Shallow and narrow South River
Approaching the first bridge along the South River - if only I knew this way the historic take-out
I easily made the 10m portage over the road and launched into a creek, which connects to the South River after 100m or so. This is where I expected to do some river walking, so I busted out the water shoes and swim shorts. I made it to the river and was super-pleased to see it was deep - but I suspected not everywhere would be as favorable as this. I rested a bit then made my way further down the river. It wasn’t long before I ran into the shallow parts and had to get out for some more river walking. I'd get back in, go 200m or so, and have to get back out again - no rest at all. This continued for a few km’s with only the occasional stretch of good paddling. Oh well – I asked for an adventure and I’m being served an adventure. I must admit, the section between the two bridges was the worst. I didn’t notice at the time that the two bridges were the beginning and end of the old portage around this horrible section of river - and my canoe suffered for it. It's funny because while I was travelling through that section of river, I thought to myself "there must have been portages around here somewhere when this was an active canoe route, I don't think the water is THAT low this year." turns out those bridges were it - and I missed them. There were beaver dams here and there but nothing like the Tim or Nipissing Rivers. There was 1 medium log jam that I had to get out and lift-over with a bit of effort, followed by a massive log jam one that required a full out portage around it – I’ve never seen a log jam this big in my life.
Shallow area of the South River
A beautiful section of the South River
Mr. Jackass' anti-canoe water canon
Packed up and ready for more unknown adventure!
I left the fire pit and campsite crystal clean as my pay-it-forward to the next users
(Which was me - I came back here two weeks later, see TR 21)
Day 15: Mary Jane Lake to South River
I slept in a bit today, probably a bit too much rum but that’s okay. It was 8:30am when I emerged from the tent and put a pot of water on the stove for coffee. I walked to the shoreline and was delighted to see only a couple clouds in an otherwise blue sky – I was glad to have the weather on my side because I really didn’t know what to expect today and it was one less thing to worry about.
Can you believe this is my breakfast after two weeks in the woods? Sooo good!
This river feels different from the others I've paddled over the last two weeks
A decent log jam along the South River
Finally at the second bridge along the South River - this would have been the put-in had I taken out at the first bridge!
The map at the top of this page is updated because of my trip - the map below is what I was using - you can see it would be easy to miss there here used to be a portage here
Strange marks on the pines along Denis Lake
The final obstruction of the day - a beaver dam. I made a campsite about 150 meters up the left hand shore
Hmmm.. I hope that just looks worse than it is
North end of Twenty Seven Lake
Nest on the larger island of Mary Jane Lake
Old trapper cabin at the end of Denis Lake - I used this driveway to find the trail to Twenty Seven Lake
Suddenly, a voice comes out of the cabin and says "Where ya lookin' to go?" I turned around, and couldn’t see anyone in the windows and they were dark, so I spoke back in the general direction, "Twenty-Seven Lake". The voice replies "Never heard of any lake like that 'round here" So I said, "What's the next lake over that way?" and pointed west. "Clear Lake" he says. "Then that's where I'm going" I replied. At this point he came out to speak to me - it was weird addressing a trapper cabin. He was a really nice guy, I apologized for walking up onto his property and said I did not mean to intrude - he did not have any ill feelings about my presence and assured me it was not an issue. I told him where I spent the night, and where I was going. He looked at me and said, "Boy, you are on a historic canoe route - I've lived here my whole life and the last time I saw a canoeist come through here was... at least 35 years ago - maybe even more."
That line alone was the most amazing thing I had heard in a long time, especially since I did this all to get away from the crowds. He told me the old portage actually comes up on the edge of his property, so technically I wasn’t really trespassing. He then walked me about 15-20m up the road and pointed to a very faint trail. "It was last cut 15-20 years ago by my son's making ATV access to Clear Lake, plus with all the logging around here I don't know how obvious the trail will be" I thanked him for his guidance and was on my way. The trail actually wasn't that bad and I only veered off of it in a few spots where it was an open field of raspberry patches – which was rather painful.
A quick-moving section of the South River
Rocky section of South River
Well that sucks, I'm going to have to bushwhack through the Alders
Mary Jane Lake to South River
Following a small creek before reaching the South River proper
I had two breakfasts left – oatmeal and pancakes. It was such a nice morning I decided to take a little extra time today and go for the pancakes. As they cooked I enjoyed a second cup of coffee and looked around the campsite – it was a great site and I think I’ll come back here some day (I did, see TR 21). With my pancakes ready to go, I poured the last of my syrup and tossed my remaining strawberry jam on too – why the hell not? I was pretty impressed that I was having a gourmet breakfast on day fifteen of a canoe trip. It was very delicious and I enjoyed every bite. I debated having a 3rd coffee, but it would leave me with only two coffees for my last morning, so I saved it for tomorrow. After breakfast, I cleaned up and began to break camp. I was curious about how my day would go and I realized all the recent rain will probably help me on my journey down the South River. By 11am I was all packed up so I took a few photos of the site and went down to the water to load the canoe.
A bit of river walking down the South River
Well someone must have been through here relatively recently
My adventure down the South River begins!
