Ishpatina Ridge

September 16 – 20, 2005

Day 4

Smoothwater Lake, Monday September 19

We’re busy beavers here at Fort Smoothwater. We’re camped at CS 04, just where Smoothwater pours into the Montréal River. It’s not an ideal site for a damp, windy, cold day, which this is, but we’ve improvised and, what the hey, it’s the last night. "What’s so special about the last night?" Markus asked.

On the down side...

Speaking of last portages, ours happened just before noon, back from Apex Lake, through the canoeist-eating bog which claimed two more victims. Bizzarely, there’s a tent pad just above the bog.

But that wouldn’t be the only bit of cartographic wierdness around these parts. There were a few campsites on the map that aren’t on the land and vice versa. As huge an achievement as the Temagami Canoe Routes map is, it’s in serious need of an update. And the scale. It’s a lot of information to stick on a piece of paper. I’m hoping Chrismar comes up with a map of the rest of Temagami.

Last night we were treated to Temagami thunderstorm theatre. The rain had us corralled under the tarp watching lightning turn the night to day, and listening to thunder rattling the trees. That was great until the wind moved abaft of the starboard beam and started catching the tarp under its elevated end.

We tried to hold it down, but in the end we agreed to make a break for the tents and bring the tarp down so that it wouldn’t get abused in the gale.

This morning it was calm, but the clouds were hanging low in the sky. Ishpatina Ridge was nowhere to be found. We were up by 6:30 and on the water just after 8am. (Another Chris bit of paranoia: "we have to get going early because if it’s windy we’ll want to be off the water by the time it’s the witching hour on Smoothwater").

We moved confidently through the portages, accustomed to the routine and the carrying. We were back on Smoothwater by about noon, pretty much the same time as it took us to get from Smoothwater to Scarecrow, but it seemed much faster and less effort.

We saw the only other canoeists we encountered the whole trip slowly getting going on the beach at the end of the portage into Scarecrow. We didn’t envy them their weather. There was absolutely no sign of it clearing.

Smoothwater had wind and some waves but they were light enough that I didn’t think we needed to worry about them, so we headed straight up the lake, hopping from point to point, checking the campsites on the way.

We picked a flat, gravel beach for a campsite at the north end of the lake. It’s got a gorgeous view but it’s quite exposed. We’ve set up the canoes as a sort of wind break. The rain had been threatening all day, but it started raining in earnest after we’d set up camp.

The rain had a mischievous streak - it would start, chase us back under the tarp, torment the fire, then go away. We’d re-emerge, gather around the fire, soak up its heat, then the rain would start again, driving us back under the tarp. Then the cycle would repeat.

Lisa showed us the ancient hiking tradition of rock harvesting. She’d place a rock near the fire’s edge, the nip out to get it and hold it close. They do keep you warm.

Eventually the rain just started coming steady and solid. But there was no thunderstorm to entertain us, and the temperature seemed to be dropping, so we headed for the tents. Still I didn’t feel down because the trip had (I thought) gone really well. And no matter what the rain did to us that night, tomorrow we’d be home.

Smoothwater-Apex. The mud continues. Ah - but this only one leg and not even up to the knee. (Markus Wandel photo)

Smoothwater-Apex The mud continues. Ah - but this only one leg and not even up to the knee. (Lisa Pugliese photo)

Lunch, Smoothwater Lake. We’ve all got our game faces on here, clearly. (Markus Wandel photo)

Lunch, Smoothwater Lake We’ve all got our game faces on here, clearly. (Markus Wandel photo)

We don’t need this canoe after all. We can walk on water. I knew we were good but, ah dare I say...

We don’t need this canoe after all ...we can walk on water. I knew we were good but, ah dare I say... (Markus Wandel photo)