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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2016, 10:06 pm 
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Cratty Lake to Hailstone Lake, September 16 -22, 2016

This fall's solo, an "almost-circle" lake hopping route, designed to avoid the 2015 fire area.

Friday, September 16th

I had hoped to start a little earlier in September this year, but after reading Ralph and Mark's posts about the weather, I think I'm glad I didn't. After overnighting in Missinipe, I was shuttled north to the Cratty Lake put-in the next morning, and was paddling by 9:15. It would be a warm day, mostly sunny, with a gusty wind from the southwest. I did a short pullover into Grey Bay, then portaged into MacLean Lake and paddled to the start of the three portage route to Calder Lake.

First lake past MacLean

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I stopped for lunch at the start of the third portage: this trail was its usual steep, rocky, rooty self, but it wasn't too wet this year.

Pictograph in Calder narrows

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I paddled through the Calder Lake narrows into Buchanan Lake, and continued into its eastern bay, passing a couple of abandoned trapping cabins on the way. I found a good one-tent site on a small island, and pulled in to set up camp at 4:00, leaving lots of time for dinner and camp chores before dark.

View from Buchanan camp

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About 24 km today, with 4 portages and one short pullover.

Saturday, September 17th

There were a few spits of rain last night - not sure where that came from - but it was a mix of sun and high overcast this morning. I was on the water just after 8:00, paddled to the end of the lake and made the well-cleared but little-used portage into the narrows of Hornet Lake, cutting out one small fallen tree near the put-in.

Travel down Hornet was slowed by a rising wind from the SSW. The two portages to Settee Lake were in good condition, although the second was a little wet at the ends.

Landing, portage to Settee

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Travel south on Settee was a grind into wind and whitecaps, and the sky was now overcast. I elected to stay at the good island site rather than push on to Solymos lake under these conditions.

After setting up camp I baked for breakfast, then continued with supper. There were a few brief sprinkles of rain as I cleaned up, so I adjourned to the tent early to read.

Settee campsite

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About 18 km today, with just 3 portages.

Sunday, September 18th

There were a few showers of rain late last evening. It later cleared to bright moonlight, but the sky was overcast again this morning. The wind had been gusty from the SE overnight, but was now light and from the SW.

I was off just after 8:00, paddled south through Settee, and took the most easterly portage trail into Solymos Lake.

Fall colours in Solymos

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From there I elected to take the direct portage route to Robertson Lake, rather than going via Stempel Lake. The portage was well marked and easy to follow, but contained one very wet stretch: logs had been laid down here, and you wouldn't want to slip off them. I shuffled cautiously across with my loads, using a paddle as a prop.

I had lunch at the entry to Robertson's southern bay, and then continued across the rather vestigial portage route to Ahasew. I had to wade and drag around Forseth "island", then continued west, turned into the channel to Palmer Lake, and pulled in to camp on the point at 5:30. A later day, and I needed my headlamp to finish the camp chores tonight. The sky had cleared a bit, and it was calm at sunset: I hoped for good weather tomorrow.

About 24 km today, with 6 portages, and some wading and dragging.

Monday, September 19th

No travel today. Showers overnight turned to steady rain driven by a strong NW wind this morning. I curled up and read, munching on lunch snacks in the tent. Later in the afternoon I set up the tarp, providing a sheltered area to cook supper and enjoy a bit of a wash. I'd planned to explore a route into Propp Lake today, then retrace my steps and make the portage to Buchner Lake, but Propp will have to wait for another year.

0 km today, 0 portages, 1.5 books read.

Tuesday, September 20th

The sky was clear when I got up at 6:00, but it was soon cloudy again. I packed up a wet camp, drying things as best I could, and set off at 8:30 into a brisk N/NW breeze. I paddled back into Ahasew and west to the portage to Buchner. The trail was a bit overgrown, and more than a little slick on the steep section, so the carry didn't go as quickly as I hoped. With a rising wind slowing progress north from Buchner, it didn't look like I'd make my intended campsite in Gowrie Bay of Colin Lake. On a positive note, the clouds were breaking up, and the warm sun was very pleasant.

