping whisky, constructing an arm sling, and trying to absorb everything that had transpired over the last 10-12 hours. We went to sleep early, wet, and completely drained.

Day 10. Waking up to sunshine after the previous day’s ordeal was a massive relief. The rain had tapered off just before we went to sleep, but we hadn’t seen a weather forecast in over a week and had no idea what to expect in the morning. We were regaining our sense of humour after some breakfast, and used the already blazing sun and flat rocks on our site to begin drying out our gear and clothes. One of the mental approaches that helps greatly during rough patches of a lengthier canoe trip is the ability to look beyond the current problem and see it as only temporary. If you’re out in the bush for weeks at a time, you’ll get bad weather and you’ll definitely get wet at some point. The sun will inevitably come out, and eventually you’ll be dry and warm again; always keep this in mind. Discomfort is 99% mental, which is what I kept telling myself now that the chafing on my inner thighs had reached the point of bleeding (gross, I know). It had been tolerable for the time leading up to Indian House, but the full day spent trudging through swampy creek in the pouring rain had only made matters worse. Some loaned baby powder helped significantly, and my minor issue paled in comparison to Crispy’s lingering shoulder problem. After nine days in the park, we’d only had two days of rain, and just one with any wind to speak of. As far as paddling conditions for a dislocated shoulder go, we were getting pretty lucky, all things considered.

The day’s travel would begin with leaving the south end of Indian House by way of – you guessed it – more creek travel. We could see on the map that it appeared to be much wider than what we’d been slogging through previously, so we sheepishly approached the creek mouth that morning praying that there would be enough water to pass through with ease. We were in luck. This stretch of the park ended up being another one of the highlights of the trip, with more than enough water to paddle, loads of waterfowl around every corner (including A LOT of aggressive trumpeter swans), and all of the sunshine we could possibly ask for.

After the creek widened into more open water and a chain of unnamed lakes, we completed a 525m portage with the plan of taking a break shortly after for a snack. We stopped on a steep, tiny island and enjoyed the view across the lake of another massive rock face that loomed over the small body of water. We were now entering the eastern half of the park and were still seeing a wide variety of terrain every day. I’d watched as many videos filmed in the park as I could in the months leading up to the trip, and most seemed to portray the area as an incredibly flat and homogeneous landscape. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and it was a constant pleasure throughout the trip to be repeatedly surprised by so many different aspects of the park on a daily basis. We stopped for a full lunch on another island later on in the day, this time across 375m and 225m portages into Crystal Lake. The lake itself was aptly named, as the lake bottom was still visible at several dozen meters from the surface. We had been back onto a formal canoe route since hitting Indian House, and as we moved eastward towards our pick-up point, the float planes overhead became more frequent; people beginning their trips as ours was almost coming to an end. We crossed one final 175m portage for the day into Bell Lake where we would camp for the night.

Our choice of locations for a campsite were fairly limited on Bell. It boiled down to deciding between an exposed, scrubby point with bush garbage (rusted-out oil drums, etc) scattered at the back of the site, or a sheltered bay just around the corner with almost nowhere to set up a proper camp. We opted for the sheltered bay because the wind had begun to pick up a bit in the late afternoon (much to Nick’s dismay – he really liked the rusted-out oil drums for some reason). We all ended up fairly spread out over the woods in the bay, at various heights along a series of graduated platforms in the rock: Dan, Fulton and Crispy in their hammocks on the edge of the treeline, Nick much farther back on the hillside on a clearing, and myself almost right at the shoreline in a flat bed of lichen. The waves lapping against the rocks in the bay put me to sleep pretty quickly that evening.

