View topic - Into The Heart of the Burn - Volunteer Trip to the Bloodvein

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 2:18 pm 
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Joined: October 11th, 2007, 4:39 pm
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Location: Red Lake
I've just returned from another volunteer work trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, this time into the fresh burn from Fire 124..... and what an adventure it proved to be!

I am extremely fortunate to be able to join the park on these trips and find it rewarding to give a little back. When I first inquired early in the season about the possibility of doing volunteer work I was hopeful about doing some day trips, but never imagined I would have the opportunity for multi-day trips. Kudo's to the park office for making this opportunity possible.

Our destination for the trip was Larus Lake with a focus on cutting the portage that links Murdock Lake to Larus Lake along the Bloodvein River. Many have traveled this portage in the past and for those returning in the next few years the landscape has definately changed. Fire 124 moved through here this summer, burning hot and deep and swept across the portage. Our job was to clear the path and hazard trees, opening up the trail once again for paddlers.

With a forecast of sun and warm weather, we taxi'd down the lake and took off out of Howey Bay, Red Lake. Fall colors were at their peak and it was a very satisfying flight.

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As we approached Larus Lake, active pockets of Fire 124 were still active

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The extent of the burn is clearly evident from the air...

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As we approached the lake, the contrast of the poplars and fresh smoke was amazing.

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Once down on the water, we approached our drop off location. Those familiar with the fire, may recognize this site....this is what it looked like on August 10!

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...and this it what it looked like in October

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A quick walk behind the outpost showed the extent of the damage....that said, regeneration is already taking place.

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Here is a video of the area around the cabin.



As motor traffic is allowed on the Bloodvein River, we would be using a boat and motor to travel from our campsite to the work site. As were were preparing the boat, Claire Q, Assistant Superintendent of WCPP found this artifact on the beach....a piece of pottery

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Our first order of business was to locate a campsite...this proved difficult as many had burned in the fire. Most of the shore looked like this.

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We quickly motored to the portage to get a look at what we'd be dealing with. The entire 750 metre portage had burned and downed trees, skeletons and lots of ash was all that was left.

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A quick troll for some walleye or pike....nothing took my Rapala but you can see the extent of the burn down to the shore.

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It was getting dark, so we headed across the lake and found a campsite roughly 3 km from the portage. With the low water conditions, this site proved to be amazing. Lots of flat rock for a kitchen area and two nice tent pads tucked into the bush.

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Looking out across Larus Lake, the moon rising in the sky

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We were also greeted with a beautiful sunset, something there would be no shortage of on this trip.

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The evening was cool and clear, with shooting stars lighting up the sky. We awoke early to a beautiful morning.

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After a quick breakfast it was time to get down to business.

Here's the view from the end of the portage, looking out over Larus Lake. You can see the fire burned right to the shore.

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A video of the burn adjacent to the portage



Once we got going, it was evident it would be a long, hard and dirty job. Still, there is something amazing about standing in a freshly burned forest...the Boreal Forest at work!

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There would be lots of cutting involved over the next few days. Here, Claire works efficiently to clear the path.

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Looking out over the river from the new trail.

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New beginnings

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The mighty Bloodvein River looking not so mighty....dry conditions have left it just a trickle.

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Claire continuing to work through the fresh burn

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After a long day of cutting, clearing, blackflies and getting coated in ash, it was time to head back to camp. One last look at the river and we hit the water

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Back at camp, another perfect sunset....but notice two distinct columns of smoke in the distance????? Was this a sign of things to come?

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Steaks over the fire

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As darkness approached, Moose could be heard calling in the next bay over....something I will surely never forget.

Sipping coffee after a meal of fresh steak, looking out over Larus Lake....it doesn't get any better!

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The next morning we awoke to clear skies and wind....wind that would blow all day.

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Back at the trailhead, ready for work with my trust Sanvik.

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Along the trail...

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Sign of intense fire

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This poplar was completely gutted on the inside

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The Bloodvein

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Having fun in the burn....the blackflies were bad!

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We managed to complete the trail by 1:00 PM. It took 1.5 days for the two us to cut and clear the 750 metre portage. Paddlers will be pleased to hear, that the new trail travels higher along the shore, eliminating all of the wetspots the old trail was famous for!

Once back at the trailhead, we walked up the ridge to get a good look over Larus Lake....notice anything? Yup, that's a big column of smoke rising from the West. Had some of those hotspots we flew over days before taken off into a roaring fire?

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A short video of the smoke seen from the ridge



Looking up the ridge, the extent of the burn can be seen.

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Looking out over the lake as the smoke cloud rises


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Baby Jackpine, already taking hold!

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We loaded up the boat for a trip down the lake to scout out the 500 metre portage that links Larus to Thicketwood. From the water, smoke is clearly visible....only, this wasn't the smoke cloud we saw from the ridge, it was another one from the Northeast!

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Here is a series of pictures of what the lake looked like as we traveled towards the portage. The high winds of the previous two days had ignited Fire 124 once again. All around us, the forest was burning.

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A video of the smoke



Motoring along the northeastern shore of Larus.....

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We located and walked the 500 metre portage, did some scouting, then proceeded back to camp. By this time, heavy smoke was moving across the lake, blocking out the sun and giving everything an orange glow.

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Back at the campsite, looking across Larus Lake.

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View from my tent

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Looking back, behind our camp, another smoke cloud was visible. In total, there were 3 active hotspots of fire. While it looks like its directly behind our site, the fire was traveling away from us and was still a good distance from reaching the shore and our camp.

