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tripping 4 days
Queen Elizabeth Wildlands PP Oct. 25 to 28
Thursday, October 25, 2007 to Sunday, October 28, 2007
length: 45.0km, 4 days

organizer: Jeff McColl
participants: Laurent Tauveron, Hagar Shipley, Laurent Tauveron, Andrew



One last trip for the year, usually paddling trips at this time of year are crap shoot weather wise, and for the most part we lucked out.Hagar Shipley and I started out and we were going to do the same route as my spring trip and later we were joined on Long Lake (more on this later) by Laurent  & Andrew coming up the reverse for 2 days.

 The Loop:  Head Lake down to Smudge creek, up Smudge Creek to Smudge Lake, Exit @ the north east arm, portage through the small pond and Lake chain across to the Upper Head river and Crooked lake, down through Long & Fishog lakes to Head lake again.  Approx 45 k’s of distance with about 3 k’s of portaging. The trip could be done in 3 days but it would leave you with no time to enjoy the Canadian Sheild.

The goals of the trip:Introduce others to this park area.Get some night time exposures of the 2 visible comets.  See if we could get up the 3 beaver ponds off Long Lake and camp on the ridge to watch the sun set and stars.I didn’t expect to see much wildlife because bear and moose season had started a couple of weeks before.  We didn’t see any critters but there were lots of moose and deer tracks and lots of bear scat and judging from what I saw in their droppings they were eating a whole lot better than the ones in Agawa Canyon. 

Because of all the rain the Orillia area had in October, the beaver ponds were full and the Head river had come up enough we could float the boat down the first 2 rapids.  It also made going through the creek brush a lot easier than last falls trip.We got on the water by about 8:30 am it was sunny, cool about 5 c with a good stiff breeze coming out of the north.  We stopped for lunch at the first portage on Smudge at about 12:30 pm.  We arrived at the campsite on Smudge at about 3:30pm.  I probably should have counted the beaver dam pull-overs we did, a quick guess of about 2 dozen. 

Finding the well used fire pit dismantled and spread about was just a sign that those who have the hunting & fish cabins (small buildings) don’t like outsiders coming to the only good site on Smudge Lake (the site is not overused)  I will write rant more on this later. (they do have a good reason) Do to the shorter days by the time we had the tents up, supper made and cleaned up we almost missed the sunset.We paddled to a cliff that overlooks the lake and we settled in for the show.Great sunset, heard the wolves, (too far away tape them) great full moon….And then the X files moment…. Something flew??? Glided behind us and close,It almost sounded mechanical, but could not see a thing, and we both said did you hear that?.... the mind wonders (it’s easy when your getting older)The moon was so bright it blocked out a lot of the stars and the comets were not visible.  Good night shot of the lake though.The next morning the mystery noise was solved, a large raven came close to the tents, probably looking for easy breaky, big birds and they're not shy.

Sunny morn, winds were trying to make up their minds on which direction they wanted to come from but eventually the south west won out and you could feel the warm air coming in.Hiking boots are the order of the day, after a quick 500m across the lake to the first 800m portage, the good news is there is no sign of any hunters in the area, there is no-one on the lake at the 3 different cabins.  Even though it is a fairly long carry the walking is easy, there was a Red shouldered hawk drifting in the wind at the top of the ridge and was gone fairly quickly once  it saw us. The clouds were starting to come in and it made for a great background as we paddled around the deadheads of the first lake. 

The growth of the year made the next carries a little longer than the spring, but still nice and short.  We took a different side from lake 3 to the swamp that connects to lake 4 (Rabbit Lake, so named by Mitch during the spring trip) it was shorter but the path through the floating swamp growth was not quite wide & deep enough, we did manage to pull the boat along the shore to the channels on the south west side, but we lost more than the time we gained.  We had lunch here before we crossed the swamp.  It was still paddlable because of all the fall rains, but there was a lot of bouncing off the submerged deadheads. 

Rabbit lake was still made you feel like a million miles away from the world, but at the portage to the lake 5 back in to the upper head system there was a lot of bear scat, probably a mother and her cub since the dropping were so close to each other, and one smaller than the other but very fresh and judging from the contents really enjoying the acorns in the area.A quick carry down into the beaver made lake we could see the meadow of the washed out beaver pond and because of the busy beavers there were several small dams in the creek to the next pond so we could float and do a couple of quick pull-overs to the next small pond, I had expected because of summer growth that we would have an extended carry to the upper Head river. The grasses in the dried up beaver pond were brown and pushed down so the walking was fairly easy except a few spots were you had to step across the creek once you found it.

