You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

6/01/2022 1:25 pm  #1

Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

As usual, this is long.  But entertaining.  Enormously entertaining.  Enormous AND entertaining – epic tales just don’t get any better.  So sit down and stay awhile!

May 23 – May 27 2022, solo Spring trip at the very advent of the annual bug apocalypse.  I expected black flies, but it was the mosquitoes who were prepared with knife and fork in hand.

The route was one I have wanted to take for some time but kept getting thwarted.  Fall 2019: reservation non-availability. Spring 2020: COVID. Fall 2020: COVID. Spring 2021: COVID. Fall 2021: I had it booked, then a week prior a bridge on the road to the access point was closed for road work.  For real. Spring 2022: Fruition!

My plan was Magnetawan-Mubwayaka, Mubwayaka- Longbow, Longbow-Little Trout, Little Trout-out.  Instead it was Magnetawan-David, David-Rosebary, Rosebary-Little Trout, Little Trout-out.  Close enough.

Day 1
The parking lot was pretty full, but I encountered only two people.  Two guys in their 20’s, packing up for home.  They looked like they had swapped a surfboard for a canoe, and told me that “Saturday the bugs were pretty gnarly, but almost non-existent on Sunday.”  Usually, gnarly is reserved for positive comments on freestyle snowboard jumps, but when used to describe the volume and intensity of stinging insects, that couldn’t be good.  Sigh.

I pushed off, and was soon on the Hambone side of the first portage, where, on my first canoe trip at the age of 14 or 15, I had a life-changing epiphany looking at Hambone.  I suddenly realized I wanted to be IN this place, and that I had found something I truly loved.  It is also the location where, a week later, my infamous moose-peeing incident took place.  So, I always take a photo.  Scatter my ashes in a mucky area there.  My junk is on the far right.

The Victoria Day exodus was underway.  The flotilla was returning from sea, drowning me in their wake.  Literally nobody was entering the park but me.  There were no bugs at all on that first portage.  There were some on the Hambone-Ralph Bice portage, in the muck.  On the Ralph Bice-David portage I put on the bug hat.  Game on.  The bug hat is a heaven-sent device, but hearing the ceaseless buzzing around your head takes getting used to, and wearing it all the time stinks.  Once in a while a rogue mosquito sneaks inside anyway.  By the time I got to camp, I had two bites as big as all outdoors right between the eyes.  But here’s a pro tip – Benadryl cream.  The itch and swelling disappear fast. 

Ralph Bice was really pretty that day.  Lots of puffy clouds and blue skies.  Roughly what the forecast called for, including a mild breeze.   No wonder all those people coming out of the park were smiling.

Camp for my first night was on David lake (Site #2, since the island site is closed).  That’s my namesake lake, so I took special interest in Camp David.  I wouldn’t want to spend days on that site, but it was spacious enough and had a good tent area or two, and close to the Mubwayaka portage.   Between the site and the portage is a mucky bug-generator area, plus some interesting and massive rock formations.  Here was my view from the relative comfort of the NoBugZone.

This was my first use of the NoBugZone, and I am officially a proponent.  A few will still follow you, but you know what?  A handful of mosquitoes are better to deal with than all of the mosquitoes.  True fact.  My only negative comments are 1) It is part art/part science to set it up, 2) I trip every time I get out of it, and 3) Eureka has a fixation about seeing how small they can make their stuff sacks.  When I set it up at home, I couldn’t get it back into its stuff sack, so I used a larger one I had.  I’m sure with effort I could have gotten it into its original stuff sack, but you know what I don’t feel like doing in a buggy environment when I’m trying to get packed up?  That.

Day 2
The following morning was pretty, but more cloudy.  It was also a day I had been looking forward to for some time.  I was going to paddle David Creek (with its “provincially significant peat bog”, which is what every peat bog aspires to be), and follow that up with a 3,400 meter portage.  A challenge day!  David Creek is famously very narrow on the western side, and I wanted to see it.  The 3,400 meter portage has a creek running through it, and I wanted to overcome that.  I’ve been soloing since 2016, and have had to work my way over/around/under/through my share of obstacles.  Concerns about “can I manage this?” have become “I can manage this.”  There is surprisingly little written about this route in trips reports.  Mostly it is people simply saying they went from Rosebary to David Creek, and once in a while somebody talks about making a wrong turn that cost them huge amounts of time and distance.  That concerned me.  So, since 2019 I had looked at satellite images of this portage, and tried to find trip reports on it.  At one point I even worked out GPS coordinates for the beginning and end (long since discarded). 

