SPRINGTRIP 2007 – Trip Report
THE MARSHALL LAKE LOOP (ALMOST)
Monday, June 18 Sunny all day, Thunder Storms at night 22 C
The 2007 Outers Springtrip began in the usual mundane fashion, with Staff Haslam arriving at the shop before 7:00AM to finish packing up the food barrels. Students began staggering in around 8:00 AM and finished loading the trailer. Departure occurred at 9:35.
The Bus, piloted by Neil McOdrum, the fasted driver in the Greenstone fleet, began to give us warnings shortly after take-off that this trip would not be a normal excursion. Ten minutes into the drive, the bus was pouring out black smoke, and the Outers began to feel like they had ringside seats to a tire burning party. We pulled into the airport so that the mechanic could check us out. Ten minutes later, the bus had a clean bill of health, but was still spewing clouds of noxious smoke as driver McOdrum tore up the tarmac of the Nakina highway. Despite the pauses and smoke, we still arrived at the Marshall lake parking lot by 12:20, a testament to Speedy McOdrum’s abilities.
The port from the Ogoki Highway to Marshall Lake is 1.2 K, and we were fortunate to be met by retired Outers Staff E. Lavoie and his friend Dave A. These two experienced canoeists would be giving us a hand for the next couple of days, and Outers gladly accepted their help porting everything down to the lake.
Twenty three people working together can move a lot of gear quickly, and all ten canoes, thirty five barrels, four tent packs, and myriad other items were on the shores of Marshall Lake by 2:20 PM. However, departure was not in the cards. Forty to fifty kilometers per hour winds were whipping Marshall Lake up into a frenzy, and Outers had no choice but to wait it out, a scenario that would become very familiar over the next ten days. The waiting game was played until 5:30 PM, when a staff consultation determined that the end of the portage would be the end of the first day for the anxious Outers. Tents were set, the kitchen was prepared, a few large dead trees were cut down and garbage from previous campers was cleaned up. At 6:30, a huge thunderstorm descended, driving everyone to their tents for the night.
Tuesday, June 19 Cloudy 20 degrees C
The plan for today was to get up at 5:30 AM and break out of camp, headed for Gripp Lake. The wind had other plans for us. It never stopped blowing all night, and was still around the 50 K per hour mark at 5:30 AM. It steadily increased throughout the day. The new Peons were starting to think that Outers was all about lying around, doing nothing. The boredom was killing the seniors, who were itching to get moving.
We were visited several times during the day. Since we were now going to be two days behind schedule, Haslam phoned in for a food drop off. At 10:00 AM a party of Outers walked out to the Ogoki road to meet auto teacher Mr. McIver and Principal Mr. Simonaitis. They dropped off food, pop and a stove pack, as the new Coleman apex would not work. Back at camp, Staff Nurse Clavet suggested that we set up one canvas tent in case the weather turned for the worse. Outers began to think that Clavet, AKA The Hurricane, might be in cahoots with the storm Gods, as three major thunderstorms rushed through the camp. At 3:30 PM, Mr. Gross, a local MNR CO arrived with the latest weather forecast. Moderate winds were predicted for tomorrow. By this time, the trip was starting to look like a car-camping trip in a park, with all the visitors and inactivity.
An excellent supper of spaghetti and smokies was served at 5:00 PM. Assistant Brigade leader Leslie was overheard saying “we’re just burning those calories off on this trip”. At 7:00 PM, Mr. McIver and Mr. Simonaitis showed up again, this time with chainsaw gas and the cutting pants that Haslam had forgotten. Haslam was much relieved, as the thought of cutting several portages without protection was sending him into a paranoid fit. The wind, which had been blowing fiercely all day, was beginning to diminish by 11:00 PM, and the only gusts still blowing were the sweet sound of snores.
Wednesday, June 20 Cloudy with sunny periods 22C
At 2:00 AM, the camp was struck by another windstorm from the southwest. At 5:00 AM, when Haslam woke the crew, the wind was still blowing, but beginning to diminish. A quick breakfast of bacon and oatmeal was followed by the canoes finally hitting the water. This was a new record for Outers, being wind bound for the first two days of a trip. Although many students were greenhorns, the loading proceeded at a first rate pace, and Outers were all on the water by 7:05. Breaking out of the bay provided some fun sideways rollers, but the Outers were up to the challenge.