I paddled across Mary Jane Lake and actually had a hard time finding the portage landing – which was weird because I was here yesterday. I turned around and realized my mistake – I came front the north yesterday, which is the way the landing faced due to the surrounding bushes but today I came from the south and paddled right by. After a very quick paddle across Pot Lake (Mary Jane Lake, next to Pot Lake? Who is naming these lakes??) I had a very hard time finding the landing for the trail over to Denis Lake – eventually I found something but I’m not fully sure it was the landing. I also find bits and pieces of some trail (portage / game trail?) and eventually made it to Denis Lake. I launched among the thick alders and followed the south-east shoreline looking for a campsite marked on the map. As far as I could tell the site no longer exists - I looked around quite a bit and found nothing. I moved on to look for the next portage leading to Twenty-Seven Lake but could not find it. I happened across an old trapper’s cabin and since it appeared unoccupied, I used the cabins dirt ramp as a landing – my plan was to walk the few dozen meters to the road along the edge of this property. When I got to the road I walked south in error for 10 meters, then turned around and walked north about 30m, stopping to try to locate the portage trail through the bush.
By 5:30pm I was at the section of river where I planned to make a bushwhack campsite. I arrived at a large beaver dam that was followed by a boulder-garden of rapids. I crossed the dam and river-walked right next to the south shoreline, looking for potential places to make a campsite. The task proved to be more difficult than I envisioned but eventually I came across a spot with few shrubs to clear and relatively flat land – this was the place I would build a campsite. I spent the next hour clearing the shrubs and moving logs around. I built a small fire pit using river rocks and by 6:30pm I was happy with my efforts and lit a fire in my brand-new pit. I was pretty hungry and my dinner tonight was another dehydrated meal, a lasagna dish. While the water boiled for dinner I walked out to the river to quickly rinse out my canoe. I looked down river and I could see someone river-walking up stream in my direction. Seriously? Up until that point I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere and seeing this person instantly shattered that feeling. So much for my silence and solitude I guess.
The 'interesting' cottage at the south end of Twenty Seven Lake
This was the map I was using at the time - I was just following the old yellow line - I missed the dotted portage line
Finally a deeper section of the South River
Short 10m portage over a road and into South River
It was ten to one when I arrived at the landing for Twenty-Seven Lake and let me tell you – that is some crystal-clear water. This lake is stunning! I will no longer refer to it as Twenty-Seven Lake after seeing it - you could clearly see 15 feet down or more – Clear Lake it was! I stopped there to chug a bit of water because I knew it would be easer on my filter if I refilled my bottle here instead of in the river. Amazingly beautiful water, I seriously considered stopping for a swim - but I still had a crazy day ahead of me and I wanted to leave plenty of time to make a bushwhack campsite on South River - because there were no more sites between where I was, and where I was going. There was a cabin on the south end of the top half of Clear Lake and another at the south end of the bottom half. The cabin at the south end of the lake was interesting, to say the least. I later learned from a Kevin Callan book (Lost Canoe Routes) that the owner of this cabin was not fond of canoeists passing through the narrows near his property and aimed this water cannon at the mouth of the creek – to deter potential travellers. What a jackass.
Fire ring along the 50m portage between Mary Jane and Pot Lakes
This section of the South River kind of reminds me of the upper Nipssing from two weeks ago
It was a woman and her dog, pulling her kayak upstream. As she approached we chatted a bit and it turns out she was headed up river for the same reason I was here – some silence and solitude. She lives on Forest Lake and has for some time, but she told me slowly she is being tormented by all the noise – between ATV’s, Sea-Doo’s, construction equipment, logging operations and plain old yahoo’s she is almost ready to call it quits here and move further north. We chatter for over and hour – she really liked my campsite and I told her that after tonight it was hers as it was unlikely I'd see it again for a few years, if ever. The reason she was river walking with her dog was to find a place along the riverbank to hide a lawn chair and be able to get away from the noise on Forest Lake - you'd think that's what her cottage is for but she is being forced out by the noise and a activity in the area. She mentioned she keeps ear plugs all around to help drown the noise. She told me she was a teacher - but an against the grain kind of teacher and was fired many times for her radical ways, like wearing jeans.
Then something really interesting came up – as I told her about my canoe trip, she asked how I managed to take 16 days of food with me. I told her I took about 8 days at a time because I left a re-supply box with someone in Brent on Cedar Lake. ‘Jake Pigeon?’ She asked. ‘Yes!’ I replied. ‘He has been very awesome about helping me make this trip possible.’ It’s a small world because not only does she know him personally, she used to be best friends with his ex-wife! She told me a few stories – one about the dog named Brent that Jake would take home with him each winter and another about how he had to give his ex-wife a canoe for her new cottage as part of the settlement. She eventually left with her dog Taffy and this whole experience sort of blew my mind – what are the mathematical and statistical odds that I would run into this lady… in the middle of nowhere? Seriously, think about it. I didn’t even plan on coming this way until a couple days ago. The river could have been way more messed up than it was, suggesting perhaps I would have made it here later on and missed her, or not at all. I was really fascinated with what just happened – a very strange occurrence on the side of a river in the middle of nowhere. I started to wonder if she was even real – maybe I had finally gone insane?
I threw some sticks on the fire and re-boiled my water to make some lasagna – the whole time pondering what just happened. When dinner was ready it was getting dark so I threw a bunch more wood on the fire and sat on the ground with the last of my rum and Pepsi. By 9pm I was really tired and decided I had enough adventure for one day. I burned off my garbage and let the fire burn out before going to bed. The lady warned me that a lightning storm was coming and she wasn’t kidding – at 11pm I was awoken to bright flashes of light followed by mega-thunderous booms across the landscape – I was getting a full out light-show for my final evening. The storm continued throughout the night but I eventually I managed to fall asleep
The put in at the downstream end of P10 to South River
Crystal clear water of Twenty Seven Lake - this log is about 10 feet down!