10 Days in Temagami in May

The beauty of supply teaching lies not in the paycheque (trust me), but in the freedom and flexibility it brings with it. Instead of requesting time off, I simple call the school board and say “Don’t call me for the next 10 days.” And boom, canoe trip in May.

We opted to forego a river trip in favour of a dog friendly trip, so that we could bring this character with us:

Jack the Dog will be joining us for nearly a month in August, so we figured this would be a good warm up for him. He’s not a good river dog, but he’s a good companion on trips that are predominantly lake-based.

Our route started on the Montreal River, ultimately taking us through a series of lakes starting and ending with Smoothwater Lake.

Put-in on Montreal River

The weather was a bit iffy, and quite chilly at the start. We started on a Saturday afternoon, and spent Sunday sitting still hoping for better weather. And eating food to lighten our packs for the upcoming portages…

Tarpology

The next day we faced a mega-portage. We had a variety of info sources, each giving a different length for this portage, ranging from 3ish km to nearly 4km. Sadly the longer measurement seemed to be most accurate…so given the two loads we had to do so this particular portage worked out to just shy of 12km. Not to mention the other portages that day.

Mid-portage creek crossing

But let’s not forget the scenic views and nice weather windows.

And cute freeloaders too

A few days in our route took us to Florence Lake, a really beautiful spot. We had a great island campsite.

Not only was Jack doing a lot of running on portages, he was also missing out on the hours he usually spends sleeping at home. He gets very snoozy in camp after a few days of travel.

We were lucky that although the length and terrain of the portages were sometimes challenging, they were generally well maintained. Well, all but one, which required a whole lotta ax work.

Clearing a path. I was providing awesome moral support.

We stopped for lunch in the middle. Because it was epic.

Most of the on-water sections were obstacle free as well, although we did travel through a few beaver infested creek sections.

Our second weather-bound day happened at a rock campsite that would have been awesome on a sunny day.

However, shortly after arriving the sun disappeared. In fact, it looked so threatening that we ravaged an area behind the rock to make a new tent  site in case we had to beat a hasty retreat to a safer zone if we were hit by a thunderstorm.

While the thunderstorms stayed away, it rained so hard and so long the next day that we expected to see Noah and his ark floating by at any minute.

Jack hates rocks and rain. He had a really good day.

We did get the chance to make a traditional bannock at this site. Slower than our usual dutch oven method, but a good approach with a smaller pan.

Conor remains highly dedicated to the harmonica.

The trilliums were in full bloom.

So was the pollen.

Over the course of a 10 day trip we did 45 portages. Including 2 weather bound days and 1 portage free day at the…so 45 spread over 7 days. Mmm hmm. Jack was donezo by the end.

One of Jack the Dog’s favourite places.

We finished the trip with a beautiful site and a beautiful evening on Smoothwater Lake.

BLAST FROM THE PAST:

The first time we tried to start a trip on Smoothwater Lake it looked like this. We sat at a campsite for three days and then skidded our way back out. Photos by Aaron Peterson.

Hardwater Lake?

I’m so glad I’m taking unpaid vacation for this.

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Winter Camping – Final Installment

Part of the reason for a February trip was because we figured with these warming, rainier winters that the weather was likely to be iffy in March. Instead, we ended up with a rain-fest in February and picture perfect conditions in March. Cold nights, sunny days, and no snowfall made for great travelling conditions.

This time we headed north, into Lake Superior Park. Started on an old road, which we will never do again – waaaaay too overgrown and shnarby. Ugh. We were hoping to make it all the way to Old Woman Lake the first day but opted to camp midway as the frustration with fighting face-and-ankle-level branches grew to near explosive levels.

We camped here on the way in and the way out. So this was actually our last night. For the record.

The next day was a shorter day to Old Woman Lake, one of our favourite places.

From whence we came

Our portable abode

Water access – one of many camp set-up jobs

Jack’s sole purpose upon arrival at camp is to get in the way while waiting for the tent to be set up so he can head inside and snooze.

Seriously Jack?