I spotted a lone otter in Luther Lake, and after stopping for lunch at the end of the portage into Stempel, saw an otter family group as I paddled up the lake. The portage into Solymos was a bit of a mess - it looked like someone had left a bag of trash on the trail, which had been torn up by a bear. As I plodded past the trash and bear crap, I hoped the campsite at the north end of the lake had not suffered a similar fate.

Fortunately, it had not. I arrived at the site at 3:00, and elected to camp, since I couldn't have reached Gowrie Bay before dark, and couldn't think of another good campsite on the way. It was a good opportunity to dry out the gear, and soon all was shipshape again. I split some wood, and sat by a small fire for a while after dinner, just for fun.

About 18 km today, with 5 portages

Wednesday, September 21st

It was clear, still, and cold overnight. Visibility on the water was near zero this morning, until a light south breeze arose to scatter the fog around 8:00. After taking a bit of time to dry the tent, I was paddling at 8:50.

The westernmost portage from Solymos to Settee, and the three portages to Colin, were in good shape and went well. In Colin I paddled east and south of Sandomirsky Island for a change. I was slowed a bit by a rising S/SW breeze, and was surprised to see how far south on Sandomirsky last year's fire had burned.

The wind died while I ate my lunch at the Gowrie Bay campsite, but it was soon back and rising. So I took the short route to Versailles Lake rather than looping south through Kliman Lake. There were a couple of "step-over" trees down on the second portage to Versailles, where the trail had been grazed by the fire. After portaging to Minuhik, I headed south and found a good campsite on a small island in the narrows, pulling in at 4:30. Clear and calm this evening - likely another cool night coming.

Sunset in Minuhik

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About 22 km today, with 7 portages.

Thursday, September 22nd

Heavy dew and fog again this morning, but it would clear to a fine sunny day. I elected to take a slightly less direct route back to Hailstone Lake this year, so I paddled north and made the two portages into Asbell Bay of McLennan Lake. Then I turned SW, and dragged over two beaver dams into a small lake: it probably would have been easier to make a short portage here through the reeds.

The portage from this small lake to Thorvaldson Lake was a bit indistinct at the start, and not in the best of shape. There were a few down trees, and I had to do some branch removal before I could get through with the canoe. Fortunately, the portage out of Thorvaldson to a small unnamed lake was in better shape. I had lunch at the end of this carry, then paddled on and made the portage to Berven Lake, also in good condition. From Berven a well-used and maintained trail led to Hailstone Lake: I paddled across it and reached the landing at 3:40, giving me just enough time to unrig the boat and pack up the gear before my shuttle arrived. Then it was back to Missinipe for a shower, a cold beer, and a comfy bed.

Memorial plaque at Hailstone landing

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16 km today, with 6 portages. Trip totals 122 km and 31 portages.

Thanks for reading, I'd be glad to answer any questions about the area.

-jmc


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PostPosted: October 5th, 2016, 12:17 am 
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Thanks for posting this! Really nice camping. I love the colours in the sunset photo.


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PostPosted: October 5th, 2016, 3:49 pm 
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Glad to hear you had a good annual SK fall canoe trip.

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PostPosted: October 5th, 2016, 4:37 pm 
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Thanks for posting. Glad you had better weather than we did. It's always fun to follow your trips on a map.


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PostPosted: October 6th, 2016, 10:54 pm 
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Location: Saskatchewan
How many people, motor boats and/or float planes did you encounter? With the warmer weather this year my annual fall camping trip, during this same period, was as loud and wildly populated as a may long or summer trip. Hopefully being all those portages into the bush you had some quiet.

Also, I've read lately that in Saskatchewan, canoeists do a lot of their own routes. How do you estimate your time when you do this? Do you limit you plans to only a few kilometers a day, ie. 20? What planning resources/books would you recommend? I've just followed the Saskatchewan documented canoe routes but many would take longer than I can get off of work. I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about designing a lake hopping route.

