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The Aikens Lake half loop...
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Author:  Mihun09 [ July 4th, 2010, 8:39 pm ]
Post subject:  The Aikens Lake half loop...

...or, the Broadleaf the hard way revisited.

Our intention on this trip was to do the Aikens loop starting from the Obukowin Portages but it didn't quite turn out that way. What did happen was we started the Obu portage on Friday the 25th of June but aborted and went the long way around.

We arrived home today after a major battle getting upsteam on the Wanipigow which saw us dump yesterday and lose all our fishing gear but nothing else and we are exceedingly tired and sore.

We did the Aikens portage and waypointed and photographed it somewhat, we also did the Broadleaf Bypass and waypointed and photographed that as well. I would rather do the Obukowin portages than the bypass again.

When I have the energy and the 153 photo's edited I will fill out a complete trip report. The water levels were incredibly high and growing during our trip out and two of the portages north of Leaf Lake are in really bad shape because of it.

In 10 days out we were wet from the thighs down for 8 of them, we endured 4 thunderstorms, one of epic proportions, one full rain day with a handful of hot sunny days thrown in to keep us off guard. The bugs were the worst ever but we did see some decent wildlife including a Caribou on Aikens Lake and a black bear on the way home today along #304.

More to follow...

Author:  mr_canoehead18 [ July 4th, 2010, 10:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

We've had some weather! I was also in a tent for one of those storms, and it was probably the most rainfall I've endured while camping. I look forward to reading the report. Did you get a picture of the caribou?

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 12th, 2010, 7:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

Our trip began in the wee hours of June 25th, on the road by 4:30 am for the 3 1/2 hour drive up to Wallace Lake. The point of going so early was to get a jump on the Obukowin Portages.

On the water at 8:30 and headed up the Wanipigow to Siderock Lake. At the trailhead by 10:30am.

As reported in the Obukowin portage thread, ( viewtopic.php?f=113&t=36193 ), it didn't really work out for us going that way, so we headed back down the river to Wallace Lake and out to a nice spot on Big Island for the night.

That was a long day, about 10km of walking and 20km of paddling and we didn't really get anywhere.

Nice night to leave the fly rolled up halfway as it was quite warm and humid. Little did we know the tent had some bad spots in the mesh and the no-see-ums were out in force. Sometime after midnight and a hundred or so bites later, the fly was rolled down so we could get some sleep. The fireflies were entertaining though while swatting bugs in the moonlight.

Saturday morning dawned beautiful, sunny, and well, hot again.

Off we went down the Wanipigow towards Leaf Lake. The river was running high but not too bad yet. It made for a quick ride downstream. We met up with a group coming out of Leaf, between portages 6 and 7, 4 canoes and a kayak.

As we approached portage 7 a thunderstorm announced itself after sneaking in behind us. We got drenched just past that portage, it rained hard for 10 minutes before moving north although the brunt of the storm went north east away from us.

We made the turn at the Broadleaf Junction and as usual, the portage was partially flooded, so, C decided to wade and pull the boat up a little ways, with me still in it, (yes, dumb, I should have been out) and over a round rock and bang, pop a rib off the bottom under my feet. Heck of a noise it made.

The rest of the paddle to Leaf I had a foot firmly stamped on that rib to keep it flush with the bottom.

It was threatening further rain with alot of thunder as we headed for the shack on Leaf Lake and the skies opened that evening and it rained and rained and rained, all night, all day until finally ending around 5pm Sunday eve.

We had done the initial repair on the boat on Saturday night under a tarp while fighting off mosquito's. Although the conditions weren't really good for it to set properly, it did hold for the entire trip, as did the second repair I did on Sunday night of a split in the side of the boat, likely caused at the same time as the rib on Saturday.

When I had seen the “cabin” in 2008 for the first time I called it an eyesore. Well, this time round it was our shelter for 2 days and although the roof leaks like a sieve, it was way better than being in a tent. We did some cleaning and kept draining the pots and such we were catching the rain in, it was damp but a pleasure to use…

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 12th, 2010, 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

We finally left our stylish cabin in the woods on Monday morning and headed up the Broadleaf once again. Now the water was really getting high and we face a stiff current as we headed northish.

The portages just upstream of Leaf Lake haven't fared well, the first one really being part of the river now. We needed to do some clearing of the first and second to ease passage.
After getting past the 4th, where what we call the Broadleaf Waterfall is, we were surprised to hear running water where there isn't a rapid. It was a brand spanking new beaver dam. We needed to tear out a portion on the right side and wade the boat up past this obstruction.

