Temagami – Alone on a 4 Day Canoe Trip – Part 2- Spirt Rock & Plenty of Portaging

For many many years now, I have wanted to visit Temagami.  With help from some friends, including the Friends of Temagami, I finally was able to make that wish a reality.

To see Part 1, click here.

This post begins with me on my campsite on Bob Lake in Temagami.  With a late start to the trip Thursday, due to a highway closure, I had a very long day Friday and ended up not making it to my desired destination for Nite 2, Spirit Rock.  In lieu, I devised a plan to do a day trip into Spirit Rock Saturday morning, before continuing on with my pre planned loop. This could make Saturday a very very long day. Would it be worth it?   

The story continues from here:

I got up to my alarm at 5:45 Saturday morning and began packing up once I used the privy.  The plan was to pack up as much as I could and leave it all packed in the tent. I would leave the tent up so my belongings would be sheltered, the food bag would stay hanging from the tree and I would head to Spirit Rock with only the canoe and an emergency bag.

Then I would return afterwards, I anticipated it would take about 3 hours or so, and then pack up the tent and my gear and continue on with my loop.  I wanted to make it to Thunderhead, but I had no obligation to and if I only made it to James or Virginia, that would be fine also.  No pressure.  I would just do what I could.

It was still very dark out, but I knew that light would come around 6:30 and I wanted to be ready as soon as I could be to begin my long day of travelling.

I got the food bag down and made breakfast in the dark. Today’s breakfast was actually yesterdays breakfast, but for some reason yesterday I had gotten up and automatically boiled water for oatmeal. LOL.  Today I was having an egg sandwich with 2 yr old cheddar and proscuitto on it.  It was delicious!

I cleaned up, put the food bag back in the tree and got the bag I’d packed for myself for this morning and got myself ready to head out.  By 7am, I was on the water heading towards the portage into Mud Lake.

I had not even realized that right around the corner from my site there were huge rocks.  They were beautiful and I could already begin to feel the power of the rock, even here.

I also noticed last night on my map that I was already in Spirit Forest and hadn’t even known it.  Spirit forest contains the longest stand of red and white pine in the world and I felt humbled to be here.

After only 15 minutes of paddling, I located the portage from Bob Lake into Mud Lake. I was excited to single carry, even if I didn’t have any gear to carry with the canoe.

The 300m portage from Bob into Mud was fairly even and flat and just a bit overgrown.  It wasn’t too difficult until I got to the end and had to balance myself with the canoe on my head on some logs to get out to the water.  I managed to do so while recording a video, so I guess it wasn’t too hard, just a bit daunting.

Mud Lake is not very big and I paddled through it fairly quickly.  It took me only 10 minutes and that was taking quite a few pictures and videos on the way.  I arrived at the 900m portage into Spirit Lake full of excitement and anticipation and was eager to get to the other side.

This would not be a quick process.  The portage from Mud to Spirit is fairly challenging.  The first section is all mud and boggy.  It’s the type of stuff that you step on and your feet just go down, down and down and if you don’t move quick enough, you will be knee deep in mud in no time.

Once I got through the initial mud at the entry, I was presented with big boulders and rocks that I had to climb over.

Since I had a canoe on my shoulders, this was not an easy feat at all and I struggled quite a bit getting through this area.

The rest of the portage was fairly challenging.  There were many areas that were swampy and muddy with logs to walk on. Some logs would move, some were skinny and hard to walk on and some worked great, so I had to take my time and test every step.

There were a few areas with roots and branches to walk through and some areas that were very narrow and the canoe would rub or knock against the trees and bushes on the way.

It was definitely one of the most challenging portages I’ve done and I was so glad I didn’t make the trip last night with my pack.  I had already been so tired at that point and not feeling well and I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone very well.

Even this morning with fresh legs it was a struggle for me and I was so glad I’d waited to do this visit today, pack-less and with new energy.

Even so, it took me almost 30 minutes to complete the 900m portage and I was so excited when I arrived at the other side!

I slowly made my way over to the base of the rock, staring up in awe of it as I paddled.  I immediately felt small and overpowered by the enormous structure and also very humbled.

Once I arrived at the base of the rock, I took out my tobacco offering and found a spot to put it.  I said words of gratitude and talked to the rock, thanking it for safe passage, for it’s beauty and for allowing me to experience it’s power and magic and a few other things I’ll keep private.  Then, for reasons unknown to me, I became extremely emotional, even shedding a tear and getting choked up when I spoke. I have no idea why, it was just a rock. or was it?

