View topic - Trip report- beyond Noganosh; and getting lost !

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PostPosted: August 7th, 2010, 1:46 am 
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So I went back for a solo at the end of july and explored the area a little more. I had a real relaxed approach to this trip and decided to investigate some of the access points to Georgian Bay that I usually whizz past on my way up. For future reference Point au Baril is small and busy with boaters and construction. Byng Inlet and Britt are on opposite sides of the Magnetewan and it's a big wide river here with harbour for huge lake boats on it. The locals say they see lots of kayakers accessing the bay from Britt and that there are plenty of campsites on the islands out in the bay. Britt has a good marina and a wonderful Inn with a good restaurant and nice rooms too. I digress.

I also stopped at Lost Channel and talked to the innkeeper there. I'd heard I could get easier access to Noganosh on a forestry road that runs by his place but he said if you get caught it's a $170 fine and I'm not lucky with the law so took his suggestion to start from an access 8 kms past the Ess Narrows called Birchcliff Trail. This saved me a good 4 kms. of paddling and it's free to park.

So I wasn't on the water till 4:45 but I made good time to the first portage and had a nice chat to Glen Noble who stays in a tiny houseboat there-he gave me a baggy of dog kibble for my minnow trap and shared a few stories about the area with me. Glen is 86!

Made it to the lodge on Smoky Lake by 8:30. and as I passed an island with a cottage I got invited in for dinner. This has happened to me a few times over the years and it's always been an American offering the hospitality god love 'em. They were super friendly people and cooked up a feast of steak and bass with all the extras.I had to dine and dash to find a campsite before total darkness set in. All of the ones I knew about on Smoky were free to my surprise-I'd been told there were campers on a few.

I'd planned to explore Courtney Lake to the west but was wind bound the next day and after that I wanted a change of scenery so moved on to Last Lake. The scenery en route is really great if you paddle along the north shore of Noganosh and across Clear Bay which is surprisingly clearer than a lot of the other parts even though they're all connected. You see huge chunks of granite below the water along the cliffs here and all sorts of neat formations - very colorful granite, kind of pinkish orange.

Stayed on an island near the top of Last Lake but didn't like the area so much - there's a weird kind of algae bloom occurring here where the water is quite shallow and there are lots of shoals.
However as I was fishing south of the site that evening I latched on to the biggest bass I've ever landed and the fight he gave me was quite a rush. It was a lucky catch too as he didn't have the hook in his mouth-he must've just been inspecting my lure and gotten too close because he was hooked in the cheek. those hooks are so sharp if you touch 'em you're snagged. anyway when I hoisted him into the boat I couldn't believe the heft of this fish-had to be near 5 lbs. when I mainly get 1.5 to 2 pounders. Figures I didn't have the camera with me. I'd already had dinner so I let him go plus I think these big guys are rare and should be preserved-there's plenty of smaller ones to eat and very few of these jumbos.
I sure wish i knew how big he really was though.

With the long weekend coming I didn't plan to stay where it might get busy and that morning 4 aluminum boats with 3 people in each passed my island on their way to the Livewire hunt camp. So I went east to the end of Last Lake and paddled through a shallow area full of lily pads then through a creek into John Lake-seemed like my destiny :D
I was actually planning on hopping on the portage to Kelsie Lake but it was late afternoon ( again-I'm just not a morning person ) and from the portage I could see an interesting looking point that might be a campsite so I thought I'd explore it. Sure enough there was a fantastic sunny open rocky point and as I went around the corner i discovered a wonderful back bay that went in quite a way then hooked left ; low and behold there was another sweet spot back there with a picnic table. I caught a smallish bass and made camp on the point. When I realized it wasn't a very big meal I went out and got another one
and had an excellent fish fry. I had so much fish I saved some for breakfast; bass 'n eggs what a great way to start the day.

John Lake is an exquisite spot that you can tell doesn't get a lot of traffic. I like that. please don't go there. :tsk: I found a small fire ring down the lake on the only piece of shoreline you could put one on. It was so long unused it had lichens growing on the rocks and grass in the pit ! it was like discovering some old ruins. I had two sweet days there when the weather was so fine it was too nice to leave so I just fished , swam, and thoroughly enjoyed all the camp chores you have to do. I even had good radio reception and got to listen to the cbc - love randy Bachman's Vinyl tap show .

