These canoe camping albums are part of our mission to enjoy canoe camping in comfort and to share the possibilities with others. My personal map of locations shows the six sites we've already done and still more that are possible. Thiis year we picked site B6 on Pakeshkag Lake in Grundy Lake Provinicial Park. A google satellite view shows the boat launch, our campsite and lookout rock and two access points to nearby locations worth visiting. We arrived at the Pakeshkag Lake boat launch just before noon on Monday after a slow trip down the access road that was still muddy and flooded from all the rain and scarred by deep ruts. But it was only a 15 minute, smooth paddle to our B6 campsite, so by mid afternoon, after two trips, we were pretty well in place. We thought at first that we would be landlocked on our campsite, but eventually we discovered the path to a lookout rock and it was there that we settled for the evening with lawn chairs, books and drinks. All the rocks around here seem to dive deep into the water, making access hard but giving great definition for photos. I was immediately captivated by this flower arrangement growing out of the rock by water's edge. This photo is not at all photoshopped - the sky was so blue and the water so calm.
That evening we started to enjoy a remarkably long stretch of mirror flat water. Tuesday morning at quarter to six I ventured out into the day break to see what I could see. Site B6 is no place for watching the sun rise or set, but the views can still be lovely. The skies were too clear anyway this trip to provide any drama. I've seen this before (at Bell Lake), when the sun, still blocked from view, streams into a distant corridor and creates an almost irresitable path 'into the light'. Once the sun started coming through the tops of the trees there were spotlights on the mist still hanging over the water. This spotlight lasted only a few minutes. Looking in to our bay at 7 in the morning.
Much of the growth covering rocks looks quite dry and drab in the heat of the day, but in the early morning it comes to life and would inspire any landscape artist (I mean landscaper, not painter). I love the texture and subtle colour of rocks raked by early or late light. My shadow falls far away at the crest of our lookout rock. The gnarled root of a tree travels over rock in search of water. After milling about on the lookout rock for two hours watching the light come in, I headed back to our campsite to put the coffee on and rouse my spouse. At 8:00 coffee is on the go and the chairs are set out. Notice the iron tinted lake water in the plastic water box. We had some city water with us, in the Coleman jug and in eight frozen tetra pak juice boxes.
After a leisurely breakfast we headed out the lookout rock to soak up some sun and get away from the mosquitoes. But the flies soon found us. This was one of our worst ever vacations for mosquitoes. We made the trek up and down to water's edge, where our food supplies were stored in the bear bin, many times. I'd put the incline at 30%. The campsite itself is large and quite flat. Mid day our site had lots of sun and we enjoyed a relatively bug free lunch. At 2:00 we set out to explore the upper Pakeshekag river, which flows into Pakeshekag Lake just across from the access point. This is our first view of the river at it's widest near the mouth. The river was beautiful and peaceful and seemed like it could go far. But we soon came upon a fallen tree spanning the whole width. We decided to lift our canoe over and take our chances that this was not one of many. In the process of getting back in, Wendy fell into the water between tree and canoe, which pushed apart while she straddled the two trying to get back in. Loss of dignity was the only casualty.
There were a few more downed trees across the river, but each of them allowed passage beneath if we leaned way back in our seats. With all the obstacles our sense of adventure was heightened. The end came in a nice cauldron of foamy water where the river cascaded in from a culvert deep underneath a busy railroad track. Here you can see through the large, stone culvert to the other side of the tracks, where the river continued a few feet higher. We were quite content to avoid the rapids. By this time Wendy's top was dry again and she could relax in a magical setting as we were carried back by the current. Going back, we knew what to expect. Except for the beavers which were just as startled and took no time to pose.
Back out on the lake we caught sight of another blue heron and managed to get a couple of good shots with the camera. We actually had to spook the heron to take off from its 'hiding place' where it was eyeing us. At the west end of the lake, not far from the river we'd just explored, is a long, large and lovely line of rock keeping the lake in its place. At a portage sign posted on a tree in the middle of its length, we pulled out and climbed out to visit the neighbouring lake. This view looks back, east over Paskeshkag Lake Just a short way over the rise of rock lay this small un-named lake. It's more of a beaver pond really, with dead trees sticking out of the water and lots of marshy areas. It's part of a route that would take you through Beaver Lake, Gurd Lake and Gut Lake to Grundy Lake. After supper that Tuesday we packed our lawn chairs and headed out to the island to watch the sun set. The lake was still calm and the view eastward down Pakeshkag Lake was spectaclular in the evening light. The loons gave us a bit of a show, dancing on water and skipping across the water in a long, leisurely take-off.
Another landscaped garden nestled in the rocks. We tried our hand at blowing some bubbles into the landscape. The sky was clear and we knew sunset would be a bust, so we headed back early. Enough to catch the sun full-on the rock faces and mirrored down into the perfectly still water. The next morning dawned much like the last one, so I walked over to the lookout rock, not quite so early, but this time with my wide angle lens, to get these views. In the distance on the right is the island we visited the previous evening. On the left is the point we went to later that day in the evening. The 10mm view looking back into our bay, with the campsite on the left. At 7:00, I didn't feel like waiting another hour to be joined by my spouse, so I put the coffee on and raised the alarm.
