19 August 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 3


I do not think the 450 rod portage was
used any more 
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico. In this episode we camp at the end of the portage and then make it to the island campsite on Baptism Lake.
Dusk descended and two more portages loomed ahead. However, once all the gear and canoes were at the end of the portage there was no way we were going to do another one. The next portage was just across a small pond.

Exhausted, I felt dismayed that my favorite shoes were soaked and my best pants were covered with mud up to my knees. I had enough for one day. We pitched tents on the rocky soil at the end of the portage and prayed no one would come through the portage early the next day.

3 Names and I shared a tent. I placed my shoes outside with my socks hoping they would dry. They didn’t. The roar of the falls ahead kept me awake. It also drove me crazy.  I should have brought earplugs.  In addition I realized my sleeping pad was not very good. I tossed and turned all night. [This happens on every camping trip- it usually takes me a day to acclimate to the wilderness.]



There is another anecdote about this portage I recall before 3 Names and I went to sleep. It has to do with a MRE – a meal ready to eat in military parlance. A MRE includes a main entree and a few extra food stuffs- including crackers, cheese wiz, gum, fruit drink and a piece of cake plus a water activated heater. The food is supposed to last for years. Well, I had one of these light brown plastic packages strapped to my backpack. But at the end of the portage it was AWOL and we were hungry.  3 Names and I went back down the portage looking for it.

After a 10 minute search we find it beside the trail and bring it back to the tent. I think the main entrée was ham. It was not very satisfying. But the heater was pretty cool.



The next morning was brisk and crisp-- no 80-degree weather up here. I put on new socks and a second part of shoes. We broke camp and loaded the gear into the canoes for a short jaunt to the next portage. This portage required a climb of about 20 feet straight up. It was a tricky ascent. How did the voyageurs do this with 90lb packs?! It got easier after that part and the portage past near the majestic waterfall I heard last night.

After the falls the scenery of the Quetico changed from prairie forests to rocky islands and coniferous forests. It reminded me of the north shore of Lake Superior.



Nearing noon we entered Baptism Lake.  Less than a mile from the entrance to the lake we found a campsite on a small island. Neil had camped there many times before. The island we were on had a rocky shoreline, pines, and plenty of moss and fallen trees [like nearly every island in these parts.] We made camp and awaited a scrumptious meal made by Neil. Although we were in the wilderness, Neil brought a two-burner gas stove. 3 Names and Neil fished in the afternoon and caught two Northerns, which we ate for dinner. At nearly every meal we had fish. According to Neil, There are no other species of fish in the lake.

A popular trout lake, Cache Lake, is nearby but the portage to it is nearly two and a half miles. Quite a jaunt. That portage has a bad reputation and one writer describes the portage as having only 3 bad parts – the beginning, the middle, and the end.

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