Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obabika River Loop - Day 4

Campsite on Wawiagama Lk: Flat open spaces and a canopy
of tree cover makes for a great sleep!

Opening my eyes early this morning, I was hopeful when I saw that the tent walls were bright. Quickly looking through the mesh door, I could see the day was dawning bright and beautiful. What a nice treat! It was motivation to get out right away, which I did, but the moment I had on shore was short lived by the clouds of mosquitoes. I quickly retreated into the bug tent to get some hot drinks going.

Today we didn't have far to go so we decided to take our time and relax a bit. After breakfast Marylou even headed back into the tent to nap again!, - imagine that! Whereas I took the time to get caught up in my journal, spend some time exploring around and taking some pictures. I couldn't resist luxuriating in the nice weather and sun.

Relaxing along the shores of Wawiagama

Moving at a snail's pace we were finally back on the water at 14:00. For some reason we, (let me correct that, - I) had a little trouble locating the 910m portage into Obabika Lake. The marshy shoreline with its high grasses made it hard to locate. However, once we finally found it, we completed the fairly easy trek to Lake Obabika.

Do you see the portage?!!

We then paddled west through a scattering of islands with some nice campsites before turning north along the west shore. The day was becoming increasingly hot and humid, ideal conditions for creating more of those big fluffy clouds. (you know what I was thinking, right?!)

Persistently wet socks can be a source of problems
between partners in a canoe. See above!

As we continued paddling north, a large scree field topped by huge cliffs soon towered over us. Since I was eager to take some pictures here, we decided to also stop for a snack. After filling myself on some bars, I couldn't contain my excitement any more. Like a little kid, I grabbed my camera and began climbing up.

The view from near the top was spectacular and the nice breeze was refreshing from the heat. Even more spectacular was seeing the massive pollen clouds in the water. It was like some big sea serpent moving through the lake. Who would have guessed!

Massive pollen clouds moving north on Obabika Lake - my
view was definitely better than Marylou's down below

After endless shutter clicks, we finally moved on. We wanted a campsite close to the portage out of Obabika Lake, so we settled for a nice site across from it. Being out on a breezy point, we figured it would keep us relatively cool and keep the bugs at bay. It was nice for a change not having to set up in the dark! I even took the opportunity to go for a refreshing dip to wash off all the dirt and sweat. The rest of the evening was spent reading, writing and and relaxing after supper. It was an excellent way to spend the last night of the trip and fall asleep feeling very content.

Stunning Blue Flags along the shores
of Lake Obabika

Day 5 - "Get to the that shore now!!!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obabika River Loop - Day 3

Packing up for the day at our unnamed lake campsite

We got up much earlier today as our bodies were slowly getting use to the physical activity. The masses of mosquitoes that clung to our mesh door made it tempting to stay in, but our bladders won out. It was overcast and grey outside again, - did I mention that it rained at night?!

Yesterday, Marylou screamed when she scared a grouse on the way to the box. Today she got to stretch her lungs and vocal chords again when she scared a bird off its nest! (lol!) I don't know what it is with her and birds, especially with a full bladder, but its a good thing she didn't wet herself! See the bird yourself below!

After breakfast, we decided to do some exploring before heading back to the Obabika river. We first checked out a not-so-pretty 20 foot falls across our campsite that was obscured by vegetation. We then headed northwest to Lahay lake to check out another set of falls which entailed 2 portages, (595m, 360m) through another unnamed lake. Wonder how I can get them to name one after myself? (Lake David, Davey Lake, Davey Crochet Lake,....yeah,....nope!)

The first portage was the hardest to find, but the trails were in fairly good condition with a few downed trees. At the end of the second portage there was a unfinished dilapidated log cabin with junk strewn about. Always make you wonder what the story is behind it, but nonetheless it was disheartening to see the mess all over the place.