The big day was finally here!  I was greeted by a moose as I passed through the wide mouth of David Creek.  It came out of the woods, took one look at me, and thought “Oh, a bi-ped in a boat.  No.”  Then it turned around and went right back where it came from.  The encounter wasn’t even ten seconds long.  I just had time to turn on the GoPro.  I haven’t looked yet, but I think I captured moose butt imagery.  This was moose #1, on what would turn out to be a record-setting moose count for me.

You want to know about David Creek?  I’ll tell you about David Creek.  Narrow is an incomplete description.  From Mubwayaka, you start with your choice of push/pull/dragging over a pair of logs on the left, or a series of logs in the middle.  I am not sure if it was possible to scoot around on the right, but it didn’t look like it to me.  So, I stumbed around the marsh scouting the best route, and elected to pull the boat over some logs right up the middle.  This took a few minutes, and it wasn’t pretty, but since the GoPro was on I showed great restraint in that I said none of the things I truly wanted to.

From here, the creek was narrow and tight, but it did widen and straighten a bit as I went.  It is really pretty, although the view is limited because the marshy reeds are so high.  The portage to Rosebary is literally impossible to miss, because continuation is blocked, but if you somehow went past it, you’d better have your affairs in order (very rocky waterfall-ish descent).  Here's a shot looking back at David Creek, which really is very pretty.

Mosquitoes were waiting.  They wanted to go with me down the trail.  The trail, while low maintenance, is obvious and clear.  Some downfalls, not bad.  From this direction, it is predominantly downhill, but does start out with a loooong, but mild uphill climb. Roughly 800 meters in, there is a divide, more or less like a Y in the road.  You turn right.  There are little diamond-shaped portage signs tacked on trees to make sure you head to the right, and the beaten path leads right as well.  If you had a canoe on your head, you could potentially miss those little signs.  My plan was to carry the 49-pound pack (plus paddles, lifejacket, and water bottle) to the creek that is ¾ of the way across the portage, drop it, then head back for the boat and daypack. 

35 minutes later, I dropped that pack at the creek, took a hit of water, and found myself enveloped in mosquitoes.  It was ridiculous.  They were very excited to see me, and started setting out a picnic blanket in anticipation of my return with the canoe.  Several were kind enough to escort me back to the boat.

(As part of my bug defense, I tried something different.  I had on the bug hat, a rain jacket, long pants, and my tall neoprene boots – but that left my hands exposed.  I bought some Coolibar gloves.  They are gloves made for people who have skin issues (such as concern over skin cancer or sensitivity due to chemotherapy).  They are UV-rated, and use a cooling fabric, so they aren’t sweaty.  They make them with/without fingertips, with/without those thingy’s on the thumb and forefinger for using electronic devices, in wrist, elbow, and bicep length, and in different colors.  I went with elbow length, light tan. I expected black flies, and they would have been thwarted.  Mosquitoes preferred going for my head, but a few tried my hands and got through the fabric.  My solution was a couple squirts of deet on the back of the gloves and that worked great.  Overall, I’d say they gloves worked for this alternative purpose.  Deet on your hands will sweat off.  Deet on gloves will not.  By the way, Coolibar makes a whole line of clothing, so if you have health concerns regarding sun exposure I’d certainly recommend them.  Their products are very well-made.)

So, I went back for the boat.  I was like Hermes, with mosquito wings on my feet.  Overall, the mosquitoes were very present on my trip but bearable since I was prepared.  At that creek location within the portage they were flat out ridiculous. 

Thanks to my mosquito assisted travel, it took only 30 minutes to get back to the boat.  So, with boat on head I started the trudge, knowing I had 35 minutes of boat-on-head disease ahead.  Oh, how to pass the time to ignore the drudgery and the eventual pain?  I mentally went beginning to end with two old Irish Rover songs (“Goodbye, Mrs. Durkin” and “The Orange and the Green”), adding extra choruses to both, then I counted out 1,000 steps, then I mentally went through those two songs again.  It wasn’t enough, so from that point it was just grunted it out.  I did have to take a break not too far from the backpack.  I generally try not to stop on a carry because it is so hard to start again, but I think I went a good 2,000 meters without resting.

