2012 Cache - McGarvey - South Galipo - Louisa - Cache

Wednesday, August 15 - Day 1

Left the house just after 8am.  Arrived at the West Gate around 9am to get the permit.  At Cache Lake just before 9:30, loaded up and on the water by 9:45am.  Nice warm, sunny day with calm conditions.

Arrived at 760m portage from Cache to Hilliard Lake at 10:10am.  Fairly good portage slightly uphill.  Using a new pack for this trip which can hold more so I have Dad’s clothes, sleeping back and rain gear.  It’s heavier than normal and I noticed it on my shoulders.  Hilliard has one half decent site on it.

Water levels quite low on the lakes this summer due to the lack of rain.  Over the 350m portage into Delano and around the corner to the 965m portage into South Canisbay Lake.  Boardwalk at the end of the portage had been washed away so we had to canoe twenty feet back to land before getting into the lake.

Missing boardwalk at end of portage from Delano to South Canisbay Lake.
A short paddle around the corner brought us to the 190m portage into Kingfisher Lake.  The pack is really straining on my shoulders and I’m not sure why as it’s an internal frame pack and I’ve never experienced that with any internal frame.  This is the most uncomfortable I’ve been carrying a pack in many years.
Low water conditions at end of Kingfisher to Mohawk Lake portage.
Across Kingfisher to the 500m into Mohawk Lake.  Mohawk is a nice lake but unfortunately there are no sites on it.

From Mohawk the 845m portage really took a toll on my shoulders and I was dreading the 1250m to come later.

A short paddle across Little Mohawk then a 300m into Plough Lake and another short paddle to the 365m portage to Cradle Lake.

The last several portages have had trees down on them so not sure if crews had not been out yet this year but signage looked new and there was evidence of new cuttings.

Cradle Lake is a nice little lake with high rocks on the south side but again no sites.  A short 40m lift over land took us into Bonnechere Lake.  We came across a family of four loons on the upper section of the lake.  We headed east and barely made it through the shallow rocky narrows in the middle of the lake.  As we got through there we came across another party who was looking for Phipps Lake.  Don’t people know how to read maps!?  After giving them directions we continued on south down the lake.  The last campsite on the eastern shore before the 1250m portage is a real beauty; a long, high, rocky site.
Awesome high, rocky site on Bonnechere Lake.
We had lunch at the start of the 1250m portage.  I was not looking forward to doing the portage just because of how my shoulders were feeling.

Loading up we headed off.  About ten minutes into the trail I came across a beaver meadow where there was a Pine Marten which, when it saw me, climbed up a tree for safety.  Not wanting to miss a photographic opportunity I gladly dropped the packs and broke out the camera.  A couple of minutes later Dad come by and joined me in taking some pictures of the marten.
Pine Marten along the Bonnechere Lake to North Lemon Creek portage.
We then loaded back up and were on our way again.  Five minutes later we were at the end of the portage.  I don’t think that was 1250m but I wasn’t going to complain. 

We headed down North Lemon Creek and were quickly at our last portage of the day, a 645m into McGarvey.  My shoulders had pretty much had it by this point and the portage seemed to take forever.
As we headed down McGarvey to look for a site thunder started from the north and the sky was looking ominous.  The site on the northwest shore of the lake was no good so we headed toward the island site as thunder continued to rumble.  It looked half decent but we decided to check out the last site on the lake on the southern shore.  It had a small beach and was a nice high, flat site with lots of benched but was set amongst birch and spruce and there was nowhere to hang a food pack.  We decided to head back to the island site and arrived just in time as the rain started to fall.  We had enough time to set the tent up and don our rain gear.  We rode out the storm under a large hemlock.  The storm lasted about a half hour and the rain was done after 45 minutes.  The sun reappeared just after 6pm so we sat down on the rocks and relaxed with a glass of wine.
Arriving at McGarvey Lake.  Thankfully our last portage of the day.

