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PostPosted: August 23rd, 2016, 11:48 am 
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Location: Toronto,ON
West Spanish Forest +Spanish River – Trip Report
Jul 9 – 22, 2016

Participants: Darryl and Rosa
Report by: Rosa

Day 1 – Rushbrook Lake

With the forecast calling for a deluge on Friday and into Saturday for the area of our planned put-in, we delayed our start to Saturday.
The drive to Sudbury was intermittent sunshine and buckets of rain. Once past Espanola we turned north at Webbwood and eventually made it onto Agnew Lake Road.
Our instructions for How to get there:
Drive north from Webbwood about 60km and turn east at the
Charcoal Creek Road. At KM20, turn left and follow the level
forest road for not quite 2km to the second "driveway" on the
right and take it 500m down to Rushbrook Lake.
I had the map and somehow did not identify the proper “driveway”, we drove down the dirt road to the point where the tree canopy met above the car and grazed the canoe. Darryl got out, walked a bit down the road, scared up a grouse and came back convinced we missed a turn. There was a long stretch of backup driving till we found an area for a many point turnaround, shortly we were driving down the correct road. We stopped when the road was interrupted by a minor lake, evidence of the preceding deluge, Darryl investigated for depth, walked further and came back with thumbs up.
At the grassy put in we found a huge truck with it's boat trailer backed into the water and just left there, the owners must think it's their lake.
We were there for ten minutes when another big truck and trailer pulled up, a couple from near Barrie with a new cottage on Agnew Lake, they were investigating the “neighbourhood” and mentioned the huge overnight storm, glad we missed it. Then a small motor boat approached the put in, it's occupants bad mouthing the guy who left the truck backed into the water, they also mentioned seeing a canoe on the lake the previous week. This is a lot more action then we expected on this out of the way area. After exchanging pleasantries we paddled off towards the portage to Marion Lake, east of Rushbrook, there's a marked island campsite on our map where we plan to stay. The vegetation on the portage has been newly trod on. There's no obvious campsite on the island but after a full circumference paddle we got off at the most likely spot, amazingly there's evidence of a recent fire on the elevated fire-pit but no tent pads, we speculate that this might have been fishermen on a day paddle.
We trimmed and trimmed and set up camp just in time to avoid one last generous rain shower.
If there's anything I hate it's slugs and the island is infested with them, yuk.
I did a more thorough walk of the island in the morning and found the tent pad area (cleared dead fall and crushed vegetation) of the previous visitors high into the trees, maybe those canoeist from last week.
Marion Lake – island campsite

Day 2 - Pigeons and Shakwa Loons

Before leaving the lake we stopped at the portage to Fiona Lake, the east end of the portage ends in a large boggy area so I got a far away peek at the lake before retracing my steps, beyond Fiona is "Happy Little Cheesebun Lake" (it's on the map, I didn't make it up), it will have to wait for another time.[url=]Image
Rushbrook Lake

Once back on Rushbrook we made our way to the Rushbrook Creek which is really a meandering lily pad choked wetland and somewhere in the middle near a big lump of rock with a standing dead tree we veered left up the Shakwa River. Various lift-overs and drag-throughs, the 450m portage the only real portage on the way to Shakwa Lake. On one of the gravelly shallow areas we came across two pigeons, it was like seeing a rare species, I couldn't believe my eyes. What were these fellow urban denizens doing here?
We scouted the lone campsite on Shakwa since we may stay there on the way back. Beautifully situated with a high view, minor trimming and fern clearing is all that's required.
We spotted the Shakwa fire tower before getting to Upper Shakwa.
Upper Shakwa seams a particular favorite with the many loons, one loon would call, listen to the reverberating echo, another loon would answer and after that echo the cycle was repeated over and over.
The cement boat launch on the north shore marked the take out for the long portage to Wensley Lake, the boat launch is at the end of a side trail off an unmaintained logging road, the road shows evidence of use by ATVs. The portage is mostly along the dirt road and the foot path off it down to Wensley Lake is marked by a bit of flagging tape. Thank you to whoever left the flagging tape (Brad J?) along the trail down to the lake, it was very helpful through the overgrown sections. After all the rain over the past two days many areas were muddy and we walked across a creek in two places, always harried by mosquitoes. Since we're double carrying the portages on this trip, this portage extended the day into a very long hot day.Image
Rushbrook to Shakwa lily pad wonderland

Day 3 - Mozhabong or Bust (The Bog Walk)

