Part 1 of this trip can be found here. This is the continuation of that post starting from the afternoon of Day 3 at my site on Big Thunder Lake. I had just arrived, set up my small footprint tarp and was sitting under it enjoying some lunch……
While eating my lunch on day 3 on Big Thunder Lake, I realized I would have to move the small footprint tarp I was using and change it’s direction. I was not getting rained on and sitting on a big comfy bench, but I was too far from the fire. I was wet from paddling all day in the rain and getting cold. The fire was getting drowned out by the rain over and over and it was getting more and more difficult to keep it burning. Step one was to fix the fire.
I always keep a few sheets of foil in my kitchen kit. You never know when foil will come in handy, it takes up no space and there is nothing like it when you need something foil like. A trick I’ve used in the past was needed to keep this fire from getting doused by the rain. I grabbed the small grill that I always stick in the back of my pack and covered it with a big sheet of foil. Then I stacked some rocks on either side of the fire, and then put 2 soaking wet sticks across the rocks. I then put some wet logs in between to make a space and then put the foil covered grill on top of all of that. Fire needs air, so that is part of the purpose for the rocks and wet sticks and logs to raise the grill up. The other point was to make a small drying rack above the current fire with the soaking wet logs. I used soaking wet logs to keep them from starting on fire. I placed small pieces of wood in the rack to dry above the fire, then when they were sufficiently dried out, they would get dropped into the fire below and new very wet sticks would take their place in the drying rack. This worked like a charm and kept the fire going nicely.
Now to fix the tarp situation. I needed to sit directly beside the fire and if I did that with the tarp as it was, I would get wet from the rain currently falling. This would not do, so I turned the tarp in the other direction so that it came right out to the firepit and covered just a bit of the front of it. I moved a nearby log and placed it in front of the firepit and placed a garbage bag on it as it was soaking wet. Once all in place, I could easily sit on the log right in front of the fire and get my pants I had on and my jacket, my hair etc, to dry from the heat of the fire, without getting wet from the rain that was currently falling. I also had room beside the fire to put my hiking boots, now not getting hit with rain and as they were under the tarp, they were able to finally dry properly.
I also hung a small clothesline under the footprint tarp so that the shirts I’d been wearing, which had gotten soaked through my rain coat, could also dry. Now I was starting to feel better! Earlier, I was starting to get a bit scared and anxious due to all the wet clothing. Knowing it was supposed to rain again all day tomorrow, I needed my rain coat and rain pants especially dry for the next day and this way, they would be. It took a very long time, but eventually myself and all my stuff was dry!
Being warm and dry finally lifted my spirits and made me so happy. I had problems and I found solutions and all was good with the world again. It was around that time that the sky cleared up and the sun decided to show itself and I, in turn, was beaming just as brightly.
I decided to get dinner going. Today was a bit of a combo meal using dehydrated freeze dried chicken with some of my own items. I had dehydrated asparagus and mushrooms, basmati rice and a concoction I created with soya sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. I rehydrated the chicken, asparagus and mushrooms and drained the water. Then I heated up the pan with some oil and had a bit of a boo boo that normally would not have occurred if I’d not been working with dehydrated items. As I am backcountry camping, however, and rehydrated things using water, when I went to pour the chicken and veggies into the pan, there was a bit of water in there still and POOFFFFF!!!!
A big ball of fire shot up and totally freaked me out. I threw the pan into the fire pit and sat for a minute assessing the damage. Aside from a few tiny burn marks on my hand, there was nothing. Amazing!! That could’ve turned out really badly! I was filming the creation of my dinner and caught the incident on film. The above is a screenshot from the video and looks absolutely crazy. I can assure you it was just a quick flash and no one or nothing was harmed in the incident, except my nerves, which were shot for a good hour afterwards. LOL
Once I’d calmed down and regained my composure, I continued cooking the dinner and it didn’t take very long. It was pretty tasty and I sat enjoying the sun, which was now out, and ate, so happy that what just happened didn’t turn out to be so much worse.
After dinner I cleaned up and then headed out for a sunset paddle to get some photos. It was nice to be out on the water again without rain pelting me. I contemplated doing some fishing, but then decided against it as the fog started to roll in and all I wanted to do was sit still by the warm fire and rest. I did just that and around 10, I headed to bed, ready for the next days challenges.
