View topic - Brief Trip Report - Upper Spanish (incl. pics)

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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 5:32 pm 
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Joined: June 18th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada
Back yesterday from five days on the Spanish. We've paddled the lower section from either Pog or the Elbow a number of times, but never the upper section beginning at Duke Lake.

Our plan was to paddle from Duke to Pog, and flag down the train to get back to Sudbury. We normally paddle five days on this trip, so it was intended to be very relaxed, to say the least.

Paddle day one
Layover day two
Paddle day three
Layover day four
Paddle day five

Dropped off at Duke on Wednesday about 9:30 AM. Thanks to Jeannie and Kelly (two of the spouses) for the shuttle. We were quite impressed at how nice the lakes were as we headed south. More relief than we were expecting, with nice high hills surrounding all lakes and the occasional cliffs. Pictographs on Ninth Lake were a treat, although the modern graffiti was a bit depressing to see. Finished for the day at Third Lake at 2:30 PM and camped at the site there. More than large enough for our group of six, although the soft, sandy lake bottom wasn't the best for swimming. A couple of leech incidents.

Thursday was a goof-off day. Reading in the hammock, playing Euchre, exploring the shoreline around the lake.

Friday we paddled south with the aim of travelling about 20 km down to the Forks. Through the last couple of "numbered" lakes in fairly short order. Expanse Lake is a beautiful place, and the fact that it was still mirror-smooth at noon when we paddled through helped. Calm enough to see perfect reflections of the canoes as we paddled through. Had lunch on the sandy beach site on the west side and carried on toward the Forks.

Very little water. We did a bunch of dragging in the shallow spots. Even another two inches of water would have helped eliminate 80% of the wading.

Got to the Forks about 3:30 PM and surveyed the site. Not bad, but seeing as we wanted it for two days, we thought it might be worth paddling on for another 5 km to Upper Athalone Rapids to check out the site there.

Noticeably more water as the West Branch contributed some flow to the Spanish.

Good decision to try the site at Upper Athalone. Great site at the halfway point along the portage. Lots of room, lots of trees to tie up the shelter, etc. Settled in and called it home.

Athalone Rapid was running quite low. It was an easy class II, with just a bit of zig-zagging to avoid some obvious rocks and get through.

Hadn't seen a soul until this time. Group of four paddlers (firefighters from Toronto area) paddled up hoping to get the Athalone site. A bit surprised (and probably disappointed) to find us there.

We chatted for a bit and they headed over to the other side of the river to the site there.

Another group of six paddlers passed us while we were at the site. They were going down as far as the Elbow, and were planning on camping at the Lower Athalones.

Saturday was another lazy day. Two pots of coffee and a late breakfast at 10:30 AM. A bit hazy, but still nice weather.

Fishing, reading, euchre were the order of the day. Our neighbours from across the way came by as they were playing in the rapids and we invited them in for a cold beer.

Al caught a couple of nice 2 lb. Pickerel, which went into the frying pan for a snack before supper.

Lots of flies that day. Don't think they were blackflies, but there were like little houseflies the size of a blackfly. Maybe they were blackflies. Annoying as hell. Didn't bite, but they swarmed around us continually, getting into food and drinks. We were glad we had our Eureka VCS screen tent with us.

Sunday was our paddle out day. With the extra 5 km we'd paddled down to the Upper Athalone Rapids, we only had 15 km to get out. Left about 10:00 AM.

Ran the remainder of the Upper Athalones - easy class II (maybe even a technical class I). Lots of fast, shallow water after that.

Lower Athalones were similar to the Upper Athalones. About 400m long, a long sweeping rapid going around a corner. Again, no portage required, and we ran the entire rapid.

A great 10 km followed, with swifts, small rapids and shallow water. Very fast moving. According to the GPS we were paddling at a normal speed of about 8 km/hr, and when we hit the swifts, we peaked at around 11 or 12 km/hr.

Needless to say, we were out at Pog in about 2 1/2 hours - and that included a 1/2 hour stop at the bridge over the creek coming from Pog Lake.

Waited for four hours for the train to arrive (supposedly at 4:15 PM). Very, very hot out - around 30 deg C. Not the nicest place to be waiting. Scrubby birch grove with a strong smell of creosote. Walked the tracks many times.

Went for a swim by the tracks and changed into more pleasant-smelling clothes out of respect for the other passengers.

Organized the gear at 4:00 PM and stood there waiting for the Bud Car to arrive. Got there at about 6:30 PM. Running at enforced slow speed because of the high temperatures.

Slow going on the way home, and many stops on sidings to allow freight trains to pass. Got into Sudbury between 8:30 and 9:00 PM.

Verdict? Much nicer than I was expecting. The lakes were very pretty, with mostly nice campsites although the swimming was less than spectacular. Well maintained, with signage, firepits and thunderboxes. Saw very little litter and no toilet paper around the sites. Quite encouraging.

The river section was short, but lots of fun. Sort of a mini royal ride. Would have been a blast had there been 2 or 3 more inches of water.

Taking five days to do 3 days of paddling was decadent, and made for a great social occasion with our group.


Last edited by Richard on September 12th, 2005, 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 6:06 pm 
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Joined: June 18th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada
... and here's a couple of pics to give you a better sense of what it was like.

http://www.myccr.com/spanish.htm


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 6:19 pm 
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Joined: June 18th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada
And in case anyone can use it, the GPS data file in .GPX format including access points, campsites and major swifts and rapids.

Right click and "save target as" to save it to your computer.

http://www.myccr.com/spanish/SpanishRiverDuketoPog.gpx


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 6:23 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Scarbados, Ontario Canada
Thanks - and it's a good set of pics to give the flavour of the upper East Branch. Long wait for the train? Last year it was like 4 hrs, and it was blamed on construction. How's that going to play out in the upcoming winter camping adventure?


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 6:27 pm 
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Joined: June 18th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada
Apparently the speed of the train was curtailed because of the high temperatures and the effect that can have on the rails (presumably because of expansion). That's what we were told anyway. Train staff told us they were restricted to half speed.

Noticed as we headed south about 6 or 7 rail cars upside down in the gully beside the tracks. That happened about a month ago, I hear. Not sure how the hell they'll ever get those cars up the hill and back on the tracks again.


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2005, 9:17 pm 
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Joined: December 5th, 2002, 7:00 pm
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Location: Sutton, Ontario Canada
thanks for that report and the pics Richard, my plan was to paddle there this month but a new puppy changes things, for sure next year


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