View topic - First trip into QE II Wildlands

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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2017, 10:19 am 
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Joined: May 30th, 2017, 6:48 pm
Posts: 11
Location: Stratford, Ontario, Canada
Thanks to many of the great folk on here answering my questions, and giving me the confidence to take my not-so-adventurous husband into the Wildlands - and also for all the searchable information on here shared by so many canoe enthusiasts who helped me figure out what kind of canoe to buy. Such a great resource of shared knowledge from experienced people!

So, after much hemming and hawing, I decided to take the "easy" route and base camp at Fishog Lake for our first trip into the Wildlands. Although I had read that this was a busy lake on long weekends, I had hoped that late October it would be quiet; and it truly was - we did not see a single person from the time we launched the canoe until we returned to Head Lake. (We did hear a few gun shots in the distance though). The trip was from Monday, October 23 to Friday, October 27, 2017. The only thing I was worried about was the crossing of Head Lake (I heard it can get pretty rough depending on wind direction).

There were a few "firsts" on this trip: First time using the new canoe. First time using a food barrel instead of a bear bag. First time using a FoodSaver to pre-prepare some of our food in portion sized vacuum sealed bags. First time using a camp quilt instead of zipped together sleeping bags. All of them worked out great. We will use them again next time.

Trip photos viewable at:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/uPRtntPHYEAiyKty2

Day 1:
Well, the trip started out fantastic. Our boat can't carry much gear, so I had been watching for a great used canoe. Nothing came up so I was leaning towards borrowing my brothers Grumman. Then the day before we left, I checked online one more time - and ended up scoring a 16' Kevlar Scott Prospector for $1000. We left the next day, picking up the canoe enroute. I was one happy camper!!!

We left later than expected, got delayed again with the canoe purchase, but eventually got to the lake. We parked at the free parking spot north of Head Lake Trailer Park (just off the highway - H1 on the Explore the Backcountry Wildlands map). The wind was pretty strong from the SE making one foot high swells (some with tiny white caps). The waves prevented us from doing a direct crossing to the Head River in the NE, but we managed to cross directly East, and once we neared the other side we had wind protection and headed North to the mouth of the river. The East shoreline is a bit misleading, a couple of peninsulas that resemble islands when you come up from the south. Eventually we made it to the mouth of the river, but with the delays throughout the day and the longer-than-expected lake crossing, we were concerned about the time. We dug in and got to the portage with the daylight just starting to wane.

I had read about the steep portage, and they were right. It is steep getting out and steep getting back in on the other side too. Fortunately, it is a short portage, so we did it in 3 stages (we brought lots of gear since we were basecamping and wanted to be comfortable).

By the time we had loaded up the canoe on the other side it was starting to get dark and starting to drizzle. Fortunately, there was a sheen on the water so we could see our way forward. It didn't take long to get to Fishog Lake. The water was still, and the drizzle wasn't turning into rain, so we kept paddling North and by flashlight we found a campsite on the NE tip of the big peninsula that juts into the lake. It was a nice site - a little open to the wind, but great views on 3 sides and a decent thunderbox. The rain held off long enough for us to get a tarp up and drag our gear under it. We set up the summer tent under the tarp, brought in the essentials (sleeping pads and bags), took the food barrel off into the woods, and too exhausted to eat dinner, we went to bed. We slept through a rainstorm, but the tarp kept us dry.

Day 2:
In the morning, it was cold, damp and windy but not raining. We set off in the canoe, exploring and fishing down the SE section of the lake. I thought it might be protected from the wind down there, but it was very open and marshy, so we followed the shoreline on the East side back up to a rocky outcrop that offered a windbreak. We didn't catch anything, but we had a good time. Later we went back to the camp, built a campfire, and dined on scrambled eggs with peppers, toast and bacon. The afternoon was quite relaxing, investigating our area, foraging for firewood, fishing from shore and having a typical camp dinner of hotdogs, corn on the cob, and smores.

Another early night to get warmed up under the camp quilt. The temp dropped to -1C and all gear is summer weight; I had brought an extra blanket, but we also threw an emergency blanket over us which gave us the little extra warmth we needed.

