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Atikaki Provincial Park 2017 Solo Trip

 

Part 3

 

Day 9

The Teapail Portage

9 miles 3 portages 2500 meters

I'm off to an early start on a beautiful morning but it takes me awhile to figure out the first portage. There is an old trail on the left but it became impassible after a short ways. I eventually found it on the right side and it was an easy one. I probably wasted 45 minutes trying to figure it out.  Soon I was on Stonehouse Lake, a pretty lake with lots of rocky shoreline. I find the beginning of the Teapail Portage without any problems. The Teapail portage is consists of two segments with a small lake in between. The first segment follows a sedge meadow and there is an easy to follow trail as someone has passed this way earlier this year. It is also well marked with ribbon…too well marked in my opinion. The first segment is about 700 meters long. There is an older trail that branches to the right but I take the more traveled one which goes to the end of the sedge meadow before it cuts to the west and leads to the east side of the small no name lake.  There is a small campsite on the west side of that lake and I stop there for lunch. Soon I am off again to the south segment of the Teapail. The start is on the left side of the valley and it took a few minutes to find it. It is a steep climb to start but then pretty easy going the rest of the portage. This segment is about 1500 meters long and I leapfrog my pack and canoe across. There are some nice views along the edge of the of the sedge meadow. Despite its length, a pretty easy portage. The far end is soft and muddy as you put in on the Gammon River. From here you can go either left or right as both ways will take you to Aiken Lake. This is a smaller channel of the Gammon and with low water it looks tough to navigate to the left. Going to the right brings you back to the main channel of the Gammon. It is a bit shallow and you have to follow the channel or you end up on a mud flat.  It gets better as you go and within a half mile or so the channel widens and deepens. Once I get back on the main channel there is a portage on the right. Then a short paddle and the next portage is on the left. However this one is harder to find despite it being a short one. It is late afternoon and I find a place to put up my tent so I call it a day. I don’t even bother to scout the portage, I will figure that out in the morning. It is a nice evening and I sit back and enjoy a nice sunset over the Gammon River.

The start of the Teapail Portage looking toward Stonehouse Lake

Start of the Teapail Portage  Down the Edge of the Sedge Meadow

Along the south segment of the Teapail Portage

Nice scenery along the  Teapail Portage

Camp on the Gammon River

 

Day 10

Completing the Loop

13 miles 3 portages 2400 meters

 

Today I will paddle out to Aiken Lake and once at the campsite on the south end of the lake I will be backtracking on familiar territory. But first, I have to get across this portage. I take it in two stages and once on the far end I find the actual portage trail. Oh well, I was on my way. I had one more little swift, about a 1 foot step I had to paddle up. I was able to approach it at an angle, using the eddy for a push, I hit the step at an angle. I made it, barely as I almost went back down it sideways. As I approach Aiken I meet a couple of boats from the lodge on Aiken. We pass with a friendly greeting, each wondering about the others circumstance. Again, Aiken is calm but I still  follow the islands and shoreline as much as possible. Once I reach the campsite at the beginning of the portage to Kosteck Lake I stop for a big lunch. A big plate of hashbrowns fried in butter. I am only a couple days away from the truck now and the thought of real food is starting to enter my mind. Soon I am off on the 2100 meter portage.  The Aiken to Kosteck Portage is long but it is relatively flat and marked well with cairns. I leapfrog across enjoying  the return trips without a load. I wished I had a pretty place like this close to home that I could walk every day. Once I am on Kosteck it starts to cloud over and a breeze picks up. I am paddling along looking to make a right turn but soon I am at the end of the lake and I missed the outlet to the other part of the lake.  My paper maps did not show this corner of the lake. I paddled back and forth a couple of times until I tried paddling back into what looked like a dead end spruce bog. Once into the channel it took a sharp right and there it was, the opening to the other part of the lake. My GPS would have easily solve that problem. Now I needed to find the food cache I had left on a small island. I stashed it so well I had a hard time finding it but it was still there. I would have food for the last couple of days. Soon I am at the cutoff portage to the Broadleaf River. There is a nice campsite overlooking Kosteck Lake and I pull up here for the evening. As has pretty much been the norm the whole trip, and afternoon shower looks to be brewing. There are a few sprinkles but overall a nice evening.

