My first trip to Killarney and my longest trip to date, thistripwould take me over 20 portages, approximately 12 km and across 12 lakes, many of which I would visit twice on my route. Some challenging portages, great wildlife, a little fishing, the best swimming I've experienced in a Provincial lake, and the best weather of the summer. The goal of this trip was to stretch myself and complete an extended trip but I kept the pace slow, only travelling between one - four lakes per day. I have decided not to treat these trips as a race, but to take the time to "smell the roses". Too often, I find myself focusing on the destination, without appreciating the beauty of the journey.
The 4.5 hr drive from Barrie, on Wed afternoon, passed quickly and I pulled into Widgawa Camp, off Hwy 6, just after 9:00 pm. I would stay overnight here and pick up my permit as soon as the office opened, Thurs, so that I could get a full day in the park.
Leach Lk - Van Winkle Lk - Fish Lk - Great Mountain Lk - Howry Lk - Leach Lk - Murray Lk - Nellie Lk (2 nights)- Grace Lk
DAY 1to Leach Lk - Temp: high 17 / Low 10 Celsius. Max wind gust 35km.
Thurs morning I was up with permit in hand shortly after their office opened at 8:00 am and was on the road heading to Charlton Lk camp where I had arranged a water taxi to drop me off at Howry Creek and would pick me up on the 17th at Cranberry Bay. By 9:00 am I was at the dock where owners Lisa and Dan met me and helped me load my gear onto the pontoon which would chariot me away to my destination. I was the only passenger and Dan entertained me with stories of his own past adventures, including a 12 day survival experience where he and 3 companions were stranded after loosing canoe and gear in violent rapids. Stories like this are humbling and remind me my adventures have elements of danger....which can be overcome. As Dan and I approached the drop off at Howry Cr, a gentle rain began. Dan stopped the engine and my canoe was gently placed alongside the pontoon and I loaded my gear and then carefully took my place in my seat. I waved farewell to Dan as I took to the water. It was 10:20am.
The paddle through the creek was quiet and only interrupted by two doe's that I startled along the banks as I entered the parks boundries. They quickly turned, tails up, running into the woods bawling a warning to others. I passed my first beaver dam, circumventing it by way of a short, unofficial, and very muddy portage. This was shortly followed by an easy 210 m portage where a bubbling rapid, which ran along-side it, provided a musical backdrop to my passage. This portage would lead me from
Howry Creek into Murry Lk through a marsh covered in lilly pads. The air was still in the shelter of surrounding hills.
It was almost 2:00 pm when I past through Murray Lk and arrived at the 1090m portage into Leach. The drizzling rain had stopped and I quickly landed and strapped my pack on. I had decided earlier that I was double carrying this trip. With 11 days ahead of me I didn't want to risk injury to myself or my canoe.....and I HAVE injured my canoe on a portage, so with that, I took my first steps toward my destination. O.K.! I always make some bad descision, underestimate something, etc. and my footwear was IT this time. It was a last minute consideration as I grabbed my Keen sandals and my Vibrims when I loaded the car. I immediately regretted this as I stepped ankle deep into the muddy portage. It made for a slippering , squishy walk and the whole time I kept thinking "I have to do it again with the canoe!" By 3:30 I was at the Leach Lk put in and loading up. With only 2 sites on the lake I knew I wanted the one that was NOT next to the portage so I headed across the water. The day had cleared up and the sun was peaking through the clouds. The water was only slightly rippled by afternoon breezes as I quietly paddled across to the site. I was the only camper booked to stay on the lake, so happily landed on site #201. It was a long climb up the rock face to the site that had a wonderful view of the lake. Camp was set-up quickly, my hammock and tarp fitting perfectly between two well placed trees. I switched to hammock camping last year and have really loved it but it still presents challenges, as in , It's not as fast as throwing up my tent......but you can't beat the comfort. A quick paddle to get wood, and I had a fire burning. A dinner of pasta with garlic cream sauce and hot apple sauce for desert was cooked over the coals. I would cook every dinner on an open fire this trip. I was in bed with my book by 9:00, feeling ambivalent, as I lay in my hammock for the first of 10 nights. Sept 17 seemed a loooooong way off, and I felt the anxiety of the isolation slowly creep in. I pushed it aside, knowing that I would, and could, do this. I had one thing in my favour, sheer stubbornness, which always helps me push forward when the challenge seems overwhelming. I shut the light off at 11:00pm, sleep coming quickly in the comfort and warmth of by hanging bed.
