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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2017, 10:50 am 
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Finally, conditions seemed to be setting up for a perfect day on Friday to do a major canoe trek. Sunny and cool with strong winds roughly out of the west. Bugs were the only negative, but to wait for them to improve would put us into the summer. Markus had mentioned he had never been much in the QEII Park, so I thought why not just paddle right across it as an introduction. A bit of planning and reconnaisance would be needed for this adventure.

Recently Markus and I had driven into Victoria Falls along the Black River, east of Coopers Falls to scope out the road accessibility. The plan was to paddle a route from this point through wetlands and lakes, finishing up at Devils Lake. This would be a long route, potentially a rough one as well, depending on the conditions of the wetlands etc. I wanted a day with extended daylight, and a good tailwind. We took a bit extra equipment such as a small tent, in case we found ourselves running out of daylight, or in other trouble. The latter half of the route would be more of a lake route, and having explored most of it extensively in the past, I felt it to be the safe option, getting the new, and potentially rough stuff over with first. We were told we were crazy, but we knew that already!

On Thursday we commited to the plan, and both drove over to Devils Lake, parking my car there overnight, thus saving time for the Friday paddle. We estimated the route to be between 25 and 30 kilometres, with over 25 portages, fortunately most of them short.

Attachment:
QEIICrossingCanoeRoute .jpg


Friday we were on the road before 7:30AM. Markus’ father kindly agreed to accompany us in the jeep to the Black River starting point, driving it back home so we didn’t have to leave it parked there, and pick it up later. Thankyou! We said our goodbyes and watched the jeep disappear down the road. This was it, no turning back now, and with no cell coverage! Who knows where we would eventually be able to pick up a signal, if at all.

We were buschrashing down into the Black River just before 8:30AM with a few blackflies and mosquitos beginning to swarm us. The steep clay banks of the river in this spot made it difficult to put in. We carefully loaded up, and crossed the river to another steep bank. We were at the exact spot needed to access the first of the wetlands off to the east, so there was little paddling on the river needed. A steep climb, and subsequent descent brought us into the first marsh. The lack of water to start with meant a bushy carry to where a narrow ribbon of water appeared.

From here the water deepened, and we were off paddling. We now followed a group of ponds northeastward. We made good time, as the water levels were full in most ponds, and the connections short. I had marked up my images with stickers, one for each hour of travel, assuming an average 3 kilometre an hour pace (based on other trips) This would help us keep track of our progress through the day. I had estimated a 6 PM finish at Devils Lake. With a possible extra 3 hours of daylight I assumed we would be fine (as long as our energy held out) We had also started out a half hour earlier than planned. With the great conditions we were right on schedule all morning.

Our first hurdle was a longer bushcrash from an E-W pond, across into the next system of connecting ponds. It was a very wet, and densely forested route, however the flooded forest floor was never deep enough to get a soaker. The bugs were terrible in here, though, bug spray was handy at all times. The portage seemed longer, but actually took only 15 minutes.

Back into canoeable ponds, we continued on. The challenge in this area wasn’t looking for canoeable waters, but deciding on which of the many optional routes to take. Ponds and ridges were everywhere, and as usual, our route varied substantially from the original plan.

As we rounded a busy corner and onto an opening I came face to face with a deer. We just stared at each other for a few seconds, while I tried to quietly signal Markus (who was behind, carrying the canoe) The deer bolted off before he saw it, and before I could take a picture. Up to now we had only see the usual herons, geese, and turtles (lots of blandings turtles as well) Now deer was checked off the list, moose and bear need to be next (if we are lucky).

Our route now started to trend more northeasterly towards Wolf Lake. We found a nice wind exposed rocky point on a pond for our lunch spot. The winds were picking up nicely, helping keep the bugs under control. I tried the cell again, but still no service, oh well, I won’t be able to make my usual contact with Elaine​ today. I’ll keep trying during the afternoon. We had an enjoyable lunch, but even with the winds the bugs had found us, and were accumulating. Time to move on. More ponds and ridges, and the Ganaraska Wilderness Trail. We would cross, and follow it a number of times this afternoon.

