ONAMAN LAKE TO LONGLAC
Monday, June 17 Sunny, 21 C light winds 17 K travelled
The Outers shop opened at 7:30, and Outers began to arrive within the hour. Much of the preparations were done by Staff Haslam over the weekend while the Outers were writing their exams. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 9:15, but did not show up until 9:35.
There were only ten students on the trip this year. Several of them were Greenhorns, with only four experienced Outers. However, we had two females chaperones, who proved to be tough and able, as well as the regulars, Haslam and Staff Lavoie.
The bus made it’s slow journey up the washer-board Kinghorn Road. Several times one could hear the teeth of Outers chattering together in their heads as the bus rattled like the space shuttle in re-entry. Three bears were spotted on the 50 K trip up the Kinghorn to Onaman Lake.
The bus pulled into the parking lot at Onaman Lake at11:15. Unloading and lunch occurred at the same time, and we were on our way by 12:15. The port was two kilometers long, and well used by fishermen. Students and staff fairly flew over the port,some aided in their speed by the sighting of two more bears. Staff Lavoie was overheard telling staff Haslam “Your days of carrying two barrels at a time are over, you’re getting too old for that”. Haslam ignored the advice.
All fourteen people were on the water by 2:57. Onaman is a huge lake, and usually very windy, but today it was calm as glass. The decision was made to look for a possible campsite close to the creek leading to tomorrows’ three kilometer port. After scouring the shore, none could be found. However, Staff Lavoie knew of a campsite on an island two kilometers from the creek, so we paddled over. For the first time in Outers’ history, the campsite was occupied. By this time, it was getting late, and some weather was beginning to move in. Staff Haslam pleaded his case to the occupants of the site, as there was ample room for more tents, but our Southern cousins from across the border were unmovable, and the Outers were forced to turn around and backtrack for three kilometers to find a site in the south east arm. After much searching, a location was found, and much chainsawing by Staff Lavoie created a very tolerable site. Supper and tents were started around 7:00 PM. We reserved judgment of the island occupants, as the new site was quite good. However, turning a group of kids away is not how it’s done up here.
Everyone was in bed by 11:00 PM, including Staff Katie, who was hanging comfortably in her hammock.
Tuesday, June 18,Sunny, 22C, light winds 11K travelled
Camp rose at 6:15 to a beautiful day. A leisurely breakfast of the special bacon and oatmeal was served.
Everyone was on the glass-like waters of Onaman Lake by 8:41. We retraced our route from the previous day to the mouth of the small stream and began the paddle up to the small un-named lake.
Everything was coming up roses until we exited the lake. The small creek became a stump filled ditch, with lots of wading and pulling. Two beaver dam lift overs also popped up. We hit the entrance to the port at 10:30.
Staff Lavoie had boated in the weekend before to re-cut this port. The three kilometer Onaman port has always had a nasty reputation. Swampy at both ends and dry as popcorn in the middle. The last time the port had been used was in 1999, so it took Staff Lavoie two days to cut it, complete with dehydration and cramps. His experience contributed to a fair amount of indecision in Staff Haslam as he contemplated the best method of attack. Several of the Peons were still in Grade Nine, and had not carried a canoe beyond a couple of laps around the track. Haslam’s idea was to spend two days on the port, camping at the beginning of the high ground. However, this all changed once porting got underway.
The initial swamp petered out to high ground and a mossy jackpine stand around 400 meters in. Haslam’s back had given out, probably due to the double carrying the day before, and he was now in considerable pain. However, his plans to camp in the jackpine stand were vetoed, and the Outers began the next stage of 870 meters to some high sandy ridges. Peons Tanner and Chance filled up a 30 litre barrel with water and ported it to the end of the second stage. This was crucial for keeping everyone hydrated,and much appreciated.
Lunch was served around 1:00 PM, and the drugs Haslam had ingested began to kick in. He staged the next section of 1000 meters, and Outers began to follow shortly afterward. The port was not bad at this point, with a few longish muddy sections, fairly typical for Northern Ontario. By 4:30, most people had finished the third stage. Only 670 meters remained, but it was very bad. Swamp holes and mud and lots of tripping hazards. Several Outers fell more than once. However, most suffered without complaint, and the calm waters of Fullerton Lake were reached around 6:00 PM. Everyone was on the water by 6:38.
