1997 Aug. 22
I have just returned from a canoe trip with Erhard Kraus.
On Saturday August 16 he picked me up at Parry Sound at 7:00am and we are off to Cartier to meet the Budd Car. This train is to take us to the "Flume" on the Spanish River, about 2 miles north of Sheehan on the CPR line. The "Flume" turns out to be a small trickle of water coming from Lake Pogamasing to the Spanish River. The Conductor and Brakeman help us unload our canoe and gear from the baggage section. This gear consists of a "Wannigan" (the kitchen box) on a tumpline, Food pack and my big packsack. Off the train goes and we are left alone in the middle of nowhere to do our thing.
Erhard picks up the canoe and off he goes up this trail with me following with my packsack on the first and definitely not the last of many portages. The other end of the portage finds us on Lake Pogamasing at Deadhorse Bay. It was between 300 and 400 meters long with the terrain being littered with all sizes of stones and rough ground. This portage would probably be graded as "Intermediate, Strenuous" and with two trips for each of us. The portage takes us about one hour to complete. From Deadhorse Bay we paddle across the bay and to the west side of the lake, just to get into the lee of the wind. We had decided to go to the north end of the lake and find a portage which had been marked on Erhard's. Guess what, the waves and wind were coming from the North. Made us work for our supper. On the way north we stop at a beautiful rock face for lunch and do some exploring around the rocks. I notice the quartz seems to be whiter and different in character than the type around Parry Sound. I brought two samples home as keepsakes from Pog. When we reached the north end of the lake, we found several cabins, one of which was occupied with two families, both from the Ottawa area. They showed us the direction to the portage. It was their connection to the train tracks also. This portage turned out to be about 2 kilometres long to the train tracks and no obvious signs of how to get to the Spanish River from the tracks. The river was visible, however one needed to carry the canoe at least another 400 meters and through a wet swamp to reach the river. So much for that idea. We walked back to our canoe and paddled on to an island that we noticed as an excellent camp site. Set up camp and had supper. The wind was definitely cool, too cool for swimming, so about 8:30pm we called it an early night.
Sunday, August 17
Rise real early, ha, ha. at about 7:30am and find we are fogged in and it is still quite chilly. About a half hour later the fog is lifting and there is blue sky above. Back on the lake by 9:00am paddling south. Our plan for the day is to see an elderly couple Erhard had met last year, Harry and Kay Ward, look around Graveyard Bay, check out an island in the middle that apparently had been a Hudson Bay Post and then go over to Little Pogamasing Lake via the Pogamasing River and see what unfolds there. This is supposed to be a heavy day of paddling of planned activities and reach the Pog River. On the way down the lake we stop at Graveyard Bay and cruise around the bay.
We reach the Ward's at 10:00am, meet them, their grandson and his wife and the two great-grand children (Tara (about 6/7) and Robbie (19 months)). Had coffee and a raspberry tart (just made this morning). Chatted with them for about an hour. We learned that the table at our campsite was taken by Harry and friends from an abandoned mine operation (used as a core sample inspection table sometime in the 1930's at Wye) and placed there on the island during the late 1940's. Originally it had a metal top on it, which is now gone.
By the way one of the men at the cabins at the north end of the lake also told us that the table has been there longer than he can remember and that was about 35 years and he also had told us the table had a metal top originally. Left the Wards' and paddled to the island (Kingston Island) where the Hudson Bay store was supposedly located. Definitely had been inhabited. The East side of the island had been cleared and grass had been planted. Overgrown now with many ferns. Found a snakeskin (about 24 inches long) and put on top of the food pack. On Little Pog, the skin had dried out and with constant handling, the wind blew it away. Lost. Nothing else of significance was found there, except the island was still occasionally being used campers. Paddled on to the Pogamasing River. Found a beautiful spot to have a snack just in from the mouth of the river on the left shore. After lunch continued paddling up the river to Pejcke Lake. Really couldn't tell river from lake, looked more like an open swamp with a deep wide beaver run in the centre which had many stones appearing out of nowhere just under the water surface. Continued up the waterway towards Little Pog Lake and encountered a dried up rapids with a small stream of water running over a combination of bedrock and stones (our usual types of various sizes, most you could stand on and much heavier than both of us together). We notice that someone previously had gone this way before with an aluminium boat of some sort. So we decide that this is the way to go with this portage. Erhard did his usual remarkable balancing act with canoe on head dancing over the river bed bolders for about 500 - 600 meters. Then together we had to lift the canoe up an incline and over the small dam. Another portage accomplished. There must be another way to portage this one. would classified this one as "Advanced, Strenuous". Boy, were we naive about this endeavour. Back into the canoe, gear and all, and onto the next.