DAY 2 to Van Winkle Lk - Temp : high 16 /
low 8 Celsius. Max wind gust 32km
I have taken to sleeping-in when I'm camping.....I mean, I get a good 9-10 hrs every night and I highly recommend it, haha. I didn't get up 'till 8:20 and the sun was SHINING!!! It would remain shining for the rest of the trip - lucky me! I was packed up with just some tea and cheese for breakfast and on the water by 9:45. I took a paddle around the lake stopping by the one cottage ( which was unoccupied ) before heading to the 150m portage into Hanwood. A quick and easy portage and I was back on the water. Hanwood Lk was long and narrow and slightly windy as the wind funneled through it offering little challenge. A young couple passed me on their way to Rocky Lk and I let them pass by enjoing a leisurely paddle....I had days ahead of me and was in no hurry. I stopped at the island campsite and pulled out my stove and made a cup of coffee. It seemed like a perfect spot to stop and just enjoy the beauty around me.
Back on the water I passed a painted turtle enjoying the summer? weather in September. I pulled up to the portage and looked up.....way up!. Although a short 120m, it is a steep climb up followed by a steep descent into Van Winkle Lk . Once on Van Winkle I immediately noticed how clear the water was. With my hopes on the island site, I headed directly for it. As it turned out, I was the only person on the lake that night so I was super happy to set up on the island. I knew there was excellent swimming to be had off the west facing rock and no matter how cool it was, I was going swimming. I knew if I didn't get in that water, I would regret it! Grab the opportunity when it's there, it may never come again. So, with a cool afternoon breeze fanning my skin, I plunged in....fantastic! Make sure to visit this site if ever you have the chance and need to cool off or just play. I set up, then went for a paddle, stopping along the shore to collect firewood. I only brought one fuel container which was for the occassional breakfast, emergencies, or if I was too tired to build a fire. Evening came gently and I fell asleep to the sound of loons. Then, suddenly, at
1:00 am, I awoke to the excited sounds of wolves yipping and howling from the N/NW of my site. It was a precursor to the rest of my trip. Although eerie and a little disquieting, I rolled over and slipped back into sleep.
DAY 3 to Fish Lk - Temp : high 16 / low 8 Celsius.
Max wind gust <31km
I woke at 7:00 am to a morning shrouded in fog. A quick breakfast of hot chocolate and nuts and I was on the water at 9:00 by which time the sun had come out and conditions were fabulous. It was a quick paddle from my island site to the 480m portage into Cat Lk. The portage itself was quite easy with a quick decline into the put-in at Cat. I was on the water taking a slow paddle and admiring this pretty, little lake when I saw a splash from the corner of my eye. Not to miss an opportunity, I reached behind me, grabbing my fishing rod and let fly.....nothing! One more time in the direction of the splash, a shallow area at the mouth of a marsh to the east of the lake.....BAM! A nice bass which I sadly put back in the water only because I had a couple lakes and portages ahead of me and it was too warm to keep him cool until I got to my next site. I would regret not eating every morsel of that fish by the end of the trip as my food bag ran low. I passed the 665m portage into beautiful Howry Lk and put in and headed down it's rolling waters. To the south, mountains, blanketed in pine, guided my passage down the lake. A brisk wind gave challenge to my paddle strokes. I arrived at the short 130m that would take me into Gem Lk. Straight up hill.....but short and sweet. I kept to double carrying, first my pack, then my canoe, as so much of the portaging was on steep hills, and it just wasn't worth risking a fall. Once on Gem Lk I was moved by the beauty of this tiny lake surrounded by hump-back mountains. With no campsites however, it is just a thru lake on the way to other destinations, but definitely worth seeing. The lake empties into a thick marsh that winds between a rock faced wall opposite a treelined hill on the other side. A channel through the marsh is easily navigated passing over a couple beaver dams along the way. Lots of painted turtles and minnows along with the most beautiful aquatic plants made this an other-worldly experience and one of my most pleasant days paddling. The channel was sheltered from any wind so I was down to my tank top enjoying the best weather of the summer. Arriving at the take-out I paused in my canoe as I approached the shallows. It ended in a mud bath that stretched 20 feet until finally meeting dry land. I pulled out among the willow bushes tieing a rope to the canoe and dragging it through the mud....a first, as I am usually very gentle with my Swift Kevlar 13.5 pack canoe....my baby. I don't mind stepping in mud but if I can avoid it, well.... this princess will do what it takes!!!!! Little did I know this was not the end to muddy put-ins today!