Staff Lavoie had spotted a potential campsite across the bay from the port, and all the Outers were there by 7:00. The usual chainsaw blur swept through the forest, leaving a new campsite in its wake. The cooks prepared an awesome meal of rice, veggies and smokies. The two female staff member, Lenaya and Katie, had enough energy to go fishing, and the kids all went for a swim at the Outfitters dock. Although we only covered about 11 k today, those of us who had to do three trips had walked 15 k, so everyone was in bed fairly early.
Wed, June 19, Sunny during the day, rain in the evening, 25 K travelled.
Outers slept in until 8:00 AM. Haslam and Lavoie up a little earlier, starting fire and cooking the morning bacon. A slow rising unfolded, but the kids were remarkably unscathed by yesterday’s trials.
On the water by 10:00 under blue skies and moderate tail winds. The paddle out of Fullerton lake and down the Kowkash river was quite uneventful.
Outers found an old Trapper’s campsite around 1:00 PM, complete with the usual rubbish and discarded tents. Lunch was consumed and we were back on the river, paddling for miles. At 3:00 PM we came to the first rapid of the trip. There was an old bridge at this point, probably fifty years ago, and all that remained was a dam-like structure spanning the river. The rapids under the three foot drop were easy to run, but getting the fully loaded canoes over the precipice was not feasible. Staff Lavoie cut a port, while Staff Haslam eased his cedar strip Raven over the embankment and ran the rapids. Outers were done porting by3:45.
The second rapids of the trip were hit at 4:00 PM. These started in a tangle of downed cedar trees and sweepers. There was no way through, so Staff Lavoie cut port number two of the day. Both of these ports were no longer than a 100 meters each. Everyone was back on the river by 5:00. We arrived at the third rapids within twenty minutes, and everyone was able to shoot through.
By now, rain had started to fall and temperatures were dropping. This trip was largely exploratory, as many of the sections of the route had not been travelled by Outers in over 30 years. The old maps indicated a campsite on Bliss Lake, but with a fairly sketchy description. Haslam took off in one direction, and the other Staff lead the little duckies to a rock face a few hundred yards north. Haslam found nothing, the other group found someone’s cabin with lots of flat space. It looked like no one had been there in a couple of years, and it was 6:45 with kids getting colder, so we opted to use the cabin site.
The usual tent city sprung up quickly, with most students trying to dry out various pieces of clothing over the big fire pit. Despite the cold and wet climate, spirits were high and laughter echoed in the trees.
Thursday, June 20, cloudy with showers in morning, sunny and hot in the PM. 32 K travelled.
Up at 7:00 AM, on the water by 9:15. Everyone happy to see Staff Katie still alive in her hammock after she appeared to be missing for quite a while. She camped some ways from the camp and didn’thave the normal morning hubbub to wake her up. Outers paddled across Bliss Lake with a slight headwind and began another uneventful paddle down the Kowkash. Wildlife sightings so far have been limited to eagles and ducks.
Just before we hit the bridge on the Greta Road, a strange structure appeared on river left. Upon closer inspection, it was a full birch bark wigwam, built in the old style. Haslam was so fascinated and staring at it that he ran his cedar strip up onto a rock in the middle of the river and fractured the bottom. The wigwam was attached to an old trappers shack, and looked like it was being used primarily for cooking.
We stopped at the bridge at 11:30 to check the canoe and then proceeded on until we hit the first rapids. These were shot by the two solo canoes (Haslam and Lavoie), but everyone else had to walk them. There were some excellent hijinks, as the crew tried to evacuate the canoes at a designated point to walk in the water. Peons Noah and Tanner almost did a turtle impression as they scrambled out of their canoe.
Nebula Lake was next on the journey. It really is a beautiful spot, with a large crescent beach at the south end, and a nice island campsite as well. Outers were soon over it, and back on theKowkash. A second set of rapids for the day was reached, and they were shot by everyone. The final rapid of the day was a narrowing of the river as it left Ansig Lake. The last time the Outers had come through this way, the water was low, and everyone had an easy time on the fast water. With higher levels, the rapid had actually become mildly interesting, with a shelf running half across and some standing waves. Everyone shot, with different degrees of success, but no one swam. White water instruction had begun!
The campsite search began at 5:08. There was one indicated on the old Outers map shortly after the rapid, but extensive searching revealed nothing. We headed back upstream and searched a couple of other likely spots, but still to no avail. Coming back downstream, we saw a small opening in the trees. Staff Lavoie and Haslam went ashore, and sure enough, there was a very old campsite. It needed extensive clearing, but it was right where the map said it would be. Staff Lavoie roamed up to the high ground in the back and found the foundations of four very large log cabins. A variety of artifacts were also scattered around. Speculation was that it was an old lumber camp from the 1940’s.