What was the drinking water method you used? Was the water full of algae? Do you dehydrate your own food or do a lot of fishing? Were there any wild foods on your route? Do you bring any perishable food with you?

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2016, 1:12 pm 
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GRS Riverrider,
I'm pretty sure jmc will respond at some point but thought I'd throw in my 2 cents worth.

"How many people, motor boats and/or float planes did you encounter? With the warmer weather this year my annual fall camping trip, during this same period, was as loud and wildly populated as a may long or summer trip. Hopefully being all those portages into the bush you had some quiet. "

I sometimes paddle in the same area as jmc described in his trip report. Generally, once you get one or two portages away from a road or community, you will see very few people - usually no one. If you had a lot of people around you, I'm wondering where you paddled/camped?

"Also, I've read lately that in Saskatchewan, canoeists do a lot of their own routes. "
The Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Routes are a good place to start. Talking to Ric at CRCO will give you more choices. If you look at a map and see a string of lakes or a loop of lakes, there is a good possibility that you can paddle there. Not all routes will have portage trails - you might have to get through some sections by cutting a rough trail. Some routes are infrequently traveled so even though there were portage trails they might be hard to find or in poor condition. Ric is a great source of information for these "possible" routes. If you email or phone Ric and tell him you have X number of days, he will be able to recommend a number of possible trips.

"How do you estimate your time when you do this? Do you limit you plans to only a few kilometers a day, ie. 20?"
Boy, there is a topic that could generate much discussion. Your estimations will depend upon many things. How early do you start? How late do you paddle? How fast do you paddle? How many portages on a given day? (the length and condition of those trails and how many trips across the trail you need to do) Weather?, etc. etc..

"What planning resources/books would you recommend? I've just followed the Saskatchewan documented canoe routes but many would take longer than I can get off of work."

Resources: The Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Routes. Ric at CRCO (if you've been looking at maps he is a good person for you to bounce your ideas off. Either he will know the route or will have fairly recent information about the route or he will be able to give advice on the viability and difficulties of your proposed route based on many years of experience.
MyCCR, The Atlas of Canada - Toporama, Google Earth (or similar)

"I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about designing a lake hopping route."
Look at how much time you have. Decide on a conservative distance you can paddle/portage per day. To start, choose a relatively short route that allows for early exits. Gather as much information you can about portages, campsites, number and condition of portages, things to see, etc. Talk to Ric. Give it a go.
When you get home review the trip - consider the weather you had, was it too hard, too easy, etc. This can be your baseline for future planning.

"What was the drinking water method you used? Was the water full of algae?"
Seldom have I found any algae in northern Saskatchewan lakes but Sim Lake had algae this year. Water treatment or not and the type of water treatment is a big discussion. Some people I know only treat or filter water when they are near communities. Some treat or filter all the time. Just because someone doesn't get sick from drinking unfilter/untreated water doesn't mean that you will be OK. There are lots of discussions and sources that talk about ways to filter/treat water. Google those and think about yourself. How affected are you by changes in water? How comfortable are you with taking a chance?

"Do you dehydrate your own food or do a lot of fishing? Were there any wild foods on your route? Do you bring any perishable food with you?"
I dehydrate much of the food I take. I plan to supply all my meals with foods I have brought along. Fish are a nice addition but not a necessary addition. Depending on the trip, I find that often I don't get much opportunity to fish. If you plan to fish for a significant part of your diet, you will need to reduce your estimated km traveled/day.
About the only wild food that I feel comfortable eating (besides fish) is berries. At times, on some trips, they make a nice addition to our meals but I don't depend on them.
I take some perishable food even though it weighs more because it usually tastes better but even that depends upon how many portages and the length and difficulty of those portages. Generally, the more portages and the more difficult they are then the less perishable food.

My 2 cents worth. Hopefully, jmc will comment on your questions because he has much, much more tripping experience than I do.


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PostPosted: October 7th, 2016, 2:25 pm 
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Thanks for the report jmc!