Getting from here to there to start the morning

Made it to there, actually I put in behind the protruding rock. The falls was too close for comfort

Paddling up through this swift was fun, almost went back down sideways

 

The Narrows on Kosteck Lake

Camp on the north end of the Cutoff Portage to the Broadleaf

Day 11

The Broadleaf River

4 Miles 4 portages 1300 meters

I get to start the morning off with the two part cutoff portage. I could have taken the roundabout way on the Broadleaf but chose the portage. The Teapail portage and this one are very similar. Two segments with a small lake in between. The portage goes well however I have a little trouble finding the start of the second segment despite having crossed it a week ago. It has a very steep start and I guess going up a steep face is more memorable than going down one. Also the second segment was longer than I remembered on my previous crossing.  Once back on the Broadleaf, the trip back to Leaf Lake was easier and went faster than I remembered from the early part of the trip. Maybe because the beaver had dammed it up on the Leaf Lake end and the last mile was easy going compared to the shallow paddle 9 days earlier. The campsite on Leaf Lake is large and very nice. I am guessing it is used by moose or duck hunters in the fall. I enjoy a quiet evening, a nice fire, some bourbon I had been saving for the last night.  I watched a gorgeous sun set over Leaf Lake as I savor the last night in canoe country.  

The south segment of the Cutoff Portage

The crossover portage on the Broadleaf. watch your step!

I've been saving this for the last night

 Leaf Lake Sunset, It doen't get any better than this

Day 12

The paddle out

17 miles 9 portages 500 meters

Despite having covered this ground a week ago, it still looks new. As I am starting out on Leaf Lake a flock of swans do a close flyby. There are lots of short portages on the final stretch. My body is tired and sore but each portage brings me closer to a hot meal and a beer. As I am padding the last stretches of the Wanipigow I dipped my hat in the water and put it back on my head to cool off as I had done many times on the trip. It was a minute or two later that I realized my GoPro was no longer on my head as it normally was during the trip. Did it fall in the water when I dipped my hat or did I lose it on the last portage? I paddled back to the last portage and looked but it was nowhere to be found. I had to resign myself to the fact it was gone. Fortunately I had replaced the memory card while camped on the Bloodvein so I at least had some of the video from the first part of the trip. I had really relied on the GoPro to take video along the way and had not taken as many pictures with the good camera.

The paddle across Wallace Lake was longer than I remembered but by mid afternoon I was back at the truck, safe and sound. The Wallace Lake Campground was deserted midweek. Once everything was loaded up I stopped by Wallace Lake Outposts office and dropped off the lifejacket with a big thank you. In Bissett I looked for a place to get a cold drink and a snack. I was able to find Wynne’s Place just as they were closing up. There was not much to choose from but a bag of chips and a cold root beer held me over until I made it to Lac du Bonnet. On the North end of Lac du Bonnet I stopped at Drifters. There I had a good burger, fries and a cold beer before heading for the border. The border crossing was easy and I was back at my cabin after a long day. Cold beer is waiting in the fridge and  I am up late looking through pictures and replaying the trip in my head.

I am greeted by Trumpeter Swans as I head through the wild rice on Leaf Lake

The fire stopped here....on the Broadleaf

 

Final Thoughts

My 2017 trip took a lot of planning over the long winter months. Thanks to Martin Kehoe for his help in planning and GPS coordinates.  It is great when a trip goes off as planned, you get some good weather and the trip lives up to all the expectations you had while preparing over the winter months. You can spend a lot of time on Google Earth planning but the view from the ground is always different. There were lots of long portages on this trip and my 60 year old body held up well through 125 miles, including 14 kilometers or 9 miles of portages.  I had a couple of slips and falls but nothing serious. My hands took a beating. I bruised it when I fell and the rocks and blisters from paddling made them sore. The Ford to Artery portage was as hard as any I have done however, looking back I would do it again. There were many highlights along the way but I think the layover day on Artery Lake was the highpoint of the trip. If I had it to do over again I would have spent one more day on Artery Lake.  Now to plan the next trip. I have some ideas as there are lots of wild places I want to see from the seat of a canoe. The only criteria so far is more time fishing and less portaging.  

Blisters and Bruises

   

Link picture slideshow

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I hope you enjoy the virtual trip. Feedback is always welcome. I can be contacted via email at bill@hobbydog.net