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PostPosted: May 22nd, 2017, 5:28 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
The Return Home
May Long Weekend on Siderock Lake, 2017

The Russians control the weather. We grew up being told this by our parents whenever there was a weather anomaly in an otherwise normal season and where better to hone that skill than Manitoba, which is a half world away from there, has a low population and being Canadians, we are a hardy lot who roll with the changes. The May long weekend is a crap shoot weather-wise. Several years ago it was so dry the province closed the backcountry due to the fire threat. In 2009, 2015 and 2016 we had snow on that weekend. There was a year that the ice wasn't out yet and Spring did not show up until June. In our case this year, the Monday of this week was 24C (75f) and a slight cooling trend with rain mid week, but we can deal with that.

The May Long weekend is the usual time everyone gets out camping for the first time after the long Winter and for the most part it takes this long for ice out. We had the canoes loaded Thursday night and everything packed for the morning. Wake up to -4C (25f) and the forecast for rain starting Saturday night going through Monday with an East wind of 20kph (12.5 mph).

The wind direction should have been enough to stop the trip right there, but being the hardy type and the forecast usually being totally wrong, we headed out regardless. So you ask why cancel for an East wind? Well, Wind from the East, Fish bite the least. Enough said.

We haven't been on Siderock lake in 5 years but it used to be our regular stomping grounds. 2009 -2011 you would find us there on most long weekends through Labour Day. We've been up the winding 6km of the Wanipigow River to Siderock so many times we started using the 1.5km portage just for a change of scenery.

The drive up was good, no clouds or wind, hot sun and warming temperatures. We saw two deer before getting to Powerview for the traditional stop on the way up at Clark's Corners, I needed my fishing licence and just last porcelain for a while. Should have gotten gas but we did not. Onward up 304 to Manigotagan where the gravel begins heading to Bisset and the Wallace Lake put in.

Along the way we see two black bears along the roadside, pretty much a first for us and possibly displaced by last year's big fire. There were also many raptors but so far no eagles. We did have an unusual duck encounter. As we were motoring past the abandoned tailing ponds from the now closed gold mine just east of Bisset, a duck winged out of the bush in front of us and stayed there for almost a kilometre. The odd part was he was pacing us, 20 yards in front at 75 kph. That was a duck in a hurry.

At the lake it was glass with a slight chill still in the air. Once out of the truck we were immediately swarmed by black flies which would be the way of the weekend. No mosquito's, just the annoying little flies with an appetite for my supple flesh. We noted the water seemed down a bit, not unusual for an early ice out and the snow pack being gone prior to that, but the water was ice cold still.

We loaded up the boats and headed for a leisurely 3.5km paddle down the lake to the portage. It was slow as we both got used to our boats but being on the water before noon there was no rush regardless.

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We made the portage start in about an hour, and decided to go as far as the mud for the first trip, which we believed was about 600 metres in. It was just past that but still further than we would normally make the first drop.

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When I built my Jack's Special with the fancy long decks et al, it was never intended to go tripping, but it being my only solo boat, it went this time. To protect the decks I built a aluminum nose piece padded with foam which was held on with a bungee cord so I could roll the boat on its nose to pick it up, which is the only way I can do any canoe now with my bad shoulders. It worked well and kept the deck from any damage.

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We perspired much on that first walk through the portage. 3 carries each what with the extra boat. Shoulder season tripping means bulkier packs due to Winter sleeping bags and more warmth all around, and due to the short distance we intended to go, a few more luxury items than would go on a longer trip.

Took us about 2 1/2 hours to make the trek with 3 drops along the way. Christy is stronger than I so took her boat all the way and mine a third of the way, I taking mostly the packs. With packs and hands full it would have been entertaining for others to watch us try to dig black flies out of our ears and eyes while our hands our full of paddles and other such nonsense. They were abundant and annoying but not biting yet.

By the time we make the lake, we had already decided to camp at the end of the portage, which is a grassy spot, up from the water a bit and the beach that runs along that shoreline. Have never camped there but it was a really nice spot and we shall return at some point in the future. Our Island, the usual home camp for us on Siderock would have been a further 3 km paddle which is why we passed on that for today.

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Camp was up quickly and after a nice meal of pasta and pork chops, we headed out for some fishing. Years ago we had talked about taking solo's on a trip like this which would allow us to go our own ways when out fishing or even going to and from destinations and it worked well. I stayed fairly close to camp, within a couple of km, but Christy went all the way to the Wanipigow River outlet as we have had success there in the past for early season pickerel.

