Day 1 – April 8, 2013
What a Jolly start
We met Hantford Lewis again this year at his shop and headed to Lake Joli, or Lake Jolly depending on your heritage. We were on the water by 2:30pm and it was a nice sunny afternoon of about 8 degress or so. There was still a bit of snow along the shoreline and a few traces here and there in the woods. We exited the lake and paddled up the stream to the first portage of the trip. It should have been a quick portage into Ninth Lake but we took a wrong turn down a woods road, effectively doubling the portage. We hoped for better luck on the many portages in the coming days. With quick paddles and easy portages through Ninth, Eighth and Seventh Lake, we settled for camp at the end of the portage from Seventh into Sixth Lake. Kyle and I were able to shave several pounds of equipment compared to last year allowing us to employ the one and a half method of portaging. I would start out with the canoe and leave it at the halfway point while Kyle would carry two large packs across the entire portage. I would then head back for the food pack and tent pack while Kyle would return for the canoe and finish the portage. We would then alternate on each portage. The previous year we had to make 2 complete trips on every portage. It was a great campsite with lots of room. I was grinning ear to ear while enjoying an IPA in the evening sun. Andrew made us taco salad for supper.
Day 2 – April 9, 2013
We were up early for a breakfast of oatmeal. Our goal was to reach the head of the dreaded 2.8km carry from Moosehide Lake to Sand Beach. The end of Sixth Lake still had a bit of ice on the shore, so we had walk the last 15′ on thin ice. The portage into the Sissiboo River was easy followed and the water was high enough to allow us to paddle into Fifth Lake without having any carries. We decided to drag the loaded canoes through a marshy area to the first portage into Whitesand Stream. We were able to avoid the low water carry by lining the canoe up a small drop. We were now back to paddling upstream again. Rain started about noon before we got to Whitesand Lake and never really let up for the rest of the day. We reached the 1km portage from Whitesand Lake about mid afternoon. After a few more hours of portaging and paddling in the rain, we reached the start of the carry from Moosehide to Sand Beach lake. It was late in the day and we were happy to make camp here and get into some dry clothes. We had smoked salmon pasta for supper and went to bed shortly after.
Day 3 – April 10, 2013
The Long Portage
Woke up to overcast skies and sore muscles. We had a big breakfast of bean supreme in preparation for the long portage ahead. Most of the portage was easily followed and up a slight grade the majority of the way. We began around 9:30 and finished about 1:15 after many trips back and forth alternating the gear. We had a quick lunch on the shores of Sand Beach Lake and decided not to portage any more that day. We made a visit to Cofan Cabin again this year only to realize while reading last year’s comments, that we were here on the exact same day as last year. The cabin is in desparate need of repair and had sunk a bit over the winter. A nice campsite before granite lake awaited our arrival for tonight. The sun made a brief appearance as we settled in for shepherds pie and hot apple cider with 151 proof rum.
Day 4 – April 11, 2013
The carry around Granite Lake Falls is one of the nicest carries in the area. I was able to paddle the empty canoe a bit further down river until the drops got too big. I eddied out on river right and started to ferry left when a large black bear took off crashing through the woods. I’ve been seeing more black bears lately while paddling in NB than ever before as well. We ate soup for lunch at the campsite below the falls and soaked up the warm sun. Some mild current pushed us into Irving lake and the beginning of the carry en route to the Roseway watershed. It was my turn to carry the 2 packs all the way across the 700m portage. I noticed Kyle was not far behind me with the canoe. We crossed a small brook on the way and headed up a hill. I finished the portage and returned for the canoe. I completed that carry to find Aaron at the end awaiting his partner. I figured Kyle wouldn’t be too far behind now. About five minutes later, Andrew showed up with the last of his packs. I asked him where he met Kyle on the trail and he informed us he hadn’t seen Kyle since we landed and had just completed the whole portage from the beginning to the end. I thought it was strange because I knew he had made it at least half way across once and the trail from there was fairly evident. Andrew stayed put while Aaron and I walked back stopping every couple minutes to blow the whistle. We made it back near the beginning where we noticed an animal trail that crossed the portage trail. Now most of the portage trails are really nothing more than an animal trail anyway, so they can easily be confused for a portage trail. However, the intersection occured before the small brook that Kyle had already crossed, so I found it odd that he would go very far before realizing he should have crossed the same brook. However we soon found out while walking the animal trail, that it too crossed the same brook at another location. Aaron was sure he could see a footprint but the trail quickly faded and there was no way to follow any further. We continued back and forth the portage trail blowing the whistle for a couple hours. We knew he would be fine for a night or two if necessary as he was carrying the food pack and had a tarp with him as well. We met up with Andrew again at the end of the portage when it dawned on me the GPS spot tracker was attached to the top of the food pack. I brought the GPS along to send real time