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PostPosted: June 24th, 2019, 4:05 pm 
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Location: GTA
Nine Mile Lake to Spectacle Lake Loop, Parry Sound Area

If you’re looking for a challenging & fairly isolated crown-land loop with unmarked/non-existent portages not too far from the GTA and you’re a bit of a masochist, this 60ish-km trip is for you!

I first became interested in this area after reading a short report by Brad Jennings & watching one of his Youtube videos. That discussion can be read here:

https://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=43754

In Brad’s report he goes on a long-weekend trip through the southern part of the longer loop I’ll outline.

More research on the area brought me to Darren Cope’s outdoor page, where he describes a shorter trip in the area just north of Nine Mile Lake. That information can be accessed here:

http://dmcope.freeshell.org/ninemile1.htm

Further investigation brought me an older thread on this site, where WaterHunter (Jeff) talks about the area extensively, based on vivid memories from decades ago, and discusses various possibilities for interconnecting the more northern lakes up towards Naiscoot Lake (Six Mile Lake) and beyond. It was really the insightful recollections by WaterHunter that got me interested in finding my way up to Spectacle Lake by starting at Nine Mile Beach Park. That interesting thread can be read here:

https://www.myccr.com/phpBB3_PROD/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=18501

Here’s an overview image of the route I took:

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And here’s a link to a KMZ file showing the locations of portages and some campsites:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PLR27vGCv3q5ZurRs0ZKV1vWo7Z9W19X/view?usp=sharing

Note that the KMZ likely won’t open on your browser, you will have to download it and open it in Google Earth or some other software program. Please also note that the locations for the portages in the file may not be exactly right, I wasn’t recording tracks for the entire time. If you go on this trip, be sure to bring a GPS so you don’t get lost in the woods somewhere. I flagged most of the paths I took, but flagging tape doesn’t always last long.
Many of the tracks are not real portages, so be prepared for that. In most cases the forests are pretty open and it’s not too hard to carry a canoe through, or you will be carrying over rock ridges. But in some places you’ll either have to cut your way through or leave you canoe behind.

The KMZ file shows only some of the campsites. You will find additional established campsites along the way, and other non-campsites where you can set up if need be. Camping is not permitted on Round Lake, Burnt Lake or Fox Lake. Bear Lake didn’t appear to offer much opportunity for camping.

Day 1 (Sunday June 16, 2019) :

I left the GTA under sunny skies by a bit past 6:00 a.m. The drive to Nine Mile Lake would be less than 2.5 hours, and I was unloaded and on the lake by a bit past 9:00 a.m.

The road to Nine Mile Lake is navigable in any vehicle, and the parking is sufficient for a very large number of cars. There’s a park/beach at the lakeshore, so it is used for various purposes. (It’s not limited to just boat launching and parking.)

Here’s a view down to the water from the parking area, but there’s a grassy park and a pavilion just to the right out of view:

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The paddle up Nine Mile Lake that morning was less than eight kilometres in mostly calm conditions. There are cottages and cabins up either side of the lake until the last couple of kilometres. That morning only two motorboats passed by creating small wakes.

While I was getting ready to launch, a man was loading a motor boat with scaffolding and tools, on his way to do some Sunday morning soffit and facia work on a water-access cottage. After heavy rains the previous week, he mentioned that the water level was at least a foot higher than seven days earlier, and I noticed the sandy beach area was totally submerged. He also warned me about the bug conditions (although there were none at all at the landing at that time), saying that the black flies hadn’t been bad this year, but he hoped I brought a lot of bug spray.

Always being prepared, I was carrying various bug-deterrents including bug spray, a small bug net, a bug shirt, and a sleeping hammock with an integrated bug screen. I was planning on being out around nine days, but despite all my bug-prep, over the next number of days the bugs had me dreaming of my bug-free bedroom and I moved at a steady pace, skipping my planned rest days and even skipping the last planned day.

It was upon arriving at the north end of Nine Mile Lake that the insects made themselves apparent and my bug shirt was on pretty-much steady during waking hours until I was back at the car on Friday.

