Quetico: Beaverhouse to Cirrus and Quetico – Family Basecamp & Fishing, July 27-31, 2013

Family Canoe Adventure
Entry Date:07/27/2013
Number of Days:4
Group Size:4

Trip Introduction:
This was an introduction for my family as a whole to Quetico. This trip would be a base-camping excursion with a chance to do some exploring, a bit of fishing, and a more laid-back family adventure.

Day 1 of 4: Ugh! July 27th

Rain. Wind. Cold. A trifecta of weather greeted us as we woke up in the Atikokan Hotel — this is a great place to stay by the way.

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

We packed up our gear and headed down en masse to the dining area as we watched the slanting rain and listened to it pelt the windows. Breakfast was enormous though. Word of advice: It’s worth not rushing over this as the food here is excellent. A local couple was in the dining area and proclaimed this little restaurant the “best in town”.

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Finally around 11AM we pushed off from the QP ranger station in Atikokan after my son (10 yrs.) and my daughter (8 yrs.) passed their orientation quiz with the ranger. Driving in to Beaverhouse via the turnoff dirt road was fairly straightforward. Soon we found ourselves on the narrow one-way logging road to the parking area and with a bit of coaxing, had everyone packed into the canoe and shoved off around 2:30PM — when the rain came again this time with a bit of wind.

Portage from BH into Cirrus (160r): Finding that first portage into Unnamed Lake is relatively easy and quick. We were there in less than 10 minutes or so even with the wind from the put-in. We hung up though on a submerged rotted pylon from the old bridge which was bit of bummer. Unloading, we trudged the 115 rod portage but is really closer to 160 rods – oh well — the maps can’t always be dead on! Arrived at the Unnamed lake fairly wet now and needing to coax everyone back in the boat and shove off just to stay warm. After some wondering around the northern shore, we paddled south on this condensed oval lake. My son found the portage trail which is tucked back to the left (east shore) only about a 5-minute from the put-in. Unloading quickly, we trudged the short path to Cirrus and shoved off into the little inlet, paddling somewhat sheltered from the weather until we found a fantastic campsite at #32. Here’s the proof: Cirrus evening west again

Cirrus Camp 32Cirrus Camp 32

 

 

Day 2 of 4: Here is where things started to improve! July 28th

It stopped raining during the night and began clearing on Sunday morning. Winds were fresh but actually calmed a bit as the sun rose. Taking our time over breakfast, exploring and camp chores, our little intrepid group of my wife, myself and our two little ones headed out with fishing rod and picnic lunches for campsite #3J at the southern end of the channel out of the upper part of the lake. My plan was to troll a deep tail dancer and experiment with an inline 1 ½ oz sinker rig — which I had never done before. Everyone else’s plan was to let me fish a bit, not fall out of the boat, get some exercise and fight back the boredom (from our kids’ perspective).

We found the campsite in excellent condition after reading some reports of a toilet-paper strewn environment. This had thankfully been cleaned up by others before us and the site was impeccably tidy and clean. Camp 3J cleanedWe found a perfectly gentle sloping rock face to spread out on and lunched on cheese/crackers/salami, pb&js, trail mix, and lots of water. I had no luck fishing either the little bay in front of our lunch spot or from the point in front of the site, but mid-afternoon in bright sunlight is probably a fairly lousy time to fish. I made up for it after the paddle home as we crossed Cirrus heading to our site. I jigged just off of our the campsite and landed a healthy 18in-smallmouth bass. Is there anything like the taste of fresh fish?

Here are a few pics of the campsite 3J and the meal:

Fish fry second round first LTDay 3 of 4: Early Riser, July 29, 2013

Rain during the night pelted our tent as we slept. I awoke early this AM to find the rain stopped and pulled out a Lucky Heddon 13 to try my luck in the little cove to the west of our site. I hit pay dirt with a few casts and another 18-20 in smallmouth which we released. With optimism and moods greatly improving amongst our group of intrepid canoeists, camp breakfast was extensive. Fresh blueberries were gathered from the hillside, pots of coffee to go with the pancakes, eggs & bacon and oatmeal seemed to hold over our kids for the moment so we decided to head-out about mid-morning into the brilliant sunshine and windless day. Cirrus eveningOur destination were the pictographs on Quetico. The portage from Cirrus into Quetico that seemed easiest to reach was directly across the lake from campsite #3J that we had visited the day before.

This is a beautiful rock channel bounded by about 50 foot cliffs on the east side and steep sloping conifer forest on the west. The water was high which meant using the first of two paths to the east of the channel. The initial 20 or so rods pass under part of the rock cliffs and wind through the forest to end at a small cascade to the right and a small pond. The rest of the trail to the left was blocked by at least three, 12-inch blowdown trees and a lot of low-hanging branches. Scouting out the trail, we put in before these, ferried our canoe across the shallow pool below the cascades and lined our boat down the shallow rapids. Cirrus to Q Portage StreamAll of this to the delight of our kids who loved the fact that everyone could get their feet wet — and off we went into Quetico lake.