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As the sun set, we witnessed a spectacular event....thick black smoke consuming the sun. This is looking West from our camp.

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...and looking Southwest from our camp. As it's getting darker, we can now see flames as the they climb up the trees. These pictures were shot approx. 3 km from the fire.

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If you look closely at this picture you can see the fire burning along the entire shoreline.


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Changing fires, looking back East

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As the sun is completely set, a red glow consumes the horizon to the East.....and this would last the night.

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While we went to bed under clear skies, I awoke at 1:00 AM to high winds, flashes of lightning, booming thunder and heavy rains. It would last until 6:00 AM.

At 7:00 AM, looking Southeast it's as if there was never a fire active only a few hours before.

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This would be our departure day so camp was packed up quickly, and we motored across the lake to see the extent of the burn from the day before. This island was still smoldering.

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And so was this point....we had watched these burn from our campsite the night before.

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From the water, observing the point...

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Our flight home was arriving shortly, so we made it back to the outpost, stored the boat and awaited the Cessna. Sure enough, our pilot was right on time and in short order the plane was packed and we were ready to go.

In need of a shower

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Our pilot circled the fresh burn from the night before and the damage became evident.....

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The island we watched burn only a few hours before....

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The Bloodvein River and the portage we cut. Seen from the air.

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The fire driven Boreal Forest

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Flying over 32 Island Lake on the way back

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The fall colors were amazing!

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Coming in for a landing on Red Lake.....interesting in the high winds!



This trip was an amazing experience and had a little bit of everything. Warm temperatures (for early October!), blackflies, fresh burn, even fresher fire :), amazing sunsets, good fishing (lost a massive Pike :( ) high winds, a powerful thunderstorm....it was a years worth of experiences all rolled into 4 days!

It feels great to give back to a park that gives so much pleasure to paddlers from around the world. I am thankful to the WCPP office for allowing me to join them on these trips.

Leaves are now off the trees and the warm weather from last week is now a distant memory. Looks like fall is beginning to set in here in the north and another paddling season is in the books....time to dust off the snowshoes and get ready for some hard water travel!

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Last edited by Harlan on October 12th, 2011, 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 3:41 pm 
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Location: Geraldton, Ontario Can
Nice work...however, the real work is just beginning. Having cut trail through many burnovers, I have learned some odious facts. It takes about ten years to re-establish a trail. If it is not used heavily, the new growth will obliterate the trail very quickly. The old burned logs will also continue to fall on a regular basis for about a decade. It's best to try to cut almost every year until the new stuff respects the saw, and the old stuff has worn itself out.


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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 6:32 pm 
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
Nice work Harlan and Claire! Great photos.

I put a comment on the Youtube comments about this being a great opportunity to move that bloody wet muddy trail up-slope! :D I see from your post here that Claire thought of that already, so that's great! I was cursing that portage 2 summers ago, sinking into the gunk, sliding off the bank into the river, etc! The landing approach too at Larus was along a steep slippery rock (when it rains), so if you can somehow bypass that and find a less hazardous spot for the landing, that would be great.

Isn't that jackpine amazing! Soil is barely cooled off, and its sprouting already! Fishing may be quite good there for the next few years (even better than normal) as that ash will provide a fertilizing effect - more algae, more small fish food, more big fish! Fire -its so good for the forest. But it will be a challenge to keep those trails open. As RHaslam mentioned, looks like the blowdown and infill will be a job security incentive for a while, eh! :D

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 7:25 pm 
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Great photos. I am curious about the bungee cords attached to the wing struts of the plane. Green for starboard and red on the port side ? Is that typical bush plane outfitting gear ? Not being a flier, I apologize for my ignorance.


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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 8:27 pm 
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Hello Harlan: Amazing report! Great photos! Hats off to you and Claire for the great work that you two did. You are so fortunate to be able to help clear the trails. It must be an amazing experience. I have to admit that I am envious of you. I'll be heading out for a eight night solo trip tomorow morning.

Take care,
Cousin Pete

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 8:31 pm 
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Thanks for those pics - seeing the scope of the burns and the forest's response to the fire, it's much easier to accept fire as a natural part of the forest's life cycle. Pretty dirty job, though....

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 10:06 pm 
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Holy smokes! (Sorry, had to do it.)

Blackflies????

Thanks for taking the stereotype of "desk jockey" out of my mental image of "Assistant Superintendent".

Excellent record of an up-close-and-personal experience.

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PostPosted: October 12th, 2011, 3:48 pm 
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Phenomenal pics Harlan. Thank-you.

Yes Barbara, last Tuesday I went up to Noganosh for 4 days and lamented I didnt bring any bug spray. The black flies were only out for a day..probably had more to do with the previous rainfall and then quick summer conditions caused them to come out ...but very short lived , they were gone by Wednesday...we had amazing weather and a cottager came by on our second to last day and said they couldnt finish all their beer and could we help...just when you think it cant get any better!


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PostPosted: October 13th, 2011, 8:50 am 
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Thanks, Harlan,
Great work and great pictures. It looks like that fire is not done yet. Thanks for keeping the portages open!
Ralph


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PostPosted: October 16th, 2011, 10:43 pm 
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Thanks for a wonderful post with such great pictures. Sad to see the extent of the damage.

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PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 1:50 pm 
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Beautiful.

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PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 8:18 pm 
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What a less on in forest ecology- fantastic pictures!

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