At some point late in the night I was awakened by what I thought was a splash. I sat and listened for several minutes, still hearing the slight movement of water on rocks. I figured that I must have dreamt the splash, or that a larger rogue wave had come into the bay and made louder contact with the shore. I was on the verge of falling asleep again, when I heard what was definitely small rocks falling into the water about 20-30 yards away from my tent. This had me alert in a hurry. I always sleep with my buck knife beside my pillow, so my hands instinctively reached and had it out of the sheath in a flash. I sat straight up in the tent to get a better bearing of where the sounds were coming from in relation to where I was. I sat still for several minutes without hearing anything more, eventually considering that it may have been a raccoon or an otter combing the shore for freshwater mussels. Being as far away as I was from the rest of the group, I began to think that I was just being paranoid and sheathed my knife again… and that’s when a considerably large branch snapped, some 10 metres away from my tent. Whatever it was was moving closer, and after I unsheathed my knife again and listened closely, I could hear what sounded like sniffing and heavy breathing. I’d been in a similar scenario the previous fall on a solo trip in Algonquin, so immediately I reached for the day pack which contained my bear bangers. I let out a few HEY!!!!s and listened again for movement while I screwed a banger into the launching pen. Nothing for a minute or two, and then more sniffing/breathing. I quickly unzipped a small enough portion of the tent fly for my hand to stick through and released the banger up and away from the tent. The explosion caused whatever had shown interest in my tent to barrel off in the woods, and woke up the rest of the group in the process. I’m fairly certain it was a bear and not a moose, if only for the speed that it left the camp. We were getting closer to civilization as we neared the end of our trip, but we were still several days out in the bush… and bears really seem to like my tent.

Day 11 would be our last full day in Woodland Caribou. We’d be meeting Harlan with the ground shuttle at the Johnson Lake access point the following day, so the plan was to make camp on Douglas Lake that night to position ourselves nice and close to the pick-up point. We’d paddle through Page, Peterson and Hatchet lakes with back-to-back 200m portages, a 325m and finally a 150m before reaching where’d we stay for our last night. The temperature had dipped significantly overnight, and it was overcast when we broke camp and left Bell.

We began to see more boat caches and the occasional piece of litter on the portages towards Douglas. We still hadn’t seen anyone since the lone canoe on Royd at the end of Day 6, but the signs of human activity were increasingly evident with the portages becoming more open and worn down. The skies threatened rain for most of the morning, and besides a brief period of drizzle on Hatchet Lake, we remained dry for the majority of the day. We stopped for lunch on a well-used point once we reached Douglas. An old barbecue and picnic table had been left there, probably from the fishing lodge at the north end of the lake. It was a nice place to stop for a meal, but compared to what we’d experienced over the past 10 days, something as simple as a picnic table felt like an intrusion on the rugged conditions that we’d become accustomed to.

Strong winds had begun to blow in from the west as we finished our meals, and with the winds came a wall of dark clouds on the horizon. We hadn’t found a campsite yet and we were in an increasingly vulnerable position. We’d spotted a beach to the east while having lunch, so we launched the boats and paddled hard with the wind at our backs, trying to beat the oncoming storm that would soon bear down on us. We’d barely beached the canoes when a violent downpour chased us back into the tree line for shelter.

Crispy, Dan and Fulton all looked for suitable hammock spots in the rain while Nick and I (the tent dwellers) waited out the rain hunkered down beneath the trees. The storm rolled by quickly, and within the hour we were on the beach drying out our rain gear and gathering the abundance of driftwood along the shore for our final night’s fire. Like our first beach experience in the park, this one also seemed to be highly travelled by the area’s wildlife. The game trails leading into either end of the beach were more well-worn than any portage we’d seen the entire trip. This, coupled with the previous night’s campsite visitor, inspired Nick to construct a virtually impenetrable bushcraft tent defence system (see below). No animal would dare risk its life in an attempt to a breach such a formidable structure.

We were treated to an incredible sunset on the beach, and witnessed the largest flying ‘V’ of geese that any of us had ever seen. Hundreds of them emerged high above the treeline behind us and we stared upwards to see the formation stretch clear across the width of the entire lake. We were obviously disappointed to not have seen a single caribou or moose throughout the trip, but our time in WCPP was not without an exceptional amount of memorable wildlife experiences.

As it was our last night in the park, we soon had a ridiculously large fire burning at the water’s edge. Any remaining snacks and desserts were divvied up after dinner, and the rest of the night was spent feeding our massive beach fire and watching the impressive show of stars in the sky. I fell asleep to the waves rushing up on the beach, and the certainty that Nick would somehow impale himself on his branch fence at some point during the night.

Day 12 ended up being the coldest day we spent in Woodland Caribou. The skies were clear that morning, but the temperature had definitely dropped to single digits overnight and it was evident that Autumn would soon arrive in northwestern Ontario. The strong winds from the west had resumed, but thankfully we’d camped only a brief paddle away from our first portage, and the wind would be at our backs once we rounded the corner from our site.