At my suggestion, we agreed to immediately take our coffees along and do a Timmies run to the other end of the lake. We were travelling into the rising sun, but the view behind us was always lovely. We could hear the rushing water before we could see this lake of calm narrowing into a rock channel and stopping at an edge. We knew enough to keep back and find some other spot to disembark. From the safety of land we found the drop to be just a few feet. We heard later that kayaks were shooting this no problem. This water eventually flows into the Pickerel River. We sat and enjoyed our coffees for a while between bouts of ambling over rocks. While we were there, a train rumbled past and we could actually see it. We heard trains regularly that week. The view back over the lake was so sunny and serene. We could easily have carried our canoe over into the next bit of lake, but we hadn't had breakfast yet so we headed back. Calm water like this is a rarity in our experience, and this time we had almost two days of it.
We met up with a flotilla of loons and chased them a bit to get some pictures. They never dove (safety in numbers?) but after a while they were into the sun and we left them behind. Three of the five at our closest approach. By 8:20 we were in sight of our lookout rock and of our landing rock (above the  paddle). While Wendy was making breakfast I checked the weather forecast. Fair today, scattered thunderstorm tomorrow. We've never had data on our phones so I had rigged up a connection through IFTTT to Weather Underground to send us forecasts by SMS text. We had thought about making a day trip to French River the next day, but decided to not to risk the forcasted thunderstorms and headed out right after breakfast. After perusing the visitor centre and its display of natural, native and voyageur history, we walked over to the suspension bridge built for snowmobiles. I was thankful not to hear any. This is the view from the bridge looking downstream, eastward along the mighty French River.
Looking the other way towards the highway 69 bridge. Notice how much classier the private enterprise suspension bridge is than the government issue road crossing. Not too much further upstream is the railway bridge. Henry, listening intently to the suspension cable that he'd just twanged. Henry insisted on taking a side path to see the structure from its side. The visitor centre structure was also impressive. It was already close to lunch time, but we decided to take the path down to Recollet Falls. The path was difficult and still very muddy from last week's rain. There were numerous detours around the mud holes. Along the way we caught glimpses of the sheer rock walls bordering the river.
After about a 40 minute hike we came upon this wide falls that has figured prominently in Canadian, voyageur history. It was not too hard to imagine canoes shooting these rapids or, more sensibly but laboriously, avoiding them. We sat and soaked in the sun and the sound for a while. A trickle of visitors joined us for the view. With one couple we exchanged cameras and took portraits. Others were there to fish (for bass they said). After the French River hike we had little appetite for lunch, but we did have a craving for ice cream so we headed a bit further up to the Trading Post.
Thursday dawned clear, much like the others, and now we were through our to-do list and could sit back, relax and read. It's tough to really relax when there are mosquitos buzzing around and you have a weapon to zap them. I'd say that this bug zapper was effective at clearing away mosquitoes and at inspiring feelings of control and vengeance. Our stock in the bear bin was dwindling, and the cooler was not so cool. It was great to have a safe place for our stuff, even if it was so far away. Breakfast is on. The ropes have been strung since Tuesday, ready to anchor a fly for the rain that never came. Several dead mosquitoes after they had been knocked out of the sky by my battery charged bug zapper. Their swarms reminded me of World War II formations of planes (some going by the same name), and when I zapped one, mid air, it would kind of stall, and then float down to table just like a downed plane. The only thing missing was smoke, though with the best kills there was a satisfying, noisy spark. Our setup included a water filtration system.
There is no elegant way to get in and out of the water here. We tied a rope to a distant tree, and rappelled in backwards, invariably to let go and fall in with an awkward splash. Getting out was harder still until we discoverd a small ledge for stepping up. This ledge below water level is just at the end of the rock seam where the rope is lying. It allows one to get out of the water by stepping rather than crawling, as we first did. Hanging on to the rope helps. Henry swam every day, at length, trying to keep up his YMCA routine. Wendy not so much, but still enjoyably. Reading through a couple of books was higher on Wendy's list of priorities. The bear bins look brand new, they're a good size and seem very secure. The only decent landing spot for a canoe is along side of this rock.  Their are some ledges at the end that allow you to step far enough down to step in, but only at one end. Loading and unloading is best done with one in the canoe and one on the rock handing things off. Our newly painted canoe did get a bit scraped from five days of rubbing up against the rock.
We had two bouts of wind, storm clouds and just a bit of drizzle that evening. Between those we sat out on the lookout point to catch the breeze and avoid the bugs. A bit of blue sky and white clouds blew by around 8:00 that evening between the darker skies. We were worried that the forcasted thunderstorms would hit us over-night, but we woke up Friday morning dry and becalmed. Down by the canoe, the water was so flat that the tiny bugs dimpling the water remained totally undisturbed. Before breakfast I went back to the lookout point one last time, still drawn to this flower arrangement. We were down to the last bit of juice and some pancakes for breakfast. Our whole week was warm so the jackets, long sleeves and pants are strictly for bug protection. A timed portrait for our last breakfast together on B6.
We were in no hurry to leave, so we did not have our site cleared off till 1:00 on Friday. Our second and last load is ready to be loaded. On the way back I got one last crack at shooting a loon. The Pakeshkag boat launch comes into sight. From there we loaded up, hitched the trailer and made our way slowly back down the narrow and rutted  access road. Just for old time's sake we parked ourselves on the beach in Grundy Lake, had a swim and read a while. Proof positive that Henry almost read a book this vacation.