Meanwhile, back at camp, our companions Edgar and Dave were labouring to put as much food into them as possible. A live pig that they were consuming one leg at a time supplemented their several bins of eggs, tomatoes and potatoes. The squeals of the final meal could be heard far out on the water.
As the Outers left the bay behind, the sun made an unexpected appearance, and life was once again as it should be. At the narrows toward the west end, the Staff explored an island campsite. It proved to be quite a nice spot, but very garbagy, no doubt from the winter fisherman who come in by skidoo. ABL Trent and Peon Shawn both hooked into some very nice walleye just off the island. By this time, the lake had settled down to a mirror like surface, and travel proceeded at a blistering pace. The first port of the day was located river left, at a small set of rapids on the Gripp River. The old trappers cabin that has been the historical landmark for this port for years was finally starting to decay back into the earth. However, the abundance of garbage seems to be growing, giving new meaning to the phrase “if you build it, they will come”. It seems like a small pile of garbage in the wilderness will quickly attract more….”if you leave it, it will grow”. Everyone was back on the water by 10:35.
Gripp River is a tortuous, shallow little thing, so care must be taken, especially by the cedarstrips, to avoid the jagged rocks that hide centimeters under the water. Despite repeated warnings by Haslam to leave space between canoes, the inevitable pile-ups and traffic jams occurred as the group navigated to the next portage.
Port number two of the day was reached at 11:25. The port, located river right, goes around a short section of rapids and ends in a long pool. This short port was quickly traversed, and Outers were on the water by noon. Two minutes of furious paddling brought the group to the third and final port of the day. This port was located river left, about 100 meters from the previous port. By this time, the portage routine had been established, and the Outers flew to the other side, finishing up at 12:35. A leisurely lunch was served, and the journey to Gripp Lake was resumed at 1:48.
A surprise awaited the veterans who had done this trip before. A new mining operation had been started on the south shore of Gripp, complete with a very messy winter road that had been punched down right to the lakeshore. Three prospector tents stood flapping in the breeze, and smoke curled from a chimney, but no one came out to greet us. One of the students has several camps on Marshall Lake, and he was dubious about the quality of humans found within the tents. His description of certain events from the previous winter lead the Outers to believe that the “miners” were to be avoided.
The traditional Gripp Lake campsite is two thirds of the way down the lake on river right. The Outers made record time and arrived there at 3:00 PM. The rocky ledge was known to be a crowded site, and raising two prospector tents (12 x 14) and three staff tents, as well as a kitchen tarp took some ingenuity and diplomacy. Just after the tents were set, the MNR floatplane flew over. One of the Conservation Officers had a daughter on the trip, so he was probably mixing business with pleasure, or at least checking to see if we were still alive. He sent us a picture of our camp from the air, which was a first for Outers.
An excellent supper of rice, carrots, celery and green peppers was prepared and consumed, just in time for another thunderstorm to roll in. The storm rolled over and a beautiful night unfolded, with lots of swimming and cleaning up. As the evening chill moved into the camp, the Outers settled in for a good nights sleep. Spirits were high after our first full day of travel.
Thursday, June 21 Cloudy periods, moderate winds 20 degrees C.
As usual, another huge rainstorm crashed down on the camp overnight. Lightning, thunder and a prodigious amount of rain fell for several hours. Haslam was up at 6:10 AM and was quite surprised to see our traveling companions Edgar and Dave still intact. They had camped on the low ground, and with all the water running down the rock faces, their two-tarp method (one on the outside, one on the inside) must have saved them from a sure soaking.
Gripp Lake has always treated Outers well in the morning, and today was no exception. The sun was fragmented through thick fog on mirror like waters, and the stillness was breathtaking. So was the temperature. Gripp Lake also had a history of being cold in the morning, and this morning was no exception, with the temperature hovering around 2 degrees Celsius.
