Touring Temagami

Day 4

Saturday, July 31, 2004, Katherine Lake, 4pm

We're huddled under the tarp, watching the second wave of thunderstorms wash over us. The first left a small lake under our tent. We moved it during the intermission. Let's hope our second choice tent pad is at a higher elevation than the first.

5:15: The second wave seems to have passed leaving nothing but blackflies and noseeums in its wake. As I write this, sun is poking out from the clouds. Mind you, there's still thunder rumbling off to the south. Who knows what 5:30 will bring.

I am, despite the bad pick for the tent pad, glad that we put in when we did. We had just enough time to take a swim and set up camp before the sky opened up. We put in fairly early (2:30). Had we decided to push on to the south channel, we would likely have been in the middle of another nasty rock-hopping portage. As it happens, we were prepared and our gear was protected.

Time to back up.

We woke today before 7am and were on the water by 8:20. We made good progress down Sucker Gut (always do your big lakes before noon, I think). We reached Frank Falls, where the Lady Evelyn River empties into Sucker Gut Lake, around 10am.

It's the first of a series of beautiful waterfalls that punctuate your journey along the Lady Evelyn River. But it's the only one I photographed today because also punctuating this journey are the nastiest portages I've ever experienced. On the other falls-portage combos, I was just too fried to consider walking back to look at the falls.

Another consideration today was traffic jams. There were a lot of camp groups along the north channel today. They all seemed to be big, ungainly and very slow moving. We thought this would be a secluded section of Temagami. It wasn't.

At Frank Falls, there was a group from Camp Wabun (who were portaging, among other curious gear, these huge logs) a fishing boat, and a group camping at the end of the portage.

The portage around Frank Falls is rugged, but short. It was a polite sampler of what was to come.

Photo op. over, we went on. Today is meant to be a slack day after yesterday's sprint. Maybe use different muscles. It was short, but we put a lot of effort into those short hours.

You look at the Lady Evelyn River on the map and you think, "Sure, no problem. A little bit lug-and-load but 120m, 590m, 150m, 330m then 260m just seems like a light morning in Algonquin Park. That's certainly what I was thinking. "Light day." No. Not exactly. Today's portages were short, but what they lacked in length, they made up in ferocity.

The 590m past Centre Falls is homicidal. There are parts where you'd really like a ladder. I set out with canoe and clothing pack thinking I was in for a brief walk in the woods.

There's one point on this portage where someone once built a bridge across a gully - no, more like a small ravine, or is it a crevasse? Whatever it is, it's four or five metres deep and you have to go down one side and up the other because the bridge has collapsed.

At several points I was scrambling on my hands and knees, hauling myself up to the next flat-ish chunk of rock and looking for handholds. Meanwhile, the canoe was deigning to stay on my shoulders despite having its bow and stern decks slamming into the rock on various occasions.

I think, for that one, that two passes might have been the way to go. Just maybe.

Next up came a 150m around an unnamed rock garden in the river. One could probably line it, but we didn't even have painters, so we rock hopped along shore. I was still breathing heavily from the last portage, so I decided to take two trips. Sturdy footwear is a good idea for this one, though it's flat. My water shoes are great for flat portages but are hard on the feet when you're leaping from pointed rock to pointed rock with a pack on.

This portage didn't have a yellow marker, though the rest do, more or less. More signs of parkification. Still missing is the insane reservation system.

And the thunder boxes. If we're to pay fees, we want thunderboxes.

At Helen Falls we caught up to a coed group from Camp Northwaters. One of the group leaders - who presumably wasn't getting enough of a workout out of her group of 13 to 15 year olds - was doing ab crunches amidst an assortment of pre-WWII era wannigans and canvas canoe packs.

She said she was amazed that the rain had held off these past two days. Wind from the south brought rain she said. She also said the 460 around Helen Falls where we had lunch wasn't as bad as the one around Centre Falls. Not so much stepping where you teeter unsure as to whether or not you're about to go forward or backwards.

She laid out the camp group terrain for us. No fewer than four different grops from three camps were heading through this stretch of Temagami. Her group - which she described as "total chaos" were on a 20 day trip. They were to be resupplied by float plane after 10 days. But she added, the camp did have a 30 day self-sufficient trip going.

One of the groups jamming up this portage was trying to get to Diamond Lake today by doing the "Diamond Death March," the 2200m portage that joins the South Channel of the Lady E to Diamond Lake.

So I decided to take both pack and canoe. It turned out to be the right move. The kids stepped aside (perhaps out of fear the old man might collapse on them) and Irene and I barged on through.

The 330m and 220m after it are relatively flat although the ground is rugged. Rock hopping mostly.

We made it through Helen Falls and one other, relatively flat portage and found ourselves on Katherine Lake, a small lake (infinitessimal by Temagami standards). We decided to stay here to keep the faith with our plan to have a "short day". It's a pretty site.

It's buggy, but the sun has been out for 30 minutes or so and things are looking up. We have five portages tomorrow, including Fat Man Portage and one or two falls portages - descending this time.

So the food rope is hoisted and the tarp is holding. The tent, in its new location, is dry. Irene is cooking dahl with veggies, rice and naan.

It's funny how gender roles assert themselves out here on trips. I do the lion's share of sterning the canoe, Irene's been doing the lion's share of the cooking. This does not happen at home. Cooking and driving are split down the middle. We're just talking about it and we can't think why. Irene says it's because she's hungrier. My excuse for sterning is that I used to teach canoeing at one of those summer camps and it's second nature to me still.

Irene is also way more organized than I am and ended up planning and packing all the food while I put together and packed all the gear. I think I got off easy.

We switched roles this morning. I cooked, while Irene took down and packed the tent. It didn't take us any longer to get going.

Portage note: after almost running out of water the other day, we decided to pump the 4L dromedary full and portage it. We figured the extra weight would be less of a problem than running out of water and having to pump in the middle of the day. We'll not be doing that again. With all the loading and unloading of the boat today, we noticed the food pack's extra weight constantly.

stripslashes(Rain on Katherine Lake, where the Lady Evelyn\'s north and south channels meet.)

Rain on Katherine Lake, where the Lady Evelyn's north and south channels meet.

stripslashes(It ended soon enough. Sunset, Katherine Lake.)

It ended soon enough. Sunset, Katherine Lake.

stripslashes(Katherine Lake, Sunset)

Katherine Lake, Sunset