The journey from our final campsite back to the access point involved a stretch of (easy) creek travel and two portages: A 155m into Stan Lake, and a 525m into Johnson, the access point where Harlan would meet us later that morning. The prospect of hot showers, greasy food and cold beer (Harlan – you still owe us beers) was a welcoming thought, but a big part of me was extremely disappointed that the trip was coming to a close. However, we saw some fallen coloured leaves on the portage into Johnson, and those first real signs of autumn had me looking forward to upcoming canoe trips in my favourite season of the year. We’d only been sitting in the parking lot at the access point for about twenty minutes when we heard the Red Lake Outfitters shuttle rattle towards us with its large canoe trailer in tow. Rather than greeting us with congratulations or questions about our trip, the first words out of Harlan’s mouth were, “OK, whose mother was supposed to get SPOT messages sent to them?” It turns out that some of the email addresses I’d added to my SPOT list didn’t receive any GPS “OK” alerts for the entire duration of the trip, and Nick’s mother had been in touch with Harlan. We all had a good laugh at his expense, and everyone relayed back to home that we’d survived the trip once we were back in cell range.

I can’t say exactly when I’ll return to Woodland Caribou, but I couldn’t recommend both the Park or Red Lake Outfitters highly enough. To the novice paddler: I’d definitely get a few lengthy, remote trips under your belt before attempting something of this scale, but if you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone and experience a world-class wilderness adventure, you’re absolutely in for the trip of a lifetime.

Woodland Caribou: Part Three

Part Three: Woodland Caribou

Day 2 ended up being as leisurely a day as one can imagine. We only had one portage to the western portion of Larus, which would position us for the following day’s travel south into Simeon and eventually Dunstan Lake. We slept in, ate a relaxed breakfast, and slowly packed up for the day. Our paddling was extremely laid back that day, with little urgency to cover ground quickly. We cruised past the fly-in lodge situated on the lake’s south end, realizing that this would potentially be the last piece of civilization we’d see for the remainder of the trip. Two bald eagles were spotted on our paddle east, and we stopped for several hours at our only portage (a 100m section of rock around a nice set of falls) for fishing and a delicious shore lunch of walleye and smallmouth.

Our eventual campsite for that day wasn’t anything spectacular: A flat, rocky point covered in scrub, where the western end of Larus bottlenecks before it turns south into Simeon Lake. We’d initially thought about pushing on further that day, but Harlan had suggested leaving ourselves a full day to tackle a potentially bone-dry, late-season Simeon Creek. The site did gain a fair amount of charm towards dusk, though. The setting sun hit the unfamiliar Boreal treeline and provided us with a picturesque reminder of how out of our usual portaging element we really were. Being late August, we were relieved that the bugs weren’t an issue to contend with. The back of our site was surrounded by a flooded, marshy section of forest that would’ve definitely been a nightmare to camp beside earlier on in the season. Southern Ontario had such an unbelievably awful year for black flies and mosquitoes so it was an absolute joy to be in the woods at sundown and not be bathed in Deet or hiding in a bug shelter. I’d made my first attempt at dehydrating backcountry burritos in preparation for the trip, and gave them a trial run that night for dinner. My only regret was not bringing more than three night’s worth, and they’ve been a staple on each canoe trip I’ve been on since then. We stayed up fairly late, as there wasn’t much ground to cover the following day, and our unimpeded view of the stars was putting on quite a show.

It was our second night in the park; we weren’t quite in the full rhythm of a lengthy canoe trip yet, but starting to settle into the daily routine of it all.

Day 3 would offer us some of our first wildlife encounters in Woodland Caribou. As breakfast was being prepared, Fulton spotted the head of a black bear swimming just around the corner of our site, with its wake across the channel visible to all of us. We thought the breakfast bacon smelled delicious, and apparently the bear agreed and wanted to investigate. We remained cautious of the fact that we were definitely being watched from behind our site, but we finished our breakfast and packed up camp without any real concern. The bear, no doubt, was waiting for us to leave so it could have a look around for anything we’d leave behind. We were still fairly close to a fly-in lodge, so the bears in the area were definitely acclimatized to humans and their connection to food. We pushed off from the site without incident, and saw no evidence of the bear as we looked back. We rounded a point on Simeon later that morning to see a large group of turkey vultures gathered on shore. Just as we realized that a large, beached carcass had brought them together to feed, we spotted a Golden Eagle perched in a branch hanging over the water in front of us. These massive birds can have a wingspan of over six feet, and we paddled almost right underneath it before it flew off to reposition itself in another tree. Golden Eagles aren’t typically scavengers, so it was possibly the commotion of the vultures that spiked its curiosity. Regardless, this was a truly rare sighting, and absolutely one of the biggest highlights of our trip.

