Quirke/Ouellette/Teasdale Scouting Trip

This trip was intended as a scouting trip, to assess the viability of a possible camping trip with my brother at the end of June. My main interest was the portages, and how difficult, or easy, they might be.

It’s hard to tell from any maps, what the terrain is like without actually going there and looking. Sure, topo maps have elevation and contour lines, but you can’t really get a good idea by those alone.

As usual, I set off early, and arrived at the Quirke Lake launch point around 6am.

While I was setting up the kayak, the mosquitoes had me for breakfast, but I took my time and set the kayak up properly, because I now know that this is absolutely critical in getting this kayak to perform properly.

Anyway, I was off and paddling, on a nice calm and mostly sunny morning. Of course, my first concern was to get out of the the stuffy cottage area as fast as possible, and into the more wilderness section of Quirke Lake.

Once again I had to pass under Rooster Rock, on my way through, and it always seems to attract the attention of local cottagers when I do so. However, this time was a bit different.

I was kinda hanging around under Rooster Rock to see if one of the cottagers would come flying over in their boat, to see what I was up to, as happened twice the last time I was here. But, much to my surprise, I was nearly clobbered by a rather large, and swiftly moving rock, that came down from the top. I remember joking last time about a piece of the rooster hitting me, so maybe I should just leave well enough alone.

By the way, as I was lingering under Rooster Rock, I did hear someone getting their boat ready, over on the far shore, but I didn’t wait around to see if they would come over.

The lake looks so calm, and tame now, but that would not last. Troubled waters were ahead for the trip back out.

You can see in this video that there’s already a ripple picking up in the water, but it was nothing to speak of.

Anyway, I continued to paddle not far from shore, into an area that I’ve never been before. It was about at this point that I started sensing something in the bushes along the shoreline. I would hear loud bangs, but only if I was paddling, if I stopped to listen, the bangs would also stop.

After this, I never heard the banging again, so I’ll never know what it was, or why it was following along.

I remembered, from the maps I referred to before I set out on this paddle, that there is a small island down near the end of this long arm of Quirke Lake, and I wanted to check it out, since I had never been down this way before. It was a bit out of the way of my intended path but, what the hell, I’m exploring, so let’s do some exploring.

I remember when I first paddled Quirke Lake, I was really disappointed in the islands I had visited. For the most part, they were very uninviting, rugged, and so rocky that it was hard to find a landing spot on any of them.

When I approached this island, I paddled right around it, but could not see, what I felt was, an acceptable landing point. Eventually, I chose a so-so landing place and came ashore.

As you saw from the video, it wasn’t the most comfortable looking campsite, but it was probably the best I have seen in Quirke Lake to this point.

After I finished checking out the island, I headed to the far shoreline, where I felt that the portage to Ouellette Lake might be.
I paddled for a short distance along the shore, and then I stopped, in a small, quiet bay, to take a GPS reading. The GPS showed me to be exactly at the narrowest land bridge between Quirke Lake, and Ouellette Lake, so I figured that this must be the location of the portage. However, right where I was, there were high rocky cliffs, so, if this was the portage, then it would be a portage that I’m never going to do.

But, there was something that I couldn’t figure out, from the Recreational Map I have. The narrowest land bridge between these two lakes only measures about 70m, but the portage is listed as about 140m. I continued paddling along the shoreline and, a bit farther down, I saw a large, flat rock, that would make a real good landing point.

As I got closer, I could see, what looked like a bit of a trail, so I was sure that this must be the portage I was looking for.

Before this next video, I want to give a bit of an explanation, because everything happened very quickly. I landed on the flat rock, and got out of the kayak. I looked up and saw that there was, in fact, a trail that went into the bushes, so I got my camera ready to take some video, as I was walking along the trail.

I started to walk in on the trail, as you will see in the video, but I stopped, and became very still and quiet. At this point, I did sense that there was something there, and what I should have done, is just quietly retreated, but I foolishly didn’t listen to my gut feeling.

I continued on, talking in the video as I went, because I figured that, if there was a wild animal in the bushes, it would hear me and just run away. I stopped again for a few seconds, because my gut was telling me there was something there. Then, just after I started to move again, all hell broke loose. The video doesn’t really do it justice. I was really surprised when I first viewed the video, because it usually picks up every little sound, but I heard things that didn’t turn up on the video.