I put the canoe down at the creek, and then it was bug Armageddon.  I heard them say grace as I arrived.  I had been walking with an entourage swarm trailing me the entire time, but here, at this place….I was so grateful for the bug hat.  It would have been indescribable without.  It was like I was wearing a coat of mosquitoes.  Want to know a fun fact?  One of the colors that mosquitoes are attracted to is orange.  Guess what color my rain jacket was.
I wrote that mosquito bit with humor in mind, but I’m not kidding, they were REALLY bad at that spot.

The present problem.  How shall I cross the creek?  There were three logs crossing, all narrow ones, but looked in decent shape.  I wasn’t about to test my luck carrying stuff over those rounded logs (super-flat feet, very weak ankles, so I am careful on surfaces like that), so I loaded the boat, and held on to the bowline as I creepy-crawled my way across the logs (right foot on the middle log, left shin laying on the left log, one hand each on the outside logs, holding on to the bowline.)  I was not about to go for a swim there.
It took all of five minutes.  All that research, trip report searching, satellite image viewing, and curiosity for basically nothing.  I was 100 minutes into the effort, and still had more carrying to do.  The balance of the carry took about 45 minutes, with more downfalls than had been on the prior ¾  the portage, and after 2.5 hours, I found myself on Rosebary.  It was a pretty easy trail, no severe ups or downs, just exhausting by distance, with the reward of seeing lovely Rosebary at the end.  I was greeted by footprints on the beach landing – none of which were human (except one of mine to the right in the photo).  Unless humans have developed large, cloven feet and nobody told me.

I had not seen a single person since crossing Ralph Bice, and that remained the case as I crossed Rosebary to take the northernmost site.  I did, however, have a mosquito entourage that I could not shake across the entire length of Rosebary to site #6.  It was nice.  Lots of space, lots of wind blowing the bugs around.  After setting up the bug tent, I engaged in one of my favorite camp activities.  Sitting in my camp chair, arms folded, catnapping through a few hours of the afternoon.  I needed that after a 5-hour day.   

Here's the Curtis Nomad taking a nap, enjoying a nice breeze after a hard day.  Same for the Tungsten tent, but it didn't put in the day the boat did.

Here's a view from the campsite.  Hard to argue with that.

Here's heaven on earth.  The NoBugZone.  Hard to argue with that.

After dinner, as I dozed a bit in the chair, I heard a large animal grunt nearby.  “Uh-oh”.  It really sounded like I had a bear about 50 meters from the campsite.  Then I heard the unmistakable “Sploosh-doink!” of giant hooves in the water.  Moose!  Thank goodness!  That animal echoed Sploosh-doinks all over the lake, but was just out of view for quite some time, chewing on whatever it was chewing on.  It finally came into view along the western shore, where I took a terrible photograph of a bull moose.  Moose #2.  I would have felt robbed being on Rosebary in the Spring had I not seen a moose there.

I should take time out to mention that some clown brought a chainsaw to their site on Rosebary.  For real.  He fired it up two or three times.  Must have come from the Tim River access point, but….honestly.  A chainsaw.  Nothing gives you the sensation of wilderness like hearing “Braaaaa-braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” every once in a while.  Also at this site was half a bag of charcoal, wrapped up nicely in a plastic bag with the courtesy wood pile.  The used charcoal was in some brush just on the edge of the campsite.  Fantastic.

My thoughts turned to what lay ahead.  Time on the mighty Tim River, the possibility of more moose, and my plan to count beaver dams (as I have heard several estimates and wanted to set the record straight).  For now, it was another cold night, though not as cold as the first night, and I got my usual amount of tent sleep, tossing, turning, and groaning about my lower back getting ruined the entire night.  However, I was treated to the periodic “Sploosh-doink”-ing of a hungry moose in the water, which you don’t hear every day, and there was a barred owl nearby, asking “who cooks for youuuuuu?”

Day three. 
The downside to this campsite is that it is as far from the Longbow-Tim River portage as you can get.  Adding time to what I knew would be a long day wasn’t appealing, but the site was worth it.  My mosquito fan club remained intact as I paddled into a Rosebary headwind.  Could not shake them.

However, it was just beautiful that morning.

There are some photos coming up that some will correctly identify as having been rather dopey to take.  But this shot I am genuinely proud of.  This is a no-look, holding the camera over my head, facing backward, shot of the campsite I was leaving.

