View topic - Queen Elizabeth Wildlands April 30 to May 5, (pic heavy)

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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 3:40 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
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Location: Milton
Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park April 30 to May 5, 2011
The trip this year was to finish the loop, map and mark the trip I did not finish last year. There was two possible ways I was going to try depending on water available in the various beaver ponds and small streams and do it ahead of the black flies!
The route – Head Lake up through Fishhog, Round, Long, Crooked, Wolf and Victoria Lakes, west through several beaver ponds south to a small lake I will call Peninsula and then south to Smudge lake, down Smudge Creek to the Head River and then back upstream to Head Lake. The distance traveled would be between 50 and 55 km. The water levels where pretty high so I had lots of short cuts through some of the swamps, in lower water you could add a couple more km to a trip for meandering around.

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This was my first trip using my Bell Yellowstone 14.5 ft long and 45 lbs made of some easier carries. It is a fairly fast solo boat but carries less gear and is a lot tipper for tack pictures out of. I don’t travel light so the boat was full. I had my large seal line dry bag for my clothes and sleeping bag and with weather forecast I took some extra warm gear, a 30L food barrel, a 60 L barrel for my camera gear and hiking camera back pack and lenses, plus an old baseball equipment bag to hold the sundry items. (saw, ax, tarps, rope, chair) so it would be 4 carries each time. The food barrel wasn’t that heavy and could have been carried with the boat, but I have had some ongoing groin and hamstring problems so more trips = less wait, and I had lots of time. Also due to that problem I bought one of these world famous “instant” thunder boxes
http://www.lebaron.ca/pdf_files_sp11/wf_toilet.pdf
And it worked great, and if you have a youngin’ or a friend that does not like squatting in the woods before I left I tried the small compost kitchen bags and they fit fine. If you are worried how long they would last buried I wouldn’t worry, I have been using them for doggie duty in the back yard and they break down very quickly… and now back to our regular programming.
I was on the water by 9:00am and found using the double blade in the Yellowstone very easy and conditions where perfect, no wind and not another boat on the lake. The falls at Round Lake with its extra water was very pretty.
Round lake falls

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Round Lake

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On the way through Crooked lake I saw a paddler and a green canoe on shore. I stopped and met fellow ccr’r Sherman who was also on his way to Wolf/Victoria Lakes. We chatted for a bit and I continued up to where the Head turns to the north at the top of Fishog. I haven’t camped here in a few years and got to change over the firewood that I left at that time. This was the only spot on the trip that I found fresh bear scat this year. After setting up camp I paddled up to the next portage to mark the trail and take some pics.

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On day 2 I got a good start and because of the higher water levels I was able to line the canoe up the river instead of portaging.
I was hoping to line the next rapid to, it was still too rocky at the bottom and too steep at the top. (plus hard walking along the sides.) Both the take out and put-ins on this carry are steep, easy once you are up on the ridge. I flagged the trail, cut a log out at the top of the portage that was across the river and when I got to the bottom again Sherman had caught up to me. His boat was a lot longer and heavier than mine and I helped him get it up to the top to the ridge.

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The thing about beaver pond hopping is sometimes they are there, sometimes they are bigger and sometimes they are gone. This time a large pond off to the side of the river had let go sometime during the last year and the resulting flash flood had taken the debris down to the two smaller beaver dams and the occupants used it to build up two smaller dams to make the area much easier to paddle than last year.
I left Sherman at Wolf/Victoria lakes and headed down towards the west end of Wolf so I could start heading to Peninsula Lake.
The first pond was down a bit from last year but the three beaver dams up to the next big pond where bigger, so instead of portaging I was able to due 3 quick lift over’s.

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I had scouted the next carry last year so I just jumped out and grabbed a bag. On the way back with even less vegetation than last year I was able to see a clear path on the other side of the gulley and switched sides for the rest of the carry. You didn’t have to climb as high and it shortened the length a good bit. Measured and flagged the trail and stopped to take some pics at the end. Again the idea was not try over-exert myself like last year, even though my mind says I am much younger than I am…. ☺. Again the put-in and take-outs are steep.