I backed off for a second, to assess the situation. I felt that I may have spooked a bear, and that can be a dangerous situation, but since it hadn’t attacked me, I thought that it might just run away into the bush. However, it didn’t. I’m thinking now that this first rush through the bushes may have been what’s known as a ‘bluff’ charge. When everything exploded, I couldn’t tell if, whatever it was, was coming at me or not.

I could hear whatever it was panting in the bushes, very close by, and this really got my attention. Most wild animals will take off, as fast as they can, into the bush, but this one was still there. I still couldn’t see through the thick bush, to identify what it was, but I knew that it was a bigger animal from the way it moved and the sounds it made. I would estimate that it was no more than twenty feet away, so I made the decision to retreat back to the kayak.

I’m not one to spook easily, and I’ve hiked and paddled, alone, for thousands of kilometers in the wilderness in this area. I stay out of trouble by listening to my gut feelings, but this time I didn’t, and it almost came back to bite me. Mark that one up as a lesson learned. Most bear attacks on humans occur quickly and quietly, with no time to react. This is nearly always because the bear feels it has no choice because the perceived threat is too close for it to run. Anyway, here’s that video;

Once I was safely back in the kayak, and had moved a short distance from shore, I reflected on my stupidity, for not listening to my original ‘gut feeling’.

So, this goes to prove how quickly something can happen, and how one must always be vigilant in both awareness, and listening to ones own inner voice, or ‘gut feeling’. I was vigilant in awareness, because I did pick up on the presence of something, but I failed, miserably, on listening to my gut feeling, which was telling me to get out of there NOW.

This is not to say that you should go through the bush thinking that a bear is going to jump out at you in any second. I walk through remote areas all the time, and I don’t think like that. But, I’m usually always ‘aware’ of my surroundings, and that awareness is like a radar, which uses all senses to scan for any anomalies. Wild animals have this same radar, which helps them stay alive.

Anyways, moving on from that encounter, I hadn’t been able to fully investigate that Ouellette portage, but from what I could see, it was a good trail, and didn’t look all that difficult. My focus now turned to investigating the Teasdale portage.

I paddled around a long point, and into another long arm of Quirke Lake. Again, once in the general area of where I thought the portage might be, I took a GPS reading. I saw that I was close, so I looked around and identified, what looked like, a wide trail through the bushes.

This was, obviously, not the portage I was looking for, and the map did show that the narrowest land bridge was a bit farther along, around a small spit of land that stuck out into the lake. So, I mounted my steed and headed back out around that spit.

Having located both portages, and determined, as best I could, how difficult, or easy, they might be, my attention now turned to lunch. Keep in mind, all these adventures that I post on my blog take a lot more time than it might seem by just reading them. My total time out in the kayak today was just under 6 hours, so having lunch is an important part of the trip.

I usually like to find a nice open spot, if I’m kayaking, that will mostly likely be an island. This is especially important in bug season because, if you’re in a bushy area, they will have YOU for lunch.

So, off I went, back in the direction I had come in on, to find Lunch Island. It was probably about a kilometer, or a kilometer and a half back before I came to a suitable place.

Notice I mentioned that the wind was starting to pick up a bit. This was certainly a harbinger of things to come.

Within minutes after I shot this video, the wave action did start to pick up to the point where there were white caps. This meant that the paddle back was going to be a bit of a struggle, and it was.

I was seeing some waves that were probably approaching two feet, not dangerous, especially in this kayak, but not all that enjoyable. This is exactly why I don’t like paddling big lakes like Quirke. I just don’t enjoy struggling through the wind and waves.

On the way back I did see a few motorboats, but mostly far away from my location. The paddle back was more of an endurance test than a pleasure paddle, but I made it in one piece.

I only posted videos so far, but I did take many pictures along the way too. It just seems that the lighting on some days is not optimal, and the pictures don’t do justice to the actual view. Still, I’ll just post a few of the pictures I took, here, at the end of this blog post. Total distance today was just over 21kms. Total time, just under 6 hours.










2 responses to this post.

  1. Ha ha ha……so much for being bear repellant! The portages on the Dunlop Lake trip were hell, but I’d sooner do them again given the alternative. FYI – If you listen to the video with ear bud earphones on, you get a whole different experience. The crashing in the bushes is more explosive, and the panting of the beast is crystal clear. Of course, that panting could be you making your hasty, yet graceful retreat!!

    Well done, and thank goodness for image stabilization!


    • LOL, there were probably bears pretty close to us on the Dunlop trip too, we just didn’t know about them. That’s interesting about the ear buds, I’ll give it a try. I’m glad you were able to hear what I heard, it gives the whole situation just a bit more urgency, hahaha.


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