Day 4: Nipissing River @ Nadine Lake to first island in Red Pine Bay
The sun brightened the atmosphere enough to waken me from my soft frozen slumber. I opened the bag up to discover I was up before the sun. I stretched, yawned and crawled out of the warm shelter to put on cold pants and amble over to the bear bag hung a hundred meters from camp near the poor spring.
Dropping the food bag in camp, I looked up to see the Nipissing River Valley encased in a hearty thick frost, an uncanny white, my first frost this year.
I hastily made a fire and began to pack as unzipping and synthetic stuffing noises emitted from Mat’s frost-encrusted tent. My gear was dry but it took me awhile to stuff it all away on Day 1.
I was still getting accustomed to packing for this trip in two bags which was a bit different than my normal hiking. One pack had to be much heavier with a combination of both our gear while the lighter pack (mine) was carried by whoever was portaging the canoe at the time. We’d switch off packs to facilitate the single portage method which seemed to work well for us both. We made coffee by the ashy fire while blowing on the wet wood.
Beard attempted to stretch out his legs and back
The sun rose and slowly backed off the frost in a colorful golden line arcing eastward to the river.
We packed, loaded the now familiar kevlar canoe, and eased into the tea colored river. The fog and mist of cool air over warmer water made visibility poor when pointing into the sun and beautiful when the sun was to our backs. Fortunately few boulders or sunken logs, remains from the logging past of the park, posed hazards in this section of river that morning.
Spirits were high as the cloudless sky grew to a beautiful azure blue lighting the smooth portions of water in the same color. Wood ducks scattered away as we meandered around curves in the Nipissing shifting from soul warming sunshine to frigid blue hues of the shaded down where temps were easily 20 F cooler and frost still hanging on. After 5k of paddling upstream, we came to the first of a series of portages for the morning. At 980m, I carried the canoe and now lightened pack up a mountain and back down.
The verdant trail dripped with morning dew and wet my pant legs. I found the canoe yolk quite uncomfortable digging into my meatless shoulders.
Matt later gave me some good advice on a more comfortable technique. After another short paddle we came to a 1900m portage which Matt carried canoe and I, the pack. It was nearly uphill the whole way which dragged on and offset the serene beauty and natural pace with grit teeth grunts, sweat and cursing.
After a much needed snack at Re-Mo-Na Lake, we quickly passed to Whisky Jack Lake and some short portage to Robinson Lake, the approach to which led us into a shallow and clear nirvana of an inlet.
The clear water gave a wonderful view of the waves on the sandy bottom, many aquatic plants, tadpoles and frogs swimming past.
The 1200m ortage to Burntroot Lake was an okay carry for me with mostly downhill slopes and passing a pretty marsh on the right. The trail through the marsh was raised on a wooden decked boardwalk almost a foot wide. At one place the slippery and algae covered surface banked at an offset angle leading Matt to slip and literally “Take a knee” with the heavy pack for 15 seconds until he recovered balance and the strength to stand back up. No whisky was spilled in this journey.
At Burnt Root Lake, I snacked and we promptly paddled to a nearby inlet out of the wind to bathe.
My first cleaning since home on Saturday morning. It felt refreshing...especially when the wind blew over the water! I still smell a little. Matt had a lunch of Edam cheese and pepperoni while I sat shirtless on a rock drying in the sun while making a cup of coffee. It was the best of times. Our next few hours were spent paddling into a 15 mph heading down Burntroot Lake. The white capped waves kept mostly to our bow.
The most memorable sight was a moose cow and calf appear on the shoreline of distant “Anchor Island” (as marked on the map) and slip into the lake. Their trajectory was to cross ours but their pace was much swifter than our own and they swiftly swam nearly 1 km to the eastern shore of Burntroot Lake.
They climbed out of the chilly water, the spray visible as they shook off in the sun, then disappeared into the campsite on that point. It would have been an interesting day in camp watching a moose swim directly at you!
We rounded the bend in the lake and came across our first encounter with a canoe. The two middle aged fisherman were heavily loaded but had caught an impressive 2+ ft fish they called “Little”. We told them of our loop, to which they remarked “Oh the big tour, eh?”. Paddling into Red Pine Bay, the medium sized island appeared into view and we beached on the rocky shore around 4:45. WE explored the small trails and corners of the island before making camp.
I took the canoe back to land and broke down some dead 20 ft pine trees, loaded them into the canoe and brought home the bounty.
With an hour of light left, we made curried cashew chicken (mine fortified with tuna) then crawled up to the lookout rock for sunset.
A canoe, perhaps the same fisherman we saw earlier, floated past lazily trolling a line out the back. We were quiet as they passed, through assuredly they knew we were sitting up there. You just develop that “feeling” out there when you are getting to be one with the landscape.
The sun sank below the distant trees so we repositioned and took pictures at another corner of the island rewarded with two or three separate sunsets depending on where we stood. The canoe came back into view and made for some nice shots of the sunset with the canoe in the water.
Darkness encroached and the fire and impressive windbreak rock made for a warm backdrop to stories, map examination and panning.
The whole day passed without a cloud in the sky, not a sad moment. Nobody died. Life is great here. Tomorrow we paddle!
Darn food bag ate my glove!
A nice pipe before bed.