Thursday, August 1, 2013

Revisiting the Queen - Part 3

Maybe because of the success we had the past couple of days, or the thrill and excitement of discovering new routes, either way, I wanted more. I couldn't deny that some of the nice scenery along the way came with a disproportionate amount of effort, but we all know, you don't get something for nothing. As long as you are working within your limits and know when to give and take, it can make for an exciting adventure!

Heading out of Scrabble Lake to begin yet
 another day of adventure!

 After our well rested stay on Scrabble Lake, we headed out the next morning towards the SW end. Here we entered a narrow arm where we were to find a portage to another marsh. Sense a theme? As usual, it wasn't obvious. We could hear water rushing down from the elevated level where we were at, and found it was a creek that presumably flushed into the marsh somewhere below. The north end of the creek didn't show any promise or signs of use, so we checked out the south side. It was here that I was able to discern what looked to be a trail, as it opened up and eventually led to the marsh below. Backtracking, we found the overgrown 'opening', and of course a pink tape that was well covered by leaves. Before beginning the short portage, I cleared the take-out and added more pink tape for future paddlers.

Some trail maintenance and new signage
for subsequent paddlers.

 Starting the paddle through what looked to be a big marsh on the topo had me wondering about the conditions we were going to find. Unexpectedly, it was actually easy to paddle through, with areas that were even open. Other than the odd beaver dam here and there we had to liftover, it was a nice paddle through what felt like a very remote and isolated area. We also passed the point where the portage from Clear Lake was to come into the marsh, but we never saw any signs of it, as it was probably overgrown as well. We were making good time, so we also decided to detour west to see Cranberry Lake. Exiting the marsh, we entered a creek which we paddled upstream as far as we could, where it got shallow and rocky in a narrow gorge. From there, I just portaged the canoe along the creek bed before we jumped in the canoe for a short paddle to see the lake. Assuming we would find it devoid of human presence, like a long lost lake, we were sorely disappointed to find a hunting cabin just north of the creek. I guess other people had the same idea too!

Portaging along logs to Cranberry Lake

 We soon left the scenic lake with the thought of coming back in the future to explore further. Once back in the marsh, we continued south through a verdant pool of plate-sized lily pads. Looking ahead, I could see the shoreline close in and I started to get that nagging hint of concern. Would we be able to get through? With relief, we actually were able to, but it definitely took more effort. It was not for the lack of water, but because of the many logs strewn across the narrow waterway. I'm sure Teddy wasn't enjoying all the liftovers, considering he had to stay put in the canoe. We were just thankful he didn't need Gravol. Doing liftovers across beavers dams is one thing, but try doing it on half submerged logs, floating logs, or ones that felt like they were slick with oil. It took some steady balance and quite often a wet foot, but we were having fun and laughing along the way. We were counting on each other to fall in first. Luckily, neither one of us ever did.

One of many floating logs we had to lift over. 
Thankfully, this one was fairly big!

 We eventually arrived in the vicinity west of Red Boat Lake. Apparently, there is a portage that can get you into that lake if you continue paddling west, but we weren't headed that way. From here, we wanted to continue south to the unnamed pond before Fishog Lake. Problem was, there was no recorded or documented case of anyone going this way. Like Colburn Creek, we were going in blind. We could evidently see the way ahead was a dead end. The water ran out, and there was thick wall of alders blocking the way. Looking at the topo, we headed to the small island beside us, that marked the entrance to another marsh that leads west to Red Boat Lake. We took a lunch break on the island while I checked and rechecked the route I was going to take us on. It was a last minute do or die feasibility study. Good thing it wasn't up for discussion or a vote. With only my wife and I, we would always be at an impasse!

Lunch break on an island surrounded by
a thick rich marshland

 The main issue was whether we could continue south. The east side of the island was obviously not an option, so we decided to check the west side and then determine whether to go for it. Paddling over, the other side definitely looked promising, as we could see the water wend it's way south, despite being shallow and log ridden. But first, we had to manage a liftover across multiple floating logs. Of course with Anita in the front, she had to get out first. The first step was fine, the second? Well, this incident was the closest I came to winning the bet. Her leg immediately sunk with the log halfway up her thigh! What surprised me more was how fast she was able to swing her leg up and onto the canoe gunwale! I couldn't stop laughing while bracing the canoe the other way to prevent her from taking Teddy and I in! It's amazing what fear can do to people. See, didn't I tell you she has a fear of the bottomless bog? We did finally make it over, but I was subjected to a thick layer of sarcastic remarks as we continued on. I couldn't get the grin off my face!

Hmmm, the canoe just ain't going to make it
under. Oh well, liftover it is!