The portage to the Tim River is a shorty, and the number of mosquitoes on the Tim River side was indecent.  By now, I was accustomed to hearing the constant buzz, but their fourth layer of hell presence at certain times was remarkable to me.  It was also remarkable to me that they would go for the impossible head shot when only my hands were exposed.  They just really dig old guy bald head.  That’s their thing.

I believe it was here that I developed my theory.  God completed His creation work in 6 days and rested on the seventh.  Satan had been pestering him all week long to let him make something, and God said fine, you can make two things on the seventh day when I rest.  Satan was all braggy to God about making mosquitoes and black flies, noting that both served no purpose, both sting, and the mosquito was able to carry disease.  God said yeah, good for you big boy, then quickly made it so they were only a real problem in May and June.

I expected beaver dams on the Tim River, but not downfalls.  There were two or three right off the bat.  The first one took me about ten minutes to deal with.  I could have stepped out onto this large log and pulled the boat over easily enough, but 1) round log, 2) falling off meant deep water and possible entanglements, and 3) stepping up to something from the low position I have in a solo canoe creates an imbalance situation I avoid.  So, like an idiot, I got the boat pinned bow and stern in the branches, it took forever to extract myself, and then I got out on shore and line pulled the boat.  The next downfall wasn’t too bad, but then there was the mother of all downfalls, so nasty there was an informal portage around that whole section.  All this before I encountered the first beaver dam. 
The first few beaver dams required pullovers, but I think I was able to run 70% of them no problem. 

The Curtis Nomad is a pretty knifey hull.  I find it difficult to turn on a dime.  Plus, the boat goes where the current goes, and in this narrow section of the Tim River, I was frequently driven toward shore and all those little shrub-tree-whatever-they-are’s.  I made progress, fending, paddling, and beaver-damming.  The river (it takes a lot of nerve to call that creek a “river”) opened up with a few straight sections; a nice respite from S-curves and hairpin turns.  However, I was still getting sent by the current into the brush with regularity, and on such a visit into the bramble, I heard an extra “Sploosh” sound.  I turned, and there was my yoke, floating in the water.  A tangled branchy mess had pulled it right out.  I’m so glad I heard that Sploosh.  I would have been in pretty shape without that.  Lesson learned.  Yoke goes all the way down into the boat. 

As I went along, I saw a moose butt on the right side of (what I now was referring to as) The Fabulous Tim River.  The moose butt was slowly moving away from the river edge, so I thought I had been spotted and the moose was walking away.  I let the boat drift into the shore reeds while I prepped my camera.  I expected to find that the moose was already gone, but there was the possibility that the moose would actually be very close to the waters’ edge, setting up a closer encounter than desired.  What to do?  Keep moving.  At least that’s what I did. 

As I neared where I had seen the moose butt on the right, and was beginning to think it moose was gone, two calves started bleating in alarm on the left side of the Tim.  My heart sank. “Oh no!!” 

It didn’t even take Momma two seconds to cross the Tim 20 or 25 meters in front of me like an angry freight train.  Her entrance into the scene was explosive.  Water splashed violently everywhere, sending a spray so high she nearly disappeared from view.  I already had the camera up, and couldn’t see how it was possible to make the situation any worse, so I pushed the shutter, but the camera couldn’t match her speed to focus and shoot.  (I had more than photography on my mind, but felt I had to try for that shot.)  She stopped near the left side of the river.  I don’t think she had seen me or was even aware of my presence until right now, but there she stood, staring me down, about 20-ish meters away.  I took this one shot as she stared me down (as my last act on earth).  The disturbed water behind her is the aftermath of her dash across the river.  I cropped the photo in for a closer look at her.  You can tell by her stare and body position that her unhappy meter is just about pegged.     

This is a photo of an agitated moose with a hair trigger temper.

This is a cropped in photo of an agitated moose with a hair trigger temper, so you know what that looks like, although if you ever see one in person, you won't need to reflect back on this photo.  You'll kind of figure it out all by yourself.

The situation had gotten out of hand so fast you can’t believe it.  I went from “I wonder if the moose is still there” to this in less than five seconds.  It was too fast to process.  Was it a stupid photo to take?  Absolutely.  But the camera had been in position before any of this started, so I took the shot.  Then I put the camera down, and slowly backpaddled, trying not to flash the paddle around to avoid sending any aggressive signals, but I needed to avoid drifting down on her.  She was holding that ground, and the way she looked at me…..shivers. 

