G-TOWN TO META
June 18, raining all day, 15C, light winds from N
Springtrip 2012 had been cooking in the planning pot for a few years. One of the biggest expenses for Outers is busing, so we’ve been trying to plan trips that start closer to town. This trip did just that, and utilized part of our trip form last year, and covering approximately 200 k in ten days.
Outers met at the shop at 7:30, and despite the dismal weather, spirits were high. This year, we had another new female chaperone, Anya S. whose calm nature and warm smile kept the students balanced in the worst of conditions.
The bus arrived at 9:00. Our destination was the pipeline road, about 10 kilometers from the school. There was a very small creek that crossed the pipeline road, and eventually wound its way to Alfred Lake. Staff Haslam and Magee had cut the 700 m port out earlier in the spring.
Due to poor weather, we didn’t get to the start point until 10:30. Unloading occurred quickly, and we were on the water by 10:57.
A 15-minute paddle brought us to the only port of the day. The port began at another pipeline road, but due to high water, we were able to paddle right over the road. There was some wet slogging at the beginning, but some awesome scenery toward the end of the port, with steep cliffs and a babbling brook. Lunch was consumed at the end of the port and we were back on the water by 12:30.
A 24 k paddle lay ahead of us, and at many times, it was not very pleasant. The rain was constant, occasionally coming down in Biblical proportions. However, the Outers suffered without complaint, which is our unofficial motto. Somewhere around 4:30 we hit the bridge on the Crib and met some fisherman. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we got to Burrows Lake. Burrows can be a very nasty lake when the wind is up, but it was quite placid tonight. The remaining 6 k took around an hour, and we got to camp at 6:00. The camp is situated on a point on the east side of the lake, and although well used, it is quite a beautiful spot. The sun broke through a few times, but thunderstorms rolled all night.
June 19th, overcast, 20 C, no wind.
At 5:45 the girls were up and out of their tent. Haslam couldn’t believe his eyes as he crawled out of the staff tent. He was thinking that this was going to be the dream team of all Outers, and that staff would be able to sleep in while the kids got everything ready to go. What had really transpired is that when Anisa looked at her watch, she had thought it was 8:45, and that everyone had slept in.
The problems associated with the portage from the previous day were suddenly becoming apparent. Brigade leader Irene fessed up to forgetting the eggs at the end of the port, 24 kilometers away. We had to dig into day 5’s oatmeal. Her partner, Staff Magee, had a wipe out with the canoe over his head on the port. Staff Lavoie had to lift the canoe off of him. Staff Magee had torn his shoulder up pretty bad, so it was decided that when we reached the Murky Creek Bridge, he would be going home.
However, the bacon was cooked to perfection.
Burrows was as calm as glass as we set out at 8:00 AM. The paddle up the river into Poilu and Arm Lake was stunning. This section has lots of rocky points and cliffs, and is a joy to paddle.
There was only one port this day, a vey short little thing around a set of rapids on Murky Creek, about a kilometer before the bridge. The port was a problematic little thing, used mostly by motor boats in the spring. Because we were travelling upstream, Outers were forced to put in right at the head of the rapids. Staff Haslam got into the water and gave the mall a mighty shove to start them on their way through the heavy current. Everyone did very well, although Outer Pieter had gotten so worked up that he paddled like a 40 horse motor.
We reached the bridge around 1:00. Staff Wilson from the school was there with his friend Trevor to pick up Staff Magee. They also brought Staff Haslam’s solo canoe and took a tandem back with them. Cook Evelynn’s mom had been there earlier that day and left a drop off of goodies for students and staff. After a lunch of donuts, goodbyes were said, and Outers left upstream on Murky Creek for parts unknown. There was only one indicated campsite on the map, and it was shown as an emergency site only.
We met some moose hunters on the long paddle, and around3:30 we located the emergency site. Upon examination, it was declared a first rate bug hole, and the Outers proceeded to paddle around the next small lake, examining other bug holes. In the end it was decided that the first bughole would be home for the night, and after extensive chainsawing, it shaped up to be a passable campsite.
The fire pit had to be dug in mud, and this caused some aggravation for the cooks, but they eventually turned out a good meal of sausages and rice around six o’clock.
Haslam had found an ancient running shoe at his campsite, no doubt left there by a former Outer 20 years ago. The children bothered him all night to tell a ghost story, so he related the very scary story of Stumpy, the former Outer who had lost his foot at this very campsite 20 years ago. After everyone was suitably scared, they went to bed.
Wed, June 20, overcast, rain in the afternoon, winds mostly calm
Camp slept in today until 8:00 PM. Everything was wet and damp. So a leisurely breakfast unfolded.
