Dunlop/Ten Mile Lake Trip – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the trip.  If you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to go back one post and read that first.

 

So far the trip had gone pretty smoothly, and the weather was also very cooperative. The portaging had been a bit of work, but nothing we couldn’t handle. We just took our time, and made several trips, back and forth, through the portages, in order to get all our boats and equipment across.

Even though I have all kinds of maps and navigation aids, I also know that you can never really tell what lies ahead until you actually get there. So many times I’ve gone to an area that a map showed to be easy access, only to find that things were not as easy as that. Things change, and many maps are not updated too often. Even Google Maps satellite shots are quite often many years old.

For this reason, we had no idea what to expect when we got to any of the portages. I was quite content to see that there was even some sort of trail to follow. However, the word ‘trail’ can mean a lot of things out in the bush. It sounds so endearing, “Lets take a walk on the ‘trail'”. Well, we were about to find out that some trails were not as endearing as others.

The portage that goes from Hyphen Lake to Dollyberry Lake is marked on the map as 105 meters long. We joked that this was the elevation of the portage, and not the length. It turned out to be the most difficult portage we had to contend with on this trip. It was steep, and it was rough going. Keep in mind, we had a lot of weight with us, and all of it had to get up that hill.

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Of course, the biggest, and heaviest, item we had to get over that portage was the canoe. The canoe was a double edged sword on this trip. We needed it to carry a lot of our gear, but it did have it’s drawbacks when it came to portaging.

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As we made our way through the different portages, we tried various ways of carrying the boats, to see what might be the most effective. But, you can’t change the laws of physics, heavy is heavy. Still, we persevered, and, with a lot of determination and hard work, we made it over the portage from hell.

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We were all quite relieved when that one was in the books.

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Back in the water again, on Dollyberry Lake, we headed for some official campsites that we saw on the Recreational Map that I had. My son had made copies of the section of the map that pertained to our trip, so that we could all have a map to refer to while underway. This made it easier to navigate, and agree on the direction we would take.

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We weren’t in any hurry to get to the campsite though, and we still took time to explore interesting looking areas.

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We would paddle into narrow passages, to see what was on the other side.

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It was very quiet, except for the odd bird chirping here and there.

We, eventually, made our way into a small inlet on Dollyberry Lake, where there was a campsite marked on the map.

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We would make this our home for the night, and we settled in and set things up as usual.

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The guys did do some fishing but, to this point, they hadn’t had too much luck. I had brought along a big frying pan, so that we could make a nice meal of fresh fish and it was looking like it was all for not.

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As evening approached, we got the old campfire going and that always lifts ones spirit. A campfire adds so much to the experience of being out in the wilderness. The warmth, as sense of well-being, a sense of safeness, are all things that come to mind.

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Our temporary home on Dollyberry Lake. It was here that we would need to make a decision that would change the direction of our travels on this trip.

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As we sat around the campfire, we discussed what our next move might be. Surprisingly, my brother was able to get a signal on his cellphone now and then, while we were way out in the wilderness, and he also got the weather forecast.

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The weather for the next two days was supposed to deteriorate increasingly, so the decision was made to go back the way we had come in, and take a different route across Ten Mile Lake, to some campsites on a southwestern arm of the lake.

This move would bring us closer to where we had to be to get back to the original launch point on Dunlop Lake, where our vehicles were parked.

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We broke camp, and packed everything up, but we weren’t looking forward to another battle with the portage from hell, although this time it was mostly down hill, but still a lot of work.

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We did get some rain overnight, but that was fine, it was soothing to hear the pitter-patter of rain on the tent as we went to sleep, and tried to regenerate some energy for, what we knew was going to be another tough day of portaging.

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On the water again, only this time we knew what was ahead…..the portage from hell.

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The weather was still pretty fair, so the paddling was easy, as we headed back towards the portage to Hyphen Lake.

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Even if we’ve seen an area before, I know, personally, that I never get tired of the beauty of this rugged, and rocky, terrain of Norther Ontario.

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Coming in to the portage we already knew so well from our first time through.

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As I’ve said before, never take for granted that getting out at the portage is easy. Many times it’s a leap of faith.

