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Canadian Canoe Routes

Murtle Lake
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Author:  Stencil [ October 8th, 2015, 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Murtle Lake

Now the Captain having put his affairs in order and the last supplies having been purchased we loaded the motor-wagon and tying the canoe to the support racks we set off in good order and with full enthusiasm in a northerly direction. After some time traveling through the mountains on a good track we came to the hamlet of Jasper where we hoped to find some fuel for the motor-wagon and sustenance for ourselves. The Captain complicated matters by turning the wrong way down a street that allows travel only in one direction and after a few moments of confusion and some careful manoeuvreing we passed on into a place where we could park and set forth to obtain something to eat. The streets were crowded with people from all points of the globe conversing in many different tongues and wearing for protection against the imagined cold coats which are filled with the feathers of waterfowl and so form a most well-rounded appearance. After much waiting and jostling in a long line we obtained our food and stopping at a fueling station we filled the motor-wagon to the brim and headed off to the west on a well-paved road.
Upon our arrival in Blue River the rain which had been falling on occasion throughout the journey became constant and the Captain who is most reluctant to expose any part of his necrotic old frame to any form of precipitation drew a long face and hopped between the many puddles with an agility belying his many years. He purchased here a bottle of rum “to ward against the damp” as he put it and turning west from the southerly track we had been on we soon arrived at the roads' end where the trail begins to Murtle Lake. All the gear was soon loaded into the boat and onto backs and in one hour with the rain hollering down gleefully and the small wheeled conveyance employed for the transportation of the boat collapsing into pieces on several occasions we came to Murtle Lagoon and here we launched the boat and boarded her with all our dunnage and equipage and the rain having ceased for the time being we paddled off into the gathering dark. A camp was reached in just twenty minutes and erecting the tarp and tent and with the sound of ducks passing by in the dark and a shot of rum all round (as it was indeed damp) we retired to peaceful slumber beneath the trees.
It rained in the night but morning dawned passing fair and we were soon loaded and paddling in a northerly direction toward the mountains that rise in a most pleasing manner from the shores of the lake. The morning sun was shining and in the distance there was an horizon sparkling in the rays of the sun and the Captain suspected a squall-line or some bad turn of weather but upon our approach it was revealed as a great host of loons feeding in concert upon the water with their wings churning and splashing the surface which had drawn our notice and the Captains' alarm.
A wind rose from the west and soon the boat was making heavy passage and as water began to enter in over the windward gunnel we made for a long and sandy beach along which were tents and shelters erected for protection and amidst them were people huddled around fires and all of them watching as we laboured past in the hard wind. The boat was duly beached and dragged to safety and we soon had our things drying in the wind and the Captain went to visit the people of the tents and so gain information from them on the nature of the coast and what their purpose was in this place.
It turned out that they were a group of infamous piscadores who had been coming to this lake for years beyond counting to capture the trout that feed on a small race of salmon which live in the waters of the lake and in the fall run up the creeks and rivers to spawn in the gravels there and so propagate their species. These fishers were all dressed in heavy parkas and woolen hats against the cold and on their fires were great iron try-pots filled with spitting bacon and fat sausages encased in the entrails of slaughtered beasts and they worked their jaws and showed their long teeth and declaimed and pointed as the wind roared and the sea ran upon the stony beach. They warned of a snaggled slattern that ran the wind and weather here and we promised to take note.
We spent the day upon that shore for the wind showed no sign of abatement . The Captain paced the strand and watched the waves with a jaundiced eye while the birds fought and squabbled over the small fishes at the rivers’ mouth and all the while the stones ground themselves to nothing in the surf and the tempest roared and howled as has always been since time long passing.
In the evening the wind died and the Captain offered rum and it was accepted. A flock of mergansers herded the salmon up the creek with hoarse cries of delight and the moon rose shining a pale light down upon everyone and all. The Captain retired to his bed and someone strummed a guitar and did a passing rendition of a beloved song and he settled his bones on his pallet and went to sleep.
In the morning the day dawned clear with a sharp frost. We shook hands and bid farewell putting the boat to water and coasting north along the eastern shore. Here small streams entered the littoral past boulders and tall dolmens of rock standing in the dark forest and there was the fine piping of kinglets in the canopy of the trees and juncos foraged in the cedar scrub along the lakeshore.