Google map locations every ten minutes to friends and family so they could follow our adventure and know we were safe. If I could somehow get phone service, which is unlikely in this area, I could log in to the tracking site to get an exact location providing he was still carrying the pack, a lot of variables to hope for. I walked back the trail at the highest point and climbed a very large rock and voila, 2 bars of service popped up on my phone. I logged into the site and saw Kyle had made it over 2kms away at the NW tip of Sisketch lake, exactly where we were headed. Aaron and Andrew stayed put in case he made his way back while I paddled the mostly empty canoe up the stream. I was in a hurry knowing I wouldn’t be able to get service again along the brook and wanted to get to the last known location quickly. I was making my way up through the last quick water before the lake when I heard a yell from Kyle and I replied. I met him at the side of the brook and he looked tired and exhausted. He exclaimed it had probably been quite some time that anyone was as thrilled as he was to hear my voice. A normal carry through the Tobeatic is not an easy affair, let alone 50lbs on your back through dense brush and swamps for a couple hours. Kyle had a map with him and used the sun for direction to find Sisketch Lake. He never let the pack down and used common sense and good direction to find his way. Kyle said he was never overly concerned, just discouraged with himself for not turning back when he realized he was on the wrong trail. We made camp at the end of Sisketch Lake and enjoyed a meal of burritos and rice while listening to some amusing stories about Kyle’s misadventure, including one in which he professed to singing “Hopeless Wanderer” by Mumford and Sons while labouring through the maze of the Tobeatic.
Day 5 – April 12, 2013
The day started off sunny and calm as we paddled and portaged up the stream to House Lake. This lake has huge erratics rising high above the paddlers. An 800m portage brought us to Junction Lake and the headwaters of the Roseway river system. We would now be paddling downriver for the remainder of the trip. The outlet of the lake was a 200m portage followed by a quick 50m portage. Aaron and Andrew tried paddling the stream, but that turned into grueling drags and rough carries. We made good time portaging and paddling through Halfmoon, Grass and Roseway Lakes. We were able to run most of the outlet of Roseway Lake through some quick turns and small drops into Mink Lake. We intended to stay at the campsite close to the outlet but had no luck finding it. It was after 5pm and beginning to rain when we decided to paddle across the lake in search of another site known as Keatings campsite. This was a very nice site with a sandy beach, improvised picnic table and plenty of room for tents. We set both tarps up that night and hunkered down with some rum and a game of cribbage while the wind and rain pelted the tarps. We had beef stroganoff for supper. The wind, rain, snow and ice pellets were fierce throughout the night. You could hear wind gusts coming across the lake and then smashing ferociously into the side of the tent. I had a hard time sleeping that night wondering if the tent fly would be ripped from the tent. I assumed we would be wind bound the following day.
Day 6 – April 13, 2013
The ground had a light covering of snow and the rain had mostly subsided but still windy when I awoke. Aaron said he got up once in the night to check on the gear which was all accounted for. The lake looked choppy and the winds would be against us if we chose to leave, but after finishing coffee and breakfast, we could see the winds were quickly dying off. We decided to get moving and it ended up being one of the calmest days. The outlet of Mink lake had a tree across the quick drop into Skudiak Lake so we had to drag around. We ran most of the outlet into Moose Lake except some low water areas. The outlet of Moose was also runnable and it was beginning to look the portaging may be behind us. We had lunch between Crain and McGill Lake. There is a nice Wardens camp on the hill overlooking the lakes. The door was unlocked and would have made a great shelter but it was only midday so we continued on. The river picked up speed as we exited Whetstone Lake and ran some moderate rapids and Horse Falls down to Upset Falls. We weren’t sure what to expect in the next 3kms as the guide map reads in bold letters “The route from Upset falls through Devil’s run to Long Falls is extremely dangerous. Take out at the bridge above Upset Falls or proceed with extreme caution, scouting and portaging the rapids and falls”. The only alternative to this is a 3 km portage, but the run through Upset falls was relatively easy so we decided to continue on downriver. Here is a short video of the falls. There are some great stretches of whitewater leading to Mountain Falls. We had to portage about a 500m section of this and another drop just below, but we were able to run everything else with gear in the canoe. Click for video. This was a fun few kilometers that kept my heart pumping. It was also a nice height of water to run this for the first time. In high water, I can see why this would be much more dangerous. The nearest campsite was at Indian Fields which also marked the first people we had seen since Lake Joli. It wasn’t an ideal location due to lack of camp space and a large open sand airstrip beside us. It also wasn’t appealing when our canoes landed on the beach full of dead beaver carcasses that a trapper thought was a good disposal location, but it was getting late in the day and there were no mentioned campsites nearby. A few locals stopped by for a chat. We had chicken curry stew for supper and a chocolate raspberry port for dessert.
