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 Post subject: 2 weeks in WCPP Aug 2019
PostPosted: August 30th, 2019, 8:46 pm 
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Hi folks,

Just returning from our trip to Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. We had 14 days in the park done through a relatively relaxed loop covering about 150 km as per the GPS trip log. This is our second time in WCPP having done a fly-in trip in 2014. We ended up revisiting several lakes from our first trip and enjoyed seeing the changes, especially the former burned areas growing a scruffy five-o'clock shadow of jack pines.

This time we did a drive in access via the Leano Lake access. Okay, its a road but a really bumpy one. At 86 km of rough, pothole ridden and in a few cases stream covered areas it takes a while to get there. The trip in was 4 h from Hwy 17. I recommend wearing a mouth guard while driving it and a 4 wheel drive vehicle with decent clearance and skid plates isn't a bad thing to have as well. But we made it. Time will tell if in future we think it is worth it to drive in vs fly-in. The fly-in method is definitely more quick, fun and versatile in route planning. But it is also much more expensive and you run the risk of getting socked in on entry and pick-up. The drive method has the long drive, but at least in WCPP the first lake in is as beautiful as any in the park. So each method has its advantages and pitfalls.

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Day 1 (after driving in from Dryden, ON) we entered the park at about 2:00 pm and paddled over to Bunny Lake to camp for the night. After the 350 m portage from the car park to Leano Lake there was a small lift over followed by a 300m port into Bunny. All three were relatively straightforward, clear paths without obstacles.

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Day 2 was a more difficult one making our way from Bunny to Paul Lake. The path from Bunny to Paul falls mostly in the burn zone with little camping opportunities. We knew this going in as Claire from the park offices was good enough to provide us with a burn map for the park that covered 2015-2018 forest fires. We used this in our planning, overlaying our route onto it and ensuring we kept our camp sites in the green zones as much as possible. Day 2 involved 6 portages, 2 lift-overs and a couple of unanticipated lift overs. From Bunny we traveled west through Bootjack Lake, Elephant Head Lake and through some small ponds finally ending in Paul.
The ponds between Bootjack and Paul proved especially difficult with low water levels. We entered one pond and could not find a clear path through the lily mats having to struggle with poling through viscous shallow/muddy waters. Neither one of us wanted to step into the muck and after 25 minutes of slogging through a tiny lily ridden mud hole we made our way to one of the shorelines which was really just well matured bog mats that we walked and dragged the canoe over. Becky fell into a hole in the mat finding herself waist deep in the muck and I tripped in another hole landing face first, fortunately into soft boggy moss.

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We arrived on Paul somewhere around 3:00 pm. However, much of the eastern end of Paul was burned out and we had to still paddle our way to the central portion before finding the green and a campsite to camp at. On the way we encountered a female moose and calf watching us from the shoreline. She sniffed the air and kept watch of us as we paddled by leaving only when the calf grew bored and started walking back into the forest.

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We did find a nice campsite on Paul and given the tough day of slogging, not to mention some back pain experienced by my wife (attributed to the road driving in more so then the numerous portages) we decided to take a rest day there.

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Day 4 had us move to Aegean Lake. This involved 3 ports, a small 40 m, 300 m and 425 m. All were straight forward. We love the big topography that Aegean has to offer among its Islands and found a beautiful campsite where again we decided to take a rest day, do some fishing and a little night photography. Plus, my plan of eating down the food barrel was generating good morale on the portage trails!

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Did I mention that in 14 days, we didn't have to paddle through rain once? I never thought such a thing was possible, although it did rain a few times during the night. Nonetheless, a 10 x 10 tarp has equal value for providing some sun shade as it does a rain refuge and we used it primarily for that purpose.

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Day 7 had us move over to Jigsaw Lake. We encountered a close up black bear experience while paddling through Aegean. The bear was more interested in blueberries than us but he did end up striking a few great poses. Its always nice to see a bear from inside the canoe and not anywhere near your portage trail!

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Aegean Creek was just as we remembered it from 2014 although water levels were lower. In 2014 we were able to line the canoe through the rock garden after small 30 m portage trail but this year I had to haul canoe and gear over my back to traverse it.

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Wrist was mainly burned out with a few green spots on part of the lake. Its a shame as it had such a beautiful beach after the 100 m port from Aegean Creek. The beach is still there but it feels a little less welcome among the tree corpses surrounding it. In five years it will look better and part of the fire-ecology process of renewal for the lakes. Maybe its renowned reputation for Lake Trout fishing will bounce in full force with the relief in fishing pressure over the next few years.