After a quick snack, I climbed the 90m portage into Fish Lk and headed out for the island site which I discovered was taken, so I turned around and made my way back to the only other site on the lake. I am not fussy about campsites but I have to say, this was the worst site I had ever been on!!! After climbing up a slab of rock, you arrive at a huge clearing.....of flat rock! No trees...nothing! Piles of stones told the story of previous campers who had made valiant efforts to hold tents down that could not be pegged on the slab of Canadian Shield rock that made up the site. My challenge was finding trees to set up my hammock and tarp. I had to go into the thick woods that surrounded the site where I managed to find a suitable spot to sleep. No logs surrounded the fire pit which meant a cold evening sitting on the stone ground as I did not bring my chair. Oh well! Part of the adventure! I set out across the lake to collect wood as the sun set. Once back at my site, I grabbed an armful of wood from the canoe to bring up to the fire pit. I looked out across the water noting a black spot. Loon? That's too big to be a loon...that's a bear! I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and got a grainy, low light video of him. Check out the video here. You may want to skip to 2:13 to see him climb out.....it was a long swim! I was pretty brave giving him hell from my side of the water HAHAHA! https://youtu.be/dVfZf8zV6cs. I enjoyed a late night campfire, after eating, ( Veggies & rice with apple sauce for desert ) and took in the stars before heading to bed at 11:00. I surprised myself, and slept remarkably well, in spite of the bear.
Goodnight from Fish Lake.
DAY 4 to Great Mnt Lk - Temp :
high 17 / low 11. Max wind <31km
Up at 9:30! OMG! I slept like a baby in spite of the bear, and enjoyed every minute of it. Hahaha! My gear had quite a bit of condensation on it so I spread everything out in the sunshine to dry before packing it up. I washed my hair ( with hot water - joy! ) and after some tea and oatmeal, was on the water at 11:30 am. I didn't have too far to go today, just one easy 375m portage into Great Mountain Lk. An old cabin, which appeared abandoned, sat at the opening of the portage. Unfortunately, a large garbage pile was also located near by, which was largely made up of rusted out cans. Disappointing that the park would not clean these up as they're a hazard to wildlife. A quick first run down the portage with my pack and I saw todays challenge. The put-in to GM Lk was a shallow water, muddy bog......not sure if that is a thing but sure fits the description of what I found. The mud creeped out about 15 ft followed by a small bay of very shallow, algea and plant filled water. My canoe would have to be walked out 30 ft at least to get it to float and I did not want to walk through that swampy, sink hole. The thought of getting stuck is one of my biggest fears because the mud can get very deep. I went back down the portage for my canoe and upon my return, I began to look at my options. Why didn't I bring boots??? All part of the adventure! I finally skirted some willows, tramping them down, climbed out on a log, using my paddle to balance, then stepped across the bulbous roots of some of the larger equatic lillies all the while dragging my canoe by a line through the mud and low water. My poor canoe! My efforts paid off and I was seated in my canoe, with rather clean feet, haha!, heading through the swamped area, into the open water of GM Lk. As I came into the lake proper, I stopped to chat with two guys who were heading to the portage and I warned them about the swamp they were about to encounter. They asked if I was travelling alone. I am always quite proud to tell people that I solo camp, and am encouraged by the men I meet, who are surprised but supportive and even admire this. These two guys were no exception, and admitted to never