I truly wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  I was totally at her mercy, and she was agitated.  She could have closed that gap in a couple of seconds, and there would not have been one single thing I could have done about it.  She snaps twigs like my paddle every day just walking in the woods, and if she decided I needed a good stomping, there simply wasn’t anything I could have done to get out of the way of it.  To her the water was shallow, to me, probably thigh deep at least.  There was no way I was out-paddling her or outrunning her if she charged.  I felt as small as I’ve ever felt in my life.

The stare down lasted a few seconds, until I had the presence to say, as gently as I could, “Its ok momma, I’m not going after your babies.”  As soon as I said “Its ok”, she turned her head and walked off to the left with her babies.  The tension left me, but not the caution.  I waited only briefly before continuing, I was so desirous of getting downstream of them.  I proceeded with extreme caution, only to have her walk herself and her babies right out in front of me again on the very next curve.  This time I back-paddled quickly to give them space.  She gave me a dirty look, and they continued walking, splash, splash, splash down the river.  For the next two, three, four hundred meters they walked in the river, and I kept safe distance back.  I wanted to be close enough to keep a visual (no more surprises!), but distant enough to avoid being a threat.  Once in a while she’d take a look at me over her shoulder.  At length, she walked them out of the water, and that seemed to be for good.  I waited just a moment, but I felt she’d really taken them off this time, so I went past that point cautiously and with fear in my heart….and I finally cleared them.  Moose #3, 4, and 5.  Probably the scariest wildlife encounter I’ve ever had (more than when we spotted two bear cubs and heard momma from the bush in 2018).

Oh, sure, the babies are cute now, but only moments before they were engraving my tombstone.

Not even five minutes later, I heard another moose on the left, in the bush.  I was not in the mood for surprises.  This time I said “aw, screw this”, and banged my paddle hard on the gunwales a couple of times.  A distinctly human noise, to alert this moose to my presence.  When I went past this moose, I left the camera alone, although truth to tell, this would have been a good angle.  I was only maybe 10 or 15 meters from it, and it gave me a major stink eye.  Moose #6.

The very next bend was where the 90 meter portage was.  Jeff’s maps note it can be skipped.  With unhappy moose behind me I wasn’t sure what to do.  If I took the portage, I was in their proximity longer, and I didn’t want that.  If I skipped, what if I had trouble with a downfall or something, and re-encountered moose in the process?  Well, I skipped the portage and it was very clear, no problem at all.

Moments later, the portage to Queer Lake appeared, to my great relief.  4 moose.  10 beaver dams.  2 or 3 downfall pullovers.  Goodbye to The Fabulous Tim River.  New rule: assume every moose is a momma with two calves, unless you see a rack.  If you see a rack, assume it is the rut and he is in ill humor.

An uphill 1,400 meter portage.  Hooray!  Any time you leave a river system, you are going to portage uphill.  The uphills on this one were draining, especially following my 6 mile hike on the big portage Day 2.  I got the backpack through, but was tired with the boat.  I had to stop twice.  I don’t like resting on a portage, but I promised myself I would stop at least once to take a breather, and I did.  There was a temptation to push through, but I had promised myself a break, and you can’t just tease yourself in order to sally forth, you need to keep that promise.  So I did, and I made another promise that I’d stop a second time on this carry, which I also did.  No pride was injured.

The long, grassy, rocky, Queer Lake entrance is the site of a photo that a canoe-tripping partner took of me in the mid-1990’s, with me standing in the water, clowning a bit as I prepared to unload a canoe.  First time I have been to this site since then.  (We were heading the other way.)

I had hair.  Lots of it.  The real photo is way better, I just quickly took a photo of a photo for this.  We had external packs, because that's what existed at the time.  That canoe was the "Lightweight" Grumman (Wilderness Battleship).  it weighed a mere 72 pounds compared to the regular version which weighed 78 pounds as I recall.  In my youth, at age 16 or 17, I carried one of those full weight suckers over the 5300 meter Dickson-Bonfield portage, back when the yoke was two paddles between the thwarts and the padding was an orange life jacket.  I fell with the canoe that day coming around a giant deadfall, and was so ticked off about it I threw it off my shoulders across the trail, and it bwanged off a tree so hard I thought I'd wrecked it - and it wasn't my canoe!  Turns out they were indestructible, or at least there was nothing I was capable of to damage it.  I went through the five stages of grief on that portage though.  