Camp was set after much chainsawing, and some Outers attempted to fish again. However, so far the trip has only given up a few pike. Everyone was in bed by 11:00 PM.
Friday, June 21, sunny in AM, cloudy, showers in PM. 12.5K travelled
Camp woke up at 7:00 AM. The crew was becoming very efficient by now, and everyone was on the water by 8:49. High cirrus clouds and very warm temperatures greeted us on the short paddle down the Kowkash. Our destination today was Murky Lake. We would also be getting a food drop and sending Staff Lenaya back to town. Haslam’s solo was going home as well, and he would take Lenaya’s place in the Wenonah.
In order for all of this to happen, we had to make our way into Springwater Lake and across a 1.5 kilometer port to Murky Lake. There is a small creek that connects the Kowkash River to Springwater Lake. There is a 700 meter port that circumvents the creek, but due to the warm weather, we decided to walk the creek. It was quite refreshing to be pulling upstream through crystal clear cold water, and in fact, many Outers needed a bath by this time.
Springwater Lake was reached at 10:30, and we paddled through moderate head winds to the port on the north east corner. There is a beautiful beach and campsite here, but we had to move on.
By 12:30, everybody had ported the first 750 meters to the Crib road, where we waited for the food drop, set to occur at 1:00. At 1:30, Haslam called the school on the Sat phone. The food drop guy was at the wrong place, somewhere down the Greta Road. Arrangements were made to send someone to find him, and Outers began porting the final stage to Murky Lake. Haslam stayed behind with Lenaya with the plan to solo Staff Lavoie’s canoe over Murky with five barrels and a variety of other goodies.
While waiting there, Staff Katie got a few brief moments of cell reception and received a call from England, confirming that she had a teaching job there next September. Strange things happen in the middle of no-where!
The food drop arrived at 2:30 with Auto teacher Stu and his daughter, former Brigade leader Sara. Food was quickly re-organized and packed into empty barrels and the solo canoe and garbage were sent out. Haslam said his goodbyes to Staff Lenaya, and then packed up Staff Lavoie’s canoe and headed for the campsite on Murky Lake. This was the first trip for Staff Lenaya, and she proved to be a tough and competent canoeist, a strong paddler and an excellent portager. She has already said she’ll be there next year as well!
Haslam arrived at the campsite around 4:00 PM to much jubilation. Staff Lavoie had pop, chips and chocolate bars sent in with the food drop off. Haslam cut off the fun by declaring treats off limit until all of the work was finished. Much chainsawing occured, and the area was made habitable. It was a bug hole, but a nice enough campsite. There was also a beach, so for the first time in five days, most Outers actually got clean.
A superb supper of Hamburger Helper was served, and camp retired by 11:00 PM. Mosquitos thick as a carpet settle into camp for the night.
Saturday, June 22,hot and sunny, 29 k travelled
The usual 7:00 wake up took place, but Outers moved slowly, probably due to the clouds of mosquitos conducting a blood donor drive. Chef Raymond sliced the bacon superbly, and proceeded to cook it to perfection. The cooks on this trip, under the supervision of Assistant Brigade Leader Megan, produced first-rate meals, cooked in record time. One cannot underestimate the importance of a good kitchen on these trips.
On the water at 9:20 for a long day of paddling. Murky creek at this point is a small windy river with some fast water areas. Outers quickly paddled this part and joined up with the main river. Upon reaching the bridge at Highway 584,lunch was served. A small but dangerous set of rapids awaited us about a kilometer down river. The 10 meter port was located right at the rapid, with an extremely small eddy to crawl into. After inspecting it, Haslam decided that experienced Outers could shoot it on river left.
After this small bit of excitement, many kilometers of paddling into a headwind were the reward. Arm Lake and Poilu Lake fell behind us in the blistering heat. Around 5:00 PM we reached Burrows Lake. Around 45 minutes later a nice campsite was located in an eastern bay, and camp sprung to life. The site was so nice and well used by hunters, that Staff Lavoie did not take his chain saw out once. There was even a stack of firewood, split and dry.
Later in the evening, former Brigade Leader Stephanie K and her dad showed up to take Staff Katie for a fishing trip. Katie was referred to us by BL Steph in the spring, and we were very happy to have her. She proved to be tough as nails and an extremely strong portager and paddler. England will be lucky to have her!
Camp retired at 11:00 PM. Tomorrow would be another exploratory day. We could not find anyone who had been down the Burrows river in 30 years, so we had no idea what we were getting into.