Everyone was on the water by 10:15, headed for the mysterious Murky Creek. Murky Creek to Murky Lake was the one place that staff hadn’t explored for this trip. There were a variety of reports from old Outers documentation, and from locals, saying that it was anywhere from navigable to a beaver dam strewn nightmare. However, high water had turned it into an easy two-hour lilly dip. There was one tight spot where some strong paddling was needed, as we were going upstream, but it was basically a nice little jaunt.
Staff Lavoie distinguished himself by breaking an aluminum paddle in half right in mid stroke, almost causing him to eject from his canoe.
Several campsites appeared on the left bank, going upstream (river right), all superior to the Class 2 Bughole of the previous night. We would definitely stay at one of these the next time.
At 12:30 we entered Murky Lake and headed for a nice campsite on the southeast shore. The plan was to catch a bunch of walleye and have a shore lunch, but Murky Lake wouldn’t release its fish. After a half an hour of fishing, the wind came up, so we headed for the portage at the end of the western arm of Murky Lake. Outers stopped at a small island before the port to have a lunch of very spicy pepperoni, so spicy that it was felt for several days afterward by some Outers.
The port was reached at 2:30. This had been a beautiful port up until ten years ago, when Neenah Paper cut it down. It is a prime example of why the “in-between lake ports” need to be protected. The original port had followed a natural ridge all the way to the lake. We were no walking on a 750 meter logging road, and then porting through a series of clear cuts and gravel pits to Springwater Lake. The only plus was that Assistant Brigade leader John’s parents were able to drop off some goodies for him. The road was covered in bear scat, and John’s parents confirmed that they had seen a very large bear on the crest of the road as they had driven in.
Irene and Pieter distinguished themselves on this one-mileport by jogging between stages. Peon Ashley had a memorable moment when she stepped in a huge pile of bear poop that was as smelly as it was slippery. Rain began at 3:30 and continued to pore throughout the second stage of the port. Camp was set by 5:30.
The Springwater campsite is beautiful with a large beach in front of it. Despite the rain and cold temperatures, most Outers went swimming. A huge meal of noodles and canned chicken was devoured with gusto, and a massive but fruitless clothes drying episode followed. Camp was in bed by 11:00 PM.
Thursday, June 21 Strong west winds, heavy rain showers, microbursts.
A noisy girls tent on Wednesday night prompted Haslam to declare that everyone was getting up at6:00 AM as punishment. At 6:00 AM, the rain was pouring in Biblical proportions and the wind was howling down Springwater. The punishment would have to wait, as there was no point trying to depart early. Staff Lavoie called his dad and asked him to meet us at the port entrance on the Crib road with the food drop off. There was much loitering as the rain fell off and on all morning.
At 10:30, Staff Scheib Mayer and Lavoie took a posse of Outers over the port to pick up the food drop. Everyone was back by 11:30 with the usual assortment of junk food for the sugar-addicted teens. A slow pack up proceeded, and at around 2:00 Outers launched into a strong head wind coming down Flemming Lake.
Three major rainsqualls assaulted the outers as the bobbed and weaved down Flemming. One of the squalls could have qualified as a micro burst, as the skies went pitch black and the wind built up to hurricane force in a matter of minutes.
At about 3:00 PM, the wind subsided and the Outers entered the “Creek of No Return”. There was a 700-meterport around this creek, but Haslam figured it could be run. Staff Lavoie had to cut several trees until the current picked up and flushed the Outers down a tight water roller coaster, ending in a cattail swamp. The rain struck again as we pushed through the spider webs of the close knit greenery. By this time, most rain gear had taken a four-day beating, and people were getting cold. It was decided to camp at the nice site by the bridge on Flemming Lake. At 5:00, a beautiful tent city began to spring up, and the cooks delivered a stunning meal of Hamburger Helper. Brigade leader McKay made an excellent drying rack over the fire, and four days worth of wet clothing simmered into the wee hours of the morning.
Pike fishing went on at the bridge until dusk, and camp retired at 11:00 PM.
The Bughole Universal rating system was developed in a bughole on day two. The worst rating was the BugHole with an 8.5, and the best one was the site on Burrows with a rating of 13.
Friday, June 22, sunny, light winds.