The portage out the north end of Nine Mile Lake is mostly flat and open, following a snowmobile trail. I measured it at 1150 metres. About 300 metres in, the trail crosses a newly-opened cut where electrical wires have either been recently installed, or recently replaced. In my research on this route, I had hoped I would be able to paddle a marsh for about 500 metres half way through the trail, but it’s unpaddleable. Here’s a photo of part of the trail with the marsh to the left.

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The entire trail is not as wide-open as shown in the photo; here it had been cleared for electrical equipment to service the new hydro line.

There are a couple areas along this portage where the trail merges with the marsh for a bit, but generally it was possible to keep dry feet by sticking close to the edge.

The trail ends at a lake that doesn’t seem to have a name on topographical maps, but others have referred to it as “Wolf Lake,” so I’ll do the same. There is a large hydro corridor running basically north-south in this area, at the north end of Nine Mile Lake and through Wolf Lake and into some of the lakes/ponds beyond it is very noticeable.

I was planning on staying on Wolf Lake, on the large island at a campsite with western exposure. This campsite is only about 1 km from the end of the portage, so I arrived quite early in the day and had the afternoon to enjoy the weather and hang out with the mosquitoes.

Just before making the left turn west on Wolf Lake towards the campsite on the island, I noticed a barrel in the woods tied to a tree and I got out to investigate. There were a couple very loud ravens cawing at me as I got closer to the barrel and I thought they might sometimes eat some of the food scattered about around it. Here’s a photo of the barrel:

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I wondered what its purpose is and what sort of animals someone is trying to attract and/or feed.

Day 2 (Monday June 17, 2019) :

In Brad Jenning’s report, he continues west on Wolf Lake to Upper Marsh and north through Round Lake.

Based on WaterHunter’s information, I decided to go north towards Spectacle Lake and later in the week loop around through Round Lake. My destination today was less than 10 km away, but I was expecting to have to pass through areas with no portages and wanted to be sure I had enough time.

So I headed north on Wolf Lake and took out on the east side in the forest. A short walk through the woods brought me to the hydro corridor service corridor. I followed the service road north for about 900 meters, putting back in at a marsh below a small pond to the east of Fraud Lake.

The service road was easy enough to walk along, but likely isn’t the shortest path. Here’s a photo of the road that morning:

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A short paddle brought me into the pond, under the hydro wires and into another small lake where I was planning on passing through the woods into the lower part of Fraud Lake. I followed the shore of the small lake anti-clockwise as far as I possibly could, then cut a short trail into Fraud Lake. This was an easy path with a small hill towards the end. I exited just north of a tiny stream flowing into Fraud.

The weather remained excellent, and the mosquitoes remained. After eating lunch on a small island in this lower part of Fraud Lake, I paddled through a small marsh and lifted over a large beaver dam to enter the upper part of Fraud. The orange poles in the dam were coopted by the beaver from their original use of guiding snow machines in the winter:

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Just after passing over the dam and heading east, I observed a large boat cache. It seems that it might be possible to head north out the western end of Wolf Lake and end up a Fraud along some road or established trail.

I didn’t notice any campsites in this upper part of Fraud, but it looked like there were many places that could be used for camping. If I was doing the trip again, I’d probably plan to camp on Fraud the first night, since I’d really had too much time on the Wolf Lake island the previous afternoon.

At the north end of Fraud there’s a small lift over where it appears a snowmobile trail passes through (and probably the occasional ATV. The lift over leads into a marsh. In the photo below, my canoe is still on Fraud on the right, and some of my gear is on the shore of the marsh:

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It appears that this marsh would empty in two directions if not for the beavers. It currently drains a small bit to the south (into Fraud Lake), but it was entirely dammed at the north end, where water would normally drain into a small pond, which is circled on the topo map below.

The entire very marshy section on the map is paddleable. The best place to portage north out of this area is along the purple arrow, rather than following the drainage. If you were to follow the drainage, you’d first go into the small pond (circled in red), then into the larger pond where the purple arrow points.