A short paddle and portage later put me on Little Trout, which I had to myself, so I scouted sites before taking the island (with one site).  That was getting the most wind to drive mosquitoes back.

This site had it all.  Makeshift golf clubs, discarded skillet, set of tent poles, hole dug and filled with charcoal, a saw, numerous saw cut small-diameter tree stumps, a pulley with rope sitting atop a bushcraft table, a pad for the thunderbox to prevent your delicate rear-end from touching wood, and a giant log that had been cut and placed atop of a large rocky outcropping at the back of the site.  Sigh.

I dislike this kind of stuff, but I had to give this points for cleverness.  Looks like somebody was trying to keep a youngster occupied based on the size of the one golf club.

This is from the back of the campsite, where there is a very large rockface providing an unobstructed view.  I'm pretty sure that giant log that was cut and hewn was a deadfall that just happened to be there, right?

It started raining very softly in the late afternoon.  It was very serene, so I took this photo.  One of my favorites of the trip.

My six hour travel day was at an end.  I like three, maybe four hours of travel.  These past two day were too much like work.  Exhausting for my 56-year old carcass. 

I had the lake to myself until a tandem showed up late in the afternoon.  They stayed on one of the western sites.  The hatchet work started almost immediately.  Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.   When I’m camping, I go to bed really early, like maybe 9pm.  My plan was to awaken at 6am to beat the wind on Ralph Bice.  I could hear the guys chatting and laughing while I was trying to sleep, but that wasn’t a big deal.  They’re just camping and enjoying themselves, and I drifted in and out of sleep as usual.  Then at 10:30 the hatchet work started up again.  It continued.  At about 10:48 (not that I was looking at my watch), it occurred to me that if I could hear the hatchet so clearly, they could probably hear me pretty clearly.  So, for the only time ever, I yelled at somebody in Algonquin Park.  “ENOUGH WITH THE HATCHET ALREADY!  ITS EFFING 11 O’CLOCK!”  Except I actually dropped the F-bomb.  I regretted it immediately, as I dislike succumbing to vulgarity.  The response came quickly, though: “SORRY, EH!”, to which I replied “Thank you….”, which I doubt they heard.  I heard not another sound from them.
A very gentle rain had started around dinner time, with a bit of wind.  It was pretty, really, so I just sat in the NoBugZone and enjoyed the sights and sounds, thinking this wouldn’t be too bad to paddle out of, although the zipper on my rain jacket had been tearing open from the bottom.  I knew it was the end of the rain jacket, I just needed one more day out of it.

6am came.  The wind never stopped.  I could hear it gusting through the trees throughout the night.  I pushed off at 8am.  The tent had a little extra water weight, but the NoBugZone had a LOT of extra water weight.  The pack was just flat out heavy.  I scrapped my plan to pack out any of the junk people had left behind.

When I got on Ralph Bice, the first bay wasn’t bad.  I took a break before heading out the main body of water (and broke the zipper on the pocket of my rain jacket).  Here, I made a bad choice.  If you’ve read any of my previous reports, you’ll know that I’m quick to note my mistakes.  While sometimes embarrassing, I figure it helps somebody else, and that’s a lot of the purpose of this site.  The waves weren’t white-capping, or at least they didn’t look like it, so while I knew the wind would be greater “out there”, it looked like the water would be manageable.  I basically went right up the gut of the lake, when I should have gone along the shoreline for safety sake.  By the time I was “out there”, it was white-capping some, but at that point I was basically committed to it.  I have definitely seen worse, but it was not good.

