Day 1

9pm, Friday 9/24/2010, Wolf Lake

We’re camped here in the pretty part of Chiniguchi. Kevin Callan describes it as Killarney without the crowds, and I can see why. I am writing by headlight in the tent at the end of a very long day.

I got up at 5am, had coffee and a bowl of cereal and picked up Martin by about 5:30. We drove in darkness for a bit, brooding on the prospect of much rain as it spattered on the windshield. We stopped in Mattawa for gas. The attendant asked us if we were coming or going. I told him we were just starting out. He said ‘oh, you’ll be okay by tomorrow.’

Ah well. It’s only water. Indeed.

We stopped in Sturgeon Falls for an early lunch. Never dodge an opportunity to have someone make a meal for you, I say.

Then we were back on the go-canoeing road, Highway 17, past Warren (the closest OPP detatchment, by the way) and then north on the Kukagami Lake Road by about 11:15am.

Lost on the way to the put in. Whoops. Detail of tracklog superimposed over topo map

I’m a tad embarassed to say it but I got us lost trying to find the put-in. We missed the turnoff that had a sign very clearly marked “Matagamasi Lake Road”. I didn’t realize my mistake until we had the canoe off the boat, the packs all sealed and ready to go. Only when looked at the GPS and saw the start of the route some 8km hence did I realize we were in the wrong place.

I drove the car up the road and saw the Sportsman’s Lodge. Whoops. We tied the canoe back on the roof and went off to see where we went wrong.

Finally I flagged down a nice man in a red truck who showed us the way.

Fifteen minutes later we were at the actual put-in. We’d hoped to be paddling by noon, but it wasn’t until 1pm that we hit the water.

There were four cars at the Matagamasi Lake public boat landing. Brian Back and forum postings on make much of parking issues at the main Chiniguchi put in, but it wasn’t much of a worry the third week of September.

There were a number of folk around, mostly working on the fairly numerous cottages at the south end of Matagamasi Lake.

Rain was a major theme of the day. It rained all the way from Ottawa and at the first, faux put-in. The rain stopped on Matagamasi and only came on in earnest on Silvester Lake. Did it ever. Buckets and buckets of the stuff for what felt like an hour.

Not five minutes before it started Martin had said – with confidence – that the sky looked like it was clearing. Very very bad thing to say.

I am glad I brought a bailer and a sponge. We almost needed it.

At some point we were looking for a portage and found an ATV trail heading the other way. The portage is on river left. When in doubt, follow the water. The first portage was easy. The second around a falls was short, but steep in sections.

Wolf Lake is beautiful. White cliffs. Tortured trees hanging off rock faces. Group of Seven stuff.

The rain came on after we completed the 350 between the North Arm of Chiniguchi and Silvester, around 3:30. Towards 4:10 water was over the canoe ribs. On Wolf, we grabbed the first campsite we saw. At the south end of Wolf. It’s fine. It has a thunderbox and two or three reasonable tent pads.

Pasta was dinner. Two bags of the dried tortellini with some black olive pesto mix is enough to fill two bellies. But I think I’m done with the dried tortellini. It never quite cooks right. Always a bit crunchy somehow. It was, however a mercifully easy one pot meal.

We hauled out the first of our two tetra pak things of wine. Long Flat. Martin rates it ‘red’. A fine brew.

Martin wrestled with a fire and eventually enough dry, dead ferns did it. Wood was ablaze although it needed constant fanning.

We saw some blue sky and a glimmer of sun before it set. But the receding dusk brought heavy clouds. On the other hand, the barometer on my watch shows it’s rising, so I hold out hope that at least tomorrow the rain will not threaten to sink us. Fingers crossed.

The before picture: Martin and I, finally at the right place.

The before picture

Wolf Lake: Our first night

Wolf Lake

Cabin remnants: First night campsite

Cabin remnants