Dunlop/Ten Mile Lake Trip – Part 1

I knew, when I laid out this route, that we would be changing it, on the fly, due to difficulty, and weather conditions. The map above shows the actual route that we ended up taking. Both difficulty, and weather conditions did play a role in our decisions as we made our way through some challenging portages. The weather turned out to be quite favorable, until the very end of our trip.

As we arrived at the launch point at around noon on Friday, we found the paddling conditions to be almost perfect, with very calm winds and flat water.

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Here you see my two paddling companions on this trip, my brother, in the green Mad River canoe, and my son, in the Advanced Elements inflatable kayak.

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We all took in the beautiful surroundings, as we made our way across, and along, Dunlop Lake, towards our first portage of the trip.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better start to this trip, and we were very grateful for that, since early May is not all that predictable when it comes to weather.

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This was my son’s first time out in his Advanced Elements modified Firefly kayak, so there was some trial and error in setting it up for optimum performance, and comfort.

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I was in my Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak and, since I was taking all the pictures, this is the most you will see of me on this trip.

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A lot of the cargo we were carrying went into my brothers canoe, since it had more room, and he needed the extra weight to improve the handling of his canoe. My kayak does not have too much cargo space, but my son’s kayak has two cockpits, so he carried most of his own stuff in the front cockpit of his kayak.

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This is a very rugged, and scenic area, and we were all impressed by the high rock cliffs along the lake shore.

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My son’s first impressions of his kayak were encouraging. It seemed to handle well, although he said that he could feel the weight of the cargo in the front cockpit.

I didn’t take any pictures on the first portage, from Dunlop Lake to Ten Mile Lake, but it went fairly smoothly, and it was not a difficult carry. All the portages we took on this trip were official portages. In other words, there was a trail from one lake to the next. However, they did increase in difficulty the farther we went into the route.

We didn’t have any planned campsites, however we did know where there were supposed to be some official campsites along the route, according to the recreational map that I had purchased a few weeks ago. Islands are always my preferred campsites for a lot of reasons I guess. The first thing that might come to mind is bears, but I know that bears can, and will, swim to an island if food is a possibility. People have been killed by bears on islands while camping, so that’s not the reason the I prefer islands for camping.

To me, it’s more of a ‘getting away from it all’ experience. An island provides seclusion, even though it’s all wilderness out here, an island is my little plot of wilderness when I’m camping out there. It’s my temporary home, so to speak. I know I don’t own it, and I would never want to, but it just feels like it’s home for as long as I’m there.

Our first campsite was on a big island at the eastern end of Ten Mile Lake. It wasn’t an official campsite, but there had been others that camped there before, which was evident from the fit pit.

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We all chose spots for our tents and set up camp for the night. Here you can see my tent and my brother tent to the right, and my son’s tent off to the left. We didn’t banish him from the campsite though, we all chose the spots that we wanted to place our tents.

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At night we would hang our food in the trees as a preventative measure, in case a bear would come looking for something to eat. It would be no fun waking up to find a bear sleeping beside you, after eating all of your food, although I’m sure that there are married couples that can relate, but I’m not an expert on that.

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Luckily, we came prepared, and we knew exactly what we were doing at all times. 🙂

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Once we settle into a campsite, we’ll often go out exploring the area, either together, or separately.

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After all, we now have a home base, so we all know where to come back to when we’re done exploring.

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Here you can see the benefit of the cargo weight in my brothers canoe. Without the weight, the canoe tends to rise in the front, making it difficult to paddle straight, especially if it’s windy.

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I was lucky, because I had very little cargo to carry in my kayak, but we all did the work of carrying the cargo across the portages.

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As the evenings approached, we would all head back to the campsite and get the fire ready for dinner, and also for warmth, since the nights were still quite cool.

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This is an evening shot from our campsite, and we guessed that the dead cedar tree sticking up from the water here was put in by someone else, as a marker for the location of this campsite.

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Our boats, neatly parked for the duration of the night.

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We survived the night nicely, and headed off to our next adventure early the next morning.

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Landing a canoe, or kayak, on the shore of this rugged landscape is not always the easiest task, although it’s almost taken for granted if not mentioned. You can easily find yourself in the drink if you’re not careful and, at this time of the year, the water is very cold.

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My brother experimented with the positioning of himself, and the cargo, to come up with a better balanced canoe.

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We headed west on Ten Mile Lake, along the north shoreline, because we knew that there was a portage, going north, that would lead to another series of smaller lakes that we wanted to explore.

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Here’s what we were looking for, the Serpent River cascading down the side of a rocky shoreline. The portage was supposed to be close to this river.

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And here it was, clearly marked.

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As I said, it’s not always easy landing on these rocky shorelines, especially if you’re not used to getting in and out of a very tipsy boat, like a kayak, or canoe. But, to everyone’s credit, no one fell in on this trip.

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The raging Serpent River is right beside this portage, so we hung around for a while to enjoy, and explore this area a bit.

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Since we were travelling, the sun was not always in the optimal position for taking pictures, but I did my best to compensate for exposures by darkening, or lightening, certain shots with photo software when we returned from our trip.

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One thing that everyone learned from this trip is that this is a very heavy canoe, even when it’s empty, and this portage would be the first test of that lesson.

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While we were still enjoying our stop at the Serpent River, this large passenger float plane started circling above us. We were joking about it looking for us and, just then, it came down for a landing right in front of us.

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However, it just skimmed the surface of the water and took off again.

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It did this a number of times, as if the pilot was practicing landing, and then left the area.

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After all that entertainment, we pulled ourselves together to start moving all our equipment over the portage to the next lake.

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On our first pass along the portage trail, I saw this bird flying out of the bushes and, on closer inspection we discovered a nest with some eggs in it.

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We reached the other side of the portage and we dropped our backpacks there and took a rest for a while, before going back for the boats. We did this at every portage. It usually took three trips to get all the stuff and the boats across.

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Going back on the portage, to pick up more stuff, was usually more fun, since we didn’t have a load to carry and it was mostly down hill.

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Once we had rested up after finishing the portage, we headed off, once again, paddling into the unknown.

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My son putting his loaded kayak into the next lake, after the portage.

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And last, but certainly not least, I put my kayak in and followed along.

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Again, more wonderful scenery for us to feast our eyes on.

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High cliffs.

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More high cliffs and evergreens.

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I wasn’t far behind but, every now and then, I would fall a bit back because I had to take my camera out and snap a shot. Then I would paddle a bit harder to catch up. This was easier for me to do, since I didn’t have a heavy load in my kayak.

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Quite often you will see us looking down. This is because the water was so clear that we could see right to the bottom in most places. We did see some nice size fish swimming by too.

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We didn’t always stick together in one group. Everyone felt free to take off in a direction that interested them at any time. We weren’t on any schedule, and we didn’t have a set destination.

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Here you see my son, off doing a little quiet exploring by himself.

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My brother enjoying the majestic rocky terrain of the Canadian Shield.

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We kept a very leisurely pace, and soaked up the ambiance.

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After crossing another portage, we came to this spot, where we would rest up a bit, and have something to eat.

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Some prefer sunshine, while others prefer shade. I usually fall into the latter group.

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This portage was actually a lot longer but, since water levels were still quite high after the melt, we were able to put in here, and save another hundred or so meters of portaging.

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This turned out to be a really nice, quiet spot for lunch.

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We noticed this snake in the water while we were standing there admiring the beautiful vista. Little did we know that the next portage would be the portage from hell.

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And here it is, the beginning of a long and difficult upgrade that would sap the strength out of even the best of us…….notice I’m not mentioning which one that is. 🙂

End of Part 1

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.

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