We were not too far now from the group of small lakes southwest of Wolf Lake, and the lake portion of the route. As we approached a broad wetland I noticed a dark brown object far off in the distance on the opposite shore. It was a moose, and it was feeding amongst some bushes, and right where we would be making our next portage. We got quite close to it taking numerous pictures and videos. It had lost much of its fur. Not sure whether it was shedding its winter coat, or whether it was suffering from something else like a tick infestation, not something we wanted to experience.

It soon trotted off, and so did we, portaging into the next broad wetland. This one presented us with a bit more of a paddling challenge, the shallow water becoming infested with grass. A bit of a “grunt-fest” finally got us to some dry ground and our next portage. This portage brought us into a nice deep water pond which brought us to another short carry down into the first of the lakes. The Ganaraska Trail follows the north side of this lake with a rocky campsite used frequently by the hikers of the trail. The next portage was a long one, but along a marked trail, bringing us into the next lake. This lake has a nice campsite, one which I used several times in the past on our week long canoe trips in the area. We stopped here for a short break, and to look around a bit. It looked well used, but lacked the usual garbage found on most sites, in fact, we didn’t see any!

A long narrow pond behind the site took us closer to Wolf Lake. It had lots of water, and effectively cut the portage in half.

It was now 3 PM, now we were paddling down Wolf Lake with a good tailwind. Our average speed now should be fast. Still no cell coverage. As we approached the east end of Victoria Lake a high rocky bluff on the south side was too tempting to pass up. We climbed to the top, enjoyed the view, took pictures, and now had cell coverage. I tried to call Elaine but couldn’t seem to make a connection. It was a new I-Phone, and maybe I was just having issues figuring the new system out. Anyways I sent a text. We took a break and had a snack before descending back to the canoe.

Another marked trail into a pond, then into Cooney Lake. The sounds of ATV’s indicated people were arriving at the cabin part way across. There was also someone camping on the north side of Cooney Lake. No thanks, not with these horrendous bugs. Once at the east end of Cooney we took the ATV trail into Sheldon Lake. This was the worst portage of the day, the trail flooded and muddy in many places. The mosquitos were so thick they could almost carry us off. We were glad when the lake came into view and we could get out into the wind. This portage also dampened our enthusiasm. Markus had suggested taking a route through a group of ponds into Devils Lake, rather than the portage, but now we both agreed, no need for any further exploring at this stage. The portage into Devils Lake is a long one, however there is also group of ponds adjacent to the portage. We paddled these, effectively cutting the carry in half. The latter part of the trail into Devils had more flooded and muddy spots … a real pain, but the lake was in sight!

A nice “wind-assisted” paddle down the lake and we arrived at the car! We made it! 6:00 PM, 9 1/2 hour trip, including lunch and other stops. It seemed an easier day than some of our shorter routes.

Now an hour drive home. We heard the tragic news of a small plane crash by the airport, and that highway 11 was closed, however by the time we reached the highway, southbound was reopened. We passed the crumpled wreckage and the northbound chaos.

A link to pictures, video, and a map of the route

https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1Y1Z3r


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Last edited by WaterHunter on June 5th, 2017, 10:36 am, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2017, 1:24 pm 
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That's an ambitious day! Great photos; looking at them you'd never guess there was a flying insect anywhere near you.


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PostPosted: June 4th, 2017, 8:06 am 
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Not everyone would be, but I'm sure YOU were disappointed you didn't see any bears!! That's one mangy looking moose---wouldn't be so good on the barbie. :-?
Luckily your hunt for water was more successful! I guess your back-up plan was to take the Gan Trail all the way! :D

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PostPosted: June 4th, 2017, 9:46 am 
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wotrock wrote:
I guess your back-up plan was to take the Gan Trail all the way!
With the Trail's numerous ups and downs that would be the tough route.


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PostPosted: June 4th, 2017, 11:08 am 
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Tough, eh? So the way you did it was easy??

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PostPosted: June 5th, 2017, 6:40 am 
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Actually we found the route easier than other shorter past trips. Our toughest day I think was the loop we did a few years ago through Pauper and Burnt Lakes. That was a 23 km loop and we were exhausted.


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