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A short paddle to a quick lift over and down to the next big pond, stopped and check the google earth pics to try and guess the best way to the next pond. The North side of the exit was clearer but there was no good place to launch from with out walking some distance through the swamp. The south side was very bushy, fairly flat, but had a half decent put-in. You start off meandering all over the place to get around floating wood and shallows and then it opens up and as you head to the next pond exits you come across on of the very few perfect camp areas in the park. And I was very tempted to stay here. It is just a gorgeous spot. Also at this point the a piece of my + 30 year old sprint paddle decided to fall apart, took a strong stoke and left half the blade behind. It was an all wood blade with cork hand grips, top of the line paddle from the 70’s…. good thing I had a spare wood single blade and a plastic beater blade for the shallows. Later on that night I gave it a good Viking sendoff in the fire and toasted the memories that we enjoyed from so many years of use.

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You are heading south and a few quick pull-over’s you are at the point where this stream system heads west. I could see where I needed to go to the stream system coming out of the Peninsula lake, but I followed the narrow stream along the right side. What you could not see and I did not know till the next day was this long pond was in the process of collapsing and losing water. When I got to the part that should have been paddle-able, all I saw was 100 + m of very wet swamp muck. At this point I knew several hundred metres downstream was a small cut in the ridge on the south side that would lead me to another pond I could hop over to the lake. It was very shallow and there was a lot of bottom drag on the mud and hitting dead heads. The pond was getting wider and shallower and when I got to the point where I figured if I went further I could no longer get to a landing point I got out and hiked up over the ridge and was right at the next pond. It was a fairly gradual climb to the top of the ridge so it wasn’t too bad. The sun was out now so it was pretty warm on the carry.

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Two quick pull over’s and I was in the lake and it was time to look for a campsite. The wind was howling pretty well so I settled on a westward facing spot on the peninsula out of the wind. There was a nice large flat rock area by the lake and a good spot in the trees for the tent. After setting up the camp sat down for supper with a nice glass of wine and enjoyed the fire by the lake.
Day 3 was a designated rest and scout day. The route I wanted to try was out due to the big beaver pond being out. So I would scout out the top part of route “B” which was a chain of ponds leading in from the southwest corner of the lake. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a well dug out channel just a little wider than the boat at the narrowest spot leading to the next beaver dam. A quick lift over and I was off, and then surprised again where I thought would be another dam or portage was just a connecting narrows. I got the maps out and figured where I wanted to exit the lake from. Again because the lack of vegetation I could see the brush was not very thick for very long so I took a gradual hike and headed in the direction of the next lake. Even though it was cloudy the panorama view was fantastic.

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Found a good put-in spot and then started to flag the trail back. I stopped where the little beaver channel meets the Peninsula Lake to pull out a log I would hit when loaded, jumped out on a rock, lost my balance and…..splash! Surprisingly the water was pretty warm. I was only a 5 min. paddle from the tent, but one pair of hiking boots…..very wet. (and yes I was wearing my pfd!)
Swim site…

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After getting changed, paddled over to the southeast corner where the snowmobile trail crosses the lake, and hiked along it to the lake I walked to last year. It is approx a 1km. carry from that lake and a pond hop from Wolf if you wanted to come in from that way. I then paddled down the arm in the Northeast corner to see how coming in from that direction would have been the Ganaraska Trail crosses here. When I got to the drained swamp area, I found it was a good decision to paddle down to the ridge. If the beaver rebuild the pond it will be a easy paddle to the two small ponds leading to the lake. If not, if the swamp dries like others that I have crossed after being washed out, it should become a fairly strong, flat meadow to cross. To walk along the heavily brushed ridge on the east side of the swamp would be tough.

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It had been pretty quiet wildlife wise, lots of Whippoorwills calling after dark, and then off in the distance to the south a wolf howl, beautiful! But when the calls ended a pack of coyotes stated yelping away several hundred metres away. They seemed to get closer as the nigh went on but it got quiet just after 10 when I went to bed.
Then (there is always a then) at 2:45am I was awoken with my tent being pushed in against my head…. and since I was in my mummy bag (sausage roll for wild critters)
I yelled, punched the bulge, turned on my led light.
And turned on the siren on my windup radio.
Waited 30 seconds, and loaded a bear banger, turned off the siren, and could hear the coyotes about 100m or so away, stuck my head out the tent, looked around with the flashlight and launched the banger, then instant quiet. ( they do hunt up there so the coyotes are very wary of people) After about 10 mins. the whippoorwills started to call again and the frogs started to sing again, and I fell back asleep quickly.
Day four was cool, cloudy, calm and threatening to rain. I quickly made it through the lift-over and made it to the take-out. It was nice not having to guess the best spot. I pace out the portage at about 500m, but the walking was pretty easy.
The next pond is actually quite large but not very deep, the lily pads where starting to come to the surface, and I am sure there will be moose in the area when the pond is in full growing mode. There were lots of droppings, but nothing fresh. I had to move around for a take-out where you could get close solid shoreline. This ridgeline was again a gentle incline but not a whole lot of vegetation on it. If you don’t mind walking through some swamp, you could shorten the portage a bit, 400m if you don’t.

