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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 10:20 am 
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We originally planned our trip this year in Woodland Caribou in order to complete our 'Northwest Wilderness Quest' requirements. However, the park was lit up by fires and a week before we were set to leave, we were contacted by the parks warning us of closures of lakes on our planned route. We looked at the Ontario Fire map site and there didn't seem to be a good route to take for our planned duration without bringing us into the fire range so we decided to re-route a new trip in Wabakimi.

Route: Little Caribou - Caribou - Caribou Bay, Smoothrock, Elf, Lower Wabakimi, Smoothrock and back out
Distance: 210 km, we did it in 14 days it could be done in 10 d or less if you are a high distance paddler
Ports: 21 portages; longest portage: 660 m

For Wabakimi, we decided on a loop via Little Caribou Lake as we were able to secure Clem for his shuttle services and we had his info on file to contact him. Clem is great to work with, super reliable and very easy going. He called us back within an hour of emailing him about shuttling and that helped us greatly with our planning (first logistic step completed). This time, instead of going north from Smoothrock into Whitewater as we did in 2016, we went south on Smoothrock, around the large lake perimeter and up through Elf to lower Wabakimi until backtracking through the northern part of Smoothrock.

On our travels to Wabakimi, and knowing we would paddling some 'big water', decided to get some additional tips and technical advice from a local expert from Nipigon. It was great seeing our old friend again.

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Day 1 - Little Caribou. We stayed at a Holiday Inn in Thunderbay and met our Guide in Armstrong at 3:00 pm. Knowing we were off to a bit of a late start, we camped on one of the crownland sites on Little Caribou for the night.

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We still had fresh veggies from our roadtrip and brought them in to eat at Little Caribou. Technical note: adding copious fiber to your intestinal tract pre-trip helps to ease colon-dehydrated food shock the first few days!

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Day 2 Next morning was one of those glorious misty calm days

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First 250m port. Easy topo on this well cleared and used trail. Only one fallen tree to straddle over.

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Caribou Lake fortunately was well behaved and we paddled relatively calm waters (as calm as that lake gets) through to Caribou River. We stopped at a campsite not to far from the outlet. Becky enjoyed a nap as soon as I set up our little Eno hammock.

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Day 3 was a short one (only 5.3 km) and we proceeded to a known spot at the 4th portage, a little pool between rapids at the inlet and outlet. It has a nice sandy beach at the end of the site/port. The pool is great for walleye and pike.

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We met a couple of CCR hooligans at our site and they decided to camp out with us and enjoy a few livations that night. Kirby and Tom

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Day 4. A fairly simple 0 portage paddle to the Northeast end of Smoothrock lake. That section of the Caribou River is a bit tedious for its scenery for me. The campsite we stayed at was very large with at least 3 flat tent pads and is very well used. Unfortunately, we did find lots of garbage at this site including used feminine products. Those items are best burned or packed out until the next fire, that's what we do... But the sunset turnout to be glorious.

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Day 5 Another no portage day where we paddled to the middle east part of Smoothrock. We found a great site with large hills adjacent. This was one of the really hot days in the mid 90's degree F and with the high sun we were pretty overheated. Some motorboat fishermen from a nearby lodge decided to plant themselves right in front of our camp. We tried to wait them out but they seemed intent on hanging around right there. So Becky did what any reasonable girl would do...She took off all her clothes and went for a swim. LOL, their reaction was to pull up anchor fast and speed off. I guess that will teach them!

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That afternoon a thunderstorm popped up and we ended with hail coming down on us. We scooped up some the hail and added it to muddled blueberries and rum for a perfect Tiki style drink.

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Day 6 Our intention was to paddle to the south end of Smoothrock to camp for the night and check out the boiling sands rapid. However the site we wanted to occupy was taken by a group of guys. So we went to boiling sands and swam in the rapids for a bit and then proceeded up the north west side of Smooth rock to an Island campsite near the Elf Lake portage. This was about 26 km day. Smoothrock lived up to its namesake. It was incredibly calm the whole day.

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We came across these really cool dew strewn spiderwebs among the emergents at a little bay.

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Boiling Sands rapids. They were smaller than we expected and the pond system between it and Smoothrock is quite shallow and muddy so we visited only for a little while.

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Our only caribou siting on the trip. Unfortunately we was already ducking behind a rock by the time I pulled my camera out.

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Day 7 - Into Elf Lake. This day was brutal for the heat. The temperature guage attached to my pack that links to my garmin registered 100 degrees F. The first 660 m portage was not that bad and fairly well marked. This was followed by a 70m liftover then a brutal 400 m port. I always have to remind myself that you can't judge a portage by its distance rating. The 400m was a straight shot upwards at the start. Becky was crawling on her hands and knees with the barrel on her back for a portion of it. Given the brutal heat of the day, we both had a touch of heatstroke by the time we moved everything to the top, we elected to camp out in the small pond in between the ports and Elf. I ended up processing 12 L of water through our gravity filter and we kept drinking and going in the water to try and stay cool.

A pitcher plant from one of the bogs paddling between the 400 and 650m portages into Elf.

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Day 8 & 9 The last 650 m portage into Elf was fortunately a little more easy even though we had to search the trail head a bit. There was a decent cairn at the port but we had mistaken its entrance for an adjacent bay and had to paddle a bit before finding it. The first part had a smaller hill at the beginning. The last bit of the 650m was a wonderful wooded/moss lined section.