All Outers were on the water by 8:10. Travel to the first port was idyllic, on calm, sunlit waters. The first port of the day was a few hundred yards down the Gripp River on River Right. A large clearing turned into an absolutely stunning portage, rising from the grassy clearing to a mixed woods trail. Haslam and Clavet were the first two over, and decided to let the kids fend for themselves as they proceeded to fish. Many pickerel were caught.
The first moose of the trip was seen across from this port, but was quickly scared away by the shrieks coming from Staff Clavet as she reeled in one fish after another.
Outers proceeded down the Gripp River around 9:30, surrounded by a multitude of wildlife. Three eagles, one osprey, 49 ducks and several dozen ducklings gave the troupe an honour guard escort to Summit Lake. A pee break was called on the first east point on Summit Lake, and a very large campsite was discovered back in the bush. It was complete with two crappers, a large tent frame, and ironically enough, even a kitchen sink.
Travel up Summit was into a moderate north wind. Just before the traditional lunch stop on a large erratic rock, three moose were spotted. One had to be coaxed to leave our lunch spot. Anyone possessing The Canoe Atlas of the Little North will recognize the picture below, as there is a pencil sketch that is almost an exact replica of the photograph.
Lunch of spinach wrap, cheese whiz and pepperoni received an excellent review and was gobbled up quickly. Immediately after lunch, a set of small rapids had to be walked where Summit Lake turned into the Powitik River. A short port exists on river right, but we have yet to use it. The second port of the day was reached fairly quickly. Clavet and Haslam shot all the canoes through except for the cedarstrips. The third port of the day was reached shortly afterward. This was a nice, dry port through a poplar stand. These rapids had never been shot by Outers before, but Haslam and Clavet decided to give them a run. They were an interesting set of rapids, involving a steep, fast descent with a quick eddy out behind a beaver dam. A hole in the dam provided the perfect line for the next set, which was a twisting S-turn that provided an adequate dose of excitement. Haslam then took ABL’s Trent, Lenay and Kayla through as his bowsman. The final port of the day was just across the pool at the bottom of the rapids, and Outers reached it at 4:00 PM. This is a beautiful site, situated around a waterfall on the Powitik.
This spot had been historically an excellent fishing spot. However, it proved to be less than exciting, with not even a pike landed. The no-see-ums, however, were at their best. Supper was served at 5:30, and it was accompanied by a liberal helping of scratching and cursing, as billions of tiny black bugs turned the crew into a welted group of smallpox wannabees. Staff Clavet was up to her old shenanigans, loading up empty packs with a variety of rocks, while Haslam explored an ancient garbage dump. A conference was held on the final trip plan, and it was decided that in light of the terrible weather, unpredictable winds, and the fact that we were two days behind schedule, a new plan would have to be developed. It was decided that we would travel to Stone Lake and then return to the bridge, rather than risk the insane winds of Ara Lake, and the horrible sucking swamp port between Stone and Ara. Everyone retired to their beds by 11:00.
Friday, June 22 Sunny, Cloudy, rain, south winds 20 degrees
A lazy morning unfolded, with camp not arising until 7:18. Several people now had the terrible cold that one person had brought in at the beginning of the trip, and Nurse Cheryl was kept busy dispensing a variety of cold remedies. Many people were hacking and coughing and suffering from terrible sinus headaches. However, the Outers motto is Suffer without Complaint, and everyone was living true to the words. Bacon and oatmeal were stuffed into the hungry bellies, and the bugs were very few, either due to the incredibly cold temperature or the fact that the no-see-ums of the previous evening had sucked all the good out of us. Outers were on the water by 9:30 and the first set of rapids was reached by 10:18. This was a straight C1. Haslam cleared a couple of sweepers from the sides and then all canoes were shot down under close supervision and the use of walkie-talkies.