We were warned of low water levels along Simeon Creek (“miserable” was the descriptor Harlan used), so we were apprehensive upon drawing nearer to the creek entrance. The creek, however, appeared to be extremely high as we entered the winding rocky maze, and while looking down into the water as we paddled, we could see what a nightmare this would’ve been to navigate through in low water. The first several kilometres would have been a torturous push through jagged, column-like rocks with only enough room to stick (and break) a leg in between. The rock walls that lined portions of this section provided an intimate, twisting landscape that was really fun to paddle through. We repeatedly praised the mighty beaver that dammed up this section of the creek as we easily moved through it….not considering what the eventual consequences could be, depending on where said dam would be located further on. We lucked out, though. Even though the water levels dipped a bit after we pulled over the eventual dam, there was still more than enough water to paddle. I don’t think we had to get out of the canoe more than a half-dozen times to carry over rocky sections of the creek. Drizzle had started to come down on us by this point, so we put on our rain gear and pushed through to Dunstan Lake – our destination for the day. We chose a beautiful island campsite halfway down the lake, but it rained fairly hard for our first few hours at camp and we didn’t really have an opportunity to settle in and enjoy our surroundings. We set up the tarps quickly, and strategized as to how we’d get a change of dry clothes on, make dinner, and somehow set up our shelters while keeping them dry. The rain let up after we ate and I decided to have a few casts in the dark, in a small channel between our island and another one situated about 30 yards away. Night fishing for walleye can be excellent, and sure enough there must have been a school clustered on some rocks at the channel bottom. I landed four 16-18 inch (perfect eating size) fish in almost as many casts before they smartened up to my spoon. Steve and his Minnow Trap were unable to join us for the trip, but we’d been having success with artificial lures up to that point. I only kept the last one to eat, but unfortunately found parasites in the fish while cleaning it and had to give it back to the lake. A snapping turtle ate well that night. It’s amazing how some dry clothes and full stomachs can instantly change the mood around camp; we were all in good spirits as the night wore on. The other guys eventually began to retreat to their tents and hammocks for the night, but I couldn’t be bothered to dig my tent out of my pack at such a late hour, so I just set up my pad and sleeping bag under the tarp for the night.

Day 4 began on another lazy note, simply due to the fact that we hadn’t really gotten a chance in the previous night’s rain to enjoy what a great site we’d chosen. The long island provided just enough cover for tents and hammocks, with the majority of it being exceptionally flat rock. Most of our gear was still pretty drenched from the previous day’s rain, so we took advantage of the clear skies and spread out our belongings around the site to dry. We only had a 750m & 150m portage ahead of us that day, so we weren’t in a rush to get moving. We all went swimming, fished, and lounged around camp. This was one of the aspects of the trip that I was really beginning to enjoy; we had days where we needed to travel further than others, but we were in the park long enough that we never really needed to kill ourselves (only distance-wise, as we’d later discover) on any particular day.

We didn’t pack up until well after noon, with the goal of hitting Wanda Lake that day. This would be where we’d spend our only rest day of the trip, and we were excited to see why the lake had come so highly recommended by everyone we’d talked to.

The paddle to Wanda was fairly uneventful, with the portages not posing any issues, and only a bit of shallower creek travel in the last stretch before it opened up into our rest-day destination. Wanda is a really gorgeous lake. I have soft spot for bodies of water with islands, so I might be somewhat biased, but the late afternoon sun beaming on the dead calm, glassy surface of the lake had me in awe. We began to comb the shores in search of a site, and settled on what is definitely a well-used camp. The modifications made to it (wooden stairs, etc) led us to believe that this is probably a popular site for fly-in guests, with Wanda having a stellar reputation for walleye and pike. The terrain of the site offered a large group clearing, many tent pads, an excellent fire pit, and paths to both a swimming area and a boat put-in. I’d slept so well the previous night that I decided on the tarp-only option again, and would do so for multiple nights throughout the rest of the trip. There was a noticeable glow on the horizon to the North as the evening wore on, and Nick was able to capture some impressive GoPro footage of the Borealis display – both of our nights on Wanda. We were up fairly late that first night, with no concern for anything in the day ahead except fishing, swimming and relaxation.

To be continued….

