Day One, June 19

Outers arrived at the shop by 8:00 AM.  Last minute loading proceeded and the trailer was packed and ready to go by 8:55.  Bus arrived at 9:05 and left by 9:15.  A plume of dust the size of Hiroshima followed the bus down the Goldfield road.  Hot and dry conditions have been in place for over two weeks, and the entire area is under threat of a fire ban. 

At 10:40 the bus pulled into the small gravel pit before the Kamuck bridge.  Excited Outers unloaded the bus and began their first port.  Indeed, for many of the Outers, this was their FIRST port, as a few seniors on the trip had never participated in a canoe trip before. Brigade leader Jennings takes charge and quickly has everyone moving.  After pictures on the traditional “Picture Rock”, all canoes are on the water and moving by 12:00.

A leisurely paddle under clear hot skies up Flag lake brought the Brigade to the campsite on the far south side of Kamuck Lake by 3:30.  Camp was set and everyone was dying of heat. Temperatures hovered over 30 degrees, so at 5:00PM, staff leaders Haslam and Clavet guided the crew to the portage around the Kamuck River.  One third of the way up the port there is an interesting falls.  A shear drop of about fifteen feet turns the river at a right angle.

Large mist clouds generated by the falls rise above the moss carpeted parapet and cover all who stand there in a cooling drizzle.  Peon Safroniuk hooks into a large fish.  Staff Haslam, thinking that it is the monster trout from the depths runs to the base of the falls and jumps into the torrent.  The huge trout turns out to be a medium size pike, but all is not lost.  Haslam discovers that the torrent at the base of the falls is actually swimmable, and soon almost all of the Outers are frantically splashing in the bubbling pool.  Head cook Koroscil and Peon Goodman engage in a deep diving contest to try to find the bottom of the pool, but it seems to be unfathomable.  Excited cheers and the refreshing effects of running water is tempered by fear of the unknown, that lingering feeling that something from the great unknown depths will swim up and snatch part of one’s body.  In fact, Peon Cloutier almost loses a valuable part of his anatomy on a small twig of a protruding log.

Returned to camp by 6:30 and a huge supper of spaghetti is served.  Weather is so hot that extreme care is taken with fire…as well, many people are just not hungry.  Camp retires to a sweaty, restless sleep by 10:00 PM.

Day 2, June 20  Sunny, south winds, 15-20 Kph, 28-30 degrees

Camp arose at 7:00 AM.  A leisurely breakfast of bacon, oatmeal and strawberries followed.  The first meal of Outers’ bacon is always an anticipated moment of the trip.  The strong odour of triple cold smoked sow belly is a smell that automatically transports experienced Outers back to memories of trips gone by.  For the uninitiated, the smell evokes reactions ranging from horror to loud bear like growls coming from their stomach.  This bacon, often complete with hair and nipples still attached, always causes strong and cliched opinions; one either loves it or hates it.

The group is proving to be quite organized and efficient, as the very first morning sees them on the water in under three hours.  By ten o’clock, Outers are paddling up Kamuck lake, headed for the first port of the day.  This short rocky port is reached at 10:45 and completed by 11:45.  It is notable for its horrific launching site, which entails cat like agility, scampering over old beaver dams, huge rocks and generally non-friendly territory.

A ten minute paddle leads us to the second port of the day.  This port is normally somewhat wet, but everything is bone dry!  The water is so low at the launch that Outers must walk out into a knife-edged rock garden in order to load and float the canoes.  Extremely hard on the ankles, and several lacerated feet result from the malevolent rocks.  At 3:15, everyone is cranky as we head down the small lake looking for a campsite.  Nobody wants to camp in the traditional bug hole, so an extensive search of every remote nook and cranny on the lake is conducted.  After two hours of looking, an adequate site is found on the North end of the pond, just before the outlet to the next pond.  The campsite is less than perfect, and Staff Haslam spends a fair amount of time with the chain saw clearing cheekos.  Due to the extreme heat and fire hazard, the kitchen is set up on a rock point that juts well out into the lake.  The two separate campsites leave a lot to be desired; traveling between the two must be done by canoe.  Many Outers must swim to cool down from the intense heat, but soon discover that the water is full of loonshit, and trying to get clean becomes an exercise in trying not to get dirtier.

