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PostPosted: August 5th, 2016, 1:55 pm 
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Joined: June 28th, 2008, 2:06 pm
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Location: GTA
The Marshall Lake Canoe Route straddles the Great Lakes and Artic Watersheds north of Geraldton. The route is pretty well documented in various locations around the internet by Rob Haslam. He has been taking his Geraldton Composite High School Outers Group through parts of this loop for a number of years. I’ll stick to his campsite names and portage names for consistency in case anyone wants to compare trip reports. One set of his maps can be found at http://www.canoetripping.net/forums/for ... s-and-info

A marked-up version of the topographical maps I used on this trip can be found at http://caltopo.com/m/MV30

Day 1 (July 16, 2016) :

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I was up at 3:15 a.m., with the intention of leaving by 4:00 so I could get all the way to Marshall Lake before sundown. The drive is supposed to be around 14 hours from the GTA, so with a couple quick stops and a 1.2 km portage down a good path from the parking lot to the lake I should be able to get there in time.

Everything was prepared the day before – food barrel packed, canoe gunwales oiled, car full of diesel, etc. So I was loading the car and strapping on the canoe by 3:30 a.m. After a quick breakfast and some final checks I was on the road by around 4:10 a.m.

Intermittent rain was falling in the dark until I reached Barrie around 5:10, but after that the sun came up and it turned into a nice day for driving.

Mostly I drove straight through to Kapuskasing up Highway 11, arriving there around 12:30. I filled up with diesel again since I had already gone about 820 km. I was going to eat a packed lunch at or near the gas station, but road work right in town was turning everything into a dusty mess. So driving a little further, I pulled into a little cemetery just west of town for a quick picnic.

I continued on through Hearst, then another 200 km (or so) to just before Longlac where there’s a right turn up some logging roads for around 35 km. In 2016 Google wants you to turn right onto a skidoo trail, but you can outsmart Google by taking the actual ROAD, which is about 1 km to the east of the skidoo trail. It was just after 4:00 p.m. when I reached the correct turn-off, but I still had nearly 150 km to go, much of it on gravel roads.

I had never driven in this part of the province before and noted that there really is almost nothing between Hearst and Longlac; a sign in Hearst warns that the next fuel isn’t for over 200 km. And another sign not far from it warns that the next McDonald’s isn’t for 500 km. (I guess in Thunder Bay.)

The logging road re-connected to provincial highway south of Nakina. I turned right onto the provincial highway and continued for another 30 km or so before driving almost exactly 65 km more on Highway 643 and the gravel road referred to as Ogoki Road by those in-the-know and “Unnamed Road” by Google.

Before leaving for this trip I contacted Rob Haslam, who posts on CCR frequently and who seems to be one of the main people keeping this canoe route open. He informed me that Ogoki Road was in great condition this year. He proved correct, except in one small dip just before the parking lot where a bit of wash-out bottomed my car while I was zooming along at 85 km/hr. Thankfully no damage.

I arrived at the parking lot 1.2 km from the Marshall Lake shoreline with the odometer reading 435 km from Kapuskasing. There was one pickup truck parked back in the woods, but it didn’t seem like they had been transporting a canoe. (No roof rack, carriers, etc.)

The trail down to the lake from the parking area would be driveable with an SUV or similar vehicle, but motorized vehicles are forbidden. It was an easy hike/carry. I double-carried down and was done by just past 7 p.m.

I contemplated attempting to make it out on the lake to one of the campsites, but the lake is quite large and the winds were up, so I settled down at the portage landing for the night. There’s a large area here for camping. The advantage of staying on the portage is that I would be able to get more cold beer and ice for my tiny cooler from the large cooler in my car before embarking onto the lake the next morning.

The campsite had a sign up regarding maid service. I had never seen one of this type on a canoeing trip. And I was excited that presumably all the other campsites on the trip without such a sign WOULD have maid service!

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After all, this route is actively promoted by the municipality. Currently this link http://www.greenstone.ca/content/canoeing-kayaking-0 leads to a brochure giving a route overview.

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Even though the route is promoted, it doesn’t seem like that many groups go through. Apart from Rob Haslam’s student group who seem to go through all or part of the route most years, I had read reports suggesting only 2-3 other groups go through each year. One of the things I liked about the route while researching it was the seclusion that was likely in the southern half of the loop.

Indeed, I didn’t see any other person until my 9th day (some far-off fishermen), and I didn’t actually talk to another person until the 12th morning about half an hour before the final portage when I was canoeing across Meta Lake at 6:30 a.m. – a person sped over to me in a fishing boat asking, “Where the hell did you come from?”

After a small fire and a meal of steak, salad and a roll I was in my hammock for a restful sleep for nearly 12 hours. It rained that night, but was mostly over by 9:00 a.m. when I rolled out of the hammock. This is a view of the site in the evening before the rain:

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Day 2 (July 17, 2016) :

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After the rain during the night, cloudy skies continued for most of the day, with a lot of rain in the late afternoon from around 3:00 p.m. until after 7:00 p.m.

It still seemed windier than I’d like for a canoeing on a lake as big as Marshall at 9:00 a.m., but after breakfast the wind was dying down. I made a quick hike up the portage to the car to update my beer & ice supply, packed up camp, and set off onto the lake before 11:00 a.m.

This is the lake that morning just before setting out:

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On most trips in the past I had set ambitious targets that would have me canoeing/portaging for more than 8 hours most days. On this trip I generally planned around 4-5 hours of daily canoeing. It’s supposed to be a loop of around 7-10 days. I planned 12 days and packed for 14, but I also intended a couple side trips to Toronto Lake and Faubert Lake.

My destination today was just to another campsite on Marshall Lake, which Rob Haslam had indicated was at 16U 460567E 5586978N. (CM1 on Rob’s Maps.) I used http://caltopo.com/ for my route planning, and caltopo placed those co-ordinates in the middle of the lake, indicated on the image below:

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There were a few other spots were the UTM co-ordinates from my research didn’t seem to make sense based on Caltopo’s placement. I didn’t know if it was a Caltopo error or a source error.