Soon a following sea was running and the Captain was forced to kneel as he steered. He exhorted the men to take notice as the black water ran along the sides of the boat and she buried her nose in every trough but some just covered their eyes and lay in the bilges while others gripped the gunwales in some concern and voiced dismay wishing they had never embarked upon such a fools journey or ever left solid ground for that matter.
Never the less we came without mishap down to a long crescent beach sandwiched between two streams at the northern-most terminus of the lake. There was a good moose meadow immediately to the north and the beach showed the marks of hooves and in the tall grass were beds where the creatures had lain. Previous travelers had erected wooden barricades against the wind and in the shelter of these was a small camp where we soon pitched the tent and stretched a tarp between the cedars.
The Captain strolled the beach and presently the wind having lessened the boat was launched and it was undertaken to investigate the stream which entered at the northeast corner of the lake. This proved to be a navigable river running over a clean bed of sand and small gravel and the water of a clarity that was wonderful to see. After a short journey the current became stronger and having no wish to haul the boat it was allowed to drift back down around the many turns passing the well-grassed banks and as little effort was involved this was a passage fully enjoyed by all.
In crossing the bay on the return to camp an attempt was made to fish and no one was more surprised than the Captain when a cast produced a strike and a silver trout leapt from the water with the hook fast in its jaw and after a sporting battle was landed into the boat. Upon return to camp the fish was soon introduced to the frying pan and as its flesh proved to be delicate and sweet it was eaten all but the wiggle.
The scenery at this place was impressive indeed with a great cone-shaped batholith rising to the north like a childs’ drawing of what a mountain should be. All the crags were festooned in frost and the remnants of previous snows while small squalls of rain continually swept over them and clouds obscured the summits from view. The Captain ordered rum all round and all hands retired to bed.
Morning brought calm the bay being covered with the rings of feeding fish
and the camp was dismantled and we were soon underway heading south along the western shore. Here the forest consisted of hemlock, balsam and Douglas fir with birch accenting the dark green along the shoreline. At intervals there were camps set into the forest with tent sites and rude kitchens assembled from wood with plates of stone balanced on the framing. The sun dappled on the sandy lake bottom and the view to the north became very fine indeed. Making good progress within a few hours we gained the western arm and bucking a stiff wind that suddenly sprang from nowhere we made shore at a birch-lined beach and here made camp on a good site with pleasing views of the lake and the islands just off shore. All the gear was once again hung to dry and some laundry was done in the interest of maintaining a degree of civilization. Rum was dispensed to all who needed it and not a man without.
It was fair and fine in the morning and the Captain having a wish to explore the alpine regions made plans to ascend the trail to Central Mountain. Appropriate equipment was assembled and we canoed west for just twenty minutes to the trailhead which is well-marked at the shoreline. Here an argument ensued for the pack was heavy being filled with all manner of rain coats and wool hats and sweaters for protection on the heights and when the Captain asked for volunteers to share the load he met with dull stares and excuses for this man had a sore back and another a bad knee and someone else suffered from prolapsed veins of the anus so that in the end the old fellow had to shoulder the load himself which he did though shuddering and sweating like a spavined plow-horse with every step he took. The trail ascended the mountainside directly with a few switchbacks climbing through a forest of hemlock which gave way to stunted spruce and balsam as the elevation grew. After a couple hours of hard effort we broke out onto fields of shattered rock and meadows of heather and frost-withered plants. Small rock-rabbits called from the talus but no sign of any larger animals was evident at all. In compensation the view of all the surrounding country was excellent with many snow-capped peaks and lakes lying in the valleys and far to the west a towering pillar of smoke from the burning of a slash fire. It now became time to partake of lunch as the climb had been a stiff one and the Captain proclaimed himself half-famished but upon searching the pack it was found that somehow the essentials for a feast had been left behind. At this he became wroth and swore most impressively but all that could be found was a small piece of sausage and a bit of cheese. This was soon consumed and a hike to the most eastern summit was duly undertaken and the views admired once again.