When I got home and was looking through my photos, I realized there were faces in the rock.  Many of them and lots of diffrerent kinds and I thought that was pretty cool.

 

Spirit Rock is a place of magical powers and healing and many people come here to perform healing rituals and other ceremonies.  I found several places where petroforms had been created and I wished I was able to look into the past and see who had created them and for what reason, but not knowing, I suppose was part of the mystery of it all.

I also found an abundance of mushrooms in the area and found this interesting.  I wasn’t sure if it was the lack of them being picked, or something in this area that allowed lots of different varieties to grow?

I spent almost an hour at Spirit Rock, just feeling, looking and being in the moment.  Then I knew it was time that I head back to my site as I still had a long day ahead. I was so glad that I had come and I am very grateful for Tierney’s insistence for me to do so.  She was totally right and I am extremely happy I made the time and effort to visit this magical place.

I shot a quick video and said goodbye to the rock and thanked it once again. Then I headed back down the portage I’d just come from an hour earlier, hoping it wouldn’t be as difficult on the way back, and somehow it wasn’t. LOL

I managed to find a way out that wasn’t quite as muddy as the initial way I’d come in and it seemed much easier.  Maybe it was the power of the rock, maybe it was just me feeling refreshed, I’m not really sure, but I was very happy to be back on Mud Lake and most of the way back to my site.

When I arrived back at the portage from Mud into Bob, it didn’t seem nearly as difficult walking on the logs in comparison to the 900m portage I’d just done and soon I was back on Bob Lake and heading to my site. It was only 10am and I had already portaged 2400m.

Once I landed back on my site, I realized I was starving.  The egg sandwich I had was long gone and I had exerted a lot of energy and needed to refuel. Since I was already on site, I figured I might as well make one of my emergency packs of oatmeal and quickly prepared and ate it so I could continue on my way.

By 10:30 I was back on the water and on my way to the portage from Bob into Log, just a 100m one which was extremely simple, even including emergency bathroom break 1 of the day.  Sigh.  Hopefully, that wouldn’t continue.

Log was a small quaint lake and I made it through very quickly.  I had a bit of trouble finding the portage from Log into Stiles, but eventually figured out where it was.

Then I had the challenge of figuring out how to get up onto it. That took a bit of work and some squishy sinking mud feet, but eventually I made it up and on.

The portage from Log to Stiles was 500m. The portage was very overgrown and it looked as if no one had used it in quite some time. There was a bit branch, I guess I should say a tree that was about 3′ high over the portage.  With my pack I had to crawl on the ground to get under it, but on my way back to get the canoe, I managed to move it back to it’s own side of the portage and hook it into some other trees to keep it from fwanging out at me.

Stiles is about a km and half long and very pretty.  The paddle through was very quiet and it didn’t take me long to paddle the distance from one end to the other and to the next portage.  The portage entrance from Stiles into James was very shallow and again, mucky.  I used my paddles (unattached and separated)  to push myself as close to land as possible.

Thank I walked up to the front of the canoe, over my pack and onto a log that blocked me from getting any closer.  I then removed the pack and pulled the canoe up over the long and soon was on my way.

The portage was only noted as being 300m but it seemed like an extremely long 300m.  There was quite a bit of uphill sections and an area where some trees had fallen and I didn’t know where the trail was. I thought I was on it, but had to check my GPS to make sure.  Other than the uphills and the branches slashing my legs, it was a pretty good portage and soon I was on James but I was loosing energy fast!

James looked like a beautiful lake and I contemplated stopping here for the night. The site looked amazing.   I thought I should stop there for lunch but I was getting really really tired and I knew if I stopped for lunch, I wouldn’t continue on.  I was getting that tired. I stared at the site as I paddled by and kept saying, you should stop, you should stop, but I kept paddling stubbornly.  I decided I could push at least one more portage so I paddled to the landing at the James Lake 1300m portage into Virginia and slowly got the canoe ready for the carry over.

