Our second day out was much easier then the first. After a leisurely morning of flap-jacks and bacon, we drifted up to the northeast corner of Carafel Lake and took the marshy creek out to Maskinonge Lake. The only obstructions along the way were two beaver dams, one in the very beginning of the creek and the second three-quarters the way where a logging road bridge had been recently removed by order of the Ministry of Natural Resources. As well, a small set of shallow rapids also had to be waded down, just past the second dam.
It was a beautiful morning to paddle the creek. Mist still hung low over the water until well after nine, highlighting the spider webs dangling from the countless dead snag rooted along the bank. It also seems to keep our presence hidden from the local inhabitant longer then normal. While en route we saw great blue herons, kingfishers, beaver, mink, muskrat and otter.
The calm continued as we made our way out into the expanse of Maskinonge Lake, making paddling easy for Alana and I as we headed north on this gigantic lake. Having rough waters on a big lake is tough on any trip, but it's an extra pain when you have a three-year old (and a 12-year old dog) stored in the boat. Alana and I have found that it's not the portages and obstructions found along them that's the difficult part of canoe tripping with young children; it's finding enough songs to sing and stories to tell Kyla while we make our way across large bodies of water that can be challenging, especially when that water crossing gets delayed due to wind and waves. Anxieties are sure to build.
By noon we had reached the cluster of islands half way along Maskinonge and decided to start looking for one to camp on. The first bunch all had nice sand beaches, which excited Kyla and Bailey. After inspecting them, however, we discovered that some past visitors seemed to prefer beach sites as well. Each small island we checked out was covered in trash. We found the garbage a bit of a surprise. No one seemed to be using the lake. There were a few camps/cottages scattered about and a fishing boat passed us not long after we arrived on Maskinonge. There was also a road (very rough road though) on the south end of the lake that made the lake somewhat accessible. But Maskinonge itself seemed far too big of a lake to be so badly scarred by overuse. I've learned through past trips, however, that when the prime sites are well used then you simply have to find a spot where the usual crowds wouldn't look. And that's exactly what we did. On one of the last large islands, I discovered an old campsite hidden from view, way up on a ridge. A fallen tree had to be removed from the tent site and the fire ring had to be rebuilt, but the scenery, swimming area and overall charm of the site was unbelievable. In fact, we liked our hidden oasis so much we ended up camping there for two days rather then one.
…to be continued next week.