We left late and did the fairly straight forward portage from Wensley to Landry, paddled the beautiful narrow section between Landry and Little Sinaminda under blue skies. The two campsites on either side of the portage to Dusty Lake haven't seen use in a long time and would take some rehabilitation. At this point we will not be backtracking on ourselves till we loop back through Sinaminda Lake. Once on Dusty Lake we checked the campsite on the south end of the island, little shade and not much used, we couldn't locate the campsite on the north end of the island.
The “portage” out of Dusty is really a bog, and if wet (remember all the rain I've talked about) a bog to take you down…
For the first carry, Darryl and I stayed together trying to stick as close as possible to the muddy ditch (portage) on the way to Mozhabong. There's a high dry rock island half way on the portage before descending back into the bog, Darryl strung up lots of flagging tape on the way back. On the second pass Darryl forged ahead with the canoe while I plodded along with my load, at one point I looked up and I was by myself, I couldn't see Darryl or any flagging tape and I had also wondered away from the muddy ditch, a moment of panic ensued but eventually I found my way back to the muddy ditch, the flagging tape and Darryl.
I love my new Keen – Gorgeous Boots, they stayed put throughout the bog walk, ever so happy that we've put the bog behind us and will not be backtracking on it, I'm also getting myself a personal compass.Image
Knackered after doing The Bog Walk

A tiny, tintsy bit of pink tape gave us a clue to the start of the portage to bypass the next marsh, up and over and under various blow-downs down to the water. This is such a beautiful area even the smallest of ponds is stunning.
The three beaver dams down to Moz have been replaced by one incredibly steep dam, I walked the rudimentary portage while Darryl muscled the loaded canoe down the fifteen foot drop (it's amazing he kept it together) and through all the sharp rocks at the bottom to the last obstruction, a pile of sticks that used to be a beaver dam.
It was now feeling like another long day but the campsite at the narrows before the lake opened up was a fixer-upper with no shade, we paddled on into the “Big Moz”. It was great fun paddling with the tremendous, gusting south wind at our backs, eventually we “eddied out” in the lee of a small island marked with a campsite on our map, yeepee, it's a real campsite.
Long used and a little over loved, all the elements at a great campsite compressed into a tiny package, we were happy to find it. Great to be on Mozhabong.Image
Beautiful rocky shoreline

Day 4 – The Big Moz

The strong south wind that blew us to our island yesterday continued throughout the night and pushed us north in the morning.
Gorgeous, outstanding, dramatic, stunning, scenic, vast, big and beautiful, words we used to describe the south end of the lake with it's marvelous rock walls and great vistas.
Once past the Moose Narrows the shore changed to marches and spruce stands, still beautiful just different.
We were riding rollers with every narrowing of the lake and when paddling between islands, very satisfying to paddle with the foam streamers. At the north end we got blown under the bridge up to the Moz dam.
I walked the portage to scout the campsite while Darryl paddled the rapids below the dam down to the campsite at the end of the portage.
Not a long day due to the persistent south wind but a very hot sticky day, we'd had enough and had made our goal of camping on Indian Lake.
After a good amount of trimming and clearing the campsite turned into exactly what we needed, lots of shade and shelter from the strong gusting wind. A storm rolled by at dinner time with much rain, it helped bring down the stupefying heat. Once the storm cleared we had a great sunset.
Two guys in a little motor boat showed up to fish at the dam, they had flown into Indian Lake for a week's fishing and were curious on how we got there.Image
Early morning on Indian lake (South end)

Day 5 – Change of Plans

The morning dawned with a blue sky and we left under the gentlest of south breezes which strengthened as the morning wore on. Indian Lake is another big beautiful lake and the irregular shore, many arms and islands make for an interesting paddle.
We had made such great time up to now and were still enjoying a tail wind, that instead of turning right at the big arm that would take us to Matagama Road and Winnie Lake, we decided to extent our loop and make for Biscotasing (Bisco) and on down the Spanish River. Our prepared maps did not include the top end of the now extended loop but we had brought our old ChrisMar map of the Spanish River with us, just in case.
On and on we paddled and four hours later we were at the portage to Biscotasi Lake, we walked the shady flat portage rather than try to muscle the rail trolley cart.
Wow, as soon as we got to Biscotasi Lake the wind changed to west and we really fought hard through the cross wind and huge waves to reach the shallow gap between the east shore and the big island, a bit of a shock after all the easy paddling on this trip.
At the top end of this section of the lake we veered right towards the narrows that will eventually take us under the railroad tracks and to Bisco.
We spotted a camping sign at a point on the narrows, not where we expected the next campsite to be but it would do for us. We cut back and cleared a big jack pine which had fallen on a large portion of the campsite and in the process freed and rescued two small white pines. It's darn hot, the rest of the afternoon was spend lolling in the shade. Dinner consisted of appetizers and a good portion of our wine, wine that should have lasted us three nights. Image
Biscotasi trolley cart

