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Woodland Caribou PP - Aug 2012

Over 2000 km of waterways. Ojibway pictographs.

Woodland Caribou PP - Aug 2012

Postby Red Langford » Sun Aug 19, 2012 11:40 am

Life is very busy and despite living so close to this magnificent park I rarely get a chance to get out for multi-night trips. I decided I was going to go no matter what this year and so I started planning. I normally end up traveling alone but this time I convinced my 14 year old son to tear himself away from his computer for a few nights. He is becoming an age where he can now start carrying some substantial gear. Yippee, I no longer feel like a pack mule.

We decided to go for 4-5 nights and make a loop trip beginning and ending at Leano Lake right after he finished his job on Saturday morning. So we left Red Lake about 10:30am and made the 90 minute drive to the Leano Lake parking lot. The road was in pretty good shape with some dramatic changes since I was down there last time. All the culverts had been removed and instead there were large ditches filled with cobble. It is certainly rough but should resolve any more washouts that inevitably happen on this road. If you are traveling this road take your time, and make sure the vehicle you are driving is not too low. A car can make it but you need to exercise extreme caution and be prepared to turn back. A truck is best.

We arrived at noon and after the usual rummaging about making sure we have everything and the 300m port to the water, we were on the water by 1:00pm. As we were pushing off I was looking in my map pouch for the park map and lo-and behold it wasn't there. I know I brought it but where is it. "Son, what did you do with the map after you were looking at it?" Back to the car he goes and there it is slipped between the seats. Okay now we are off.

Picture of us at the parking lot.
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Picture of the park boundary along the 300M port into Leano Lake
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We paddled to the south end of the lake and proceeded to complete 3 quick portages 400M, 120M and 50M into Kilburn Lake. A winding paddle up a shallow creek into a small lake then another quick 100M portage into the main lake. With the almost 1K of portages behind us it was a straight south shot to find an island campsite on Kilburn Lake. It was a nice well established campsite with an excellent flat rock for cooking off. This is one of those things I like in a campsite, somewhere to cook with out bending over the whole time.
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I like having a tarp extend out over the opening of the tent. It extends living space immensely in crappy weather. Allows you to leave the door open for a nice breeze as well.
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Up and on the water by 10:00am It had been a warm night and the heat was continuing today. It was a short paddle to a newly re-established 1K portage into Upper Kilburn Lake which cuts of a considerable amount of paddling. This was a relatively flat and dry portage and culminates at sandy beach. Ideal spot to have a quick lunch after completing the arduous portage. I prefer a quick uncooked lunch usually consisting of dried meat, cheese, crackers, candies, granola bar, vector bars and other high energy, high calorie foods.

Here's a shot of us just leaving the beach still paddling through the grass.
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A few more km's of paddling and then a series of short portages of 100M, 10M and 30M into a nameless lake. The skies darkened and it was threatening rain as the day progressed. We moved on and started the search for a campsite. After several dead ends we finally found a site with a a single not so level tent pad and a large open rock face. The rain was really beginning to threaten now so the rush was on the get the tent up. Got the tarp up, then the tent almost done and it began to rain. No worries were dry and cozy under the tarp.
In between rain showers I managed to rebuild a fire ring close to the tent complete with a flat rock perched across the top and get a fire going. I managed to boil and teapot of water on this rock.
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After dinner my son went into the tent to wait out the rain listening to a pod cast and I tended to the fire. The rain let up and I managed to get some fishing in. Caught two pike, one hammer handle and another good sized one.

This is a view from the tent the following morning. This is really what it is all about to me. It is a source of spiritual fulfillment for me.
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A quick breakfast of oatmeal, bacon and the obligatory Tang and we were on the water about 930am. It was a short paddle to the first portage which we struggled to find. Ended up getting out of the canoe into the deep muck thinking this was a trail but it was a false lead. Once we were on the right track it was a series of 3 portages into Paull Lake of 150M, 175M and 275M. One of these ports were very wet going through a bog. There is no hope of dry feet on a trip in this park, weather it is rocky landings or traversing a creek mid portage, you have to be prepared to get your feet wet. I always trip with a second pair of shoes to be worn in the evening around camp and have been using Keen water sandals for a couple of years now and have served me well. I wear wool socks as well. Call me crazy but I find the thicker wool protects your ankles from biting insects and the prospect of picking leaches off you ankles after a portage. I wear them all day and hang them up to dry at night. If they are not dry the next morning I still but them on. It is only uncomfortable for a few minutes then it is back to wet feet all day anyways.