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It’s a balancing act, and then, once you think you are set, you make a desperate dive for dry land.

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Like I said, we all did pretty well in getting ashore without falling in.

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My son had taken his shoes off on this run, but I don’t advise this because the terrain in this area is just too rocky and rough. I always wear my hiking boots when I’m paddling, because I know that the second I step out of the kayak, I will be hiking in rough country again. You don’t want to be hurting an ankle way out here.

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We weren’t in any hurry to tackle this portage again, so we took our time preparing.

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You can almost hear what they’re thinking………..Do we really have to do that portage again?

As we suspected, going down was a lot easier than going up, and we dragged the canoe down most of the way, with my kayak sitting on top of it. At one point, me and my brother were guiding the canoe down the hill at the front, and we looked back to see that my kayak was gone. It was a classic moment as we both looked back at the same time, looked at each other, and then broke down laughing.

I went back to retrieve my kayak, which was about a hundred yards down the trail, leaning sideways against a tree.

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Resting up after the long haul down the hill.

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Back on the water again, in Hyphen Lake. That’s my son’s pump you see on the front deck of my kayak. I don’t usually bring my pump, because I find it takes up too much space. Although he has a front cockpit in his kayak, he still found that he needed more room for his legs and feet, so we decided to take some items from his boat and put them in the canoe, and I took his pump onto my kayak.

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With the hard work behind us, we headed down Hyphen Lake towards the next portage that would take us back to Ten Mile Lake.

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We did all this at a very relaxed pace. There was no urgency to the flow of our trip at this point. Even though some of the portaging was difficult, we took our time and rested whenever we felt like it.

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If we wanted to just drift for a while, that’s what we did.

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We reached the portage going to Ten Mile Lake, and clambered ashore in one piece.

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I was always ready with the camera in case one of us didn’t quite make the get out, but my readiness was to no avail. Of course, if it was me that fell in, no one would ever know, because I had the camera.

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Two wilderness explorers, proud of their accomplishments.

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As usual, we took a break after we got everything ashore. I have to add here, that this would have been nowhere near as easy if it had been pouring rain, so we were very grateful for the fine weather we had experienced to this point in our trip.

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This portage was not as difficult as the last one, but it still had it’s moments, and my brother took a bit of time to contemplate riding this aluminum boat down the rapids of the Serpent River as an easy way out.

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We got most of our stuff across the portage, and came back for the last item. By this time, I’m sure that the canoe must be at least ten pounds lighter, after all the plastic we scraped off of it’s bottom by sliding it down the last portage. However, ten pounds doesn’t go very far when it comes to this canoe.

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We made it to the bottom in one piece, both us and the canoe.

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My brother coming down the trail with the last item, his paddle, which was forgotten at the beginning of the portage.

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My son getting ready to head out onto Ten Mile Lake for a little personal time. Me and my brother stayed back onshore for a while.

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The skies were starting to look a bit less encouraging, but the weather and lake conditions were still fine.

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My brother was doing some fishing at the mouth of the river, and I was just taking some pictures and videos of the raging Serpent river rapids.

When we first saw this set of rapids, from across the other side of the lake, we thought that it was snow or ice on the hillside, that hadn’t melted yet, because of the white color.

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Of course it’s very loud right beside these rapids, as the water crashed down to the lake.

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Again, my brother wasn’t having too much luck in the fishing department, but it was all in good fun. We certainly had brought enough food to last us through the trip, so fresh fish would only have been a possible luxury, and not a necessity.

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It really was an interesting spot to spend some time and relax, before we headed out across the long stretch of Ten Mile Lake, to another campsite.

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There were many different kinds, and colors of rocks all around.

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You see all the small rocks melted into one big rock? They call this pudding stone.

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That’s my son way out there on Ten Mile Lake, doing a bit of his own exploring.

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After a while, it was time for me and my brother to mount up and join my son out on the lake.

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And then we headed out across the open waters of Ten Mile Lake, which is quite a large lake. We don’t know how lucky we were to get across this lake when we did. A lake this size can get very nasty, if the wind was to pick up.

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We were headed to a narrow gap we could see across the lake, and then we needed to bear right to the area where the campsites should be located.