trying solo camping yet. There are several challenges to solo camping, the most difficult of which for me, is dealing with feelings of being alone and isolated. Traversing a quiet portage, always looking behind you, laying in your bed with the sounds of animal activity , the blackness of the woods, it's all magnified in your imagination by every scary movie you have ever seen. It can take time and experience to build your confidence in overcoming this and a certain amount of determination helps! The men had just stopped at the island site for lunch after completing the 2945m from David Lk, and they recommended it, so I set my sights S/SE and started paddling. The site was no disappointment with a great view of the sunset from the firepit, lots of space, well treed and awesome swimming. After I was all set up, I swam and cleaned my feet, scrubbing the muddy stains off with a smooth rock. AWESOMENESS! Small luxuries like this make me feel human. It's so important to maintain your hygiene in order to maintain a positive attitude. Brushing your teeth, your hair and washing your face, body and clothes when needed are an important part of keeping a good mental attitude. A dinner of quinoa with herbs and dehydrated veggies was cooked over my evening fire and enjoyed while the boiling, red hot orb of the sun, set. I baked a special treat over the coals.....chocolate brownie mmmmm! I was in bed, reading by 8:15, listening the sounds of an owl. Hoo, hoohoohoo....Hoo, hoohoohoo............
Day 5 to Howry Lk - Temp : high 20 / low 12 Celsius. Max wind gust : 32
OK! I admit it! I slept in......again! I didn't leave the warmth of my hammock until 8:00 am. In all fairness, I didn't turn my lamp off until 11:30 the night before, after which I slept well, haha. I was packed and gone by 9:30, heading back to the portage I had passed the day before. I was not looking forward to the take out but was confident I would triumph over it. I stopped along the N/E side of the lake to check out an abandoned cabin I had passed the day before. The wind was getting up, and waves beat my canoe against the Canadian Shield rock as I paddled my boat up to this half fallen artifact. Some chinking still remained, but the floor boards were long gone. The roof, gave way to holes from decay but still provided shelter. I'm always fascinated by fallen down buildings, the secrets they hold, the stories they would tell if they could. I was back out on the water, my agenda for the day to get to Howry Lk, the same way I came, where I would camp tonight. To my relief, I actually found it easier getting out at the portage simply using the same route along the lilley mounds, across the log, and over the willows to dry land. Once on Fish Lk, it was a sun filled , windy paddle down its narrow length and a quick up and over the 90m back to the marsh into Gem Lk. This was one of only two windy days I experienced on my trip, with winds reaching 32 km in the afternoon. Again, I conquered the muddy put-in ( I'm actually starting to love the challenge of muddy portages and beaver dams, the success of overcoming them, is all the reward I need for the effort I put in ). I looked forward to this paddle and I was down to my tank top again in the heat of the afternoon sun. The wind, which had offered a challenge down Fish Lk, was now welcomed as the mosquitos had begun to bite. Whaaaaaat! It's September! Don't they know? I enjoyed the slow, winding paddle along the quiet marsh. Painted turtles and frogs greeting me along my way, but the highlight, were two otters that made an appearance. They were ANGRY! Snorting and growling at my presents. I DID NOT KNOW THEY COULD GROWL! Grrrrrrrrr......just like angry little dogs. I baby-talked to them but they weren't having it. They wanted me gone, so I obliged and paddled on. I have video but haven't yet worked out how to load it......sorry. I'll update when I've mastered that!!!!