For the benefit of newbies:  If you dump a boat in the middle of a big lake, you’ve got a big problem in early spring.  The water is still pretty cold, and you can’t reach shore quickly in your saturated clothes, and even though you are wearing a life jacket, it is not a good scene.  The reality of paddling against a strong wind in these conditions is that you need to keep the boat pointed in a safe direction, in my case, directly into the wind and waves, to avoid getting turned broadside.  If you go broadside to wind and wave, it is difficult in the extreme to get the boat back in the direction you want, you are very vulnerable to broadside waves, and taking water.  And fun fact, sometimes the wave direction is a bit different than wind direction just because of the shape of the lake.  So, I had to paddle.  Non-stop.  It didn’t matter if I got thirsty, or tired, wanted to look at the map, had wicked nipple burn from the lifejacket rubbing the shirt, if I got fatigued, if the rain in my face was uncomfortable, or sweat-enhanced rain kept getting in my mouth.  You cannot stop forward motion to deal with junk like that.  You HAVE to avoid providing any opportunity for the boat to breach into a parallel position with the waves, which can happen quickly.  You have to keep going.  You can’t allow a lapse.  You can’t.  The lesson?  You want to be close enough to land features that allow you to get some wind/wave respite, and close enough that if you dumped you’d have a shot at getting to land quickly.

It was a difficult paddle across the length of that lake.  I was able to take respite finally, behind an island, where I checked the map, and then finished out the lake.  It took an hour and forty-five minutes.  Ralph Bice lived up to its old name, Butt Lake, because it surely was being a butt.   Bonus: no bugs in that wind.  Left camp at 8am.  Arrived at the access point around noon.  A long 4-ish hours.

Just a couple more things to share. 

One - I saw something really interesting on one of my days.  I found a creek that had a lot of small trout in it, in the 4-5 inch range, all kind of trapped in this small area.  I’m not disclosing the location out of concern that somebody will go there and just fish the ever-living heck out of it, but there must have been a hundred fish there, a spectacular sight.  Here’s a photo!

Is that cool or what?

Two – I have now dealt with Bug Armageddon.  Sure, I got mosquito bites.  You can’t avoid that, but I was prepared, so I didn’t get mauled.  That said….it is really hard to appreciate the beauty of my favorite place on earth when you spend so much of the time looking at it through mesh.  So, I know I can do it, but I don’t think I want to.  I’ll try to stick to my ice-out and September trips. 

Three – I believe this will be the last of my “challenge” trips.  Days 2 and 3 were just long slogs for me.  Day 4 was a roll of the dice.  People who left the park on Monday, came out under ideal conditions.  I came out under lousy conditions.  I’ve always enjoyed the “test your mettle” aspect of canoe-tripping, but those two days, with five-six hours of travel, were too much.  I’ll stick to three or four-hour days.  The goal is to enjoy the park, not to endure it.

Four – R.I.P. my rain jacket.  Main zipper broke as did a pocket zipper.  It owes me nothing, got a lot of use out of it for several years.

Five – I saw a roughed grouse somewhere, and also a pair of Mergansers in mating plumage.  Very cool birds!  On the drive up, rounding Toronto on the toll road, I spotted a Bald Eagle.  It was perched across a pond, high atop a tree.  Those birds are unmistakable in size and appearance.

Six - I stopped by the Rangers office on the way out.  Told them about a thunderbox that was nearing the brimming point, garbage on the last site, and a couple of portage signs that needed replacing.  I encourage everybody to note those kinds of things to park officials.  They may not be able to attend to things straight away, or may not see the priority in something, but its a big park, and they need people to share this kind of information with them if they are to do their job.

Seven - as scary as that moose encounter was, I wouldn’t trade it.  That was a moment.   Encounters are often serene, but moose are not animals to be trifled with or pushed.  They’ll stomp the crap out of you if they feel it is necessary.  They are wild, free, powerful animals.  They’ll do what they do without remorse or afterthought.   We know that, but we rarely, if ever, experience it, or feel it, and while I could have done without startling a momma moose like that, and would never do so to intentionally produce a “moment”, in a way, a moment like this is the raw, pure experience we all crave when we go into the forest.  Sometimes we need to feel the wind and rain stinging our face.  I can’t explain it any better than that. 


6/01/2022 1:27 pm  #2

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Thanks for deleting the original post, Barry - I was going between computers with photos and it just wasn't working.

     Thread Starter

6/01/2022 6:30 pm  #3

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

That was a lot of fun to read! Glad you had a memorable spring trip. So should I be the guy? Nah! I'll let someone else say "Moose-whizzer, wrong answer!" 
I think you know this already, though. In fact you might  just be checking to see if we're paying attention. Well, here goes: 
    Those aren't trout...


6/01/2022 7:01 pm  #4

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Ok, then I'll bite, what are they? 

I've zoomed on it, the fin colors and shape looked like it to me, as did the head shape, and they were all buzzing around in water than was pretty fast-moving just beyond a more or less waterfall...that checked enough boxes for me, but I'll very freely admit I'm no trout expert.