The “half-way-day” dawned with a blue sky, the first one of the trip. Last year’s notes revealed that the Outers had risen at 7:00 and not gotten to the designated campsite until 5:30, so Haslam decided to get an early start. Everyone was crawling out of his or her tents by 6:00 AM. Unfortunately, fate had a different plan. One of the peons had to be shipped home, and after many unsuccessful calls to her parents on a cellphone (yes, much to our dismay, cell phones were working in the bush), Haslam had to make arrangements through the school to pick her up. This necessitated major fast planning (MFP) to rebalance canoe loads and partners. At 9:15, Staff Haslam said goodbye to Staff Lavoie and Staff Anya as they led their little duckies onto Flemming Lake. At 10:00 AM, JJ Arts showed up to take the peon home, and to also pick up Haslam’s solo canoe. At about 10:15, Haslam and Peon Cotton began the canoe race to catch up with the rest of the Outers. They succeeded in doing so at 11:35 at the end of Flemming Lake. A pelican colony had taken hold on the island at the north end of Flemming, and there must have been close to two hundred of them flying about.
The water running out of Flemming was quite high, but Staff Haslam and Peon Cotton shot the rapids anyway. A second canoe was also shot by Staff Haslam and Staff Anya. The remaining canoes were ported by 12:30,and a floating lunch was had to escape the Class 2 Bughole.
Lunch was finished up at 1:30, and then the long paddle under big blue skies to the campsite on Kowkash river began. Several eagles were spotted hovering on the thermal winds over the placid Kowkash Lake. During a rest stop on Kowkash Lake, some floating roots from Lilly Pads were used to whiten teeth.
At 4:58, the campsite of the previous year on the Kowkash River was reached. A great supper of rice and veggies was served.
The most distinguishing event of the night was when Staff Anya and her canoe partner ABL Irene had unexpected swims. Irene went for a tumble while unloading the canoe. About two hours later, Staff Anya must have felt remorse and went for a sympathy dunk while trying to get water. Everyone was dried out and in bed by 11:00.
Saturday, June 23 Clear Skies, moderate winds
Camp slept in to the grand old hour of 7:45 AM. The day dawned clear and cold, after a frigid night. The wonderful triple cold smoked slab bacon was suspect this morning; black on the outside and pink and squealing on the inside. It was still devoured with gusto.
We left camp at 10:00 AM and reached the first rapids at11:00. These were the rapids that had taught BL McKay the lesson about leaning upstream the previous year. However, due to high water, the rapids were a breeze. Staff Haslam, Lavoie and Anya shot all the canoes through along with experienced Outers.
Lunch was had at the blown out bridge, and canoes were shot around the rapids with ease, again due to the high water. The only slow down caused by the excessive water occurred at the next port around Rupert Falls. The entrance to the port was reduced to one canoe at a time, and there was some slogging through knee-deep water, trying to avoid submerged rocks.
The next rapids had completely disappeared, proving that the Kowkash was an easier river at high water. A bull moose appeared shortly after the flooded out rapids. He was standing on a sand pit with his head behind a bush, and he didn’t move the whole time all of the noisy Outers paddled by him. Brigade Leader Mckay said he had been told that if a moose had his head behind a tree, he would think his whole body was covered too. Strange how they seldom do this during hunting season.
The rest of the day was spent paddling endless meanders under a blistering sun. The Howard Johnston campsite was reached at 5:08, and a leisurely supper of spaghetti unfurled as well as a beautiful tent city. A thunderstorm blew in around 8:00 PM, driving everyone into their tents.
Sunday, June 24th, sunny, cloudy, light showers
Up at 7:45 to a cloudless morning. Breakfast was delayed due to a lack of firewood, a situation soon rectified by Peon Luomala, the Ninja Kindling Cutter. The Bacon was very salty this morning, and tasted better than $1000.00 caviar.
Everyone was on the water by 10:00, paddling into a very stiff headwind. The high water was really noticeable at this point, as the usual swifts and rock dodging around the blown out Lucy Lake Bridge were non-apparent. Uneventful hours of paddling were interrupted by lunch at 12:30. At 1:00 we pressed onto the log jam port, or at least what was left of it. Most of the port was underwater, so Staff Lavoie had to cut a long extension through a briar swamp to get the students off the river.
The dried up creek in the middle of the port had now become a 40 foot wide pond. On the other side of the pond, the port had fallen into the river, trees and all. Staff Lavoie cut a new trail, and the Outers slogged there way through water to the end of the port. The banks at the end were pure clay, and BL Onabigon and McKay took the opportunity to have a clay fight with each other.
By 3:30 we were paddling again. The winds had dropped substantially, so the crew was averaging about 8 k an hour on the swollen waters of the normally sedate Kowkash. The nice campsite at Howard Falls was reached at 4:00PM. Canoes were immediately portaged across the 360 m trail, and an easy campsite was set up.
