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PostPosted: August 27th, 2017, 3:46 pm 
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My son, Damien, and I travelled to Manitoba to paddle the Bloodvein this summer. We left Wallace Lake the afternoon of Aug. 2 and arrived at the bridge crossing above Bloodvein FN Village on Aug. 18. It was a fantastic trip: 16 nights and 17 days on the water.
Recped, Alan Gage, Neil Fitzpatrick, and True_north have all written superb accounts of their trips in previous years, and I owe them all big thank you's for their excellent information. Thanks, too, to Mihun, Segosih, and Marten Kehoe for their work documenting and maintaining routes out of Wallace Lake. Réal Bérard and Hap Wilson were pioneers in documenting the routes, and I believe we all owe a debt to them. I'd like to thank Charlie Simard for his excellent shuttle service from his house to Wallace Lake and to Bloodvein Village. Charlie allowed us to add his email to our SPOT check-ins which allowed him to monitor our progress along the route. I'd recommend his services to anyone paddling in the region. We also stopped in at Bluewater Aviation to set up SPOT contacts with them if needed for possible evacuation.
Others have described the route in much more detail than I could do, so I won't give a day-to-day report here. Instead, I'll frame the challenges of the trip in the hopes that doing so may prove helpful.

Challenge #1) The drive north and west from London, Ontario. Three 8-hour driving days. Good roads, incredible scenery. Shared the driving with my 16-year-old son. He liked that. It was painful driving past so many fantastic paddling and camping destinations en route. If we had dawdled, however, we might never have made it to Manitoba.

Challenge #2) "The Three Mothers" portages: in good shape. As advised, these were best taken in years of low rainfall. The portages were in good shape. Marten's notes and diagrams were helpful. There were no surprises except for...
...the two large established beaver dams at the end of the first trail north from Siderock Lake.

We'd just completed our 2.2 km. double-carry to the first beaver dam ahead of First lake. Time to celebrate with a sit-down lunch and some serious back-patting. After eating, however, we scouted the vegetation-choked water that lay ahead, and found another, a second, well established beaver dam between ourselves and the area where First Lake seemed to be squatting beyond the mud and grass. Odd, I couldn't remember any mention of dams in anyone's accounts. And these ones were oldies with trees and shrubs sprouting out of them like hair out of the ears of old fellas. Hey, could we be on the wrong trail altogether? One of the trapper's trails, a snowmobile trail, a trail to some other sweet brown pond north and east of the area covered by my topo map? Rather than doing the obvious, i.e. advancing up to, and climbing up the towering dam for a better perspective, we retreated to the 2.2 km. trail ending.
From there we explored every possible game-trail offshoot for the correct route. Our explorations took us, albeit load-free this time, two-thirds the way back down the trail towards Siderock as we searched desperately for the fork in the trail that we must have missed. The road less travelled. We searched. We reconnoitered. We theorized. One of us cursed. Then the other. Then both in unison. Then one short solo rivalled immediately by an impressive , although slightly off-key meandering vocal blast. Almost animal in its intensity. And nary a bear-turd left unsniffed. This, amidst constant referrals to topo and trail notes. Irrational imaginings. Needless to say, lunchtime self-congratulation had quickly turned into deep self-loathing. Feelings were felt. In the gut. Some of said feelings found rather easy expression upon our parched lips. Recurring themes involved references to my pathetic inability to commit to buying, then mastering, the complicated device known as GPS, as expected of all other reasonable, rational, modern-day prowlers of the northern woods.
Now tired mentally more than physically, from our lunch spot we once again advanced, paddles a-bow and a-stern, this time fearfully, through the timid openings in the grass and muck to the dreaded undocumented monster-dam, climbed bravely the 1.5 metres up the sticks and hard mud for a view of... yes!...it's got to be there! First Lake! At least I think it must be First Lake somewhere out there in that open space on the horizon beyond the grass and muck. If it's not First lake, then this is going to get much worse before it gets any better.
Well, it turns out we were on course. Of course It was First Lake that lay beyond the wild rice and mud. As well as an "out-of-nowhere" 40 km. headwind from the north (which proves, I guess, it was indeed out of "somewhere"!) with rain and all its accompanying delights. Surprisingly, the rest of the day's portaging into Obukowin went relatively smoothly. That is if we don't count me rolling over onto my back in a stinking sinkhole, my head half-submerged, squirming and gagging under our food barrel. Pinned. Helpless. As a would-be naturalist, though, I'm grateful to have immediately been given access to fresh insights into the feelings and world view of our stoic brothers, the turtles.
Yet always the selfless one, that's me! Even before my own physical safety was assured, arms and legs still flailing in root-strewn rancid mud, and in spite of recalcitrant vertebrae in my back screaming at me to please just cease any and all movement, I shouted to my son: "Stop! Don't come this way! It's really bad! Take the other trail, the one marked with the ribbon!" Which, good fellow that he is, he did. Which, unfortunately, led to his rude descent into a formidable sinkhole of his own. Up to his hip with accompanying shouts for help, etc. etc. Extracting him without his or my losing a shoe was my foremost priority. Well, almost foremost. Right after my neurotic need for him to "love", or at least "like a lot", this canoe trip. Actually, for that one brief moment I'd have settled for a "yeah, the trip was o.k., I guess" if someone was going to be indiscrete enough to ask him in my presence. His severe leg cramping and disappointment in my arriving without camera with which to record our peril could be dealt with later during easier, more relaxed moments.
A couple of hours later, we'd made it! Beautiful Obukowin Lake, Manitoba. The 3-Mothers were safely behind us, their magnificent fury diminishing with each passing minute. Stay tuned for Challenge #3 in which we investigate the contents of the venerable food barrel...