Anyway, I didn’t find the campsite along that closest shore, but I may not have searched to the north far enough. Rather than looking around there too long, I went south to a spot a bit east of a bunch of buildings that are reported to have been an old mining camp. The location was 16U 459916E 5586200N.

After arriving home I read the most recent trip report from Rob’s Outers Group. They have labelled this campsite CM1.5.

View from the campsite:

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This was a good campsite with nice rock exposure and a fair bit of room for tents.

Slightly after setting up camp around 1:30 p.m. it began to rain, and I began to fish. I lost a couple spinners to pike who bit them off (I think), but it didn’t take long to catch one. I was under the impression that these lakes were big walleye/pickerel places, but only pike seemed to be biting for me for the next 10 days.

After catching the pike, I was moving stuff around looking for my fillet knife when this guy emerged:

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So it was raining while fishing, but it really started to pour just a bit later, driving me into my hammock for a snooze for almost three hours. (I was obviously tired from my long travel day yesterday.) It was nearly 8:00 p.m. when the rain stopped and the sun came out, giving me just enough time to cook and eat dinner before sunset.

Later in the evening it continued to rain a fair bit while I hung in my hammock watching the newest Star Wars movie on my phone.

Day 3 (July 18, 2016) :

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The next morning I was awake and up around 8:00 a.m. After making breakfast, I took a couple more photos and headed off towards Gripp Lake. Here’s an artifact of a previous camper; I wonder if it belongs to anyone on CCR?

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By 10:00 a.m. I was at the trailhead to the first portage (MP2). It starts beside an old trapper cabin:

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This portage is supposed to be around 260 m. This would be your view if you lived in the cabin:

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Again, here the GPS information I had seemed strange. The trailhead was indicated at 16U 458402E 5586941N (red dot below), but I found it to be at 16U 458386E 5587165N (purple arrow below).

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My readings had this portage (MP2) end at 16U 458189E 5587186N (purple arrow below), whereas the information I had researched had it end at 16U 458170E 5586881N (red dot below). Neither of these makes much sense based on the map – mine has me crossing the river during the portage, which I didn’t do. The red do has the portage terminate in the middle of the woods.

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In any case, the portages were generally not difficult to locate since they were just about all well-marked with large white portage signs, or they were in obvious locations. The next portage (MP3) would be the exception for me. I found a marked portage (axe tree blazes) that looked very rarely used and followed it. (My reading was 16U 456162E 5586518N – purple arrow below.) It was a rough but short portage down the hill to a small pool where a small set of rapids had to be negotiated before getting back on the river.

It was so rough that my paddle fell out of my canoe on the way down and I didn’t actually notice until I was loading up to paddle away. I had a spare, but losing the paddle would be a bummer. I assumed it was left at the portage landing at the start of the trail, but after going back and searching I didn’t find it there. On the way back I found it beside the trail under a bush.

The information I had for the start of this portage put it in the middle of the woods at 16U 456153E 5586334N. (Red dot below.) This obviously makes little sense; I think that the actual regularly-used portage must have been a bit north of where I landed (which is indicated by the purple arrow below), but that I wasn’t searching for it carefully enough when canoeing past.

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This portage ended for me at 16U 456088E 5586444N, which seems right based on the Caltopo placement. Here’s the view from the end of my portage, showing the little rapid that had to be negotiated. I think that probably the regularly-used portage also goes around this obstacle.

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The third portage (MP4) on the Gripp River is around 102 metres. For me it started at 16U 455881E 5586400N and ended at 16U 455811E 5586325N.

It was only around 12:15 at this point, but I was on my way into Gripp Lake for a campsite for the night. After following the Gripp River for a while, I entered the shallows at the east end of Gripp Lake:

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My destination was supposed to be a good campsite (MCGrip) in the northwest part of Gripp Lake (somewhere around 16U 453450E 5585300N), but the winds were strong enough towards the southeast that I didn’t feel like paddling in that direction, so I continued on to the other campsite (MC2) 2/3 of the way down Gripp Lake at 16U 452941E 5583861N. This is a large campsite on a small peninsula that has a rock hill to climb to get to the better tent areas. Here’s one of the views from the top of the site:

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And just slightly left of the area shown in the previous photo:

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This was one of the better campsites on the trips for few bugs.

I spent the windy afternoon napping, reading, and later lit a fire and had dinner from the food barrel, which was a variation of “lazy pierogis” – a recipe I got from the “recipes and food” section of this website a few years ago.

Day 4 (July 19, 2016) :

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My goal for today was to get down into Toronto Lake by making one portage through towards Summit Lake, skirting the south end of Summit, then heading down the Ombabika River for a few kilometers to Toronto Lake. I had no campsite data or reports for Toronto, but was hopeful.

I was up before 9:00 and having one last look down Gripp Lake (towards the east) by around 10:30:

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I was down the 280 meter portage described by Rob Haslam’s Spring 2007 Outers trip as “an absolutely stunning portage, rising from the grassy clearing to a mixed woods trail” (start at 16U 451690E 5582865N) by about 11:15, surprised to see a brand new cabin at the west end (end at 16U 451416E 5582909N):

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The cabin had obviously just been built this spring, containing only a woodstove and a bedspring among the construction material. When I returned home I read the Outer’s 2016 trip journal to discover that the cabin had been built with the help of one of the Outers from Beardmore to be used by his family for trapping and commercial fishing.

Here’s the view out of the front of the cabin:

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I continued down the Gripp River and by around 12:30 reached the stunning south end of Summit Lake. The vegetation in the water is mostly wild rice and the water was high enough this year that finding channels through it was not an issue. Summit is an interesting lake because it drains both south towards the Great Lakes Basin (via the Ombabika River) and north towards the Hudson’s Bay and the Arctic Ocean (via the Powitik River). Here’s a view entering Summit Lake from the Gripp River:

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(I wish this site would allow photos wider than 800 pixels. When these panoramic shots get shrunk down so small they really lose their impact!)