Shooting the rapid consumed an hour of time, and we left around 11:30. The next set was reached at 12:50. This set has always been problematic. The hydraulics are not huge, but the run is very technical, involving much side slipping and back paddling to nail small openings in a rock garden. Haslam and Clavet shot the pig through first, then bushwhacked back up on river right. The port had been indicated on river right, but there was no chance that even a rabbit could get through the undergrowth. They next took the rubber duck down and eddied out on a sand bar on river left. A shorter bushwhack was involved to get back to where the canoes could access a landing, and the remnants of a very old port was discovered. The Staff members shot all nine canoes through, and the port position was noted, but not cleared. The day was getting long, and temperature was dropping. Haslam decided to leave the clearing for the next trip. We left at 2:48, with the hope of making it quite a bit further. However, when we reached the next port at 4:00, it was decided to stop for the day.
The port was a horrible mess of wet muck loon crap, and Haslam wanted to build a solid corduroy road over the swamp holes. Campsite improvement was also an immediate concern, and several large trees were dropped for safety. BL Stephanie provided the solution for hanging the two large brigade tents in limited real estate, and Haslam went ahead with Firemen Robert, Jay and Kris to build the wooden walkways. Several corduroy roads were built, as well as one bridge, and the crew returned to camp shortly after six. Cooking proceeded over Coleman stoves tonight, since Kraft Dinner was the food of the day. Woohoo! Much enjoyed by the kids, despised by staff. Rains off and on fairly steady, most people in bed by 9:00 PM.
Saturday, June 23 overcast, rain, 16 degrees C
A tremendous thunderstorm shook the camp all night, starting at 11:00 PM and finishing up around 7::00 AM Saturday morning. Torrential downpour pelted the tents all night long. At about 3:00 AM an enormous crash of thunder and flash of lightning right over the camp caused all the Outers to scream in fear for their lives. Most thought the large balsam tree being used for ridge ropes had been hit. Staff made sure everyone was well, then hunkered down for more of the same.
At 5:30 AM, staff was debating what to do. The lightening was still cracking and rain was falling in sheets. Outers were woken up and told to start breakfast but to leave the tents up. We were due to meet Ron K. at the Kap Bridge for our food drop off, so Haslam phoned him at 6:30 and told him we might be late. Porting began at 7:30, and the mess that awaited the Outers was truly astounding. So much rain had come down that night that all of the corduroy roads and bridges were floating in six inches of water. The squishy mud of the day before had turned into a complete bog, with most sections having knee-deep shoe suckers.
The 670 meter port was conquered by 10:20, but not without casualties. One of the first victims was the English language, as a variety of shrieks, moans, grunts and curses delineated the various states of misery. The second victim was rain gear, which proved to be useless, as it held more water in than it kept out, and generally ruptured and split along any seam that contained a flex point. The last casualty of the port was Jean H.’s shoe. Jean’s leg had been swallowed by a huge mud hole, and when he attempted to pull it out, his foot reappeared sans shoe. Poor Jean had to wait for almost a half an hour, barefoot in the bugs, while two Outers made the journey to the other end of the port to retrieve his shoe. Jean uttered one of the most famous lines of the trip; in his native South African accent he exclaimed, “Tighten your shoooes!”
The next port was five minutes away and was equally dastardly, although quite a bit shorter. Head Fireman Robert had the distinction of wiping out in a mud hole and being completely covered by his canoe. Just as the Outers thought that the fun was over, another five minute paddle brought them to the last port of the day. This one had a very steep take out on a slippery clay bank and caused some spectacular wipeouts. Everyone pitched in and chain ganged the gear to the top of the port and then booted it across to the log-strewn exit. We were on the water once again at 12:50 and wasted no time striking out for the bridge. Arrival at the bridge was at 1:45, and everyone took time to eat and dry off. The temperature was fairly cold, and some of the students were beginning to look pale. Ron K. had arrived with the food supply, so much celebration occurred. His daughter, Cook Jamie Lee, stunned everyone by catching a huge pickerel off the bridge. Staff Chelsea revealed that she had been suffering from some severe pain for the last couple of days, so it was decided to send her out while we had a vehicle.
By 2:30 everyone was full of pop provided by Ron. Edgar and Dave, our traveling companions, had turned around at Gripp, but had left some pop for us under the bridge as well. By the time we left at 3:15, everyone was in high spirits. Our destination for the day was originally Berger Lake and the Esker Hilton, but an executive decision was made to check out the small campsite on the Kapikotongwa about two hours away. The Esker Hilton was at least three hours away, and everyone was tired and still fairly wet.