I woke up on Day 4 to some light rain and a lot of wind. Like a lot. Arg. I packed up my stuff in between the rain drops and boiled some water for another package of scrambled eggs and bacon. I brought a wrap and some dehydrated salsa for it, but ended up just eating it out of the package again plain. I wasn’t up for extra work on this trip and the food was great as it was. I worried about the wind, and contemplated waiting a bit to leave, thinking of what I should do? Finally, I just decided I would go and whatever happened, I would deal with it as it came. I had a small paddle to the portage and then an easy 190 metre portage. Then I would paddle on Mink Creek. Hopefully, Mink Creek would not be that horrible in these winds, but we would see?
Of all the plans and scenarios I thought up in my head of what would come next, what actually happened, wasn’t any of those thoughts. I went through the 190 metre portage quite quickly, until I arrived at the last 20-30 feet. It was all mud and I honestly had no problem schlepping through mud and getting dirty because I could just rinse my feet off when I got to the water. I did not anticipate, however, that the mud would be very deep and act just like quicksand. With every step, I sunk deeper and deeper and it became harder to walk. In a few places, I actually got my foot stuck and almost fell flat on my face and in one spot, I got stuck so badly, I had an incredibly difficult time pulling my foot from the mud that seemed to be trying to pull my foot, my leg and the rest of me down below the surface. I pulled and pulled and finally emerged with just my foot! No shoe! Oh dear! I laughed but was actually quite panicked as I reached deep into the mud anxious to feel my shoe. I didn’t feel it right away, but eventually found it, and pulled it out. WOW!
This was definitely the longest smallest portage so far this trip. I stood at the shore for quite some time contemplating how on earth I would get the canoe through this without falling flat on my face. I was actually a bit scared to walk through the mud just to go and get the canoe and procrastinated quite a bit before finally attempting it. On my way out, I looked for the best route possible, I walked on the edge of the bushes, then in a bit of deep muck and made it to some logs people had placed there. I moved them together so that I would be able to use them as a bit of a bridge and hoped I wouldn’t loose my balance. Then I went and got the canoe and carefully made my way through to the shore. It took a bit of time, but I made it without falling, although I had a few close calls. The funniest part about the entire experience was that there was not even a slight breeze on Mink Creek. I was amazed at this as there were massive gusts just 190 metres away on the lake I’d just left. So strange, but I was very happy.
I rinsed off my feet as best I could and then climbed into the canoe saying goodbye to this awful portage and hello to beautiful Mink Creek. It started to rain again and I paddled along happily without the slightest breeze towards my next portage, which only took me 15 minutes to get to. I was glad to arrive as it was now raining harder and it would be nice to get out of the rain and walk through the forest for a bit.
The portage from Mink Creek to Mouse Lake was the biggest one of my trip and I had been thinking about it since yesterday. It was 1705 metres and I was anxious to complete it and put it behind me.
I spent some extra time retying the yoke with another piece of rope I had in my pack. On the last portage the yoke had moved and I didn’t want any issues on this one. I used 2 separate pieces of rope tying each one in a different direction and this seemed to finally fix the sliding yoke issue. Thank goodness. I took care to tie the paddles onto the yoke and place everything correctly so that this would be as easy as possible and it all seemed to pay off. I finally found the sweet spot!!!!
I walked for 15 minutes straight and felt amazing until I slipped and fell in the mud. The rain was coming down hard now and making much of my portage into a small stream and the mud was very slippery. I wasn’t hurt that I could tell, so I took about 3 minutes to reset the paddles and my pillow and then picked the canoe back up and continued on. I made it the entire way without stopping aside from that fall, carrying the canoe 40 minutes straight!!! WOOHOO!!!!! I was so so so happy with myself and wanted to do a little dance if not for the issue looming over my head at the moment. While carrying the canoe over the portage, it had started to thunder A LOT! I headed back on my walk to get my pack and hoped by the time I returned with it, the thunder would be done with.