By this time the winds were starting to pick up, but with my intention to head down the Ombabika River (which turned out to be a sedate marshy stream) I wasn’t too concerned. The southwest wind slowed my progress down the river, but I eventually made my way to Toronto Lake after stopping for lunch at around 2:00 on the only rocky outcrop along the Ombabika River (located at 16U 445652E 5579566N):

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This spot could potentially serve as a campsite for someone in an emergency, but really wasn’t the best location in among the marsh. Toronto Lake wasn’t too much further down the river, and there’s a (probably) better spot just before turning west into the lake at the location of an old dilapidated cabin. (Located near to 16U 444581E 5578564N.)

As I turned into Toronto Lake the winds were pretty strong from the west, but I started to crawl down the north shore. After a while I spotted what looked like a campsite on the southern shore, so I crossed the narrow part of the lake in strong winds to arrive at my campsite for the night located at 16U 443545E 5578615N.

I had hoped to explore the lake at least a little more, but the winds kept me on shore.

Here’s a photosphere image of the view from the site. I can’t figure out how to get it to SHOW as a photosphere here, but if you’re really interested you can probably copy the image to your computer and view it in a program like FSPviewer (though since it has to be degraded to 800 pixels wide, probably that wouldn’t work):

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This was a decent site that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. The only criticism would be that the water access was really fairly difficult, especially in windy conditions. My canoe was banging against the rocks both in the afternoon and the next (windy) morning while unloading and loading.

There was a mining claim stake at the site with this plate attached:

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Was I staying on someone’s claim?

Here’s the fire pit, which looked like it hadn’t been used in a while:

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And some of the local wildlife on site:

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I spent a bit of time napping in the hammock, then ate out of the barrel again since it was really too windy to fish.

Day 5 (July 20, 2016):

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This was going to be a relatively short paddling day with no portages. My destination was the campsite on the west side Summit Lake.

I was up by a bit past 8:00 and on the water by a bit past 9:00. It was already windy out of the west. After my canoe banged against the shore while loading at the site, I sailed down Toronto Lake before turning north back onto the Ombabika River towards Summit Lake.

Here’s a view on the Ombabika River looking south towards Summit Lake at around 10:00 a.m.:

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On my way up the west side of Summit Lake I was looking for the campsite (MC3) that had been discussed in some of the trip journals I read. I came across one first that was pretty bushy and looked like it hadn’t been used in years. It didn’t make much sense since I knew the Outer’s Group from Geraldton Composite High School passes through somewhat regularly, so I thought I’d look a bit further north.

Within 200 m or 300 m I came across the actual campsite, but thought it worthwhile to note the other (potential) one in case anyone is through sometime when there’s more groups on the lake.

Here’s a view looking east out onto the wild rice in Summit Lake from the campsite (MC3) located at 16U 446753E 5586367N:

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At this campsite you’ll find a large and prominent boulder watching you from among the blueberry bushes just a bit back into the woods:

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It was just a bit past noon when I arrived. I set up my hammock in a shady spot further back from the water, excited for a cool afternoon nap. After eating lunch I set up a laundry line on the windy and sunny day, swam and washed my clothes for the first time in five days, hung them up to dry in the sun, then retreated to the hammock for a couple hours of napping and reading while waiting for them to dry.

Later in the afternoon and early evening I took the canoe out onto some of the nearby bays, hoping for a fish. A few were biting, but nothing really big enough to be edible. I ended up sitting on shore later in the evening eating rehydrated freeze dried Mountain House Chilli. It was relatively gross (compared to fish), but kind of needed to be eaten since it was near its expiry date. I always carry around a bit of the freeze dried stuff on these sorts of trips thinking that some night I’ll be in a situation where cooking anything complicated will be nearly impossible, but usually I don’t end up eating it for a few years until just before it’s about to expire.


Last edited by Brad Thomas on August 5th, 2016, 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: August 5th, 2016, 1:59 pm 
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Joined: June 28th, 2008, 2:06 pm
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Location: GTA
12 days solo on the Marshall Lake Loop (Part 2)

Day 6 (July 21, 2016):

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My goal for today was to enter the Powitik River, pass through three short portages, and get to a waterfall campsite that promised to be quite a nice location.

It turned out to be a very hot and humid night on Summit Lake; there was really no need for a sleeping bag in the hammock last night. The day turned into a very hot and humid one, requiring me to pump water a couple times to refill my three 1-L bottles.

I awoke to thunder in the south and some cloudy skies, but it really didn’t feel all that threatening. I was up and out of the hammock by around 7:30 a.m.

The morning skies looked something like this over Summit Lake:

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I had planned one pancake & maple syrup breakfast for the trip, hopefully with fresh blueberries. This morning everything came together since the site had a resident frying pan that was larger than the one I carried, it had a good fire pit, I wasn’t in a rush this morning, there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes, and there were tons of blueberries back in the woods behind my hammock. So under the cloudy skies I picked some berries, washed the resident frying pan, pulled out the maple syrup, then mixed the pancake mix with the fresh blueberries.

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Just as I began to cook my giant blueberry pancake, rain started fall, so I scurried around getting my gear out of the rain. The pancake turned out okay (or so I thought!) considering everything:

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Not long afterwards I was on my way north on Summit Lake towards where the Powitik River exits. This is a closer view of some of the wild rice out on the lake:

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And an eagle’s nest on the west shore:

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The north end of Summit Lake has some pretty marshy shores, but there’s one area on the west side just before the top of the lake where a rock shelf and boulder extend out to the water:

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This rock is a celebrity, since it is depicted in the book “The Canoe Atlas of the Little North” as a sketch for Summit Lake:

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This is the very top of the Summit Lake looking north, just before embarking down the Powitik River and into the Arctic watershed:

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There are some shallows at the top of Summit Lake just as the Powitik river starts that require some wading, followed by three short portages.