Kraft dinner is served at 8:00 PM, but once again, not many people are hungry.  The heat is really wearing everyone down.  Michael Goodman appears to be close to dying, and food has not passed his lips for a couple of days.  Seven packs of kraft dinner feed twelve people, and not all of it is consumed.  Never in the history of Outers has there been such a fastidious and picky bunch of eaters.  JJ Arts would have salivated in unbridled glee, thinking of the money he would save on food bills with this bunch.

The fisherman, Peons Goulet, Safroniuk and Goodman, caught many pike over the course of the evening, and fell in to the loonshit lake several times as well.  The steep rock we had the kitchen on was covered in lichen that became slick as wormskin after it got wet.  Brigade leader Taphorn was in rare form, entertaining the camp with her hysterics until everyone retired to their sweat-pits by 10:30.

Lonely chair on sweathog campsite.

Brigade leader Taphorn

Day 3, June 21  Calm, 30 degrees

Camp is awakened at 6:00AM by a sleep starved Haslam.  The night was like sleeping in a sweat lodge, and the day doesn’t look like it is going to be any better.  The camp proper is broken down and everyone moves to “Kitchen Rock” for breakfast.  The hot weather is even affecting the normally impervious bacon.  Outers are beginning to view it with a bit of suspicion before it enters their mouths.  Several refuse to eat it, thinking that the heat has reanimated the pig meat, and fearing that it will crawl back out their throats faster than it went down.  Breakfast is finished by 9:30 and departure occurs at 10:13.  Trouble is immediately encountered at the mouth of the small stream leading out of the pond.  The water is lower than it was at the end of August when Staff Haslam came through to clear the ports.  At the beaver dam that was normally an easy push of the canoe, several bodies are needed to do lift overs.  There is much lifting, grunting and swearing as canoes are pushed and propelled through noxious smelling loonshit that clings to everything.  Canoes, clothing, paddles, arms, shoes, faces, hands, packs; nothing is spared from the gooey coating of viscous clinging crap.  Undaunted, the courageous Outers push on through a narrow stream that bubbles like tar and smells like death.

Shit Creek widens into a pond where the next port begins.  At the entrance to the pond, a huge Bald Eagle takes flight, leaving a few small fluffy feathers behind, which are quickly and greedily snatched up by Feather Hound Clavet.  Port reached at 10:45.  This is usually a shoe-swallowing-monster-of-a-bog-hole-port, but low water levels have turned it into a mere swamp.  Suffering is wet and bug filled, but no-one loses their shoes.  Keanne Lake is reached by 12:00 and a floating lunch in the shade is conducted until 1:00 PM.  The temperature is oppressive, and the infamous Toupee Port still awaits us.

Team work!

End of Loon Crap port

According to JJ Arts, the port to Toupee lake was once a beautiful stroll through luxuriant green forests.  Now it is a stark burnover more resembling Mars than the northern Boreal forest.  It has been cleared three times in the last four years, and yet the burned trees continue to come down.  Staff Haslam almost met his maker in August on a solo clearing mission.  He reached the port at 8:00 PM, and by 9:30 he had only cleared about one hundred yards.  The job was completed in May when Staff Haslam and Staff Simson, along with Head Fireman Zach Haslam and Nick Moylan cleared it on the long weekend.

On this scorcher of a day in June, the port was once again blown in, and Staff Haslam and Clavet lost gallons of water clearing the one kilometer mess.  This port was the first proving ground for the inexperienced, as temperatures soared over 30 degrees.  Outers were warned by staff nurse Clavet to take all measures against heat stroke and heat exhaustion.  Outers soaked their shirts in the lake and drank gallons of water over the next three hours.  Suffering was pure and transcendental, as collapsed bodies were strewn all over different parts of the trail.  There was no shade in this hellish burnover, and Outers hid under lifejackets and canoes to find a slim bit of respite.

The newest technological advance for the Outers Club this year was a water filter for each canoe.  These little units proved to be worth their weight in gold on this day of suffering.  Dehydrated Outers were able to suck water from the rattiest little mud puddles and beaver holes, and this probably prevented most of the crew from becoming dehydrated.

Valiant Outers were on the placid and refreshing waters of Toupee Lake by 4:00 PM.  A languid float with lots of water filtering brought us to the beautiful Toupee campsite by 5:00.  The water is so low that several beaches are apparent on the lake.  The canoes are parked at an extensive beach beside the campsite, and much swimming takes place.  Everyone still carries the crusty loonshit remains of the morning, and it is with great glee that the scrubbing begins.  Staff Haslam starts the chicken stew surprise while the kids clean up.  Supper  is eaten at 7:00PM and proves to be very scrumptious, having been saved from the mess of Haslam’s inept cooking by Head Cook Koroscil and Cook Brown.