Here is a few shots from the wet portages.
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After these portages we are onto Paull Lake and we change directing from a Westerly to Easterly route. Now the wind is at our backs mostly and it is theoretically the half way point. A short paddle on Paull Lake enjoying the many scenic cliffs and looking for the hidden treasure they hold.
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Okay those cliffs are not from Paull Lake but are from this trip. The lakes are all lined with these dramatic shorelines and if you are lucky will find something like this....
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Those are not from this trip but there is an abundance of them in the park. A quick visit with Claire at the park office in Red Lake will give you the locations of the ones known to her. She has some incredibly good detailed information on all kinds of natural and historic points of interest in the park.
After letting the wind blow us eat towards the next bit of portaging which according to the map involves 6 portages of 300M, 75M, Lift over, 50M, 25M, 190M and 50M. We never found any lift over, and I am sure the 50 and 25 were combined. This is all over about 2km so there is lots of in and out of the canoe offering a wide variety of portages and opportunity to fine tune your process very quickly. We did single carry a few of them which was fun. :D
As the portaging continued the weather grew worrisome. Thunder heads were forming and the wind was picking up. As we wound our way up the creek towards the 190M portage it began to pour. It was stunningly beautiful despite of, or because of the rain. We stopped at the start of that portage and had a bit of a snack to a regrouped and then carried on into Elephant Head Lake. It was now fairly windy and we scoured the lake for a decent campsite. We did find an old site and the SE end of the lake but we decided that the site simply needed too much work to make it livable and moved on after looking for a while we moved on into Boot Jack Lake and after a short search we found a nice site around 6pm with two tent pads, neither one was overly level. The best thing about this site was a giant belly high rock with a flat surface. GREAT cooking rock. Like a kitchen counter.
Love this tarp set up, this site is ideal for this set up too.
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As we watched the dark clouds roll on past and miss us with rain, Mother Nature offered up this little visual treat.
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I have a hard time staying up late when canoeing but we finally managed to stay up long enough to make some S'mores and enjoy the stars. We spotted a couple of satellites but the peak of the forecasted meteor shower had passed and saw no shooting stars.
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It got down to 11C that night and because of that it offered up this spectacular morning sunrise.
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We looked at the map and it was determined that reaching the take out point today would be an easy target so we decided to head for it. I should say he decided, I would stay out in the bush forever if allowed the opportunity. But I am not going to argue, getting him out for 3 nights was an accomplishment on it's own. It was a spectacular morning and we were on the water by about 10:00am again.
Scenery was incredible as usual as we wound our way from Boot Jack Lake to Bunny Lake and then onto Leano Lake through 120M, Lift-over, 15M and 300M portages. Here is a shot from Boot Jack as we are about to go through a narrow channel you can see the high rocky shoreline in the distance.
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As we complete the last portage into Leano Lake it was noon so we stopped at the portage end for lunch. I was telling my son that eating lunch at portage landings is not possible nor polite in the Southern Ontario parks like Algonquin and Killarney because they are so busy. But here the park is so lightly used it is not a problem. Well just about 10 seconds later somebody appears out of the trail. Well there you go, It can happen here too. So we begin loading the canoe up at the particularly rocky landing and they you begin seeing the rest of the crew arriving. Well first you could hear them coming. You could hear the boom boom boom of a canoe banging around. I thought they were just bumping it off the trees or banging it to scare off any bears. But nope, down the trail come a young man of about 17 dragging a Coleman RamX canoe. This canoe is fully outfitted with the solid plastic seat that extend to the floor, steel tubing supporting the bottom and a 5 pound bow mounted floating compass. :shock: I think this canoe would have likely come in at least 100 pounds. Then the rest of the crew starts arriving. A young boy of about 10 who is dirty and so tired he seems dazed. He is carrying a Woods/Duluth pack that is larger than him and is reminiscent of those pictures from Asia of children carrying those big bundles of sticks. Then comes Mom and Dad both carrying more of these old shoulder busting Woods/Duluth packs that were all overflowing with gear. The mom fell in the last few feet of the trail and cried out. I thought she may have broken something but claims she was alright. She was carrying a grill as well as the pack. The grill was about 5 feet by 2 feet steel. :shock: Dad was carrying a 20L jerry can of water along with his big woods pack. He proudly announced that that was not even the biggest or heaviest pack. :shock: Nobody looked like they were having fun. It appeared nobody had worn pants in the 10 days they were in the park because each and every one of them had shins that looked like they had been through a meat grinder, bleeding and pock marked from a barrage of insect bites. :shock: When I go car camping I don't pack that heavy. After we left them my son surmised that surely they had a cooler somewhere in the gear. As it was his job to carry the food barrel for most of the trip, I suggested that they travelled with canned beans and how heavy those packs must have been 10 days ago. :shock: To each their own, but I can't see that being fun.

We had about 6km left to paddle to the take out point and it was a nice and peaceful paddle. After four days of travel we were really syncing up in the canoe and it took us about 1 hour to make that paddle. As is always the case, the longer I am on a trip the better shape I get into.
When we arrive at the take out there is a group just launching. They are an absolute stark contrast to the group we had left an hour ago. Three men, 2 packs, 1 canoe and a paddle board for a week long trip. Never seen a paddle board before and never in my life heard of anybody using something like that to go on a trip.
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I think my son enjoyed the trip and for the last 300M to the parking lot he suggested we single carry. His idea, not mine. It was a bit far for me to carry my 60 pound Ostrom pack and 57 pound canoe but I did it anyways. It just about killed me, but he seemed fine.
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I left a cooler in the back of my truck with several freezer packs a couple of beers like I am prone to do and that was one refreshing COLD beer.

Good trip on many levels. Finally tally 48km. 4135M of portaging over 22 portages.
Hope you enjoyed.
Red Langford
 
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