North Tea Lake (East Arm)

June 28 – July 2

June 28

After a late start to the morning due to a sleeping pad with a leak, we arrived at Kawawaymog Lake at the Voyageur Quest Outfitters around 1pm. We rented a brand new Souris River Quetico16 ultralight canoe (42lbs) from the friendly folks there. Now, when I say brand new, I mean that this boat had arrived the day before we did, and there was nary a scratch on it. For those who haven’t purchased new boats, there is nothing as nerve-wracking as a maiden voyage, especially when said trip involved a creek known for beaver dams. Suffice to say, there were more than no scratches on the pristine hull upon our return.

We set off across Kawawaymog Lake, which was choppy despite only a light breeze; however it was coming at us from our rear quarter, so we made good time across the small lake. Speaking to some who had used this access point before, we were warned that this shallow lake could get quite frothy, but the beautiful sunny day made these concerns seem a world away.

Entering Amable du Fond River, we had high water levels which had submerged all but the hint of most beaver dams. In addition to our enjoyment, the low traffic of a Thursday put-in also meant that a moose was out enjoying a wet salad buffet. Koharu was intrigued, but her distaste for swimming ensured she stayed in the canoe.

 

 

The few short portages into North Tea Lake are well marked and well traveled, with a memorial to two park rangers placed on the downstream side of the river as it spills into the lake.

The wind was once again at our back, so the long paddle across North Tea Lake was relatively effortless, and we managed our way into a campsite on the east arm around 5pm.

 

 

Given that Sean and Aleks were joining us on Saturday, which meant vegetarian food for the remainder of the trip, Iman and I enjoyed a camping trip staple of fire grilled steak and roasted vegetables for dinner. To top it off, we purchased a Platypus wine skin to try out, so we heartily washed it all down with a delicious Reserve Merlot from Creekside Winery in Niagara.

 

 

In celebration of Iman’s birthday, we also topped it off with a few portage-squished cupcakes.

Few things top the sense of relaxation that comes with red wine, fresh air, steak and a sunset by a lake, but capping off our day, the stars began to peek through the darkening sky, treating us to an incredible cosmic view.

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Max Temp: 28.3 °C
Min Temp: 14.3 °C
Mean Temp: 21.3 °C
Precip Accumulation: 0 mm


June 29

We awoke the following morning to a stiff breeze making the clouds scud along at a healthy clip. While this had the excellent effect of keeping our west facing site remarkably bug free, it also stirred up the surface of the lake into whitecaps.

Our initial plan had been to check out any remnants of the railroad to the north of us, or any potential remnants of the logging camps to the south, but between the wind, and a few long weeks at work for both of us, we decided to take an in-camp day and simply lounge around and enjoy the scenery.

Breakfast consisted of congee with dehydrated salted pork. While the pork didn’t reconstitute quite as we had hoped (likely because of the fact that we didn’t leave it for a few hours to soak as we were both hungry), the meal was simple and effective.

 

After breakfast we did some off-leash work with Koharu and explored our little island. The site was relatively open and well used but still had a decent amount of standing firewood available. I busied myself with taking down and trimming a 40′ hemlock to last us the rest of the weekend while Iman and Koharu took turns napping in the sun.

 

 

Lunch was stir-fried vermicelli with garlic, scallions and dehydrated shredded chicken. While I would only recommend the process of shredding chicken to dehydrate it on those who have an abundance of free time, it re-hydrates very well and is an excellent protein to bring along.

 

 

You can see the tedious process involved near the end of this video of our food prep at home.

After lunch, it was time to give Koharu another shot at learning to swim. Koharu is a Shikoku Ken and is right at home leaping up rock faces and climbing over downed trees, but cannot be considered not a water dog. While I am 100% ok with this from the standpoint that I know she won’t ever swim off an island or get stuck in fast moving rivers, we are trying to get her more comfortable for situations in which she may accidentally find herself… Like when she’s fallen out of a canoe.

As such, in we wade, and back she swims! The other advantage here is that it keeps her cool in the rather strong beating sunshine.

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I also got my new motion kit toys out and had a bit of fun playing around with them. While I seemed to have issues with the app trying to intermittently trigger a firmware update, I managed to get a decent sequence of shots as the sun began to set.

Dinner comprised dan dan noodles, which I have to say is one of my favourite noodle dishes out there. The ground pork re-hydrates easily and the sauce keeps well, making this a great meal for even longer trips.