We decided to camp out on Jigsaw Lake. It was markedly burned out in 2014 and we had planned on staying the night there back in 2014 but did want to do so after paddling through it. Now after five years the tree growth is bouncing back. Still mostly smaller trees but it all feels fresh. The 825 m trail was our longest portage of the trip. We broke it in half by stopping 600 paces in and hopscotching our gear to that point, eating lunch and relaxing before completing the port.

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Campsites were difficult to locate on Jigsaw and as it started to get lake, we planted ourselves on the flattest piece of bare rock we could muster. As it wasn't an established site and we didn't want to make one we kept things in leave no trace mode, using a canister stove to heat food. We caught a mess of walleye just off the campsite though and enjoyed it for dinner.

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On our way out of jigsaw the next morning we spotted a campsite not far from the Jigsaw-Gulch portage. I marked it on my GPS for future reference as campsites are a hard to come by on this lake. Its definitely worth stopping on for the fishing though. Others we talked to remarked on the difficulty of navigating through jigsaw because of its many embayments and islands that can be difficult to tell from shoreline. A GPS is helpful in lakes like this one.

Day 8 had us make our way from Jigsaw -> Gulch -> Haven where we camped and again took a rest day. The 575 m portage from Jigsaw to Gulch is rugged but beautiful. It feels like a tailor made hiking trail chosen for its scenic vistas more than a portage trail. Neither of us was complaining. Much of it is along a rocky ridge and it is well marked with rock urns.

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The rest day on Haven was uneventful. We fished the rest day morning and picked up 3 nice walleye for late breakfast. On day 10 we were greeted by a magnificent bald eagle acting as sentinel for our journey out.

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Day 10 had us moving from Haven to Cyclops, Rostoul and onto Hansen where we camped for the night. The 575 m portage into Cyclops was easy and well maintained. I came across a grouse and 2 whitetails darted by me on the trail during hauling the gear. Cyclops is a gorgeous little lake, named for the big island in the center of a round lake. Someday I'd like the camp there!

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From Cyclops to Rostoul things became more difficult. Admittedly, Park staff warned us that the stream would be shallow at this time of the year, as did the Adventure Map series. The stream turned into the width of a ditch and had us lining in the muck for a large portion of the way intermixed with lifting gear and canoe through rock gardens. It was a lot tougher going than anticipated from our planning maps! Sometimes life is like that.

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Rastoul seemed like a beautiful lake to camp on, but we simply traveled through it having spent far more time on the creek than anticipated. The falls between Rastoul and Hansen were quite nice though. On Hansen we took an island campsite adjacent to one of the lodges. It was a pretty site and we didn't feel like searching for a different one. It was notable as the only site of our stay that I was able to sink in a couple of tent pegs. Everywhere else we had to secure out tent with rocks.

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Day 11 had us moving from Hansen to Mexican Hat via Glen Lake. The rapids/falls between Hansen and Glen were very pretty and we spent some time sitting in them in a 'cold-tub' fashion. We saw our second moose along the way and it was happy to strike a stately pose.

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We entered Mexican Hat from the north end amidst small rapids. The portages were well marked and cleared. We were told of excellent fishing in the small unnamed lake just before entering Mexican Hat and considered staying there for the night. However, we spotted a bear on the shoreline of it and decided to keep moving on. The bear was rather wary of us intruders and took off before I could get a decent picture of him. We camped on Mexican Hat and stayed a rest day at the north end not far from the portage in. We found fresh bear tracks and older moose tracks on the beach right behind our campsite. The bear approached our camp on night two and was scared off by a shout from my wife (I was busy with my head in a viewfinder getting astro-photos). That was all we heard of him that night but ended up moving off the lake the next morning. Mexican Hat was also a very busy lake for humans. On the second night I counted four camping groups including ours staying on the lake. We bumped into a man, his kids and friend who turns out lives within a couple of blocks of us back in Windsor, Ontario. Pretty funny I think. We also had a nice chat with a fellow from Wisconsin who was base camping on Mexican hat for a few days after coming in from Haven. Maybe I will track the Windsorite down someday as he described some of his previous camping in Wabakimi and could make a good potential future paddle partner. He commented that we shared the same camera dry bag system. So I could probably learn a thing or two about photography from him as well :)

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Day 13 we took the South portage from Mexican Hat involving a 750m portage that was long but well marked and relatively easy terrain. After another small lift over we camped at an unnamed lake (Lake 384 by the Adventure Map nomenclature)

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Day 14 we hustled it back to Leano Lake, a good 27 km from our Lake 384 campsite. The in-reach foretold of poor weather ahead and we were at that point on the return loop where we knew we would be entering the burn lands again. We faced a strong headwind most of the way back and were exhausted when we finally found a suitable campsite on Leano. We took the small stream marked navigable on the Adventure map series. This time (as opposed to 2014), we encountered 3 beaver dams. Two were small enough to simply life canoe with gear over them. The third required a new portage be built at the end of the old portage. The trail was well marked and clearly had been there for awhile but I don't recall its presence or the large beaver dam blocking the path back in 2014.