Five minutes into carrying the canoe through the portage, I felt I’d made a mistake.  The canoe felt like it weighed 100lbs, my back hurt, my knee was really sore and I was limping.   I was just totally out of gas.  I continued on and gasped when I reached the steepest downhill I’d ever been down on a portage.  I considered sliding the canoe down it, but with sharp rocks sticking up everywhere, knew that wasn’t a realistic option.  Sliding myself down on my bum wasn’t either, but the thought also crossed my mind.

One thing I find extremely difficult to show in photos and videos is depth and height.  This hill was ridiculous but when I look at the photos and videos, i’m like, uhhh no, not even close.  I can only describe in words, I suppose, the steepness of this hill and how afraid I was walking down it with the canoe on my shoulders.  I honestly am shocked i didn’t slip, slide or fall down it, it was that bad, again, the steepest longest hill I”ve ever done on a portage, and I’ve done a few.

Beside the crazy hill was the rushing sound of water, almost overpowering it was so loud. I went to investigate, following a small side trail to get a video and some photos. It was just magnificent and my only wish was that I could stand in it.  I most likely could have, on another day, when I wasnt so tired.  It would’ve taken some fancy footwork to get down to it and I just didn’t have my wits about me enough to make the attempt.

On my walk back to get the pack I saw some really cool and interesting looking mushrooms and took a few photos.  When I arrived at my pack I took out my snack bag and while walking from the James Lake end of the portage to the Virginia Lake end, I ate almost all the snacks in the bag. I was so hungry, out of energy and was walking like I was drunk. It wasn’t good at all and I had to admit defeat.  I just couldn’t keep going on to Thunderhead.  It wasn’t smart.

My favorite photo of the entire trip came from the put in at the Virginia Lake end of the portage.  The lighting and scenery were spectacular and at the time, I had to force myself to place the canoe for the shot and almost didn’t.  I was so exhausted, I barely had the strength to strategically move the canoe over the rocks and put it where it would look the nicest in a photo.  Looking back, I am so glad I made the extra effort and moved it from where I dropped it to the photo on the right.  What a difference it can make.

It was quite the process to get the canoe out of the portage area at Virginia Lake.  The entire way out was very shallow and littered with logs and branches to keep me from paddling through.  I left my pack on my back and walked through the water, pushing, pulling and dragging the canoe through until I was able to finally paddle and put my pack down.  I had now definitely resigned to the idea of making it to thunderhead and knew I would be staying here on Virginia for the night.  It was a tough decision but I had to make it for my own safety, even though it was only a 400m portage. I knew from past experiences, it could b the hardest, longest most difficult portage I’d ever done, and when I arrived on Thunderhead, with only one site on the lake, someone else could already be camped there.  It just wasn’t worth the risk at this point.

I slowly paddled through Virginia, staring at the portage into Thunderhead as I neared it, still somehow thinking in my mind I could make it, but I turned left and headed towards the site instead, hoping it was worth all my efforts and the most beautiful site I’d ever seen.

It was indeed a lovely site and I had no regrets at all.  It was almost 4pm and I had portaged 4600m, paddled about 4.5 km’s and walked 9000m, that’s 9km’s through some rough areas too!!!  From what I recall, this was also the most distance in portages I had ever done and I could feel it not only in my body, but in my soul, which was feeling pretty pleased with itself!

The first thing I did was eat a bit of food. I had skipped lunch but felt it was too late to eat it now, but I had some food to tie me over until dinner, which would be soon.  I set up my tent and it seemed like everything took the most effort and time to do.  I was so sluggish and my brain was really foggy and I just wasn’t at my best.

After a bit I finally did some exploring and located a brand new privy on the site.  It was kind of buried in the bush as the original trail to it had a tree fallen on it and everything grew around it.  I attempted to clear the trail but it just wasn’t possible for me to do so without a chainsaw and some serious tools.  Instead, I made a new trail that came in from the other side and after about a half hour, it was easy enough to walk through without battling too many bushes or shrubs on the way.  For the record, that’s 3/3 privys in Temagami for me!

I hung the hammock, went for a well deserved and refreshing swim and then laid in the hammock for a bit.  I was too hungry though and decided to make dinner and then relax as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get up if I laid down for too long.

Tonights dinner was a packaged meal from Alpine, Creamy Beef and Noodles with Mushrooms.  I had purchased this one in hopes that I would like it and almost brought it on my last trip but it got beat out by pizzas. LOL.  I boiled the required 2 cups of water and poured it in the package, stirred, sealed and waited anxiously the 12 minutes for it to be done.