We paddle for about another 15 minutes and there is another dam. A simple lift over of about 30 meters. This is a very old dam with a logging sluiceway built into the centre of it. I consider the dam to be probably at least 60 years old. There is a terrific campsite here and Erhard considered that we are nearly to the lake so we might as well stop here for the night, not knowing if there was any suitable camping spots ahead. The site was where we set up camp and then enjoyed our first decent swim of the trip. Erhard spotted a large bull moose feeding on the other side of the lake, a beautiful spread of antlers, so majestic and unconcerned. We even had a beautiful campfire and watch the full moon appear over the tree tops, satellites travelling overhead and the stars appear and the sky grew darker.
We had seen a couple of wolf spoors earlier and given the location, the full moon, thought we might be treated with a wolf howl or two. No such luck. Erhard made the comment that this was the remotest place he had ever canoe tripped into and was thoroughly enjoying it. We had worked hard to get here and was really well worth the effort. We finally decided to retire for the evening about 10:30pm, pleased with the day.
Monday August 18
Morning awakes with fog, again. The sky is blue above and we know it is going to be another beautiful day. We are on the water about at 9:00 am, complete with my cup of tea for the morning, thinking that we are going out into the lake. Our plan for the day was to see several the portages to the lakes at the south end of Little Pog and return to the dam (now our temporary base camp) for the night. Five minutes later, a portage we do encounter. We are lucky, we found it fairly easily, but it is about 500 meters long. Probably would be rated as "Intermediate, Moderate". However we are through it and back onto the river, thinking we are very close to the lake. Not so. We have lost our sunken stone fields, mostly. The river is shallower and the bottom is a deep mud bath. You could easily loose your paddle in the stuff. Both of us tried to measure the depth, couldn't. When we each took our paddles out of the quagmire, the aroma was extremely fragrant, no one would ever complain about the sweet smell of a sweaty body compared to this stuff. About this time we notice a submerged old beaver dam, and we were able to glide over with our supreme spurt of furious paddling. Once past the beaver dam, the river is beginning to open up again. Oh, oh there is another portage ahead. We are surprised with a trail marker left from some previous time. This portage is relatively short, only about 300 long and not really difficult. Probably classified as "Intermediate, Easy". The hardest part of the portage was trying to place the canoe into the water between the stones and the mud.
We did fine in the end. Back on the river, also back with us is our now famous sunken stones. Around the river bend there is another rapid which also means, guess what, a portage. This one turns out to be just a lift over, (10 meters). Probably classified as "Beginners, Moderate". Easy as pie, if you didn't trip on the shoe laces that you forgot to tie. Very beautiful spot to sit, enjoy the flowing water and meditate peacefully. No time for that now, we are back into the canoe and the river looks like now part of a bay. We have made it to Little Pogamasing Lake. The water surface is just like glass, but that doesn't last long. The wind is picking up going the same way we want to go, south. We watch for campsites along the way. Found one or two on Little Pog. Erhard marked them on his map for future reference. At the end of the lake we crossed into Dennie Lake, a short carry over a small dam. "Beginners, Easy". Paddled south and found in the south west corner of the lake in a small bay the portage to Gilden Lake. We decide to do the portage to Gilden, since we are making such terrific time and we are only carrying our lunch pack. This portage turns out to be about 800 meters long but not really difficult. "Intermediate, Moderate". The lake is quite scenic. Someone else must think so too, we see a float plane parked at a camp near the bay where the portage meets the lake. Also there was a fisherman's punt left at the portage. Erhard took a picture looking out to the lake. His pictorial documentary. We paddle down the shoreline of the lake. As we are cruising about we notice a something on shore in this bay. As usual we have to investigate. We find that it is a canoe just lying there. We both have the feeling that this must be the beginning of another portage. Guess what. Yes, we get out and the "Yellow Brick Road", this time without our canoe. Good thing, the portage is about 1200 -1400 meters long. Not difficult, a fairly easy walk. The portage leads to Sinaminda Lake. Without looking at the map, it seems like a fairly big lake. Checking the map, it is. Stayed at the portage entrance for while and had lunch. Quite beautiful. Then walked back to our canoe and start our trek back to Little Pog Lake. On our return trip, we surprise a beautiful large bald eagle. Both of us were extremely surprised also to see one here. The eagle moved up the shoreline in front of us, until it realized that we were going the same way. Then it move off well in front and started to soar well up in the clouds. Made the paddling a non-event just watching the bird. Later we noticed a second one, this eagle still had the feather markings of an immature bird.