Becky startled another small bear just across the portage into Bunny Lake but I again was too slow on the draw to catch him on film.

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The last night on Leano was a very wind heavy night. The winds kept getting stronger and stronger over night. I double tied my upside canoe at both ends just to make sure it would be blown/flipped or wave swept into the water. Our tent blew down once and I had to get up in the night and secure the corners with even larger piles of rocks borrowed from the fire ring. At morning we were greeted to a red-sky morn to the paddler's scorn...Despite the old saying, the winds had died from the previous night and the day turned out quite nice. It did rain almost all of our road trip back in subsequent days though.

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The last morning (day 15) it was a short paddle to the access point where we traversed the last 350 m portage to the car park and out the access road for 4 more hours of rough driving. We were greeted by this prickly fellow and what I think was a Lynx who raced across the road at one point.

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Overall, it was a wonderful trip and we look forward to returning to WCPP again in the future. It is a very nice compliment to our usual Wabakimi trips and at some point I'd like to explore the norther and western areas of the park.

A few post script notes:

For this trip we lightened the load by limiting our barrels to one 60L food barrel and using a MEC 115 L slog pack plus a z-packs 62 L arc-haul backpack for gear/clothing carry along with my usual 30 lbs of camera gear held in a dedicated dry-camera bag from LowePro. The carry system worked excellent and we had no issues, although there were no unexpected dunks during this trip.

This trip was our first trip with our new NovaCraft PAL in Bluesteel. We added the yellow painted gel coat for added protection and like its nifty colour. The 8 lbs weight savings over our toughstuff PAL was well appreciated (more so now with skid plates finally added to the toughstuff canoe after a bad hit in Kilarney during the spring). Paddling the bluesteel PAL feels identical to our toughstuff one and handling is the same. But we love this design so much we simply didn't want to change models or experiment with something new when we bought this one early this year. In short, we love this canoe!

Wildlife was far more concentrated this year than our previous visit to the park. I think this is because of the extensive burn areas in the park which keeps critters in more dense living quarters than normal. We've never seen so many bear sightings before. However, the bears paid little attention to us except for one that approached our camp at Mexican Hat. Still no caribou to be seen at WCPP (all our sightings have been at Wabakimi). Park staff told us there was a good chance to see one at Haven but no such luck this time.

Haven and Mexican Hat seem to be major landing areas for fly-in folks (we flew into Mexican Hat in 2014 and out of Haven). This is where we also saw the majority of other paddlers. Mexican Hat was rather busy for our tastes. We saw at least two other groups of paddlers on Haven. We didn't encounter people elsewhere except a really cool elderly couple on a Portage trail into Aegean and again we canoed past them on Lake 384. Sometimes chatting with folks reveals really great personalities and insights. This couple was in their mid- to later 60's. She was a retired college professor who taught outdoor ed in a smaller college. Their approach was completely opposite to how I approach canoe trips and I thought it was really interesting to hear about it. They were staying for 21 days and eluded to a shuttle or pick up service as they had to get back to a certain lake to get picked up. Apart from that, that was their trip plan. They basically just meandered about forming a new plan each day of where to go using the Adventure Map as their main guide. This is soooo different to my "plan for every hour of the trip' kind of approach that when they described it, I could only think wow...I gotta try that some time. I'm not sure my personality will let me attempt it though. Despite my mild complaint about the number of people spotted, everyone we chatted with were incredibly pleasant nor in any way intrusive. I think just like the wildlife, people are also crowded to the limited number of green zones in the Southern part of the park right now.

Game changer item. We bought a flavoured electrolyte powder called BioSteel from GNC foods for use on the trip. It is a calorie free (low cal) powder that gives you full electrolytes when mixed with water. I don't really like the sweetened ones like gatoraide and our keto-diet prevents us from using it. This stuff really gives you staying power in the sun and hot weather. Because it tastes so good I found myself drinking more water than I normally do which kept me well hydrated. I will be bringing this on all of my future trips. The mio drops are going to be dropped as we used this as both flavoring and for its health benefits.