We didn’t photograph the three pictographs that we saw probably because we couldn’t get our phone/cameras out of their hiding places in our dry bags and because the Anishinaabeg ask you not to. No matter as they were impressive to find & see.

On the way home, I kept us to the southern shore of Cirrus and crossed in front of 2Z to our campsite, hooking a niceMen and LT#1cirrus713 LT of about 21 or so inches for our dinner that evening. My son greatly enjoyed the filleting part while my daughter stayed at our campsite, mourning the loss of this wonderful fish – the dichotomy of emotion was very much in the spirit of the place. Cirrus evening west againAfter dinner, chores were quickly executed to give us a bit of free time before bed. Evening blanketed us in a peaceful twilight and early bed.

 

Day 4 of 4: Rain and a bit of wind moving back in. Kids were very excited to pack up although they were sad to be leaving “their Ethan on Beach Cirrus 713campsite” and were practically begging my wife and I for reassurances that we would return next year here to “our spot”. We acquiesced. As we paddled away, I trolled another deep tail dancer, a neon-tiger striped deep diver rap as we pulled into the middle of the lake passing campsite 2Z on the southern shore. The rod tip dipped precipitously towards the water surface meant “LT” or another humongous snag on the bottom. I had a devil-of-a-time reeling in with my 6’6” rod (next time I’m bringing the Shakespeare Ugly Stick 7 footer). My wife paddled us to the southern shore as I clambered out, still thinking it was a snag — the fish had bottomed just a couple of yards offshore and I couldn’t bring it up — I opened the bail to release the snag and then starting to reel in again and the 26 in lake trout emerged on the surface.

We paddled out of Cirrus to the first portage where we found a rock ledge on a peninsula guarding the cove for the put-in. Eating ripening blueberries on the point, we got down to work filleting our catch.

The rest of the paddle home was uneventful although the last portage created a mini-mutiny amongst the 4.5 foot-and-smaller crowd. Reaching the take-out we found, unhappily, that we had left a light on inside my car and now had a dead battery! Fortunately for us, some wonderful folks from Sudbury who had driven 16 hours arrived. They managed to double-up jumper-cables and we were off to Dawson to camp, clean up and rub our aching muscles…..What a trip! I can’t wait to do it again!

 

Quetico : Nym – Jessie – Sturgeon Loop, May 31, 2013

Trip Intro: This is a relatively early-season trip report because it falls
at the end of May into first week of June in Quetico. It’s
essentially a solo paddle to meet up with a group of 4 doing
there separate trip for a couple of days before solo looping
back to EP (Nym)

Part 1: The Adventure in the Rain
Friday May 31: The good part of this portion of the trip was the lack of bugs and the beauty of both Nym and Batch in the light misty rain. nym put-inI set out Fri. AM from Nym and shoreline hugged to the east all the way down to the portage because I was a bit apprehensive in a new 18 footer Champlain (it was new, used boat) and didn’t want to get blown around. I loaded down the bow and stern with about 70 pounds of ballast in water jugs in addition to my own gear. It seemed to work pretty well although it took my 3 or 4 times longer to reach the portage! Not a recommended approach unless safety (yours) is required.The portage itself was in very good shape and well maintained at this point however the sky unleashed a torrent of rain and lightning so I joined a father/son group and paddled west to the point where two campsites are located and bedded down until the next day. Not a very productive first day out but given the cold water temperatures, better than dumping in the cold, chop of Batch.

Part 2: The Adventure Continues — Rain Rain Blown Away.
Saturday June 1st

Day opened calm and glassy but soon changed. I paddled away from my bucolic point campsite back towards the portage on the Batch side because the sky was grey and potentially threatening. I had a weather radio but the forecast was simply predicting on/off again rain showers, cool temps and winds 10-15km/hr (6.2-9mi/hr) or so….so I paddled on. About equal with the w7 five-star campsite on the eastern shore (where the peninsula juts out) I was slammed with driving rain and short 1ft rollers. Nothing terribly tricky but I had to fight it pretty hard to keep the bow pointing down wind. Cutting to the chase — I realized I was cold and tired — I bivvied at the necked down landing campsite halfway down this coast line as I was getting a bit hypothermic and needed to dry out — I pitched my tent, slept and waited for the members of the group that were to meet up with me — which they did about 3 hours later. Setting out again in lighter mist and after wondering about for a bit, I finally made it to their campsite, across Batch Bay on the island just outside of the rapids that enter Pickerel.