On the Sunday I hiked in to Kelsie Lake. My god I've done some tough portages in my life but this one takes the cake.I had a map Steve Galehouse posted here long ago and some anecdotal info on the portage but a lot can change over the years and much had. The whole area was overgrown with ferns that are at a minimum waist high and very often past my shoulders. In the few short stretches you can see a trail it's not bad but over the whole 2500 meters that only accounts for about 20%. It starts off going one way up a hill then disappears in ferns and you have to guess where it continues. when you figure it out there really isn't any connection between these two segments so you're just hacking through the overgrowth. Then it seems good for a while- the old blazes on the trees have been highlighted with orange paint so you get into it only to discover you can't always see the next blaze so you have to guess where it might be-i seemed to have a knack for guessing right most of the time so I made more progress and at some critical junctures I would spy an old faded shred of flagging tape on a branch. Nevertheless there was rarely any hint of a footpath but rather there was slightly trampled grass that seemed to indicate a trail until you realized it went off in several directions and was animal trail not human. This would be a challenge even for Mantracker ! Of course there was plenty of bear scat and if the size of the scat is any indicator these were some big ass bears too. It took me two and a half hours with a fifty pound pack to get through the 2500 meters to the lake so I'm sorta surprised at myself that I even thought about going back for the canoe but after a quick lunch that's exactly what i did.

And that's when I got into real trouble. Somehow my knack for guessing the right direction and finding the markers wasn't going as well. I figured having found my way in going out would be easier but it wasn't. Sometimes I'd glimpse a blaze behind some shrubbery that had overgrown it but since there were long stretches with no markers it was bloody difficult. Once in a while I'd find one of the many stone cairns but rarely could you ever see a second one to get the line-and these cairns can be as minimal as three rocks the size of your foot so with bushes and ferns 3 or 4 feet tall they are not easy to find. But I felt I was making progress so I continued. Then I got seriously LOST. I hadn't seen a marking of any kind for awhile and i was facing sloppy marshy beaver meadow I didn't recognize and didn't want to walk through so I opted to head for higher ground-the terrain had a mixture of slightly elevated rock, or this marsh or woodsy areas. As I tried to get around the marsh I got further from where I wanted to go so I was getting quite frustrated and that tends to muddle one's thinking so I was making bad decisions-and wearing myself down.
The only saving grace was a fluke in that in all the years I've had it I've never actually used my compass but on this day as I was leaving Kelsie Lake I did take a bearing. Thank god because when I finally admitted to myself I was lost and checked it turns out I was walking north when I needed to be going west.Even then it took me a long time to get on dry ground that was going west . I saw landmarks like beaver ponds I thought I'd passed on the way in only to realize they were slightly different so I walked a lot of miles in rough terrain before I found the actual pond I had paused at going in- whew what a relief to know where you are. At that point I said to hell with the canoe I'll just go back to my pack and make camp. and except for an angry beaver who didn't want me there it was quite a nice spot.
I had been utterly lost for two and a half hours in 80 degree weather and high humidity seriously overstraining my body. I had only 8 ounces of water and no food or matches. but you know there's always something to be learned from these types of situations ( besides never doing this f***ing portage again ).
There was a time I could feel the sense of panic wanting to take over me but I just wouldn't allow it to. There was also the mind giving itself reassurances like; it's better to see the shit than the bear, or in another hour or so I'm going to know where i am so just be patient-definitely the most demanding situation I've faced in a long long time. I had started the portage at noon-finished at 6:30 :doh:
After I returned to my pack I had everything I needed to make camp and cook dinner. I even carted some rocks onto a piece of rocky ground and made a firepit, caught a fish, set up a tarp and made the best of it. The most amazing thing was the reception I got on my little $20 shortwave radio-I had Tokyo, Bejing, Sweeden and Cuba coming in loud and clear -remarkable huh !
Next day I hiked out in about 90 minutes.


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Last edited by Jonny on August 8th, 2010, 2:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: August 7th, 2010, 4:00 pm 
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Thanks for taking the time to type up[ your post. Great read. Too bad about your day spent hiking when I am sure you would have preferred exploring on water. Lesson learned though I am sure. I remember doing that once near Wawa. No more portaging without compass and taking bearings. As far as your bass goes, take a measuring tape and measure length and girth. Then you can use http://www.fishdreams.com/calculator.all_species.html It just gives you a rough idea. I forget the actual calculation that you use so I just use theirs.

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PostPosted: August 7th, 2010, 9:26 pm 
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thanks for that link skeeter it would be nice to get an idea of size for the future whoppers I plan to catch :wink: ,
I had purchased a weigh scale to take with me at crappy tire but when it told me my 10 lb. weight was 14 lbs. I took it back. a tape measure will be a lot less weight in the pack.

I nearly bought a gps for the trip too-I was regretting not doing so that day. But it was a lesson I'll never forget - you'd think I'd know better at my age ( 54 + )

We could use something like the Wabakimi project back here; I understand there are even parts of Algonquin you can't get to because the portages don't get maintained.


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PostPosted: August 7th, 2010, 9:39 pm 
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Man, I hope I never get lost like that :o

Glad you got back on track!

