2010 Rain – Timberwolf – Rainbow – McCraney – Rain

Saturday, August 14th – Day 1

We departed from the access point about mid-morning.  The parking lot was quite full and there were several other parties preparing to depart.  Our destination lake for today was Timber Wolf.  Most of the people leaving from Rain Lake were either camped on Rain or some of the other smaller lakes accessible from it so I wasn’t worried that Timberwolf would be busy.

It was a beautiful hot and humid day with a slight breeze at our back to help us down the lake.  As I surmised all but a couple of the campsites on Rain were taken.  Probably the best site on the lake is the one on west end of the island.  It has an old fireplace and chimney indicating that a cottage stood on that spot and some point.  There is one cottage left remaining on the lake which is indicated on the Canoe Route map.

About an hours paddle brought us to the 310m portage into Sawyer Lake.  I had stayed on Sawyer once before and the best site on the lake is the last one at the east end of the lake.

A 550m portage took us into Jubilee.  This lake was quite busy as all but one of the campsites was occupied. 

Four Hundred and fifty metres took us into small Juan Lake then a 185m into the small section of the west end of Moccasin Lake.  There are only two sites on Moccasin of which one was taken but the group was in the process of breaking camp.

From Moccasin a 440m portage took us into Bandit Lake.  This is a nice little lake with only two sites; the one on the point at the east end of the lake looked the best.

We had lunch at the start of the 540m portage that would take us into Wenona Lake.  Another group was just coming off the portage as we getting ready to start it.  This was our only encounter with other trippers actually traveling this day as everyone else we saw had already made camp.

A short paddle across Wenona and a 370m portage brought us into Muslim Lake which is a nice little lake but has no campsites.  From Muslim was our longest portage of the day, a 1030m into Misty Lake.  I wasn’t concerned about the length of the portage, I was just hoping it wasn’t too rugged or hilly as it was a very humid day and the portage could be taxing.  The start of the portage didn’t bode well as it was straight uphill for about forty metres but after that it was a beautiful trail that descended down to Misty.

While waiting for dad to come with the canoe I took out my binoculars and had a quick scan of the lake.  I was surprised to see that a good number of the sites were occupied.  The last time I had been on Misty in the middle of the summer there was myself and only one other party camped there.  But that was mid-week and this was a weekend crowd that had more than likely come in from the Magnetawan Lake access point and then down the Petawawa River.

As we paddled down Misty the sky had completely clouded over offering some relief from the sun but the day was still humid.  Fortunately there was a good wind coming from the west to offer some relief and help us down the lake.

Our final portage of the day was a 765m into Timberwolf.  For some reason it seemed harder and longer than the one kilometre one we just did to get into Misty.  Coming off the portage I could see a canoe in the middle of the lake and it looked like the two occupants were fishing.  It looked like there would be at least one other group besides us on the lake tonight.

There was now a good wind coming from the west.  Fortunately all the sites on the lake were on the eastern side so we wouldn’t have to battle a head wind.  We took the site that appears to the left of the “T” in Timberwolf on the map.  I was a good site with a low sloping rock to the lake, good areas for tents, a good fire pit with some log benches and a makeshift table.  The site also came with a resident Deer Mouse which was not afraid of us at all and as soon as our packs were down near the fire pit area it began exploring them with no concern for us whatsoever.  Obviously this little guy had been use to getting handouts from campers.  He was even so bold to climb up onto my coffee mug and check it out while I lifted it off the food barrel.  Only a couple of good shakes managed to dislodge him.

Cooking Dinner, Timberwolf Lake Campsite
Once camp was set up we had a quick swim to remove the grime of the day then sat on the rocks and enjoyed a drink before dinner.

After dinner, and when all the dishes had been cleaned and the food pack hung, we would normally head out for an evening paddle to explore the lake and do a bit of fishing.  Unfortunately the wind was quite stiff coming from the west and we didn’t feel like battling it after a long day.  As well, the clouds at this point were looking more ominous, but the evening and night passed without any rain.

