We had a total of 7 days to trip, so we decided to combine 2 trips into the week. First, we headed up to Temagami to paddle the Canton Lakes loop, which is an obscure route which is popular with the local camps in the area. It's not marked in the popular Temagami Planning Map, but info can be found in Kevin Callan's "Lost Canoe Routes" book or Chrismar's Adventure
Maps titled "Temagami 2". It starts at Ferguson Bay, west across to Sharp Rock Inlet, through a series of small lakes (called the Canton Lakes) to Bob Lake, north to Diamond Lake and then back southeast to Sharp Rock Inlet. Then scramble across the infamous Napolean portage and then head back to the sandy beaches back at Ferguson Bay. Easy enough, but the problem was just trying to begin the trip!
- The infamous dirt road to Ferguson Bay. One of the many deep pools we had to navigate through.
The drama started even before we started paddling. After driving 20 odd kilometers on Red Squirrel Rd, we turned into Wanapitei road and continued until we hit a split. The problem was the road continued to split in both directions and we had no clue which one took us to the access point! The other problem was that it had just downpoured earlier in the day and all we could see was huge pools of mucky water along the rutted dirt road. In the end, thinking that no one could make it through that mess, we hiked to Camp Wanapitei and got directions from the kids there. Of course where else?!, - back down that same mucky flooded road!
We drive a Honda CRV, with the 'sometimes' 4WD feature based on driving conditions. Looking at the mess infront of us, I was convinced we needed 4WD all the time, but there was no way to lock it in that mode! Despite being anxious and nervous about getting stuck, we decided to go for it, so off we went. The truck lurched up and down, side to side, plowing through mud and
diving down deep in the water. We had no idea how deep the water was, but it was enough to make me wonder whether we would flood the engine or have water come in through the door! After many nerve-racking minutes, we thankfully made it to the end without incident. Looking back, it actually was really fun, as this was the most 'four-wheeling' we'd ever done!
- There was evidence of trail maintenance, but it didn't mean that it was all smooth going!
At the access point, we were surprised to see all kinds of vehicles parked there! Including many non-4X4 vehicles and ones without a lot of clearance. We found out later that not everyone was as lucky. We met a couple of guys on the last day who couldn't make it in because of the water and mud (they didn't have a 4x4), so they portaged the extra 600m to the lake. One capable vehicle, a Subara Outback had a flat in the parking area which is a sure way to dampen your spirits after finishing a trip!
It was nice to finally be back on the water. We camped on a nice site at the west central side of Ferguson bay. Our entertainment for the night came from a rabbit which decided to visit us as we sat in the bug tent enjoying the sun go down. It inspected us, the tent, and our gear (under the tent fly!), - thank goodness it didn't find anything to nibble on. At one point it was literally 2 feet away from me! I wish I had my camera but it was sitting outside the bug-tent!!
- The awe inspiring and sacred vision quest site - Chee-skon lake
The trip through the Canton Lakes was peaceful. We didn't see a single person through the area, despite being in the middle of canoe season. The portages were a little rough and sometimes hard to locate, otherwise, it wasn't too bad considering. It was obvious that it was being maintained, just not often. We were also priviledged to see a moose and calf swimming infront
of us on Stiles lake. The funny thing was, due to distance and the sun in our eyes, the outline of their heads looked liked huge swans, but as Marylou pointed out, they were too big. As we approached, we finally identified the mysterious silhouettes!
Our second night was spent on Bob Lake in the north-west corner. The next day was spent paddling down to Chee-skon lake and viewing the old growth forest. Chee-skon lake is gorgeous. I can certainly see why the natives used this place for vision quests. Just being there filled me with a sense of reverence and respect. Its definitely a place I will return to. The old
growth pines were amazing. Its so nice to see an untouched intact forest with massive pines that emanates awe and admiration. Certainly hope this place stays protected for future generations to experience and see.
- Looking back on the Napolean portage, it was evident why it was called as such.
Once back at Bob lake, we decided to continue on. We made quick work of the 1200m portage to Diamond and enjoyed the nice paddle through the scenic lake. A quick 75m portage brought us to Sharp Rock Inlet where we finally decided to make camp on a peninsula. The weather had been great, except today it was brutally hot. A swim after setting up camp helped to cool us down before having supper and watching the sun set.
The next day, we slowly made our way east through some narrows, but somewhere along the way, I didn't pay much attention and ended up going the wrong way. (day dreaming) We ended up circumnavigating south around a big island and added three times the distance to the next portage! Oops! We heard about the tough 825m Mount Napoleon portage so we mentally prepared for the worst. However, we didn't find it too hard. It was pretty much a steady climb to the top, and then a steep quick drop to the bottom. It probably is worse going the other way dealing with the steep climb first. After heading out onto Ferguson Bay, we turned back and realized why people called it the Napolean portage based on the contour of the land. Pretty cool!
- A simple tasty dessert - cinnamon, margarine, brown sugar, & pecans rolled in a toasted pita
The day's travel ended quickly as we reached the north shore of Ferguson Bay. Surprisingly, there was nobody there! Along the whole sandy stretch it was empty. Being another hot humid day, we looked at the sandy beach, the cool aquamarine waters and then at each other. Our resolve to continue on to the next trip immediately faltered. We ended up giving in and staying another night. That was the best decision we made. Boy did the water ever feel good! We took full advantage of our time there to relax, eat, swim, and read. It was a great way to end the trip!
- Beauty in nature is only evident to us when we take the time to see it.