The following day we carried on to Mijin Lake. From here we had some scouting to do, as we wanted to follow a creek system rather than the official canoe route. We spent two nights at the same site, and used the layover day to scout the route. It was a smart move, as we got turned around a few times and would have turned around had we been dragging toboggans. Instead, we got far enough along to be confident in the route, and tackled it with toboggans the next day.

The route was successful, and we were back en route to Old Woman Lake. Travelling conditions remained superb.

Jack’s not much of a working dog but at least he carried some of his own food.

Seven nights later we were once again fighting the schnarb on the road out to the car. It was perfect timing – the weather was just starting to warm up again. Another March Break in the books!

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Winter Camping Part 2 – Temagami

From my end, last year was a bit a flop winter camping-wise, for a potpourri of reasons. For one, my first full-time, full-year teaching job was all consuming. Obviously I couldn’t take extra time off, but even the idea of taking to the woods for a weekend was stressful. Second, I was training for a 50k ski race, so had to dedicate my limited time to training. And lastly, the weather crapped out before our planned trip over March Break so Conor went early by himself (he had a story assignment and really needed to get there before winter disappeared).

This year, however, has made up for last year. Following our January weekend trip we did a two night-er over Family Day Weekend, a weeklong trip in February, and another weeklong trip over March Break.

I’m not going to bother recapping Family Day Weekend. Largely because I didn’t take any pictures. And it looked pretty similar to the last post anyways. Instead, this post will recap our week in Temagami.

We figured that with our warmer, increasingly rainy winters a February trip would be our most solid option for a good trip. We took a week off (the beauty of supply teaching) and headed to Lake Matagamasi where we started our loop.

The first few days were warm, but with early starts we could put in a good couple of hours before the snow got horribly soft and heavy.

This was navigating a potentially sketchy ice section on our second day. It was fine, but what you can’t see in this picture is the moose carcass. The poor guy had fallen through the ice, drowned, and was then frozen into the ice. We often hear how the moose population is in trouble, and coming across things like this really drive home how the changing climate is impacting our natural environment.

The next night (or the one after that? I dunno. This is what happens in well-after-the-fact blogging) we came across a flat, tent-sized rock in the sun. Conor was REALLY excited about setting up on the rock, so while he did the firewood thing I got out the shovel and finished clearing off the rock. Alas, the sun was not as powerful as we hoped, and we ended up spending the night camped on quite a damp rock. Not awful, but not recommended.

Nothing tires Jack out like winter camping. His immediate job upon stopping to camp was to find somewhere to bed down.

The next day was the start of the rain…freezing rain, actually. The day after that was rain.

Rain. Ugh.

Hugely impressed

We set up here after day 2 of rain. And woke up in the wee hours to the sound of ABSOLUTELY POURING RAIN. COME ON. We were basically camped right on the lake so were worried about getting flooded, but somehow the epic puddles didn’t quite reach our tent.

 

The next morning we sat in the tent listening to the rain. It did stop in the afternoon, so we headed out to scout our route back to Matagamasi for the following day. The lake travel was absolutely brutal, breaking through ankle deep slush with every step.

 

Fortunately we found a snowmachine trail that bypassed a bunch of small lakes, so the following day we had a pretty easy go back to Matagamasi. Then it got tough again. The lakes had frozen a little bit overnight, so my small, plastic snowshoes did a pretty good job of keeping me on the crust. Conor was stuck walking snowshoe-less (the conditions would have destroyed the wooden snowshoes) and was constantly breaking through the crust, which was both annoying and jarring. It seemed to be getting a lot colder, so we pulled off to camp feeling fairly positive that the following day would bring better traveling conditions.

But whaddaya know, at 3am we woke to the sound of water dripping steadily onto our tent from the tree above us. While not actually raining, things were melting fast. A few restless hours later we poked our heads out of the tent to see a lake-on-top-of-a-lake…

8km stood between us and the car, and there was no benefit to waiting. Remarkably, the first few km were actually pretty good traveling. Further on the water on the ice got ridiculous – the toboggans were throwing out some major rooster tails! It was a heads-down-get-er-down sort of day, but we sped along and were on the road by lunch.