Portage 1 (MP6) start: 16U 446885E 5591819N
Portage 1 (MP6) end: no data

Portage 2 (MP7) start: 16U 444295E 5593076N
Portage 2 (MP7) end: 16U 0444183E 5593188N

Portage 3 (MP8) start: 16U 444012E 5593411N
Portage 3 (MP8) end: Just below waterfall, or carry further down the hill through the areas for tents for an alternate landing.

Some of the other trip journals for this area mention the extensive blow-down in the region and the efforts of Rob Haslam (and his chainsaw) to keep the route open. On portage MP7 this was very evident. Pretty much all along the portage were views like this:

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This portage, in particular, had my mind contemplating the final two portages of the trip. Both of them are relatively long at more than 1.5 km each, and I was told that they hadn’t been cleared in six years – since 2010.

By 1:15 p.m. I was at the landing for MP8, which would take me down to the falls. This is the river at that point:

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The campsite around the falls really is a beautiful area. I was happy to be there on such a nice hot day:

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I spent the afternoon swimming and fishing in the pool below the falls until nearly 6:00 p.m. The weather continued warm and mostly sunny with a couple brief periods of clouds and thunder.

I only managed to catch one pike while losing three lures! The pike was eaten with mashed potatoes just before 8:00 p.m.

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Not long afterwards I was in the hammock for the night, the falls roaring close by, thinking about the unknowns of a couple rapids tomorrow and a 670 m portage described in the Outer’s 2007 trip report as ” complete bog, with most sections having knee-deep shoe suckers.”

Here’s my hammock just before sundown at the Powitik River falls site:

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Day 7 (July 22, 2016):

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My goal distance for today wasn’t too ambitious in length, but it included a rapid described as a straight-forward C1, another rapid with no portage that was supposed to be technically difficult that I had no lining information for, two short portages, and the other longer 670 m portage that I just mentioned.

I was headed for a campsite midway across the final 155 m portage of the day (on MP12), which was referenced in the municipality’s brochure as C12 and described there as a “nice location with good shelter.”

Portage 1 (MP10) start: 16U 445697E 5603982N
Portage 1 (MP10) end: 16U 445463E 5604473N

Portage 2 (MP11) start: 16U 445188E 5604786N
Portage 2 (MP11) end: 16U 445096E 5604854N

Portage 3 (MP12) start: 16U 444943E 5605701N
Portage 4 (MP12) end: 16U 444873E 5605862N

Although I spent the night listening to the falls, I was woken in the morning by even louder thunder a bit past 7:00 a.m., but no rain. I quickly packed up most of my gear, leaving the hammock tarp up for breakfast in the rain that began to fall. Breakfast was scrambled eggs from a freeze-dried pack, in wraps, eaten under the tarp while the morning mosquitoes under the tarp ate me.

It didn’t rain much that morning, and after launching just below the falls I was back on the Powitik River to a pretty nice day. I saw my first moose of the trip not far downstream from the falls at about 8:45 a.m. As usual with most of my moose pictures, she’s in the distance and fleeing from me:

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It turned out to be another fairly warm day, and quite humid. It was mostly sunny and a bit windy in the afternoon.

A while after the moose sighting I passed the junction where it’s possible to head west into Faubert Lake. I had originally intended a side trip into Faubert Lake for the day/night, but after my Toronto Lake excursion I really wasn’t feeling it. I think it’s at this point (at the junction) that the Powitik River becomes the Kapikotongwa River.

So I continued up the Kapikotongwa River, passed Phillips Creek, wondering what the C1 rapid would be like. I don’t have a lot of rapid-running experience and am always a bit concerned for my Kevlar boat. It turned out to be a VERY straight-forward rapid. Here’s the view from the top:

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Next up were some technically difficult rapids that I wasn’t sure could be easily lined or waded. There’s an old portage indicated for these river left (MP9), but I wasn’t too hopeful it would be locateable or useful. But last July I had spent much of one day wading up rapids on the Nushatogaini River, so I figured, “How bad could it be without a portage?”

It turned out okay. I was able to line/wade river left for maybe 50 metres, then run the last bit of the rapid. No big deal.

Not far down the river from the non-existent MP9 portage was a campsite labelled MC5 on Rob Haslam’s maps and C10 on the municipality’s brochure. It didn’t look like a good campsite to me due to the surrounding marsh and I would recommend avoiding it when there’s bugs around. Nevertheless, it was better than the one I ended up staying at later in the day.

The first portage of the day (MP10) was the 670 m one that was supposed to be pretty wet. There’s a large campsite at the start of this portage that has sometimes been used by the Outer’s group, but described as a “bughole.” It’s kind of set back in the woods with fairly poor water access and probably wouldn’t be my first choice either. However, there aren’t a lot of good campsites along the Kapikotongwa River due to its mostly-marshy nature.

The portage turned out to be okay, with a few wet spots, mostly at the beginning, where my legs were in the muck to mid-calve.

The next portage is around 140 metres. There is nothing much to report about this straight-forward walk.

The final portage wasn’t far away and would be my destination for the day. I arrived there around 1:30 p.m. Most of the portage landings on this trip were very well marked with large white portage signs. I found it interesting that the take-out for this particular portage was not marked with a sign (or even flagged), yet it was described as a “must do” portage due to the nature of the rapids around the corner.

This portage landing was described by Rob Haslam’s 2007 Outers Group thus: “This one had a very
steep take out on a slippery clay bank and caused some spectacular wipeouts. Everyone
pitched in and chain ganged the gear to the top of the port and then booted it across…”

The weather hadn’t been as wet for me as for the 2007 group, but the portage take-out was as described - a scramble up a clay bank. It looked as if someone (probably Rob Haslam’s group) had recently re-routed it south (by a few metres) to provide a slightly more favourable approach to the clay bank. Regardless, it wasn’t very high and once up the bank there wasn’t much more of a climb to the top, where there was a small clearing where tents could be placed.