Sunday, August 15th – Day 2

The day broke sunny and warm but was not as humid as yesterday which made portaging today more bearable.  After a good breakfast we broke camp and were on the water in good time.  At the start of the 405m portage into McIntosh someone had left a sleeping bag draped over some bushes.  I examined the bag and all I could find wrong with it was a busted zipper.  Why the person decided to leave the bag behind was beyond me given the comfortable sleeping temperatures at night and now they were without a bag at all!

The surface of McIntosh Lake was like glass this morning with the last remains of some mist still dancing over the water.  I had thought about camping on McIntosh for our first night but in the past I had seen it quite busy, even with having to do the 2320m portage out of Tom Thomson Lake.  Today though the lake was empty save for a sole canoe skirting along the southern shore heading down to Ink Lake to that big portage.

From McIntosh we took the 655m into Straight Shore Lake where I found a nice fleece toque.  A nice paddle down Straight Shore to the 975m into Rosswood Lake and a short paddle to the 175m took us into Brûlé Lake.

I had been to Brûlé several times before while working for the Park but had only accessed it via the closed interior road so it was nice to view the lake from a different vantage point.  There are also a couple of cottages on the north shore of the lake as indicated on the Canoe Route map.  Apart from Radiant and Grand Lake, Brûlé is one of my favorite lakes to have a cottage on just given its remoteness.

There are only two campsites on the lake and neither was occupied.  The better of the two is the one on the west shore in the narrow part of the lake.  The only downside to this site is that it backs right onto the access road so you may get the odd Park vehicle or logging truck if there are any operations in that given area.

The 725m portage from Brûlé to Potter Lake follows the road so except for the short, steep climb up the bank it’s a great portage. 

Once into Potter Lake we paddled about ten metres down a narrow channel before having to get out and pull the canoe over a beaver damn.  Both campsites in the northern section of the lake were vacant but the one at the top of the southern section was occupied buy a bunch of guys playing soccer.  Which in itself was no small feat as the site was quite high above the water and didn’t look like it much of a flat place to play.

Our next portage, 1040m into Groundhog Lake was directly opposite the campsite but on the map it actually shows it further south.  We had lunch here before starting the first of several low maintenance portages that we would do over the next couple of days.  It would be interesting to see just how “low maintenance” some of them were.

The one into Groundhog Lake wasn’t bad but did have an interesting section over a small little creek.  There was a log jam across the creek with the span probably 30-40 feet and with a height of about five to six feet.  On top of the jam was a rickety, plank foot bridge which had definitely seen better days.  One misstep on the bridge and it definitely could be a dangerous fall.  I hope in the future the Park builds a safer boardwalk across the expanse before someone gets seriously hurt.

A short paddle across Groundhog brought us to the 755m portage into Loft Lake.  Other than being over grown and in need of a good brushing the portage wasn’t bad.
Coming onto Loft the clouds had quickly moved in and our nice sunny day now looked like it could rain at any moment, and halfway down the lake it did start to rain.  It had let up by the time we reached the 840m portage that would take us into Rainbow Lake.

Loft is a nice little lake but the only campsites on the lake are for those using the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail. 

At the start of the portage I found a nice pair of aviator sunglasses.  So far I had found three separate items on three separate portages.  I wondered if it was the same party leaving things behind.  If so they may not have any gear left by the end of their trip at the rate they were losing things!

The portage started off overgrown and remained so through pretty much the whole thing.   Near the end the overgrowth made it difficult to determine the trail and I ended up taking the wrong way down to the lake.  A quick retrace of my steps and taking my second choice of trail, which looked even less than a trail than the one I had just taken, led me to the end of the portage.

According to the map there was only one site for canoe trippers on the lake and two for backpackers.  I was just hoping that the site was half decent.  It turned out it was a great site.  It faced west so we got the evening sun; it was flat, high above the water and had a nice little cliff for jumping into the lake with a couple of nice rock shelves down by the water’s edge.