Day 6 – Bisco Revisited

Huge wind, lightning and thunder overnight with buckets of rain. We woke up to a blue sky that soon turned threatening, barometer low.
We may have stopped too soon yesterday, there's a great island campsite just around the corner from where we stopped and another island campsite half an hour further towards Bisco. Of course we didn't know these campsites existed. The wind picked up and the sky got even more threatening as we approached Bisco, we were careful to line ourselves up with the bridge while being pushed along by the wind.
It's been ten years, almost to the day, since our last visit Bisco. We took the train at that time and paddled the Spanish River down to Agnew Lake. The train was so late that we got off the train and promptly started paddling, this is our opportunity to visit the West Branch General Store and look around.
We bought some crackers and the last bottle of white wine and decanted it into our platypus bag.
The current store owner says the train service has become much more reliable since VIA took over.
Bisco feels so peaceful and sleepy it's hard to imagine the good old days when Archie Belaney would hang out here and get drunk.
We got back in the canoe and shoulder checked a group of youths camped on an island directly across from the General Store, first “canoe” people we have seen, a Taylor Statten group according to the store owner.
With the weather always threatening, we wasted no time paddling around the corner and straight to the campsite just before Windy Point. We put up camp in record time just before the main storm front hit with mega wind gusts and rain. Barometer lower still.Image
Island campsite near Windy Point

Day 7 – Windy Point and the Spanish River

It rained non stop overnight and the wind turned to north, still strong and gusting, we woke up to 13 degrees Celsius, brr…
Late, late breakfast/brunch since there was no way we could leave camp. We were so close to turning the corner at Windy Point but it would have been unsafe and madness to even consider it. We packed up our kit and tent after breakfast, turned the Mantis tarp 180 degrees around to gives us better shelter and waited for the wind to abate. We had “dinner” in the middle of the afternoon and eventually left camp just before 5pm. This is a change of pace for us, starting and paddling so late in the day.
Once around Windy Point we enjoyed a tail wind all the way to the dam under a beautiful sky. Lots of water going over the dam.
We portaged the middle of Lillie Falls and camped at the Lillie Rapids, the river looks full with flooded grasses and bushes along the shore.Image
Lillie Rapids

Lillie Rapids - campsite

Day 8 – Snake River

The cool overnight temperatures made for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning the rapids were completely shrouded in mist, I walked back to the start of the portage enjoying the beautiful trail and glimpses of the rapids through the trees. The sun had burned off the mist by the time we left camp.
We're playing it safe with the rapids since we had not planned to paddle the Spanish and did not bring the air bags for the canoe, the water levels are also higher than we remember from ten years ago. Some rapids we paddle together, some Darryl runs solo, others we portage.
Since last time around we went straight down the west branch, this time we have decided to paddle up the Snake River to First Lake and down the east branch.
Snake River is a grandiose name for a relatively short paddle through a marshy area which got more interesting with exposed rock closer to the lake. Just before getting to the lake, the section marked as a boulder garden was a long nasty canoe scrape over sharp slimy rocks, good thing we're going downhill and have a tough boat. We carried the well maintained portage around Snake Rapids and were back on the water by 4pm.
We stayed at the small campsite just north of the rapids on the west shore. This campsite is all up and down, the very steep climb to the boom-box is rewarded with a great view.Image
Quiet section on the Spanish River

Bazett Rapids - high campsite along the portage

Day 9 – Back to the Spanish

We departed under a variable sky and a south wind (it can't always be a tail wind). There's a really nice campsite on the south end of the lake on a point tucked behind a tiny island. Image
First Lake

The head wind was a challenge the full length of Expanse Lake and we didn't bother to explore the campsites along the way, we did stop at the last southern most campsite for lunch, this was not one of those floating lunch days.
We might have considered stopping here for the day but the campsite was overused and less than appealing, we dug in and paddled to the end of the lake. The Kingfisher swifts were a welcome diversion and the passing trains made a campsite down the river a desirable goal for the day.
We passed a couple pulled up at “The Forks” campsite, waved and paddled on observing the long freight train slowly working it's way north. The sky kept looking more threatening as the afternoon wore on, no time to doddle. At Upper Athelone rapids we decided against the campsites on either side of the river and hit the portage, there's a campsite about half way down the portage with a nice area by the river which will do just fine for us. The couple we saw at “The Forks” caught up with us as we were setting up camp, there was a very short talk as they were loaded down with gear and it looked like rain at any minute. They put-in below the upper portion of the rapid and we saw them float by in the empty canoe, a very competent pair, down the rapid and out of our sight. The rain came down for the next few hours.

