One of the many toads who called the Mary Jane Lake campsite home
I'm very happy with this - I can't wait to have my first campfire of this trip
Paddling through the islands on North Tea Lake
A feeding place for otters
North Tea Lake to Mary Jane Lake
Despite the cloudy start, another beautiful day in the wilderness
Islands in the west end of Mary Jane Lake
Two words: Tom Thomson
Once back at camp I was getting hungry and decided it was time to make use of this newly constructed fire pit and have a campfire for the first time in two weeks. There was so much dead wood around the site it took no effort at all to get a good-sized fire going. It felt so good to hear the crackling of wood – something this trip was missing the entire time. Dinner tonight would be the easiest one so far – a dehydrated meal from MEC. I threw on a pot of water and relaxed by the fire with a run & Pepsi – I really can’t stress how good it felt to be sitting in front of a fire. I tossed the boiling water in the bag of Pasta Primavera and poured another drink while my dinner rehydrated. Then another lightbulb hit - another uncalculated benefit of my adventure revealed itself – I was no longer in a place where radios were banned! I pulled out my phone and placed it speaker-down inside my bowl to act as a bit of a speaker. I spent my time listening to some soft tunes, enjoying a campfire and drinking rum and Pepsi – all I have to say is it was a great call leaving the park a bit early, but still continuing on with my trip and no one else around. I really needed all three of these things after two long weeks.
The beginning of the bushwhack portage to Mary Jane Lake from Kawawaymog Lake
Taking a short break along the bushwhack portage
I arrived at the fork in the river and snapped a photo of the infamous ‘traffic light’ that seems to be severely out of place. I continued through the last bit of river and eventually emerged onto Kawawaymog Lake. It was a bit windy, but still very manageable. As I paddled out onto the lake I was struck with a lightbulb idea! There was an outfitter on the north shore and surely they must have a tuck shop of sorts and I figured I could grab a couple cans of pop to mix with my booze – I was no longer in a can or bottle ban zone – and no fire ban either! This extended adventure idea of mine kept producing benefits! I could not wait to have a good fire tonight – a canoe trip isn’t a canoe trip without fire. As I landed at Northern Wilderness Outfitters there was a man on the beach seeing off a group of canoeists – I assume he was the owner. We exchanged greetings and I asked him if he had a store on premises. He said it depends on what I’m looking for in a store – I said just snacks, things like chips, pops, chocolate bars, etc. He laughed and asked if I just ‘smoked a doobie’ because it sounds like I had the munchies. I laughed pretty hard and explained that I hadn’t been smoking, but instead I had been living in the woods for the last two weeks – he suddenly understood my request.
A calm North Tea Lake - much different from yesterday
Campsite on Mary Jane Lake
I ate dinner by the fire and was surprised at how delicious the dehydrated meal was – I find they can be hit and miss quite often. Its funny, during the day the mosquitoes were pretty bad at this campsite, but during the normal 9pm to 10pm feeding hour they all seemed to disappear – weird, but no complaints. I also noticed this site had a bunch of different toads everywhere – big, small, bright, dull – a decent population and mix. I threw a bunch of logs on the fire and continued to enjoy my evening with drinks and tunes and I loved every second of it. I probably had a few more drinks than I should have, but who cares – I was at camp and safe for the night. By 10:30pm I was getting tired and figured I’d be wise to get some good rest – I had a very unknown adventure tomorrow and wanted to be well-rested before tackling it. A few moments after entering the tent I could hear an owl hooting off in the distance, then every other hoot it sounded like he was getting closer and closer until eventually he sounded like he was right above me. He kept hooting throughout the night but I managed to fall asleep with ease.
Looking west along Mary Jane Lake
Paddling up the Amable du Fond river
Amable du Fond river between just below Kawawaymog Lake
Overcast this morning
It was around 5:30pm when I decided to take a paddle around the circumference of Mary Jane Lake. I had two goals in mine – one was to try and locate the real landing for the ‘portage’ I just took, and the other was to find the landing for the 50m portage over to Pot Lake as that’s where I will be headed tomorrow. I slowly scanned the eastern shoreline for the portage landing but found nothing – no evidence or even any potential places a landing would be. The east end was very marshy and bushy. As I continued along the north shore I kept looking for the landing, but it would not be found. I moved on eventually landing at the west end of the lake and though it was overgrown, I found the landing for the 50m portage Pot Lake, along with a tiny fire pit that hadn’t seen use in many years. I snapped a few photos then got back in the boat and continued along the south shore back to my campsite. Above the island in the middle of the lake, I could hear screaming up in the sky – another bird vs bird situation. It looked like a hawk or falcon chasing down an osprey – a truly fascinating scene but eventually the predator bird gave up and the osprey managed to escape with its life. Throughout my paddle across the lake, I could see bottom almost the entire time – Mary Jane appears to be a very clear and shallow lake.
There is a deer way down there!
The Tom Waiite & Frank Robichaud Memorial (Click here to see more)
Looked up while taking a break and spotted this - a good sign!