Campsite on Toupee

Pumping water

The conditions are so dry that Staff Haslam is assuming a fire ban is on.  He fires up his little one burner stove, and supper is completed on this amazing little unit.  Dishes and clean up is finished by 8:30.  Brigade leader Jennings has a secret stash of brownies, and is demonstrating the savvy of an experienced camel trader as he barters for cigars and favours.  A beautiful still night follows, pierced by bright stars and melancholy loon cries. 

Day 4, June 22  Hot, windy, clear…27 degrees.

Camp arises at 7:00 AM to a completely calm lake.  We are expecting an easy day of downstream paddling, so a leisurely breakfast is conducted of beautiful bacon and scrambled eggs.   About an hour after waking up, the camp is polluted by a toxic smell that causes retching and gagging.  Outers speculate that Al Queda has released a nerve agent in the area.  Finally a chagrined but relieved Outer emerges from the bush, having made the first “deposit” in four days.  Departure occurs at 10:13.  The wind has freshened considerably, and the paddle to the mouth of Kenogamisis river is fast…too fast.  Upon arrival, Staff Haslam realizes that the water in the river flowing out of Toupee is at an all time low….lower than when he came through in late August.

Mouth of the dried up Kenogamisis River

Outers who had been promised a leisurely paddle of four to five hours downstream are now confronted with the horror of dragging canoes through miles of loonshit.  However, there was only one way out, so the dragging began amidst much cursing and struggling as feet and knees disappeared in a foul smelling quagmire.  The bridge on the Lower Statesman Rd. was reached at noon.  No sign of JJ Arts, who said he would meet us at Toupee.  We were hoping he would bring in a full sized stove to facilitate cooking.  After a short break, we continue on down Kenogamisis river until we begin encountering beaver dams… hundreds of them.  Peon Goulet enlightens us to the concept of the “Master Log”, and he begins to savage the dams like a rabid dog in search of a bone.

A lunch of granola bars and jerky is consumed and then Outers are back at it.

Beaver dams change into log jams and Outers struggle through a new set of obstacles.  Camp is finally hit at 6:00PM, a beautiful big site just before the Lower Statesman bridge on the right.  It is a bug hole, but welcome at this point, as everyone has put in a hard day.  Supper is served by 7:15.  Haslam phones home to find out that a full, unmitigated fire ban is on, and has been for three days.    VP Luomala tells Staff Haslam that JJ Arts was supposed to bring the stoves into Toupee two days ago.  Haslam speculates that Mr. Arts is dead in the big wash out on the road to Toupee.  Later that night, two American fisherman say that they spotted a wrinkled old gray haired guy in a red canoe out on Wintering Lake.  Johnny has been spotted…we were beginning to think that he was like the sasquatch…seen but never captured. Staff Haslam and Peon Goodman speed out to find him, but he is nowhere in sight.  Camp retires at 10:30.

Day Five June 23  Cloudy and very hot.

Camp up by 5:00 AM sharp. Very busy and officious, as we try to get onto Wintering lake early to avoid any adverse winds.  The breakfast of pop tarts is well received by everyone but Staff Clavet who claims not to like them….not like pop tarts???!!!  Hmmmm.

 On the water by 6:15, excellent time, this crew moves well in the morning.  Paddle up Wintering Lake and spot Johnny’s canoe at 7:00AM on a small island at the main opening.  Johnny had the stoves, so we took them and left him with our garbage, which was getting pretty rank.

We pushed on down Wintering, canoes made heavier with guitars, gas and stoves.  Spotted eagles and Ospreys and arrived at the North end bridge at 8:45. 

Phoned the school to inform them that Johnny had been found and stoves obtained.

Our trip up Fecteau and Gamsby was punctuated by several rude fisherman who thought they owned the water ways, nearly swamping us several times as they raced by at breakneck speeds. 

Camp is reached at noon.  It is scorching, muggy and generally uncomfortable.  A leisurely setup occurs in the customary jack pine campsite on Gamsby Lake, followed by a refreshing swim on a nearby beach.  The afternoon is distinguished by large scale napping. While sleeping proceeds, Staff Cheryl and Head Cook Koroscil make bannock for the next day.  A rumbling and whining is heard from the boy’s tent, and Brigade Leader Jennings emerges with a lip the size of a fully inflated bicycle inner  tube.  He is administered to by Nurse Clavet with 25 mg of benadryl.  Supper  is started at 6:30 PM.