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The humidity was starting to build as it began to cloud over in advance of the forecasted thunderstorm, so we stowed everything away in preparation for what could be an overnight deluge.

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Thankfully, when the rain hit, the temperature dropped so the oppressive heat and humidity did not last all night. However, the lightning storm surrounding us did make quite the light show in the confines of our little tent on our little island in the midst of a very big lake. Koharu put on a brave face through most of it, but one particularly close thunderclap shattered her devil-may-care attitude and she threw up right in Iman’s sleeping bag. As the storm passed on, she didn’t seem too traumatized and eventually settled down and went back to sleep.


Max Temp: 29 °C
Min Temp: 15.3 °C
Mean Temp: 22.1 °C
Precip Accumulation: 2.8 mm


June 30

The remains of the storm hung in the air the following morning with a languid humidity. Sean and Aleks were to be joining us this day, so after a late breakfast of ochazuke with salted salmon, we struck out across the still lake back towards the portage.

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Without much of a breeze the paddling was easy, but the humidity seemed to be building. While I was concerned it might break into another downpour, it thankfully never occurred.

 

 

We finally connected with Sean and Aleks after some leisurely paddling. Apparently the storm that passed through the previous night had left the road into the park a mess of downed trees and power lines, making their drive in considerably more challenging and had included navigating around a school bus unable to pass a set of snapped hydro wires. With the wind beginning to build, we stopped for a quick snack on one of the small islands on the west arm of North Tea. The breeze, which thankfully turned into a tailwind on our way back to our campsite, was welcome respite from the soaring temperature and building humidity.

Dinner was mushroom and blue cheese couscous with hazelnuts, along with fresh eggs brought up by Sean and Aleks. As a side note, we dehydrated the blue cheese, concerned that it may get “more” moldy without refrigeration. When rehydrated, it turned into more of a sauce, which was still very tasty, but didn’t reconstitute into the crumble we had originally been going for.

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As the day wound down, the clouds began to dissipate and we were treated to some incredible sunset views.

 

 


Max Temp: 25.1 °C
Min Temp: 18.4 °C
Mean Temp: 21.8 °C
Precip Accumulation: 2.4 mm


July 1

Despite the high humidity, the storm we could hear on the horizon overnight never broke over us, so we woke up to a damp humid morning with only a light breeze starting to kick up. After a breakfast of instant oatmeal and dried fruits, we headed off for a day of exploration at the waterfall at the eastern portage into Manitou Lake.

Given that it was a long weekend, the portage was a popular spot for a few other groups. We beached the canoes on the eastern side of the river at a small beach head to see if the portage would clear out. The path that led away from the beach head followed the river to a ranger cabin. The cabin itself along with the path seemed to be frequently used and in good repair, with a small stone covered path down to the river. There was a fair amount of fishing gear hung on the outside of the cabin, so with the assumption that someone was staying there, we pressed on up the path down river.

It became evident that the path itself wasn’t heading to the waterfall, but instead off uphill to the north, potentially to connect to the logging road network, or to the small creek. Due to the fact that we were wearing sandals rather than hiking shoes, and that the mosquitoes were beginning to become a bit of a pest, we back tracked to the closest point on the trail to the waterfall to take a few pictures.

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The view from this side of the falls is not fantastic.

The beach was decent swimming, so with the number of canoes parked at the end of the portage not decreasing, we went for a brief swim. We also looked further east down the beach to see if we could find a nice spot for lunch, but unfortunately the bottom became muddier the further away from the river we went. We decided to try our luck on the portage trail near the waterfall.

There’s a small (not great) campsite on the portage near the top of the waterfall that we decided to use as a lunch spot as another group was still sprawled around the falls. Lunch was sesame noodles fried up with the remaining eggs, and while requiring the stove, was a relatively quick and delicious lunch. We were unable to locate the thunder box for the site, and with very little flat ground, this seems like it would be a site taken out of necessity, rather than desire.

Once we finished up lunch, the other group was beginning to teeter off with their cooler of cold ones, so we decided to pop down and take a look.

The falls are a small cascade which by themselves aren’t all that remarkable, but the rock shelf that they fall on to is flat, stable, and not slippery, meaning that you can really explore and enjoy the falls without clambering over sharp slick rocks while avoiding deep pools.