Part 3: Stopover on Jesse
Sunday June 2nd

We paddled out late this day around 10:30 AM after a leisurely breakfast and made the Maria portage (not too muddy) and then the Jessie portage ( a longer slog with a bloated dead beaver at the take-out). Sunny, light breeze. After reaching Jessie, the group decided that the mainJessieFullsite island campsites were worth a stop-over, drying out, and fishing a bit. boats evening twighlight JessieExcellent fishing luck for most — 4 pike, 2 walleye (a third walleye caught by one of our group measured 30 inches and was landed late in the evening well-after darkness had descended. Not a bad day! We all settled into our tents on  a perfect evening.
Jessie Twilight

Part 4: Long Paddle Day with the Fight Upstream
Monday June 3rd

Began our day under sunny skies a bit earlier around 9ish. Not an early rising but timing was improving. We found the portage and off we went to Elizabeth after viewing the dead, decaying moose carcass in the bay by portage. The trail itself had 3 or 4 mud holes with corduroy. The whole trail looked as though it was building towards its usual full summer muck status. This was a longish trail compared to what was coming. Walter is a pretty lake with the sun now shinning brightly reflecting off the blue water. It was a long paddle to next portage but winds were light and in the narrows leading to the take-out, we lunched on a rock face and soaked up the sun just 50 or so rods from the double portage. A couple of us, including me slipped into the water as we hauled our gear and boats over the rock face takeout. It’s a short portage onto a shallow, sandy creek to next portage with lower rock portage before the cascade and riffle that flushes Walther out into Lonely. Pretty day, sunny, no wind to speak of and a longish paddle down to the portage into Sturgeon. Beaver dam or remnants thereof after second portage below falls and then into nor’eastern end of Sturgeon. Here began the really long paddle. I fell a good 15 to 20 minutes behind the rest of the group of tandem paddlers. I watched them disappear as they turned north around the point and ascended the Sturgeon Narrows. I reached the far eastern end of Scripture and kept paddling, alternatively shoveling granola into my mouth, paddling with one hand, and swilling water. Thankfully, Sturgeon was still calm as glass, there were few if any bugs, and ample daylight left as the sun still road high in the western sky.

“I’m still here”, I’m thinking. Paddling very slowly with the fatigue that comes with regular canoe tripping, paddling and portaging. Slowing making my way up Sturgeon Narrows, I finally reach the narrows that leads to Russell around 6:30PM. No one else in sight. Current is flowing steadily and strongly down this stream, banked by steep wooded hillsides. I try unsuccessfully twice to paddle up the strong current but fail and must float back out into the little bay and back to Sturgeon Narrows. Locating a makeshift campsite on the southern shore, I attempt an impromptu bushwhack to a little cove I spy on the other side. Maybe if I can get through, I can paddle the calm waters and then bushwhack the next hill. Perhaps I can leapfrog that way to the short portage trail that is just out of site up this raging stream? But it’s a no-go. The thickets are too dense and I’m tired, thirsty and hungry. Finally forced retreat, I paddle a short distance east and then north to a rocky peninsula to camp. It’s a steep rock ledge takeout but I’m rewarded with a fantastic view of southern Sturgeon lake. The campsite’s not bad with an upper pad that could accommodate a 2-4 person tent. A lower site and fire ring is just perfect for my 1-person backpacker tent. I snuggle in after a quick dinner of soup and a few crackers.

Part 5: Tuesday & Wednesday June 4-5th
Climbing out of my tent, I’m greeted by blue skies and sunshine. I vow to check out the far bay to the southeast in case I’ve missed a portage or entrance somehow to Russel. No luck. It’s now 11AM and I turn my canoe northward, paddling slowly but deliberately up the lake. My muscles ache from yesterday but I’m making good progress.

I lunch at a perfect campsite in the upper Sturgeon area with an easy sloping rock embankment, sturdy camp “furniture” and evidently plenty of tent pad space, all nestled in the trees. Loading up again, I find the entrance to Deux Rivieres and happy to find enough water to easily float the paddle upstream. Entering Twin Lake, I finally locate the flooded portage to Dore.

My packing comes back to haunt me on this portage as my system breaks down into triple-portages. Making Dore, the afternoon is slipping away. I lose myself in the wrong bay but finally locate this flooded portage as well and am soon into Pine Portage. Wind is picking up and I’m a little nervous as a first-timer in my 18′ Champlain. I pull over at what appears to be an abandoned camp on a peninsula. Nothing but a fish livepool and a some fire rocks remain but I take it as wind kicks up whitecaps on Pine. I wouldn’t discover until the next morning that the campsite, a 4-star that I was looking for was mere meters across the inlet separating my bivvy site from it. No matter. I’m tired and it’s been a full day.

The next day, I am lucky again to have excellent weather.

Sunrise over Pine Portage

Sunrise over Pine Portage

There’s a very short portage into Pickerel Lake which I quickly located that morning. A gentle breeze at my back, made the paddle up the picturesque Pickerel Narrows a relaxing paddle up the Narrows back to Batch. I even cross paths with the father-son duo that I met in the way in. Wind was now picking up (doesn’t it always?) on Batch and I had 1 to 1 1/2 ft rollers/chop along western shore of Batch all the way up to the takeout. One last long portage over a familiar friend-of-a-trail. I took a long break and ate, watching the winds across Nym and betting that by 5PM or so, they would calm down enough for me to attempt a very hard, fast, solo paddle. As my luck continued to hold, winds died and I was chased by a threatening sky at my back across Nym all the way to the takeout where one last 10 minute wind blast tried to blow me out of the inlet — but I was home! Exhausted. Gratified. Heading home.