Passing storm to the southeast on McGarvey Lake
We prepared dinner around 7pm then headed out in the canoe around 8pm to get some firewood.  We found a good load and although wet on the outside it burned well once I got a good fire started.
Preparing dinner at island campsite on McGarvey Lake.
We enjoyed the fire until about 9:30pm and then decided to turn in as we were both tired and sore from the day.  I was not looking forward to the two long portages that we had the next day because of how my shoulders felt with the pack.

Thurday, August 16 – Day 2

Awoke around 8am after a good night’s sleep.  Cooked up a hearty farmer’s breakfast and then broke camp and were on the water by 9:30am.  A two minute paddle across the lake brought us to the 810m portage to Lemon Lake.  I decided to use the tump line on the pack to see if that made any difference on my shoulders.  With my free hand I also pulled down on the tump line which also helped alleviate some of the strain on my shoulders.  A short paddle across Lemon Lake, which is more like a pond, brought us to the 165m portage into North Grace Lake.
More low water conditions at end of portage from Lemon to North Grace Lake.

We paddled through the narrow western section of the lake coming out on the main section of the lake with no evidence of anyone else camped on the lake.  Of the four campsites on the lake they are all good but the two west of the 1460m portage to Louisa are the best.

We took a slight detour to the south to walk the portage into Stringer Lake.  I had been in Stringer before and canoed it but had accessed it by a logging road for work.
Looking west on Stringer Lake from North Grace Portage.
Tattered "No Fishing" sign at Stringer Lake.  Stringer is a closed lake to angling.
After a quick look at Stringer we headed back up North Grace to the portage into Louisa.  I attached the camera case to the big pack thus allowing both hands to be free and to pull forward on the tump line.  This worked great and I alternated between hands and no hands on the tump.  Towards the end I took the tump off to give my neck a rest but that lasted only about four minutes as my shoulders began to ache terribly.
As I reached Louisa there were two parties in three canoes heading up the lake having come from the Florence portage just around the corner.

Loaded up we paddled around the corner to the 1725m portage to Florence Lake.  There was another party that had just come off the portage.  There was also a sign on a tree warning of a problem bear and the closure of about six sites at the east end of Louisa.

On our way again we passed another party about 400m along the trail.  They had a canoe and a kayak and had stopped to take a break.  About three quarters of the way along the trail cut onto a logging road for about fifty metres before heading back into the bush.  It was here that we came across a large family group heading the opposite way.   This was definitely a busy portage.

We took a short break at the end of the portage then made our way across Florence, through the small narrows into Frank Lake to the 320m portage to the little creek that eventually lead us out into Rence Lake.  Pushing 1:30pm we decided to stop on the first campsite on Rence to have lunch.

We were on our way again just before 2m and started in on the Galipo River by 2:10pm.  The first stretch of the river was good and we were soon at the 165m portage which was well signed.  The next stretch of river was longer but wider and covered with lot of aquatic plants but not a problem to get through.  The last 100m before the next portage began to get narrower and shallower and the last 50m was choked with Pickerel Weed and we had to pole and shimmy the canoe along.  The last 50 metres took us about fifteen minutes to do.  If it hadn’t been for the tattered remains of the portage sign hanging from a tree I might have thought we were on the wrong path.
End of 165m portage on Galipo River heading south.
Galipo River choked with aquatic plants.
Looking north at Pickerel Weed choked section of Galipo River before 75m portage.
The 75m portage was overgrown but at least short.  The next stretch of river was less marshy and fairly wide but narrowed in to a canoe width by the time we reached the 235m portage.  This was the worst portage so far as it was severely overgrown and had lots of small trees down.
Tattered sign and over grown 235m portage on Galipo River.
The last stretch of river was nice and wide and we were able to bypass the 20m portage by pulling over the small log jam.

The river was nice and wide and deep at this point as we headed into West Galipo Lake.  From West Galipo we did a short 85m into South Galipo, our home for the night.  Having only one site on the lake we really didn’t have much choice where we stayed.
Campsite in the middle of the 85m portage between West Galipo and South Galipo lakes.
The only campsite on South Galipo Lake. 