Day 10 – Big Pogamasing

The rapids drowned out any train noise overnight. Looking up from our sheltered campsite we could see the clouds whipping by overhead from the west. Darryl ran the rapid down from our campsite and we ran Lower Athelone rapids together.
It's time to leave the river and make out way back to the car. After some scouting, we portaged under the railway bridge up the Pogamasing River to the Pog dam. There's an impromptu campsite along the portage, “A fisherman's camp”, Darryl thinks it's a very fishy spot.
This is a short day so I took my time, stopping often to enjoy the juicy blue berries along the trail.
We heard the wind and crashing waves as we approached the main body of the lake, we could see lots of white caps from the west as we neared the sheltered side of the point where we expect to find a campsite. I got off, crashed through the alders and past a boom-box, it's the campsite. A great campsite right there, quiet water on one side, crashing waves on the beach side. We set up camp under the shady trees and had a lazy afternoon.
Close to 4pm we saw three little dots coming through the south narrows which turned into three red canoes with three people each, labouring their way north along the far shore, they could easily have passed by without us noticing them. We figured they must be the red canoe group we saw at Bisco.Image
Pogamasing campsite

Getting ready to leave

Day 11 – Little Pog

We woke up to a calm lake and a big blue sky, we're moving to Little Pog today and face six portages on the way there.
The first portage to Pejeke Lake was long but well maintained with fresh evidence of red ink and trampled ferns.
This is a gorgeous area with lots of exposed rock, lily pads, we saw a group of otters and a couple of bald eagles.
The second portage turned out to be two portages stuck together, mostly a nice foot path with blow down sections which already had seen some clearing by the red canoe group that went through it the previous day. A short paddle to the next obstruction and what we thought was a portage turned into a liftover/portage followed by another.
The next obstruction turned into a portage for us. The portage obviously only used by paddlers going against the current and had not been used much, we walked the full length, cleared and flagged the trail and than did the carrying.
One more liftover/portage past an obstruction with very old remnants of a log flume. We paddled some more past exposed rock and beautiful scenery and around the corner we saw various heads poking over a huge rock obstruction, yeepee, no more portages, we must be at Little Pog.
It was a family group from Ohio, flown in for the week and fishing from a pontoon boat. Very friendly folks that love the Canadian bush, we showed them our maps, how we got there and where to find the portage to Dennie Lake.
We paddled south along the west shore looking for the campsite Darryl marked on our map with a question mark, it's a real campsite with a high view. We trimmed and cleared the main area by the old fire pit, there are lots of tentable spots into the trees and a gentle path down to the water, much easier than our scramble up the rock face.
The camp clearing revealed a pair of strong prescription glasses amongst the blue berry bushes, we hope they are just reading glasses and the owner didn't leave the campsite blind as a bat.
Beautiful scenery between Big Pog and Little Pog

Day 12 – Sinaminda (the search for a campsite)

Saying good-bye to Little Pog

Another beautiful morning and we headed for the well maintained portage into Dennie Lake. We didn't find the marked campsite on Dennie. We did some portage clearing on the way to Gilden Lake which is very shallow in places with the bottom unexpectedly coming up. Gilden has a very bouldery island campsite.
The longish portage into Sinaminda had been recently cleared of blow downs and was a beautiful walk in the woods, the campsite at the Sinaminda end of the portage was not so nice with a boat cache and plenty of garbage, I thought we could do better.
We stopped at the campsite marked by Brad Jennings, it is a lightly used campsite with no obvious tent pads and it would take an incredible amount of work to rehabilitate it. We paddled on and on, eventually past a cabin by a dirt road on our way to the beaver dam / decommissioned logging road at the point where Sinaminda meets Little Sinaminda.
By this time we were tired from the long day and ready to camp anywhere should the campsite marked at this junction not exist.
We're in luck, it's a red pine campsite and it links up to the flower meadow by the old logging road where we can set up camp in the shade.
Long, huge day for us, hot and sticky all day, so glad to stop.