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PostPosted: August 8th, 2010, 9:38 am 
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The back track feature on most GPS's would have saved you a lot of grief. Glad everything worked out for you.

regards
dave

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PostPosted: August 8th, 2010, 11:50 am 
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Brain fart for me. Forgot about the GPS option. I purchased one two years ago for a trip I took north of Elliot Lake. The majority of the trip was on logging roads but it did help me get back to the main vein. Money well spent I thought.

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PostPosted: August 8th, 2010, 8:36 pm 
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I have to admit that being caught up in the moment and not realizing i was getting lost was a humbling and frightening experience- Then there's a period of shock and disbelief that you know you have to get a handle on so you don't come unhinged. I didn't want to be one of those people they send the search parties out for. I wouldn't have been late for my return date for another 3 days so no one would have missed me immediately. and I felt really foolish for not having a ditch kit with me but I assumed I'd be on a portage I could navigate. To be honest I didn't really want to admit my mistake here but it taught me so much about preparedness I felt others would benefit from this lesson too. when I was leaving the next morning I found a new way onto the portage that skirted the lake and then I realized as long as I had the beaver meadow or the pond or the creek to my left I'd be on track so I knew I wouldn't get lost a second time.

I was looking at gps today in mec !

thanks for the responses guys.


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PostPosted: August 8th, 2010, 9:17 pm 
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Thanks for being honest and the education. It's amazing how we think that we can't get lost, myself included, and some learn the hard way. Fortunately for myself I was able to find my way out but went through the same emotional roller coaster as well. Key is call yourself all the names and blame later and just get your bearings and start working on a plan.

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2010, 6:15 am 
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Jonny, you didn't cross to the south side of the valley, did you?

That portage had me fooled as well on my first attempt. I did it on second try successfully when I came from Kelsie and walked it to the west, and then posted it here: viewtopic.php?f=107&t=33000&hilit=kelsie
I think losing the trail happens where it veers further away from the valley than one expects it: it does so to avoid some gullies.

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2010, 1:02 pm 
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Wow I can't believe the difference between your pics Erhard and what I saw. It is so different with all the flora in full bloom. No I never was south of the valley- I got off track because when I was in sight of Kelsie I couldn't find the trail down to it and I went left when I shoulda gone right to get to the shore. Hence when I came out I was north of the trail to start with and eventually wandered off toward other beaver dams further north.If I'd had a map with me I'd have realized my mistake-but who needs a map on a portage right !
After I got my bearings and went back I found the proper access to the lake close to the creek and then I discovered more blazes along the shore. Now there's a new campsite at the western end of Kelsie-I did find old fire rings there from previous campers and there is open ground there but I wouldn't recommend it as the local beaver was rummaging around there most of the night- he definitely didn't like me there.
Heading back to John I found the portage brought you out at the mouth of the creek where it's swampy so I backtracked and went over the hill but there was no clear connection between those two sections of the portage. But seriously you wouldn't believe the difference between your May trip and now-I've never seen ferns so tall !


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2010, 9:52 pm 
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Lol, not the infamous Kelsie port again :rofl:

The original port follows that drainage gulley at the John end to a real deep & swampy landing, being used for longer it's much more distinct than the newer trail that stays on the ridge another 100m or so before coming down to a soft dry landing right by a short rocky point at the top of John. It's much easier to start at the point, actually I think the trail is easier to follow from John-Kelsie than East-West.

The bear scat never impressed me as much as the size of the flippin' huge boulders they roll over looking for grubs.

And I'm not sure if you saw it or not but at the back of the "hidden" bay there's a shortcut port connecting John-Last, saves the better part of an hour paddle through pretty well fish devoid frog water.


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PostPosted: August 10th, 2010, 10:41 am 
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I know what you mean about the flipped boulders; when I saw the size of some that were clearly out of place I knew why and I made a point of making a lot of noise so I didn't accidentaly surprise some bear- plus it gave me an excuse to talk to myself out loud. I also whistled very loudly. :P

I woke very early one morning to the sound of wolves howling and heard pups yelping. I got a sense of their general direction and it turned out to be up that portage trail you mentioned.-except I didn't know it was a port. but ya I noticed it.

I wondered if this area has been logged as I noticed when you look up into the forest in some parts you see a lot of daylight beyond the first hundred meters whereas on most of the shore it's too dense to see through.


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PostPosted: August 10th, 2010, 7:16 pm 
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Jonny wrote:
I woke very early one morning to the sound of wolves howling and heard pups yelping. I got a sense of their general direction and it turned out to be up that portage trail you mentioned.-except I didn't know it was a port. but ya I noticed it.
.


Hey, Jonny, that must have been pretty cool. It's the sort of experience that make canoe trips so memorable.

What area were you camped in when you heard the wolves? Did you try calling back?

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PostPosted: August 10th, 2010, 9:17 pm 
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That was when I was on the point on my (John ) Lake :lol:

I did do some howling out there, the vodka brings that out !


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