Everything was in excellent shape from the previous year, and after a meal of KD, the trout fishermen began their quest. Fishing trout at Howard Falls in high water involves poking one’s rod through a variety of trees and shrubs into a feeder creek and pulling like a banshee when a fish bites. After several fish were hooked with a variety of baits, ranging from rubber tails to cigarette butts, only one actually made it to the frying pan.
Just before bed, Staff Anya and Lavoie were asked if they had anything interesting to say about the day. Anya said “no, there was nothing interesting today”, and Staff Lavoie said it was “boring”. From a staff perspective, these uneventful days are a blessing.
Monday, June 25, clear and hot, strong west winds
Camp rose at 6:00 AM and porting began immediately. Outers ate breakfast in between trips. By 8:10 everyone was on the turbulent water below Howard Falls. Travel on the river was very fast, as the water had continued to rise all week. Albert Falls was reached quickly and ported at lightening speed. The bridge over the Ogoki Road was reached at 10:15.
Several changed were made at the bridge. ABL John and HC Megan had a pre-arranged ride waiting to get them back to Nakina for their siblings’ graduations. Staff Anya also had to leave to get out for a prior engagement. Former Outers Leader JJJ Arts was present to drop off food and exchange staff.
Former Outer and present day teacher Michelle K. came in to replace Anya. Lots of goodies were consumed at the bridge, and food barrels were repacked. A canoe was sent back with Mr. Arts, and then the excitement began.
There were three sets of rapids to run before Abamasagi Lake. The first set was run on the extreme river left, and were hair-raising.
Staff and experienced Outers shot all the canoes through. Two more sets were shot by all Outers, with many of them proclaiming that the good times had finally begun. Little did they know that the “good times” that awaited them on Abamasagi lake were three to four feet tall, and topped with a white frosting.
Staff picked a line along the shore, and much hooting and hollering was heard as the Outers crashed over large rolling waves. The beach campsite was hit at 1:30, and due to last year’s clean up efforts, little work was needed to construct camp.
Much swimming, loitering and doing nothing prevailed. BL Irene was making bannock until 9:00 PM.
Everyone was in bed early, with dire warnings from Staff Haslam about the “Hell Port” we had to face the next day.
Tuesday, June 27, sunny, mild winds
Everyone was up at 4:45 to a most disgusting breakfast of ruined boiled eggs and disgusting warmed up bacon. Abamasagi Lake was completely calm, and we were on the water by 6:00 AM.
An uneventful paddle brought us to the end of the lake by8:03. We proceeded up the small stream flowing into the lake until we reached the culverts on the gated road. BL Jeff and Anisa helped push everyone through a small breached beaver dam. Haslam told everyone to fill all their water bottles before Hell Port, but when we reached the culverts, a stinking rotten gut pile from a killed moose was floating in the water. Needless to say, we didn’t fill up here.
The first 700 meters of Hell port begins on an old but good logging road. At the end of this section, the Outers were lambasting Haslam for getting them so worked up about the difficulty of the port. Haslam chuckled quietly, as he knew what lay ahead…750 meters of churned up, swampy loonshit that got deeper with every passing. A canoe parade began first, with everyone coming down the trail in single file. Outers alternated between dragging and carrying their canoes through the semi liquid trail. Several Outers sank past their chests, and they had a very difficult time extricating themselves. Curses heard only on the docks of St. John, New Brunswick, made by hardened longshoremen pierced the air.
Most people did three trips, and by the end they were exhausted. As BL Anisa was stumbling toward the end of her third trip, a snake actually swam across the port in front of her.
The port was started at 9:30 and finished around 1:00. Nobody doubted Staff Haslam’s warnings now, as they were coated in loonshit from head to toe, and were completely exhausted. It was decided to just paddle all the way to the campsite on Meta Lake before having lunch, as everyone was so dirty. We arrived around 3:00, and as soon as everyone crawled onto shore, they passed out under a pleasant stand of black spruce.
At about 7:00 PM, former Outers staff Clavet showed up with a whole bunch of goodies for the Outers, including ice cream. Staff Clavet and her partner own a fishing lodge on Meta Lake, and they always take the opportunity to spoil us with food whenever we show up.
Camp retired around 11:00, after promotions were held.
Wed, June 28, sunny and hot
Camp rose at 7:00 and was on the water before nine. Staff Lavoie and Michelle decided to headover to Staff Clavet’s lodge for breakfast, while the rest of us dined on thelast of the triple cold smoked bacon. The port out of Meta is 2.2 kilometers, and the kids flew over it. At 11:30, as we began arriving at the end with our second loads, the bus pulled in. Staff Magee had come along for the ride, his damaged shoulder held up in a sling. Everyone was very happy to be going home, and when the doors to the Outers shop shut at 3:30 PM, plans had already been madefor next years trip.