The unfinished log cabin along the trail to Lahay Lake

We paddled south on Lahay to where it flushed into Nasmith Creek. The falls were nice, but nothing spectacular. The only downside was that it started to rain, (surprising?!) - and we didn't have our rain gear. So we headed back into the forest and huddled by a large rock, which kept us fairly dry. Once it stopped, we headed back.

The falls below Lahay Lake that flushes into Nasmith Creek

After we picked up our packs at the campsite and began heading back, we stopped at what looked like a portage trail. (it was hard to see yesterday in the fading light) Curious, we got out and followed what looked like the actual portage trail. Except it ended abruptly due to several large trees that had come down due to a beaver. I tried to relocate the trail, but it was nowhere to be found - obviously. We then headed back the same way, down the narrow creek, eventually finding ourselves back on the Obabika river paddling south.

Within an hour of paddling we had come to a large chute and had to portage around it. The trail itself passed a nice campsite where I'm sure most paddlers have stayed. (note for next time) The weather even began improving at this point with the sun coming out. I soon found myself too warm as I doffed off my wet footwear and shirt.

Portaging around a large chute where a log camp used to be

We also got to see some wildlife - muskrat, baby beavers, otters and small turtles the size of loonies. All the initial excitement was soon replaced by the painful repetitive manoeuvring around endless oxbows. It took 5 long hours to finally reach the turnoff to Wawiagama Lake, which was well marked. What a relief! Although the strong current of Wawiagama river due to all the rain was no laughing matter. It was even more exhausting to paddle the 30mins upriver fighting current, logs, and sandbars to get to the lake!

A baby painted turtle we found hanging onto some flotsam
in the river. Turtle soup anyone?!!

Wawiagama lake is beautiful. It is lined with towering cliffs on the west side topped by large pines. It was exhilarating to have the wind in our faces as well as the stunning scenery before us. Staring in awe at the massive cliffs, we slowly paddled to the west end to look for a campsite. Unfortunately, one campsite was not much to look at, and the other was beside a cabin, so we made the decision to head back east despite the setting sun. Our efforts paid off as we found a really nice site just as the sun was setting below the horizon. It was good day, long and tiring, but satisfying as we experienced and saw a lot.

Happy to finish the day on Wawiagama Lake

Next: Day 4 - "You want me to go up where?!!"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obabika River Loop - Day 2

Conspicious bands of pollen lines surrounding rocks on an
island in the middle of Obabika lake due to
changing water levels.

The next morning we got to an extremely late start as we were exhausted from the long day. Despite thundering and raining at night, it decided to start up again in the morning, so we had little motivation to get up. Eventually, hunger got us up and we crawled out to grey skies as we went about completing our usual morning task. We were finally back on the water at 14:30!, as we slowly made our way up the west shore of the lake. Encouragingly, some blues skies appeared with the sun poking through occassionally, but the ominous sounds of thunder in the distance continued throughout the afternoon.

Marylou was uneasy with the thunder, but there was no reason to stop paddling as there was no signs of rain or lighting. Even when we stopped at one point on a small bare island to take some pictures, she expressed her concerns again while the thunder continued unabated. As I was trying to calm Marylou down while telling her to look at the horizons for relief, I failed to notice that the north end of Obabika was covered by a menacing wall of dark grey clouds and rain heading our way. Oops!!

Marylou intently watching storm clouds on Obabika lake.

Jumping in the canoes with barely a word, we turned south and paddled like mad to a campsite for shelter. As we strained with each stroke, we began to feel the wind at our backs that proceeds these fronts. Once on shore we quickly wedged the canoe between trees and dragged our packs to a flat area and immediately pulled out our rain gear. We then began rigging up a tarp as we could now hear the mad rush of rain heading our way. It wasn't the prettiest set up, but it was enough to keep us from the torrent of rain that immediately followed. Of course due to the wind, the rain still managed to wet us, but it was comforting to know that we were off the water and had shelter above our heads. If there was any time that I distinctly remember being enlightened with "I told you so!", it was now.

