Fall 2015 – Sucker Lake

September 18-20
Sucker, Bottle Lakes
Total km: 8km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 518m
Video Log: https://youtu.be/cZzEeSrubg0

I headed north after work on Friday well aware that it was late in the season and I might have an issue with the light falling, but was undeterred. I knew the area very well having been there twice already and there was rain in the forecast for Saturday. I wanted to get on the site and set up before the rain came down, so that no matter what we’d at least have some dry spots and a bit of firewood. I had two tarps with me, a large green Canadian Tire tarp I use for car camping, and a smaller MEC-brand Scout tarp. I was missing all my ropes though, as they were in the back of Shane’s truck and he wasn’t going to be coming in until early Saturday morning.

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As I pulled into the put-in I was a bit nervous. The sun was already down, and dusk was on it’s way into night. I unpacked the car and headed down the familiar path to the water, and pushed out into a clear and calm night. Knowing which bay to dip east into was a huge help on this trip, and unlike last time there were few campfires to alert me to where I was. Luckily there were few clouds, and the moonlight was wonderful. The portage was quick and painless, even though I was double portaging (it’s only a 90m portage, why not bring all my toys?). Within an hour, it was night, and I was just pulling into site #125.

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Tarp city, Ontario. We used every rope I have.

Lighting my lantern cast a warm, calm light on the site. It looked very much like I remembered, large and roomy without being open. I chose to pitch my tent at the highest point on the site, with the idea being no water would run under it when the rain came and not river would form underneathe. I threw the tarp up over the picnic table knowing very well that it would be moved (using some rope I used to fix a chainsaw pullcord at home), and got a fire going so I could conserve lantern gas. I went to bed early, knowing that Shane would be coming in early, and if there was rain he’d probably want coffee.

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Shane inspects previous storm damage for mineral-rich earth.

I actually set an alarm, a rare occurance for sure. But I got up to a gloriously warm and calm morning and set about surveying my little fiefdom. There was some trash that needed burning (sad), and firewood that needed cutting (happy), but the site I stayed at a year prior was intact. I like that there is a small wall of trees blocking wind from the west, and enough trees to retard it from the north/east, a very cozy place in the shoulder seasons, yet the wate frontage allows for great vistas of what’s around. I had barely put the kettle on to boil when I saw a familiar yellow flash round the island which site #127 is on.

Shane had left his cabin early in the morning choosing to paddle in as the sun rose rather than set, definitely a more agreeable strategy (to be fair, I toyed with the idea of sleeping in my car). I was glad to see him, a fact punctuated when he brought out my carabinered-together collection of paracord. At last we could set about properly tarping the crap out of the place. But first, coffee. We also wound up making a paddle holder out of an ill-concieved attempt at a table. Bushcraft is usually born of trying to make life at least a little easier.

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A multi-purpose holder of things that need holding.

Once we had set up our three tarps (two large ones over the picnic/living area, a smaller one over the tent as a covered ‘porch’), we decided to try out fishing. The past two times we had come the lake yielded great trout, and we were fresh from our trip to McIntosh so we were set up for it. A few passes in our favorite spot only produced one nice bass, and the wind picked up, so we headed back to the site. I was warm and went for a little dip in the cooling waters of Sucker Lake, relishing the late-season novelty of swimming. As I mucked around on the rocks, we saw a duo paddle to the island site we stayed at last year. That was when the clouds rolled in.

To this day, me and Shane have never seen rain in the bush like we did that afternoon. Even though our site was protected and we had set up bullet-proof tarps, we got soaked. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means, but we were glad we had invested money into supremely water-proof gear like our packs and the tent. As we stood under the tent pushing against it to keep water from pooling and to take some strain off the grommets we came to a realization. “Those people on the island barely had enough time to erect a tent, let alone a tarp before this rain came down.” I’m almost ashamed to admit that we laughed hysterically at this thought. There was no aid we could have offered to those poor people at the time, and we were half-drowned ourselves, but the idea of huddling in a wet tent justified our over-preparation for the rain.

As is the way of things, the rain stopped its assault against our tarps in an hour, and soon we were able to walk around the site without having to avoid pools (the ground was remarkably quick to drain actually). By this time, the sun was starting its retreat and we settled down to dinner and a fire. Another couple canoes came into our lake, including reinforcements on the island (who had come down and started a drying rack). It would have been idyllic, but the wind was still up and blowing cold in the September night. Even with a roaring fire and many layers we couldn’t get warm and decided to turn in early after a full day. Once out of the wind and in our respective sleeping bags, we warmed quickly and slept soundly as the tarp fluttered outside.

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The last morning I would have in the bush for 2015

Our morning motto was “up and at them”, we needed to be on the road early unfortunately. As we paddled back across the calm and familiar waterways, we smirked as people put whole tents out to dry in the morning sun, rivulets of water streaming out of the flies. We were glad that out tent had held fast against the onslaught of the rain. The morning was beautiful, too beautiful. I was emotional, reflecting on all the great times I had this year both solo and with friends, old and new. I didn’t want to admit this might be the last time I was out in the trees, floating on my fibreglass magic carpet. But alas, all great things must end eh?  We packed up the car and wished each other well as we finished our last trip of 2015.

It took me 2 days until I had planned the first few trips of 2016.