As I made the quick crossing, I passed about 10 more groups headed into North Tea – the long weekend has officially arrived! The landing at the other side was surprisingly vacant so I didn’t waste any time loading and re-launching. I paddled up the shallow river and in about fifteen minutes I reached the short portage around a rocky section of river. It was crowded but not nearly as bad as the previous trail. I relaunch among the very rocky landing and continued up river. Between P75 and Kawawaymog lake I must have passed another dozen canoes, all headed into North Tea Lake or beyond. I spoke with a few in passing, some asking the standard ‘How was the trip?’ as they assumed I was leaving today. Many were impressed with the length and distance of my trip - one mentioning that I look to clean to have been out for that long - lots of swimming I answered (plus I was shaving my face every 3 days). Another group commented on how I only brought a backpack for 16 days while their canoe was loaded to the gunwales just for the long weekend.
FINALLY! Oh the joy I felt FINALLY having my first campfire after 14 long days!!
Looking out at Mary Jane Lake from the campsite
Day 14: North Tea Lake to Mary Jane Lake
I woke up at 8:30am and though it wasn’t raining, the sky was completely overcast and it once again looked like there could be a downpour at any moment. As per the routine of the last two weeks, I tossed on a pot of water while I broke camp. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of an adventure the next three days would be. I didn’t waste any time around camp today and had everything packed by 10am. A quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and the adventure began. I made a relatively quick crossing of the West Arm – it was made easier due to the lack of wind and the very calm lake. By 11:15am I arrived at P255 to the Amable du Find River and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The landing must have had twenty canoes – or more! I found a tiny space off to the side to land and load up.
The fire pit and benches had a lot of potential, it just needed a little TLC
I paddled to the south-west end of Kawawaymog but could not find the portage landing. I paddled back and forth along the marshy shoreline but found nothing. I noticed a near-by boat launch and after checking the map I saw that it connected to the road and the road connected to the portage I was looking for. Unfortunately, this boat ramp and road would add another 1500m or so to the already long 2000m portage to Mary Jane Lake. I landed at the boat launch and loaded up for the carry. I was surprised I could notice the extra weight of four cans of pop, but the idea of an ice-cold rum & coke made it all worth while. As I arrived at the gravel road, I turned south and continued on. I spotted a deer about 300m down the road and stopped to take a quick photo – with this canoe still on my shoulders. I continued on and kept a close eye for any sign of a portage or trail. When I arrived at the area where the portage should be, I dropped the canoe and pack at the side of the road then scouted out the area with more attention to detail. I couldn’t find the trail leading from the road to Kawawaymog Lake but eventually I did find some flagging tape around two trees and upon closer inspection, an overgrown trail towards Mary Jane Lake became obvious.
Paddling up the Amable du Fond river between P85 and Kawawaymog Lake
Campsite on Mary Jane Lake
The mysterious streetlamp along the Amable du Fond river
Campsite on Mary Jane Lake
This was it – if I head down this trail I’m fully committed to getting back to the town of South River. I took a deep breath and loaded up for the carry. In the beginning, the trail was easy enough to follow. Sure, it was heavily over-grown and had many blow-downs, but it was still easy to follow. About half way, I took a short break and looked up in a tree to find a very old portage marker – it was relief because at least I now knew I was following the portage and not some random hunting trail. I loaded up and moved on, but as the trail entered and followed a gully it suddenly disappeared. I was stumped, it literally just ended – how could this be? I referred to the GPS and found that I was approximately 25% into the length of Mary Jane and the gully kept going west so I said screw it and just bushwhacked in a straight line south until I finally reached the north shore of Mary Jane Lake.
After just one look at the lake I realized I finally found the silence and solitude I was looking for – the last few days just had way too many people around for my liking. After pushing my way through the shrubs and struggling to load the boat I paddled directly across the lake to the south shore where the campsite is supposed to be. It was a little hidden but I found it almost right away. It was a surprisingly nice campsite for a bushwhack site. The bench area and fire pit looked a little over-used, but it just needed a little cleaning and straightening up. I fixed up the place, and re-built the fire pit - boy was I glad to be outside the park where I can actually have a fire my last two nights. I feel I made vast improvements to the site while maintaining its privacy and seclusion. The clouds slowly lifted over the course of the day and it was now a gorgeous out!
Very grey sky over Kawawaymog Lake
He told me he has what I am looking for and invited me up onto the property and into the store. I picked up 4 cans of Pepsi, a small bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos (expired a couple days earlier) and a Kit Kat bar - $12. A little steep but I was willing to pay a premium for some pop to mix with the last of my run. While chatting, I explained my plan to get back to South River he advised it might be risky, as people travelling the South River within The Park boundary have been forced to drag their canoes - he figured it would likely be the same conditions outside The Park. He also mentioned that I shouldn’t have come out to Kawawaymog, I should have accessed the South River via Craig Lake – I then told him my actual plan on how I intended to get to the South River. He looked surprised and said "Oh... you know about Mary Jane and that chain of lakes" I simply replied "yup, and that's where I am going". Judging by his reaction, I wondered if this was a secret or lost canoe route or something. He wished me luck and I returned to my canoe with a supply of snacks.