     Thread Starter

6/01/2022 7:07 pm  #5

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Great read! Boat-on-head disease, hahaha!! Benadryl Cream! I could use that, thanks for the tip.

I dont think those are Trout. I have had a very similar experience and was told they are most likely Long Nose Suckers preparing to spawn.


6/01/2022 8:32 pm  #6

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Now I'm feeling pretty good about giving them a little privacy.  They didn't need my prying eyes as they prepared to share intimate moments.

     Thread Starter

6/01/2022 9:12 pm  #7

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

gee davey,   nice trip report`n.  i love the "red green" golf club set,,  made in canada eh!!
    fried suckers are a thing of beauty,, little tartar sauce and away ya go!!
  very nice to see the moose,, and the twin calves are a good omen,, i believe that the population has gone down a lot over the last ten years.  
     good work , i think that the cow moose had the last laugh,,  she was mooning you as she and the twins left the water hole,,  swamp donkeys for sure

Last edited by swedish pimple (6/01/2022 9:12 pm)


6/01/2022 9:34 pm  #8

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Swede, few of us can turn a phrase like you!  Loved the red green reference.

I kept looking at that moose butt walking away and thinking this is not the stuff of a great photo.

Glad you enjoyed the report.

I guess we've concluded that the fish are suckers, so thanks Martin, Martin, and Swede for helping with the identification!

     Thread Starter

6/02/2022 6:37 am  #9

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that!!
I was once held up by a momma and her calf as they grazed right in front of a portage landing for about a half an hour or so. Tried banging paddles on the gunwales but all we got was a "I'm here eating right now" look that kept us at bay.
I can so relate to the realization about not driving myself so hard and taking more time to just enjoy the park.
When I turned 59 my tripping partner and I who was 61 decided to just try a "no effort" trip. We paddled in to Tim Lake on the river and just stayed on the island for 4 days, no portages, just an easy paddle in and out! We noodled around on the lake and the portages but basically we sat on the shore and relaxed and took in all the park would give us, it was very relaxing. 
Thanks so much for sharing that!!


6/02/2022 8:49 am  #10

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Scout - thanks very much!  I'll definitely be looking at more intermediate (to me) routes going forward.  I like 4 day trips, and I'm ok with maybe one push day, but I don't think I'll be looking for grinds anymore.  (I say that now....)

Moose are not ones to be hurried if they are of a mind to stay put.  

     Thread Starter

6/02/2022 9:42 am  #11

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

excellent report, thanks for sharing. Dealing with the wind, bugs, and a close encounter is always harder when solo, good work!



6/02/2022 9:46 am  #12

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

That was great, Dave. I, too, was set for a short trip starting the 25th - first in 3 years. The second I set foot out of the office to start my vacation, I got that ominous tickle in the back of my throat - out of commission for a week and had to cancel.

If that cow had slicked her ears back you would've been in some serious trouble. Good to not let it get to that stage.

Last edited by scratchypants (6/02/2022 9:46 am)


6/02/2022 2:40 pm  #13

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Thanks, Evan, Scratchy!  Sorry about your illness Scratchy...better it happens in advance of a trip than during, but it sure happens.  

And yeah, I'm glad she didn't pin her ears too.  I wish the camera had taken a photo for me while she charged across the water.  Her speed was incredible, and the water just exploded out of the Tim.  I'd wager that very few have been witness to a moose moving that fast.

     Thread Starter

6/03/2022 5:10 pm  #14

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Great write up Dave, thanks for posting. I also had my first trip with a nobugzone this year and I agree, it was awesome. I also agree with your room for improvement list, particularly numbers 1 and 2. Our tent looked like it was imploding the first night and I can’t tell you how many times I caught my foot in the doorway.

I’m jealous of the moose encounters, even the slightly terrifying ones, we didn’t see anything bigger than a chipmunk on our trip (up in the northwest corner).

Thanks again for the write up, it was a great read.


6/04/2022 11:33 am  #15

Re: Never startle a Momma moose with calves. Turns out they hate that.

Well, hopefully it was a big chipmunk.

This was the first time I'd laid eyes on a moose since....spring 2019, and I've never seen that many.  It was pretty crazy.

     Thread Starter

Board footera

LNT Canada is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.