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There were some remote cottages on the islands out here, and I had to take a picture of this one. It’s an old, small log cabin that I could really see myself living in. There was no way to get to these cottages by road, it was water access only and, even though it was a long holiday weekend, there was not a soul at any of these cottages.

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We continued around the point to the right, into a long bay, where we felt the campsite would be.

Unfortunately, we turned right a bit too soon, and should have continued to the next point, before turning right. However, this didn’t matter one bit, it was a beautiful day, and the water was calm, so the paddling was very enjoyable.

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Once we got down to the end of the bay, we realized the mistake we had made, and headed back up the opposite shoreline to the next point.

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It was one of the longer straight paddling stretches that we had done on this trip, and we were anxious to find a campsite for the night.

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We saw an island ahead, and also there appeared to be a campsite on a point. Me and my brother went to check out the island, and my son went off to check out the campsite on the point.

There was no campsite on the island, but there sure were a helluva lot of black flies, so we ended up calling it black fly island. The point, however, had an acceptable campsite on it, so we moved in.

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Here you can see our setup at this campsite, with my tent being the one on the farthest left, my brother’s tent next, and my son’s tent way up high on the top, which would come back to haunt him.

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We had decided that, since we had come back a bit early, because of the impending weather, we would stay at this campsite for two nights, and then head out to the original launch point from here.

The idea was to be within a decent paddling range of our take out point, should inclement weather arrive, as it was supposed to.

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The first day here went well, and we didn’t get much in the way of rain. The fishing wasn’t going all the well though, but I’m not much of a fisherman, so it wasn’t bothering me at all.

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The sun set on that day, as peaceful as ever, and we were very content that the weather had held off so well for our trip.

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Here you can see my son paddling just off our campsite and a bit farther in, you can barely make out a building. This turned out to be some kind of depot for a wilderness lodge that operates on the northwest side of Ten Mile Lake. There was supposed to be a portage at both of these locations but, apparently, the owner of these locations didn’t want people disturbing their privacy, so these portages are no longer usable.

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Still no fish.

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Our first night on this point campsite ended with little fanfare, as far as the weather goes, but our luck was not to hold out through a second night.

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Coming in to roost around the campfire for the night.

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The pots were on the fire for dinner and the warmth was enjoyable.

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Again, our food supplies were hung in a tree before we retired for the night.

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The next morning, I was up early again, to get the fire going and to get the water boiling for breakfast. Everything was fine, although there was some cloudiness in the sky, with not much sun getting though.

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Here you can see what I mean.

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Again, during the day, we did some exploratory paddling, and we came across this big birch tree that had been chewed down by beavers.

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The wind had picked up quite a bit by this time, but we were in a sheltered bay, so it didn’t affect us all that much.

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Another dejected fisherman walks away empty handed.

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Around the other side of the point, the conditions were getting pretty rough, and I had some concerns about getting out of here the next day, if things didn’t improve.

My brother went to do some fishing off the end of the point and some fishermen came by in a boat. They were catching lots of fish, and they asked if we would like some. They came around to our campsite and gave us two real nice trout, so we were very appreciative, and we thanked them for their generosity.

This meant that we had fresh fish, and we were eager to try it out. However, we had just eaten lunch, so we decide to keep them for dinner. That was a fatal mistake.

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This is my son’s tent, up high, right out near the end of the point. It wouldn’t be there much longer.

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My brother’s tent was a bit lower down, and a better design for difficult weather conditions.

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The campfire was down by my tent, which is a cheapie, but has served me well for a number of years. We spent most of our time down here.

As we were sitting there, we suddenly heard the sky starting to growl, and an ominous dark cloud appeared on the horizon.

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After that, things got out of control real quick. Hurricane force winds hit us with little warning, and the first victim was my son’s tent, which was out in the open, on top of the point.

He ran up to try and save it, and I was running after him with camera in hand, to see if I could get a picture of the impending doom.

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The storm surge was powerful, and sudden, so we had no time to think. All we could do was react to what was happening.

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It got real dark as the wall of wind hit us, and we scrambled to save what we could.

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It got so dark, so fast, and I didn’t have time to set my camera, as I was running up to help my son save his tent. You can barely see my son hanging on, desperately, to his tent, which is being blown out like a parachute in the wind.