New item- fingerless SPF gloves. We picked up a pair of these light material gloves at Jeff's Sporting goods in Gaylord MI on our way to Sault St. Marie. I saw some through hiker videos using these and decided to try them out. I don't really like wearing full paddle gloves but these were so close fitting and tactile with free fingers that I didn't mind them. They cover well back into the wrist under you shirt and keep the back of the hands and wrist from getting sunburned. Love these things. These will also be coming on all my subsequent trips,

Tripod bad choice. This year I skipped my full size 7' carbon fiber tripod and just brought a gorillapod 5 k in its place. Well, I guess I should have known that I wouldn't like the experience going from a $1000 tripod to a $200 one. Its short and not that stable. It does have a swiss arca ballhead that somehow manages to make the excellent engineered platform that swiss arca provides into a painful and terrible experience. All my cameras are fitted with swiss arca plates. They work with the gorilla pod but are difficult to slide into. The locking pin hinders and blocks entry into the plate yet somehow also provides absolutely no protection from slippage out of the plates when loosened. On a real tripod this locking system works smoothly and provides extra security. On a gorrilla pod version it simply makes your life miserable. Its only plus was that it fit into my camera bag pocket and didn't need to be strapped to a larger bag like my full size and much heavier tripod. I won't be taking the gorilla pod on future trips.

First keto-meal trip. Well it was challenging making keto-friendly foods for this trip but we did it and had no issues. The harder part was eating keto friendly on the 3 day road trip back home.

Kimble book reader. We took a book reader with us and I read a couple of chapters out loud to my partner each night. The book we read was 'Far Distant Echo: A Journey from Superior to Hudson Bay' by Fred Marks and Jay Timmerman. We really enjoyed this read and it was especially cool having parts of their journey so close to us. The writing style of the book also really lent itself to reading a couple of chapters per night. Someday I want to meet and talk to a Charley-Guide!

That's all. Thanks for reading the thread!

Ken


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PostPosted: August 30th, 2019, 9:33 pm 
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Joined: April 6th, 2007, 8:42 pm
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I really enjoyed reading your report! Beautiful photos, too. Thanks for sharing.


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PostPosted: August 31st, 2019, 6:55 am 
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Another great trip Ken! Thanks for sharing this.


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PostPosted: August 31st, 2019, 12:37 pm 
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Location: Manitoba
Great report.

Sounds you have a fine system of packing.

I’m also a longtime fan of sun gloves.

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PostPosted: September 16th, 2019, 10:07 pm 
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Great stuff! I had poor weather going in later into August of this year.
Pretty portage coming out onto Paull lake!
Saw no wildlife whatsoever, so lucky you guys!

Also, your lake named 384 is Burnt Rock Lake.
One of my favourite lakes in the park!
Chrismar will eventually get their act together and put the campsites (and more lake names) on their map of WCPP. Revision coming I am to understand.

cheers


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2019, 11:41 am 
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What tent is that you're using? Ultamid?

Also how did you find the arc blast? I've a tent and bag from Zpacks and quite like them.


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PostPosted: September 18th, 2019, 12:04 pm 
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Wow! Fantastic trip and great photos. Thanks for sharing. Always wanted to go there but have not made it up that far as of yet. Soon hopefully.

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Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit. ~ Edward Abbey


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PostPosted: September 24th, 2019, 6:49 pm 
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leiferikson wrote:
Great stuff! I had poor weather going in later into August of this year.
Pretty portage coming out onto Paull lake!
Saw no wildlife whatsoever, so lucky you guys!

Also, your lake named 384 is Burnt Rock Lake.
One of my favourite lakes in the park!
Chrismar will eventually get their act together and put the campsites (and more lake names) on their map of WCPP. Revision coming I am to understand.

cheers


Cool thanks for the info. There be a lot of burnt rocks in that park right now :)


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PostPosted: September 24th, 2019, 6:57 pm 
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ameaney wrote:
What tent is that you're using? Ultamid?

Also how did you find the arc blast? I've a tent and bag from Zpacks and quite like them.


Our tent is a customized Luna-4 from BearPaw Wilderness designs. We've had 3 luna-4's so far. This one has a dyneema floor and backdoor with a screen. We love it, but warning it is pricey and still weighs in at 3 lbs with the pole.

The backpack was a Z-packs arc-haul. We really like it. I'm taking it on a backpacking trip later this fall on the Algonquin Western Uplands trail. We are very impressed with Z-packs stuff, including the duplex 2 man tent which I bought this year for my backpacking forrays. My wife is considering the Arc-Blast to come along with me on a long trail here and there. Couldn't say anything bad about dealing with Z-packs. They deserve all the adoration they get from the through-hiking community. That said, I feel that canoe tripping is particularly rough on a pack. We loved how it performed, it is light weight, it is super comfortable. But also felt that if we keep using it for canoe tripping it will probably suffer faster deterioration compared to using it as dedicated backpacking pack. At +$500 Cdn for a pack, I might as well destroy a cheaper MEC pack on our canoe trips over the short portages we generally do. At least that is the debate we are having with ourselves at the present. No complaints on its performance though. It is a really great pack.

Ken


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PostPosted: September 24th, 2019, 11:57 pm 
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Great pictures and trip report! Looks like a beautiful area. Thanks for posting!


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