At 4:55 we pulled into the fishermen’s campsite on river right. It has always been a garbage-strewn site, and today was no different. Outers set to clean up duty right away, and some inventive roping was necessary to find room for the tents. However, a cozy tent city arose quickly, as well as a crowded kitchen. After supper, there was a lot of fishing, cooking and eating of fish. Camp retired at 11:00PM.
Sunday June 24 Sun during afternoon, rain in the evening 22C
BL Bundy was in charge of wake-up today. He let everyone sleep in until 8:00 AM, probably waiting for the rain to abate, which once again came down in sheets all night long. Today’s travel was only about a 30 K paddle and no ports, so everyone was taking their time. A breakfast of fresh eggs and bacon was happily consumed, and by the time we were on the water at 10:30, the sun was beginning to poke through. We left the site greatly improved from when we arrived, and we hoped that it would stay that way for a while. A very leisurely paddle down the Kap River proceeded, with fishing stops and wildlife viewing opportunities. Three eagles, an osprey and a perigon falcon were sited before we reached Berger Lake. We stopped at the small island campsite on Berger to check it out as a potential emergency site. It was too small for a regular Brigade site, but a nice spot for one or two personal tents. It had been covered in garbage the summer before, but someone had done a good job cleaning it up. At the end of Berger Lake, the boys were hauling in the pickerel, and since there were no ports, they were all kept for consumption. Brigade Leader Bundy led the charge down the Kap toward Stewart Lake, and by 4:00 PM we had arrived. The site on Stewart Lake was in great shape, with quite a bit of firewood. To the great relief of many Outers, someone had also constructed a very nice thunder box, which came under immediate and constant usage for several hours. After supper, a thunderstorm rolled in, and crashed over the camp for four hours. Outers got a lot of practice doing the “lightning stance” thanks to the watchful eye of ABL Trent. The rain forced the boys into their tent for most of the night, which was like caging a bunch of hungry cannibal rats in a too small cage. Shrieks of pain and peels of deranged laughter escaped from the tent with a frightening regularity. The evening concluded with a beautiful double rainbow at 10:00 PM. Camp was asleep by 11:00.
Monday June 25 Rain, sun, cloudy, rain, sun……..22 C
Once again, a tremendous thunderstorm rolled in at 11:00 PM and lasted all night long. This one was special. Lightning lit the tents constantly for the entire night; indeed, a book could be read by the continual flashes. Hail the size of walnuts fell around midnight and Haslam ran to the tents to make sure everyone was safe. Torrential rain replaced the hail and fell so hard that the lake went up over three inches. A river ran through the boy’s tent. At about 2:00 AM the rain fell off for a bit, and Haslam could hear an ominous noise on the far shore…..a whooshing wind with the sound of snapping trees. He was sure it was a tornado. The storm raged until 4:00 AM, so most of the Outers had a full two hours sleep, as they were awakened at 6:00 by the weary staff. It had been an Outers night to remember, full of fear, excitement and wonder.
A slow take down proceeded, made slower by pancakes, something the cooks are never keen to make. Outers were on the water by 9:35.
There have been rumours of campsites on the islands in Stewart Lake for years, so Haslam took the time to check them out. On the first small island, a site was found with an enormous fire pit, almost big enough to be called a chimney. However, the campsite was puny and mostly underwater…not a desirable place to stay. From the end of Stewart Lake to the port before Stone Lake is an incredibly beautiful spot, and an Outers favorite.
The port was reached at 11:00 AM and completed by 11:42. The river was very high, so the paddle through the shallows into Stone Lake was very stiff, but doable. The sun poked through as we hit Stone, and a canoe race proceeded down the calm waters of Stone Lake. The campsite was reached at 12:45, with the staff canoe (combined age over 90) easily winning. Drying out of clothes, sleeping bags and lots of swimming and fishing took place over the next few hours. We met a couple of nice fishermen from Arkansas who left us with some cigars and chocolates. Overall, it was one of the nicest afternoons of the trip.
