Canoe/Joe/Tepee/Little Oxtongue River, Tom Thomson, Ink,
Total km: 38.4km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 5300m
The next morning we slept in a bit, knowing that this was our vacation day. We had logged many hours yesterday so that today there was nothing to do. It was unusually hot for September, and we wanted to take full advantage of summer’s late exit.
But first, our site, at first I wasn’t sold on it. It has easy water access and a wonderful view, but the tent pads are a little closed in by the woods. There is also a large amount of rocks and roots waiting to be tripped over. But by gum if I didn’t grow to love that site! Any more than four people would find it cramped, but for us it was luxuriously expansive.
With breakfast and more importantly coffee in our gullets, we set about getting geared up for trout as we enjoyed the morning. Just before noon, we paddled westwardly into the wind and used the wind as a trolling motor. We were set up to go deep, bouncing off the bottom as close as we dared and were rewarded quickly. In an hour, both Shane and I had fish up to the boat, but in a twist of fate both trout spat the hook out just as we could see how big they were (2-3lbs, I swear!). Heartbroken, we headed in for lunch.
Shane is an industrious guy, he likes to build or improve things he sees are lacking. I’ve seen him fashion drying racks, tables, fishing rods, and many other useful things out of sticks, rocks, and twine. This time though, he decided we needed…a chimney? To this day I look at it with a cocked eyebrow and a shake of my head (see below).
The day was spent in a wonderfully pointless manner. We went back out fishing, actually getting one IN the boat this time. I went for a refreshing swim in McIntoshs’ clean blue waters, and our fire was a roaring/crackling mess when the “chimney” caught fire. Couldn’t have asked for a better day.
It was with heavy hearts that we packed up the next morning, both of us agreeing that we could easily spend 4-5 days at that site without becoming bored. We had looked at other sites, and even the northern island we adored from 2 years ago couldn’t keep up with the charm of our site this time. We hopped out early to try and beat the rush from the easy-access sites with clear heads and bellies full of oatmeal and GORP.
Coming back, the portage was a breeze. We basically jogged it, stopping only 3 times to rest our shoulders (last time we didn’t even take the packs off). It’s amazing what not having a hangover can do to your energy levels! The wind was in our faces, making some parts of the return trip a bit less leisurely than we had enjoyed two days earlier, but nothing we will remember too well.
It wasn’t until “The 401” portage that we realized it was a long weekend in a popular holiday spot. Up until then, besides a few small groups and the occasional soloist there was nobody to be seen on the waterways. Now there was a backup of coolers and Coleman branded gear to contend with. We just blew through the portage ASAP, getting out boots wet for the first time on the trip and got out of there quick as can be.
Canoe lake was a zoo, an absolute gong-show. In my trip video I caught 11 other boats on the water from the Potter/Joe fork and that was just the tip of the iceberg. As we rounded into Portage Bay, we had to dodge motorboats, kayaks, inexperienced daytrippers in rentals, and long distance trippers trying to get to Smoke lake. Oh, and the wind was picking up.
But we had made it, aboput 20km before lunch and ready to go another 20 (maybe not). I was just about the best trip I could have hoped for, and renewed my enthusiasm for long portaging as a means to find great camping spots.