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Here is a photo of the small pond that the purple arrow is pointing at, after I portaged into it:

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A small stream leads east out of the pond, then drains north down into Partridge Lake after connecting with another small stream in the woods. I portaged mostly along this stream, crossing it once before the other stream connected, and once after.

This walk through the woods is fairly clear, but a bit difficult towards the end where the stream descends through a small gorge, then down steeply to Partridge Lake. I put-in on Partridge Lake by around 4:00 p.m. after wading out through vegetation.

I had intended to stay at a campsite on Partridge that I thought was near the hydro lines, but shortly after beginning my paddle over there, I discovered a site about six hundred metres up the lake on the east shore. This site has a prominent rock “chimney” as well as a separate fire pit:

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While setting up camp, I watched a couple salamanders fighting near the fire pit and later saw more running around in the woods. It was the first time at a campsite I’d seen even a single salamander; it was kind of interesting. At one point when I had my sleeping bag airing out, draped over the chimney I saw one crawling in among those rocks. I made a mental note to check my bed for salamanders before drifting off to sleep that night.

There were no amphibians in my hammock later that evening as I contemplated the next day, when I hoped to make it all the way to Spectacle Lake and wondered about the paths through to Trout Lake and eventually Spectacle.

Day 3 (Tuesday June 18, 2019) :

I was up a bit past 7:00 this morning, eager to head out only about 8 km to Spectacle Lake, but I was unsure of the difficulties that lay ahead between the lakes. I knew that the link up into Trout Lake was about one kilometer, and from the satellite imagery it appeared at least partly navigable.

By 9:00 a.m. I was finding a path through the scrub where the creek from Trout Lake empties into Partridge Lake:

Image

I was happy to find that there was only one beaver-dam lift over at the extreme south end, and a short portage river-left around a double waterfall about half way up the creek. The rest was navigable with a few logs in the upper section to lift over. Here’s the lower part of the waterfall on the creek:

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After paddling most of Trout Lake, I stopped at a little beaver dam on the west side near a pond for lunch. This was the first bug-free part of the trip and I really enjoyed sitting in the sunshine with my face totally exposed to the elements.

Not long afterwards, I was at the extreme northwest arm of Trout Lake, pulling up a tiny stream for a few metres before it became impassable. WaterHunter described his time on Trout Lake this way: “We paddled up to the NW end of the lake and portaged over a rock ridge into a beaver pond.” So I was looking for a rock ridge and only a few steps into the woods it was very apparent.

The portage into the beaver pond is only about 90 metres up and over the rock ridge. On the day I arrived there, it was really quite a beautiful place:

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The pond is quite open at the beginning, then gets very narrow towards the northwest. I took out at a point where I could go no further, and ended up portaging roughly along the trail indicated by the two red line segments below. This portage is through the woods, and generally clear although some branches have to be removed here-and-there. It’s flagged currently. Towards the north end of the portage I entered a deep valley that lead down towards the marsh on the east end of Spectacle Lake. If you’re not in this valley, you’ll probably miss the lake or have a much more difficult portage, but the valley is kind of hard to miss. I probably could have made a more direct approach, like along the purple path below, but for some reason I went east before going north.

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There’s a campsite near the east end of Spectacle Lake just past the marsh. It’s a pretty nice site with large pine trees and a beautiful western view:

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While paddling up to it, I noticed a bunch of equipment hung in a tree. First I thought it was some kind of hunting gear or hunting blind material, but when I got out the boat I realized someone stores camp chairs and a plastic container high in a tree, ready for their next visit:

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WaterHunter described Spectacle Lake this way: “Spectacle Lake is just that.... a spectacle. There is a nice campsite at the east end with a beautiful view down the valley towards Wilson Lake. There is a high steep ridge along the north shore scattered with old weathered white pine with a nice view from on top. This ridge continues off in the distance before dropping into Wilson Lake.The south shore has a more gradual hill with mostly deciduous forest, speckled with stands of spruce....very scenic.”

I was hoping to be able to see Wilson Lake from the campsite, but there was no such view. Perhaps it would have been visible if I had climbed the ridge.

