September 28-30, 2007

Day 2

3pm, September 29, Maple Lake

Now this is much more like it.

It’s blazing hot sun, maybe 20C, windless, the lightest, fluffiest clouds high in the sky and I have been here for a couple of hours.

What a treat.

If only I could catch the fucking squirrel.

I’m at the island campsite at the north end of Maple Lake. I got here around 12:30pm.

I haven’t seen a person all day.

I’m pretty pleased to have made my way up from Mouse Lake in what I thought was good time. I was up at 6:23 GPS time, and on the water by 8:30am after an oatmeal-granola-powdered milk-hot water with coffee served separately breakfast.

The cloud cover was cracking off to the east. I took tons of misty-lensed pics of the sunrise thinking it might be the only sun I saw all trip. I was bummed.

Chilled and bummed, actually. My clothes hadn’t dried at all, though it hadn’t rained at all since yesterday dinner time. Too humid. Too much tree splatter.

I headed out across Mouse Lake to the first of my “hard day” portages. On my map. it’s 1700m. The route write-up on CCR warns that this portage is hard. And it doesn’t disappoint. It’s an over-the-hump portage with much more hill going from Mouse to Mink Creek. It had me breathing hard the whole time.

Though in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all that bad. And I think the author is overstating it more than a bit. And a cart would absolutely not work.

I’ve been feeling quite under-looned this trip, though now it appears there is one, about 30m off shore.

From the end of the portage into Mink Creek, a short but winding creek paddle was my first ooh-ahh moment of this trip.

The sun found a way through the clouds and — barely over the horizon as it was — illuminated all the rain droplets on the short stand of spruce that lined the banks of Mink Creek.

Eventually I got to the portage into Big Thunder Lake. You’d expect, with a name like that, some sort of vast, inland sea. No.

The next portage — there’s barely time to get up to speed on Big Thunder before you see the yellow sign — was 1645m into Érables. On my map. The sign marked it at 1575m. It’s less hilly than Mouse-Mink Creek, but the terrain is harder. More rocks and roots. Careful footing is needed in a few places.

By 10:30am I was on Érables, the worst portaging of the trip behind me. I thought maybe I could make it all the way to Kioshkokwi today. But then I thought “nah.”

The sun was, by then, very much in evidence. The wind, too, was present, though it had only a small impact on my boat. Its effect on my state of mind, however was something else.

The fact was, I had time. If I got into camp early I could dry everything, relax and soak up the warmth. If I pushed on to Kioshkokwi, I’d be putting in late afternoon, with no sun to dry my tent fly, tarp, clothes etc.

My moving average today was 5.1 km/h.

Up Érables — lovely lake — to Maple I did the 175m without much thought. There’s a beaver dam in the short channel between the two lakes, just before the portage. Or at least there was a beaver dam when I was there.

This is a good site for me today. Nice, exposed, south-facing rocks for drying, easy access to deep water for pumping. If only I could do something about Spunky the Squirrel.

I’ve encountered trained squirrels before. But this one is the worst. When I deny him food, he punishes me by chewing on my equipment — my paddle, Irene’s tent.

He’s not shy — he’ll come right up to me — and yet he’s well aware of the need to be devious. He’ll sneak around behind me when I think I’ve got myself positionned between him and the food bag.

I almost hit him with a rock, but Spunky went to nibble on it where it lay, as if to say, “Zat all you got suckah? Where I come from we call dis’ lunch.” I couldn’t help but notice the island had been largely denuded of squirrel-sized throwing rocks.

I couldn’t quite imagine how that could happen, but then Spunky climbed a small spruce near the shore, very close to me. I went for my rock and hurled it. As it splashed, it occurred to me: “and now he’s disarming me too.”

I had to find a way to stop him before he caused more damage. I was running out of rocks.

I decided I would trap him and relocate him onto the mainland. I’m serious.

I looked around for some way to make a snare. All I could come up with was a stick, a pot, some granola and a rope.

I poured a little granola on the ground. I used the stick to prop the pot up over the granola and looped the rope around the stick. I fed out a few metres of rope and waited.

Sure enough, Spunky went for it.

He’d dart under the pot, grab a raisin, or a cluster of sugar-encrusted oats or what not, then dart out to eat it. I realized timing would be of the essence.

Just as he darted in, I pulled the rope. Spunky kicked up pine needles as he sped out from under the pot as it fell.

Even trained squirrels are stupid, I reckoned, so I tried again. I set up the “snare” again. This time he triggered it himself by hip-checking it. I set it up again. It fell down on its own. Again I set it up. Again he darted out from under it before the pot could fall.

I watched Spunky confront the fallen pot to get at the bait underneath. He nudged it with his nose. He tried to dig underneath it. Once he scored a nugget he’d sit back and eat. Then the whole process would begin again.

It occurred to me that this is what JFK (or was it Sun-Tzu?) meant when he said “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” At least if Spunky was tackling the food under the pot challenge, he wouldn’t be chewing a hole through the tent.

Someone needs to come in here with some live traps and take these creatures to a home for wayward animals. I can feel another animal rescue organization starting up. I feel bad because I’m contributing to Spunky’s delinquency or human addiction but I don’t want him chewing holes in my gear and I got sick of chasing him around the island all afternoon.

He’s back now. Presumably his afternoon nap is over.

I can’t think of what else to do.

20h15, in the tent

Dinner was one pot dahl with rice. Maybe the Simmerlite (brand new for this trip — sheesh) can simmer, but I don’t how to make that happen yet. Oh well, at least I only made enough for me this time. And it wasn’t too burnt.

I watched the stars come out this evening. Lovely. I even saw an asteroid.

There’s an owl hooting somewhere out there to the north.

She’s comin’ for ya, Spunky. Nighty night.

Sunrise, Mouse Lake

Sunrise, Mouse Lake Thank you Mallory, for getting me used to early mornings.

Mink Creek

Mink Creek Drop-frosted spruce trees.

Maple Lake

Maple Lake Spunky the Squirrel, chowing down beside my unsuccessful trap.

Sunset, Maple Lake

Sunset, Maple Lake With (disappointingly quiet) loon.