 We eventually came upon an ATV bridge, which I surmised could be a good back-out option in case we got stuck, however, it kind of disrupted the sense of unaltered wilderness I was enjoying. As the bridge was too low to paddle under, we had to lift over it. I remarked how awful the footing on the bridge was compared to logs; I got a look, then a punch. A short paddle brought us to another narrowing, although this time, we could definitely hear the sound of rushing water. We pulled out at a small beaver dam before the drop, as I got out to inspect what lay ahead. I could see the water cascading several times through a rocky gorge, as it flushed out into an open valley, which was just spectacular. I couldn't believe how beautiful the area was. I rushed back and relayed my findings to Anita, as we then bushwhacked ahead to the foot of the small falls. On our way back, we did some trail maintenance and put up some flagging tape for future paddlers that decide to pass this way. One curious thing to note, there actually did seem to be a slight trail. Whether it was an animal trail, or a trail once travelled by natives in this area, it was hard to discern. But based on the depression and characteristics of the ground, someone, or something once passed this way many years ago - interesting. 

Discovering a small set of  falls along the way 
and the scenic landscape around it.

 We took some time to admire the splendid scenery before slowly paddling away. If I knew what we were going to face ahead, I would have definitely opted to camp at the falls, but since we didn't, we had to continue on. A short paddle brought us to another drop in elevation, where as before, we bushwhacked around the cascading rapid. Clearing the brush as we went, we again found evidence of a faint trail. I was now certain, we weren't the only ones that came through this way. The big question was who? Back in the canoe, we continued on down a narrow corridor, where we could see the shoreline and trees close in. The landscape was changing.

Passing a huge erratic along the lower 
section  of Digby Creek. 

 Stopping at a beaver dam that had a significant drop, we could see the vale we were entering. Leaving the open boggy marsh, there was now rocks in the creek bed, huge erratics along the shore, a canopy of trees atop our heads, and even current coursing through the water. Before continuing on down the creek, we had to consider a contour line on the topo that crossed the creek further down, most likely indicating a falls. We needed to decide now what we were committing ourselves to before moving on. Portaging would be a challenge as the shoreline abruptly rose up on either side. Looking down as far as I could, noting the shallow creek, as water danced deftly around all the rocks, we figured we'd go for it. We couldn't paddle anyhow, so we figured it would be safe since it would be slow drag through the creek until we came to the drop, assuming it was going to be like this the whole way.

Opting to drag the canoe along this section was
 both enjoyable and scenic.

 Despite dragging, it wasn't all too strenuous. It was cool under the canopy due to all the shade, and the slick Twintex material slipped easily atop the rocks. Other than a rocky ledge, which we got down fine after man-handling a log that blocked the way, it was pretty straight forward travel. Surprisingly, we even got to paddle a bit when the creek deepened. It was very pretty and intimate in this section, and we were thoroughly enjoying the decision to drag through, rather than find a way in the bush. Soon enough, we heard the distinct roar of angry water. We pulled out well before the drop and I scouted ahead along the shore. It was a drop alright, but not straight down. It had a good pitch where the water cascaded down, but not enough to stop us from taking the canoe down carefully. After deciding which line to take, we cautiously guided the canoe to the bottom. At the base, it made almost an abrupt 90 degree turn, where we dragged the canoe over rocks to deeper water. Paddling out to open water, we could see the the steep portage that made quite an impression on Anita on our way in. This was it, we finally made it to our intended destination intact!

At the top of the falls, waiting for a hand to
guide the canoe down.

 We spent our last night back out on Fishog Lake before heading out the next day. The end of the trip almost seemed docile, but the morning we left, it gave us unforgettable farewell, as the skies dumped on us like crazy. It was a poignant reminder before we left, that despite being on familiar waters now, we were still in the wilds of Queen Elizabeth 2 Wildlands Park.
 tPP 

Back on the all familiar Fishog Lake, 
we could now relax!

Post Trip Notes: This is the first time owning/having a GPS on a trip. As you can see, it came in quite handy. I've never been a fan of having electronic gadgets on trips, preferring to use my God-given talent, (aka my brains), but I can see the merit. When we got lost on this trip, it may have taken more time and effort, but I would have certainly still figured it out - like many times before. However, there is value in the device - such as pinpointing important landmarks, marking new portages, or even new routes that can be corroborated and added to a map database. I'm still new to the whole thing, and need to spend more time with it to get familiar with its features. However, with the information I have from this trip, I plan to share it with Brad Jennings (explorethebackcountry.com) so that he can add it to his already detailed map of the park. Now, you have no excuse not to follow in our wake! Have fun!
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