We set up camp quickly, gathered some firewood then went for a much needed swim.  After that we relaxed on the rocks and had a glass of wine before preparing a well deserved steak dinner.
Cooking up a good steak dinner on South Galipo Lake.
 By the evening the wind had switched around and was coming from the south which wasn’t a good sign.

Got a fire going around 8:45pm and relaxed by it until we decided to turn in around 10:15pm.  At that time it started to rain and continued on and off until I fell asleep.

Friday, August 17 – Day 3

The rain continued on and off all night, being heavy at times to wake me.  One of the seems of the fly had a small leak and little water drops would make their way onto the mesh of the tent ceiling and then drop on my forearm keeping me awake for a bit until the rain subsided.

I was extremely sore and achy all night and couldn’t stay in bed anymore and got up at 8am and made some coffee and relaxed by the shore until Dad awoke not too long after.

Cooked up a good egg and sausage breakfast sandwich and had another coffee and read for a bit.  After coffee we decided to head out on a day trip to Upper Redstone and Frost Lakes.  The 810m portage into Upper Redstone was in half decent shape except for a 50m stretch near the end where the old log boardwalk had been completely grown over with moss, ferns and little saplings.  The lake is nice and we paddled around it and discovered an old cabin or hunt camp on the western end of the lake.  It must have been grandfathered in when that area was added to the Park in 1993.
Cabin on Upper Redstone Lake.
We headed back over the portage and made our way to the Frost Lake portage across the lake from our site.  The portage is marked 90m but where it ends is not suitable to launch a canoe as the water’s too low and there’s an old beaver dam upstream followed by a log jam.  So we had to bushwhack along the shore another 40-50 metres before we could actually get the canoe into the lake.

A twenty minute paddle took us around the lake and then we headed back over the portage back to the site for lunch.  Right at the end of the portage the gunnel snapped in two places releasing with it the yoke.  This was not a good thing as we still had two travel days ahead of us and several kilometres of portages.

Back at camp we spent an hour re-inserting screws into new holes to hold the gunnel pieces in place and adding a wooden brace and lashing it into place.  It felt sturdy enough; I just hoped it would work.
Make-shift gunnel repair that held through the rest of the trip.
Once the canoe was fixed we had a coffee and relaxed and read for a bit before having some lunch.  After lunch we decided to explore up into North and East Galipo lakes.  We just walked the portage into North Galipo, an easy 275m.  We tandemed the canoe the 215m portage into the creek that lead into East Galipo.  It’s a nice lake but no sites.

Back at camp I read some more and had another coffee.  I had to change into long pants and throw on a jacket as it had gotten cool and was quite windy even though we were sheltered from most of the gusts.

We prepared dinner of pasta just after 7pm.  We were just about to sit down and relax with a coffee after dinner around 8pm when it started to rain.  Fortunately it was a brief shower that lasted only five minutes.  We got a good roaring fire going just before 9pm and enjoyed it until just after 10pm.  The sky had cleared off so hopefully it would be a nice day tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18 – Day 4

Awake just before 8am again.  Had a much better sleep last night.  Packed up the clothes, sleeping bags and then got about making breakfast of pancakes.  Enjoyed the morning sunshine with a coffee after breakfast.  Finished breaking camp and were on the water by 9:25am.

Did the first portage, 85m, in two carries with carrying the canoe by the handles.  It was a pleasant paddle through West Galipo and up the wide stretch of the river to the 20m portage which we just lifted the gear over.  A few minutes later brought us to the overgrown 235m portage, our first test of the repaired yoke and gunnel.  It held!  Hopefully it would hold out the rest of the day, especially over the 3455m portage.
Heading south on Galipo River between 235m & 75m portage.
Continuing up the river we did the 75m in two lifts.  We were back in the section of the river that had the low water and was choked with Pickerel Weed for about 50 metres.  Surprisingly it didn’t seem as bad as it did two days earlier, maybe because we knew what to expect.
Coming out of the Pickerel Weed heading north on the Galipo River.
Back out to more navigable water we continued on to the last portage on the river.  We did it in one lift and the yoke still held up.