Within an hour, we were back on the water with the tarp packed and our rain gear removed. The sun did come out again, but this time there was no thunder. (phew!) We immediately headed north to the mouth of the river while passing a large camp/cottage on a point. I believe it belongs to Alex Mathias, an aboriginal living on his ancestral family's land while protecting it from logging and other such interest. Many have had the chance to meet him, so I looked intently while passing the property, but didn't see any signs of people or movement, so we passed quietly. Besides, since we were so behind, we decided to just continue paddling.

Calmly paddling down the Obabika river.

The Obabika river is a slow meandering river which was a nice change of pace from all the big lake paddling we had the day before. Birds seemed to thrive here as they constantly whizzed overhead from one side to the other. We eventually came to a small decrepit dam which we quickly carried over and continued paddling. We were now looking intently on river right looking for signs of a portage that led to an unnamed lake. Our plan was to camp there so it was important not to miss the turn off, but at the same time it wasn't the typical choice of most people paddling down the Obabika river so we wondered if it was even marked. (in Temagami, expect the unexpected!) Amazingly, we spotted the right surveryor tape by a creek on the branch of an alder, - amongst all the others that we noted that lined the river bank as well! (we couldn't figure what all those other tapes were for?!)

Portaging 20m's around the small decrepit dam, Marylou
waits to put back in the river.

Anyhow, it was supposed to be an easy 380m to the unnamed lake. Like everything "Temagami", (meaning confusing/challenging) we found ourselves definitely portaging more that the 380m's going down what looked like a overgrown cart trail, which totally soaked us to the bones and had the mosquitoes swarming us. Frustrated and spewing out expletives, we turned around and reassessed the situation back at the river.
After looking over the map several times and searching the surroundings, we found another surveyor's tape far upstream of the narrow creek that drained nearby into the river. With no other options, we decided to carry the canoe and gear to the creek and attempted to drag, pull, and occassionally paddle upstream through the tight turns. Surprisingly, we found more tape further ahead which gave us some hope as we continued on now lifting over several beaver dams. Pulling over the final and biggest beaver dam brought us tremendous relief as the long narrow lake lay before us. The euphoric moment combined with the rose-hued cast of the setting sun on the beautiful surrounding was all I needed to forgot the pain. It was worth it.

Marylou pulling branches aside in order to make our way up
the shallow overgrown creek to the unnamed lake.

Needless to say, it was another late night. We soon found the only campsite on the northeast side on a rocky point that was very overgrown. We quickly set up and got supper going in the dark, thankfully well protected in the bug tent. Despite another late day, we were happy to be here by overcoming the challenges and doubts of finding this lake. Nestled comfortably in our down bags with full stomachs, we soon faded into a well deserved sleep.

Next: Day 3 - "Are we there yet?!

New Format for Trip Reports

Solo trip in 2007 - The highest reward for a person's toil
is not what they get for it, but what they
become by it. - John Ruskin

Hi Everyone,

I decided to try something different. As I find myself writing way too much for one trip report, I decided to do it as a daily format. Therefore it is quicker for people to read, more pictures to see, as well as more posts. (eventually I hope to add video as well) This way I can get trip report info out faster and it will be more ongoing. I'll try it with the the Obaibika river trip and hopefully, I can get some feedback as to how people like it.

Let me know!

Obabika River Loop Jun 21-25 08 - Day 1

This trip was no exception to the endless display of immense
cloud formations, - as well as rain!!!

Its been quite a while since I've written a trip report. Almost 9 months in fact, so I'm due! (get it!, okay bad joke) Anyhow, lets go back to June of last year where we find ourselves on the shores of lake Temagami. Last year, on our big loop trip to various surrounding areas around Temagami, we ended up finishing the trip a few days early and not completing the last section of the intended route. Therefore I thought it would be nice to head back and paddle this section in the next 5 days. The intention was to head out from the Central Lake Temagami Access Road, head west to Obabika Lake, then turn south and paddle the length of the Obaibika river before turning north into to Wawiagama lake. Then it was back to Lake Obabika where we would head back the same way we came.