This is the view from the clay-bank take-out:

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The tent clearing had no suitably-placed trees for a hammock, so I moved away some vegetation and hung it directly across the portage trial. Since I hadn’t seen a human soul in the past week, I figured it was safe to block the portage just after 2:00 in the afternoon:

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This turned out to be a pretty buggy site. The only “nice” spot to hang out was down at the take-out for the portage on a very small gravel bank mixed with wet clay. I sat down there for an hour or so being attacked by mosquitoes between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. before deciding it would just be better to hang out in the hammock.

Around 6:00 I returned to the take-out to make dinner and eat it with the mosquitoes. Not long after 7:00 I was back up in the hammock for the night, slightly uncomfortable with the high humidity, intending to read and eventually fall asleep.

By 8:00 p.m. it was raining pretty hard, the humidity decreased, and it cooled down a fair bit. For the first time in a few nights I was fully in my sleeping bag. The rain stopped around 11:00 p.m.

Day 8 (July 23, 2016):

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Today was going to be a bit longer of a paddling day as compared to some of the others, but there were no portages. I was heading for a site that promised to be quite nice, on a sandy esker beach in an unnamed lake off the Kapikotongwa River.

I was up at around 8:00 a.m., down to the landing to eat breakfast with the bugs, then off just past 9:00. Before heading up the Kapikotongwa River, I stopped to take a photo of the rapids that the 155 m portage avoids:

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Incidentally, I found it kind of odd on this trip that I was always portaging DOWN around rapids. There was only one short upstream portage later in the trip on the Stone River, and it didn’t seem as if the final two portages were more up than down. This trip is like an Eschler staircase!

It was another nice day, with a few clouds in the early afternoon, light winds, and a sunny evening.

So I paddled for a while on the Kapikotongwa River towards the Ogoki Road Bridge. Upstream from the bridge the riverside becomes less marshy and more forested. This was a bit of a change in scenery with trees almost to the river’s edge:

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Just prior to this area on the river there was signs of a large forest fire that probably passed through around five years ago.

By around 10:00 I was at the Ogoki Road bridge:

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The road isn’t heavily travelled. For the 30-min-or-so I was within earshot of it that Saturday morning not a single vehicle crossed over it.

Sometimes trips on this canoe route end at the road here, since it’s the same road as the trip started on – only about 20 km back south on the road. It would be possible (if solo) to hike 3-4 hours back to your car and pick it up (assuming good road conditions between the parking lot and the bridge), or to arrange some kind of shuttle. As it was, my trip wasn’t yet at an end, so I continued padding on the Kapikotongwa River through the Sedgman Lake Provincial Nature Reserve.

The river through the Sedgman Lake Provincial Nature Reserve is exclusively marshy. This is the sort of place where you can chase families of ducks for miles down the river or pilfer small sticks from beaver lodges, or see moose feeding in the distance or be lavished attention upon by dozens of deer flies. It’s not a place for camping.

In time, by around noon, I had passed through the reserve and reached the only campsite on this stretch of the river, which is referred to as MC11 on Rob Haslam’s maps and C13 on the municipality’s map.

I stopped there for a quick lunch with a lot of mosquitoes and deer flies. Here’s the view from the campsite surrounded by marsh:

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It’s a decent campsite with a nice view, but somewhere I’d rather stay in the fall than in July.

After a quick lunch I continued on along the river, arriving at the esker beach site at around 1:30 p.m. in light winds.

This whole section of the river is accessible from the bridge by motorboat. This was the most garbaged campsite on my whole trip. Or perhaps you might call them amenities? (The campsite nickname is the “Esker Hilton” after all.)

There was a large selection of grills:

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A cute little chrome table:

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A table nailed to a tree by Mikael last year:

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And even a toilet!

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Despite this and other random garbage, the site was actually pretty nice with not a whole lot of bugs:

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After setting up my hammock I spent a couple hours fishing out on the lake, where I caught another pike who promptly swam off with my lure. By this time I was tired of paddling around so long all day; I ended up napping in the hammock, had an early dinner, caught some very large leeches on the beach for bait, and was off to bed before sunset.


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PostPosted: August 5th, 2016, 2:01 pm 
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12 days solo on the Marshall Lake Loop (Part 3)

Day 9 (July 24, 2016):

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Today my goal was the north end of Stewart Lake, at a campsite behind some cliffs towards the eastern side of the north end of the lake. It would an all-paddle day with no portages. There seemed to be a bit of a camping area not far from the esker I stayed on last night, but the next possible areas for camping would really be Stewart Lake, so it was important that I got there! The Kapikotongwa River would be pretty marshy the whole way.

I woke up to light rain, at around 7:30 and I was kind of eager to get going. Even though most of the day would be river travel and the river was mostly sedate, it’s wide enough in places that if the wind picks up it could really slow things down.

So I packed up most of my gear, leaving the hammock tarp up so that I could eat breakfast out of the rain. Overnight the mosquitoes moved in (they really seem to like the colour of the hammock!), so I set up my little mosquito net for the first and only time on this trip. This allowed me to sit in the camp chair, under the net, under the hammock tarp out of the rain, and enjoy the rehydrated hash browns that I got from Costco last year. I’m not sure if they’re still sold there, but I recommend them – super-easy to rehydrate because they come in a milk-carton-type-container, they taste good, and they’re very filling.

Here was my breakfast set up:

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The rain was pretty light during breakfast, but it really started to pour as I was canoeing towards Berger Lake. By around 11:00 a.m. the sun was out, but by 12:00 it was intermittently raining again and became very windy. It was a bit miserable for the last few kilometers down the river just before Stewart Lake, and crossing the bay in the winds and waves towards the cliffs would have been frightening if it wasn’t mostly in a marshy area and there wasn’t anywhere much to blow to except the edge of the marsh.

