Cedar-Hogan-Catfish

September 19-22, 2009

Day 2

5:30pm, Saturday Sept. 19, Hogan Lake

We got here at 4:30. We were on the water at 7:30am. Long day. Mostly along the Little Madawaska River, also known as the Little Mad which is what you have to be to think we could do the long route in four days.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It shall suffice to say that we’re here at the decision point and we're going back to Cedar via Sunfish, not Burntroot.

We were packing up with blistering speed (awake at 6:15, loading the boat at 7:30? Wow. Who knew?) when I noticed we were missing Martin’s life jacket. The camera, okay. But a life jacket? That's a serious problem.

Martin thought maybe we’d forgot it at the end yesterday’s last portage. I was pretty sure I’d seen it unloaded at the campsite, and figured we’d left it lying around and the (substantial) wind had blown it into the water.

We went with that, and spent half an hour paddling the nearby shoreline looking for it. To no avail.

What to do? If we just turned around, we’d still have to face the trip’s most treacherous paddling. That seems like a rationalization for accepting unwarranted risk doesn’t it. Judge me if you will.

We decided we probably shouldn’t do the long route (too many big lakes) and that we would stick to the shore if we had waves and wind. To some we should have headed back right away. Others would probably have had us find the road access and wait for someone to drive us back to our car.

But back to today. The Little Madawaska pours into Radiant and on the Algonquin Canoe Routes map it looks like a simple, two km paddle, past a disused railway bridge and right into a 3565m portage.

But often with these little rivers, creeks and streams the map seriously under-does the detail. Many of them have turned into beaver meadows and are full of twists and turns which double the distance you have to paddle.

So with this in mind, we kept paddling, well after passing under the railway bridge. But after a while, the river became increasingly unnavigable. My feet were numb with cold for having to get out to lift the boat over beaver dams, shallows, swifts and the like.

I called a map break. I saw, in horror, that the GPS was hooped. I determined later that it had only downloaded the first day and a bit of our route. But it still showed the topo map, and it seemed pretty clear we’d missed the portage.

So I looked at the route map again and saw that the put-in should have been on river left. I left Martin with the boat and the packs and bushwhacked in. Luckily, I found the trail, after maybe 50m of crashing through undergrowth.

There’s nothing like being lost to make you feel grateful for the opportunity to complete a 3.5km portage.

The campsite (where we would have stayed had we pushed on yesterday) looked forlorn and marshy. Glad we stayed where we did.

After the 3565, the river becomes a true beaver meadow. Endless twists and turns, not marked on the map, mean much slower progress.

Our moving average dropped to less than 6 km/hr today, mostly because we missed the portage, but also because of the endless turns. Our overall average speed was 4.9 km/hr today.

Tomorrow we may try to push on a bit further than our scheduled stop on Catfish. We’re both kinda missing our families.

Dinner was dried tortellini and tomato cream (aka skim milk powder) sauce with veggies and parmesan. It worked fairly well. The veggies were a bit crunchy, but there was enough food to fill our bellies without leftovers.

We broke out the scotch this evening to toast the sunset. Yes the flask is heavy but it’s so worth it.

We were gifted another day of good weather - sunny and only mildly windy with a high I reckon near 20C.

We’re camped on an island in the east end of Hogan. One motorboat with fishers in it, otherwise no one. Should be a great sunset and an evening of stars, loons and a sip or two of scotch.

Doesn’t get much better than this.


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