Day 1

Friday, September 14, 9pm Red Squirrel Lake

I was up at 5am and on the road at 5:30. I had put the canoe on our rented car, and loaded the gear last night. I also locked the canoe to the undercarriage in case a band of roving canoe thieves ambled by. Of course, I forgot to take the lock off, so by the time I had dragged it along the asphalt to Martin's place, it was in pretty rough shape. Oops. Oh well, if that's the only thing that goes wrong this trip I'll be pretty happy.

We arrived at Anima-Nipissing Lake boat launch at around 11:45am. One of the reasons I chose to put in here was because I'd read on CCR that Anima-Nipissing Road is a lot easier on your average city car than Red Squirrel. And that turned out, in my opinion anyway, to be accurate. It's more settled to be sure. There are a number of cottages visible but you pass them by pretty quickly. Parking wasn't a problem in September. I'm a bit torn on the cottage front. They spoil my illusion that I'm padding in wilderness. On the other hand if things went wrong and you needed shelter in a hurry they'd be a great help.

The ones on Anima-Nipissing are pretty modest. A lot of them - even the spiffier ones - look like they've been built to blend in, which I appreciate too.

On launch we met a pair of paddlers who were coming back from a longer version of our route, up through Isbister and Sirdevan Lakes. The Hap Wilson book says the portages up there are not maintained but one of the guys said 'you have to look for them, but they're there.'

Post facto note: one of the paddlers was Sid Bredin aka canoedog, who wrote up his Anima-Nippissing trip on his website.

Rain followed us all the way from Pembroke. The early fall heat did not. I reckon it didn't get above 12C today. A bit of a bummer. But the forecast is calling for better weather in the days ahead.

The lake was quite calm, with the wind at our back. This almost never happens.

By the first portage we realized we were missing the bungee cord I use to strap life jackets and map case to the pack on portages. Ah well. If that's the only thing that goes wrong this trip I'll be pretty happy.

By 12:45 we were down by Second Narrows. We decided to push on through Carrying Lake and camp on Red Squirrel. We still had several hours before fatigue normally sets in and the light starts to fade. Rain was still a thing and the longer we stayed out on the water the better our chances that it would rain itself out before we had to set up camp. I much prefer to be traveling in the rain, rather than sitting around.

Carrying Lake is bracketed by two portages. The first has an ambiguous put-in. We lined the boat down a few dozen metres of shallow stream but in the end it wasn't saving us any time so we joined the trail. After the first rocky bit it was fine.

A short paddle along Carrying Lake brought us to the 1300 into Red Squirrel. That portage is fine too. There was a bit of deadfall on it when we went across, but that was no big deal. In fact it's quite common along this route.

Red Squirrel Lake is pretty but it was kinda funny traipsing along this thickly foresested trail, thinking ourselves in the middle of nowhere, only to hear the sound of a vehicle with a damaged muffler messing about in the Red Squirrel Access Point parking lot. In fact the road skirts the lake, and in various places people have turned flat points by the roadside into semi-permanent encampments. The road cut itself is visible from across the lake. So if you're looking for "pristine" surroundings, keep paddling.

In fact it's now clear to me why Hap Wilson's write up of this loop has you starting out at Red Squirrel. You miss all the cottage country on Anima-Nipissing and you very quickly leave the trailer park on Red Squirrel behind. It's a shorter route, but you get all the good bits. You could also start out at Sandy Inlet by going further down Red Squirrel Road, but the last bit of road is quite hard on your car. And depending on your timing, you might end up spending your last night on Red Squirrel anyway.

Where are the campsites?

I often use campsites as landmarks to check our progress and I noticed on Anima-Nipissing that the Chrismar Map seemed to have a different view of where the campsites were than what I took to be reality. Sites existed where none were marked, and vice versa. I would think keeping track of Temagami would be a really difficult task and it's really the paddler's responsibility to look after her or himself so I don't really blame them. Their maps are great. But people navigating using them should know that what you see on the Tyvek ain't necessarily so.

Red Squirrel Lake is a case in point. There's a campsite on the same shore as the parking lot, down the peninsula a ways from where you'd park. It's marked with a Parks Ontario orange diamond and everything. It's not indicated on the map. Meanwhile around the corner and down the lake past the bay where you find the route into Sandy Inlet there is supposed to be a campsite. There is none. Someone built a fire pit on a tiny point, but the woods beyond have not seen a human butt in decades if ever.

However there is a quite expansive and nice campsite (where we stayed) on the point of a bay just south of where you turn to head into Sandy Inlet.

I am not complaining. This is part of what makes Temagami a more challenging trip than the managed parks and I chose this route in part because I was looking for and expecting a bit more of a challenge. But it did confirm for me the notion that despite the technology and the cartography, you still need to be able to read the land and the water (and the sky) to do this sort of thing well. I'm getting there, but as you can see on the track log from the dipsy doodles around some of the portages, I am not there yet.

So after discovering the bad intel on the map, and feeling a bit tired and desperate, we were relieved to discover the site where we stayed. It was wet and cold when we landed at 4:30 and the prospects of backtracking all the way to the parking lot, where we'd spotted another site, or pushing on to Sandy Inlet were not popular among us.

First night was pasta with pesto. The shelf-stable dried ravioli were not bad. I forgot to bring the parmesan cheese (left it in the fridge). Oh well, if that's the only thing that goes wrong this trip I'll be pretty happy. And the French Rabbit was a welcome balm for sore shoulders. Martin got us a good fire going and the cloud cover appeared to be breaking up as dusk fell.


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