The higher water was a hindrance for the last few portages before turning east, and with some new deadfall, there isn't much room to move through the lower portions to actually get to the portages themselves.

Something we noticed is the lack of ribbons. It appears someone has been removing all the ribbons we put up last year. A number of the portages were missing them completely and we did look around to see if winter had brought them down, but no sign of that happening. Considering the drops on some of these rapids, not having the portage marked can be dangerous.

We made our little Island on Kosteck in good time to set up camp and make a few casts off the point before the bugs drove us inside. As with sunday night, I caught a couple of nice eating size pickerel but it was too late to clean and cook them. 4 days out and no fresh fish dinner yet.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 18th, 2010, 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

Tuesday morning dawned sunny and calm, no wind for today and thankfully no rain either. We headed for the Aikens portage early and ran into our third encounter of our trip between the lakes. A small canoe with two young fellows headed downstream, Kik and a friend, both guides at Aikens Lake Lodge. This pair knew of us from Pascal, whom we had met on Friday, apparently he had advised the staff to watch out for us, I guess. They said the portage was a nice walk in the woods, they enquired about river conditions and we parted ways.

The portage was just as they had said, a walk in the park, albeit the longest portage I had done yet. Some notes on it can be seen here… ( viewtopic.php?f=113&t=36236 )

Neither campsite at the beginning or end showed signs of use in awhile. The sand beach was wonderful despite it being under water. Once we had all the gear in the boat again, Christy had a lovely swim to cool off as it was a hot, windless day. Aikens was glass calm, quite the sight for a lake so large. It made for an ideal paddle to where I wished to be for our time there, a place known as “The Cookie Jar”. This is one of the Lodges fishing spots they used during a fishing tournament for the “Call of the Tundra” in 2008. It was through that video and website I had found that spot to begin with.

We paddled down into that corner of the lake, near to the entrance to Lost Lake and found the sites Pascal had told us about, one on an island with an old cinder block fire pit, and the other right at the entrance to Lost Lake with a fireplace and picnic table. We chose a nice spot just a few hundred feet away on the mainland. Beautiful little spot with room for more than one tent, tucked out of the way.

It was late afternoon by the time we had camp set up and Christy settled in while I went to try my luck for Aikens Trophy pickerel (Walleye). I was jigging around a shoal and saw a boat approaching from across the lake to the north east. It was so calm it appeared to be floating above the water.

The boat stopped a short distance away and they greeted me and I paddled over to chat. It was Gerry and Pat from the Lodge. I had read about them on the Lodge website and it was cool to meet them.
We slowly drifted into sight of our camp and that was when they pointed out that bears had been seen frequenting that specific area. They offered to help us relocate since there was no way I was staying put under the circumstances but before they returned we had packed up and found a nice little island that would suit us, although not near as nice as our first spot.

I have include a little map showing where the bears are at for reference since that particular part of the lake sees a great deal of canoe traffic.
As much as I loved being on Aikens Lake finally, I was put off by the bleach bottles marking the shoals and the old, now unused fire pits and the picnic table, in this Wilderness Park. I know the Lodge has been there since 1947, but it wouldn’t hurt too much to remove the old cinder block fire pits and the picnic table to enhance the wilderness experience for everyone. The shoals could be marked into the GPS units on the Lodge boats so the bleach bottles could be removed. I would think the guides know the lake like the back of their hands and newer guides could just learn where not to go, and for guests, have them marked on a paper map as areas to avoid.

That evening we fished the Cookie Jar and caught a few nice pike in the 5-6 pound range and a half dozen pickerel as well, in about an hour. The sun had long set before we returned to camp and it was about then the wind started to pick up.

The morning brought grey skies and a strong east wind that was throwing 2 foot waves onto the front side of our little Island. Luckily we had set up on the west side and for the most part we were wind free and bug free, but there was no way we would be exploring the main lake with the wind blowing like it was.

We did manage to scoot around the back of an adjacent island and into Lost Lake to fish for awhile, but the wind was bad in there as well, so we fought our way back to camp and sat wind bound the rest of the day. Everyone talks about making allowances for being wind bound on Aikens, but I never thought it would happen with an east wind.

We made the best of the day with Christy boiling up water and just relaxing and I fixed the “now spare” paddle we broke on a portage and I tried my luck fishing the windy side of the campsite by casting a jig out and swimming it back into the rock face. This is an ideal place to fish on a windy day since the wind blows in the food, the small fish move in to feed and then the larger fish to feed on the little fish. I caught a couple of 20” pickerel and they went back since they are within the slot and must be released, I also caught some smaller pickerel for our first fish fry and some smaller pike as well.