On the return trip to our base camp we sailed through the portages, even stopping off to mark the beginning of the long one for others to find. Uneventful paddling, except the scenery, I find it tremendously serene and terrific for the peace of mind. When you are alone, you are really alone in all possible ways. Some people would definitely not tolerate this loneliness at all and others would revel in its beauty for a long time. Back to base camp for supper and another peaceful night. Terrific weather.
Tuesday, August 19
Up at our usual time, break camp and on the river by 9:00am. Woke up with a bit of fog and blue skies above. Another day threatening to be terrific. Our plan for the day is to return to Little Pogamasing Lake and head south to Bluewater Lake and a bay with the same name. The water is supposed to be the reason for its name. Erhard thinks the colour of the water in the bay is very blue and beautiful. He is going there to swim. We are both thinking of the portage that is in front of us first. Erhard apparently pulled a muscle in his leg ankle and is not looking forward to the stone fields. Anyway over the short dam and onto the big portage. As we are paddling towards the river, guess what, there is a portage complete with marker, which we missed coming in. The portage is another long walk and not extremely difficult. Probably about 600 - 700 meters long and would be rated "Intermediate, Strenuous". A whole lot easier than our first efforts travelling the other direction. Placed a portage sign on a tree visible for others to see when approaching the portage, so they don't get caught with our difficulties. Now we arrive back to Lake Pogamasing and head south, for what Erhard predicted as being a long day of paddling and portaging. At the bottom of Pog Lake we find the portage into Kennedy Lake. A long path which probably was in its distance past was a logging road. Not a particularly easy trail, about 1000 -1200 metres long. Erhard carried the canoe most of the way and I spelled him briefly. I found it difficult carrying the canoe in this terrain with my shoe laces coming undone soon after I started my share of carry. Anyway we were almost at the lake. One day I will have to improve my canoeing shoes to make walking portages better. I would grade this portage to be "Intermediate, Strenuous". Now we are on Kennedy Lake. About halfway down the lake we reach a dam at a set of narrows on the lake (Kennedy) earlier than Mind you we had waves and wind at our backs all morning, really hard to paddle with. Found a few good camp sites on Pog and had a snack about noon. The dam was nothing more than a log jam lift over, quite easy. Immediately after the dam the changes dramatically. From the low hills of sandy knolls, granite outcroppings and swamps of the north to what might be the beginning or dividing line with the definite and Precambrian Shield granite formations. What an absolutely gorgeous place. The variety of landforms, a wide (curtain like) water fall about fifty feet fall over the rock (in full bloom the width of the water falls would probably be about 20 - 30 feet), the height and grandeur of several sheer rock faces (easily 100 feet high) continuing straight down into depths of the water, gorgeous rock colourations and formations, the absolute clarity of the water and some stately white and red pines forgotten by the woodcutters. Even two families of loons thought this place was good enough to call home and serenaded to us well into the evening. The absolute of the trip. I could stay here for a very long time and never be bored. Needless to say both of us quickly decided to stay here for the night. We disturbed a poor garter snake who was trying to protect his turf. The snake was sunning itself on a rock and wasn't interested in moving even with all our activity around him, until we placed the canoe between the sun and him. after supper we noticed the snake had moved away. We sat on the rocks to eat and watch the sun go down. What fortunate people we are to share in God's place at this time. Others will come later to desecrate and destroy without a thought.
Wednesday, August 20
Woke up this morning to find the fog is much lighter than the previous days and the clouds a little heavier. Signs of a change the weather and a chance of rain today. Today our plan is to go to Bluewater Lake and the bay, which we didn't do yesterday obvious reasons, and then see what the Mogo River is going to present to us. We are running a day early with Erhard's schedule and backup plan if the Mogo is not passable, so neither of us are particularly concerned. We are on the water before our usual time, about 8:30am heading towards Bluewater Lake and its bay, paddling very leisurely, enjoying the surroundings of Kennedy Lake. We didn't notice last night, but about two-thirds up the last rock face there was a small cave with a large bird's nest and signs of obvious occupancy. My suspicion is that this is the eagle's nest. Virtually impossible to reach being able to fly or possessing very serious mountain climbing skills and lots of ropes, etc. Arrived at Bluewater Bay and the water is obviously a strong blue, gives the appearance of copper sulphate mixed in, it is so blue. Erhard goes for his swim and I decide I don't want to and go for a walk up a trail, more like a road, up a stiff grade for 500 meters climbing at least a 100 feet and then flattens out for some time heading due south. I return and Erhard tells me that the water was 14 degrees C. Glad I didn't go in, a tad fresh. We stop and have lunch here on the local park bench. This site is obviously a hunter's camp for boat and 4x4 access, so we make use of the facilities. After lunch, we begin our search for the Mogo River and the difficulties it may present. Our whole purpose of this trip. The mouth of the river and the terrain around is low and swampy. Yes there are mosquitoes for everyone.