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We took a base camp day on Elf and needed the rest. Our base camp day was very windy. Base camps are always good to re-organize the barrels, do a few gear repairs and sew torn clothing ect. On Elf, we began to witness the Red Sun sunsets and mornings. This was a clue that fires were in the area, but we didn't know about this as the firemap was free of any fires in the area at the time we entered the park.

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Day 10 We left Elf via the north through 3 portages and a stream system into Lower Wabakimi. Water was low in the streams and we had to get out and wade with the canoe for about half a km in one section.

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We sat in water of the last set of rapids at the 207 m portage just before lower Wabakimi. We entered the portage at the first blaze marking. However, this was a newer part of the trail and quite a bit messy with blowdown. It turns out we could have circumvented this part and paddled a bit further around some branches in the water to take out at the start of the older section of the trail. Oh well, lesson learned.

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As we entered lower Wabakimi we saw the smoke from the fire. I estimated its approximate position to the north at about 6 km away. It turned out to be further north than that but it was a cause for some concern.

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Fortunately the wind was in the opposite direction of our travels. We paddled to the east of Wabakimi another 5 km and decided it was safe enough to camp for the night. The smoke pattern made for a crazy sunset!

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Day 11 The next day, we travelled through the river system marked by several waterfalls and 4 portages between lower Wabakimi and Smoothrock. There was no sign of smoke at all and we thought perhaps the fire had hit some kind of lull. We fell in love with one of the pools between 440 m portage and 205 m portage. It had a nice set of falls at its outlet and incoming rapids at the inlet. We knew this place would be amazing for fishing and decided to camp at one of the sites located there. However, at about 4:00 pm air quality started getting worse and we witnessed smoke starting to fill the basin. Obviously, we over stayed our welcome. We hastily re-packed everything and proceeded through the remaining portages and ran a few swifts to Smoothrock. At one point, we were paddling with floating ash in the air. We were very nervous about the situation but later found out the fire hadn't really come that much closer it was just a shift in wind direction. Next time we will be more wary of fires in the distance.

Than canyon just before Smoothrock at the 176 m Portage is gorgeous. There was a really nice campsite and had we not been hastened by the smoke, I would have loved to camp there. This stretch between lower Wabakimi and Smoothrock is some of the best scenery I've come across in our travels through Wabakimi (I'm sure there are many other unexplored gems in the park but I was awestruck by this area).

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Days 12-14. From Smoothrock we backtracked to our campsite on Day 4 and back through Caribou River/Caribou Lake to Little Caribou. We planned for 17 days but owing to the fire and several heat days we decided to finish a few days early.

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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm 
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Joined: March 23rd, 2006, 11:21 pm
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Location: Burns Lake, BC
What did your guide do for you on this trip?


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 1:28 pm 
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Canoeheadted wrote:
What did your guide do for you on this trip?


He was just our shuttle and car park for this one.


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 7:50 pm 
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Joined: August 12th, 2018, 11:36 am
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My wife and I are planning an 8-10 day trip in early September and your Wabakimi trips definitely have made our short list. Between this route and your route of 2016 which would you recommend?


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 9:37 pm 
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Location: Saskatchewan
Really nice wildlife photos! Thanks for posting.

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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 9:40 pm 
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esheppard wrote:
My wife and I are planning an 8-10 day trip in early September and your Wabakimi trips definitely have made our short list. Between this route and your route of 2016 which would you recommend?


Thanks for your response. Wow, that is a tough question. Its hard to not resist going through Whitewater - McKinley Lake while visiting Wednall's "Centre of the Universe". If you are into historical research, the cabins are a must see and as I'm told, they won't be around much longer to pilgrimage to. On the other hand, the lower Wabakimi to Smoothrock is as beautiful as it comes. That little bit of the Ogaki-Berg River transition to Whitewater comes close but doesn't quite meet the power and awesome spectacularism of the Lower-Wab to Smoothrock. They are both stunner trips and you can do them in 10 d with some effort. Will love to read your post when you decide and do! :)


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2018, 10:06 pm 
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Location: Milton
Amazing park.
Amazing trip report!
and absolutely amazing pics!!!!
Totally loved the cloud shot before day 11 Wow!
Well done.
We are not worthy! :D
Jeff

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PostPosted: August 26th, 2018, 7:37 pm 
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jedi jeffi wrote:
Amazing park.
Amazing trip report!
and absolutely amazing pics!!!!
Totally loved the cloud shot before day 11 Wow!
Well done.
We are not worthy! :D
Jeff


Thanks Jeff!


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PostPosted: September 2nd, 2018, 5:35 pm 
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Joined: May 31st, 2006, 10:35 am
Posts: 50
Location: Peterborough
Thanks for the trip report, I always enjoy your reports.

Mike


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PostPosted: September 10th, 2018, 6:21 pm 
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Joined: December 29th, 2004, 11:00 pm
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Location: Venus, Florida
Gorgeous photographs. I'd like to go to Wabakimi someday.


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2018, 10:03 am 
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Joined: October 9th, 2002, 7:00 pm
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Location: Thunder bay, Ontario Canada
What a lovely trip ! Photos are amazing ! Imagine you travelled some portages cleared by the Wabakimi project !


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2018, 10:24 pm 
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Joined: January 11th, 2005, 4:58 pm
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Location: Manitoba
You did an excellent job of pairing a good camera with a talented eye for photography.

Wow, caribou sighting.

Camping in a pyramid tent?

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PostPosted: September 15th, 2018, 6:53 am 
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Location: Venus, Florida
What kind of camera/photo equipment did you use? Thanks, Erica


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