The put in.
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Next pond is long and about 50m wide heading south towards Smudge, when you get to the end there is two choices, you can go down a very steep incline into a canyon on Smudge Creek and if the beaver dam is out and vegetation is too thick in the creek bed you will have approx. a 1 km portage up and down a very rough ridge line or a quick 50m portage down into a very pretty lake in a canyon setting.

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To get out of this lake to continue to Smudge Lake you paddle in to large bay that for the most part is filled with various types of vegetation that might look intimidating in the summer.

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I was able to paddle along the west shore and get to the end of the bay. One thing is for sure if you get to this lake you will be defiantly alone. The take out is again steep and as I am staging my stuff a moose runs across the ridge about 300m away. The 350 m portage starts off flat, drops off slowly and is very steep the last 75m.

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Since I was there I decided to paddle up Smudge Creek and check out the possible part of the route, I was greeted with a pretty little falls and a beaver dam over 2m high. As I climbed the ridge to get a better look at the flooded canyon, a large White tailed deer bolted ahead. So this time this part of the route could be done.

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It had been sprinkling off and on all day, but now the rain was falling steady now. Two quick pull-over’s and then the last pond before Smudge, is partially washed out. It was a little shallow, but the good new is it is in the process of being rebuilt.
I was getting pretty tired now and was not looking forward to the last carry. Which is a pretty good mountain goat trek, very steep at both ends. You need to use switch back climbing along the rock. I had only seen this with growth before and was pleasantly surprised to see you might be able to push through the bush and save the climbing. Later during the season you would not be able to see or push through the entanglements. It still wasn’t easy, there was still some really big steps up and over rocks, but it was way easier than going to the top. If your boat does not handle shallows you would be forced to do the mountain goat thing and keep on carrying for a couple of hundred more metres.

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Image of ridge that leads from Smudge Lake north up Smudge Creek

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A quick paddle across to the only good site on Smudge, it wasn’t raining hard but it was being pushed into the campsite by a stiff wind that would blow for the next two days. I was able to find a spot in the trees where I could tarp myself out of the wind. The main part of the site where the fire pit is was out of the question because the wind was whipping through and there was no way to hang a tarp. After setting up the tarp as a wind break, as I was putting up my tent (this was just the second trip for this tent) one of the support poles suffered a “malfunction”. I broke right off at the bottom of one of the re-enforced connections. The tent was already standing with 2 of the 3 poles so there should not have been too much stress. So I cut a sapling and broke out the duct tape. (don’t leave home without it!)

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My second set of hiking boots where now a little damp so I was very happy to have a pair of these along and once I was set up It was very nice to warm up the feet.
http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_deta ... 4302888393
Day 5 was another designated rest day, it was sunny, very cool and stiff wind blowing out of the north, at least I would be able to hang out all my we stuff and put my boots out to dry. My neoprene swamp boots dried out really quick so I would use those to explore another route out of Smudge. First I tried following the creek up but was met with very heavy brush and deadfall, but once on top I knew I was greeted with another spectacular view and new I was in the flat lands again. There are a few black flies out but they are not biting and the wind is not nearly as strong as it was back on the lake.

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Walking was easy going up to follow the chain of ponds so I knew this was part of the route was doable, pretty and remote!

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On the way back I checked out another way to come up from the lake, found away that even though it is a good climb it is a steady incline fairly clear of brush, going down hill you can go straight, coming uphill under a load you can snake around a bit.
From the top looking down.

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Bottom looking up.

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You have to go from Smudge to the top of this ridge.

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The evening was still breezy and after going to bed a wolf started to howl, much closer than a few nights ago so the sound was clear and beautiful echoing around the walls of the lake. The coyotes yapped a bit but they where way off in the distance.
Day six open with a great sunrise, not so much looking at where the sun was coming up but how the light was shining on the cliff shores.