We were quickly through the last stretch of the river and out onto Rence Lake.  We saw an Osprey again soaring over the lake as we did two days ago.

Across Rence we headed up the little river to the 320m portage that would take us back into Frank Lake.  Once again the yoke held strong.

As we left shore another party was approaching and asked if we knew of the bear problems on Louisa.  They mentioned they saw a mother and two cubs on one of the sites on the south side of the lake that wasn’t closed.  I was hoping it wasn’t the site we were going to stay on.
Problem Bear Advisory sign posted at terminus of all portages into Lake Louisa.
Up through Frank and across Florence to the 3455m portage that would take us to Pondweed Lake and out to Louisa.  We decided to have lunch first before tackling our last portage of the day and longest of the trip.  This was the one I was really hoping the yoke would hold together.

After a quick lunch we were on our way by 1:10pm and decided on stopping after thirty minutes to take a rest.  I also had the GPS on to measure the length of the portage as I had heard the length was less than indicated.
Having lunch at the start of the Florence to Pondweed portage.
The first part of the trail was good and twenty minutes had taken me 1.4Km to the logging road.  Another ten minutes brought me to where the trail headed back into the bush.  At this point it had been 30 minutes and 2Km.  I waited for Dad who was about three minutes behind me.
Logging road section of 3455m portage from Florence Lake to Pondweed Lake.
We took a short break before loading back up and continuing on.  Several minutes down the trail it ended at a small pond that had been dammed by a beaver and I could see no trail.  I ventured across the downstream side of the dam and back into the forest where I picked up the trail again.  Judging by the large, dead Yellow Birch in the middle of the pond the trail must have gone through there at some point in time.
Taking a much needed break just after the logging road section of the Florence to Pondweed portage.

Bushwaking around beaver pond in middle of Florence to Pondweed portage.
Continuing on we came to the end of the portage several minutes later.  The GPS read 2960 metres.  The landing was quite shallow and it was evident that if we loaded up the canoe we would not be able to get it out to deeper water.  Se we hauled the gear can canoe another twenty metres through the sedges and shrubs as far as we could.  The water level at this point was still the same.  We loaded up the canoe, removed our sandals and waded through the knee high muck until the canoe was able to float freely.
Shallow, muddy end of Florence to Pondweed portage.

Wading out into Pondweed Lake.
We were soon on our way through Pondweed Lake and out into Louisa where we had a fairly stiff headwind as we paddled up the lake.

None of the sites at the east end of the lake were occupied.  The same held true for those in the middle of the lake.  The site we wanted was free but we continued up the lake to check out a couple of sites on an island.  Not being overly impressed with those we headed back down the lake, stopping at a couple of spots to pick up firewood.

The site we took is a nice, high, rocky site on the south shore of the lake.  On the map it’s the site below the “L” in Louisa.
Awesome site on Lake Louisa!
View from the rear of the site on Lake Louisa.
We set up camp then sat down on the big rock and relaxed with a glass of wine.  A little while later two canoes came from the east and took the site on the north shore just east of our camp.  About a half hour later three more canoes appeared from the east and they continued past us taking one of the sites on the north shore at the west end of the lake.

The wind continued to blow strong down the lake the rest of the afternoon and early evening and with the increasing cloud cover it made for a cool rest of the day.

We ate just after 7pm and then had a coffee and relaxed on the rocks before getting a fire going around 8:30pm.  The fire pit is set back on the site in a little hollow and is sheltered from the wind.  For many years the fire pit was located out in the open in the centre of the big rock but the present location is much better for windy conditions.

We enjoyed our last fire of the trip until just after 10pm then called it a night.
Star Trails looking east on Lake Louisa.

Sunday, August 19 – Day 5

Up again just after 8am.  Clear blue sky this morning with a few high clouds and a good wind already starting to pick up from the west.

We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and had our coffee down on the rocks.  After the coffee we broke camp and loaded up and were on the water just after 9am.

