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Day 5

3pm August 1st, Van Winkle Lake, Site 145

Yay! I didn't die. Irene and I are both fretters. We anticipate all sorts of hell befalling us and, when our fears fail to materialize, express joy. Any outcome that improves on "multiple fatality" is a victory.

Take today, for example. We were slated for 22km of travel including 5+ km of portages.

Of the 2945m portage from David to Great Mountain, the Friends Guide says "This portage trail is considered one of the park's most difficult, with many twists and turns over hilly terrain."

So we thought a day of abject misery awaited us (and I suppose that we would be rewarded for it in heaven). It was, indeed, a longish day. It was not abject misery. No one died. We still have all our limbs. So we were thrilled.

We woke early - around 6:30 - and after oatmeal with Silver Peak blueberries, set out for the northwest corner of David around 8:20am. We reached the portage into Great Mountain around 9am. We planned to take it at one go, but rest somewhere. I figured it would take us an hour. We were actually done in 50 minutes. So effectively we portage at about the same speed we paddle: 4km/h.

(Postscript: actually that's wrong. I was looking at our paddling speed in knots on my GPS. In fact we paddled at around 6km/h on flat water.)

From Great Mountain we did the 470m into Fish Lake. If you're camping on Great Mountain Lake (and it is a beautiful lake, despite the lodge) skip the north east end's site. Boggy boggy boggy.

Irene found a Finnish-made fishing knife on the trail from Great Mountain to Fish. The plan is to drop it off at the George Lake lost and found.

Erik, if you're reading this, your knife is at George Lake. Be careful with that thing. It's sharp.

On Fish Lake, we had a slight change of plans. Instead of heading north into Little Otter, Goose and Van/Rocky lakes, we'd take the portage at the west end of Fish into this unnamed creek and get to Van Winkle via Howry.

It seemed a similar distance, and about the same total distance portaging, but they were fewer portages. And the route promised better scenery. Having never seen the other route, I cannot say definitively, but I think it was a right choice.

A short 130m portage took us into about a 1km long, winding creek with three liftovers, which flowed into Gem Lake. The lake got its name, no doubt, because it's a tiny gem of a lake. Steep quartzite hills descend sharply into the blue-green water. On the shore opposite, pink and orange granite finger-shaped rocks reach gently into the water. There are no sites on Gem, but it's a nice place to visit.

A few minutes' paddling found the 155m portage into Howry Lake. Howry is quite a dramatic lake. Tall cliffs of the Lacloche Range curtain the south shore, rising 380m above the water's edge. The north shore has low, rocky hills with patchy grass and scrub and pink granite outcroppings. The portage to Cat Lake is near a resting campsite situated on one of the lake's two islands.

We did the 700m into Cat Lake in good time, but it was entirely uphill and very exposed to the sun. It had been another manic weather day in Killarney Park. When we set out from David this morning, the clouds hung so low Silver Peak was obscured. Rain seemed immminent. Half way through the jaunt to Great Mountain Lake, the sun came out. All day, an erratic but powerful wind blew clouds across the sun at random intervals.

We paddled across Cat Lake, propelled by the wind. There's lots of evidence of fishing lodge denizen on these lakes. We did another sunbaked 510m into Van Winkle. We arrived at our campsite (the first island) just before 2pm.

Wear pants on these two portages. There's lots of prickly undergrowth encroaching on the trail.

We saw another party heading away from us further down the lake, so we reckoned they'd grab the second island. And the site just by the portage didn't look great. So we took this one.

The only drawback is there is no shitbox. And the site has clearly been used recently, though there's no sign of previous freelance shitholes, so it could well be a fecal minefield.

No matter. We weren't interested interested in doing any more moving.

We chucked the bags on shore, hauled the canoe out and jumped in the lake. What a relief.

We set up camp and - get this - did laundry. Oh my, aren't we industrious. Now, our water vessels full of filtered water, we relax, noting that tomorrow also has a lot of portaging. And big ones. Ulp.

Irene: What do you want to do now?

Chris: Well, at a certain point we should put up the tarp.

Irene: (squinting in blazing sunlight) You sure about that?

Chris: Well, I know it sounds superstitious, because it is, but I'm really afraid that if we don't put it up, it'll rain.

Irene: Does the employee assistance plan at work cover that sort of thing?

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