Many pickerel were caught and consumed, which was a good thing, as the supper was the infamous “cat food”, a mixture of canned chicken flakes and sidekick noodles. Although they were well received the last time they were eaten, they were universally despised this time round. The usual rain moved in at 5:00, and became steady by 8:00, turning into torrential rains by 11:00. Ho hum, we were still waiting for the weather to shock us.
Tuesday, June 26 Thunderstorms, rain 12 C
Up at 5:00 AM to beat the winds, but the winds had beaten us. A regular storm was blowing, with winds howling in from the north with lightning and thunder. Tents were taken down and tarps set up for a leisurely breakfast. Around 7:30, the winds began to abate and Outers started loading canoes. Half way through the loading, the wind changed directions and howled in from the east, complete with a full-blown thunderstorm. Admitting defeat, the Outers set up one canvas tent so people could stay warm and dry. Staff Clavet went on an axe sharpening campaign, and sharpened every tool in the camp, including the shovels. At 11:15, the whitecaps began to diminish. The waves were still large, but manageable. Tents and tarps were taken down, and loading of canoes was finished in fifteen minutes, a new record. By this time, everyone had enough of rain and thunderstorms, and the thought of getting wind stayed for another day really put the pepper into the mixture. Haslam scared the entire crew into maintaining perfect brigade formation, and the roller coaster ride down Stone Lake actually turned into a fun exercise. At 12:45, the Outers were finished with Stone, and back on the port to Stewart Lake. By this time, people were becoming cold. It had been raining steadily for several hours, and the temperature was just over 10 degrees C. It was decided to make for the campsite at the top of Stewart again instead of pushing on to Berger. At this point, a pike was noticed floating on the surface. BL Bundy picked it up, and a large pickerel was lodged in its throat. Death by gluttony!
Travel up Stewart Lake to the campsite of two days ago was fast. Tarps were set up and a fire started, as well as a quick meal of Kraft Dinner and Jujubes. An eagle, hotly pursued by three seagulls, swoops down to try to pick up the half digested pickerel. The pike went into the frying pan.
The last night of the trip is always promotion night, and the weather didn’t stop the process. Promotions were as follows:
Shawn M. Fireman
Jean Heinrick V.H. Fireman
Jay T Fireman
Travis P Fireman
Aaron M Fireman
Kris L Head Fireman
Livia R Fireman
Jamie Lee K Cook
Sadie G Cook
Sam B Cook
Robert F Acting Assistant Brigade leader
Anthony A Assistant Brigade leader
Kayla L Brigade leader
Lenay H Brigade Leader
Trent A Brigade leader
Sara M Staff Brigade leader
Stephanie K Staff Brigade leader
Brandon Zehr Staff Brigade Leader
Promotions were over by 9:41 without the usual cigars, as Staff Clavet’s suitcases had been lost by the airline on her flight from Seattle. Camp retired early, as a long day awaited them tomorrow.
Wed June 27 Rain all day 15 degrees C
Camp arose at 5:00 AM and was on the water before 6:00. Rain was the order of the day, and several of the Outers who had experienced rain suit rupture were now bagged in large garbage bags. A 35 kilometer paddle upstream lay before the Outers, and they were eager to tackle it. Breaks were minimal until we reached the small campsite an hour or two from the bridge where lunch was consumed.
After a difficult paddle, the bridge was reached at noon. Unfortunately, the bus was not there. A truck driver stopped to tell us the bus was broken down about twenty miles back. Phone calls were made and an emergency evacuation was planned. Meanwhile, the Outers started a fire and wrapped up in tarps to await rescue. An MNR truck came by, with the promise to pull our trailer out if nothing else could be arranged.
Eventually, the bus arrived, but promptly broke down again. Principal F. Simonaitis arrived with auto teacher S. McIver with a large diesel truck. Another bus arrived shortly afterward, and the convoy limped its way back to the school. We arrived back at the Outers shop shortly after six, and everything was hung up to dry and unloaded by 7:00 PM.
Another Springtrip had reached a successful conclusion. This trip was distinguished by the worst weather in years, and by the cheerful fashion in which the Outers tackled the difficulties. Plans were already underway for next years trip as the doors closed on the 2007 Marshall lake trip.