It was a good paddle up the lake but I’d imagine as the day progressed the winds would be stronger making travel westward on the lake difficult.  We passed by the site with the three canoes that had past our site yesterday and they didn’t seem to be up and about yet.

As we approached the 570m portage to Rod & Gun Lake there was another party with two canoes just getting ready to head off on the portage.  It appeared they were just heading off with their second load.  We loaded up quickly and were on our way and over the portage in good time.

It had probably been 25 or 26 years since I was last in Rod & Gun Lake and all I remember of it was a steep uphill portage to get into it from Lawrence Lake and the lake itself being fairly unattractive as the entire shore was lined with dead trees and downfall.  A quarter century does change a lot as Rod & Gun was a pleasant little lake.  The portage to Lawrence was as I remembered, steep, but fortunately we were going downhill this time.

Once the 415m portage out of Rod & Gun was behind us we headed up Lawrence Lake.  It’s a nice lake with three sites but none of them were occupied.  A twenty minute paddle brought us to the short 10m portage to Pardee Lake.  It’s another nice small lake with a couple of campsites, the south easterly one being the best.
Looking east on Lawrence Lake from Pardee Lake portage.
A short paddle up Pardee brought us to the 145m portage into Harness Lake.  The portage was good but the water level was quite low at the Harness end but it wasn’t a problem getting out into the lake.

It had been 25 or 26 years since I’d been into Harness and all I could remember of it was staying on a nice, high, open site which is the northern most of the two sites on the eastern shore.
Heading into Harness Lake from Pardee Lake portage.
As we approached the 1035m portage into Head Lake another party was just coming off, and as we landed the second half of their party arrived.  As we headed off they warned us that the boardwalk up the trail was unstable and sinking into the mud.

The boardwalk definitely was unstable!  The wet area it crossed must have become extremely flooded somehow making for a higher than normal wet area with soft mud.   Some sections of the boardwalk sunk into the mud when stepped on and others flipped up like a teeter totter when stepped on.  I imagined if the water level got any higher the whole boardwalk would float away.

After that obstacle it was a good walk the rest of the way and after about fifteen minutes we were at the end of the portage.  The landing was at a small creek and was large and flat and could easily accommodate several canoes. 

We loaded up and headed downstream towards Head Lake.  A three hundred metre paddle brought us out into the lake.  By this point in the day it had clouded over and the sky looked threatening.  Only after a few minutes paddling the rain started to fall.  It only lasted for about five minutes but was heavy enough to have to don the rain gear and get everything wet.
Heading down creek to Head Lake.
Before heading to the portage to Cache Lake we took a detour to the portage to Kenneth Lake.  We left our gear at the landing and just walked the trail.  It was a good trail and there were some huge maples towards the Kenneth end.
Looking across Head Lake from the Kenneth Lake portage.
Kenneth is a nice lake with three sites but unfortunately they are on the west and northwest shore of the lake.  I prefer a site that faces west to get the evening sun. 
Looking westward on Kenneth Lake from the portage.
We headed back down the trail and started to cross Head to the Cache Lake portage.  It began to lightly rain again as we crossed the lake but had let up by the time we reached the landing and the sun was even starting to make an appearance again.

We took a snack break before loading up and heading off on our last portage of the trip.  It was a fairly good portage with some boardwalk sections and the only really steep downhill was right at the end.  A set of steps lead to a dock but given the low water level it was too high out of the water to load the canoe from it.  We loaded up and were on our way back to the access point.
Snack break at the start of the Head Lake to Cache Lake portage.
Thunder rumbled to the northwest and the clouds looked menacing.  I was hoping we could make it back to the access point without getting dumped on.  This was not the case as we rounded the last island and came into view of the access point.  The clouds opened up and it just poured until we reached the landing.  By that point it had stopped so we were able to load up the truck without much delay.  Once loaded up we changed into some fresh clothes and headed off to the Portage Store for lunch as it was now just after 1pm.

Another canoeing season done and another great trip with Dad.  I’m already thinking and planning next year’s trip.

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