Despite not being able to actually see down the valley, the lake is quite nice and very isolated. I have no idea how the chair-stashers get in and out of the lake with any regularity. All the approaches I’m aware of – from Trout Lake, from Kibeong Lake or up the stream from Wilson Lake – are all very difficult.

Here’s another view of the lake, north side above the mid-lake beaver dam:

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And a photo of a nesting bird I shared the campsite with:

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I didn’t actually arrive at the campsite until about 4:00 p.m. that day, after finding my way overland from Trout Lake.

Day 4 (Wednesday June 19, 2019) :

I had intended to stay on the Spectacle Lake for two days, but when I woke up this morning there were so many mosquitoes that I just didn’t see myself enjoying hanging around camp.

So off I went to find my way into Kibeong Lake and south to the unnamed lake just west of Turtle Lake. I knew that the first portage of the day would likely be difficult, but I was expecting the next two, mostly along roads/trails shown in satellite images, to be easier.

By 9:00 a.m. I was finding my way up a very tiny creek (highlighted in yellow below) towards Kiebong Lake. There’s a large beaver dam that splits Spectacle Lake into two. The topographical map more-or-less shows it as two lakes, but really it’s only a dam and a bit of a marshy area below the dam. The topo map doesn’t show the correct location for the (highlighted yellow) stream towards Kibeong. This stream enters Spectacle Lake ABOVE the dam, not below.

Image

Paddling up the small (highlighted yellow) stream, I only got about 100 m (indicated by the purple dot) before I could go no further. So I began to cut a portage through the woods. Like other paths on this trip, much of the woods were open, but some cutting was necessary, especially at either end.

Here’s a photo of the stream condition slightly downstream from where I began the portage:

Image

From where I left the canoe, I took a path to the right up a hill, then mostly followed a ridge until a pretty waterfall. Not far past the waterfall, another stream intersects (highlighted in red). Around this spot there’s a small gulley to traverse before continuing to Kibeong Lake.

All told, I was on this portage in the rain for about three hours, from around 9:15 to just past noon. It’s flagged now, so if someone comes soon behind me (or if someone with better compass skills comes along), they might get through it a lot quicker.

Here’s the north shore of Kibeong Lake:

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From my research, I knew that there was some kind of trail or road linking Kibeong Lake to near Turtle Lake, so I was looking forward to more civilized portaging experience. After a short paddle on Kibeong, I noticed a cached aluminum fishing boat on the shore and knew that most likely a trail would lead from it to the road I was looking for. That location could also serve as a campsite, and it’s indicated by middle “c” in the satellite image below:

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The stashed boat did lead to a road of sorts, but I honestly don’t know who ever goes down that road. It was more like a bush trail, fairly open to the sky, fairly flat, and populated by thorny plants. In parts it was even difficult to tell where exactly the trail went, so I’m not sure it was better than walking through the woods. But it was faster.

Along the trail I came across a moose antler, which is something I’ve never seen on a portage before:

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The trail leads down to a rickety bridge that spans a small stream running down from Turtle Lake to Owl Lake. There’s enough water in the stream to float or pull a canoe through, so I launched here and headed east (left in this photo) towards Turtle Lake:

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Less than 100 m upstream there’s a pretty set of rapids coming down and around the corner from Turtle Lake that requires a short portage up a steep hill (river left), then down to a picturesque landing on Turtle Lake. These are the two sides of the portage:

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The grassy channel in Turtle Lake continues for a while before it opens up to a lake reminiscent of areas I’ve been just outside of Killarney (McGregor Bay). There are many places where one could set up on the rocks in the northern part of Turtle Lake, but I didn’t observe any established campsites.

The next portage of the day was similar to the last, I had to push through the woods at either end, and it was connected by a thorny bush road for most of the distance. By now it was raining again, so it made the walk a little more challenging, but I knew I’d be camping on the next lake so that lifted my spirits. Here’s the path I followed to the unnamed lake just west of Turtle Lake:

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The unnamed lake really is quite beautiful, with a decent campsite where I stayed (indicated on the map), and some pretty cliffs in the north eastern bay. I didn’t spend too much time looking around this lake, but there may be other campsites as well. The site I stayed at appeared rarely-used.