Rainbow Lake Campsite
Rainbow Lake Campsite

Once camp was set up we went for a swim.  The clouds had broken up a bit and the sun had re-made an appearance but the sky still threatened rain.  The swim felt good as did the late afternoon sun as we relaxed by the lakeside and enjoyed a drink.

After a good dinner we headed out in the canoe for an evening paddle around the lake and to check out the location of tomorrow’s first portage.  We headed to the western section of the lake where the two backpacking sites were located.  We could hear a party on one of the sites but couldn’t see them.  There was also another site for canoe trippers as the sign was on a tree at the lakeshore.  This didn’t appear on the most recent edition of the Canoe Route map so it must be a very new site.

We paddled back up the lake to our section and down to the end of it to where the portage into Potter Creek is located.  A couple of years ago there was an abandoned Bald Eagle’s nest at this end of the lake which I had come to check out with a couple of colleagues of mine.  Now there was no evidence of the nest at all.

With the sun setting we headed back to camp and had a small campfire before retiring in good time as we knew we could have a challenging day tomorrow with all the low maintenance portages.

Monday, August 16th – Day 3

The clouds had moved off in the night and we awoke again to a nice sunny day.  After a quick breakfast we broke camp and were on our way.  The first portage was 1320m into Snowbird Lake.  This portage was definitely low maintenance.  It was overgrown; part of it went through a small creek bed and partway through the trail just ended at a small pond with no sign of the rest of the trail.  I surmised that the continuation of the trail must be at the other end of the pond around the bend.  The pond was deep enough that we loaded up the canoe and paddled to the end.  Sure enough there was the trail and we were soon back on our way.  Eventually what seemed like an eternity we came to the end.

A short paddle across Snowbird brought us to a 550m portage that would take us into Susan Lake.  This one was hilly and over grown.  I don’t know if it was the poor condition of the trail or if it was longer than what the map indicated but time wise it took us about twice as long to do as it should have.  Over the years I’ve known how long certain portage lengths should take to do, give or take a bit depending on the condition of the trail.  This one though did not fit the bill at all.

As we paddled across Susan I tried to locate the campsite on the south shore but couldn’t see the sign or any evidence that there was a site.  On the map it shows the site as regular maintenance which I found odd as all the other campsites and portages in the area are low maintenance.

The wind had picked up considerably from the west and I had a feeling we would be in for a strong headwind as we crossed West Harry.

As we approached the 550m portage there was another party coming off the portage.  It was a group of campers from Camp Northway who were heading back to Cache Lake that day.  They mentioned that the 1415m portage from West Harry would be uphill for us but after that all the portages would head downhill.  They also suggested that the campsite on the southern most island on McCraney was nice of we could get it.

This portage was about the same length as the last one we had just done and we did it in half the time, or the time if should take to do a half a kilometre. 

We paddled up the river through East Lake, all with a good headwind.  As we entered West Harry we were face with a stiff headwind and the narrow section of the lake didn’t make it any better.  About an hours time brought us to the end of the lake where we had a snack at the start of the portage, which is also the only campsite on the lake.  The campsite was not very appealing and I was surprised that for the size of the lake there is only one site.

Once refueled, we loaded up and off we went on a steady climb to start the 1415m portage.  The trail was predominately uphill but other than the start it was a gently slope and the trail was good and clear.  

The portage took us to a small unnamed pond.  According to the map it looked liked the portage from the pond into Floss Lake was directly across the pond.  So we loaded up the canoe and paddled the length of the pond with no sign of the portage.  Figuring we must have missed it we paddle back and I scoured the eastern shoreline with my binoculars for the trail.  On several trees along the shore I noticed small yellow diamond portage markers on which arrows to the left and right had been drawn.  I followed them to the left to where the last of the markers was and which was also the start of the trail.  All portages are to be marked with the larger yellow signs and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a portage marked like this.  I’ve seen the smaller markers used on trails to designate directions but never the start of a trail.  I’m sure we weren’t the first to miss this portage.