It was amazing!!!  I believe my favorite packaged freeze dried meal I’ve ever had.   Thank goodness because I was so hungry.   I wasn’t sure why they had me add so much water though. It was almost more like a soup, but a really yummy delicious soup.  I had a tough time eating it out of the bag so I poured it into my cup/pot and it was much easier to gorf it down.

I sat and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the lovely feeling of warm hearty food filling me up.  I didn’t feel reenergized by any means, but I definitely felt better mentally.

I did a bit of exploring and returned to my hammock after collecting some wood for the fire. If I managed to stay awake long enough.  While doing so, I was alarmed by a GIANT SPLASH in the water.  It sounded like someone threw a 5lb rock from the sky into the water and I ran towards to shore to see what it was. Just a bunch of rings in the water.  Nothing more.  A few minutes later a beaver popped up swimming towards me, then quickly dunked itself under the water after it realized I’d seen him.  I had been playing Mumford and Sons, so maybe it didn’t like my choice of music?? I don’t know but it definitely was trying to get my attention. Maybe it doesn’t get too many visitors here. The site looked like it hadn’t been used in a very very long time so ?

I was then rewarded with an incredible sunset.  The sky first turned orange, then yellow and then pink and red. It was truly amazing and I did my best to watch it while relaxing in my hammock, but I also had to get out and about to get photos and videos as sunsets like this don’t happen everday.

After the sun went down, I lit a fire.  I sat and enjoyed it for about a half hour, then I caught myself dozing off and knew it was time to head to bed.  It was 8pm. LOL.

I put my hammock away as I would be leaving early again the next morning and wouldn’t be needing it again, put the fire out and got myself ready for sleep.  I came back to the shore to get a shot of the moon reflecting in the water and that was all I could do.

I spent about a half hour editing some photos and videos on my phone, then caught myself falling asleep with my phone in my hand.  Time for bed.  Night night.

Day 3 Stats:

Paddle: 4.5 km’s

Portages:  (8) 4600m, walked 9000m

I woke up around 5:30am to use the privy and noticed it was overcast and spitting out.  Not fully raining, just misting.  I grabbed the food bag and my cooking bag and moved it to a big tree near my tent that offered lots of shelter. That way when I got back up I could easily make breakfast if it was raining without issue. It was very warm out and I had my tarp in my tent if I needed it, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.

I got back up again, to stay this time around 6:30.  I was a bit late but I needed the rest.  It was still overcast and spitting out but I began to pack up the inside of  my tent.

Once that was done I prepared breakfast. This morning I was having a wrap with egg, cheese, bacon and ketchup and I was excited for something different.

It wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. It definitely needed more egg but not much I could do about that now.

I was very slow moving this morning and having some issues still with my colitis.  After a few visits to the privy in between packing up, I was finally ready to head out at 8am.  So late for me, but nothing I could do about it.

The route today would be to do the 400m portage into Thunderhead, finally, then paddle through Thunderhead, do another portage 300m into Sharp Rock Inlet, and then paddle through there, through the lower narrows, across Whitefish Bay to a 400m portage into Pickerel Bay, then up through Ferguson Bay to Sandy Inlet and the last 300m portage from the beach to the car.  Piece of cake! LOL.  I predicted this would take me approximately 4-5 hours. Then I had a 4 hour drive home, unlike the 6.5 hour drive in.

It was still drizzling when I left the site but the winds were low and the air was warm so it didn’t really cause any issues.

I quickly reached the portage into Thunderhead and began heading over it with the canoe.  The portage didn’t look like it’d been used in quite some time and had quite a bit of overgrowth.  Once again, i thought I should be wearing pants to escape the beatings on my legs, but it was just so warm out.

The portage was a pretty rough one and had a steep hill in it. Not nearly as steep or big as the one on the portage into Virginia yesterday, but still challenging enough to cause me to slide, swear and almost wipe out.

I was glad I saved it for today and even though the site on Thunderhead was pretty nice, my site was also and I didn’t feel much regret about not making it here yesterday.

  

I had a few issues with the portage from Thunderhead into Sharp Rock Inlet. I saw the sign and parked the canoe where I thought the trail would be.  I got out, grabbed my pack and began walking up the hill, but didn’t see a trail anywhere.

I went back down to the canoe and looked around and realized the trail was about 30 feet away.  I put the pack back in the canoe and paddled over and continued on my way.