It’s a new freeze dried meal of chicken fricassee, quite good with lots of broccoli.  Johnny brought the wrong guitar, and it is decided to send it back tomorrow, but in the meantime it receives a new set of carved pegs and the night resounds with music.  The music session continues until about 11:00, when the camp retires. 

Day 6, June 24 hot, overcast, sunny, rainy, sunny

Camp roused at 7:00 AM after a night of great sleep.  Bacon, oatmeal and blueberries hit the spot and Outers cheerfully prepare to depart.  Lots of bear scat in the area and the smell of rotten fish.  Staff Haslam slept with the chain saw beside his tent in case any nocturnal visitors arrived.  On the water by 9:40 and arrived at Wintering Lake Resort at 10:20.  Outers were met by Staff Standby, R. Helkie with a new stove.

Wintering lake resort owners are quite helpful, and the portage through their territory is complete by noon.

We drift down Kenogamisis river until the alternate port cut by R. Haslam in 1999 is located.  However, the port is not necessary as Outers rope canoes through a series of rapids.  The only port of the trip that R. Haslam was not able to clear in August is now reached.  It is a disaster, with huge windfalls over the entire length.  Staff Haslam and Peon Goodman clear the entire length.

Outers port canoes and packs with vehement determination and are back on the river by 4:30.  More river walking and pseudo paddling in store.  Koroscil and Cloutier manage to land on the only rock in the river, a monster of a boulder, visible with the naked eye from the space station. 

The third port of the day is started at 5:30 and finished by 6:30.

Camp is set by the Goldfield Road just as torrential rains begin to soak the parched ground.  The new huge kitchen tarp is set up and Head Cook Koroscil makes a magnificent chicken stew.  The night is distinguished by Head Fireman Haslam falling down the embankment by the river and losing one of the pots in the river, after being warned repeatedly not to do so.  Overnight the skies clear, but by 7:00AM it is raining to beat the band.

Day 7, June 25  Rain, rain, rain

Awoke to rain, steady and drenching, in fact, a downpour.  Staff Haslam decides to let the camp sleep in till 9:30.  The brand new kitchen tarp has come down over the night, unable to withstand the pelting rains.  Quickly re-erected by Haslam while Koroscil and Brown make an excellent breakfast; the pig is done to perfection this morning.  A slow takedown of the camp proceeds in the rain and the porting across the Goldfield Road begins around 1:00PM.  Undaunted by the rain, the Outers set a blistering pace, and everyone is back on the water by 3:20.  The low skill level of some of the canoeists is becoming apparent as we twist and yell our way down the slowly flowing river.  Perhaps it is a good thing that we are no longer allowed to run rapids! 

As the wind picks up, we paddle across Finlayson lake, arriving at the campsite used in 1999 at 4:30.  A phone call home reveals that despite the torrential rains, the fire ban is still on, even though Satan Himself couldn’t start a fire in the soggy conditions around the campsite.  We were hoping to dry out some clothing, as most every bit of clothing is soaked, but the dry cloths dream awaits another day.  To compensate, two lanterns are hung in the boys tent, and all of the Outers congregate there to warm up.  Supper is served by 6:30.  It was not much a day for work or play, but spirits are high despite the soakings!

Day 8, June 27  Intermittent rain, drizzle, 20 degrees

Woke up to a huge thunder and lighting storm, accompanied by more torrential rain.  When the alarm goes off at 7:00Am, the rain is beating a drum on the tent, so Haslam decides to let them sleep in until 8:00.  By that time, the rain is letting up, but everything is soaked.  The simple act of walking from one part of the camp to the other results in a huge soaking from the wet bush.  Nobody has dry clothes anymore, and the wet weather is starting to drag spirits down.  Around the breakfast tarp, people are heard to exclaim that they will never complain about hot weather again.  Spirits are raised by an excellent breakfast prepared by Head Cook Koroscil and Cook Brown.  Blueberries and assorted fruit on the oatmeal slowly brings everyone to life.  Staff Haslam phones the school.  Surely to God the fire ban must be off by now.  It would take a nuclear bomb to ignite the bush around the dripping Outers.   Confirmation comes via the satellite phone that the fire ban is off.  Praise the rain Gods, now bring on the sun!

By 10:55, Outers have made the short paddle to the old bridge by the first set of rapids.  Haslam and Clavet have sawn off pieces of wood and driven in several nails to enable a lift over of canoes, thus cutting about two hundred yards off the portage.