Sunday, June 23, overcast and warm 22 kilometers travelled
Camp rose at 7:00 AM and was on the water by 9:00. None of the staff or students had been on Manitounamaig Lake before, and we were surprised by its beauty. Countless rocky shelves jutted out into the lake, with an abundance of camping opportunities. It looked like a great place to spend a few days in the middle of summer.
There are two exits from the Lake into Burrows river. We decided to take the lower branch of the river, and immediately ran into some difficulties. The river had been used for log drives in the1950’s, so all of the rapids had been trenched out. We quickly found the first rapid, not indicated on our old maps. It was verging on a C3, with the bottom consisting of a very large wave train with lots of trees hanging over and around the haystacks. Haslam and Lavoie and ABL Megan searched both sides of the river, but found only very thick bush. It was decided to backtrack and try the northern arm of the river.
The northern Arm looked better immediately. It was smaller and more open. Just before it joined the main river, there was an interesting set of rapids; a steep drop with a good wave train at the bottom. Experienced Outers ran it with glee, as this was the first real rapid of the trip.
A couple of more kilometers brought us to a very long and technical rapid. Staff Lavoie and Haslam and ABL Megan scouted both sides of the river, but could only find the very beginning of an old port. The left side was a blowdown disaster, not fit for moose nor man to walk through. The right hand side was better, but still challenging. Staff Lavoie flagged a rough trail and Staff and experienced students ran the long set. Everyone else walked though the bush. We contemplated cutting a port, but it probably would have added three hours to our day.
Rapid nine of the trip was reached about an hour later. This was a long rapid as well, but after extensive scouting by Staff Haslam and Lavoie, it was decided that everyone could run it. Haslam and ABL Megan shot it first, followed by Staff Lavoie. All Outers made it, although there was some gunwale grabbing in the haystacks, which resulted in some frantic reprimands by Haslam.
Rapid Ten was reached shortly after. This was a narrow shoot between the remains of an old logging bridge. The wave train was quite large, but it was an easy, straight run, so Haslam let them all try it again. Even the Peons were developing some skills by now, and every one did admirably. Staff Katie distinguished herself by catching the most bow air in the 18.5 foot Quetico, sterned by Big John.
The final rapid of the trip could be heard roaring shortly after we left Rapid Ten. It sounded ominous. Haslam and Lavoie scouted it, and decided that the lucky streak was over. The wave train at the bottom was impossibly big, and most canoes probably would have submarined before they were out of it. There were a multitude of sweepers and random obstacles in bad places as well. Staff Lavoie pulled out the chain saw and created a top notch port of 162meters. By 6:30 everyone was back on the river.
We were now on the Kenogamisis Reservoir, and everyone suddenly realized that the ten day trip would now be an eight day trip. Haslam had scheduled two days for the 3 K port, and two days for the Burrows river, but the hardy Outers had surprised him with their fortitude and cut two days off the trip.
The immediate concern was to find a campsite. There was one indicated on the old maps about six K away, but the reliability issues of the maps caused us to look for one right away. A relatively flat area was found at the junction of Burrows River and the reservoir, and after an half an hour of the Chain Saw King Lavoie, a provincial park emerged. It was another great site, although by now, the mosquitos had found us, and were relentless.
At 9:30, promotions were held in the staff tent. All peons were promoted to Head Firemen. Head Fireman Evelyn was promoted to Assistant Brigade Leader, as was Head Fireman Erik. ABL Megan was promoted to Brigade leader. Camp retired early, as tomorrow would be an early morning and a long paddle.
Monday June 24, sunny and hot, strong south west winds, 20 kilometers travelled
Outers rose at 6:00 AM and were on the water by 7:15. The long paddle down the reservoir began, with a steadily increasing headwind battering us. At the end of the reservoir, the Kenogami River turns into a series of switch backs and meanders that caused the hardiest paddlers to strain. However, last day fever was on the kids, and they paddled like demons on the river Styx.
The waterfront in Longlac was reached at 10:55 and the bus was phoned. Outers layed about on the grass like corpses waiting for the bus. After many phone calls and much worry, the bus showed up at 12:40. Loading the trailer went at light speed, and soon the bus was lumbering down Highway 11 at a cool 80 kilometers an hour. Unpacking and cleaning up took an hour or two, and at 3:00 PM, the 44th annual GCHS Outers Trip cameto an end. Next year’s trip has alreadybeen planned. No three kilometer ports and lots of rapids….Dickison to Geraldton!