First Quetico Trip
by Art Scoular (1 of 2)
We paddled from Nym Lake, through Batchewang Lake and most of Maria Lake today. There were high waves on Batchewang Lake (1 - 1.5 feet) so we all wore our lifejackets. We stopped on this lake while the other groups caught up. The guys found a good 20 foot cliff to jump from.
The island campsite on Maria Lake was very beautiful. This was the island that Chris (another guide we met on Day 6) had his encounter with the mother bear and cub last year. Our longest portage today was 830 m. but very rugged.
After we were all cleaned up for the night, food packs wrapped, fire doused, etc., I was wondering what the h--- I was doing here! I had been after the guys about doing this, fetching that for it seemed the entire day, mostly through my own inexperience.
I was up at dawn and had a s--- and a coffee before starting the bacon, then I got the guys up. After our bacon and eggs, we broke camp and were ready before the rest so we visited Mike's campsite on the mainland. Ian and Mark had attracted a huge snapping turtle by banging their tin cups on the rocks at the shoreline. He looked like he could take your hand off quite easily.
We had a short paddle to the portage into Hamburg Lake. This was supposed to be two short portages with a paddle in between, but due to low water levels it turned out to be one long portage of about 1600 m. The portage had the usual rugged terrain of rocks, mud, tree roots, vertical climbs, etc., but it also had a long section through a swampy area where I went up to my knee in mud twice while carrying the canoe (had to put the canoe down the second time) and Brian fell in up to his hip. After the swamp we had to traverse an old beaver dam full of holes. We had to be careful not to fall in any of the holes for fear of injury.
The paddle through Hamburg Lake and most of Oriana Lake was into very strong headwinds. Hamburg was about 1.5 hours of hard paddling. The island where we had lunch had a good cliff for jumping or diving (Mike). Brian and Scott saw 2 bald eagles today; Matt, Mike and Suzie and I saw a mother loon with her chick.
I had an emotional moment during the hard paddle on Hamburg Lake while thinking of how proud I was of Matt's maturity and hard work so far. Suzie was in the back of my canoe so she didn't notice. The lower portion of Oriana and the short paddle on Quetico Lake were very calm and beautiful. The landscape in the park is breathtaking. It is approximately 4.5 billion years old; part of the Pre-Cambrian Shield which is the earth's original crust.
We camped (late due to the hard paddle) on a point of land in Quetico Lake. Suzie made some of her famous cinnamon buns..."tasty." We ended up doing the dishes by flashlight (Scott's, due to mine not working). I am having a good time now that we're all getting the routine down. The guys did a great job today, especially during the long portage and the paddling into strong head winds most of the day.
The day started with a short paddle to the falls at Conk lake, where we had a shower and whirlpool bath...great feeling! We then had a nice easy paddle through Jean Lake and lunched on a small rock island where we saw the "King of Seagulls." We then tried to find an eagles nest on a nearby island with no success.
The paddle through Jean creek was calm and peaceful. One of the other groups' saw a bald eagle. This was in stark contrast to Sturgeon Lake where we found ourselves in strong head winds and cold. Matt had been duffing for the last 2 hours or so and he was shivering quite badly. We ended up 2 miles ahead of the rest of the group because we couldn't find a campsite. We finally found one on an island in Sturgeon Lake. It was marked by a "P" shaped piece of pink granite in the rock which had a section of moss growing where the hole in the P would be. Matt was very cold and shivering by this time, so Brian, Mike and Scott set up the 4 man tent and I got the Coleman going for the hot chocolate. When Matt got his dry clothes on and something hot to drink he was fine (a little shaken, but warm). Later, Brian did his crazyman dance around the island.
The guys did a great job setting up the tent in record time. We had a look at the map the next day and we had traveled 24 miles this day.
We started late today due to Fr. Al's group being slow to break camp. We were up early and packed up waiting for the other two groups. Suzie thinks we may have a night paddle to get to Dore lake for our layover (long paddle and only one portage - 730 m.). Suzie is paddling with us today. It was a long paddle up Sturgeon Lake and Sturgeon Narrows into fairly stiff winds, but nothing like the next part in upper Sturgeon which had very high headwinds. It took 1.5 to 2 hours straight paddling. Matt and I paddled together for this...we were whipped. We stopped for lunch before Deux Rivieres on a small island, where we saw a baby bald eagle soaring above us. I also spotted a bear track in a small sandy section of the shore. It was about 6 inches across. Just after taking off again Matt and I saw our first adult bald eagle high above us...too far for a photo.
The paddle up Deux Rivieres was peaceful and calm through tall weeds. The Deux Rivieres portage wasn't long but had some challenging inclines. We passed an original Voyageur portage. When we arrived at Dore Lake most of the campsites were taken (because w arrived so late - no night paddle though). Mike and Fr. Al's groups took the first two campsites and our group, with Suzie pushed on to the top end of the lake, where we set up a makeshift camp on a small point of land. I had a large root in my tent site so Suzie graciously lent me her Therma-rest air bed. This was a long day; 10:00 to about 7:30 with only about 1/2 hour for lunch. Even Suzie was wiped by the end of the day. Matt, Mike, Brian and I played poker by the fire for a while before going to sleep. Brian always keeps us laughing with his jokes and funny songs. It's great to have him in our group...our only Voyageur. We started talking about his favorite subject, music and he thought it was awesome the I had seen Hendrix, the Beatles, Greatful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, etc., so he just had to hug me.