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10/04/2017 11:38 am  #1

Old friends, September trip

My friend and I always try to paddle one trip together every year. We became close friends after meeting on a car campground many years ago, and realized we liked the same things while camping. We usually go after the long weekend in September. I make the plans and Essie paddles along. Due to age we usually stay closer to the easy to access lakes so portaging is not an issue. My plans included Farm/Booth Lake, Opeongo river, hiking portages or day trips into nearby lakes, Tanamakoon Lake, tower trail, ball mountain hike, etc
Our meeting place was at the Musher restaurant in Whitney for lunch, where we did some catching up on our lives before heading for Farm Lake, the start of our trip. The weather was sunny and dry, but quite cold. We loaded up, me with an 14ft Keewaydin packboat, Essie with 2 small kayaks. I had noticed at the time of booking that Farm Lake did not seem very popular, Booth was booked much more often but I could not find a lot of information on 


Farm other then that people passed through it. We soon found out why. Paddling along towards Booth, we noticed the campsites were horrible, little sun exposure, dark and gloomy, and none appealed to us. We decided to paddle up the river to the last 2 sites but realized we may have to turn around and go to Crotch instead. After long hours of driving to get here, we were not looking forward to having to turn around and go to Crotch. Site #5 on the PCI map came into view, but had a difficult landing, the river bank was very muddy and deep, so not easy to get out, padling around the corner to see if we could find another spot to land we noticed site #6 was right across. We found home. A beauty of a site between tall pines and sun all day to boot.http://i64.tinypic.com/n34ry9.jpg

There was a cabin at this site at one point, but it is now an official campsite. The branches of the trees did not hamper the sun, and we were protected on 3 sites from the wind, which blew cool from the north the first few days. You can easily see the earth foundation of the cabin and there were still some old steel relics laying around in the bush behind the cabinhttp://i63.tinypic.com/mkbtrq.jpg


We had managed to bring to full bags of firewood with us from Whitney, which turned out to be a great idea, as there was little to no burnable wood and what was there was soak and wet and mostly birch, which does not give off much heat.
The following day we went to see the kitty lake cabin and found out that we were very close neighbours indeed, only due to some shrubbery we had not seen it. We paddled over to the short portage around the rapid, which was more of a riffle because of high water levels and decided that we were going to try to run it. A bit of a funny site to see two oldies clambering over the portage with a little kayak and a keewaydin and then zoom down the riffle to do it again. But much fun was had. Not wanting to portage the 550m to Booth on wet feet and sandals and puddles of mud galore, we opted to leave the boats at the shorter Bridle Lake portage and hike it instead. It was a very muddy  walk, and Bridle is actually quite small.That portage is crossed by an old and over grown logging road and we wondered if it was hikable and maybe accessible from our campsite. Back at the campsite I decided i wanted to check out the site across from us anyway, being muddy and smelly already anyway, the difficult landing did not hold me back. It was a humongous site, but a bit of a low spot (very soft and buggy) had to be crossed to get to the ridge where the site was. Although not a bad site, it did not appeal to me. Trying to get back into my canoe went wonderfully wrong. Thanks to being in the water above my knees (there was no where better) i had to swing my leg up quite high, lost my balance, landed in the canoe, which promptly tipped and pitched me into the stinking swamp mud. YUCKKK!  Since I was due for some cleaning up anyway, i decided to swim across to our site and pull the canoe with me, but that was actually quite the workout as there is a quite strong current from the Booth lake direction. Dry clothes, a warm campfire and good food and all was right with the world. A beautiful starry sky emerged, but the temps dropped and the cold got to us.
There was frost on the tent the next morning, which got us up and on the move after a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, brie (in small 1 serving cups) tomato and toast and lots of hot liquids. We headed to the back of the campsite and actually found the old logging road quite easily. We started hiking towards Crotch lake, saw lots of moose http://i67.tinypic.com/21o3gjq.jpg

poop and bear scat, but no live animals. We returned for lunch, then hopped into our boats and paddled to Crotch Lake and Shall Lake to explore the nooks and crannies, and spend some time sitting on a very sunny and warm beach site late afternoon. There were no campers on the lakes, so it was very peaceful. Returning for a somewhat late dinner, we got the fire going asap as the sun was setting. We had fresh pizza and sausages over the fire and all was right with the world. 
In the morning we felt that the air was warming up, the sun rise promised another beautiful day and we decided to spend it in camp and relax. As it was getting warmer every day, we got lazier by the minute.