But sadly, it was not. Every time I heard thunder, I noted the time in my phone so I could keep track. I would start getting excited after ten or fifteen minutes, only to have another loud rumble roll through. It thundered on and off the entire time I went to get the pack and the return carrying it to the mouse lake part of the portage. Now I was stuck, soaking wet and getting poured on and I was starting to get cold and frustrated. I decided I would kill some time by having lunch while waiting out the thunder, but I certainly didn’t want to sit in the pouring rain. I looked around for some possible shelter options and when I found little, I decided to make my own.
I found some branches and laid them across some others on a few trees and made a canoe stand. Then I picked up the canoe and put it over the branch so it was leaning against it, making a great shelter for me to sit under. I found a log nearby and moved it under the canoe, put my soaking wet but still somewhat comfy pfd on the log and VOILA! I had a shelter. It might seem funny, but the 30 minutes I sat under the canoe avoiding being pelted in the head continuously by rain, lifted my spirits so much.
I took out my wrap and ate and totally and completely enjoyed sitting there protected for a short time from the angry skies. It was heaven and I even think my clothes dried a tiny bit in the process, but more importantly, it refreshed my soul and infused me with a better outlook on the day. After 40 minutes, of not hearing any thunder, and me starting to now get cold from not moving, it was time for me to take my chance and cross Mouse Lake.
I loaded the canoe quickly and paddled on my way to where I thought I would find the portage. As I began paddling, the skies opened up once again and drenched me to the bone, but I just paddled as hard as the rain fell hurrying to get across. Just before arriving at the portage, I heard more thunder but it was too late now, I was already here and grateful I hadn’t seen or been struck by any lightening! As it poured the entire time I paddled across Mouse Lake and I was in such a rush, I didn’t stop to take any photos and this portion of the trip only has a few based on those reasons.
The portage to Club Lake from Mouse was 610 metres, signed 775, but as I’ve been using all the measurements from Jeffs Maps, I will use 610 in my final stats. The portage was pretty good overall and didn’t have any steep inclines or declines and I was happy with it, until I got to the end. The end of the portage was a bit of a waterfall with lots of rocks to climb over and the entrance into Club was very shallow and rocky.
Just as I loaded my backpack into the canoe, another crackle of thunder resonated across the sky. I was so done with it. According to the map, there was a campsite a short distance from the portage and I was willing to take a risk and get to it now. I walked the canoe through the shallow rocky water until it was deep enough to float freely and then got in and paddled through the maze before me. As I got through the narrow waterway and into more open water, I noticed the section I needed to paddle through was all lily pads. I continued on the water trail as best I could as I’ve tried to short cut through areas like this in the past and have always gotten stuck. I didn’t have time for that right now so I was careful to paddle where there was water and get through it quickly. It was then I saw the site, two of them actually. One just to my left and one a bit of a ways down the lake and on the right. For some reason, I thought I should make a break for the site on the right that as further up, no idea why, but just assumed it’d be nicer. As I turned the boat to do so as a huge rumble of thunder was heard and then I saw it finally, a flash of lightening. That was enough for me to change my tune and aim for the site that was closest to me. I paddled as hard as I could saying loudly over and over again “please don’t strike me lightening, please don’t strike me, please please please”.
I MADE IT! I was so grateful and thankful that I got to the site after such a very long day and so many obstacles in front of me! I was soaking wet and tired but I was so happy!
The site I landed on was actually quite perfect for the situation. It was sheltered and had a lot of trees on it and it definitely helped with the weather at hand. I set up the footprint tarp first and did a similar set up as I had done on Big Thunder, placing the tarp over the fire and putting a log nearby to sit close to the fire. I was in much worse condition than the day before. I was soaking wet and everything on site was also. I did my best to locate some dry wood and eventually got a fire going but it wasn’t easy.
Once the rain let up a bit I put my tent up and then sat back down by the fire to try and dry out. It was much harder than it was yesterday as I was much more wet but I did what I could. I went to place my hiking boots beside the fire and got really upset. As I have my hiking boots hanging from my pack with carabiners, they got really wet in the rain yesterday, so today, I put them in big ziplock bags to help keep them dry. I couldn’t completely close them because the loops that held them onto the bag had to stick out. They should be in much better condition than yesterday, but they were not. I actually poured about a half a cup of water from each boot. OH DEAR. I put them by the fire to dry but was pretty sure that would be a lost battle.
