May 13-14, 2017
# of portages: 4
Total portage distance: 2220m
Total distance: 10.5km
This year was one of the latest I had left heading into the bush, probably because the winter camping trip in February helped keep the cabin fever off. Shane and I were hoping to get a site at famed trout fishery Hilliard Lake off of Cache, but it was booked so we went one more lake deep to Delano Lake.
As usual, we spent Friday at Shane’s place in Kearney, and the forecast spelled rain in big bold letters. We looked online and saw that someone had booked into the site for Friday night, and being the only site on Delano, we opted to have a nice breakfast before heading out at a leisurely pace. We didn’t want a repeat of last year, being forced to wait and watch people pack up for an hour or two in the rain.
Unloading the car at Cache lake, we had a reprieve from the drizzle we drove through on Hwy 60 and decided to head out immediately. We were happy to be out in no wind, minimal rain, and warm-ish air. It was a simple paddle across the lake to the last remaining frontier we had to conquer in Cache Lake, the portage to Hilliard Lake.
We saddled up for our first portage of the year knowing roughly what to expect. The bags were packed well and the going was easy, if not uphill. The whole trail leads up, and up, and up to Hilliard with the remnants of a bench and portage stand about halfway through. This was a well-worn path, obviously used by the cottagers on Cache as well as day-trippers hunting for trout.
Hilliard itself is a very pretty little lake with only one site on it. It was occupied, but looking through the trees we could see it was a large site able to accommodate a large party. It seems it is desirable for good reason. Dotted with little islands and spread over two main branches, Hilliard won’t blow up in big wind and anyone can have a good time here.
Our next portage wasn’t as nice as the last, it had blow-downs, slippery rocks, and muddy creeks to traverse. Luckily it was a short 350m jaunt, so it took no time. We got to the dock marking the end of the portage into Delano and marveled at our home for the night. Around the corner on the northeastern corner of the lake we found our site up on a rock overlooking the rest of the lake.
It’s a nice site to be sure, firepit out with a view of the lake, contoured rocks and benches to site on, plenty to explore and a cooking area protected from rain and wind. It was a little unnerving to see a moose skull nailed to a tree by the tent pads, but soon it became our mascot (the mandible and femur were neat too). We got the tarps up as quickly as possible so that we would have a dry area if the skies opened up, then started to relax.
Between short bouts of showers and overcast, we tried fishing from shore, kajiggering with the tarp so that it was rock solid, and eventually gathered firewood. There were semi-marked paths all over the place leading to Cache Lake which we followed to many downed trees. We found a solid, thick section of hardwood (I think it was a beech) and throughout the afternoon we took turns chopping up a section of it. High quality hardwood with a bit of punty softwood burns great, and made for a perfect cooking fire.
That eventual fire would come in very handy later, because halfway through cutting up our wooden treasure the deluge began. Luckily we were battened down fairly well, clothes and tents still in the portaging packs, because it seriously rained. With no wind though, it came straight down onto the leaky tarp we sat under and we didn’t mind. After about half an hour or so, the cold rain backed off and we decided to get the dinner-fire going.
With dinner of grilled chicken, roast potatoes, and a Sidekicks pasta dish in our bellies the sun started to come out to gives us a bit of a sunset. We stayed close to the fire after nightfall, because it got good and cold, but we were more than comfortable.
The next morning I slept in a bit, although my perception may have been skewed. With the past two trips, the sun rose around 7:30-8am! Regardless, I got up and made some coffee and busied myself with breakfast and gathering things to leave. Roused by coffee, Shane was soon up and we drank under the tarp and waited out the rains last little huzzah as it was actually a nice morning.
I fished as we paddled back through Hilliard and Cache, catching nothing but still just enjoying the feel of a fishing rod under my leg bouncing rhythmically with the spoons action. Despite the rain and the lacklustre fishing time, I had a great time finishing the entrance lakes accessible through Cache. It’s an area I’ll probably be back, but we have been to this area quite a bit. We’ll probably explore other areas of the park for a while.
We didn’t have long to wait until our next trip either, which helped keep our spirits up paddling out. In less than 5 days we’d be back out and about for the May 24 weekend a bit farther north.