Last edited by martin2007 on August 27th, 2017, 8:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: August 27th, 2017, 6:07 pm 
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Joined: March 26th, 2013, 9:27 pm
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Location: Winnipeg, MB
Awesome read! I was thinking about your trip and thought about PM-ing you to make sure things went well. Charles' wife Marilyn gave us a ride to the Manigotagan while Charles was taking you to Wallace.

We had the same experience with sinkholes. Entering Kidney Lake if I remember correctly. I sank in one with the canoe on top but was able to roll out. My wife fell in one as I was plopping the canoe near shore. I thought I heard something, it turned out she called for help when she fell only to start laughing at herself when she realized I was probably out of earshot.

I bet none of your son's friends have been stuck in a bog sinkhole. He's got stories to tell!

Now I think I tried to mention something about getting into First Lake but I mucked it up. I forgot about the beaver dams. If memory serves me right, I was cursing while my wife found a trail along what would be the shore to the swampy area / creek that the one of the beaver dams were on. I remember frustration and backtracking.

Beaver dams or no beaver dams, you still deserve the back patting! That was our fist portage of that level and through poor planning and lack of sleep we had an incredibly late start from Siderock and only made it to First Lake. Doing all three in one day is a good step into becoming Atikaki masters!


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PostPosted: August 27th, 2017, 6:38 pm 
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Martin, we went through the Obukowin Portages two days before you. We were near the end of the first one when a good storm hit. Near the end of the second one a bigger storm hit. I estimate from containers we set out that 75-100 mm of rain came down. It put out a big fire up east of Craven in WCPP that they were letting burn. All that water would have softened things up. My partner had one leg sink in the area you had the most trouble. He had a very hard time getting his leg up with all the suction holding it down there.

I posted this video on youtube and thought I had make a trip report about the Obukowin portages last year but I must not have. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=IkQwiIxoo7E[/youtube]

Sure was great weather for being in that country wasn't it?

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PostPosted: August 27th, 2017, 8:57 pm 
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Gentlemen, thanks for your responses. I was thinking, it wouldn't be entirely unfair to say that we have now, several of us, engaged in some pretty serious cyber-bonding over our uncannily similar experiences with Atikaki sinkholes. And yes, these botanical marvels, these minor impediments on the long trail to paddling bliss, were located towards the end of the second carry and not far from arrival at Kidney lake.
As for timing, Marten, yes, the following two weeks offered up some amazingly good weather for travel there. Apart from the discomfort of getting wet, that's certainly good news about the significant rainfall several days earlier extinguishing the fire in WCPP. A few days after our 3-Mothers passage we began smelling smoke from fires burning somewhere to the west, and possibly from thousands of miles west.


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PostPosted: August 27th, 2017, 9:42 pm 
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Fun, we were two days behind you. Did you make the big sandcastle at Namay Rapids?


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PostPosted: August 28th, 2017, 6:37 am 
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I suppose we had it best the first time we were on the Mothers. We were up on Siderock for a weekend and just walked the boat up the first leg to First Lake. At that time we took the natural path at the fork, and wound up in a bog walk below the beaver dams. We backtracked a bit and found the fork and after pushing through some really grown over sections, we climbed onto the rock spine and it dropped us right at the lake. On the way out we tried to block off the wrong path but that was a long time ago.

When we actually did the Mothers, we knew where to go. The bog walk at the end of the second leg, we stayed off the main path and hopped logs to the left side and never had the issue of sinking with careful steps.

The worst mud we had was near the end of the third leg and actually at the put in on Obukowin. We had laid logs in alongside the boat to prevent sinking to our necks.

Then after 5 days on Obukowin, we did them again on the way back.

The year we were to actually do them it was a wet year and we gave up after crossing the first creek. That inspired the Broadleaf the hard way tour as we backtracked and got to Aiken's that way.

Anyone who has done the Mothers has a unique feather in their paddling cap.

Karin


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PostPosted: August 29th, 2017, 12:26 pm 
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I edited my Obukowin Portage report to correct it. I had listed it as Southeast Manitoba instead of Atikaki. Now it shows up if I browse canoe routes. Not sure if its my computer but route search will not work for me.

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