Once I entered Gem Lk, I met strong winds that gave me a significant work-out. In spite of it's small size and the surrounding mountains, Gem Lk pushed back, hard on me, and slowed my progress. I passed the 130m portage and headed down Howry, pushing hard into the headwinds and struggling to get into the lake proper. My goal was site #151, but after much aggressive paddling into winds maxing at 32km, I found it occupied by the two men I had met the day before. Serves me right for sleeping in! I paddled on, angrily slicing into the churning water, ( that's my stubbornness coming through ) towards the only other site which was next to a portage ( sad face ). It was a hard paddle to finally arrive, tired, but satisfied with todays journey. It wasn't as exposed to the portage as I thought it would be and since I never saw any one crossing it, it was never a privacy problem. The disappointing thing about this site was, again, finding trees to hang my hammock sleep system, but I located a not too bad location. The fire pit was awesome.....very small but built long and narrow like an oven. I had gathered wood along the paddle down the lake and so once I was set up I built a fire and enjoyed an evening of reading after cooking some bannock, fried and salted, with rice and vegies for dinner. Sadly, I spilt half my rice, when the grate tipped in the fire and then half of my remaining wine was spilt. ARGH! This was not good since I had packed VERY little food ( although I DID bring a full flask of wine - smile! ). Almost no lunches, breakfast for only half of the days and light dinners.... a handful of snacks. I have troubles with acid reflux and between stress, and physical activity, my condition can be very uncomfortable. I have found eating lightly while camping agrees with my poor tummy. I enjoyed the star filled sky before dousing my fire and retiring for the night.
DAY 6 to Leach Lk - Temp : high 22 / low 15. Max wind gust : <31
Whoo hoo! Managed to be out of bed at 7:30 and was packed up and just having a wee bit of apple sauce ( warm......mmmmmmmmm ) and a 1/2 cup of hot chocolate. The men from the other site were paddling past on their way out through Howry Cr and they stopped to chat. They were booked on Helen Lk for the night so they had a BIG day ahead of them. We said our farewells and I finished packing and headed down the portage ( the one good thing about being next to it is quick access ). The 665m went quickly in the cool of the morning and I embarked onto Cat Lk, fishing rod in hand, hoping to have a repeat of my previous success. I was hungry and would have stopped to prepare and eat my catch, but the fishing Gods laughed at me as I only caught a small bass and a young pike....none of which were large enough for eating.
As I turned towards the portage, my stomach angrily protesting my defeat, I paddled along the north side, startling two deer in the bush who quickly turned, and ran into the deep wood. This is the first time I have encountered so many of these lovelies and I was very pleased. I headed down the 480m into Van Winkle. The day had grown hot. I was lost in my own thoughts and reflection, when to my left there was a flash of movement and crashing noise as I startled a cow moose. It was in the wood about 50 ft off the trail, and crashed through the under growth of trees and shrub to beat a hasty retreat. All I really saw was her backside as she disappeared from view.....the only moose I would see! Usually when I am on the portage, I like to sing, talk to myself, bang my canoe etc. intermittently. I do this specifically because I don't want to surprise anything. It's upsetting to me and the animal! I was glad it wasn't a bear! As I arrived at VW Lk I could hear wolf howels to the S/W. It was 12:00 noon and I was surprised to hear them. They were pretty close and just a warm up to what was in store for the evening. The passage down Van Winkle into Hanwood and back out to Leach Lk was uneventful, marked by a little wind and lots of sunshine. When I got to Leach I decided to check out the site next to the Murray Lk portage but found it did not have a great selection of trees to hang my hammock from so I headed back to the site I had enjoyed my first night. As usual, I collected wood along the way, also filling my Gravity Works filter with water so that when I pulled up to my site I was ready to set-up for the night. I bathed down by the water, even shaving my legs ( this sh@* matters folks! ) . Dehydrated mashed potatoes with melted cheese for dinner followed by coffee mmmmmm. Another fire, another "Starry, Starry Night".
Wolves began yipping and howling from the North, followed by another group from the N/NE. They were CLOSE! I enjoyed the firelight and slipped into my hammock to read. The wolves went on till late into the night, a third group joining in, howling from a long distance to the South. It was the first group from the North that really occupied the still night and sang me to sleep with their ancient melody. I was startled as I just began to slip into sleep, by the sound of hoof on stone as a moose ( at least I believe it was a moose ) walked into my site from a trail behind my hammock. I think it must of been startled to see my tarp, as I could hear the foot falls followed by its scrambled turn as it cantered away back down the trail. Not a quiet night for me! I slept with my hunting knife ( sheathed ) next to me. A little too much going on out there haha.