As most of you know, 2008 was infamous for record levels of precipitation; and this trip was no exception. It had already down poured just before we got to the put-in and the huge cumulonimbus clouds that hung around was a precursor of things to come. We got to a very late start because we had to stop at several places along the way up, so it was almost four o'clock by the time we were on the water!

It looked like it was turning out to be a great day, but the scorching sun that reappeared after the downpour made the air thick with humidity and made any effort a struggle. We stopped after a good long hour of steady paddling to rehydrate and get some reprieve from the sun on a campsite before continuing in a northeasterly direction. As we were paddling up the Northwest Arm of Lake Temagami we couldn't help notice the landscape on the east side where there was a large forest fire in 1972. Despite more than 30 years later, we could still see a distinct delineation of new growth verses the old! It was incredible that the effects from the conflagration was still evident!

Look carefully on the left and you can see the clear line of
old growth vs the new from the 1972 fire, - still!

Continuing north, we decided to break up the long paddle by portaging through a chain of lakes on the west side that would get us to Obabika Inlet. The change of pace was good except for all the bugs we stirred up along the trail. We now had to deal with clouds of mosquitoes and black flies over our heads looking for blood. (bad idea!) Otherwise, other than the interesting names (Jumpingcat Lake, Banana Lake - who thinks up these names?!!) the solitude and scenery through this area was nice.

Let me guess, "Banana Lake!", that's the first thought that came
to mind when I saw this lake! (okay, its shaped like it)

Once back on Obabika Inlet, we started to hear the all familiar grumble in the distance. Huge voluminous clouds draped the heavens and our first priorities at this point was to look for a campsite. The only problem was all the marked campsites were non-existent or totally overgrown. Hungry and annoyed, we then made the decision to push hard to Obabika Lake by portaging in near darkness along the 870m trail.

Annoyed and frustrated that we couldn't find a campsite on
Obabika Inlet. The thunder wasn't helping!

Once we made it to the lake, we quickly paddled northward, scanning the shoreline for a campsite with the help of the occasional lightning that lit up the sky. (Marylou was getting antsy) Of course the first marked campsite didn't exist, (like why would they?!!) but to our relief the next one appeared on a point further ahead. We paddled now with urgency, quickly unloaded on shore and set up the tent and bug shelter just in time as the rain started. It was past ten at this point. Supper was prepared quickly and downed voraciously as we watched the light show and rain. We were very happy to end the day crawling into our tent, as sleep that night came as fast as our heads hit the sack.

Next: Day 2 - "Storm?!, what storm?!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kuujjua River/Beaufort Sea Expedition Completed

This is an update to the blog post I made in mid-July of 2008 when friends of ours, Jim and Ted Baird set off on an incredible journey on the remote Victoria Island paddling the Kuujjua river. Although its been quite awhile since they've come back, I'm happy to report they are back safe and sound with memories and experiences to last a lifetime. We finally got an opportunity to have dinner with them and hear the incredible and mind-boggling circumstances and adventures they found themselves in. Needless to say, we sat stunned and breathless at times, just trying to assimilate the information! Even the photos they shared were incredible, but do little justice in a 8x10 format.

Ted and Jim Baird on Victoria Island

Luckily, their adventures and photos will not be kept from inquiring minds. For those of you who would like to hear a mesmerizing story of an extreme adventure and gawk at beautiful photographs on a large screen, they will be presenting at the annual Wilderness Canoe Symposium in Toronto this year. Information regarding the event on Feb 13 & 14, can be found on this website: http://www.wcsymposium.com Trust me, I will be there!!!

