It wasn't easy leaving our perfect site on Maskinonge. We even considered at one point camping the entire week there. But we also new there were even better places to camp further to the north. So, we left our little oasis, making sure to leave early that morning to avoid any possible high winds on the large lake.
Our route from here hadn't really been planned out; there's just too many options in Chiniguichi. We knew, however, that a visit to Donald Lake was a must. Not only was it a perfect link back to Kukagami but it also had striking scenery. To get there we had two main options: enter from the top end by a series of small lakes linked to Matagamasi Lake (Gold and Colin Scott) — with Matagamasi being linked to Maskinonge by the Chiniguichi River - or a short-cut to the south-east end from the north-west end of Maskinonge.
We originally considered the short-cut to Donald. Problem was, I hadn't traveled the portages yet and was worried they'd be a little tough for Kyla, or more realistically, a little tough for poor dad who had to carry most of the gear across them. The map showed a 1,000 meter trail to the left of a creek coming out of Triangle Lake, a 175 meter portage to the right leading into Potvin Lake and two short portages (85 meters and 60 meters) along the remainder of the creek coming out of Donald. Not too bad I guess. But when we investigated the first portage, we discovered it was a short trial leading into a pond, followed by a few more short trails along a rocky streambed. There might have been a complete 1,000 meter portage somewhere but we didn't see it. And, with the first portage not being what the map revealed, Alana and I decided that for Kyla's best interest, and ours, we would take the northern route, one that we already knew.
The route from Maskinonge to Matagami, where we camped for the fourth and fifth night, was quite simple. First there are a series of swifts connecting the upper portion of Maskinonge Lake with what's called Lower Matagami Lake. From there the first portage is found, an easy 190 meters marked to the left of where the Chiniguichi River flushes into Lower Matagami. The trail leads into Edna Lake. Next was an even easier 170 meter portage, this time to the left of the river and into Karl Lake. The third carry, which was one of the most scenic trails on the entire route, was a 340 meter portage, found on the right and tucked away in a small bay where the river squeezes through a pile of rock. And the fourth, and last, was a quick 60 meters to the right of an old dam.
Prior to all that, we decided to paddle by Taylor Statten Camp, located at the north end of Maskinonge, to the right of where the first swift appears when you go towards Lower Matagami.
The camp's history originates on Algonquin Park and was opened up by Taylor Statten, a veteran of the Boer War who, working with youth for the YMCA, decided to open up a children's camp in the park's Canoe Lake in 1921. By doing so, he became the first Canadian owned private summer camp in Algonquin Park.
The "outpost" on the north end of Maskinonge was purchased by Taylor Statten Camp in 1969 (an abandoned fishing lodge at the time) when the provincial government began threatening the end of commercial leases in Algonquin. The revoking of leases never happened but the northern camp quickly became the "hidden gem" of the camping program. By being situated in the south end of Temagami, many longer and more adventurous canoe trips could be planned out.
Only one employee was on site when we passed through. We landed on the beach to say hello and chatted with him for a bit while Kyla and Bailey played on the beach. Everything was going great until he recognized me and firmly stated he disliked me writing about Chiniguichi which directly brought all these :southerners" to their area. He and I then had a gentlemen's debate about the issue at hand. I stated that beyond the fact that I wasn't the first, or the last, to promote this newly proposed park area (and historical canoe-tripping region), it was very important to entice more and more people from the south to paddle the north to make it possible to protect the remaining wilderness that exists there in the near future. His rebuttal was simple and to the point — "I totally disagree, we don't want them here! ABSOLUTELY NOT! PERIOD! END OF DISCUSSION!"
Alana and I then said our goodbyes and moved on. Twenty minutes later we came upon a group of camp boys paddling back to the Taylor Statten base camp. And asked how their trip was and where they were from. They all replied that there northern canoe trip was a life-altering experience and that all of them lived in the "south." Interesting.