DAY 7 to Murray Lk - Temp : high 19 / low 14. Max wind gust <31km
Egads! Back down the 1090m into Murray today but its the only portage......so I slept-in bahahahaha. It had rained ever so lightly in the early morning so I got up at 9:00 ( God, I looooove my hammock ) and layed everything out to dry. Once I packed up, I headed out across the water, dropping a line in hopes of catching fish as food was low, I mean really low. No luck but at least the portage was a little dryer and the sun was out and hot. It was an uneventful trip into Murray and I set up camp on site #149. I had not intended to stay on Leach the night before but because Murray was booked I had to stay at Leach and camp the following day on Murray. I really didn't want to have to tackle "the Notch" along with another portage in one day as I wasn't sure what to expect. I had a quiet afternoon and evening, no wolves, bears or moose and sadly no fish either......although I tried. I paddled the lake throwing down my line and collecting wood for the evening fire. Bedtime was at 10:00pm followed by a little reading. Good night Killarney.
The indigo waters of
Up,Up and away on "The Notch"
DAY 8 and 9 to Nellie Lk - Day 8 Temp : high 20 / low 14. Max wind : <31km
Day 9 Temp : high 20 / low 15. Max wind : <31km
Up at 8:00am ( I am in no hurry Mr and Mrs reader ) I was packed and at the portage by 9:30. What ever you do, if you visit this area, start your walk at the portage sign ( it can be a little hard to find ) and don't get side tracked by what appears to be several other access points. The portage is exactly where it appears on the map. I had determined to go slow one foot in front of the other. All I have to say is....it was easier than I expected! It was just the first wee bit that was really steep and another section of steep rock about half way through. Other than that I completed the double carry in 2 hrs 15 min and felt great. Beautiful Notch Creek runs along the portage cascading into falls in several areas. When I arrived onto Carmichael Lk I immediately could see the clarity of the water. A group of three canoes arrived as I was having a rare snack which I had saved for this triumphant occasion. Eight young men got out with 5 food barrels and a large cooler. I chatted with them and they recommended the site they had just left. They had cleaned it up and re-built the fire pit with a sitting area, and said it was a good site. They were out for 3 days. You read what I said about the food barrels right???? Young men need a lot of food lol. They had come from Murray the day before and were now going back on their way out with all the food barrels still full of food. At least they didn't starve lol. I was sort of jealous! I hit the water heading through the narrow opening into Nellie Lk. I kept looking over the side of the canoe into the water. The clarity and colour were amazing. The water was flat calm, and it gave the impression that you were floating on air when you looked over the bow of the boat. You can't tell where the water is.....it has to be seen, to be believed! I headed for site #143 and was impressed with what the guys had done. It had a great area including a tenting pad which I was surprised to see. As soon as I unloaded my canoe I took a swim in the cool clear water. Ahhhhhhh! The best part of swimming here is that the rocks are completely free of any algae so no slippery, slimy rocks. I heated some water and washed my hair then heated another pot to wash my tops which had begun to smell rather badly ( blush ). I spread my laundry out and I set-up. I set out in the afternoon to collect firewood and paddle along the lake. I had a meal of cous cous with vegetables and enjoyed yet another star filled night from the safety of my fire. I baked a carrot muffin in the coals to enjoy as a treat for breakfast the following day, stowing it carefully in my food bag for the night. I was awakened through the night by the sound of something splitting rotten wood ( I was thinking "bear" but didn't want to leave my hammock to find out ). As early morning came, I could here the chirping and purring of a racoon outside my tent followed by another one screaming from the trees. It was a busy night in the woods! Morning came with a mist across the water. I built a rare morning fire and made a cup of coffee, heating my carrot muffin and then savouring every bit! I mean....I ate every crumb!!! I set out to paddle the lake in spite of a brisk 25 km wind, spending the early part of the day just exploring. As I returned to my site I passed the point with the third campsite and stopped to chat with two couples who had just arrived. They invited me to join them for coffee on my way out the next morning. Back to camp I went. I spent the afternoon swimming ( sooooooo lovely ) reading, sunning myself and shaved my legs - again - so civilized!. I made soup with fried bannock for dinner. In bed with my book by 10:30.