Day 13 - Flower Meadow campsite

The rolled back vestibules let me gaze at the full moon to my heart's content and allowed the all night wind to blow through and moderate the relentless heat.
Already very hot and humid as we left camp and paddled past the portage into Dusty Lake, we would have stayed at one of the campsites by this portage if we hadn't found the red pine campsite.
We reversed the portage into Wensley Lake and got on with the bushy trail up to the ATV road. Funny how a trail that had seemed nasty and barely maintained eleven days ago now was easy and straight forward. We got all the gear up to the road and started the long walk to the lake, the air oppressively thick, hot and humid.
I was for stopping at the put-in campsite, Darryl for going on, the far away thunder changed his mind. The rain started as we made the last carry, me walking in front and Darryl right behind, both of us under the canoe. We had just enough time to set up the tarp shelter before the full deluge, wind and thunder hit.
My description, “We have set up camp in a grassy clearing under some trees with a nice view of the lake, big beautiful ferns and a flower meadow complete with little birds and buzzing bees”, Darryl is, “ATV raceway by the boat launch”.
Those Upper Shakwa loons showed up after the storm passed and proceeded to entertain us with their call competitions.Image
Flower meadow campsite

Upper Shakwa – old fire tower

Day 14 - Going home

The weather really cleared up after the storm passed, we were able to roll back the vestibules and enjoy another moonrise before going to sleep.
We left under a big blue sky and a gentle west breeze, forty five minutes saw us pass the campsite on Lower Shakwa we would have stayed on but for yesterday's storm.
We are now going down stream and were able to skip the 450m portage and make short work of the gravel shallows down the Shakwa River. The lily pads seemed even thicker on the long paddle through the marsh area before getting to the lake. On Rushbrook Lake we stuck to the west shore for protection from the now gusting west wind on the way to the car.
There's a big campsite up the trail to the right of the put-in, convenient for anyone who arrives late.
Another fantastic trip with a bit of everything.
Rushbrook Creek

Back on Rushbrook – who's that scruffy guy at the stern

PostPosted: August 23rd, 2016, 6:23 pm 
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Joined: September 13th, 2014, 11:52 am
Posts: 386
Location: Toronto
Lovely report and photos, as usual. Thanks for sharing. This is an area I'd like to check out sometime.
Were the Taylor Statten campers girls? If so, they could be the very ones we shared a site with on our way to Florence Lake in Temagami a couple weeks ago (August 6th). When we met them they were on day 34 of 42 and had started in Biscotasing. The timeline, canoes, and number of people all fit! They were awesome.



Friends of Temagami:

PostPosted: August 23rd, 2016, 6:52 pm 
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Joined: August 19th, 2007, 5:40 pm
Posts: 585
Location: Timmins
Nice writeup!
A lot of those sites see little use.
For the majority of them we were likely the first users in decades. Wayne and I spent a good hour clearing out the Sinaminda site you guys passed by. Just enough room for 1 tent. Likely was used a lot more in the past as that old picnic table was there. The sites to the north are not any better.


My Backcountry Website:

PostPosted: August 23rd, 2016, 6:59 pm 
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Joined: April 1st, 2003, 9:40 am
Posts: 234
Location: Toronto,ON
Re Taylor Statten, the group was not yet fully formed at Bisco, so I'm not sure if it was all girls. At Pog they passed on the far side of the lake and the paddlers were just hard working silhouettes. Regardless, they handled some weather and rough trails. I'd love to know their route, there was little evidence of them passing after we got to Little Pog.

Tearknee: Looking forward to your report about Temagami, Lady Evelyn River and Florence Lake. That area has been part of a couple of wonderful trips for us.

Brad: Sinaminda and northwards deserves another trip. The campsite are there if you look, but almost all of them need effort to trim/brush/clean. If it wasn't for you (and Wayne) posting the video reports I would not have though of accessing the area through Rushbrook, many Thanks. It is a great area for intimate campsites, narrow trails and big trees.

PostPosted: August 23rd, 2016, 8:08 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2009, 9:37 am
Posts: 611
Location: Kingston, ON
Wonderful report! You really did get a bit of everything on that trip. Thanks for sharing.

PostPosted: August 27th, 2016, 9:48 am 

Joined: March 10th, 2005, 4:55 pm
Posts: 86
Location: Hamilton, ON
ah the Spanish! so long ago but your trip report and photos really captured the river - 'meadows' campsite still looks the same

always enjoy your write ups as those personal details (slug lover eh!?), the crazy dash to avoid rain, the adhoc change of plans all make for interesting reading

'happy little cheese bun lake' ? YUM!

paddle (and post on)

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