The wind blew all day and into the evening with whitecaps passing by our little island and down into the Cookie Jar. In the evening a couple of red royalex canoes came through our passage and took refuge on an island a few hundred yards away. The 4 fellows in that group put the boats up on their sides and from what we could tell, didn’t have any tents. Hopefully the bugs weren’t too bad for them.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 18th, 2010, 6:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

more pics...

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 18th, 2010, 6:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

fixing a carbon fibre paddle...

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 25th, 2010, 7:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

The wind blew all night long and well into the morning still from the east. It wasn’t looking too good for getting or our rock and we decided the first chance we got we would head back to the portage at the least, giving up our third day on Aikens just to be sure we could get off the lake. During the wait another pair of boats went by our site on their way to the Gammon exit. At this point, we had seen 5 groups of paddlers in 7 days.

Mid morning the wind started to settle and shift more to the south. We packed up everything excepting the tent and waited. At noon it had dropped enough for us to move out. We went west first to skirt around an island to get us better positioned and in doing so, spooked the caribou on the shore. Christy saw it fully, I had to wait until I was in line with the trail it was crashing up onto the island and only saw it’s butt as it ran away. After returning home I was in contact with Pit Turenne at the lodge and apparently that island is where most caribou sightings happen.

It was a fairly easy paddle back to the portage and then off down the trail we went again, this time packed for just two carries and Christy taking the boat all the way herself. Sure is nice that she is capable of carrying that 72 pound boat. At almost the halfway point we ran into a group of girls heading towards Aikens with large packs. We chatted briefly then kept on our way south. They were doing full carries of all the gear the whole portage as there were only the 3 boats back at the south end when we got there.

As we were about to paddle off, the group of young ladies turned up to cart away the 3 Bell Alaskans. They were a group from Minnesota on a 22 day trip that would include the Gammon, Bloodvein and Pigeon Rivers before getting out to the Lake proper. Two trip leaders and 7 girls. Quite the adventure, especially with the higher water levels. The two other red boats we had seen the night before were the male portion of their excursion. To us the girls looked like they had never been in the wilderness before but we did envy them for the trip they were taking. We wished them the best and headed south again, heading downstream finally.

We passed through Kosteck and noted the water had dropped a few inches as I had placed a rock at the water’s edge on Tuesday before leaving the island so I could see any change in water level. We stopped for the night on the un-named lake where the Broadleaf by-pass begins and set up camp on the nice rock point with lake on 3 sides. In that location it was mostly bug free as it was well away from the bush.

The evening found Christy checking the portage while I fished a little and I pointed out thunderheads to the east as we packed up for the night. I was awoken just after midnight by lightning flashing in the distance to the south, it was almost non-stop light and thunder. It was definitely coming our way.
At 1:10am the front edge of the storm arrived. Now it was an endless light show and constant thunder, with biblical rain. It stayed like that for over an hour before it seemed to calm itself a little bit. We both were nodding off at this point but the best was yet to come as the next wave blew in. High winds trying to push us off our rocky perch, another deluge and again, lightning and thunder without gaps.

The entire storm system lasted until 3:30am, 2 hours and 20 minutes of incessant rain and Momma Nature reminding us who rules in the wilderness. We are really, just specks in the wilds and at any time could have been swept off our rock into the lake or fried by lightning where we sat.

Morning came far too early and the coffee just wasn’t strong enough to clear the bleary eyes. There was 2 ½” of rain water in my coffee cup that had fallen overnight, so we knew the river would be roaring once again. It was indeed a beautiful day of mile high blue sky with the passing of the cold front.

We set off onto the portage and made good time to the lake in the middle. Slogging through the wetland area wasn’t much fun as it was almost knee deep and deeper if we stepped off the matted grass but nothing much different than we had encountered to that point.


We were somewhat disappointed to find the takeout down the lake to be on the same side and it being what seemed to be vertical. We could then understand how much fun Hugh would have had while it was raining, ascending that rock face. All the gear was hauled up to the top before I headed off down the trail with the first load. It was much easier now as we had left a cache on Leaf Lake that included the food barrel on the Monday, so we had less gear and weight to carry. At the point I put down the first load we would later find out was just a couple hundred feet shy of the river. There was a lot of cursing as we moved the boat and gear down this trail with water running off the high ground under foot and most of the trail off camber moss covered rock.

On my second carry to the spot I dropped the first load I found a better trail that led to the otter slide to the river itself. When fetching the first load I removed the cairns and ribbons of the more difficult porting so all following can take the easier trail. The trail itself was fairly easy to follow, I’m sure Hugh did some pruning on his way through a couple weeks earlier and we added tags so there was always one within eyesight.