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PostPosted: May 22nd, 2017, 5:34 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
I was skunked, did not even see a perch or pike, but Christy picked up a hammer handle Northern Pike for her first fish of the season. She noted the river was very low, having bottomed out twice on logs when leaving the lake proper. Considering there were 5 boats on the lake, it must have been a chore for them to get up the river.

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As we bedded down for the night, it began to cool off once the sun was down and then the whooper will began its nocturnal chant. Funny how those birds keep following us around. We also heard an owl hooting back in the trees and were silently hoping the larger bird would eat the louder small bird.

We both slept 10 hours that night, but then we normally sleep longer and better when in the out of doors. Morning had a blazing sun beaming directly into the tent considering our East view and the lake was glass again. Coffee, sausages, eggs and Coleman toast. The days goal was the far end of the lake, 4.8 km away, to see the fire of 2016 aftermath as it burned through that part of the Wanipigow River upstream towards Woodland Caribou Park. All those portages will be gone.

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We set out again on calm although we were expecting the East wind that had been forecast. 20kmp would have been do-able even in solo's. Christy fished her way up, trolling while I stopped occasionally to cast fishy looking points and off shore rock piles. We made it up to our old island site and I was very happy to see the sign we resurrected over the Winter of 2009/10 was still there. That lake gets a lot of hooligans camping and not obeying the season long fire ban so I half expected someone took it down to burn it. However, it was still where we left it 7 years ago and it has now stood for 47 years as a monument to those of us who try to keep the lake clean for those who come after.

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Shortly after departing from there and moving east still, I noticed something unusual on the south shore. At first I thought it may be some remnant snow, perched a few feet above the waterline, but common sense said it had to be a large piece of white Styrofoam, there is no way there could still be snow a month after ice out and all the fine weather we have had. We carried on as the wind steadily picked up and as we turned the last point to make the run for the burn, a mere 3/4 of a km a way, we got hit with some microburst's which swung the boat's the wrong bay and blew Christy's hat off. Being not as far out as she was, I was able to get turned around and made a bee line for the still floating Tilley hat. She keeps her fishing licence in the top so it was rather essential to grab it before it sank. I did manage to snatch it despite the wind pushing me away and all was well.

At this point we put our tripping rules into play. The main one having been borrowed from Mike Kinziger, that being, make good decisions. We turned around as the wind continued to rise and rode the waves back to the beach. Although I had wanted to see the burn, it wasn't too important and I would just have to see it another time. It just isn't worth the risk.

After turning I headed back to the shore and directly to the giant piece of supposed foam, which indeed turned out to be a rapidly melting slice of ice and snow. The Siderock Glacier was almost asking me to poke at it, but although watching it calve would have been neat, it likely would have done so into the bow of my boat, which would not have been as neat, so I left it alone.

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PostPosted: May 22nd, 2017, 5:43 pm 
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It was kind of interesting. The same weather that spoiled an entire Summer of tripping for me last year due to my intense panic attack, I was playing with this year, thanks to a steady dose of good medication. Having not had this boat out in big trailing waves, I just let it ride a few times to see if it would turn sideways into the troughs. It did not, it would swing into a quartering type of drift, but never fully sideways, which made for a fun ride back as I had no fear of flipping into the hypothermic cold water. A km from camp we were riding 18 - 24" swells with the occasional white cap with us close to shore, but the main body of the lake had steady white.

Anyone happen to know how high the wind speed needed to be to blow the top off a wave? It sure isn't a mere 20 kph.

It was still sunny but blowing hard from the East, so it was relaxing time. Christy pulled a tick out of my hair and I squashed another that was crawling across the side of the tent. I sat for awhile watching motor boats run up on the reef just to the north of camp. I had paddled over it on Friday night so knew it ran about a hundred yards to the north from the portion above water. The fishers in boats were working the visible structure without even thinking it could be like an Iceberg and thus, two nice boats ground out the outboard on the shallow rock a hundred feet out.

Christy was feeling nauseous and had left her puffer back in the truck, it has been 3 years since her heart attack and she needs the puffer shots for the continuing angina issues. So we just mulled over the idea of heading back to the other side of the port today. The original intention had been to paddle the river out but we weren't going to get there in this wind, so we just waited overly long before deciding to head back. Potential for rain that night, a strong wind and we know it will be calm on the other side. After a nice meal of cheese dogs and Kraft Dinner we packed up and started to make the move.

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No matter how much Deep Wood's Off I sprayed on, the black flies swam through it to find my ears and eyes again as we walked West. They were hungry now too and I was the main course.