"Looking across the mouth of the Minto Inlet on the
Beaufort Sea, Victoria Island"

As you can already see, Jim has graciously provided some photos from his expedition for us to view and salivate. If you want to see more, you can go to his website www.canoebeyond.com and look up Kuujjua under Expedition. Or even easier, here's the direct link to more of the photos from his trip: http://www.canoebeyond.com/kuujjua/kuujjua.html

Jim scouting a section of the Kuujjua River

Congrats gentlemen to the completion of an amazing adventure and your safe arrival! Looking forward to the presentation!!!

Victoria Island, NWT, Canada

All photos in this post are courtesy of Jim & Ted Baird

Friday, January 9, 2009

A New Year

As I sit here and write, while contemplating what the new year has in store for me, its hard to even imagine what its even going to be like. Splitting up with my paddling partner recently inexplicably will be the biggest and most drastic change to the usual course of events that happen throughout the year for me. As hard as it is, I'm making the best attempts to move forward and push ahead.

The time around the holidays was extremely tough to get through, but in my case (as it seems to be with canoeing), when one bad thing happens, there always seems to be more. Of all the holidays that I could have used my family's company to keep me sane, there wasn't any! (some no fault of their own) After the smallest Christmas gathering in years, I was left alone to fend for myself until the new year. Of course, that was just the beginning. Dealing with the break-up, I attempted to try and keep busy or get into new things to keep my mind occupied. First off, I bought a treadmill (what a bitch that was to get it inside on my own!) to help me cope with the pain. And run I did, lots of it! It really was therapeutic, except after a good long run on Christmas morning, I got off with some odd "knee" pain and ended up limping for the next several days, - great!

I also started "hot" yoga - something that I would not normally do, but thanks to my persistent sister I thought why not? It was supposed to also relieve stress, - okay! Could you imagine me in tights trying to get into some pretzel configuration!?! Yeah, don't say it! (I did dread it once I got there and saw all these fit limber bodies) Oh by the way, "hot" is not because there was "hot" women there (they always out number the guys and yes, some of them are "hot"), but its because you are doing yoga poses in a room that is heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit! I won't go into the specific benefits of hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, but it was really amazing and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I couldn't get into many of the poses and I know I looked ridiculous at times, but I came out feeling great physically and in mind and spirit. Okay, I'm going off topic here, but the reason I brought it up was the fact that I went there alone (thanks sis!) after my injury thinking that it would help stretch out my knee and speed recovery. Nope! It somehow made it worse and put me in more pain!

The other pressing issue was a planned winter outing with my friend Ben. We were supposed to head out on a winter camping trek to Algonquin for 4 days on Jan 1st. I really needed something like this to just get out and clear my mind. We were going to hike using snowshoes while pulling sleds along the Western Uplands Trail, but the knee injury was a real concern as I couldn't properly bear weight on it. We were also then invited by another friend to party at their cottage during the same time, so we considered it as Plan B especially given the circumstances. Except, the only problem was access to the cottage. It is water access only, therefore, the only way to get there was hiking through the bush for 5km to bypass the frozen lake, which was unstable due to the recent rain. (yes, rain!) So in the end, I had to unfortunately cancel plans with Ben (sorry!!) as well as the cottage outing due to the nagging knee issue.

So here I was, frustrated as hell, alone at home, couldn't run, couldn't do yoga, couldn't party or trip, or anything that required walking! I felt I was in jail at home! When I finally went back to work (with a limp), I realized despite having a few days off, my leg was just not fit to be walking on. Just walking from the parking lot to the hospital was painful enough, so after I took care of things in the morning, I told my boss I was going back home. But first, I headed straight to an urgent care clinic (our own ER was way too busy) to find out what was going on. Once I saw the doctor, he determined it may be some soft tissue injury, - ligament, meniscus, etc. so he ordered an MRI. With the help of staff I knew at the hospital, they got me in fairly quick for the scan and I waited nervously for the results. The tech did mention that he did see something on the scan but wasn't at liberty to say as the radiologist gives the final diagnosis. So when the dreaded phone call came for me to go back to the clinic to see the doctor, I knew it couldn't be good. Diagnosis: stress fracture on the top of the tibia! Yikes! I was scripted for a Zimmer split to immobilize my leg and crutches to stay off of it! Possibly a cast (don't think so!), and 4-6 wks off! Wow! It was like I already struck out 3 times, but now they were kicking me out of the game! (please tell me this is it!!!) Maybe I should take up drinking - in quantity! (joke!) Running too much was the likely culprit, crap!