We did manage to drag his tent down, beside where my brothers tent was, and we placed some rocks on it so that it would not blow away. Then we all just got out of the rain, that was now coming down pretty heavily.

When I got back to my tent, I saw that the door had been partially open, and a lot of water had gotten inside, but there was nothing to be done at this point. It was just a matter of waiting it out.

After a while, the rain let up, and we could, once again, come outside. Everything was drenched, including us, so it wasn’t a pretty sight.

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I think this picture of my son says it all.

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My brother wasn’t all that impressed with the situation either.

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The fire took a major hit also and, even though my brother made a valiant effort to resuscitate it, it died on the table, never to see the light of flame again. And so died our chances of having a fresh fish dinner that night. It was just not meant to be, and we had to allow that.

And so that day ended. We all decided to call it a night and sleep as best we could, even though most of us, and our stuff, was wet.

I was up at the crack of dawn the next day, because I knew that our best chance to get out of there would be early, before the wind and waves had picked up too much.

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As we headed out on the lake, it was still fairly calm just in front of our campsite, but I knew that, as soon as we rounded the point, there would be rougher conditions to contend with.

We set up a formation, with my brother leading in his canoe, my son in the middle, and me pulling up the rear. The idea being that the canoe really needed to follow a certain path because it was the most vulnerable of the boats in rough conditions, so it made sense for my brother to choose the safest route that he felt he could paddle in.

I wanted us to stay in close formation, unlike we’ve been doing since the beginning of the trip, so that, if anyone got in trouble, we would be close by.

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I didn’t get all that many pictures for the last leg of the trip because the conditions required me to keep paddling. We made our way along the shoreline of Ten Mile Lake, where we knew we would, eventually, find the portage that leads over to Dunlop Lake.

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Slowly, but surely, we made our way along, and it wasn’t really all that bad at this point.

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The last balancing act, coming into our last portage of the trip, which would lead us back to Dunlop Lake, where our vehicles were parked at the boat launch.

It was at this point that my camera battery died, and I didn’t take any pictures after that. I couldn’t have anyways, because the conditions on Dunlop Lake were much worse than we expected.

It started raining again on the last portage, so that made things a bit less enjoyable. It wasn’t all that cold, so that was a bonus, but we were already wet, so more wetness was not what we were looking for.

Anyway, we got all our stuff across the portage, and headed out onto Dunlop Lake for the last leg of our journey. The conditions were rough as we paddled along the shoreline towards the boat launch, which was on the other side of the lake. This meant that, at some point, we would have to cross open water, to get to the other side, which was no easy task in conditions like this.

Once we had reached a certain point, we decided to make a break for it. We could see the boat launch, but it was still pretty far off. If we angled into the waves towards the boat launch, we felt that we could make it, so off we went.

It was one of the most desperate paddles that we did on the whole trip. The wind was howling, and the waves were relentless. It was all we could do to keep on course and make some headway. However, I have to say that I never felt, in any way, unsafe, or unstable in my kayak. These kayaks are very stable in rough conditions, but there was still the wind to contend with, and that took a lot of hard paddling, and our arms were feeling the strain.

We just kept pushing and we made the crossing without incident. Like a bunch of drowned rats we came ashore and packed up all our gear into the vehicles and off we went.

Although the trip ended on a challenging note, and we were all wet and tired, it was, for the most part, a very enjoyable experience. It’s always good to get together with my son, and my brother and spend some time in the quiet wilderness. It will be remembered as one of those fine moments of life.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jan on May 27, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Your pictures are awesome, NICE trip. There is a portage on Quirke Lake to get to a good fishing place, or so is told. Keeping up with your travels, Jan

    Reply

  2. Posted by Avril Frame on June 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Al ………….. I’m visiting with Dad for Father’s Day. He just watched you trip and loved the photos and text. He really enjoyed reading it. Luv Av

    Reply

    • Hey Av;

      Thanks for letting Dad see some of what I’ve been doing up here. The last time I saw Dad, I tried to convince them to get a computer, just so he could follow along with my adventures, I knew that he would probably enjoy them. Anyway, it’s good to know that he did get a chance to see at least some of what I’ve been doing.

      Reply

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