The short 135m carry took us into Floss Lake.  The portage from Floss to another un-named pond actually has two starting points but it doesn’t show this on the map.  The sign at the first point says it’s the low water takeout.  Since there was no evidence of low water we paddled around the bend and came to the second take out which was right beside a massive beaver damn in terms of height as it was quite a drop down to the downstream side.

A short paddle across the pond brought us to the 325m portage into Clara Lake.  Although short the portage was a little difficult as it had some wet, low-lying areas and the boardwalks across them were pretty much deteriorated, broken or missing altogether.  They were also quite slippery and on one section I slipped off and sunk up to my right knee.  I had to remove my packs in order to drag myself out of the muck and back onto somewhat solid ground.

Clara looked like a nice little lake and the only campsite for canoe trippers on the lake, to the right of the portage, looked like a nice one up on a high, sloping rock.

We had lunch at the start of the 1165m portage that would take us into McCraney Lake, our destination for the day.  This portage was supposed to be a downhill trail all the way so hopefully it was a good one.  After about 400 metres a small creek crossed the trail about ten feet across but there was no boardwalk or bridge.  The water was only about a foot deep and the bottom was gravel and the cool water felt good on the feet.  I’m sure I would have felt differently about the crossing if we had been doing this in the early spring.  I’m not sure why there isn’t any boardwalk across the creek but I guess that’s what you get with low maintenance.

Towards the end the trail steadily became steeper and rockier and we really had to watch our footing on the wet rocks and roots and mud.  The landing was even trickier as the water level of McCraney was low and we had to pick our way through rocks and boulder and some driftwood to get to the water’s edge.

By this point in the day it had clouded over considerable with the sun peaking through every now and then.  A good wind was also coming from the southwest giving us a nice tailwind up the lake.

We paddled by the campsite on the southern island which the campers from Northway said was suppose to be nice but it didn’t look like anything special.  I knew there was a nice campsite on the south end of the island farther up the lake and by all appearances from a distance it looked like it was vacant.

We paddled around the island and the site on the north side was occupied, as was another site on the eastern shore, but the south side island site was definitely the best with its big fire pit, gently sloping finger rock and little bay.

McCraney Lake Campsite
McCraney Lake Campsite Looking South
We were finishing setting up camp when I was hanging a couple of things to air out on the clothes line when I noticed something down towards the water.  I went to check it out and there sitting next to an old log was a canoe cart with both the straps; it was in perfectly good shape.  I couldn’t believe someone had forgotten this!  I can understand forgetting a small item but this thing was hard to miss.  So far this made my fourth item I had found on this trip and this was by far the best.

The wind had subsided and the sky had cleared off a bit making way for a nice evening.  After dinner we headed out in the canoe to check out a couple of sand spits in the southeast part of the lake for shorebirds but to no avail.  On the map it does say that water levels are lowered significantly in McCraney by mid-August making travel difficult.  Working for the Park at this time I had contacted the staff member responsible for the damns throughout the Park to check the water level and he said that it was fine as they didn’t lower the lake now until September.  I hope this is another thing that gets changed on the next printing of the Canoe Route Map.

Tuesday, August 17th – Day 4

It was another sunny start to the day with little wind at this point.  The water level of the little river between McCraney and Little McCraney was low but passable.  If the water lever does drop significantly later in the month or in September I would imagine it would be extremely difficult to canoe through this area.

By the time we reached Little McCraney there was a good wind coming from the west.  This meant we were going to have a strong headwind as we made our way down Rain Lake to the access point.

Our only portage of the day was an 1810m out of Little McCraney into Rain Lake.  I had done this one before so I knew what to expect.  The portage itself followed and old logging road so it was pretty much flat out and we completed it in good time.

We did end up having a stiff headwind down Rain but it was manageable and a half hour later we were back at the access point with another great canoe trip behind us.