After a short time of paddling down the river we encounter a dam, partially manmade and nature provided the finishing touches during the many spring runoffs since. We had to lift our gear and canoe over the logs and drop the stuff down on the other side. Very short lift, but walking the plank was not what was intended but accomplished without incident. Could be a time of serious accidents for the inexperienced. Back on the river again and this time we encounter short rapids with a campsite beside it. We decide to stay for the night not knowing if there would be another suitable site further downstream. Anyway the river is not that long before it reaches the Spanish River. The campsite was a pleasant one to stay at except for the mosquitoes, who, I guess, hadn't had a good meal all summer. They sent us to bed early after Erhard had completed his diary and marked his map, also the weather was showing possible signs of wanting to rain. We thought that we should get an early start to see if we could make the Spanish River by noon.
Thursday, August 21
Got up early, real early, 6:30am. Started to rain during the night and was still raining, not hard, but definitely dampish. Stopped long enough for us to pack sleeping bags and clothes without getting wet, but had to shave, brush teeth and eat in the rain. So what, goes with the turf. Left the camp site about 7:45am and headed down stream. Water level is still very low and we encounter all sorts and shapes of rocks. We have to get out and walk many times and up to know where in water. The water falling from the sky has now lost its importance. The greater concern is parking our butts on the bottom of the river more than anything else. The rocks are extremely slippery everywhere. Make it through the first portage, definitely a very serious experience and not for the inexperienced. Long and very hazardous, especially at the beginning where Erhard had to go a steep rock ditch (about 4 feet deep) and immediately climb up the other rock face about the same height with the canoe. I had left him in mid-portage to retrieve a paddle at what we thought was the end of the portage, but on our return we found an earlier put-in for the canoe, reducing the portage length in half (still about 300 - 400 meters). I know Erhard slipped and had a very difficult time with the canoe carry, it was written all over the path, but he wouldn't say much, except he was fine. I considered the portage as being "Intermediate Plus and Definitely Strenuous". Anyway got back onto the river happy that was behind us. Left my favourite coffee mug behind sitting on a rock, still with hot tea in it.
After paddling a short distance, we encountered more stone fields, got out and started to line the canoe until we were just past a dried diversion bed for the river. We had to stop here because of the severity of the rock faces and water flow patterns. We decided at this time to look around for a portage that we might have missed. I looked on the left bank and Erhard took the right shore. We had discussed the possibility of the side but since we were in a steep valley, thought the portage would not be on top. IT WAS! Erhard found it after becoming quite frustrated and decided to walk up the hill. I had already started to carry one packsack down the left side. What a relief! The underbrush on the left side was definitely dense, together with a lot of deadfall. We lifted the canoe up the right embankment. Since the canoe is 16 feet long, the embankment must have been 35 -40 feet high. We made it relatively easily and much less effort than expected. Now we walk down the path, right to the Spanish River. Wonders never cease. If we had found the start of this portage, we would have missed all the rocks and would be just another long comfortable walk. About 1600 meters. Would classify the portage as being "Intermediate, Moderate". Now we are on the Spanish River, with very little water flow all the way to Spanish Lake and haven't seen anyone. Stopped in a cedar grove, that was overhanging the river, for lunch. There were two Cedars that must have been close to 100 years old. They gave us shelter from the north wind and the rain so we could eat comfortably.
Coming out of Spanish Lake and into the river again we begin to run into stone fields, sandbars and the like. Very difficult to see the rocks as everything is black; water, rocks and most of the time the river bed, when you see it. Most of the time we are able to run the rapids, standing waves and all, without taking hardly any water or having to get out and walk the shoals too.
We reach "The Elbow", our final destination and takeout time is quite earlier than Erhard anticipated. During the last kilometre we were following a canoe and, as it turns out, is the owner of the Fox Lake Lodge and his guide. So our wait for a pickup is much shorter than expected and we don't have to walk. They pick up their gear and canoe, take it back to the Lodge and return to pick us up to take us directly to Cartier. What a pleasure to get back into dry clothes. Still cold and drizzly, but we are warmer. Dave, owner of Fox Lake Lodge, was very interesting person and quite congenial host. If Erhard and I had given some thought of eating, we would have stayed at the lodge to eat. We ate in the restaurant in Cartier. Pizza and Apple Pie!! Left Cartier about 6:30pm for Parry Sound. End of a worthwhile trip, even with all the minor trials and tribulations, particularly the loss of one important coffee mug.
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