We teased poor Ashley to no end before our flight from Blind River into Kirkpatrick Lake. This was his first bush plane ride and, having been known to get car-sick quite frequently, we all threw in our bets on when he would loose his breakfast during the 25 minutes of air travel. Disappointing to all of us, except Ashley and the pilot, no vomit was spewed across the cockpit. Ashley held it together the entire time, stating when we landed that he was too preoccupied with gawking at the gorgeous scenery below us to think about throwing up. While the pilot taxied the plane up to the docks of Blue Fox Camp we could see Peter and Moose waiting with canoes and packs. They were just as eager to explore the area north as we were. Going clockwise or counterclockwise was the only discussion we had before paddling off from the lodge. The old route documentation had the trip going clockwise, but Peter, who had traveled the route before, suggested counterclockwise — a decision that would later prove very advantageous. Kirkpatrick Lake, which prior to the logging days was split into two separate lakes (the separation point being just west of the lodge) is close to twenty kilometers long, so the first objective was to paddle a good distance to the northwest corner of the lake's central bay to locate the first portage. It took longer then normal, not because of rough water or poor weather; conditions were perfect actually. It was that we took way too much time checking out the scenery of this place. What a gem of a lake, circled in by high cliff faces and equipped with perfect island campsites. The whole time we paddled across Kirkpatrick Lake I wondered why we were so eager to leave it. A paddler could easily stay here for a week and explore from end to end, even using the lodge as a base camp. A quick glance at the map also showed countless smaller lakes to the east, west and south of Kirkpatrick, all full of brook trout and an idyllic wilderness setting, that could provide numerous day trips from the lodge or three-to-four-day paddling ventures. It's truly an oasis here. The idea of finding even more remoteness north of Kirkpatrick was what made us continue on.
The first portage — measuring 1800 meters, was surprisingly marked with a brand new government portage sign, thanks to William (Sandy) Millroy at the MNR who led a group of Junior Rangers through to re-cut a good portion of the route the previous year. The trail wasn't perfect by all means. The last part was quite rough in particular. The old canoe route pamphlet had a beaver pond marked at the last quarter, which had since dried up, and we were forced to maneuver through a stand of young birch and knee-high boulders. However, if Sandy's group hadn't done work before it would have been a frustrating walk. Experiencing the beauty of Blue Bird Lake was worth it though. The water was a rich turquoise, brook trout lived there, and a nice campsite was set up on the western point. It was still early, however, and our group made the decision to carry over to Horseshoe Lake before making camp. The portage (600 meters) over to Horseshoe began in the northeast corner of Bluebird and was a good carry except maybe for the dramatic drop near the end (it was steep enough that canoes were lowered down rather then carried). Ashley caught a lake trout five minutes into the paddle across Horseshoe Lake. I then caught one and so did Jay. We were all a little surprised that we hooked the trout in less then two feet of water and an arms length from shore. It was the last week in May but weather conditions made it seem like it was the first week. The birch leaves had just opened up, blackflies were out but not biting yet, and it got to minus one that night where we camped on the west shore on Horseshoe Lake.
Part 3 will be added later in the week.
For info on this route, contact Blue Fox Lodge at www.bluefoxcamp.com and info on the flight in from Timber Wolf Air in Blind River www.louiesoutpost-timberwolfair.com or Peter Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.