There’s a campsite on an island on Berger Lake noted by Rob Haslam as MC10. I noted another campsite from the canoe on the north side of the lake about 300 m from where the river starts again. It’s located pretty near to 16U 461285E 5616739N. I didn’t notice Rob Haslam’s MC11, which was placed just where the river starts again – about 300 m east of the campsite I just noted.

As I was crossing the bay at the north end of Stewart Lake in the winds and the waves, I saw my first people in eight days- there were some fishermen hanging out on shore not far from campsite MC13. (They may have even been at MC13.)

After arriving at the campsite on Stewart Lake behind the cliffs (MC12, location 16U 468128E 5612368N), I set up the hammock in the rain and retreated into it for an hour or so until the weather improved.

This is a large campsite with paths over to various rocks with different exposures that are decent for fishing. I caught a couple pike (pike, pike, always pike!) in short order using the leeches I captured at the beach campsite the previous night. Here’s part of the view from an area of the campsite:

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The cliffs that are mentioned are back in behind the perspective of this photo and they’re kind of neat.

They’re not high or large cliffs- maybe 20 feet or 30 feet. But they seem unusual compared to the other topography in the area. You can walk right back to them to a mossy forest directly from the campsite (I hung my hammock back in there), and if you were to climb atop them they’d probably be less than 20 feet wide. It’s difficult to appreciate them from this photo, but they’re just behind my hammock here:

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I wanted to get a picture of them from the bay, but it was too windy on the way in and I was in a rush the next morning.

There was a very large amount of cut and split firewood at this campsite- far more than at any previous ones. I assumed that it might be provided/supplied by the lodge/fishing outpost that seemed to be operating on this lake. Here’s a photo of all the firewood:

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There’s also campsites on some of the islands further south in the lake. I saw two campsites on two different islands while paddling by the next morning, and there may have been more. Despite the oddly large amount of firewood, there were absolutely no grills on the site. I should have brought one from the esker site the day before, but I had a very small one in my food barrel that I like a lot and always carry anyway- a Purcell Trench Streamside Packer Grill.

So even though the afternoon remained windy, I caught a couple pike from one of the rocks on shore, mixed up some mashed potatoes, and looked south down the lake while cooking them:


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It turned out to be a nice evening with very few mosquitoes for cooking and eating. Despite the issues with the wind and weather earlier, it really turned out to be an excellent day.

Day 10 (July 25, 2016):

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Today I was headed just one lake down- to Stone Lake campsite MC14. I was up fairly early at around 7:00, hoping to avoid waves on the fairly big lakes. It was kind of cloudy and already a bit windy at that time. By 8:00 a.m. I was on the water crossing directly down Stewart Lake, passing the islands and noting a couple campsites on them.

While crossing the winds picked up and it began to rain lightly. I took a photo back towards the north on Stewart Lake of some ominous clouds, but nothing much came of them where I was headed and the weather much improved later in the day; here are the cloudy skies a bit past 8:00 a.m.:

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Passing into the southern end of Stewart Lake the scenery changes to being rockier and kind of quintessentially “Muskokan.” This is probably one of the reasons the 2007 Outer’s Trip Journal describe the area this way: “From the end of Stewart Lake to the port before Stone Lake is an incredibly beautiful spot, and an Outers favorite.”

I counted three moose blinds closer to the portage on the Stone River, when it becomes marshier. Here’s a photo of one of them, the most artistic moose blind I had ever seen:

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When I got to the rapids by around 9:30, I wasn’t sure what side the portage was on:

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The municipality brochure describes the portage as “Right side of Stone River at the rapids.
Length: 60 meters.” It turned out they were river left (right side facing upstream as I was), but not marked. A cached canoe back in the vegetation confirmed the portage location once I was ashore. It’s a bit of a rocky to start a good portage.

Not long down the Stone River is the entrance to Stone Lake, which is guarded by a number of boulders directly across the channel and a very shallow area. Some sources indicated a short portage here, but most reports said canoeing through was likely possible. There was enough water for me to get through river left.

I started my paddle on Stone Lake by heading directly from the river mouth to MC14, but the winds out on the water were more than I expected, so I headed back for the west shore and hugged the shore down the lake.

This lake has at least there cabins/lodges on it. One is at the north end, to the east of the Stone River exit. The next is just a bit south of MC14, and the third one I saw was just a couple hundred metres south of the last.

While paddling past MC14 I wasn’t tempted ashore, so I decided to check further south down the lake. It was still pretty early in the day and I figured I could just come back if I wanted. A bit before noon I was near the very south end of the lake when I came across a large rock with decent access to the water in a southern direction. There was a bit of very old garbage about, suggesting that it was once a campsite, but no fire pit.

It turned out be a good hammock site, with enough space to hang a hammock comfortably back along a path, and more space for probably a couple (or more) tents in the woods further back in. (But it would require a bit of clearing – a handsaw would be sufficient.) This campsite was located at 16U 460222E 5602842N.

This is a photo of part of the campsite, with the hammock back along the path. There were a lot of blueberries here:

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And a photosphere image of the same site:

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This campsite was also a bit closer to the next morning’s long 1.6 km Ara Lake portage as compared to MC14. This is a view looking towards the portage landing (would be about centre in this photo) from the campsite:

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It was around 1:30 by the time I had lunch and set up my hammock. I spent the afternoon mostly fishing and just sitting watching the water. There weren’t many fish biting from shore today (but it seemed like a good spot with a good rock drop-off) and it wasn’t until nearly 6:00 that another pike took the bait.

By around 7:30 I put together a fire pit, cut some wood, and was having my last pike and potatoes meal of the trip:

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Not long after I was hanging in the hammock for the night, contemplating the Ara Lake portage tomorrow and getting ready for an earlier rise. I set my alarm for 6:00, hoping that I’d get through the portage and far into Ara Lake before winds picked up.

Before falling asleep I read over all the trip reports I had of the route that I had saved to my phone in Google Drive and reviewed the maps from Rob Haslam, as well as looking at topo maps of the area on my phone in Gaia GPS.