After having done the port the day prior, I was not strong enough to get my boat back in 3 drops and at the first hill I put it down and went back for packs. We had actually walked the first load all the way to the mud again, which we knew was just past halfway through the port and would be an easy .8km mostly downhill to Wallace Lake. As it turned out, the second try with my boat I made it only another 100 yards and put it down again, so Christy wound up carrying it all the way through. The portable yoke we were using had been designed for and used on my old Chestnut Fox and Christy's stripper, the Bruiser, but never tried on this boat. It was just a tad skinny and not enough torque on the clamps as one side kept slipping the moment you put the boat weight on your shoulders. Then you would have to try to adjust it and tighten the clamp with one hand while balancing the boat.

I had taken the camp packs over and as Christy went back for the last two drops at the mud, I got the tent set up and sleeping pads inflated and as she arrived with the final load as the sun set, we were set for the night.

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On this side of the Isthmus the beach held moose and wolf prints in the sand. On the other camp side there were moose prints and bear scat we found about 20 feet behind where the tent was. It was dead calm and as Christy began to softly snore, the pitter-patter of rain started. It rained most of the night and the wind came up and blew hard for awhile, but in the morning it was calm and a light rain but quite chilly.

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Anyone close by would have wondered as we both were groaning and complaining loudly as we moved sore muscles to get up. Christy cooked up a pot of coffee and some breakfast while I broke camp and we were off again.

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As we made our way back to the park, I was far enough behind that I had to almost yell to get her to stop and be silent as we heard a pack of wolves howling on the North shore. It had begun with one that I heard and I was hissing at Christine to stop so she could hear them as well. After she did, it sounded like a pack of 4 or 5 and they howled another minute before stopping completely. How much better can it get.

The wind came up out of the North East but stayed gentle until we were well off the lake. We stopped at a beach to switch boats before heading back to the landing and it is surprising how high the Huron rides in the water even with a decent load in it. My Jack's though is a rocket in comparison, it moves easier and glides long after your stroke ends. The Huron is too heavy for Christy to portage. My boat is about 52 pounds so the Huron is likely a touch over 60. Another Jacks with a slight lengthening may be in the future as her boat, although Kevlar would be ideal, we would have to sell several boats to raise the funds for that purchase. We still need a larger boat for our tandem tripping, the Mattawa being a tad small for us although we have taken it many places over the years.

After packing the truck we went to visit with Marty at his cottage. He ran Wallace Lake Park for 6 years until the province made it a provincial park and this year someone else is doing the work. It was a really good visit as we had not gotten up there last year and we have a reputation with Marty and his wife from our past adventures. As he put it, the two middle aged women load up a canoe, head out and get lost for a week or more out in the wilderness.

We did get his e-mail address so we can send him photo's and let him know the next time we will be up that way.

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PostPosted: May 23rd, 2017, 10:52 am 
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Beautiful trip!! And I love those canoes; you did great work restoring them!


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PostPosted: May 24th, 2017, 2:17 pm 
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I second that, including the aluminum nose piece to protect the canoe bow deck.

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Brian
http://www.JohnstonPursuits.ca

 


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PostPosted: May 24th, 2017, 2:27 pm 
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Odyssey wrote:
Beautiful trip!! And I love those canoes; you did great work restoring them!



What he said, says it all. Thanks!


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PostPosted: May 24th, 2017, 6:51 pm 
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
The clarify Brad's remark, the yellow canoe is a restored Bastien Bros 15 foot huron, the champagne one is the Jack's special stripper I built in Spring of 2016.

Thanks all, we still do pretty good for a couple of old ladies coming up on 60 years young.


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PostPosted: May 25th, 2017, 8:49 am 
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Thanks for sharing!


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PostPosted: May 26th, 2017, 5:40 pm 
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Busy week so I just read this now. What a great May Long! Where on 304 did you see the bears? We've seen bears near the forest by Stead. Unfortunately once, my wife came across a bear with a hurt or broken paw and there was a car feeding her and her cubs Doritos. Some people should leave the city...

The island on Siderock with the sign, is it the one near the Obukowin portages? We camped there in 2014 and it was badly littered.

I've been working in Ashern a lot lately. I think of your two when I pass Warren but I never see a canoe factory from the highway!


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PostPosted: May 27th, 2017, 6:37 am 
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Neil

The bears were all on the gravel of 304. One at the Quesnel Lake junction, one visiting the Wallace Lake airport, the other not far from there on the way towards Bisset.

The Island is a long skinny one on the south side up against the sheer rock walls. Not much in the way of tent sites, which may keep the partiers off the site. On that weekend there were 3 boats on the point just across from the portage to first lake. The type of people who don't respect the fire ban.

We are on the main drag, MacDonald Ave. House first west of the Tempo gas station. Look up, there is a canoe wind vane on the boat house. Incognito canoe factory, other than the Y-stern on horses outside waiting for canvas.

Karin


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