Day 5 saw us packing up and moving to Tanamakoon, also a lake we had never been to. I was a little apprehensive, as it is very close to hwy 60 and I wondered if we'd be hearing the highway. We had done some shopping in Whitney, and had bought another 2 bags of wood to bring with us. The paddle in was easy, but in the narrows a boat with motor came flying by, did not slow down and nearly capsized Essie. It belonged to the camps on Tanamakoon, although they were not in session anymore although there were still people there. The campsites on this lake were in the same catagory as Farm Lake, mostly awful.  The one we picked(#2 on the PCI map) had a rock in front to sit on, and it too had sun most of the day, although more dappled then the site on Farm Lake. The weather had turned hot by now and much swimming was done. From here on in I tripped mostly by myself in the afternoons, going to Sherrifs Pond and Little Island Lake one afternoon, with spending far to much time in the swamp in Sheriffs Pond. There were loads of cranberries in that swamp, flowering swamp cotton and pictcher plants, even a few dogwoods in bloom. My camera got a workout!http://i64.tinypic.com/xfx4q8.jpg

Portaging the keeywaydin was a delight, the portages to Little island Lake reasonably easy and I loved little island lake. It was too late in the day to explore it, but ive promised myself that im going to go camping there one day.
There was a logjam at the beginning of Little Island Lake, with one log just a bit out in the water where  the resident  painted turtle was sunning itself.http://i65.tinypic.com/avr4vk.jpg


Totally happy with all my exploring I started back for the campsite, where late afternoon sun was warming everything and to get the kinks out of my muscles, I went for a swim. Half of September, and the water felt warm. What is not to be loved. Tired from the busy day, we lazily made supper, and spent a good long time watching the starry sky and the milky way, before heading for bed. Another wonderful day and by the looks of it another sunny one tomorrow.

I do not usually wake up early, but for some reason this morning I did. I looked out and saw the morning mist rising, which is one of my favourite things to see. http://i68.tinypic.com/s2tlde.jpg

With only a couple more days, we decided to check out the rest of the lakes campsites. We had seen some, but not all. It was awful. Several of the sites looked like group sites, and had been totally trashed, all young trees either hacked off, broken off, or otherwise destroyed. One of the sites had multiple garbage bags with their contents strewn all over, toilet paper everywhere etc. We also noticed that all of the campsites, including our own, were missing their orange site sign. It is made out of a thick kind of paper and we assumed they had been used for starting fires. This all was all very disheartening after having an otherwise great trip. We had been more worried about hearing traffic then garbage, but although we could hear an occasional truck, we did not hear regular traffic, it was the garbage we found (and reported) that gave us a down feeling.

Our last morning was down right difficult. You see, my friend has leukemia. She has been under treatment for years, but last year treatment options became very few. When I saw Essie at the Musher in Whitney, she did not look good. I realized immediately that I would have to change my plans on the spot. When she asked me what we were gonna do, I could only manage the "whatever we feel like" comment. Portaging was gonna be out of the question as her strength had dramatically decreased. With a stubborn streak a mile long, she would not accept any help with anything, but in our second week the afternoon outings had become too much, so  I ventured out on my own while she rested. Essie had to leave a day before I did.   On the last morning, a heavy mist was swirling the lake, Essie had packed up quietly, and when I awoke she was ready to go. For the first time ever, she was gonna be the first one to leave. Essie hates goodbyes and is one for the "great trip, loved every minute, and cya next year". But this year was different, I knew it. I had done everything in my power to make sure we had a memorable trip and it was one of the best thanks in part to the beautiful weather and the changing colors in the trees which lifted our spirits, but we had to go back to our lives.

I was too choked up to get any words out, I got a hug, and then her parting words still ringing in my ears: "you get to see me paddle into the mist, thanks for everything, it was an unforgettable trip".http://i63.tinypic.com/3164ysi.jpg

And she slowly disappeared.
I stayed on the campsite lost in my thoughts, attempting to give this all a place. A kingfisher kept diving off a branch right beside me, another painted turtle sat on a log close to me too. 
What will next year bring?


10/04/2017 12:10 pm  #2

Re: Old friends, September trip

Tentster, great report. Nice pics but most of all, what an ending. I'm not sure how I would have held up in those circumstances, but you seemed to do just fine. 'I stayed on the campsite lost in my thoughts.' I bet, these things are tough. I sincerely hope you guys can get a spring trip in, even if just for a day trip.


10/04/2017 12:54 pm  #3

Re: Old friends, September trip


A very touching tale.  It is so refreshing to read of a trip where success is not measured in distance traveled and portages completed, rather one where success is measured in each moment.


10/04/2017 12:57 pm  #4

Re: Old friends, September trip

That was a terrific report.  Terrific.  Thanks for sharing all of that.  The logjam.  Yeah, that qualifies as a logjam.  Wouldn't want to have to work my way over that.  Good luck to Essie.  She's carrying a challenging burden with a lot of grace.  Must be a very special lady, tough as nails, and a very special friendship I'm glad you get to share.


10/04/2017 2:22 pm  #5

Re: Old friends, September trip

PaPaddler wrote:

...success is not measured in distance traveled and portages completed, rather one where success is measured in each moment.

Amen. Some nice stuff here in this post.


10/04/2017 3:29 pm  #6

Re: Old friends, September trip

Wonderful and touching report Tentster! Thank you for sharing your trip with us.


10/04/2017 5:05 pm  #7

Re: Old friends, September trip

What a great / beautiful TR - thank you so much for what have been a special trip among close friends. Wishing the two of you will be able to share more memorable trips together in the upcoming years-
Sincerely Andy


10/05/2017 12:13 pm  #8

Re: Old friends, September trip

Thanks everyone for your kind words. I had been debating with myself wether I should or should not write the report. Essie is indeed tough as nails, and in a recent email she told me she'd like to go again next year.  Let's hope that works out.
@pa paddler: you have a way with words!

     Thread Starter

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