Day 3:
The next day the wind had shifted and our campsite was protected from the blast. We decided to try fishing for breakfast and explore the north section of the lake. The lake narrows quite a bit, becoming a short river before it widens out into a little round cove (just before the portage into Round Lake). The area where the lake narrows was shallow and reedy with a beaver dam. We found a way to paddle through though and made our way into the protected bay. Fishing was tricky due to the amount of waterplants, but that is where I caught the only catch of the trip - a Largemouth Bass.

Eventually, with no more bites, we paddled back to camp and had the bass for breakfast (it wasn't enough though, so he was supplemented with pancakes and real maple syrup).

In the afternoon, we hiked across the peninsula to check out the campsite on the NW corner. A large site that might be good for a group - it seemed to have a child-sized thunderbox too. We gathered firewood on our way back. Dinner was pasta with chicken and cheese. Yummy!

That night we were praying for sunshine the next day. So far the days had been mostly overcast, with short (and gloriously warm) moments of the sun breaking through.

Day 4:
We awoke early to a beautiful mist. I expected the mist to disappear when the sun rose, but instead, it got foggier and foggier. It made for some fun photography trying to capture the fall colours through the haze.

We fished until the fog lifted enough that we could see ahead of us in the canoe. Then we headed to the NE part of the lake, pulled the canoe up onto shore and hiked up to the top of a large rock where we could take some "aerial" photos of the Fishog. Enroute, the fog lifted and the sun shone warm and bright for the rest of the day! From our perch on the rock, we could see a marshy pond that looked like a canoe might be able to get through. With some more exploration on foot, we found a tiny portage route. We hiked back to the canoe, paddled up to the portage and launched into the pond on the other side. We paddled around 3 small beaver dams and pulled the canoe up onto the shore. We spent an hour or more hiking in the wildlands (wearing bright orange due to hunting season). It is fun to "blaze a trail" instead of following the usual well-worn-practically-paved paths of most parks. We saw lots of beautiful views, waterfowl, bluejays and one nervous chipmunk. This was all just south of the portage to Digby Creek.

After returning to Fishog, we did a little more fishing before heading back to camp for a supper of Quesadillas (using naan bread) and stuffed potatoes (after that meal, it wasn't just the potatoes that were stuffed!). We stayed up late that last night, just enjoying the warmth of the fire, and the stars - so many stars, the milky way was visible.

Day 5:
In the morning, we packed up and headed back. We were relaxed and happy until about half way across Head Lake. Either the wind picked up, or we were no longer in a windbreak... it was a long struggle to make even minimal headway and not let the wind turn us sideways into the waves. If we didn't have a loaded and stable canoe - we may have capsized. Eventually, we made it back to our starting point and exhausted, we loaded up the car.

I asked a local about a good place to eat and she recommended the Riverside Restaurant about 10 minutes away in Norland. We went in a little sheepishly since we smelled like campers and lake... but they were happy to seat us and the meal was amazing. We highly recommend the place.

Now warm, safe, well fed and happy again, we could reminisce about all the good things about our trip and put the lake crossing behind us.


Photos viewable at:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/uPRtntPHYEAiyKty2

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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2017, 1:32 pm 
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Joined: December 30th, 2003, 11:36 pm
Posts: 1807
Location: Kitchener Ontario
Thanks for the report! We have been to QEII twice a year for the past 3 years or so.....but never to that eastern side. Always up the western side using the Head River. And yes...the wind on Head Lake sucks!

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"The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness, and of a freedom almost forgotten." Sigurd Olson, 1956


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PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 9:32 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
Posts: 3077
Location: Milton
Glad you enjoyed the Trip!
You will find you will enjoy the area much more in shoulder season and out of fishing season just because there is less people.
Just don't go in bug season, unless you really just want to fish.
Eventually this park will be heavily regulated because it is so close to the GTA.
That and the area is incredibly beautiful and has a wide range of tripping experiences.
This is where I first started to paddle 50 years ago and it is still a fresh place to go!
Jeff

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