The fire was warm and my clothes were getting drier. I was finally starting to warm up and then the rain stopped. The smoke was a bit trapped in the footprint tarp so I raised the strings to let it out. As the rain had stopped, the shelter didn’t need to be so low to the ground. I sat back down and decided I would boil water for my dinner tonight, beef stroganoff. Maybe I would get to try that dark chocolate pie tonight as I would have dinner a bit earlier than the time I had been eating every night. I was hungry and once I finished cooking and eating, I would change into my dry clothes finally. I was worried if I’d changed into them and the rain started again, I would get them wet and then have no dry clothes so I stayed in the wet clothes in hopes of drying them while still on me, which worked great yesterday.
Just as the water for my freeze dried dinner started to boil, the sky opened up again and the rain came down in buckets. I LOST IT! I was just about dry and as I’d raised the tarp due to the rain stopping, I was now getting totally soaked again instantly. I didn’t actually cry but instead got very very angry. I started yelling at the sky, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST STOP AND LET ME DRY OFF?” ” I JUST NEEDED A FEW HOURS! YOU ARE KILLING ME! I HATE YOU! ” etc etc, you get the idea. I was done! I poured the boiling water into the bag of beef stoganoff, put the stove away in its bag and closed up the ursack (food bag). I sealed the beef stroganoff, grabbed a fork and took it and my food bag and anything else I could grab and literally ran to my tent and got inside. I WAS SO MAD! I had placed my kitchen towel on the floor after setting up the tent for the time I would attempt entering it finally and sat on it.
I stripped all of my clothes off, dried myself as best as I could with the wee towel and put on my dry warm clothes. CLOTHES NEVER FELT SO GOOD. Then I got into my sleeping bag, grabbed my bag of beef stroganoff and sat in my tent, in my bed, and ate it. ” You want me bears! Come and get me! I don’t even care anymore!!!” is exactly what I said. I had never consumed food in my tent but I did not care in this case and I sat there eating happily, warm and cozy until every single bit was gone. I even drank the sauce out of the bag. It was delicious! I put the empty bag into my ursack which was outside the tent in the covered vestibule and closed up the food bag.
I turned up my ipod and listened to an episode of Paddling Adventures Radio trying to drown out (no pun intended) the sound of the rain which was literally making me crazy, while I hung up as much of my wet apparel as possible. Then I laid down and relaxed feeling dry and warm for the first time in over 10 hours. I was truly grateful to be out of the pouring rain and inside my dry tent. I dosed off for a bit until I heard the rain finally slow down to almost a stop.
It was almost 8:30 and not quite pitch black out so I quickly went out to hang my food bag. While I was out of the tent, I went down to the shore to fill up my nalgene bottle with water. I had been using the Xstream Straw during the day to drink water straight from the lakes, but at camp I’d been using a combination of the hand pump, when it wasn’t raining, or my Purinize drops. This was definitely a Purinize drop moment! Minutes later, I was back in my sleeping bag and off to sleep, very ready to end this difficult day and begin a new one tomorrow!
I woke up Tuesday, to another gloomy morning. At least it wasn’t raining, for now. I ran a clothes line and hung up everything that was wet, which was pretty much everything I had on last night when the rain decided to start again suddenly. I packed up my tent and as much as I was able to and then boiled some water for my mornings breakfast, oatmeal with dehydrated strawberries.
I packed the rest of my stuff up while I ate and around 8:15 am I left my site on Club Lake to make my way towards Kiosk Lake.
Despite the gloomy weather, the scenery was still quite beautiful and I enjoyed my paddle towards the portage. I was surprised at how much of Club Lake was covered in lilypads and I had to paddle extra hard to get through them, but made it in no time at all.
My first portage of the day was 1165 metres and was really nice. It was mostly flat and as I walked it back and forth the sun peeked out a few times giving me hope.
It was a great portage with lots of pretty scenery and I enjoyed walking along in the sometimes sunshine I was offered.
I was happy to make it to the end though and hit the water. I would have to paddle Mink Lake today which was my 2nd biggest paddle next to Erables. It was a long skinny lake and I would need to go from one end to the other and paddle about 6 km’s.
I had anticipated this paddle would take me about 2 hours, and was elated when I arrived at my portage in just over an hour.