 

Unfortunately I had not yet picked up an ND filter for my wide angle lens, so I was limited to stopping down to f/22 to try to slow the exposure as much as possible to get some of the milky shots. Given that we were there in mid-afternoon we were also dealing with some very harsh lighting which left something to be desired. In any event, definitely worth a stop just to cool off and enjoy a naturally beautiful spot.

After taking our fill of exploring, we began our return to our campsite, this time into a stiffening head wind, which made the paddle back a bit of a slog as we tried to keep in the lee of the islands.

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Back in camp, we lounged around while our four-legged companion nodded off in the afternoon sun.

 

 

Dinner was mushroom and leek orichette. The whole meal rehydrated well, and was quite filling after a day of paddling around.

 

 

As the sun set, the clouds began to finally disperse, setting an iconic camping scene of an idyllic lake at sunset, complete the loons calling in the background and the smell of pine trees wafting on a light breeze.

 

 

We were finally treated to a clear night, and weren’t disappointed by either the plethora of stars or the appearance of the Milky Way.

 

 

Despite some initial issues with my Edelkrone MotionBox app trying to trigger firmware updates (note: we didn’t have any semblance of cell service, I had updated the firmware before we left, and I had data off as well…), I finally managed to get a decent astral time lapse sorted out as a trial.

This is going to take a bit of practice, and hopefully some better night skies as the full moon rising in the east turned the night quite bright. We’ve planned a trip this fall to coincide with the new moon, so hopefully better conditions will present themselves then.


Max Temp: 31.4 °C
Min Temp: 22.2 °C
Mean Temp: 26.8 °C
Precip Accumulation: 0 mm


July 2

We were up early to get a good start on the day, and breakfast was instant oatmeal once again, with another pile of dried fruit for good measure. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us getting on the water in good time. White caps dotted the east arm of the lake, as the clouds overhead stubbornly refused to give way to clearer skies.

Around 10:00, we decided it wasn’t going to blow out, so we loaded up the canoes and struck out for the point located at the nexus of the east and west arms to see how the long haul across the west arm was going to fare.

Suffice to say, that even though the wind did seem to abate, this was a tough slog against 1ft rollers into a constant headwind. We took a quick break in the lee of the headland protecting the portage down into Cayuga Lake, and continued to press on to the portage.

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Being the Monday of a long weekend, the portage was thronged with people, so we moved quickly to pass as many as we could to get a good head start on Amable du Fond River. Protected by the trees for the most part, we paddled away upstream back towards Kawawaymog Lake.

This is where things really got interesting. Kawawaymog Lake is shallow, and with the wind pummeling across it with renewed vigor, the whitecaps were ferocious. Being in a Quetico16 didn’t give us quite as much rocker and tumblehome as I normally enjoy in my Prospector, and with the canoe being lightly loaded for the end of the trip, the wind and waves were really taking us for a ride that I was unable to control.

We decided that settling in on the beach just beside the river outlet for lunch would give us some time to rest up, and hopefully allow for the wind to abate.

Lunch was cheese, crackers, cured sausage, and apples.

The wind did not abate.

Eventually, and as we were getting joined by more and more people in similar situations, we waded along the shoreline of the shallow lake, towing the canoes, towards a group of cottages. Had we rented from Northern Wilderness Outfitters, we likely could have walked the entire way, however we opted to pull out at the cottages and walk the remainder of the way to said outfitter, in hopes of hitching a ride over to our cars.

One generous soul agreed to give Sean and I ride over to our cars (though roughly only 15 mins by car, it would have been a brutal 2hr walk), and we arrived to a confused outfitter concerned about the lack of canoes with us. We explained the situation, and they were kind enough to loan us a car roof kit to transport the canoes back. We grabbed some cold soft drinks for Iman and Aleks and jumped in my car to head back to our gear.

When we arrived back at our gear, we watched several more groups attempting the wade along the shore line, with a few ambitious individuals slogging out the paddle across the lake. After watching one canoe capsize (and making sure they were ok), we decided that we were vindicated in our decision to pull off the lake.

After shuttling our gear and canoes back and forth, we finally hit the road around 6pm, a full 8 hours after we left camp that morning.

Overall, great trip, great company. We’ll work on the weather for the next one, and one day, we may even complete a camping trip with Aleks that doesn’t involve hitching a ride to our cars.


Max Temp: 27.1 °C
Min Temp: 16.5 °C
Mean Temp: 21.8 °C
Precip Accumulation: 0 mm


 

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