GRS:
Great stuff so far from Ralph. Regarding the water, where you will see algal blooms in the north is after a burn. A forest fire releases a huge amount of nutrient to the water. Algae are always present in at least small numbers and when the nutrients are available, a "bloom" occurs. It's pretty natural and not usually harmful to drink algae-rich water (this does NOT apply to blue green algae found in more southerly locales). Having said that, I normally filter my water. If "Beaver Fever" is the worry, then you should also be using good hygiene, as that may be the more important route of infection than the water we drink. Giardia, aka beaver fever, is a protozoan that is passed on via fecal matter.

As Ralph stated, once we get over a portage or two I rarely see more than one or two paddling parties per day in the busier areas, and none at all farther afield. There are a few places (McLennan Lake area) where you might see a small fishing boat after the first portage, but they are infrequent enough and much different than the wake boats. The closer I am to Missinipe or La Ronge, the more float planes we will see and hear.

Regarding the fishing and food, I fish for some meals, but I don't rely on it. Fishing takes time, so if you are fishing for your meals, adjust your travel distances accordingly. My other meals are dehydrated or otherwise prepared from dry ingredients with some fresh food too. That topic has been thoroughly discussed here elsewhere, but some fresh foods will last several days or longer if kept away from the heat of the day and they are well packaged. But, fresh foods may add a fair bit of weight.

Cheers,
Bryan

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2016, 5:55 pm 
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Hi GRS -

Good advice from Ralph and Pawistik. The one piece of information you really should look at is the "McLennan Lake canoe area" map which is available from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters (Ric Driedeger). I believe you can purchase it through their website. It shows the portages and some campsites in that small lake region east of the highway and north of the Churchill where my trip this year (and in many past years) took place. I had a look at it when I was up there, and I think it is a really good information source. With the information on that map, you should be able to find dozens of routes beginning or ending at the principal road access points - Missinipe, Dickens Lake, Hailstone Lake, McLennan Lake, Cratty Lake, Wierzycki Lake and Brabant.

Outside a handful of popular routes in the area -i.e. the Ducker Lake loop and the shortest loop out of McLennan -I've never had any issues with crowding. On this last trip I talked for a while with two native guys I met on the portage south from Hornet - they had trap lines in the area and were out scouting for moose. And I saw one boat in the distance on Robertson. Float planes passed over from time to time, certainly not often enough to be a distraction. Generally, it's pretty unusual to run into other groups in that area in September - maybe one other party every second year.

I do find 20 km a day to be a useful rule of thumb, which is then adjusted in light of experience. I figure 20 km is about 4 hours of flat water paddling. If I want my travel day to be 8:00 to 4:00 - ending early in the shorter days of fall - this leaves another 4 hours for portaging, exploring, lunch, wind delays, campsite searching, etc. It usually works out pretty well.

A useful thing to keep in mind, especially in the fall when daylight is limited and the weather can act up, is to incorporate "shortcuts" into your route planning that you can use if required. There were several places along my route where there were "long" and "short" options to take depending on how things were going.

For drinking water I use "Pristine" drops, just to be cautious, for cold drinks. I didn't notice a lot of algae anywhere along my route.

I do dehydrate my own food, but I didn't do a lot of dehydrating for this short trip - just some ground beef, pasta sauce, and vegetables (peas) to use in dinners. Most of the "dry" food I take is store bought - pastas, rice, baking and pancake mixes, granola, trail mix, etc. I didn't fish, and rarely do. My wild food knowledge doesn't extend far past blueberries and raspberries, all gone by this time. The most perishable food I took was cheese, which keeps very well in the fall.

In summary, I think your first step should be to get that map I mentioned from CRCO. Once you come up with a couple of route possibilities, talk to Ric and/or or post back here for feedback.

Happy planning.

-jmc


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PostPosted: October 10th, 2016, 10:21 am 
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Thanks Ralph, Pawistik and JMC. I'll run with all that! Those are some nice full responses.

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