The 2004 Outer’s Club Trip report described my portage to Ara Lake tomorrow morning this way: “The port out of Stone Lake into Ara was reached at 8:41, and three hours and forty minutes of torture proceeded to unfold. This port has several distinguishing features. It has huge sections of blow down, along with several distinctive and stinky shoe-sucking mudholes.”

I’ve found over the years that I really enjoy reading trip reports of others while actually on the trip so I can compare my experience with what others had reported. If you’re like me and reading this report while you’re out on the loop sometime in the future, Hello!

Day 11 (July 26, 2016):

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I wasn’t sure how far I’d get today. First was the question of just how bad the 1600 m portage was going to be in the morning. Second was how windy it would be out on Ara Lake and just where I might be able to get to. Ara is a huge lake for canoeing (probably more than 15 km long) and the narrowest reasonable canoe crossing on this route is about 1 km wide.

Elsewhere on this site in a thread about scared moments in high winds, Rob Haslam had this to say about Ara Lake:

“Ara lake kills American fishermen frequently, but we weren't fishermen, we knew what we were doing. Ha. About 1.5 k across, the wind started to make itself apparent in a major way. The waves were around 5 or 6 feet tall. When I disappeared into a trough, the other canoes disappeared as well. There was enough room between the waves that I could try to climb over them at an angle and surf my way down, but it was hard work. When we hit the bay and got out of the wind, I actually kissed the beach.”

But I wasn’t in Ara Lake yet; I was still at my southern site on Stone Lake. The alarm woke me at 6:00 a.m. and I was at the landing for the portage before 7:30 on a sunny and calm morning. The sign for the portage was actually visible shining in the late afternoon sun from my site the day before, so I was pretty sure where I was headed. This is the view approaching the trailhead- the white sign is the portage sign:

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And a final view of Stone Lake, looking back from the portage landing:

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The portage starts at 16U 461048E 5601771N.

It turned out that the portage wasn’t great, but it wasn’t absolutely awful either. There was some blow down in a couple places that required a triple-carry rather than a double-carry. And I lost the trail once or twice for a short period of time. And my legs were submerged to my knees in a couple spots. And there were two or three areas maybe 50 meters long that were pretty wet. But I guess going through solo (rather than with a group of nearly 20 people as the Outer’s did) is faster – was through before 9:45, so it took me a bit more than 2 hours.

As I mentioned earlier, it hadn’t been cleared since 2010, so in addition to blowdown it is tight in spots. If you’re in after 2020 and don’t have any additional information about the state of the portage, it would probably be a good idea to plan to take longer while heading through and consider at least bringing pruning loppers.

Part of the portage were covered with blueberries too, so this might be a nice place to stock up if you wanted some!

The very end of the portage (at Ara Lake) was the worst part of the whole thing. There was no actual end, it just kind of merged into an alder swamp where I had to push the canoe and gear until I was around up to my waist in water, then push my way out. I had a look at satellite images of the area after coming home and noted a nice, clear, little channel entering the alder swamp. Admittedly, I wasn’t looking for that channel, but I really don’t think it was there! (Shown below)

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I pushed through to around where the little red person icon is, but if the channel is there it might have been better to head a bit west towards it.

I was being attacked by prehistoric-looking flies that were biting right through my bug jacket in that area, so I got out on the lake as soon as I possibly could!

Here’s a photo of some of the big water on a relatively calm Ara Lake later in the paddle- this is looking towards the north east from the west end of the lake:

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I was originally planning on camping at MC14, which is supposed to be a fairly nice site at the end of an esker peninsula on the north shore of the lake. This campsite sets one up for a crossing of the lake at a fairly narrow point, then down the channel towards Meta Lake. It’s also the kind of place one could be wind bound for a while if the weather didn’t co-operate.

Since the waters were fairly calm, I decided to continue on and look for another campsite where, if it were windy, I would less likely be stuck. I crossed Ara Lake more towards the west (where it is also somewhat narrow), then followed the south shore to the channel. It began to get somewhat windy along the south shore, but nothing that was too difficult to deal with. After turning south towards the channel the winds were blocked and it was fairly calm for a while.

I stopped for lunch and ate it on the dock at a very well-groomed lodge/outpost in the first or second small bay immediately after the south turn, then continued on down the channel towards Meta Lake in light but somewhat erratic winds and sunny skies.

I had seen people fishing far across near the north shore of Ara Lake in wooden boats as I was paddling, and while in the channel someone passed me in an aluminum fishing boat, neither looking at me nor waving.

There wasn’t much camping possible in the channel, so I continued on to Meta Lake, following the west shore in the channel, then the north shore in Meta Lake.

In the “worst case” scenario, I was planning on staying at MC16 which is a campsite in the bay just before the bay with the portage trailhead, but I wasn’t super keen on MC16 because there was reports of bear baiting by the Meta Lake Lodge operator at or near that campsite. Bear season would likely be opening in 2-3 weeks and I thought they’d already be getting the bears habituated.

Meta Lake was not like Toronto Lake, there really wasn’t much or anything for camping anywhere along the shores I paddled. There were some spots were setting up a tent or a hammock might be possible, but nothing that really had good water access or a convenient place to leave a canoe.

Eventually I made my way around to the first small stony beach/landing I saw, with a 6’ scramble up a hill to a very mossy area. I pulled ashore here and checked. It wasn’t a campsite, but there was room for my canoe and marginal water access. On top of the bank was enough space to string a hammock between a couple of the trees. This would not likely be a site to place a tent- or at least I didn’t notice any obvious areas where one would fit. The location of this final campsite for me was 16U 468678E 5592211N.

It was around 4:00 p.m. by the time the hammock was up. This set me up for short early-morning crossing into the portage bay.

I was fairly tired after portaging and canoeing for most of the day, and I knew I had a big day ahead of me, so after an early dinner I was in my hammock by 6:00 to read for a while before falling asleep.