Day 10 to Grace Lk - Temp : high 20 / low 17 Celsius. Max wind gust 33km
I awoke at 5:30 to the sounds of yet, more wolves, howling from the West. Their plaintive cries rocked me gently back to sleep. I was up by 7:30, packing up my gear for what would be my last night. I decided to take my new friends up on their invite and headed to the point for morning coffee. They were up, coffee ready, when I paddled in at 9:00 am. They were so kind and it was nice to chat with like minded people and we talked about the wolves we had all heard from the safety of our beds. I enjoyed both the coffee and company......Thank you Doug, Marianne, Jim and Barb. I hope to see you in your future journeys. I was on the water heading toward the 2085m into Grace. The morning shroud had cleared a path to another sun-filled day. What have I done to deserve all this sunshine? I was soooooo lucky on this trip and I made sure to saviour every sun-kissed moment.
I had been warned the portage into Grace was challenging, but it was just the first 10 minutes that really offered difficulty. A steep rise followed by a slow steady decline made for a pleasant walk in the woods. The trees had begun their colourful decline into decay as autumn arrived in Killarney. I passed one solo traveler, single carrying his canoe and gear, in the opposite direction. He faced a slow uphill walk all the way into Carmichael. It's definitely better going INTO Grace. Once on Grace I was struck by the beauty of the surrounding camel-back mountains. They rolled, in blankets of green timber, around the lake like some crazy roller-coaster. To the North side, granite cliffs highlighted the beauty that is Grace Lk with all her elfin islands. The wind was up and I pushed forward toward the site in the middle of the North side. It was fantabulous! Yup, I spelled that correctly! It had a granite counter-top work counter, lots of space for tents, hammocks etc, and a great fire pit with a beautiful view. I spent the day paddling, with the only wild-life sighting, a beaver, who splashed his angry protest at my presents. In the afternoon I relaxed in my hammock, just reading, and taking it all in. The night time sky did not disappoint again, with another starry display from the heavens above. I sat around my fire 'till 11:00, before retiring on my last evening in this magical park.
A room with a view Just hangin' out
Day 11 to Cranberry Bay - Temp : high 20 / low 17 Celsius. Max wind 35km
I was up by some miracle at 7:00 am. I was down to my last coffee and one serving of bannock which I cooked and ate with relish. I had a one cup serving of onion soup left, that's it!, which I kept in case of emergency. I was hungry and had been fantasizing all last night about a Tim Horton's coffee and bagel with cream cheese - sigh! I watched the sun come up and began packing my gear. By 9:00am, I was on the water, making my way to the last 1745m hike out to Cranberry Bay, where Dan was picking me up at 12:30. I wanted to give myself lots of time for the portage as I didn't want to be late. It was a quick 10 minute paddle and I was unloading the canoe. Another sunny, warm day followed me; the water, a calm sheet of glass before me. I stepped into the portage, pack strapped firmly on, and made my way down the forest trail. It was cool amongst the trees and the trail was easy, marked only by a few muddy patches but nothing extraordinary. I passed an interesting hole under a tree stump along the portage, that had me wondering if a bear had spent last winter there. Certainly something had found it's home under the knotted roots. As I walked, I sang, and I was almost to the end when I met up with a group of four men heading into Grace. We stopped and chatted and went our ways. After dropping my pack, I returned down the trail for my canoe to find the men walking it down for me. This is the second time I have had such a chivalrous gesture from men, and although unnecessary, it was kind. We stopped and chatted some more and I took the canoe from them and we all carried on our way. You meet the best people out here!
By 11:45 I had completed the last steps of this 11 day challenge and stood waiting for my ride. Dan didn't disappoint me and was there promptly at 12:30. I was loaded up and heading back to the dock, feeling a sense of pride and satisfaction in what I had achieved......and looking forward to Tim Hortons'
I hope that through sharing my stories, you may be inspired to visit the unique beauty that Canada, and Ontario, have to offer. We forget the stunning heritage of our own home. As for me, I'll continue my adventures! I hope to see you out there.