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10/02/2019 4:55 pm  #1

September 14-16 trip recap - Western Uplands upper loop

...The last back country outing of the year is always bittersweet...
Looking at my calendar, I realized that the September 14th weekend would be my last chance, and so I made a spur of the moment decision to do it. My plan was to drive to the Kearney office on Saturday morning and then hit the Rain Lake entrance to the WUT. My first night would be on Loft and my second on Clara. Lots of ground to cover, so I hoped the trails would be in good shape. I decided to make this a totally tech free trek, including no watch. The only exception was my SPOT device. The weather forecast didn't look too bad, and I was thankful to miss all of the rain on the 13th.

I left my house super early and arrived at the Kearney office around 8:30. The staff told me that the bad weather had cleared out and that I should be golden aside from a possible shower in the morning yet. Sweet. As I drove toward Rain Lake, the road became rougher, and my Beatles White Album CD began skipping wildly. Being in a 13 year old compact car didn't help. Just before hitting the lot, I swear I saw a male pheasant, which on the surface doesn't seem to make much sense...

It felt good to swiftly cover the first section along the old railway bed. I didn't see any other hikers until I got close to Ishkuday Lake where I ran into a couple of ladies heading out. Soon after, I caught up to a nice couple with their two dogs, and that would be the last people I'd see that day.  The weather was staying mostly dry, but this changed once I got closer to Brown Lake andit began to lightly rain. My pants were already kind of wet, so it wasn't really a big deal. I was hoping to take a lunch break on a bench that runs over Brown Creek, but this plan was abolished due to drizzle and a very chilly wind. After hitting the 'junction' where the portage trail/short cut trail intersects the 3rd loop (and heads south to Gervais Lake), it felt good to know I just had 6 kms to go. I had planned on eating lunch at East End Lake, but the rain had picked up just as I was getting there. I hunkered down under a large, leaning hemlock tree and gobbled down some tuna wraps. 'Hey' I thought, 'some cheese and crackers would be good right now too'. One problem - I left the cheese in my car. Ugh, there was 400 calories that I'm sure I would miss. Soon after lunch, I spotted a large moose not too far off the trail. It didn't seem overly concerned about my presence, and I was able to observe it for about 15 seconds. A fair trade for no cheese.

I trekked to the western site at Loft Lake and decided to take a swim. The rain had ceased, but the cold wind persisted. However, I would not be daunted - much. I had never swam in Loft, and I was amazed at how shallow the lake was (at least the section where I was). I had nearly gone halfway across and the water was barely at my chest. Apparently clams like the lake too, and I tread carefully to try and prevent a injury. I took a quick dip and high tailed it back to shore. Brrrr. I setup the tent and began collecting firewood for the evening. I had a couple of beverages as well, and it felt good to get everything in order. Sawing maple logs certainly warmed me up again. It rained a little more before making dinner, but it didn't amount to much. The night itself was quite nice - the sky had broken open and I was treated to a spectacular view of the harvest moon which was occurring at the time.

Sunday morning was cool and partially sunny for a few short minutes before grey skies dominated again. I hit the trail feeling pretty good and was surprised that things were mostly dry - yesterday's wind certainly helped. As I neared Otterpaw Lake, I spotted another moose (male with a rack) in the woods. This one was more skittish than yesterday's beast, and it quickly left soon after I saw it. I met another solo hiker shortly thereafter, and then caught up again to the couple and their dogs who I had seen the day before. I suspect they had camped at Gervais or Otterpaw the prior evening. I stopped for some lunch at the western site at Pincher Lake South and had some fond memories of staying there years prior. The sky had been totally grey up to this point, with some occasional light rain, and then for a fleeting moment the sun shone through. The reflection of the water danced on the evergreens on the shore, and as I looked across the lake, the beginning leaf colour change was poignantly displayed. The sun lasted less than half a minute, which made the view that much more special.

I took my time hiking the last few kms toward Clara Lake as I could sense that it was still quite early in the day. I remembered seeing an inactive camp site at McCormack Lake on the reservations map and thought today may be a good time to seek it out. I kept my eyes peeled to where an entrance point may have been and carefully tread toward the small lake. It only took several minutes before I found the remnants of the site. The firepit was fully intact, although obscured by layers of leaves. There were two log sections that served as chairs, with one having a back rest sawed out. They were both upright, moss-covered, and perched close to the firepit - no doubt left in the exact same spot as used by the last people to camp at the site. I wonder how long the site has been decommissioned?

I arrived at Clara Lake soon after, and decided to check out the 'new' site which apparently had been established in August of 2015. It was then that I realized I hadn't been to this lake since the spring of that year as it's not on a typical path. I knew that the existing site near the portage was a beautiful spot, but I decided to check out the site. Clara is my favourite lake on the WUT and I had my doubts as to whether the new site was on par or better with the other. My doubts were soon dispelled when I arrived to a beautiful rocky outcrop with panoramic lake views. If only some sunshine and warmth could complete the picture! I had originally planned on taking a swim in Clara, but the cold wind and grey skies make me settle on a very quick dip instead. I did the usual camp routines of setting up the tent, finding a tree to hang the food and collecting/cutting firewood. As the afternoon waned, the sky became brighter, the wind died down, and then the sun came out in its full glory. I was so happy to see it and I lied down on the rocks to bask in its warmth. After another dinner of mac and cheese, I relaxed by my camp fire for long enough to see the moon rise again. Soon after, I headed to bed.

The last day. The nicest one weather-wise as well; sunny and warm. I set off toward the car and caught up to another solo hiker studying the map at the second/third loop junction point. He had a bit of a rough day navigation wise the previous day at Maggie Lake and to top it off his air mattress failed. He was going to cut his trip short and head back out that day. I found out he had also crashed at Clara Lake, and he must have been very quiet as I never heard any evidence of anyone else there. I wished him well and forged on. The first site at North Pincher had a tent set up, and I surmised it may have been the couple and their dogs. As I hit Stutter Lake, I noticed vegetation starting to grow where the lake once was at the northern rim. I then realized this was the work of beavers damming things up. I was looking forward to seeing the little waterfall just past the lake but instead was met with dry rocks. Beavers. Dam.

Before hitting Weed Lake, my spidey senses were tingling. I then heard some distinct huffing as I passed by a swampy section which I assume was a bear. Some bear scat further up the trail shored up my assumption. It's funny, because during this trip I was questioning the necessity of carrying bear spray with me. I have to say that it felt good to have it at that moment. I trekked on with bear spray at the ready in one hand and my poles held upright in my other. Thankfully there was no sighting and I suspect we went our separate ways. Phew.

I checked out a couple of sites on Islet Lake and took a brief rest at one of them. I had pretty much run out of food at this point, and appreciated the last bit of trail mix and licorice I had on me. Cheese sounded really good right now. I didn't encounter any other hikers until near the end of the trail where I met a couple of day trekkers. I got to my car feeling somewhat fatigued before 2:00 and quickly devoured most of the cheese... I headed home, stopping for some gas - along with a root beer and a Passion Flakie - thankful that I am still able to do this sort of thing as I get older. Until next year!




Last edited by hiker72 (10/02/2019 7:02 pm)


10/22/2019 9:16 pm  #2

Re: September 14-16 trip recap - Western Uplands upper loop

It's amazing what a little rain and FULL STOP - just sitting still - will produce eh?

Been there, seen that. (-:


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