Here is a photo of the view from the campsite the next morning:

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By the time I arrived, it was nearly 5:00 p.m. and I was exhausted. The rain dampened my spirits for a hot meal, so after eating some cheese and crackers I was swinging between the trees, listening to the rain fall on the tarp by a bit past 6:00.

Day 5 (Thursday June 20, 2019) :

I woke up this morning to sunshine and I was more optimistic about the portages since I was heading towards a cottaged lake (Rock Island Lake) and I knew that a portage existed between the Shawanaga River and Birch Lake. The only connection I was iffy about was the one from the unnamed lake I was staying on, and the next lake over, Granite Lake. I assumed that trails must exist between Rock Island Lake and Granite Lake. This is the path I followed that day (outlined in yellow):

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The first portage was a walk through the woods, with some cutting required. The put-in at Granite Lake was a bit difficult down a steep grade, but overall it was a mostly flat portage. Just north of where I put in on Granite Lake appeared to be a campable area, but getting water would be a bit of a chore down the cliff.

I was surprised when arriving at Granite Lake to see a boat stashed along the north shore. I don’t know where the trail from that boat would lead. There are also boats stashed at the south end of the lake, where I took out for the portage to Rock Island Lake. That portage is somewhat established with various trails running through the area; having a GPS would be handy so you don’t end up on the wrong trail.

I took out along the stream to Rock Island Lake at the first opportunity, so I ended up having to lift over a couple beaver dams on the way down. By the time I arrived at Rock Island Lake, it was nearly noon and I pulled over for some lunch on the shore. Some fishermen passed by in a boat at that point, that was the first time since launching from Nine Mile Lake that I had seen anyone.

It was a bit windy from east as I made my way around the corner on Rock Island Lake, and all the way down Black Oak Lake. I wondered why the two lakes had different names, since the narrows connecting them were certainly easy to paddle up.

The portage between Black Oak Lake and Birch Lake starts with a steep uphill climb and remains moderately hilly. It is fairly well used and discernable except right near Birch Lake, where a few trails seem to go here and there. But by that time Birch lake is clearly visible, so it was easy to find my way over. It appeared that most people on the portage trail took a left hand turn just before Birch Lake (based on the number of cached boats on that shore), but that trail was deep with water, so I descended to the right, over a small bridge, then left to the shoreline of Birch Lake.

There are a few different camping possibilities on Birch Lake. I chose the first best site I saw, which turned out to be the only site on the trip where I wasn’t continually harassed by flying insects, both that afternoon and the following morning. Here’s a photo of the campsite:

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I arrived at this campsite by 3:00 (left the unnamed lake by 9:00). So this was the first day I was able to have an afternoon nap.

Day 6 (Friday June 21, 2019) :

I woke up this morning confident that the portages wouldn’t be too difficult, based on Brad Jenning’s report, but I was intending to do five of them, so I was eager to get going. As Brad mentions in his report and video, the first four portages, although not established, are relatively straight forward and clear. I was happy to find that I was able to cut the second one down to only about 350 m by paddling to the very end of a beaver pond.

It was difficult to keep dry feet in this area since most of the landings were on floating moss, and the first 100 m (or so) of the portage out of Round Lake was excessively muddy and deep with water in many places. Here’s a photo of area of the beginning of the portage out of Round Lake, showing some of the water on the trail and an old abandoned stashed canoe:

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And here’s a photo along the trail into Round Lake:

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And finally, the landing on Upper Marsh Lake:

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By the time I was on Upper Marsh it wasn’t too much past noon. Thoughts of hamburgers and no mosquitoes in my bedroom, combined with the fact that other people were camped on Upper Marsh Lake and there was a strong north wind to blow me down Nine Mile Lake all had me voting to head home, and it was unanimous.

By a bit past 4:00 I was back at the beach at Nine Mile Lake, loading up and heading back to the GTA after six good days of canoeing.


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