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The weather forecast for Friday was for more rain. I decided that if I could float the boat down 2 of the 3 canyons on Smudge creek I would push to the truck on Head lake. Stopped to take some pics and flag the portage trail at the first canyon continued down and hiked into the Heron rookery to see how it was doing. I was all set up with the big lens but it was easy to see the weather had not been kind to it. There was only 5 active nests remaining, the rest had blown down or collapsed.

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I was able to float the boat down the next canyon, stopped at the bottom and walked up the portage to flag it. At the last canyon the beaver dam is washed out a little bit and I was still able to float the canoe down and was able to get it under a log bridge the snowmobilers had place across the bottom. The bridge does help those of us that venture there get over the creek to the short portage. There is probably half a dozen short pull over’s till you get to the Head River, which is still pretty high so it is a good push up against the current to the rapid and the last two short portages.
All along the trip I have been testing for cell phone coverage, with my older phone on past trips I had to get to the high ridges to get limited signals, but this time with a 3G phone I was able to get a good signal every where except in the low area of the Head river.
The wind had been blowing out of the north all day and had been getting stronger all day and since it was at my back, I made the paddle quite easy. With the sun it was quite easy to see the bottom and with that you could see the Muskellunge had entered river for spawning, not very many yet, but still some huge fish.
When I got to the lake, I stopped to put on my wind breaker, even though I was going with the wind, the water was still very cool with the late ice-out this year.
All in all a great trip, beat the Bugs! (major bonus) and finished and documented another route, and checked out a portion of another!
Then one has to ask the question, is it worth the effort to get to the flatlands of the Interior of QEII park????
For those of you who have paddled to an area that fills your senses know what I am talking about.

The whole area is truly an exotic geographic area. The number changes that happen over what is truly a small area is amazing! And because it is not easy (read hard and even harder in bug season and summer temps) to get into both from an access stand point by any means of transportation other than Helicopter or plane it will remain relatively untouched because of the cost to build access points.
But if we want to ensure that as canoeists that if we wish to continue to access these various canoe routes in parks and crown lands we (the royal we) have to become more involved by mapping and working with other user groups. And the powers that be need to know we are out there paddling these areas.
Jeff

Full album
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/580169158cxEXOz
Slide show
http://outdoors.webshots.com/slideshow/580169158cxEXOz

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 3:50 pm 
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Excellent report! I have also just returned and am putting the finishing touches on an excellent topo map done up in ArcGIS from my GPS data for Head to Wolf lake. That should be available soon. Hope you don't mind but I extended/flagged and cleared the 2nd portage coming out of Crooked lake toward Victoria lake a bit for a flatter landing and smoother path. I cleared/cut and slashed undergrowth for the bushy portages from Crooked to Victoria, so the path is more defined and easier to walk. Great area!

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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 4:32 pm 
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Location: Milton
Thanks for the help!
Extend .... did you mean longer.... 8) :wink:
Jeff

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 5:04 pm 
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:thumbup: , Jeff!

And I really like the drama:
Quote:
but it got quiet just after 10 when I went to bed.
Then (there is always a then) at 2:45am I was awoken with my tent being pushed in against my head…. and since I was in my mummy bag (sausage roll for wild critters)
I yelled, punched the bulge, turned on my led light.
And turned on the siren on my windup radio.


We want the VIDEO of this! :rofl:

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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 6:12 pm 
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I REALLY enjoyed your detailed report & beautiful photos of a lovely & interesting area that is fairly close....I've never been there but now I plan to go! thanks a lot!


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PostPosted: May 13th, 2011, 8:31 pm 
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jedi jeffi wrote:
Thanks for the help!
Extend .... did you mean longer.... 8) :wink:
Jeff

Only by about 30m.you can still take it down the steep slope to the logjam if you so please. I just really hate the steep slopes and avoid them if i can. Ha

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PostPosted: April 15th, 2013, 10:52 am 
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Hey this is an awesome report. I will have to check out this park sometime soon. Its great to know its a non operating park and require no fees. Its just a little sad that all the sections that to have moving water appear to be too rocky to really get down with a canoe. Looks like a great place to go though before the northern places are ready to paddle.


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PostPosted: April 15th, 2013, 4:18 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
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Location: Milton
New album link

https://picasaweb.google.com/1142241160 ... directlink

The thing about this area is you do not need the streams high to paddle the area,
But you do need the beaver dams.
Spring and fall when the water vegetation is not there yet makes it easy.
Jeff

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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