The May long week-end begins the canoe camping year for Elaine and me. We usually bring along a new couple. Each spring we try to access new areas. We had heard and read about Fork Lake and had seen some pictures that Mike Runtz took. We assumed that if Mike camped down there, there must be either bears or wolves nearby.
Our trip began at the Highway 60 parking lot to the Spruce Bog Trail. We carried our 'Gaspes' down to the creek and canoed through the culvert and south past the visitors center. We encountered two rather large beaver dams across Sunday Creek but they were easy to forge. We carried on into Norway Lake which has nice rocky shores. The weather was partly cloudy and the bugs weren't too bad.
Upon coming unto Fork Lake we scouted out the two campsites. The mainland site had a broken and rotten privy box and the island site had the remains of a burned privy. We opted for the island site since the other mainland site to the south is non-existent. We practiced zero trace camping that weekend and notified the rangers of the disrepair of the sites on this lake. They had been repaired by the summer, as reported back to us by people who went back in July.
May long weekends are a time to not travel too far and to relax, photograph and explore. As the evening closed in on us we could clearly hear the howl of wolves across the lake and up in the hills. Loons yoddled in response to the wolves and we felt so at home as the fire crackled and the sparks flew up into the indigo darkness to form the stars.
Misty morning on Fork Lake.
Last of the mist.
The dawn was misty. As the sun rose, it seemed to pry the veils of water vapour up with it. The pileated woodpeckers hammered like construction workers as the white throats sang O' Canada. The loons whaled and the trout snatched their breakfast from mid-air. It was a magical morning and the wolves howled to greet it.
Fork Lake after the mist cleared.
We leisured the morning away and then set out to explore in the direction of the wolf howls, towards Jean Lake and down the portage and up into the hills. The trail up from Fork Lake is steep and I breathed heavy, being out of my previous year's form. We enjoyed the sun and warmth as we strolled down to the beaver house on Jean Lake.
Sunday Creek to Jean Lake.
We tottered about and watched the mergansers play in the small rapids of Sunday Creek. They frolicked until our presence sent them down the lake. We walked up the creek
to a set of falls and took some video and stills. The bugs seemed to enjoy our walk as well. After we returned to Fork Lake, we ate lunch on the rocks across from our island site and I ventured into the woods on the high hills in search of wolf sign. My only success was finding some interesting lichen and moss.
After lunch we went over to the next portage over to Rose Lake. We walked into Rose Lake through some nice hardwood forest and shot some film and hoped we would see some bear. We scanned the trees for nests and perches and stalked like commandos naively hoping an unwary Ursis would befall our presence. A year earlier we came upon a young male on a remote portage up in the north end just off Merganser Lake in the North River area. When you see how fast these mammals can run, it's a comical thought to think you could ever run away from one. We are quite comfortable around most bears and we respect the fact that we are in their backyard. We had two in our campsite one morning up on Big Crow Lake. They were very interested in us but they soon got spooked and tore off into the pine forest. Our breakfast must have smelled really good to them but I guess I was a terrifying sight. I have had some bad run-ins, up north, usually with big old males. They like to challenge all comers. We doddled at Rose Lake and promised ourselves we would come back the other way sometime.
Some people like to go as far and deep as they can into Algonquin, and we do too sometimes. However, as we become more settled in our adventures, we now stop and smell everything and drink in the sounds and sights that the deep forest affords. It is not the destination, it is the trip to get here that is the whole meaning of life and so our trips are part of our lives.
Dawn on Fork Lake
Monday morning dawned clear with little or no mist. I arose early as usual and photographed the dawn. From just before sunrise to about 8:00 am is prime photography time. Don't miss the dawn.
In July of the same year we celebrated our anniversary at Bear Trail Inn. What luxury! We brought the Kevlar Trillium with us and made a day trip into Pinetree Lake from Hwy 60. We were fulfilling our promise to return to Rose Lake via Pinetree Lake. The 1.8 km portage into Pinetree Lake is somewhat easy (with a Kevlar) and you travel through some good bear country. Lots of undergrowth in this mature hardwood forest with streams coming down off the high spots. The weather was so nice and no bugs. Pinetree Lake was a real nice surprise to us. Being so close to the highway, we never thought to ever come here. It's a great lake to canoe. It has lots of coves and inlets and little granite islands.
Island on Pinetree Lake
We lunched on the rocks at the narrowest part of the lake and then went down to the Rose Lake portage. We tied up and stalked into the woods on the trail of a grouse and her brood. Elaine has a gift of being able to listen to her sixth sense and it is very sharp. What she senses I no longer ever doubt, since time and again she has proven to me what science will have great difficulty with. She sensed something lurking in the woods, a bad feeling, overpowering, warning us not to carry on. She has had this before and I knew that my bravado was not going to be a match for what was ahead. She warned me and I listened. We turned back and slowly walked to the canoe and gently pushed off. We sat in the canoe and listened. The usual noises, a sight breeze, a stir, a rustle, a sigh!!!! What do you think it was Mark? Probably a big male! How can you be sure?
A great weekend trip would be the route from Sunday Creek at Hwy 60, through Norway, Fork, Rose and Pinetree Lakes. The portage from Rose Lake to Pinetree Lake is a bit challenging. The trek out from Pinetree Lake to the highway should be done lightly. It is no fun running a portage twice.
Email: Mark Bellinger-Oehring