Woodland Caribou: Part One

Okay folks after a severe puppy incident which had me thinking my laptop was for for the pit. I’ve salvaged it all. So over the next few days we’ll be bringing you Tom’s first trip report for the team.

Part One:

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

August 23rd – Sept 4th 2017

By: Tom Donnachie

Photos – Instagram: @thomas_rowan / @ey_pep / @zmp

Bucket List canoe trips: Quetico, The Nahanni, Mackenzie River….these are all names that arise when paddlers talk of destinations and routes that exemplify their idea of the remote, wilderness adventure. The planning and coordination alone of such a journey often rivals much of the adversity faced during the course of one of these “trips of a lifetime.” Often, the task of simply reaching the start of the route can almost exhaust as much time as travelling the route itself. These challenges, however, only add to the lure of the Bucket List trip, and with a lot of patience and preparation, experiencing an adventure of this scale can become a reality.

My first exposure to Woodland Caribou Provincial Park was through Kevin Callan’s YouTube series in 2012, which documented his 10-day trip across the vast stretch of Boreal wilderness in northwestern Ontario. I was immediately struck by the many elements of the park that were foreign to me as an avid paddler & portageur: Fly-in entry to the park, unmarked/unmaintained portages, little to no chance of encountering other paddlers, CARIBOU (!?!?)…. Before long I had watched the video series several times and while an actual trip there didn’t escalate beyond pipedream status at the time, the park definitely had its hooks in me. Established as a Provincial Park in 1983, WCPP covers a massive 1 million+ acres along the Ontario/Manitoba border and offers an impressive 2000+ kilometers of canoe routes throughout the park. The biggest draw for many is the fact that only several hundred paddlers pass through the park each season. Factor in world-class fishing for walleye, pike, and lake trout and one can easily see why Woodland Caribou represents the pinnacle of so many canoeists’ tripping goals.

Fast forward several years later: a quick chat with Harlan from Red Lake Outfitters at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure show, a few “maybe next year” discussions with friends, and Woodland Caribou still remained out of reach, despite its graduation to a potential trip destination. I simply couldn’t get anyone to commit to specific dates, let alone the scale of the trip itself (cost, travel, duration, etc). Anyone who’s attempted to organize a trip like this knows how frustrating it can be to try and coordinate so many factors into a successful plan. Family, careers, and life in general are huge obstacles to overcome while planning, making the human aspect among the most difficult to work around. I continued to float the idea around of a WCPP trip while backpacking the length of Pukaskwa National Park’s Coastal Trail (DO THIS TRAIL) in August, 2016. We’d managed to gather an enthusiastic and capable group for that trip, so when we hadn’t murdered each other by the midpoint of the 70 km hike along Lake Superior’s North shore, I figured this would definitely present some options for making the Woodland Caribou trip a viable possibility.

January 2016: Time to see who’s still on board, and as luck would have it, everyone was looking forward to Woodland Caribou as much as I was. This trip was actually going to happen. Apologies to those who wanted to join us, but on an adjusted schedule. If we didn’t stand firm on the chosen dates, one concession turns into twenty and suddenly it’s “maybe next year” all over again. Nick, Fulton, Cristian (Crispy), Dan and myself would all be making the long drive to Red Lake, Ontario to begin our adventure at the end of August, and we began the planning with Red Lake Outfitters. This would be my first time using an outfitter for a canoe trip. I like to be as self-sufficient as possible, but seeing as we’d need to use them for the flight into the park and ground shuttle at the end of our route, we figured they’d also be the best resource for route planning. WCPP isn’t exactly a park that someone from the GTA will visit frequently, so we wanted to ensure that the route would be optimized for what could quite possibly be the only chance some of us would ever have to paddle Woodland Caribou. Harlan was great with assessing what our priorities were (big/small water, solitude, fishing, etc), and before long we’d roughed out an approximate route for our 12 days across the park. One of the added benefits of undesignated campsites is that we did have some leeway to deviate from our planned route if need be, due to the ever-changing conditions that can affect travel over such a long distance and time frame.

How were the bugs? 

A lot of you have asked the question 


“How were the bugs?”

Well here’s a few shots from our first night on Lake Temagami. Kids in the bug nets, Dad and Grandpa out collecting drift wood for a fire, and no the camera lens wasn’t dirty all those black dots are black flies buzzing around the kids heads. They’re attracted to my kids pretty fiercely . But never a single complaint was uttered by either of them. They were happy to be back in Temagami bugs and all. 

Cheers
-Paddle In