The goal was to camp were the Head river and swamp meets, just above Crooked Lake, we left at 10:00am. and got there at 4:00pm.  There are a couple of nice spots by the dam that no longer holds water and the small falls that makes it like an island and the sound of the water flowing was quite welcome.  Just a note that there is a marked trail that looks like it heads down to the lodge on Crooked Lake.  It was very warm that night and started to rain just after 8:00 pm.The next morning was very warm and foggy, the rain had stopped, a few pull-overs going downstream and into Crooked lake, with the Blue Jays yelling out a warning we were in the area all the way down.  The big surprise was that the Lodge there was closed up for the season, and no-one was there ( J ) considering you could see and hear the float planes going into the lodges on Wolf and Victoria lakes. 

Special note when telling someone to meet you at Long Lake make sure the directions are clear that this Long Lake is in QEWLPP not Long Lake in Kawartha PP, both of which are in the City (?????) of Kawaratha Lakes.It didn’t happen here, but it was close.

 We made it to the beaver pond entrance to the ridge just before noon the wind was calm the sun came out, and it looked very inviting but the old guys legs said no, which as the way the weather turned was a good thing.  So I will just have to plan a weekend trip up there just to camp on the ridge and watch the stars, just coming up the north Head River, saving all energy. We found a semi comfy spot on the east side of Long lake just up on a small ridge were if the clouds broke we would still have a good view of the sunset and stars.  Then just as we finished getting the tents up, the wind and rain hit, at least it was still warm. Hagar decided to go hiking and I opted out for a nap.  (we older guys need this)Hagar hiked down to the dam at the south end and just happened to meet her 2 friends Andrew & Laurent portaging up. (and yes they did bring up the mandatory supplies that were requested to join the trip) 

It was now raining and blowing harder with some real strong gusts of wind.Also coming up the Lake were some people with a small motor boat towing one of those six wheeled atv boats, forgetting that to hear each other they must talk louder, they didn’t seem happy with our presence since they had a small cabin on the lake on the west side just to the north.  A good thing for the noise winds, you could only hear their generator every once in a while. As it got darker the rain stopped, Hagar and Andrew got a fire going but the winds were still strong but changed direction and coming out of the northwest bringing cooler temperatures.  After we went to bed the winds got stronger, and just when you thought they couldn’t get stronger they did, it’s always nice feeling your tent poles get pushed across your face.  I heard the one boat roll over but there was no other noise from there so I stayed in bed. 

The mornings brought clear skies, gentle winds and sub 0 temps, the water on top of the barrel was frozen solid. We got a late start back and the winds were picking up again once we hit Fishog Lake, but it was at our backs.  We stopped for lunch at the portage into Head Lake. When we hit the open lake is were we got penalized for the late morning start by the strong late afternoon winds.  We were lucky the wind was coming out of the north west so we crossed to the shoal line along the north shore (about 250 m off shore) and paddled along it to about a k from the west shore and then used the wind to help us go south, the  water was choppy and the wind strong.  The back was getting stiff from the constant sweeping to keep the boat aligned.We made it to the takeout just before 4:00pm and suffering from no more than a warm glow from the wind burn. 

It was a good trip, a little rushed for me because I usually like to hike a bit, but with it being hunting season, not really a loss.  It was good to be able to see the loop could be done in 3 days, but you would still need a boat that is short and drafts little water in the swamp areas and Smudge Creek. 

And now for the rant so it may help you understand why most of those that have access to this area are reluctant to help others get in. For the most part only being 2 hours from T.O. the area is incredibly clean and free of debris left by camper/fisher people/hunters that so plagues many other easy access crown lands.  The people of Crooked Lake Lodge have done an amazing job of keeping this area a pristine wilderness.The areas were the access is easy to the general public (up to the portage into Fishog from Head Lake) you find the normal crap the non-caring people leave behind, and hanging signs in the fish sanctuary saying not to poach.  (sound like a familiar news story???)The Head River were it flows out is not yet under siege because of the amount of shoals that protect the entrance from larger boats, not to mention the many mud shallows. This year I did not see any algae blooms in the river like I did last fall.(Wetter summer this year) 

The local farmer/hunter I talked to last year at the Head river dam was more concerned that the companies were buying up the hunt cabins and driving the taxes through the roof for his small cabin, and most of these or nothing more than shacks.  But he was concerned that the anti-hunting lobby would stop all hunting in the area if it became too accessible. 

We all have stories about those who sneak into Algonquin park, desecrate sacred native sites….. so on and so on. (pic your favorite area)So the locals strike back making it non-user friendly and usually get the people who actually care about leaving the area as they found it (sound familiar Keith?) (or with less garbage) 

So those of you who like to camp free on crown lands or go to your favorite parks make sure you let the Prov. Gov’t. types get off their a$$#$ and enforce the laws/rules.  They are collecting fees and nothing is going back into protecting the land.  A few stiff fines, paying for the cleanup and seizing equipment would go a long way in making a difference.

So don’t sneer at the local guy, he knows what he’s got.  He just wants to keep it that way.


I will only post a couple of new pics, if you want to see the area, check out the spring trip pics.

For those who don't have access to the album



posted by: Jeff McColl

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