Our conversation on the way home revolved around stopping at Tim Horton’s so we could win a TV in Roll Up The Rim and spend March Break on the couch. The memories of hardship soften with time, however, so now it seems like it was worth it…but if I never winter camp in the rain again I won’t be upset.

And last, just because he’s cute, Jack in the Jack Pack.

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Winter Weekend in the Woods

(Amazingly awesome alliteration)

Once you experience the hot tent there’s no going back.dscf1075

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#notourtent #brrrr
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Ice cream for dessert. Mmmm hmmmmm.dscf1086

While humans set up camp, hounds kill sticks.
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Snow, snow, mega snow.dscf3036

We were base camping rather than traveling from place to place, which left us free to tour unencumbered during the day.dscf3024

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Starting the climb…to the wrong peak. Oopsies.
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But then we got to the right one. The view was ok.
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And then I stopped taking pictures. The end!

 

 

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Thoughts on Making a Life

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About 8 years ago I started my first “real” job. Up to that point I’d been fortunate to have job titles like “sea kayak guide” or “Rideau Canal skate patrol.” But in 2008 I stepped though the office doors into a job that included a desk, a computer, a Monday to Friday schedule, etc.

I lasted a solid 2 months at that job… the short story is that I found myself in a situation where the only work being done was pointless busywork, and yet there was an expectation that all employees should be working late into the evenings and on weekends. It felt like being in an elaborate childhood make-believe game with a bunch of kids pretending to be harried corporate types.

It was weird.

But carrying on, the point is what happened on my final day working for this outfit, before moving on to a government job. My supervisor took me out for lunch on my last day. While we weren’t particularly compatible coworkers, he was a good guy who genuinely wanted the best for me, and as we ate he very seriously gave me the following advice:

Figure out what you want before you start getting job offers. Otherwise it becomes too hard to say no.”

This sentence stuck with me, and has served as a guiding principle as I work towards my “perfect day.” However, a little while ago I posted this quote on social media, which led to a good discussion with a wise friend about how this could be misinterpreted, and what it really means.

First of all, I don’t know exactly what I want, nor do I pretend to, nor do I think I should. And I’m certainly not suggesting that you should either. Some of the best opportunities are completely unexpected and oftentimes scary, and we have to be willing to grab hold of these wild unknowns; to take the risk and run with then, rather than rigidly adhering to a narrowly defined path.

Rather, what that advice does mean to me is the importance of defining the important parameters of your life. What do you value? What do you want your days to look like? What characteristics of a job are non-negotiable must-haves? What are non-negotiable deal-breakers? Once you have an overall vision you can assess opportunities that come your way by holding the up against this framework and seeing how well they fit.

The point here is to inspire you to think about your own vision, not to provide a detailed analysis of mine, but to get you started here are some of the key pieces of my personal vision, or framework:

  • A life in which I have the time and flexibility to pursue wilderness adventures with my husband.
  • A life in which I have the time to cultivate meaningful relationships with friends and family.
  • Work that provides both challenge and variety.
  • Work that includes an element of creativity.
  • Work that feels like it’s genuinely having an impact.
  • Days that have a mix of slow times and fast times, not a frantic treadmill from morning to night. Margins.

I don’t know what I want. I don’t know where I’m going. But by broadly defining what I want my life to look like and being open to new ventures as they arise, I think I’m well on my way.

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Quebec 2016: Scenic Shots

This will be the last photo post from this summer’s trip. If you live near me and want to see the complete slideshow, Conor’s pics included, let me know!

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Quebec 2016: Richmond Gulf

Like last year, the last leg of our trip was on Hudson Bay. However, whereas last year we paddled on the open coast, this year we had about 70km to cover on Richmond Gulf. Somewhat surprisingly, we found the open coast a lot more hospitable. The Gulf is plenty big enough to be easily windbound, but lacked the canoe friendly landings of the open coast. Whereas the coast had big beaches separated by some rock points the Gulf required some decent crossings of a couple of kilometres and was characterized by high cliffs with few landings #foreshadowing.