I completed the 410 metre portage with a struggle. For old times sake, I gave the single carry a go, but aborted that mission about half way through. At least I kept trying and even though I kept failing, I still felt good for the effort. LOL
The portage from Mink Lake took me to Little Mink Lake and it was a tiny lake that was very pretty. There was no wind and little current and I just floated along the lake towards the portage and ate my lunch. Lunch today was supposed to be turkey kielbasa with cheese, but I gave away my kielbasa at Kiosk campground deciding it was too heavy to bring, so I had the cheese with some turkey pepperettes I’d brought as a snack. With little effort, I soon arrived at my very last portage, 14 of 14!!! I can’t even describe the feeling!
This portage was from Little Mink Lake to Kiosk and was 635 metres. There was a steep incline at the start and the rest of the portage was wet (as most of them had been) but mostly flat and lovely to walk on. I double carried my stuff over, starting with the canoe first and then the pack.
When I got to the other side with my pack, I started literally jumping for joy! The trip wasn’t completely over, but the portaging portion was, and I was so happy and proud of myself for what I’d accomplished. I had originally wanted to repeat my first Algonquin trip but do it solo and after some thought had decided it would be too hard and here I had just about completed a trip that I believe was much harder than that trip and I did it all by msyelf.
I filmed a video and literally started to cry because I was so full of emotion. I had not expected that reaction at all. Way to go me! YAY! LOL.
After the waterworks, I put my pack in the canoe and slowly made my way back to the take out on Kiosk Lake. I took my time and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and the beautiful scenery wondering why I couldn’t have gotten more days like today and less of the rainy crappy weather I’d received.
About halfway through my paddle back to the take out, I looked down for some reason or another. That is when I saw the most disgusting thing ! A huge leech was on my foot in between the straps of my Keen Sandal and it was sitting there affixed to my foot. Oh My GOODNESS!!! I quickly reached down on instinct to remove it, but then remembered that I’m a blogger and would want to look back on this moment, no matter how disgusting, so I took a video and a few photos. I went to remove it and it didn’t want to budge. I didn’t have salt, but I had fire, so I grabbed the lighter I always keep tucked in my sports bra and burned it a little and then it came off. How truly gross!
I took off my sandal and discovered about 5 or 6 wee little ones in my baby toes. BARF!!!! Some were full of blood and it looked like I was taking chunks of flesh off myself instead of leeches. EWWWWW! I got them all off from what I could tell. I checked the other foot but saw nothing. I guess this was the lucky one.
After I calmed down and assured myself I’d gotten them all, I continued my paddle back to shore, making jokes to myself about how you don’t need to worry about bears in Algonquin, it’s the leeches that will get you! LOL. After a short paddle I arrived at the launch and was finally able to clean the blood from my foot. It was quite a mess and had been bleeding the entire time I paddled back. Those leeches sure do mean business!
Once I cleaned my foot off, I found a few more baby leeches in my sandals. I walked to my car and put my flip flops on. No more Keens today, sorry. I put my pack in my car, put the canoe up top and went to change into some fresh clothes for my drive home. I WAS BEAMING and rightly so! I did it. I did a big huge portage trip and completed it and I did it solo. I was so happy with myself and I couldn’t wait to do it again!!! Wait.. what??? LOL. That’s for another post!
Here are the stats for this trip that I’ve figured out to the best of my ability. I hope there are no errors. Portages were calculated using Jeffs Maps, which I believe is the most up to date figures.
As much as I want to say I did this trip solo, I did have help. I had the use of the most amazing canoe ever from Jon at Backcountry Custom Canoes and without it, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to complete, or even would have attempted this journey. I will be forever grateful to you Jon for this amazing gift you’ve given me and I can not wait to paddle my very own Camper Christina Backcountry Custom Canoe next year! You are awesome, your canoes are incredible and I am so grateful for the time I had playing in the solo boat you made for yourself that you gave up to let me use this season for my adventures. Thank you so much!
I will be tackling one more big adventure using this canoe and still have lots more paddling trips planned before the ice is in, so stay tuned. The videos for this post will be up on Thursday and Friday of this week. I hope you head over to my youtube channel to take a peek!
As a special thank you for checking out my blog post, here is the link to video number three of four on this trip. Hope you like it!