Day 7 – April 14, 2013
We started off with a breakfast of eggs fried in the center of a bannock ring with bacon. It was a nice change from oatmeal. The water flowed slowly down to Back Lake. Some quick water led us into Phillip and Jones Lake. These lakes were dotted with several homes and cottages. I was hopeful for a nearby pub or restaurant to quench my thirst for a creamy ale, but unfortunately no such luck would be had as we passed by the small community of Upper Ohio. We were able to run Chris’s falls at the outlet of Jones lake down to the Jones Mill Ledges. We carried our gear around the ledges and ran the canoe empty though the rapids without incident. Click for video. The run around McGills Island was also a fun section. From here the current was slow as we chose the East Branch of the Roseway into Deception Lake as rain began to fall. We found a suitable campsite on the lawn of a camp before Deception Lake. We had a strange mix of drinks that night which included ouzo with cherry drink mix, orange drink mix, and hot apple cider with 151 rum. A huge pot of spaghetti was cooked and enjoyed before bed.
Day 8 – April 15, 2013
We woke to sun but clouds had completely taken over by the time we launched the canoes. Deception Lake would be the longest lake we crossed, but no wind made for an easy paddle. The exit of the lake meant moving water and some nice rapids for the rest of the day to our trips end at Bowers Rd before the dam. The sun poked out as we exited the lake and eddied around a small island to open the last of our beer we were saving for just this occasion, a lazy river running day. We were able to save 5 litres of beer from the original 16 we brought, and was it ever worth it enjoying a nice cold IPA before noon as we basked in the warm sun. Our first big rapid of the day was Hemlock Falls, a long rapid with no issues. Shortly after this was Bowers Mill site, an old stone wall dam no longer in use. We first eddied river left and scouted the drop. It was a substantial drop of around 5′ and looked rough and turbulent. We ferried river right to scout a narrow sluice dropping about 5′ over a length of 20′. It was just wide enough for a canoe but looked runnable. Kyle and I ran first with no problems although we both reached out and touched the stone wall for balance as we couldn’t get our paddles in the water for stability. Aaron and Andrew made it look much smoother. We had lunch here and made our way through some more rapids and quick water until ending our journey about mid afternoon above sawmill pitch. A short walk down the lane brought me to my awaiting truck and the Roseway cabins that were pre-booked for the night. A warm shower and a quick trip into Shelburne to the local Sobeys and liquor store allowed us a nice barbeque of steak and cold beer for supper. At some point in the night I awoke to use the washroom. Kyle arose as well to ask if the red sore at the top of his ass was a tick. I told him it was nothing and to go back to bed, truth was I really didn’t want to get my face that close to his ass at 2am, or anytime of the day for that matter. I was first to rise in the morning and chuckled at a note next to the kitchen table which read “tick on Kyle’s ass”. I guess he didn’t want to forget about it. A more sober Aaron examined the spot in the morning as well but didn’t think it was a tick either. It wasn’t until I got a call late that night while back home that Kyle informed me it was a tick after all, with just its ass end hanging out of Kyle’s ass end.
This trip seemed to fly by as they all do, months of preparation for what seems like a blink of the eye. I don’t know why I don’t spend a week on the beach relaxing in some Caribbean destination like most folks do for their vacation, but I just don’t get the same thrill and satisfaction like I do when I am exhausting myself each day just to get further away from civilization. Luckily I know of least three other people that feel the same way. I really enjoy this area especially knowing there are many more possible routes awaiting to be explored.
Click here for photos. from Mitchell, Aaron and Andrew.