The portage from Thunderhead into Sharp Rock Inlet was pretty uneventful. Just more of the same, overgrown narrow trails and nothing too difficult.  I had gotten used to the portages here over the last few days and really enjoyed them.  They were not basic, simple, wide flat pathways and that’s why I liked them.

It was no time before I was paddling on Sharp Rock Inlet and loving it. The wind was still down and the water was so calm.  The misty rain had ceased and it was just overcast, warm and lovely out.

My favorite part of the day was paddling through the Lower Narrows. It was so pretty. The water was really shallow and except for getting banked a few times here and there, I enjoyed my time there the most.

From the Lower Narrows I paddled across the channel which would take me to the 400m portage into Pickerel Bay. Other than the 300m portage to the parking lot, this would be my last portage of the trip and I was excited to have it done with.

I followed the gps and located where the portage should be.  But I saw no sign, no marker, no indication of a portage in any way.  I paddled up and down the shoreline and saw nothing so I parked the canoe and got out right where the gps said the portage was, tied up the canoe and walked into the forest for a better look.

I spent about 45 minutes overall looking for the portage. After walking through very thick forest for about a half hour in every direction and not finding any way though, I got back in the canoe.  I was about to accept defeat and paddle to the 800m portage at Napolean when I thought, maybe the other way, and paddled in the opposite direction. I got out, once again and actually this time, found a trail.  I was so excited. I walked up a hill and saw a big blue garbage pail nailed to a tree. Um ok?  I walked a bit further and then lost the trail.  URG.  I tried to figure out where it could’ve went but came up short.  I didn’t want to get lost, not at this stage of the game, so i finally accepted defeat and got back in the canoe and paddled the 3.5km’s up to the 800m portage at Napolean Mountain.  I had no other choice.

I really didn’t like going back the way I’d come but I didn’t have any other options.   The winds were nice to me and all was well so I couldn’t really complain much.  At least I knew what I was getting in to and easily completed the portage into Ferguson Bay.

Once I’d arrived at Ferguson Bay with both the canoe and the pack, I was almost done my trip. I had another 2.5km’s to paddle to get to Sandy Inlet where I would portage just 300m to get to my car.  The paddle was fairly easy with the winds only picking up slightly coming at me from the side.  Soon, I was back on the beach where it had all started just a few days ago.

I was both sad and glad to be back, and slowly I unpacked the canoe and took it back to where my car was waiting. LOL, my very very very dirty car.

Once I got the canoe up on the car and took off my extremely aromatic water socks, barf, I headed back to the beach to get my pack. I rinsed my feet off in the water and then made my way down the portage, one last time to my car.

Now, I just had to conquer the muddy roller coaster road out of here.  It wasn’t as bad as the way in as it hadn’t rained much since I’d arrived and many of the puddles had dried up a bit, but it was still rough.  It was also way less scary in the daytime and knowing I’d made it in, I most likely would make it out.

Someone else may not have been so lucky, I thought, as I drove over a part of their car which was now part of the muddy road.  LOL.

I loved my time in Temagami.  It was challenging and remote, exactly what I wanted and I was so glad I’d come.  From getting lost on the way in, portaging in the dark, to not even finding the last portage of the trip on the way out, there were many ups and downs.  I enjoyed every minute of it and am also grateful that I visited Spirit Rock.  I want to send out a big huge Thank you to Kevin Callan for initially suggesting the route, and to Tierney and the Friends of Temagami for her help, advice and all the things the FOT does to keep this area safe, protected and maintained.   As I had such a wonderful time here, I have decided to do my last big (for me) canoe trip here over Thanksgiving.  A different route, with more challenges and more beautiful scenery, along with some unpredictable fall weather.  I can not wait.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on my trip in Temagami and will check out the videos on my youtube channel that go with this trip.  If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message.  Thank you for checking out my post!

Happy Camping!

Camper Christina

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2 Comments

  1. Eileen October 10, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Thank you for showing us more of our beautiful country. Most of us would never get to see this part of our world. Temagami is a mysterious place & wwe must all strive to keep it that way! Your pictures show us beauty & strength of all beings!

    • Christina October 10, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Eileen. You are correct, it definitely needs to be protected. I hope everyone can see that from my visits and it helps in some small way. Thanks for checking out my post and taking the time to comment.

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