It comes out just upstream of the second portage north of Leaf Lake. So right away we were portaging again and the water being so much higher was eating the trails since they are right at the water’s edge. The last portage before Leaf Lake was actually part of the river and areas of solid ground had washed out in the past few days. Under those high water conditions it was easy to just step into waist deep water where the trail should have been.
Back on Leaf Lake we set up on the little island where our cache was, the same one we used on our first trip there in 2008. We even managed to get some fishing in before the bugs got too bad.

Saturday morning began with, well, another thunderstorm with high winds and of course, another deluge. It did blow through and we packed and moved on once again. Although we still had 3 days of the trip left, at this point we actually just wanted off the rivers and back onto Wallace Lake.

The amount of water going through the rapid at the Broadleaf Junction was phenomenal. For a very short time Christy was considering just heading down the Wanipigow to Birch Falls and we would find a way to Wallace Lake until I pointed out that all that water in the Broadleaf was now joined by the Wanipigow and would be double the flow and not something we wanted to deal with trying to unload the boat at portages next to the tops of the falls and rapids. It wasn’t worth the risk.

Paddling upstream wasn’t a lot of fun either, but safer for sure. We know that river really well and of course, complacency was our undoing. The entrance to the bottom of the 6th portage on the Wanipigow is difficult at the best of times but in the process of trying to sneak up the right side to slip in between the two rock outcrops, the current turned us sideways and in a split second we were swimming. That took me totally by surprise but we were both hanging onto the boat which was entirely upside down and floating at the level of the gunwales. We just floated a little before swimming the boat over to the side where we could stand up, roll the boat over and bail it with what we had on hand, a coffee mug and Christy’s hat.

Luckily my waist pack was fastened around the rear thwart as it had all of my ID, bank card, credit card and the keys and all in it and thankfully I had packed the camera in the dry bag that morning. The only thing we lost was the 4 fishing rods and 3 reels which were bundled together behind me and must have sunk like a stone. It will be about $400 to replace it all, if we do, although we may be able to get them back at some point.

Once aboard again we paddled back to the far side and went up and over the rock outcrop into the little pool beside the river. It wasn’t much fun and wasn’t easy at all, but there wasn’t much choice at all. We are thinking of going back this fall and cutting the portage around the pool entirely to come out past the two rocks for easier passage.

Anyway, we did that portage and 2 more before calling it a day in the middle of the 3rd, needing time to dry out the stove and our gear and my having to remove a dozen leeches from my right ankle.

That was a fitful night at best and we awoke to grey skies and a short rain shower. The stove wouldn’t light at this point and we were short on drinkable water and just wanted out of there and back to the truck. We just packed up everything and carried on out of there, making it past the last upstream portage in about an hour. The night before we had pondered carrying on to that portage as there is a little campsite right on the lake side of it, but it was good we didn’t as it was mostly underwater when we arrived on Sunday morning.

Although off the river itself, we were still paddling against a strong current and it was a struggle. We were tired, sore, dehydrated and just plain not wishing to be out there anymore. As the river became more lake, there was an eagle sitting on a dead tree on a little rock island in the middle and he stayed there as we approached and passed within 100 feet, never leaving, as if he were the sentinel of the river. It was wonderful to be that close to such a majestic bird. Perhaps he was looking at us like we would be his meal shortly.

Luckily it was calm, virtually no wind as we made our way down the lake and back to civilization once again. Stopped in Bisset for ice cold Pepsi and Old Dutch chips before hitting the road south, only to run into thunderstorms once again in Winnipeg. Neither of us went into work on Monday although we could have since we were out a day early, but sleeping in a getting civilized again was more important.

All in all it was a good trip with new experiences, like dumping, and once again we achieved our goal of Aikens Lake albeit not the original plan. I now want to really do the Obukowin Portages at some point, but Christy is thinking fly in outpost fishing trip next year.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been in contact with Pit Turenne, the general manager at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge and there could be a way to enjoy the lodge during a canoe trip. Paddle in, partake of the amenities of the lodge for a few days and paddle out, thus avoiding the cost of the fly in portion. The lake is really too big to effectively fish from a canoe but I really, really want to fish that lake properly. All the staff we encountered during our trip were wonderful in their dealings with us and I applaud them for it.

There is a lot of canoe traffic on Aikens and for the first time, we saw others on the Broadleaf and Wanipigow as well. 10 days and 7 times seeing others out and about. Perhaps Atikaki is finally becoming popular.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 25th, 2010, 7:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Aikens Lake half loop...

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