Upon return to the boat the lake lay calm and “flat as piss on a plate” to use the Captains’ term. The short voyage to camp was accomplished in some haste and the long-delayed lunch was enjoyed. The rest of the day passed in contented contemplation beneath the spreading birch trees. The yellow leaves drifted down and small fish rose feeding upon some insect life that lay on the surface of the still water while in the distance loons called and a flock of geese flew in and landed upon the western shore. A tot of rum was dispensed and with another meal consumed and the camp in good order all hands went to rest.
Sometime in the wee small hours a noisome disturbance rendered sleep impossible and the Captain shouted out to whatever creature it was to bugger off but it persisted with a curious growling chitter. A light was produced and being shined upon the scene revealed a furry mustelid perched on a tree trunk and voicing its’ disapproval at our presence. The Captain expressed himself drawing attention to the poor beasts’ dubious parentage and at length it bounded off through the crepuscular dark leaving us in peace.
Morning was calm and cloudless and the boat soon being loaded a tour was made of the western-most reaches. There were people camped on the islands and along the sandy shoreline and smoke from camp fires hung in the still air. The Captain nodded his greetings as we passed and the boat fairly flew along leaving a small wake trailing behind us. At File Creek the Captain had plans for a short walk but upon examination of the beach he discovered the tracks of a large bear within whose rear print he could place his entire booted foot so discretion being the better part the boat was once again put to water. We soon encountered a canoe with a couple on board and finding that they were indeed traveling the route where the bear had so recently passed the Captain in good conscience warned them of its presence but they seemed not to care or even to want to exchange the pleasantries of the morning so we left them to their fate whatever it may have been or will be.
It had now become time to begin the homeward journey so the boat was pointed east and progress made. After some distance we came across an adult loon lying dead in the water. It was unmarked and head down drifting on the calm surface of the lake. We soon put this melancholy scene behind us and stopping at an island a black raven flew out of the forest and passed over us and circled back to a perch on a dead scrog where he sidled his rooky feet and watched us with baleful eye.
We went on. Rounding a point we came upon one of those painful domestic scenes which one is always loath to witness. Here a couple were in the process of breaking camp the one being subservient and the other in the role of tyrant. A tarp was being packed accompanied by the most painfully explicit instructions which the inferior member could not follow to the others satisfaction. Someone speculated that perhaps this was a relative of Our Lady of the Weather and the Captain allowed himself a tight smile while we made great haste to leave this place but even so unfortunate an incident could not ruin the splendor of the day which was beyond surpassing .
Coming to a small cove along the shore we made a rocky landing and hiked a short trail through a bog and over some rough ground to Henrietta Lake. The lake was small and marshy but the trail led through a grove of massive cedars many hundreds of years old and these old giants standing in the quiet forest were worth much more than any walk.
Once again we took to the boat and paddling across to the entrance of Murtle Lagoon we made camp on the hard-used and sandy shore. The very last of the rum was consumed and some time spent in fruitless fishing. The night was cool and clear and arising in the dark under a waning moon we made our breakfast and were off to the portage before the sun was up. Here once again the struggle with the poor small portage cart began and finally ended with the wheels falling off and the equipment being carried on our backs the final distance. The canoe too rode on the Captains shoulders as surely a canoe is meant to if not employing its trade upon the water and soon was strapped to the racks and the motor-wagon and all within it journeyed back again to the sad world of strife and woe. ... Murtle%202

Author:  Ralph [ October 8th, 2015, 11:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murtle Lake

Great write-up! Beautiful pictures. Thanks!

Author:  tearknee [ October 9th, 2015, 6:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murtle Lake

Wonderfully funny write-up. I read the whole thing in my head with an old-timey radio voice. I also snorted beer out of my nose twice.
I also really loved this passage:
We spent the day upon that shore for the wind showed no sign of abatement . The Captain paced the strand and watched the waves with a jaundiced eye while the birds fought and squabbled over the small fishes at the rivers’ mouth and all the while the stones ground themselves to nothing in the surf and the tempest roared and howled as has always been since time long passing.

Pretty picture you paint there.

Nice photos, too!

Author:  Stencil [ October 13th, 2015, 8:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Murtle Lake

Thank you. Murtle is like the Bowron. You keep hearing about it and wonder can it really be that good? Well, the answer is yes, and then some.

Author:  elGuapo [ April 7th, 2016, 11:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Murtle Lake

Surely the finest tale of adventure on the high seas and prolapsed veins of the anus ever written! I wish every trip report were written like this!

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