This a photo of the “site”:

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And the view from the “site”:

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PostPosted: August 5th, 2016, 2:02 pm 
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12 days solo on the Marshall Lake Loop (Part 4)

Day 12 (July 27, 2016):

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My alarm woke me at 5:00 this morning for a big day, which would mostly be a big day of driving. I wasn’t so concerned with wind and waves as I was with the 14-hour drive back. I hoped to be back in the GTA before midnight.

After a quick breakfast with the mosquitoes, I packed up and was on the lake before 6:00. Just when coming around the corner into the bay with the portage, there were a couple places on the west side that looked like campsites from the water (at around 16U 469680E 5591344N) and were almost directly across from the Meta Lake Lodge buildings. Seven or eight eagles flew out of one of them as a paddled by and I thought that the lodge might leave its fish scraps there.

As I continued south in the bay a motor boat sped towards me from the direction of the lodge- this was before 6:30 a.m. The operator asked me, “Where the hell did you come from?” Then mentioned that he THOUGHT he saw someone on the lake yesterday. (Obviously this is a place that doesn’t see many canoeists!)

I continued down the bay and into the marshy area to the south, where I saw my second moose of the trip:

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I reached the trailhead for the final 2.2 km portage at about 7:00 a.m. (Located at 16U 468790E 5589700N.) Here is a view of it from the water:

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This portage was longer, but in better condition than the previous Stone Lake-Ara Lake portage. There were a couple wet spots where I sunk in just past my ankles, a few spots where the small bushes and trees are getting pretty tight, a couple (mostly lower) spots were I lost the trail for a bit but picked it up later (I flagged these), and a couple blowdowns that required creative portaging.

There was also a fair bit of more minor blowdown that was easy to step over, like in this pretty part of the portage:

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Parts of the portage also had lots of blueberries (particularly closer to the road), and evidence of recent bear visits.

I finished the portage by about 9:30. Near the road you’ll find a portage sign fairly deep in the woods (at 16U 467451E 5588633N) that is definitely not visible from the north parking lot on the road with foliage on the trees:

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You will also find this warning sign nearby:

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There is no obvious path from the north parking lot to the portage trail; if going in reverse on this loop it might be somewhat difficult to find the trailhead.

I was happy to see my car looking fine in the parking lot, and even happier when it started right up. Sometime during the past 12 days someone else had joined me on some adventures in the area in a black Jeep:

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The black Jeep had a springy Jesus and a black bear statue on the dash; maybe a CCR member?

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I had my car loaded and myself set up for the long drive back by 10:00. It was mostly gravel roads, then the long stretch on Highway 11 between Longlac and Hearst until around 2:00, with a stop in Hearst for lunch and ice. Next was a stop in Kapuskasing for diesel, followed by about eight hours straight down Highway 11, through Barrie, and back to the GTA under sunny skies and a starry night.


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PostPosted: August 6th, 2016, 12:59 pm 
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Great report. Thanks for the effort.... cheers Steve


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PostPosted: August 6th, 2016, 2:56 pm 
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Thank you for posting the trip report. UTM discrepancies may be Datum related; WTM84 vs NAD27, the distance of the variations looks like they could be caused by that.


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PostPosted: August 7th, 2016, 7:24 am 
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Timely report Brad a group of us are heading up in two weeks to do part of the trip. I enjoyed your pictures. Hoping we can find come walleye though.


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PostPosted: August 7th, 2016, 7:54 am 
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Nice read with my morning coffee. You're motivating me to actually take my solo boat for more than a day paddle. I like your wood trim, shearwater?


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PostPosted: August 7th, 2016, 9:20 am 
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Great write up! Thanks


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PostPosted: August 8th, 2016, 9:28 am 
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Darl-h wrote:
Thank you for posting the trip report. UTM discrepancies may be Datum related; WTM84 vs NAD27, the distance of the variations looks like they could be caused by that.


I second this. Exactly what I thought when I noticed the slight variations. Other possibilities are NAD83 or WGS84... I doubt it's anything else really obscure.

Great writeup!

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PostPosted: August 8th, 2016, 9:34 pm 
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Good report! I think you are about the forth or fifth party up there this year since we came through in June. I'm not sure how you didn't manage to catch any pickerel, we often just use flagging tape and jigs!

All my maps are generated using NAD 27 on both the GPS and the computer software. Brad, I would check the Datum on the map set you are using. When my coordinates are programmed into my GPS, they take me to the exact spot. However, there will always be some minor differences between topo maps, digital maps and actual travel. NAD 27 means the maps are based on a series of air photos from 1927. Some rivers have changed considerably since then.


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2016, 6:55 am 
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Bill P wrote:
Hoping we can find come walleye though.


I'd place a very good bet on you finding walleye!(Unless all the pike hog your bait). Marshall has lots of big shoals where they hang out.

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2016, 8:06 am 
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Difference between NAD27 and WGS84 ends up being roughly 200m N-S and 20m E-W


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2016, 6:48 pm 
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Bill P wrote:
Timely report Brad a group of us are heading up in two weeks to do part of the trip. I enjoyed your pictures. Hoping we can find come walleye though.


We caught pickerel in Marshall, Gripp, the Gripp River, Summit, Powitik River and the Kap last year during our trip in August so I'm sure you can find what you are after. We exclusively used a yellow jig with 3" yellow twister and our biggest pickerel was 25" and pike was 37". Our trip reports are on a different site.

Karin

Rob cut the big ports out, the 670 and down to the bridge during our group trip last year.


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PostPosted: August 10th, 2016, 8:12 am 
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Nice report, I did that circuit in 2012 (iirc) and your report brought back many fond memories.
I fished the pools at the bottom of most rapids and had pretty good luck with the pickerel. Almost a guarantee. Also, Marshall Lake can be good at times.
I just used the maps Rob Haslam gave me along with his accompanying portage/campsite instructions and found them to be very good.
Thanks again, I really enjoyed your trip.
PS- I stayed at the bear bait campsite the last night, I was feeling so good about getting the trip done, no bear would have stood a chance! Ha


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