So yes, I have lots more time and not much to do. So why not start writing! (seeing that I've been so delinquent) So here I am, a slave to the screen!

So, I'm taking offers of visits, both at my place and yours! If "you" need company, my service is free! Come on people!, its a limited time offer!

Seriously though, I do have a lot of people to thank. I wasn't always alone and many of you offered support and encouragement that blew me away. I truly want to thank all of you for your support, especially those that went over and beyond. You know who you are. Also, much of the time alone wasn't always bad as it made me think alot about things and refocus myself to heal and move on. Its just frustrating when you put things in place to help you cope when they all collapse around you. I just have to pick my ass up and do it all again.

I have to say, some of the advice that was given was awesome, insightful and helpful, while some were downright hilarious! Like taking up crocheting, baking, offering a sister, speed-dating, jujitsu (help to vent), online dating, offering a hooker with an Adam's apple, drinking, baby-sitting, etc. It made me realize what good friends I have! (lol!) In regards to the online dating (looking more for friends rather than a soul mate) I even went so far as pulling up the website but stopping short of entering any info! (yeah, I'm a chicken!) Anyways, like I mentioned, I've thought about many things and have some ideas in place to pursue and refocus my life in the coming year. Canoeing is hazy, but its there. At the moment, all options are open. Getting back to backpacking, maybe some mountain-biking, do I dare say - kayaking(!), running a marathon, rock-climbing, who knows. All I know is I have to get back out there and find the peace, happiness, and joy that captured me in the first place without all the pain that may be associated with it. So I'm on a mission to live life again, find new friends, reconnect with old ones, seek new adventures and opportunities to fill the void. Thanks again, everyone! I'll keep you all in the loop as things unfold.

So for now, to kick start the year, I decided to give everyone a laugh. I've contemplated whether I should show it or not, (hope no one is offended), but I said, "To hell with it!" As you all know my passion for canoeing, sometimes I receive or purchase items that are canoe-related. There are the usual things such as souvenir paddles/canoes, books, and pictures. But how about a wearable canoe item? No, not shirts, an underwear!! Yes!, that's correct! A canoe underwear! (If any of you have one, even before me, let me know!) So on my last solo outing, I finally got the courage to take a shot of it and show everyone.

There is a funny story behind it besides the garment itself. When I had gone solo paddling in November to the Magnetawan, I forgot about hunting season. To my consternation, all my warm clothing was dark colours - blacks, brown, greys etc with no hint of fluorescent orange! And let me tell you, it was full on active hunting all around me, - gunshots all day everywhere! It was all out war on Bambi! So early one morning when the lighting was good, I mustered enough guts to pull off my pants to take a picture of myself while shots were resounding all around. Because I shot myself with the tripod, I had to take multiple pictures to get the lighting and framing right. It was slightly unnerving, wondering if a hunter(s) were watching, wondering, and laughing from the opposite shore! It was only after I finally got the picture I wanted that I pulled up my pants and realized something! My canoe underwear is bright fluorescent orange!!! It was the best thing I had to keep me from getting shot! So really, in some sense I guess I was "prepared"! So here it is, in all its glory!, - the underwear damn it!

I love to show my "canoe-related-stuff" with other
paddlers,..for the most part!

So just in case you were wondering, no, I didn't buy it! It was a gift! Like I would buy an orange underwear! Sheesh!

Thanks again everyone! Hope you had a good laugh!
Hope to have a trip report out soon!