Rather than follow the Rellot all the way to the Gulf, we did a short portage over from Rellot Lake. We camped at the portage, arriving mid-afternoon, and were stuck there one extra day due to heinous weather.

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First view of Richmond Gulf

 

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Big cliff, little tent. Freshwater side of the portage to the Gulf.

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View of “The Castle” at the Gullet, where the Gulf meets the open coast

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After one day on shore the winds calmed, and we decided to try the early morning strategy – up at 5am, on the move before 6:30.First stop was on Ile Cairn to fill a waterproof duffel with water from a river source. Unfortunately it was a really low river, and although we thought we went up far enough at the time, our barely palatable cups of tea later in the day let us know that we hadn’t quite attained pure fresh water. Blech.

Anyhow, we covered about 20km by lunch, set up camp early and chilled out for the afternoon.

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The next day we started with the same alpine start strategy, covering about 20km and then pulling off in our anticipated camp site on the western shore. It was a pretty nice paddle, with a northwest headwind that came and went. A highlight was finding a small waterfall, 100% untouched by salt water, tumbling down a cliff into the ocean. We took advantage to dump out our brackish water and refill the duffel with gloriously fresh water.

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The weather was starting to take a turn for the worse as we pulled into shore, with the fog rolling in fast, the rain starting, the wind increasing, and the temperature dropping. Lovely. Set up the tarp for a bit of shelter while we dined. Although we had every intention of staying put, we decided it would be prudent to check the forecast (thanks for satellite texting us the weather Dad!) and consider moving if South or East winds were forecast, which could easily pin us down.

Forecast was for strong SE winds by midnight… damn. Pretty much guaranteed to be stuck if we stayed put, so made a thermos of tea, packed up the tarp, and hit the water again. Immediately wondered if we were making a mistake given the overall miserable conditions, but once you’re on the water it’s hard to turn around… It was an interesting paddle because it was kind of the opposite of what we expected, in terms of easy/hard parts. We’re used to big headlands being the biggest obstacles on windy days, whereas here the points were ok, but the wind came whipping down the steep valleys katabatic style straight onto the water, so those areas gave us a run for our money.

All told the conditions weren’t huge, but the combination of fog, rain, cold, and wind turned it into a real death march. The wind direction was hugely variable as it wrapped around different landforms, but was predominantly a headwind, and the last few km felt like a particularly torturous treadmill.

 

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We ended up pushing straight through the 25km to the take-out. We were hoping to camp close to, but not quite at, the take out to avoid camping at the end of the road. But as previously mentioned, decent landings are few and far between, and we also didn’t want to pick a spot where we wouldn’t be able to launch in a SE wind, which further narrowed the already limited options.

So yeah, we pulled up at the access road in the early evening, fortunately at high tide so we didn’t have to hump the gear across a mudflat. Conor was on the edge of hypothermia before we landed, and I started to disintegrate as soon as we stopped and weren’t paddling hard anymore. We set up the tent as quickly as possible, running (literally) around to find big rocks to peg it down in the wind, and then dug into the food duffel to pull out granola bars for supper. Satisfying. We were thankful we’d make the thermos after lunch!

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Dear Diary, next year we’re going to Mexico.

 

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The positive impression we got of Umiujaq was further solidified this year, with lots of people checking on us to make sure we were ok (trucks cruise the 10k from town frequently, so presence was known quickly). Our visitors included a couple of elders that we met last year, and the mayor. We could have easily had a place to stay for the night, but as we were all set up and had warmed up we were happy to stay put for the night and get a ride into town in the morning.

And to end the post, one of a mini series of Conor giving the space cadet tourist wave. It makes me laugh a lot given the backstory, but it would lose something in an internet retell… so you can just chuckle at the picture, and ask me in person for the story if you’re curious. Although it’s probably not that funny if you weren’t there. But it’s my blog, so my picture choice. Peace out.

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