Lift overs proceeded with haste and then two sets of fastwater swifts were shot.  Arrival at the first port occurred at noon, and Outers flew over it, finishing shortly after one.  Brigade leader Taphorn took a wrong turn and had to be located by search party Marzowski and Haslam.  An errant brush axe from the staff canoe also somehow ended up at the beginning of the port and had to be rescued by Haslam.  Somehow, the standard Outers’ maps appear to be wrong; the next port is a mere hundred yards from the end of the last one.  It is about two hundred yards long and quickly traversed by hungry Outers, who greedily devour lunch in floating formation at 2:30PM. 

Staff Clavet goes gaga over several “interesting” rocks, but Haslam, still smarting from carrying a couple of 150 pound beasts back from Santoy on last year’s Spring trip, only allows two into the canoe.  A ten minute paddle leads to the third port of the day, that is indicated on the maps at only 250 yds.  However, it takes eleven minutes to walk it without any packs, so it is probably closer to a half mile.  Staff leaders Haslam and Clavet have a look at the rapids and decide to run the six canoes through themselves.  New regulations don’t allow students to run any rapids.  There is one very technical turn leading into a series of hay stacks that force a series of piercing screams from Clavet every time it is entered.

By 4:18, the two staff leaders have shot all the canoes through and the outers continue on to the campsite on Wallace Lake.  One straight shoot is run by all Outers, as Haslam judges it to be a very easy class 1, barely qualifying as rapids.  The Outers are finally beginning to demonstrate some moving water skills as they eddy out after the chute.  A small but cute fisherman’s campsite at the south end of Wallace Lake greets the tired, wet and cold Outers.  Taking full advantage of the lifted fire ban, a big kitchen tarp, complete with wind break and fire is hastily erected.  Drying off of sneakers, boots and clothing occurs over  the next several hours.  An appetizing meal of curried chicken and rice is served, and Outers linger around the fire until late into the evening. 

Day Nine, June 28  overcast, rain

Once again, we wake up to the continual pitter patter of rain on the tents.  An easy day lies ahead, so everyone stays in bed till 9:30.  Staff Haslam and Clavet start fire and breakfast.

Groggy wet and cold Outers slowly arise.  A wonderful breakfast of diced apples, oatmeal and cinnamon and bacon is served.  It’s a two coffee breakfast-there is no rush as outers wait for the cessation of rain.   Finally at 1:00PM all canoes are packed and the first port of the day is approached.  It is a lengthy thing with lots of nasty wet holes.  Haslam and Brigade leader Jennings scout the lengthy set of technical rapids and decide to run four of the canoes through.  There are lots of tight turns with no room for eddy outs, so Jennings and Haslam are pushed to their limits running down the half mile set.

The last canoe is run through by 2:30 and we set off for the last port of the trip.  However, Haslam spots a feather on a rock, and Staff Clavet and Head Cook Korscil investigate.  They name their find Eagle Rock, because seven Eagle feathers are found.  Cheryl is in pirate heaven as she stashes her find.  By 4:00 the last port of the trip is reached, and camp is arrived at by 4:45.A feast ensues, cooked by Staff Clavet and the two brigade cooks.  Japates, kraft dinner, hash browns and beef stroganoff are served over a two hour period.  By 9:10, the gorging is over, and the promotions occur in the staff tent.  Nurse Cheryl hands out the customary cigars given at the promotion rounds.

Day 10, June 29  Sunny, 22 degrees

The anticipation of the last day always causes Outer to move with a renewed vigor.  Everyone is up at 5:00 AM, and loading canoes down the steep embankment to the river.  There is a heavy fog on the river, and as Outers try to find the opening to Kenogamisis Lake, Staff Clavet snaps off a few rolls of films.  The pictures that result are phenomenal.

Staff Haslam takes a wrong turn in the fog, and the Outers are momentarily lost.  A quick look at the map reveals that they are probably in a back bay of Kenogamisis Lake.  The fog was so thick that the narrow turnoff for the lake was missed.  Outers paddle back to the lake, and the fog lifts, leaving a beautiful sunny paddle back to the bridge.  The bus pulls in just as we arrive at the Geraldton Waterfront.  Mr. and Mrs. Simonaitis also greet us, as does Mr. Clavet.  Outers make hasty work of unloading and cleaning up the shop.  The annual Spring trip is once again over, and the return to civilization is accompanied by the foul odour of stinky Outers running for the showers and a refrigerator full of food that is fully constituted.

-Mr. Haslam